Happy

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Ever since I decided to get a grip on my post covid malaise by writing about it, specifically about regaining my happy, it seems like every other Facebook post is about happiness. So weird. Are my electronic devices reading my mind? It’s not the first time. How do they do it?

For instance, there was this one: An entire sea of water can’t sink a ship unless it gets inside the ship. Similarly, the negativity of the world can’t put you down unless you allow it to get inside you.– Unknown.

And this one: If you want to be happy you have to be happy on purpose. When you wake up, you can’t just wait to see what kind of day you’ll have, you have to decide what kind of day you’ll have. – Unknown.

A quote from John Lennon: “When I was five years old my mother told me happiness was the key to life. When I went to school they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down “happy.” They said I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told then they didn’t understand life.”

That’s my favorite. It’s like I’m seeing happy advice everywhere I look. Recently I binged Ally McBeal and on one episode the character Richard Fish says, “Happiness can be found in one word – denial.”

I kind of get that. I’ve done it. During the G. W. Bush years I decided I’d had enough news and quit watching and reading it. There was so much bad news, none of which I could do anything about. When people discussed politics, mainly to announce how they’d do things, my eyes would glaze over. I spent those years, I joked, on Planet Denial. True story.

And it worked. For eight years. During the next eight years I let some news leak through, and was still able to maintain my happy because the country seemed in good hands. It was a hopeful time. Then dark clouds began to gather.

I believe in being happy. I joke that I’ve built my platform on positivity. I think it’s my nature to be cheerful, to seek out the fun, to be happy. My blood type is B positive. Fact.

But the past five years, most especially, no surprise, the last year and a half, have taken a toll.
I not only keep up with the news now, for thirteen months I was obsessed. As we all were. And damn, it was dire.

But this post is about being happy, in spite of anything, including how my smart phone is able to probe my mind.

I have limited the amount of news I allow myself. That helps. That’s the first step.

Getting the vaccine was a joyful, happy moment of freedom. But, as society eases back into what it once was, as the landscape fills back up with bodies, as masks come off, I’m finding the reemerging to be a challenge. The Covid malaise. Then, one morning as I scrolled through news stories on my phone, I read “Feeling Blah Lately? It’s Called Languishing – And Here’s What You Can Do About It.” It has a name! Languishing is described as feeling low, dissatisfied, and lacking motivation. And I would add, losing your happy. The article gives the usual advice to get enough sleep, to meditate and exercise. Eat well. Take up a hobby. Visit friends.

What if you don’t feel like taking up or revisiting a hobby? What if the idea of socializing doesn’t do it for you? Sometimes I feel like the lock-down didn’t last long enough.

I started thinking about being happy. I believe that nothing and no one can “make” me happy. Or sad or angry or whatever for that matter. I’m a big believer in the power of the mind. It’s worked for me. I had an epiphany many years ago when I was experiencing situational depression, of the brokenhearted variety. I realized I wasn’t someone who would off herself and I sure didn’t want to live like this, all bummed out and weepy. I decided to be happy. It didn’t happen overnight, but that was the beginning. I chose to be happy.

So, in the midst of the languishing, I’m choosing to be happy again.

A note here to say I know depression is not to be taken lightly and anything I say is with respect to that. I cannot imagine what these past months have been like for some people.

Anyone who ever had to give up an addictive bad habit knows to avoid the triggers that induce that addiction. When seeking something like happiness, there are also triggers, to induce the happy. Gratitude is the first for me. Pausing to take a moment to look at all I have to be thankful for soothes me. I’m not just talking about family and friends and pets and things, but the basic necessities. Everyone has something to be grateful for, no matter how seemingly small.

Throughout my life, music and movies have contributed to bringing happiness and joy. They are the second triggers. When I was in high school and feeling low, one late night I chanced upon a 1968 movie called What’s So Bad About Feeling Good? It starred George Peppard and Mary Tyler Moore and a toucan carrying a happy virus that descends upon New York City. Hilarity and songs ensue. I loved it. I felt buoyed. I saw this movie twice more, both at times I needed it. I haven’t seen it for years but never forgot it and it will always have a place in my heart.

Some weeks ago, as I languished, clicking aimlessly through movie listings, I came across Amelie, a 2001 French film about a young woman who discovers a box belonging to a former resident of her apartment. She sets about finding him and returning his childhood memories. She decides if he’s happy to get the box, it will be a sign and she will help others. It’s a lovely film. I don’t know why I put off watching it for so long. It was a delight. I loved it and once again felt that surge of joy.

