Thursday, April 09, 2020

A Bleak House

By all accounts, this is predicted to be the worst week yet in the U.S. for Covid-19 deaths. Last night, before I went to bed, I turned on CNN for twenty minutes. The blame game was being played by the White House. The number of fatalities for the day in the U.S. hovered around 1,400. And, worse, I learned that 72% of those dying in the U.S. from this coronavirus are people of color. From the obvious lack of leadership to institutional racism, the news was bleak, to say the least.

So where does all of this leave us?

A friend, living and writing in New York City, wrote on Facebook that it’s like 9/11 but in slow motion. My daughter, in January, and ahead of her graduation from Kenyon College, accepted a position with a company in New York City. She turns 22 on Easter. Living in the City and working on Madison Avenue at age 22? We were all over the moon. Now, I have my Dad hat on: Start date is still June 8? Looking for an apartment and moving there when?

But I am one of the lucky ones (and, yes, I am knocking on wood as I write that sentence). My family is safe and, as of this writing, healthy. I am holed up with my wife and three daughters, all five of us working or studying virtually. We are reading a lot. My 19-year-old showed me that Instagram can be a useful tool and got us to make a family Tik Tok.

As I look to the future, I can only wonder about the aftermath. Three months? Six months? I heard yesterday, we will know where things stand from a medical standpoint in 18 months. People in my circles are reading more. That can’t be a bad thing. We are learning that technology can fill some spaces. Zoom doesn’t replace face-to-face interactions, but it’s better than email.

Still, I have friends who have lost loved ones. I know I will have more. Those people are not making Tik Toks, and they are not worried about getting their next Kindle download.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Podcasts, Anyone?

I’ve been hearing about podcasts for years, but never thought I’d listen to one. They just didn’t interest me. Even after reading Laura Oles’ guest post awhile back, I still wasn’t sure it was for me. But now, well, I never thought I’d say this, I’ve become semi-addicted to them. Not addicted-addicted because that would mean I would listen to every single podcast no matter what, but I have become fans of a few selected ones. I tend to listen to them while I’m cleaning or working on painting projects.

This all started when I got an opportunity to be interviewed by author Alexia Gordon on her podcast, The Cozy Corner with Alexia Gordon. I had done a podcast interview before for Destination Mystery but, other than listening to my own interview, I never listened to any of the other episodes.

This time I thought I should listen to some of the other interviews Alexia has done to get a feel for her interviewing style and the type of questions I might encounter. Plus, a number of the people she’s interviewed are either authors I know or ones whose books I’ve enjoyed.

Most podcasts are available on a number of different platforms, free with commercials. I have an iPod Touch so I just went searching on the podcast app and found The Cozy Corner and started listening. The podcasts are relatively short, 20 – 30 minutes or so each, so it was easy to squeeze them into my day. I found I enjoyed hearing authors talk about their books and their writing.

Then the History Channel started a HISTORY This Week podcast so I started listening to that one. This is where I found out about the Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919. The author of a book on the flood was interviewed so I got a copy and read it. It’s an extremely interesting book by Stephen Puleo called Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919. HISTORY This Week also recently did a podcast on the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1919, which I also found interesting.

Then I found Hollywood and Crime where I listened to a multi-episode series on the Black Dahlia and other horrific murders of women that occurred in Los Angeles in the late 1940s. That was an eye opener. I’d heard about the Black Dahlia, of course, but not the others.

Now, let’s get back to the podcast interview that started it all. It was recorded on March 7th before all of this craziness started using Zoom (audio only). I’d never heard of Zoom until that interview, now I see it mentioned everywhere as people shelter at home and use it to hold meetings and classes and generally connect with others.

The interview is available today (Wednesday 4/8) at 7 a.m. CDT. I’m always a bit nervous about being interviewed because sometimes my mind just goes blank or I think of a much better answer to a question long after the interview is over. And, of course, this time was one of those times where I thought of a much better answer or at least additional things I could have said.

My main character is a computer programmer so Alexia wanted to know if I’d made her one because I was trying to encourage young women to get into the field. (Or something like that. I don’t remember exactly how she worded it.)

