I’m on holiday! In my own house…

I’m on holiday! Sort of… 🙂

At this point a four-day weekend feels super exciting, even though I’m spending it in my own house⁠—and much of my time will be spent at the same desk in the same small office I sit in every day while I work on the day job. 🙂 I had four days off in a row a couple of weeks ago, and was surprised to see how much of a difference that small break made. I’m not sure exactly why it was so helpful, but it was oddly rejuvenating to have a long weekend after being in lockdown for ages, even though I didn’t go anywhere. Hopefully this weekend will be the same!

So far I’ve moved bags of dirt around, started to clean my garage, ordered six big clay pots for my patio, and placed an order for plants with a local nursery. I’m waiting for the nursery to call back and confirm exactly what they have, but they did say they have my favorite pepper in stock: Big Jims! I originally planted this pepper a couple of years ago because my dad’s name is Jim. 🙂 It’s now my favorite pepper. It’s not super spicy, but I really like the flavor. It also freezes really well. Last summer I froze a bunch of peppers, and we used the last of that batch in March or April.

Jasper trying to stay still while Rosie taunted him with from outside of the frame.

Right now my garden has a few herbs that came back: two kinds of thyme, chamomile, chives, Italian oregano (which I like much more than Greek oregano), hyssop, and salad burnet. And borage, which reseeded itself, and which is also growing in the rocks outside of the garden (at least until I pull all that up). Everything else I planted from seed: Swiss chard (2 kinds), kale, endive, lettuce, carrots, beets, radishes, tomatoes (from seeds I harvested myself last year!), and marigolds (also from seeds I harvested, although they were much easier to harvest). I may have a volunteer tomato plant as well.

Writing-wise, I have a novel that’s due by June 12th (ack!!!), a couple of short stories due, and I also want to put together a collection of my own short stories this summer and I’m considering writing a new story or two for that. I’m working on edits for a couple of anthologies, and have a few more anthologies in the works. And there are a couple of other projects I’m involved in that require articles, setting up a website, and other fun things.

Another thing on my list is to start up my newsletter again. It’s been almost 3 years since I stopped sending it out because I “temporarily” got too busy 🙂 and it’s high time I got it going again. Sign up! It’ll be fun! Exciting! And I’m going to include something for free for everyone who signs up! (If you’re already signed up, you will get the free thing too⁠!)

Since I have a four-day weekend, I’m going to make a huge dent in all of this work!

Okay, maybe a little dent… 🙂

Zombie Apocalypse: Day 32

I didn’t realize the zombie apocalypse would involve me spending day after day in my own house…

My days now consist of entertaining the dogs, cleaning and organizing the house, and washing my hands. Okay, I don’t actually wash my hands that much because I spend 90% of my waking hours in my office where I am, as far as I’m aware, safe from both viruses and mosquitoes. (I know you’re thinking: It’s April, there aren’t any mosquitoes in Colorado yet. But just like every other year of my life, they are coming for me. I just don’t know exactly when. I do, however, know that they will find me well before they find any of you.)

Unsurprisingly, the pandemic has impacted my writing. For a while it was really hard to focus on anything at all. I still remember fretfully looking at the Johns Hopkins map when the total worldwide numbers were around 30k. 🙁 Things got really exciting when my sisters and I helped accelerate our high risk parents’ move to an independent living community two months ahead of schedule. Fortunately we got them moved a few days before the state stay-at-home order, and now they’re as close to bubble wrapped as we can make them.

Once I was able to (mostly) focus again, I did what anyone would do, and published an anthology! 😀

Note that this is a charity anthology – all proceeds go to Doctors Without Borders and the ACLU.

The Golden Door has been in the works for a long, long time. It went through many strange hurdles, and holds the record for the most time it’s taken me to put together a collection from start to finish. (My goal is to never let any other anthology break this record.) The title comes from “The New Colossus,” a sonnet written in 1883 by Emma Lazarus to raise money for a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty. Here’s the full text:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

The Golden Door was inspired by events at the southern border of the U.S., but I asked the authors to think more broadly. Here’s part of the text from the call for submissions:

Show the impact on individuals—and/or the world—when a country turns away immigrants, or changes the rules so that people who immigrated to a country become forced to return to where they came from—even if they were small children at the time.