Then there’s music. Music has helped us be happy since we sang If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands. Music is a pretty universal trigger for all kinds of feelings. We have all the music at our fingertips any time. So I can listen to Don’t Worry, Be Happy, follow with Hakuna Mutata, and Pharrell Williams’ Happy. You get it. You have your own list. Lately, as I’m getting back to myself, I’m liking Can’t Stop the Feeling from the Trolls movie and Meghan Trainor’s Better When I’m Dancin’.

So limiting depressing news, finding music and movies that lift the spirit and gratitude can help get the happy back. It also helps if you amuse yourself. I find myself ridiculous. My inner dialogue, the stupid mistakes I make, the way I dance when I’m alone, life in general is fucking hilarious. I also recommend Worry-Free Weekends, which give you license to NOT WORRY. For forty-eight hours, during which you really can’t do that much to solve anything, you can have some fun. Fun is very important to being happy.

Look for signs. They’re out there. I was having a particularly bummer day. As I drove to the store, I pulled up behind a car with the license plate GD HPNS. I thought it either meant God Happens or Good Happens. Either was a nice reminder. Look around. Life is happening. Happy is happening.

I feel better already. Stay tuned.

(P.S. This was written a month or so ago, before the Delta variant appeared. It’s almost as if the whole pandemic is starting all over. Please get the vaccine, We CAN end it, but we all have to help.)

The Twelve Delays of Christmas

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Turns out this is an aptly titled blog post. I’ve been delaying posting this for several weeks. Not sure why. Hope it’s worth the wait.

This Christmas, instead of wishing for what we don’t have or can’t do, it’s time to be grateful for all we have and to help those less fortunate. Something that struck me lately was the simple saying that it’s good to make yourself happy and better to make someone else happy. It takes so little to make someone’s day and it lifts us up, too.

This is a good year to remember the good times of holidays gone by. I see a lot of people posting throw back photos on Facebook. I’m always a little shocked when I see an old party picture. All those people, up against each other, no masks, kissing, hugging. Then I check the date and it’s always from the before.

I’ve decided to share a poem written by a man I knew from a writers group. I think of that man and this poem every year at this time. I’m kind of glad he didn’t have to see what’s happened in the country he loved and served.

I met Orin Parker in 1998. He was always a lovely man, generous with praise, honest with critique, always joking, quick to laugh. He was a wonderful nonjudgmental Mormon, sweet, with just the right hint of tartness.

He’d led quite a life. Orin determined that he wanted a life of travel and learning. He married Rita Clement after college and began a government job. The learning and travel followed, along with children, as he was posted first in Athens, Greece. He studied Arabic and was sent to Ankara, Turkey.

In 1960, he joined American Friends of the Middle East (AFME), a non-profit educational organization and opened a local office in Baghdad, Iraq, where his fifth child was born. After five years there, the family settled in Bethesda, Maryland. He worked his was up in the organization to become Executive Vice President. AFME grew under his leadership and he began his final posting in Beirut, Lebanon. Civil war erupted after four idyllic years there. The remaining three years were challenging for the family. During that time, while keep the office functioning and his family safe, Orin began writing his first novel, Burial in Beirut.

Orin passed away in January, 2014 at the age of 90. He’d kept attending writers group until a month before he passed. For the last few years, Rita was his chauffeur, guiding him and his walker into the room. She was as sweet as he, no tartness.

Orin wrote six novels and a family history, all published on Amazon and still available in print and ebook formats — A Return to Baghdad, Burial in Beirut, The Embassy, Raja’oun: We Will Return, Lukewarm: A Novel of the Early Cold War, The Father I Never Knew, and The Representer, a novel of American Politic$: Has Congress got a Price Tag?

I am honored to publish, for the first time, Orin’s silly take on The Twelve Days Of Christmas. I present to you this present…

The Twelve Delays of Christmas

On the FIRST day of Christmas my true love said to me,
“My Darling, go buy us a nice Christmas tree.”

On the SECOND day of Christmas my true love said to me,
“Bring the TWO sets of bulbs,
And, Dear, please buy the tree.”

On the THIRD day of Christmas my true love said to me,
“I’ll need THREE strings of lights,
And the two bulbs … and, Love, please get the tree.”

On the FOURTH day of Christmas my true love instructed me,
“Bring me FOUR plastic angels,
And the three strings of lights,
And the two sets of bulbs,
And, Husband, remember to buy the tree.

On the FIFTH day of Christmas my true love raised her voice.
“I’ll need FIVE GOLDEN BOWS,
And the four plastic angels,
The three strings of lights,
And the two sets of bulbs,
And will you PLEASE go get the tree?”