Honestly, that question floored me because I never thought of any characters that I’ve created as having an impact beyond the story. Maybe I should think about that more. I made Rory a freelance programmer partly because I needed a job for her that would be flexible enough so she could do sleuthing during the day if needed and partly because I was a programmer for 20 years so I understand how she thinks. Plus anyone who writes code tends to be a little analytical so I figured that was a good attribute for an amateur sleuth. Then I think I blathered on about something for a while.

What I really should have added, but didn’t think of until later, is that when I chose my own major in college, I never really thought about whether it would be difficult or “appropriate” for me because I was a woman. I just did what I wanted to do. And, really, that’s what I think everyone should do when it comes to deciding a major or profession. Forget about gender stereotypes and go for it. I was fully aware that I was doing something that was a little unusual at the time. This was the late 70s when Computer Science degrees were still fairly new. In the class of 100 CS majors I was a part of there were 4 or 5 women. I just didn’t see why that should stop me.

So, that’s my story. That’s what I would have added if I’d thought of it.

What about you all? Does anybody listen to podcasts? Any listening suggestions?

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

A real conundrum

by Rick Blechta

One of the two publishers with which I work, Orca Publishing, sent out their usual newsletter to authors yesterday and the lead off article was something rather disturbing.

It seems a website called Internet Archive makes books available online at no charge, operating as sort of a lending library has some of my books. Right now, because of the coronavirus situation, they’ve made their entire collection available all the time. Normally, only one person can be reading a book at a time. Now, it’s wide open.

The issue is that they have not obtained permission for using these books in this way, nor paid any money for them. I found five of my books in the collection. Looking more closely, I found the books have all been bulk-scanned from print copies. Some of the books appear to have been originally part of a library collection – which is disturbing in itself – while others might have been donated by individuals.

At this time, all libraries are closed in most of Canada, and probably in the US and elsewhere. I haven’t checked with the Toronto Library to see if one can “withdraw” books using the internet, but certainly smaller libraries would be unlike to be able to offer this feature. Libraries have to work out a payment schedule with publishers for the use of e-books that does offer some recompense, but Internet Archive has not done this.

Which brings me to the conundrum. Should I just look the other way at the moment in order to help out people who cannot get fresh reading material, or should I contact Internet Archive right now, establish my right as the author of these works – and holder of the copyright – and demand they be removed or paid for in some way? (I know what the answer to that last part will be!)

I’ve done a lot of thinking about this overnight and cannot decide what to do.

Help me out, folks! Any thoughts?

Monday, April 06, 2020

About Heroes

Like many of my fellow bloggers, during this time where we’re self isolating, practicing social distancing, and wearing masks to the grocery store, I’m finding it difficult to dive into my current work in progress.

I fear that anything I write will pale in comparison to the drama tragically unfolding hour by hour all around us.

But I do have time to think and observe.

The subject of heroes occurs to me.  Earlier this year I taught a creative writing class (we still have two more classes to complete) and talked extensively about protagonists. We discussed how they need to be relatable but flawed in some way. And they're always up to the task at hand, no matter the consequences or the danger.

We have them in real life. We always have, but it’s much more obvious now. The doctors, nurses, and health care workers risking their own lives in overcrowded hospitals, not able to access enough ventilators to keep up with the number of people suffering from Covid-19, unable to get the proper gear to keep themselves from getting sick.

As always, our heroes are also the law officers, firemen and EMTs that continue to work even though they’re putting themselves in danger of contracting the disease. And many of them have.

Less obvious are the people who are working in our grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, and (thank heavens) the liquor stores. We also need to thank the truck drivers, the mail carriers, and sanitation workers.

In our creative writing class, we also discussed bad guys. We have those in real life as well. We have the people who refuse or ignore the call to practice safe distancing. There are decision makers who refused to recognize the virus as a threat or moved much too slowly to mitigate it. Then there are those individuals and companies that hoard needed supplies and profiteer from tragedy.

What we don’t have yet is a proper ending. We're not sure what that would look like.

One of the many reasons we enjoy reading mysteries, especially in uncertain times, is that we’re pretty certain that by the last page, justice will be served and the heroes will be victorious.

