On March 13, 2020, I was sitting in a Starbucks off of 121 in the Colony with two friends from my writing group. We met there on Mondays and Fridays to write for a couple of hours (and to get out of the house for a bit).
But that Friday was different. The place was almost empty, as it was becoming clear that the COVID pandemic had reached the US, and cases were popping up in Texas. When I went to the counter to get my drink, the barista confessed that she was terrified of getting it–she couldn’t take time off if she got sick.
When the three of us finished our writing session, we decided that it would be the last time we met at the ‘Bucks until things had improved. At the time I genuinely thought it would maybe be a couple of months at most. I mean, we lived in the United States–the country that came down like a hammer on swine flu and SARS. The CDC had a plan for a pandemic, right? They would be able to get everyone to work together and starve COVID of new victims, no problem.
It’s now one year later, and I haven’t seen either of my friends in person since that day (our writing group started Zoom meetings a few weeks afterwards). In the last year, the universe outside our house has dwindled to five stores, our doctor’s and dentist’s offices, and the vet. We started wearing masks immediately because I had access to a good fitted Fu mask pattern and a shitload of fabric in my quilting stash (wound up making masks for a lot of people until commercial mask production got off the ground). We started washing/sterilizing anything that came in the house from a store, and changed clothes/showered after we got home (I was already a regular handwasher).
We managed to avoid COVID, mainly due to the above actions combined with the facts that we don’t have kids and we both worked from home. Unfortunately, our friends and family weren’t so lucky. Four family members caught it, and we just found out that Ramón’s best friend and his wife caught it in January of this year. Nobody we know in our immediate circle died from it, however, which is a huge blessing.
Finally the vaccines started to become available. As soon as I found out that our county would be offering COVID vaccinations for people in tier 1b (which included us–it’s the first time being fat and having two endocrine disorders worked in my favor), I signed us up. Ramón had his first Moderna vax shot on 3/4/21 while I got my first Pfizer shot on 3/11/21. By mid-April we should both be fully protected. We keep talking about what we want to do after that. Ramón wants to start doing a biweekly date night where we try places we’ve never been to before. First stop will be our favorite Tex Mex restaurant, but after that I’m eyeing some of the Koreatown spots in Carrollton, followed by various Asian restaurants here in Plano.
Me, I want to travel. New Orleans, Cancun, Chicago this summer, maybe even a cruise this winter if it’s safe enough. I want to go on a road trip so badly I can taste it. I daydream about driving to Las Vegas again and enjoying the amazing scenery in New Mexico.
But what I want to do more than anything is just be around people. Sit and people watch, go shopping in a mall, eat in a restaurant–just be around other human beings and settle that primate genetic demand that wants to know where the hell my troop is. I think it may be why I’m having such a hard time writing this year––I’m burned out with being in the house all the time and I need something, anything different. I’m honestly not that much of an extrovert to begin with, but I do enjoy being around people and picking up on the energy of a crowd. I miss that badly, more than I’ve wanted to admit.
By 4/18, both Ramón and I will be fully vaccinated. We’ll still take all necessary precautions when we go out because we know what the vaccine does is make sure we won’t get seriously ill or require hospitalization if we catch COVID. The last thing I want to do right now is be asymptomatic with COVID and pass it on to some poor schmo who isn’t vaccinated. But by God, we will be doing something that week to celebrate. He’s suggested we rent a convertible and go on a day-long ride somewhere. I like that.
This is not the time to beat yourself up
Justin A. Reynolds posted something on Twitter today that really resonated with me:
I know a lot of writers who are monsters when it comes to output. They plot everything, they schedule everything, they crank out books every six weeks or so. We’re talking dedicated, y’all. But a lot of them haven’t been able to maintain their previous schedule these last few months, and they’re worried and scared because this is how they make their money and pay their bills.
Non-writers are feeling this, too. They’re trying to juggle WFH, taking care of the kids, taking care of the parents, keeping a roof over their heads and food in their bellies, and do all of this while wearing masks, washing their hands, and taking every precaution they can to keep the ‘rona away.