On the SIXTH day of Christmas, my true love glared at me.
“I’ll need six sprigs of holly.
For the FIVE GOLDEN BOWS,
Four plastic angels,
Three strings of lights,
Two sets of bulbs,
And you still don’t know where to find a tree?”

On the SEVENTH day of Christmas, my true love punched my shoulder.
“I’ll require seven garland wreaths,
For the six springs of holly,
With the FIVE GOLDEN BOWS,
And four plastic angels,
Three strings of lights,
Two sets of bulbs,
And Get Up and go find that tree.”

On the EIGHTH day of Christmas, my true love turned off the TV.
“I want eight tinkling bells,
Plus the seven garland wreaths,
For the six sprigs of holly,
With the FIVE GOLDEN BOWS,
And four plastic angels,
Three strings of lights,
Two sets of bulbs, and Dammit, get that tree.”

On the NINTH day of Christmas, my true love went berserk,
“Get me nine books of stamps,
Eight tinkling bells,
Seven garland wreaths,
Six sprigs of holly,
FIVE GOLDEN BOWS,
Four plastic angels,
Three strings of lights,
Two sets of bulbs,
And have you any idea where you’ll find a tree?”

On the TENTH day of Christmas, my true love locked me out, yelling,
“In ten minutes I want everything on that list.”
“List???” Let’s see.
Nine pounds of holly?
Eight elastic angels?
Seven Springfield lights?
Six golden mistletoes?
Five tulip bulbs?
Four garlic wreaths?
Three airmail stamps?
Two tinker bells?
And, I forgot, what kind of tree?

On the ELEVENTH day of Christmas, my true love was really mad.
I’d bought eleven crates containing
Ten garlic wreaths,
Nine outdoor lights,
Eight silver bowls,
Seven mistletoes,
Six fresh-baked bagels,
Five large light bulbs,
Four candy canes,
Three frosted doughnuts,
Two pumpkin pies,
And an artificial ficus tree.

On the TWELFTH day of Christmas I was back on the TV.
She cursed me with twelve unprintable words,
Took back the eleven crates,
Traveling ten extra miles,
Scoured nine crowded stores,
To find the eight decorations,
With only seven hours remaining
Before our six relatives arrived

In their five Chevrolets,
Bringing four lousy fruitcakes,
And their three noisy kids,
Each sucking two candy canes.
We ate our partridge around the ficus tree … and the TV.
See, Christmas isn’t such a strain, after all.


Merry Christmas!! Happy New Year!!! Happy Everything and Everybody!!!

And The Dream Goes On…

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Covid-19 cannot continue to be my excuse for not writing. I don’t think any of us thought this would become a way of life. But for now and the foreseeable future, it may be. I’m not fond of the term “new normal.” There is no more “normal.” We need a new word for normal. For me, for now, there’s a “Before” and there will be an“After.” We’re living in the In Between.

Does every day start to feel like Sunday to you, too? Some of us have been living in an endless weekend and we’re over it. So, until the In Between becomes the After, it’s time for us to get going. It’s time for me to get back to following my dreams.

I’m writing a semi-fictional memoir, a memoir as a novel. What I can’t remember, I’ll make up. By fictionalizing some of it, perhaps events will turn out differently. Certainly more entertaining.


I was not raised by alcoholics or drug addicts, or in foster care or a cult. I wasn’t beaten or kept in a cage. In spite of an ordinary, middle-class childhood, I still managed to arrive at adulthood a clueless mess. The biggest challenge of growing up was doing it with four sisters and being completely different than they were.

My story will begin when I became 18 because that’s when life got interesting. I turned eighteen in 1970, a child of the times. I feel fortunate to have been born a member of this generation. The Baby Boomers may not have been the greatest generation, but we were the best. We were the most fun.

I want to embrace my Baby Boomerness – who I am and why I am. Life turned out pretty damn well and sometimes I wonder – how the hell did that happen? My long and whiney road, lined with hilarity, tragedy, misadventures, and marriages, love and hate, and, finally, enlightenment, began fifty years ago. It’s been a wild and crazy trip and it hasn’t always been pretty. I’m ready to let it all hang out.

Years ago a friend gifted me a journal-type notebook called The One Hundred Year Life-Log. It’s structured for recording a person’s life history, beginning to end. Or near end. It allows one to reconstruct their past life quickly and recall memorable events. It permits those who have not kept a day to day diary to go back and up-date their lives. Once a life had been brought up-to-date, it permits the person to keep a running record.

None of us knows when our life-log ends. But I can’t help guessing. I do the math. I’m sixty-eight. I don’t think I’ll have to keep a record running for much longer. Ten years? Do I have thirteen years left? Something like that. This could be the last decade of my life. However much time is left for me, it’s the last leg of this journey.