But this isn’t fiction.

It’s real life. And it's scary as hell. So, when you interact with our real life heroes, thank them and tell them how much they are appreciated.

Real life heroes, good on you! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Friday, April 03, 2020

Navigating Social Distance

Frankie, here. I'm an introvert. I mention that because of the tweets from introverts pointing out that a personality trait that is often viewed as a deficit is actually an advantage right now. Unlike extroverts, introverts have no problem being at home alone. We are experts at "social distancing." Even those of us who have learned to be outgoing when we need to be, find large groups exhausting. By the third day of a conference we have either found sanctuary with two or three friends or are retreating to our hotel room to read or write. 

But this is different. Even introverts are not prepared for pandemics. It is stress-inducing to share space with extroverts who are prowling around the house because they want to go out. And a cough, sneeze, or pain is a reminder that this is one time when being at work and having weekend invitations wouldn't be at all bad.

 I've been setting my clock each night because psychologists are telling us that if we are working at home, we should try to maintain normal working hours. But my normal working house vary. Since I've been wanting to get more sleep, I decided to set my alarm for 10 a.m., and then work until 8:00 in the evening. That allows time for getting ready for my now online classes, writing, and taking a break to watch ''The Young and the Restless" and "The Bold and the Beautiful. By 8 p.m. I'm either ready to stop, or I have made enough progress to want to go on a bit longer. And I'm getting more sleep. Except when I wake up and can't get back to sleep. 

In newspaper articles, blogs, and Twitter photos and cartoon, "pet parents" are reporting that their dogs and cats have to adjust to having them at home. Dogs are finding that they are being walked more often because their humans want an excuse to get out of the house. Cats -- who may enjoy having the house to themselves doing the day -- are now finding their humans underfoot all day long. Some of them like it; others find a place to hide out. 

My cat, Harry, is accustomed to my odd hours and realizes by now that when summer comes I will be around much more. What he must find puzzling is that I rarely go out these days. Yesterday I thought we both would need to venture out. A couple of weeks ago, I hear him land hard as he jumped from a chair or off the radiator. Later, he was limping. Not much, but a little. I planned to call his vet the next day, but by then he was running after treats again. Then this morning, I saw him jump and then limp as if he had sprained a back leg. Whatever he had done the first time, it was worse this time. 

I spent an hour or so watching him. Then I Googled to see what I should check for before calling his vet. No swelling, no jerking away when I stroked his leg. Catnip seemed to help. But I decided I'd better call.

The recorded message I heard said my vet's office was not doing routine visits. Humans were required to maintain social distance when they arrived for appointments. They were to call from the car and then bring the cat carrier to the door. They were then to wait in their car. That resolved the debate I was having with myself about the safety issues involved in going to any doctor's office. After all, I had rescheduled my routine appointments. But maybe a limping cat was almost an emergency. 

So I followed the instructions and sent an email explaining why I had called. By then Harry was walking better. He had lunch and climbed up on his cat tree for a nap. I decided to give us both a break and went out for a walk. 

I drove to my university's uptown campus and parked. There were cars in the parking lots and a few people walking themselves and/or their dogs. One or two getting in a run. But a silence hung over a campus where thousands of people gathered on a typical Thursday during spring semester. Away from the roads and sidewalks around the perimeter of the campus, it was quiet enough to hear birds singing. I paused to watch a ground hog who had waded out of his hole. By the small lake near the athletic center, a pair of geese came out of the water and stood on the bank looking around. We looked at each other. 

I stepped back into the grass to keep my social distance from a woman passing on her bike. She smiled and called, "You know you've been inside too long when you start talking to the geese." True. But I had only been sharing the quiet with them. 

 Next time, I'd like to go for a a stroll in Washington Park. I love looking at the water. Since I am not likely to be on a cruise ship again any time soon, that now means ponds, lakes, and rivers. Washington Park is lovely, based on a
design by Calvet Vaux and his junior partner,  Frederick Law Olmsted (Central Park). A good place to spend an hour or so. If it isn't too crowded.

Stay well, everyone. 

