September is a very happy month for me. Both my boys were born in September. I married Al in September. And I started my blog in September 2002. It seems like time flew, but if I stop and think about all the memories, well, I’ve lived a wonderful life so far. My boys turned into amazing men, dads themselves now. My husband has mellowed…he loved a party back in the day. Well, he still does, but he doesn’t stay up until 2 a.m. and then get up at 5 a.m. for work anymore. He never stopped loving people and action and still wants to be the last to leave any party. Not that we’ve had many opportunities to party since Covid came along. Al is used to being much busier, even in retirement. Golf, gym, long walks, tickets to concerts and sports events…all that stopped with the virus. He has been to a few baseball games and now that the heat is not so intense he’s back to walking. And I’m back to blogging and my book. Also yoga but it is so much better in a class.
I have been thinking about when to end the blog and next year, at 20 years, sounds like a good stopping point. I’ll keep my website and continue to post, but maybe do a “best of” or maybe a quarterly newsletter — I’ve got a year to figure it out. As much as I’ve adored this blog, I’ve dropped every pearl of wisdom I’ve learned along the way, probably twice. Stats say I’ve published 2,715 posts! Maybe after I read through the many years of blog posts and choose the “best of” I’ll have another non-fiction book. I always wanted to do that, too. A writer’s memoir. I love reading them, and they say to write the book you want to read.
Right now I really want to read Jane 2. Working title: Death on the Bayou. It feels so good to be writing daily again. Yes, even on my wedding anniversary. ❤
We do have a little condo in Florida, but this stuff won’t fit into it. So it’s in storage until we find our forever dream home. As usual, Al loaded more boxes than me. I have 7 boxes of books, all the rest are things like wires and plugs and stereo/electroic stuff. It’s fine, I am looking forward to having a turntable and records again. In the first Jane in St Pete book, she decides to buy herself a turntable and vinyl records. So far in Jane 2.0 (100+ pages) she has not mentioned music once. Back to Al, he has decided, with my encouragement, not to sell his motorcycle, but it’s stored elsewhere. He needs to work on it. A lot. And I’ll work on my book.
This should be a happy exciting time for us but I am too keyed up and Al is not at his best when he is planning two vacations at once. We finished booking the short trip to Traverse City, but the long one to Seattle is half done. The internet, at least the part of it that run hotels and Airbnb, is having issues this morning. So we have our plane tickets and our main place booked (Jimi Hendrix House–or something Jimi Hendrix). Did you know Jimi was born and raised in Seattle? So we will pay tribute while there. We plan to stay on Bainbridge Island for a few days but that’s when the internet went boom. Or the travel parts of it. I called the island on the phone, someone took my number, told me their internet is down, and they’d call me back. Al was having the same problem.
Eventually, Al and I had words and I took a pill. I had the Bainbridge Island place all set and he wouldn’t like me press “book” because he is a control freak and also says I get things wrong sometimes. Both those things are true but I have booked lots of vacations. Saw my final doctor yesterday and I asked if I might need to see a therapist of some sort because I have a new phobia (walking down stairs) and it is accompanied by a vision of me lying crumpled at the bottom step, she immediately said YES. And she changed around my meds meanwhile, as I have no time to find a shrink in Michigan. I will find someone in Florida or maybe this new pill she gave me will be the magic one. I will be fine. I have my trusty Xanax, it’s just got side effects I’m not fond of, but it works really well for panic attacks and even everyday anxiety.
We are mostly done here. The storage area is set except Al’s giant toolbox. The things we are taking in car to Florida are mostly packed. And we almost have our second leg of the Grandchildren Tour booked. We are not staying for any length of time in Florida in August. 1. Go see Ben 2. Close on house 3. Drive to Florida 4. Fly to Seattle 5. Have a fun relaxing time. That’s the entire plan. Except I will bring a pen and notebook and write when I can. I’ll have my laptop too for blogging which I feel I’m neglecting horribly. I used to do a faithful #MondayBlogs and if not Monday I’d hit up #TuesdayBookBlog. I have no hashtag for this thwarted Thursday.