The idea that anything can happen in the coming weeks makes diving into a creative project all the more important. I can’t do much about what is happening except vote and help where and how I can. I am thankful to have this new project to work on. I can forget what’s happening for a bit while I remember and write about all the days in the Before.

I find myself moved profoundly by the simplest phrases. For instance, I was watching a football game this Sunday, and on a sign in the back of the field were the words Dream Fearlessly. That is how I will go forward, following my dreams – fearlessly. How about you?

No Escape From Reality

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First and foremost, how are all of you? Are you staying safe? Going crazy? It’s getting old, isn’t it?

When the shut down first began, I vowed to not get too used to lounge wear, that I would wear street clothes a few times a week and every Friday was designated Fancy Friday, a dress-up day. Had to laugh at myself this past week. I had taken the plunge and gone into a store. As I drove home I noticed, for the first time in three days, that I was wearing the same sweats and tee shirt. My hairdo is a ball cap and make up is a pair of dark glasses. Wearing pants with a zipper instead of elastic, and Fancy Fridays are long gone. What about you? Are you covid fatigued?

Today is the fifth day of the Sturgis Bike Rally in South Dakota – 250,000 bikers drinking and partying like it’s 2019. One of the news stories this morning told of nightclub-like house parties in the Hollywood Hills, more people thinking partying with a hundred or so of unmasked strangers is a good idea. Kids are going back to school.

Seriously, what could go wrong?

On July 1st I wrote –
It begins again. At the very least, three more months of not seeing friends in person, not being served food and drink, not making plans to travel, or anything else. Some of us, a bit over half the population of us, observed the protocol necessary to end this virus. And now, for whatever reasons, opening too soon, people gathering in groups on the beach, in bars and coffee shops.

I’m kind of pissed.

Before July, back in April, when stay-at-home was, supposedly, in full force, I was still recording daily happenings. Let’s go back to April, which seems so long ago.

Friday, April 3rd – Two notable events today – Got our first Instacart delivery. Like it!
And we went “out” to dinner, taking the dinner I’d made to the beach, parked on a side street with a view of the ocean. It was just nice to get out.

Monday, April 6th – Made it all day without watching any news!

Wednesday, April 8th – Drama on my street today. Four cop cars whizzed to the end of the block where there was a guy waving a crowbar. Excitement.

Friday, April 17th – I can’t believe it’s only been four weeks.

Thursday, April 23rd – Kids next door selling lemonade. Are we at this point now?

Thursday, April 30th – Melt down, break down night. Are others experiencing this 42 day breakdown?

Saturday, May 2nd – Snake in the kitchen! Three firemen couldn’t find it. Snake either made its way outside, or it’s still in the kitchen somewhere. I put a trash can and a broom in a handy place, just in case. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Tuesday, May 5th – Cinco de Mayo. Homemade margaritas and enciladas. The rest of my Old Navy came today. Yay, new clothes. Also saw the snake outside. It has to be the same snake. Otherwise there are two snakes and I do not want to think that.

Tuesday, May 12th – I just took Bug for a walk. It’s a perfect afternoon and neighbors are outside, working or playing in their yards. The guy next door is blasting music. It’s Blue Oyster Cult’s The Reaper. I associate the song with the television production of The Stand. Just turned the day into something Stephen Kingish. Nice neighborhood, normal, regular people going on about their business. But, we all know, Something lurks beneath the surface. Baby, don’t fear the reaper. Yeah, right.

Thursday, May 14th – Red letter day! Our landlady is ready to sell us this house we’ve been renting for the past seven years. We love this house. In the midst of this pandemic, a whole new adventure begins. Definitely given us new avenues of conversation.

Friday, May 15th – As of this weekend, many more businesses are opening. We’re staying in our bubble. We’ll see how this all shakes out in three weeks.

Saturday, May 16th – Two parties happening on our street. People trying to go back to normal.

There is no “normal.” We are well into August now, and as we all know, cases of the virus have risen, with no real end in sight. We are in this for the duration. We’re all in the same boat. I wish we were all rowing in the same direction. Wishing won’t get all the people to do what they should be doing in the interest of all of us. Can’t wish away the virus, no matter how high an office one holds in government. The best we can do is what we believe is right. And, I guess, hope for the best.

I wish you all wellness, in body, mind and spirit. Eckhart Tolle says, Get the inside right and the outside will fall into place. Do whatever you do to center and put positiveness out there – meditate, pray, twirl in place, sing, dance, whatever.