Thursday, April 02, 2020

My Mother Would Be Proud

My mother and her parents, 1945

Like everyone else in the world (who has any sense), I, Donis, am hunkering down, seeing no one in person except for my husband, and feeling very thankful that: 1)we get along so well 2) we have no small/medium-sized/teenaged children to entertain 3)we don't have to worry about losing our jobs or being forced to work and expose ourselves and our loved ones to this rampant illness.

I just finished the final rewrite of Valentino Will Die, the new Bianca Dangereuse novel, a few days before the shut-down, and am currently awaiting the arrival of an electronic copy of the pre-ARC (advance reading copy), which will entail my having to spend a couple of days proofreading and approving the final version of the book. So I'm not doing much writing at the moment. I am doing some preliminary research for the next novel in the Bianca Dangereuse series, but mostly I'm kind of in limbo.

One thing that has occurred to me in the past couple of weeks is that I am suddenly applying all the lessons I learned at my Depression-era mother's knee about how to save, reuse, and cut waste. My mother was an absolute recycling genius. She grew a huge garden and canned/froze/dried enough produce to get her family of six through the entire winter. She never threw out left-overs. She cleaned left-overs out of the fridge every Friday and made a stew. She composted coffee ground and other inedibles. When clothing was outgrown or worn out, she repurposed it by making something – a pillow, a vest, an apron, doll clothes, a mop, even button covers – out of it. I remember her washing out the plastic produce bags she brought home from the grocery store so she could re-use them. I thought of her when I pulled out the cloth napkins to use instead of paper napkins and cloth dishtowels instead of paper towels.

We haven't yet had to apply my grandparents' habit of using magazines and the Sears catalog in the outhouse yet, but we do have a mulberry tree in the back yard that has pretty large leaves in case worse comes to worst.

One wonderful advantage we have over those who had to live through other plagues, wars, and economic upheavals is that we are so electronically connected. At least we can see our loved-ones' faces through Skype or Zoom of FaceTime. At least we can download movies or games or books to entertain us. This is a perfect time to read. Which leads me to a little Blatant Self Promotion, Dear Reader. My publisher informs me that my first Adventures of Bianca Dangereuse mystery, The Wrong Girl, is currently available as an ebook for $1.99 (that's 80% off!) through all online vendors through April 9. If you're looking for a great escape, this is it.

Please be safe out there, my friends. Read the lovely entries on isolation and creativity that my blogmates have written over the past few days. If you are in a position to do so, please support your local small businesses, your bookstores and artists, the best way you can.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Washing floors, anyone?

I know I promised to reveal my four secrets to a successful story on this blog, one secret at a time, but that was a  month ago. As everyone has noted, that was another life. We have entered a period of surreal, suspended animation. As my daughter calls it, it's as if the world has stopped. And in many ways it has. All our daily routines and activities have changed, replaced by constant email, text, and phone conversations and non-stop news. A trip to the grocery story is now a huge excursion, and as Aline said, the highlight may be that daily walk. In my case several walks since I have two dogs, but now the walks are around the same few neighbourhood blocks. Gone are the parks and trails I used to take them on, because in their wisdom the National Capital Commission that runs them all has shut them down to avoid crowding. So now there is no quiet, serene place to avoid the crowds.

Life is not normal, and people are distracted and discombobulated. As writers, we are all struggling to find focus, to find our characters in the desert of our imagination, and to sink into that oblivion that we call the creative zone. I have all the time in the world, I tell myself, and surely this is not so different from my usual hermit life. So I've been pushing myself and berating myself for my meagre output and for my desire to wash the floors (yes, wash the floors!) just to put off picking up the pen.

And then I found this article on Facebook. It's very human and full of understanding, hope, and sound advice. The author wrote it for her fellow academics but it applies equally to us writers. To anyone whose work comes from within their own head. Judging from her story, I assume she has lived through war and terror, and has now found safe haven in Canada, and so she knows a thing or two about disrupted lives. Canada has never had a war on its own soil (discounting the war of 1812, which was very localized and very long ago), and so people born in Canada have no experience facing the kind of trauma and turmoil that much of the world has lived through. We have much we can learn from the refugees who have chosen our country, in terms of resilience and wisdom.

