Wednesday, April 01, 2020

IWSG: How Are You Doing?

No fooling, it's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post. For more information about the IWSG, check out their website, Facebook page, or Twitter feed.

Our hosts for April are Diane Burton, J.H. Moncrieff, Anna at elements of emaginette, Karen at Reprobate Typewriter, Erika Beebe, and Lisa Buie-Collard.

The IWSG’s focus is on our writers. Each month, from all over the globe, we are a united group sharing our insecurities, our troubles, and our pain. So, in this time when our world is in crisis with the Covid-19 pandemic, our optional question this month is: How are things in your world?

I've already spent the last two weeks talking about how the pandemic has affected me and my family. We're fortunate so far in that we're still healthy and working. Things can always change, especially since we live in the Chicago suburbs, and there are a lot of cases in our area. At the beginning of March, we went to McCormick Place for C2E2; now, the convention center is going to become a makeshift hospital. It'll probably take between twelve and eighteen months before things settle down. All we can do in the meantime is take proper precautions and keep our spirits up. I'm still pretty busy with work and extra cleaning around the house, but I make time to read, write, crochet, watch TV or documentaries, socialize online with friends, and take an online class. (And yes, play games on my smartphone.)

How are you doing? What are your coping strategies? Feel free to share them in the comments.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Ten Things I've Learned About Working From Home

10. It's possible to fit two computers on my desk.
9. I drink less tea while I'm at home.
8. I might drink less tea at home because I have to boil water whenever I want a mug (as opposed to having hot water instantly available).
7. I don't miss driving to work.
6. I do actually miss being able to do some of the paperwork and filing that are a normal part of my job.
5. I don't have time to write on my lunch hour because I have to make my son's lunch and do the dishes.
4. Sometimes accessing the network feels like the biggest accomplishment of the day.
3. When using the mouse, I write equally poorly with both hands.
2. Why, yes, I will try working on Sunday evening if that gives me more time later in the week.
1. I need a better office chair for my home office--I'm not used to sitting it in all day!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Books in the Time of COVID-19

Whether you've been following the spread of COVID-19 since it first made the news or just realized its impact recently, we're all affected by it now. School is cancelled for my son, though he's doing e-learning this week. He was supposed to go on a class trip to Washington D.C. during spring break, but they cancelled it a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately, we got a refund for almost all the money we spent on it, so hopefully he'll be able to go next year. I'm not sure yet what my work schedule is going to be like, so child care may be a challenge.

Our local library is also closed, so I won't be able to pick up any more paper books until March. Maybe this means I'll finally start working on my pile of To-Read paper books. Of course, I have plenty of eBooks available through my Kindle account and library apps. Between books, crochet, and writing, I should be able to keep myself occupied at home.

Speaking of books, if you need something to read, I'm putting all my novels on sale. If they're not free, they're $0.99. This includes Ordinary Wonders: A Fantasy Short Story Collection, Twinned Universes, Seasons' Beginnings, Chaos Season, Fifth Season, and Summon the Seasons. Even my Season Avatars box set, which contains five novels and four short stories, is half off (normally $9.99, now $4.99). These links are universal, so you can go to your favorite eBook vendor.

Stay healthy, everyone, and we'll get though this together.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Dozing with the Dinos 2020

This year was the final time my son was able to participate in the annual Dozing with the Dinos event at the Field Museum. The event is for kids age 6-12 and their adults, but my son will turn thirteen at the end of May. Although I've enjoyed going behind the scenes at the Field Museum, I will not miss the poor sleeping conditions.

Saturday afternoon, Alex and I took the Metra downtown to connect with my husband.Since my husband works on Saturdays, it's easier for us to do this instead of making him drive back home to pick us up before we go to the museum. We ate dinner, then drove to the museum. We got there early, which made check-in easier and allowed us to pick a prime spot in the evolution exhibit.

After orientation, we had a special behind-the-scenes tour of the lab where they prepare fish specimens for study. We don't get to choose in advance which tour we take. We hadn't been in this part of the museum before, and since Alex likes fishing, this was a good match for us. We got to see many specimens prepared in different ways. Some were preserved in formaldehyde, while others were treated with special stains to make different parts of their bodies visible. We saw several sharks, a puffer fish, and my favorite, a coelacanth.

After snack time and buying a few souvenirs, we explored the museum, both with and without flashlights. By the time we were done, we were so exhausted we went straight to bed. Unfortunately, our air mattresses all had leaks, despite my attempts to patch them. My mattress was so bad I just deflated it completely instead of having to deal with a rocking mattress. At least it was ready to pack in the morning. We had breakfast, then left. We may not able to sleep over again, but we'll always have the memories.

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

IWSG: Family Traditions and Stories

Whether or not March came in like a lion or a lamb in your area, it brought in another Insecure Writer's Support Group post. You can learn more about the IWSG on their website, Facebook, or Twitter account.

This month's hosts are Jacqui Murray, Lisa Buie-Collard, Sarah Foster, Natalie Aguirre, and Shannon Lawrence.

Our question this month is Other than the obvious holiday traditions, have you ever included any personal or family traditions/customs in your stories? 

One of my short stories, "Bugged Out at the Museum," was inspired by our annual tradition of attending Member's Night at the Field Museum. Members are allowed to go behind the scenes to see how exhibits are set up and how research is conducted. One of the biggest attractions of the night is the "Insect Petting Zoo," where members can hold hissing cockroaches and other creatures. I drew on this to write "Bugged Out at the Museum." It was originally published in a bugs-theme issue of Indie Writers Monthly and republished last in my fantasy short story collection Ordinary Wonders.

Do you write about your family's customs or traditions in your stories? Feel free to share your answers in the comments.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

A Writer by Any Other Name?

Although fantasy and science fiction are my favorite genres, I also like to read mysteries, especially cozy mysteries. It's probably not surprising that I've come up with an idea for a cozy mystery series. I'm trying to do more worldbuilding and plotting with this project, but even before I write the first word, I also have to consider the marketing aspect. Should I publish these stories under my own name or a pen name? Traditional thinking has always been that you need different pen names for different genres so readers can distinguish them. However, this doesn't seem to be too much of a concern for indie writers. Honestly, I have enough trouble doing social media and marketing for one name; doubling it would make it even harder. Book covers and blurbs do a better job of signaling genre than names, and I would put different books on different pages of my website.

Do you use a pen name, or have you thought about it? Let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Third Flatiron Best of 2019 Now Available!

I mentioned a couple of months ago that my short story, "Specimen 1842," had been selected for Third Flatiron's Best of 2019 anthology. This anthology is finally available, though currently only as an ebook on Amazon. It's free if you're in Kindle Unlimited or only $2.99 if you're not. Here's the cover, and below is the description from Amazon:

Third Flatiron Anthologies presents fourteen of its best speculative fiction stories from the year 2019. Contributors include Tom Pappalardo, J. D. Blackrose, Brian Trent, Bruce Golden, Mack Moyer, Arthur Carey, Maureen Bowden, Edwina Shaw, Elizabeth Beechwood, Evan A Davis, K. G. Anderson, Philip John Schweitzer, Sandra Ulbrich Almazan, and Samson Stormcrow Hayes. Edited by Juliana Rew.

I'm still waiting to get my copy, but I'm looking forward to reading it. Here's hoping you check it out too.

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