And Vote!

Caught In A Landslide

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This blog, about writing and publishing, has been on pause. Kind of like our world has been. For the past couple of months I haven’t written anything beyond lists – daily, weekly, shopping, chores. I’ve written cards, emails and texts. Instead of actual writing I have made two meals a day, baked, made masks, bought things on Amazon and with Instacart, and cleaned every closet, drawer and cabinet in the house. I walk my dog at least three times a day.

This blog is going to take a turn. Kind of like our world did. This is my Corona Diary.

How it began for me…

Thursday night, March twelve. Husband and I were at odds over a planned trip I had to go to Tampa in a week. I was to petsit my niece’s dogs while she and her family went on a cruise, booked a year ago. Cruise ship passengers, infected with COVID-19, were all over the news.

“There’s no way you’re going,” Husband said.

“I think my niece will probably cancel but at this point, I can’t bail,” I said. “She paid for my ticket.”

“So you would endanger, not just you, but me?”

A huge fight ensued. Angry words were said, tears were shed, doors were slammed.

Turned out to be something of a blessing, as we were about to go into a lock down together. By that following morning my niece had cancelled her trip. Husband and I were going to have to hunker down. Together. We talked, got honest, got real and cleared the air.

Just in the nick of time.

I kind of feel like I was designed for this. I can be a recluse. I keep myself busy. I’m never bored and never lonely. I mean, I miss doing things that require going out and being around people, but I’m also fine with this.

I haven’t been writing fiction but I do observe things and wonder things and have all kinds of thoughts, which I have been noting.

At the beginning we thought older folks, like me, and those with existing, compromising conditions were the ones most at risk. When I read that a middle grade teacher overheard some students referring to the virus as the “Boomer Remover,” I thought it was funny. But also, sadly, true. Of course now we know better. Anyone can be in danger.

I know it wasn’t just me who felt drawn to watching Outbreak, Contagion and The Stand. I don’t know what I was feeling those first few weeks. Unsettled. Unnerved. And yet determined to be happy and grateful.

After years of proudly stating that I don’t read or watch news, I find myself glued to it. The Shit Show, aka the daily briefing, became my soap opera with more outrageous antics from the cast every day. Scary and unsettling and would be hilarious if it weren’t so real.

There is so much content on television to catch up on, but I spent the first week or so rewatching Lost for the zillionth time and sewing masks. There’s time enough to watch season three of Ozark. You can’t pay me enough to watch Tiger King.

March 17th or so. It’s an overcast, dreary day here in Vista, CA. I was just walking Bug. A nearby neighbor’s trees are devoid of leaves. A crow sits alone on one stark branch, cawing. Very Stephen King-like. A scene from The Stand.

I have the itchiest face. If not touching my face is the key to not getting the virus, I’m doomed.

Early April, walking Bug. It’s been raining hard for a couple of days and the ditch along my street has turned into a canal. There’s a little boy at the end of the road, playing along the side of the ditch. No adults around. The kid is maybe six. I watch him, because he’s close to that water. I don’t want him to see me and Bug. I don’t want to engage him, but I’m keeping an eye on him and wondering where the parents are. I’m convinced the water is not deep and he doesn’t seem to be getting too close, so I start to sneak away.

He spots us, follows. “Hey, hey.” I let him catch up to us. Bug is dying for some attention from someone other than me. I let the kid pet Bug. This is just before I stop allowing anyone to touch my dog. So I say, “Do you live in that house?” He points up another driveway. He’s bummed because softball practice has been cancelled. I ask if he’s still having to go to school. He nods. I say sorry. Then he says, “Three kids at my school have the corona virus.”

I yank on Bug’s leash and back up quickly. Okay, I say, time for us to go. Now he’s following us up the street. When I tell him he should go back to his house, he says he can go up the street. Brat. I can hear his footsteps following us. Creepy brat. Finally he heads back.

Thinking about it later, I realize it’s unlikely three kids got the virus and it wasn’t reported. It’s probably not true. Still, one of those surreal moments.

Goodbye for now. I hope you all stay safe and healthy. Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we’re here we should dance.

A smile and a wave counts as interaction these days. Have fun hunkering down. Let the stress go, let the fear go, just be sensible. See you next time.

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Finally

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Finally

I’m baacckk…

It’s not just television shows like Better Call Saul that can take a two-year hiatus. A blog can, too. I only wish my return was as highly anticipated.

Here it is, two months into 2020. Since finishing Sexsage in September, 2018, I haven’t written. I’ve kept a toe in the pond by doing a final edit on my novel Outlaws but that’s about it. I’m hoping I needed the break to come back stronger. Kind of like Better Call Saul.