So I decided now is not the time to blog about the third secret to a successful story. Someday – I have no idea when – I will return to it, but it's not what we need right now.

This is what we need.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The art of being a writer COMPLETELY explained!

by Rick Blechta

Funny how our lockdown seems to generate so many things to do. My days are nearly complete filled with, well, stuff. Last week, I made and froze 400+ ravioli. And I'm not Italian! Of course, I'm practising a lot. Today, besides tooting my own horn, I'm making soup, researching how to use an online recording program, cleaning the fish tank and filter, making dinner, and more practising.

Anyway, all this information is by way of saying, I don't have the time today to write a proper post, and since it's getting late, I've got to move to Plan B.

What's Plan B? This!

Hope you enjoy it. See you all next week, God willin' and the crick don't rise!

Monday, March 30, 2020


Groundhog Week 2, Day 1. The sun is shining, there are bullfinches in my garden and the clocks have gone forward, meaning an extra hour of evening light. I am safe and comfortable. I've had more phonecalls from family and friends than I've had for years and have even learned about Zoom. I have a supply of food, books and good neighbours and family around should we need anything. I have a husband who is good company. I have nothing to complain about.

But the world shut down so fast and so frighteningly. I daren't let myself think about the danger to family and friends; I just need to take each day as it comes and be glad that the only problem is extreme dullness. We actually had a discussion this morning about whether we should go for our allocated half-hour walk in the morning or save it so we could look forward to the excitement of having it in the afternoon.

In fact,the pattern of each day isn't a lot different from an ordinary day, with working at my desk, cooking and cleaning, reading, watching a bit of TV. I have more time available for writing than usual since I'm not out shopping, cooking doesn't take so long when we're not planning supper parties and hours I'd normally spend meeting up with friends are freed up for uninterrupted creativity.

Somehow it's not working like that. I'm sitting in the same room, at the same desk, but when I try to concentrate on the new book, it feels as if I'm standing in a desert, barren and colourless, with only the odd bit of tumbleweed blowing across it.

I would have said that when I am writing I'm escaping into another world, the world of my characters. But reflecting, I now wonder whether the constant flow of chat and gossip and exchange of news that forms the background for daily living is also what gives my characters life? Have I now put their world into lockdown, too? It's an uncomfortable thought.

So I have lots of positive resolutions for this week. I'm not going to make myself do dreary things, like tidying cupboards and shredding all the bumph cluttering up my filing cabinet. I'm going to work out little treats that don't involve getting closer than 2m to a stranger. I shall cook nice things to eat – I may even make tablet, a wicked sort of Scottish fudge that can add two inches to your hip measurement if you so much as open the tin. And if the worst comes to the worst I might even read Georgette Heyer's The Grand Sophy while I eat it.


Saturday, March 28, 2020

Living in the Kill Zone

I'm 64 years old, which puts me inside the foyer of the Coronavirus kill zone. Fortunately I'm in good health. At least, I hope I am. If you hear that I've keeled over before my next post, then I spoke too soon.

It's a strange time. As I noted in Facebook, this feels like a slow-motion Apocalypse. One with wifi. All my book signings and convention appearances have been cancelled. My writing seminars at this summer's Litfest will be conducted on Zoom, the new medium of business and social communication.

When I take my dog for his walk, I notice quite a few people out and about. Most are with their dogs and the rest either couples enjoying a stroll or kids on bikes with a parent supervising. The playground at the local park has been marked with yellow tape and placed off-limits. Schools, libraries, and churches are closed; liquor stores and pot shops have been deemed "essential" and remain open. When Denver first issued the stay-at-home mandate, places that sold booze or weed were to lock up. Lines immediately formed. Emotions heated from anxious to testy. Wisely, to cool things down, the mayor granted an exemption, as did the governor. And the law prohibiting restaurants from selling liquor for off-premises consumption was also lifted. So on the plus side to this catastrophe, you can even get cocktails delivered or served with take-out. Causes you to wonder just how pointless such laws actually are. Although it's cheaper to buy booze at the liquor store, the act of getting adult beverages delivered makes imbibing them seem a little more tasty.