When several stars align tightly in the night sky, astrologers call it a “crown of stars.” You can tell by the name it’s something good, right? A new Crown of Stars will gather in 2021 on February 11. This particular constellation of stars is made up of the sun, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn. What happens? Energy opens and pours forth. Energy for new projects. Energy releasing you where you were blocked or stuck. Yeah, it’s a good thing. I don’t know about you, but my creativity has been super low key for awhile now. Everything I thought would happen, and everything I planned on doing…none of it got done in January.
This is how bad it got. I have several cherished habits: yoga, meditation, daily morning diary, weekly blog post, usually on Monday, and of course, writing the next book in my new series Jane in St. Pete. All these activities were not stopped by Covid, like lots of other things I love to do on a regular basis. I still practice yoga and meditate daily. We all know what our fun is and, for almost everybody, at least some of that has been put on hold. I love my friends, and it wasn’t great when the hugs stopped, but we adapted. We survived.
*Moment of silence for those who have passed.*
My creative life started to unwind, bit by bit, and I let it. I figured I’d see what happened when I ran out of rope. So I didn’t write in my morning journal every day. Al’s retired and we like to chat over coffee. Some days I still journal, but not every day. Next to go was my weekly blog post. That was hard to reconcile. At first I just thought I needed a break, but eventually I figured I was beginning a new phase. And today is the introduction to that, at least for blogging. Once a month is better for me than once a week. This from a woman who blogged every single day for ten years! And once a week for nine years. Yes, in 2021 I will have been blogging 19 years.
Why did I stop? It felt right. What filled the void? Old fashioned email. We came to Florida in mid-December so we got lots of forwarded Christmas cards in January. I’m taking my time, but if you sent me a Christmas card and it made it’s way to Florida, I’ll be emailing you, if I haven’t already. I miss my friends and the holidays were hard in that respect. Al and I invited my dad over and we had a feast. My son called and Dad got to see his new house (new to Dad anyway) and his great-grandchildren. My other son called December 26, but with their Christmas card, they’d enclosed several “real” beautiful Christmas photos, and I let Dad choose one of those.
And for a long time, email and working on the next book, plus Zooming and conference calls with my writing friends to share helpful thoughts on manuscripts in process (I call this “critique” — a hangover from my teaching days) was more than enough. I didn’t worry about the journal or the blog. I didn’t even fret about not opening Facebook all that often. My thought was “something will happen.” I hoped it’d be sooner rather than later, but I just didn’t know when. I let ideas bubble up and pop into oblivion. I didn’t lecture myself about getting back on track. I considered that perhaps just writing the novel was enough.
Then I read my forecast for February on Astrology Zone by the amazing Susan Miller, all about the crown of stars this month, (and in Aries a stellium: three or more transiting planets in tight mathematical degree) I realized what was next for me. I already mentioned it once, but I’ll say it again, because it is stunning in its simplicity: I’ll be blogging once a month now instead of weekly. Oh, and yes, I’m still practicing Canva.
So that’s my news and I hope this month’s Crown of Stars brings lovely new energy your way, too.
It took all weekend, but I managed to make a Twitter post on Canva! Then I uploaded it to Twitter via Canva’s direct “post to Twitter now.” That was a mistake as I could not add my buy link to my tweet post. A problem with Canva is you can’t put the buy link into a Canva design. Just pop it beneath the tweet. Or use the Word Press link or caption option if you’re blogging.
I hope you can see that I am not very far at all in my quest to master Canva. I would take a class if I could find one. I already looked for Canva for Dummies but there is no such book. I was only able to make the above tweet because I used a stock template and changed the words in the text boxes. So, really, I’m not Canva ready. I’m just bungling along.
Also, all last week, when my book released, guess what everyone was tweeting about? The election. Which, okay, that was way more important than my new book release. So I decided to use the time to learn Canva. It is clear I need more time. Much more time. Or a class. Probably both.
One tip I do have is to talk to your writer friends now, especially those with book releases about the same time as yours. What are they doing? My writing friend Linda told me to use Canva for tweets and Facebook. She also said we should do an online “two writers talking about writing” thing. I liked that idea, but I told her I know nothing about Zoom except how to click on the link the leader sends.
But darn if she didn’t only find out how to do it, she found a writer who wanted to host us on her online program: Pink Panther Presents Author Talk. Our talk will be streamed live November 20 at 4 pm and anybody can watch it for free. So, we are still dealing with Covid, but there are ways to market your new release even if you are a tech disaster like me.