I started 2018 with the intention of writing, producing, printing and selling Sexsage. Although I made some mistakes – all fixable – I succeeded in what I’d set out to do. At the end of 2018 life did that flip flop thing it does and I felt uncertain and untethered, needing to take a breath. I decided to step back from writing to devote myself to my health and well-being.

2019 became the Year of the Purge. I gave up sugar and carbs (Hello, Keto), which led to purging sixty pounds, along with losing sciatica and other pains. My energy level is off the charts. I have cleaned, organized and emptied unwanted items from every inch of my house. It’s been a lot of fun.

I’ve run out of things to clean. I find myself making new projects for myself. I know what this is. This is pre-writing procrastination. It’s taken me months to sit down and write this blog post. My next novel is beating at my brain. And I want to move all the framed pictures from a hall-long counter and hang them instead before starting.

See what I mean?

The next book is a historical, so there’s research involved. I’m going to attempt two points of view for the first time. I don’t even know if I can still do this thing again, this writing. I know what’s involved, what it takes, the joy of the perfect word or phrase, the agony of critique. Yet, after a two-year break, the process feels fresh.

My attitude about my writing has always been – why not me? I’ve had no illusions about the depth of my talents. I know I’m probably more of a Solieri than an Amadeus. But I read and enjoy plenty of Solieri-grade novels. So, why not me?

I know I can write another novel.

I walked in and out of my garage for a couple of days as I contemplated how to best clean and organize it. It seemed an insurmountable job. It demanded a purge. I let myself be overwhelmed, not in an anxious way, but consciously. I let it pour over me, looking at the big picture, the long view. That makes it easier to break it down and then break it down again. Pretty soon I had doable tasks. It’s a process that works for me. It’s the story behind my name, learning to build things a brick at a time. It works. You should see my beautiful garage.

I’ll use the same method to write my next book. In my mind, it’s written already. I know the story; beginning, middle and end. Now the pieces need to come together. A novel no agent can resist must be written. I say that every time. I have faith. Every time.

I want to enjoy everything, whether it’s tackling a DIY project, working social media, writing a book, or cleaning the kitchen. 2020 is going to be full of fun and surprises. It’ll be nothing if not interesting, that’s certain.

It’s time to get to it.

I leave you with these words from Jodi Picoult. Something all of us procrastinating, hiatus-taking writers should remember.

You can always edit a bad page.
You can’t edit an empty page.

Stay tuned.

You can edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.

Don’t Quit

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Hello Faithful Reader. I’m back.

I devoted all of 2018 to writing, producing, publishing, and marketing my first nonfiction book, Sexsage. I made so many mistakes, but two in particular. I should not have used a pseudonym, Virginia Watkins, for the book. Second, I should have known, going in, that I suck at social media.
While it did not turn out as I’d expected and hoped, I did do what I’d intended. I didn’t just try, I completed it. I’m proud of my effort and my book. It’s far from successful–yet–but, do I give up? Would you?
I do what I generally do in adverse situations. I make plans. I decided that what I needed after the Year of Sexsage was to step back. Reevaluate. This is the first extended time in twenty-seven years that I haven’t been working, in some way, on a novel. Will I be able to do it again? Do I have another book in me?
I believe I have seven more books in me. At least the stories are there, taking up residence in my head.
I decided as last year was ending, that this year, 2019, would be about getting myself back together, physically, mentally, spiritually. All three took a lot of hits at the end of 2018. Now, with the end of summer in sight, I have lost weight, gained energy and I’m feeling pretty positive.
I love writing. I believe everything I’m doing will contribute to future projects –the books I’ve read, the shows I’ve binged, the pounds I’ve shed, the closets and cabinets I’ve cleaned. The ton of junk I’ve given to Goodwill is a metaphor for the purging of my mind and spirit.
So what do we do when we’re fighting discouragement or disappointment?
We re-set, re-adjust, re-start, re-focus, repeat. As many times as we need to.

Don’t Quit.

When things go wrong as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As everyone of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out.
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow,
You may succeed with another blow.

Success is failure turned inside out–
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell just how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit–
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.
– written by John Whittier
– published by Edgar A. Guest

Since a teenager, I have loved and been inspired by this poem. For me, it never loses its wisdom.
I can’t quit. I’m getting older by the minute (this is a recurring theme in this blog), and the minutes run fast. The sand in my glass is emptying. I’m not ready to chuck it in just yet. I will be devoting 2020 and 2021 to writing and selling my next two books. This blog is about getting published, whether through traditional publishing (I should be so lucky), or with self-publishing, and what comes after. I will continue to follow my dream of traditional publishing and I will continue to blog all about it.