One of my favorite phenomenons is the law of unintended consequences and this pandemic has brought plenty of examples. In this case, that nature abhors a vacuum. With people's travel restricted and their subsequent absence from the greater outdoors, mountain lions have ventured from the foothills and into the city of Boulder. Groups of these pumas have been photographed wandering the streets, no doubt cataloging where the neighborhood pets can be found for later dining. There hasn't yet been any clashes between mountain lion and human, but when the quarantine is relaxed and people rush back outside, the big cats might not so easily yield and return to seclusion.

A lot of people are hanging out on their front porches, enjoying their to-go margaritas. Outwardly, the mood is like a prolonged recess. All whom I've met have been friendly, cordial, and keeping the approved social distance. At the bus stop, when passengers disembark, everybody, including those waiting by the bench, immediately shuffle in a comical dance to maintain a six-foot boundary.

But I can't deny the inner foreboding, the grim tension behind the calm facade. Part of that angst is of course because of the virus, and to what extent it will ravage the population. Who and how many are going to die? The other part of that worry is about the economy and the loss of jobs and income. If you've ever been unemployed, I have--twice--you know the malaise that corrodes your spirit. Not working is no vacation. It feels like you're being smothered.

As a species, we humans have a remarkable capacity for survival. The purveyors of doom and gloom regard our situation as a fixed circumstance and dismiss our ability to learn and adapt. Seeing as we are Type M for Murder, I'm waiting for when this crisis eases and the criminal shenanigans to appear. You know, like those bodies that wash up after a flood with bullet holes in them.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Lying to Myself

No cute clip art this time. No adorable family photos.

Today I'm not trying to think positively about COVID-19 or all the economic ramifications. I tried that yesterday. As usual, when I lie to myself in the day time, my dreams make me face the cold hard truth. Dreams tell me how I really feel. Last night was not pleasant.

I'm grief-stricken for all the small businesses who will never recover from this worldwide catastrophe. My husband owned a livestock truckline for 23 years. I remember all too well the blood, sweat, and tears that went into keeping it afloat. In most small businesses the margin of profit is very small.

I haven't delved into the details of the massive government bailout yet. But I hope this time around there is some protection against executives getting millions of dollars in bonus payments and small business left to sink or swim. There is nothing sadder than employers having to lay off people who have been with companies for years.

As a college town, Fort Collins has a network of lively cafes and bistros. Today we are under an official stay-at-home order. I can't imagine how all of these places will find the money to crank back up again when our situation changes. My friend up the street said her dog groomer was not allowed to open her doors. My neighbor, said his massage therapists was under the same "non-essential" designation. The fine for violating this is $1000.

I'm reluctant to write too much about our new rules in this email because they change daily. Colorado has a first class medical system. I consider it a privilege to live in the state. We brag about being the most fit state in the union. Nevertheless, the virus has just exploded here. We have a much higher death rate than I would expect. Everyone I know is cooperating.

Life doesn't change much for writers. I have a delightful academic book about Kansas to review. An editor requested some revisions for a novella.

Nevertheless, my thoughts and prayers are with all the wonderful people who lead very different lives, and whose ability to provide necessities require working in the public every day.

God bless all the health care workers and the people who are exposed on a daily basis

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Changing times

Homeschooling, Keeley-style
This week has seen lots of changes. We have all five of the Corrigans at home at once, a rarity in itself. And all five of us are in different stations of the home working remotely, even my fifth-grader. I drove 11 hours to Ohio twice in five days last week to, first, get my daughters, then to retrieve their belongings when their colleges determined they would finish the year “remotely.” And this old dog is trying to learn the remote teaching game himself. Maybe the biggest change is that, for the first time I can remember, the 500-acre boarding school campus where I reside is post-apocalyptically quiet. I live and work with teenagers because I enjoy their energy. The world, as Bo Whitney reminds us, “hasn’t said No to them yet.”

Or, rather, it hadn’t said No until this week.

Keeley (left) made Delaney a diploma
My daughter Delaney, 21, is (was?) a senior at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. She, like the high school seniors I teach and who live in the dorm I run, won’t have a graduation. My senior and my seniors have lost their springs, lost their final athletic seasons, lost their chance to say goodbye.