I must mention that I have had a website and a blog since 2002 and I use them as my platform base. My son suggested I start a blog way back and he taught me everything I know about having an online presence. If you don’t have a good website (I like Word Press and I pay $100 a year so there are no ads.) that’s my #1 tip. Get a website and start blogging! When I need help with technical aspects of my site, I use Bakerview Consulting; they are wonderful and also Word Press experts.
Another writing friend, Barb, has a book coming out December 9 and we share the same publisher, the lovely Wild Rose Press, who tweeted out my new release last week. Barb offered to interview me on her blog and I said wouldn’t it be fun to switch blogs for a day? I’d write a blog for her site and she’d write one for mine. About our new releases, of course. So really the basics of marketing online are having a platform like a website, use it to blog, then link posts on social media. Also, you gotta have writer friends. Those are my top two suggestions.
Suggestion three is for people who are good at online design. Make all those great Twitter and Facebook posts and pin them. Just don’t overdo promotion on Twitter and Facebook. Pinning a marketing post is fine, but scheduling your lovely designed posts to pop up every hour is not cool. Social sites require social engagement in a meaningful way. That means don’t just tweet fancy ways to say buy my book. But, hey, if you want to, here’s my link: https://amzn.to/34MK3FY.
Reading and journaling these past weeks with Colleen Story’s game changing Writer Get Noticed, so many of my writing plans have come into sharper focus, including how best to adjust my writing practices. Specifically, I’m looking at changing writing routines when my husband retires at the end of the year.
When I finish Jane in St Pete in December, I have no plans for a next novel. Al’s retirement is not the only reason it feels right to take a break from writing novels. Since I’ve been publishing books, I’ve steadily released at least one a year. I noticed a slow down with Lily White in Detroit, my tenth novel.
At first I attributed my decreased output to the added research that comes with writing crime novels, but after studying Colleen’s writer’s self-help guide, I realized I’ve come to a natural stopping point, at least for now, at least as far as writing novels.
As I worked through the illuminating exercises Colleen lays out in a genius step process, I learned that while adjusting to a new life passage that involves fun, travel and moving out of my home state, I still want to keep some portable writing practices. Writing a novel takes a big chunk of time, a room of my own and steady commitment, day after day, month after month.
My life is not going to have those long stretches of time in a writing room, at least not for a year or maybe even longer. Although…I start every day with morning pages, and have done for many years. I won’t give up my journal and gel pen. And I don’t want to give up my fiction writing groups and friends, either.
Short stories helped me fill the gap after Lily White and gave me something to bring to my critique groups. Stories kept my craft skills sharp. And eventually, they led to Jane in St. Pete. Like many writers, I started writing fiction with short stories. I published a few of them, but mostly they were a way to begin to figure out my voice and how to write a narrative.
Things can get stale for me if I keep doing them over and over without hitting refresh, and that happened recently with morning pages. I’d write a half page and sit there with nothing to say. Julia Cameron, who introduced me to morning pages, recommends three pages every morning. That’s still what I shoot for. Answering the questions Colleen poses became a way for me to write not just three pages every morning, but four, five, even six pages. All while discovering what to do next.
I was on fire as I got deeper into the heart of what I really want out of my writing life now. More flexibility. Less sustained attention. Writing I can finish in a couple of hours or days. Long before I began the daily discipline needed for writing novels, I was a blogger. I also published book reviews, personal essays, poetry and short stories. All things I enjoyed and could do around my teaching job.
With the help of Colleen’s therapeutic method of writerly inquiry, I was able to figure out how to keep the writing I love close while figuring out how this new adventurous phase of married life will look in retirement. I have so many new goals. I’m looking forward to finishing Jane and going through the editing process with my publisher’s guidance. I can’t wait to gear up for the marketing aspect of a new release–Colleen also helped me clarify how to do publicity my way.
I’ve learned what does and does not work for me as a writer. I love morning pages, social media, my blog. I especially enjoy giving my website a fresh design, which will happen in 2020 along with that novel I’ve been working on for a while now. 🙂 I’ve still got a ways to go with the novel, but the revision is coming together even as I decide what to pack and what to leave behind on this next great adventure.