Stay tuned. Never quit.

The Proof Copies

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I’m eating an In n’ Out Burger and trying to ignore the box from Amazon sitting on my bed. I’m pretty sure the box contains the proof copies of Sexsage. I want to eat my lunch before I open the box in case I’m desperately disappointed and lose my appetite. Or throw up.
Burger consumed, I approach the box.
I’m afraid. Will I open the box to gasps of “It’s perfect. I love it. I did it!” or “This is horrible. I can’t sell this book.” Pregnant women often have nightmares about what they will give birth to. When I was expecting my son I dreamed that what came out was a wolf. A werewolf to be more specific. Opening this box feels something like that. I’ve had nightmares about the book.
I open the box. The proof copies are here. Not a werewolf among them. I love it! I did it!
I start reading and stop immediately. There are pages missing. The introduction ends abruptly. A mild panic sets in until I see I’ve turned pages two and three together. Pages all there. Not a werewolf among them. Whew.
It’s good. It’s a real book. I’m so relieved.
These 106 pages are the culmination of eleven months of determination. It’s been a boulder-sized struggle to keep at it; searching for an approach into the writing of it, finding that, then losing my beloved cat, Poe, my son getting married out of state, travel, family drama. Then there was the debacle with social media, glitches with the illustrations, and the website. Starts and stops.
My goal was to have the book out by mid-November. I’m two weeks behind schedule, but it could be worse. As of this writing the book is still not published and available but the website is functioning and we’re close, so close. Now I will do some serious marketing and push for Christmas sales.
I wanted to devote a year to this experiment. I set out to prove to myself that I could take an idea to completion, and sell it. I’ve done the completion part but the selling part remains to be seen. I have a few weeks left of the year to get sales off the ground.
I did something I’ve never done before, and I knew next to nothing about the process of writing a nonfiction book and self publishing it. I stumbled into the unknown. But I did the task at hand and then the next step indicated. And that worked. My excuse for every mistake was, “I didn’t know.”
And, boy, I am ready to get back to fiction, to story-telling.
I swear to you, I’m not the most consistent, energetic or focused person. I love diversions. Television. Movies. Books. Recently I’ve been watching football. I’m lazy. I love naps. I take procrastination to new heights.
So, if I can do this, trust me, anyone can. You can.

Can A Book Sell Without Social Media?

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Nothing shows my age more than my complete lack of social media skills. Seriously, non-existent.
Social media is a must for any endeavor, any new product, any art. I’d anticipated using it. I was going to make promotional videos and post them on every social media site under my author pseudonym.
I’m on Facebook, of course, as are so many of my aging generation. I enjoy keeping up with family and friends. I “like” their posts and photos, and sometimes comment. I don’t post daily. Sometimes, but rarely, I post a photo or an announcement. I’ve been invited into groups that I swear I’ll participate in, but then I never visit. Online groups are either intimidating to me or seem filled with people who have never heard of spelling or grammar. There are so many members, so many posts – how do I make my mark among all that?
I took a quick dip into the Twitter pool. The hash tags frightened me so I jumped right out.
I’ve managed to avoid Instagram altogether. Until now.
I’m aware of how this makes me sound. I’m hopeless. And I don’t care. I’ve always said I’m on a need-to-know basis with technology. I haven’t needed, or wanted, to know this stuff. I’ve been forced to face it in spite of all my efforts to avoid it.
In order for anything to go viral, one must build a following and get in with influencers. I barely have a following on my own Facebook account, and now I’ve introduced a person who, for all intents and purposes, is a newborn. New born to Facebook and Instagram. How is she to find followers when no one, literally no one, knows who she is? How is she going to get in with an influencer?
An influencer is a person or a group that has the ability to influence the behavior or opinion of others. The influencer is the individual whose effect on the purchase decision is in some way significant or authoritative.
The aim is to join groups on Facebook or Instagram, especially those with influence among like-minded people. Then you read through all the posts and add comments and share their posts. Something like that.
I’m not good at ingratiating myself into online groups like these. I never know what to post. Finding the right groups is the challenge. Ironically, I’m a joiner in real life. I’m friendly, affable, polite and respectful. Most of the time. I can’t seem to translate that into social mediaese.
I’d never been on Instagram before. Now my alter ego is. And she’s doing poorly. Nothing she – I – posts is trending. Nothing is going viral. I – she – have posted photos with captions that I hoped would puzzle and intrigue viewers, sparking their curiosity. But who’s looking at them? The author has no friends. Sad face emoji.
To use any of these sites effectively, you must spend quality time on them, engaging others, applauding their achievements, while sharing your own. You can’t just be one long posting about yourself, which people hate. I need to find out how to make this fun for me. Right now it feels like a chore that I don’t want to do.
Do I need social media to sell this book? Probably. I’ll do the best I can with social media, but I will also go the old school route. A few friends and I are going to venues that attracts older couples, people of a certain age. These are my readers. Couples in long term relationships are the primary demographic for my book. We are going to paper windshields with large postcards about the book. I will hand out bookmarks. I will encourage everyone I know, everyone I come into contact with, to spread the word. Get the buzz going.
When the book is published, which should be by Thanksgiving, I will hope for good word-of-mouth. And I will pray sales snowball.
It could happen.
Meanwhile, I’ve realized that writing the book under a pseudonym, might not have been the brightest idea. I did not think that through. I didn’t want, what, to confuse the no readers of my unpublished middle grade books with the publication of an adult sex book?
That’s right, faithful blog followers, it’s a sex book.
What was I thinking? Using another name just made the social media thing more difficult. It seemed like a good idea at the time and I will see it through. Mainly, though, I want to make sales. I want readers.
Now I’ll need everyone I know to help get the word out. I do believe you’ll like the book. I think it’s a good product and worth the $14.95 price. It’s informative, instructional and light-hearted.
The book is Sexsage, written by Virginia Watkins. Now you know. This is the project I’ve been blogging about all year and it’s about to come to fruition.
Spread the word. Visit http://www.discoversexsage.fun and watch some videos that will give you more of an idea of what Sexsage is all about.
And stay tuned.