Think about events throughout history, like during WWII when the U.S. turned away a ship carrying roughly 900 Jews during WWII—254 of whom died in the Holocaust. Or the U.S. Congress rejecting a bill which would have allowed 20,000 Jewish refugee children to enter the U.S. Or Italy blocking a ship carrying immigrants from all Italian ports.

Ancient Rome welcomed a number of immigrants, but didn’t do as well with the Goths, who were instrumental in the defeat of the Roman Empire.

Other options include writing about the contributions immigrants make to a country, or how the culture changes (whether for better or worse) when migrants are allowed in a country.

My story in this collection is set in 1910 in the Pennsylvanian town that my parents grew up in, and is loosely based on both my Irish/Scottish and my Slovakian great-grandparents.

I’m hoping to use my time in lockdown to get a lot of writing done. We’ll see how that goes!

Jasper and Rosie were initially confused about why we’re home all day every day, but they quickly adapted and are taking advantage of our availability, as any good border collie would. 🙂

Past and Future Jamies

I’m not sure exactly when this started, but sometime in the past six months or so I started thinking about Past and Future Jamie. Sometimes I’ll think: “I could do that thing, but I don’t wanna right now.” Then she puts off the thing. Eventually she becomes Future Jamie, who thinks: “Thanks a lot, Past Jamie, you lazy jerk.”

Obviously there are times when I really don’t want to do the thing, and I don’t do it—and that’s okay. But sometimes it just takes a little more effort, then I get it done. And then: Future Jamie is happy! Time has been saved! Efficiency created! And on those more-frequent-than-I’d-like occasions where I think I’ll have lots of time in the future, but find out that is not the case, this can be the difference between the thing getting done on time—or at all.

This morning was a good, albeit simple example. I helped Jasper do his stretches (Rosie did them too, because she likes doing things—and because treats were involved). Then I took Jasper for a walk (okay, I worked on a jigsaw puzzle first, but that gave the dogs time to play with each other), did some laundry, and thought: I could vacuum, but I don’t wanna. I’ll do it later. Then I remembered: Future Jamie is going to have to vacuum later, and she’s going to be in the middle of something and might not want to stop. So the house might not get vacuumed at all. Or: maybe she’ll stop whatever she’s in the middle of, but the whole thing will take her more time because she’ll have to context switch, and I’m not actually in the middle of anything right now.

So I vacuumed the house, and then: it was done! I was happy that I didn’t have a chore hanging over my head, I knew Future Jamie would be happy (and she was), and Jasper was happy because he got to play vacuum ball (which just means playing with his toys while I vacuum). It was a win-win!

Morning playtime!

I did not realize that the other human member of the household was going to install a new kitchen sink faucet, take a bunch of dishes out of the kitchen cupboard, and rerun the water line to the ice maker in the fridge…so now part of my afternoon is involving cleaning cupboards, washing dishes, and moving things around. But: just imagine how I’d feel if I had to do all of this and still had to vacuum? Thanks, Past Jamie! 🙂

This concept comes up a lot these days in relation to writing-related tasks. I used to be a very productive procrastinator, where instead of working on the thing I was supposed to be doing, I’d do lots of other things. That way I had lots of accomplishments, so while I knew I hadn’t done the one thing, I still had the satisfaction of having finished other things. But…eventually Future Jamie would have to pay the price.

All of this is part of why I’m so happy to have a publishing schedule for 2020. My schedule is not yet complete—it has all of my anthology deadlines, and due dates for the short stories I have deadlines for (I sneakily set the due dates a month before the stories are actually due…that’ll fool me, right?). But I don’t have deadlines for the three novels I plan on writing this year because I’m just not sure how to handle them. My guess is that the first novel (these are in a series) will take the longest because I’ll be working out the characters and world details, but I really don’t know for sure. I’ve decided to think about this as “get these written as soon as possible and no procrastinating!”

Before jumping in to that project, I need to focus on getting things wrapped up on the current anthologies I’m working on. Some of these tasks could have been done a while ago if Past Jamie had learned her lesson earlier, and some became more time-critical after my friend DeAnna and I decided to set a firm publishing schedule for the Amazing Monster Tales anthology series we co-edit. But I’m staying on track, and am excited about sticking to my schedule for 2020—and about making Future Jamie happy. 🙂

Rosie is very good at focusing.
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