I loved Thomas’s post on Monday and in particular, the Asimov quote about isolation. It is fitting at this time –– we are all forced to embrace isolation. I told my wife yesterday, “...spend hours at the computer writing and tweaking course content, take the dog on two long walks each day, and read? You just described my Christmas vacation.” Of course, that bad joke was tempered when I got an email from a dear (writer) friend in New York City who said everyone in their house has Covid-19, and she went to the hospital with a 105-degree fever. The danger is real, and the fear is palpable.

And U.S. politicians continue to squabble.

Audrey (right) and Delaney
making dinner
We are living in changing times. I feel it as I did in the wake of 9/11. Declining financial markets have changed people’s lives, so has the need to maintain a “safe social distance.” And so, maybe, as Thomas touched upon on Monday, the need for control –– for us, as writers, who long for it, and for readers who seek our novels because they offer a resolution to a chaotic (fictional) world –– the need for reading and writing has never been greater.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Interesting Times

We live in interesting times. Along with a large percentage of other Californians, I am staying home with only occasional outings to take a walk. Really not much different than my normal life. The biggest change is that my husband is now home more because all of his usual activities have been cancelled. He’s the one who braves the grocery store and does the shopping for family members who shouldn’t be going out right now.
A sign of the times: the Manhattan Beach Pier Closed

For me, not a whole lot has changed. I usually exercise indoors with only an occasional walk outside. I’m still writing. It’s nice that I no longer have a deadline so I’m not so stressed out about that. I’m still working on painting projects, reading and doing other stuff around the house. Honestly, as long as someone brought me food periodically and talked to me on occasion, I could stay inside for months and months and never be bored.

But all of the constant news on the corona virus and its effects on everyone and the economy is taking a bit of a psychological toll on me. The weather isn’t helping. It’s been raining here for the last couple weeks, unusual for this time of year. Sometimes I think the sky is crying for all of us.

So I’m trying to be kind to others and myself. I read 2 newspapers in the morning and that’s all the news I look at during the day. My husband gets alerts on his cell that tells us of any other stuff we need to know about from the city. Besides the usual things I do, I’m looking for fun and interesting things to keep my mind off stuff. I thought I’d share some of the  things I’ve found.

From BoredPanda, the Cowboy Museum put its head of security in charge of their Twitter. The results are pretty fun:

Murder and Mayhem moved its conference online. It’s free. To register and watch the replay go to:

Then there’s finding amazing artwork like these from Stone Artist Akie Nakata. Also from

Then there’s the 40-minute free virtual tour of the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, CA. I took a tour of it years ago, but it was fun to go on this one.

If you want to learn about Egypt, you can take a short animated 3-D “tour” of the Giza Plateau. And there are a lot of photos and information on the plateau.

In other news, my publisher has knocked down the price of the Kindle edition of the first book in my series, Fatal Brushstroke, as well as the first in a number of other series to 99 cents. For links to the other books on sale, you can go to my Facebook author page ( and check out the pinned post.

Stay well and safe, everyone, and don’t forget to be kind to others and yourself.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

A little comfort for writers and readers in these dark times

by Rick Blechta

Well, here we are, week 2 in coronavirusland. I’d like to share some random — though connected — thoughts with everyone today.

I was speaking with a musician-friend in New York yesterday and he said something that stopped me in my tracks. “You do realize, Rick, that likely every musician in the world is out of business right now.”


That’s a lot of people, many of whom live on the edge of financial ruin at the best of times, they’re self-employed most likely, and now they have no income. Things really are desperate for them. And don’t forget those others who support the musicians offstage. They’re in the same boat.

Writers on the other hand can still write. As a sidebar, I’ll bet there may be some writers who haven’t even noticed there’s a pandemic going on! Just joshing, but we do generally work in seclusion, and we can keep doing so without endangering our health.

If I were to extend that further, we could even get our works published without ever seeing someone face to face, and if the work was published electronically, it could be distributed and enjoyed without any “hands on” contact.

I doubt things will come to that, but it is a comforting thought in a way, isn’t it?

Stay well, everyone!