Over My Head

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It’s getting closer. Publication for my adult nonfiction book is scheduled for November fifteenth. The final edit is done, and I’m about to write the acknowledgment page. I’m feeling pretty good about it all, pretty cocky actually. It’s all falling into place.

Or is it about to fall apart?

October is all about marketing and promotion. I’ve spent September getting all these materials together; shooting promo videos, completing the covers, getting everything ready to post online.

Then I’m stopped abruptly by bookmarks.

I want to have bookmarks made to include in the marketing materials, instead of business cards. I have several reasons for this. First, since I’m writing under a pseudonym, business cards seem unnecessary. I’d rather the name I use for my children’s books not be associated with an adult book. Second, a bookmark is bigger than a business card and can include more information about the book. Third, I can include pictures of the front and back covers.

I know a lot of authors who have had bookmarks made and it seemed like it would be pretty simple. But it hasn’t been.

Or maybe it’s me.

Then, a nephew with some experience with book covers harshly critiqued the front and back covers I thought were so perfect. Everyone’s loved them. Except this guy. And he’s right about one thing for sure. The text on the back cover needs to be completely rewritten. I wrote it in a hurry, just to have it done. Never a good idea. So it needs another edit. Before the promotional pamphlets are printed. Which was supposed to be this week.

And I’m having physical difficulties in the form of carpal tunnel syndrome. I’ve let it go for so long that the first three fingers and thumb of my right hand are constantly numb and the rest of my hand tingles all the time. It hurts. I’ll be having surgery but not until after the book launch party, if I can make it that long. Right now it’s hard to use my hand to write or use the mouse or the keypad on my phone.

So, the cockiness I was feeling is subsiding as I realize I may be in over my head. I’ve fallen into a malaise.

I’ve been trying to tackle social media and as October approaches, this is more important than ever. It’s not going well. I feel I’m losing ground.

My topic for this post was going to be social media and my ineptness at it. But this funk about the whole project is overwhelming me.

And then it came to me, the real cause of this funk. I’m amazed I didn’t realize this sooner. It’s five days to my birthday.

Anyone who’s been following this blog probably knows that I suffer from gerascophobia, a fear of aging. During the week leading up to the dreaded day, October first, I go through the five stages of grief. This birthday is worse than ever. I will now be on the seventy side of my sixties. So I rage and weep and generally fall into a week long melancholia that only ends with the acceptance stage that comes when the birthday itself has passed.

October, fittingly, is the scariest month. It begins with the distressing birthday and ends with Halloween. For me, in between, it’s facing the horrors of social media, sending queries to distributors, facing actual store managers, and dealing with all the business of preorders, large orders, merchandising.

I think I may be drowning in self doubt and anxiety. Fear of the unknown. I’ve never done any of this before.

But what do I do? I have to pull myself up, float to the surface, pull in a great breath of air and carry on. Which is exactly what I will do. The only other option would be to quit.

I’m not going to do that. I’ve invested so much.

Stay tuned.