So let me reiterate that you’re all doing the best you can in an incredibly stressful and dangerous situation. Be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up because you missed a deadline, or your house is messy, or your kids ate waffles for dinner again. Right now, we’re in survival mode — if eating cookies helps you get through another day, fuck it, eat the damn cookies. Color in your coloring book, turn off social media and decompress, do whatever it takes to cut yourself some slack.
History shows that humanity will get through this, just as we got through the Black Plague and the Spanish Flu. Mind you, the world on the other side of those pandemics was a different place from the world before them. And the world after COVID-19 will look different from the world we knew in 2019.
But it will be there. Hopefully it’ll be a better world where we learned some badly needed lessons. We won’t know until we get there. In the meantime, as Justin says, YOU be kind to YOU. Stay safe.
And it’s *checks calendar* Friday
Yeah, I know. COVID cabin fever is hitting a lot of people at the moment, and Casa Cameron is among those households. Let’s see, what can I tell you?
Needless to say, I didn’t finish Shadow of the Swan or Shifter Woods: Growl in May, as I had hoped. I wound up getting called back to the contract job for a week to wrap up the project I’d been working on, and then I spent about a week cleaning out our garage so that I could refinish that bookcase the cats had peed on, then I got stuck into the actual refinishing, and it turned out so well that I decided to refinish the other bookcase that Ramón’s been hauling around for over thirty years, and the world is on fire due to COVID and the current US administration and climate change and a lot of other things so, yeah.
On the plus side, I’m still working on both books, as well as Uncertainty Principle and King of Blades, depending on how I’m feeling when I get up, so there is progress? It’s just kind of slow. But I’m currently at 32K of a projected 80K on Swan, which pleases me.
I also ran an A/B test on Twitter to get input on two potential covers for Swan:
Cover A turned out to be the more popular one, so I’m probably going to go with it or a very similar variant.
I’m also taking an online class in Indie Publishing 101 from Dean Wesley Smith — yes, I know, I’ve been indie publishing since 2015. But I’m not making nearly the number of sales I should be, so I’m hoping to pick up some tips and tricks from a powerhouse in the indie publishing field because I would really like to sell more books and maybe not have to go back to contract work if I can manage it?
Speaking of the contract job, I’m still on furlough and I don’t see that restarting anytime soon, since a lot of the work I did was for industries that were slammed by COVID and the assorted closings (another reason why I’d really like to make more sales). Ramón is still employed, knock wood, but his job is a contract one and he’s concerned that he may be out of work at a time when a whole bunch of other telecoms people are looking for jobs. If the book sales don’t pick up, I’ll probably start looking for more contract work in August, assuming I can find a place that will let me work remotely.
Health-wise, we’re still good. Because our governor is, well, an idiot, Texas is one of the new COVID hot spots in the nation, so we mask up every time we go out to the store, anything that comes into the house is disinfected, and we change clothes and shower afterwards. Our trips out are limited to store runs and fast food, with the occasional treat such as running the tax prep paperwork to the accountant or hitting the post office after hours (sometimes I have to mail Etsy sales or other stuff, and they have an automated postage machine). Luckily our Kroger is requiring mask usage to enter the store, and 99% of the people I see in there are masked, although there was one maskless woman today who, I shit you not, had the classic Karen hairstyle. Everyone was giving her dirty looks, so hopefully peer pressure will have an effect.
Oh, I learned how to trim Ramón’s hair, thanks to the angel who made this YouTube video. As his hair was getting to Doc Brown stage and it was driving him crazy, he was happy for me to take a crack at it with the clippers. I managed to give him a nice, short, but stylish do (made a couple of mistakes in back, but as he pointed out he didn’t care because nobody but me would be looking at his neck), and I may well keep trimming his hair from here on out. I mean, I already have the clippers, barber’s scissors, and T-outliner, so why not?
That pretty much brings us up to date. I’m going to try and blog more frequently, basically to keep both of us entertained (and up to date on the progress of all the WIPs). One amusing thing that happened today — someone had responded to this tweet:
with the comment, “Alexa, play S&M.” Which reminded me that I really did like that song and should buy it. Which then prompted … let us say … a mental vignette that one could entitle, “My Own Pet Duke.”
I really don’t need to be writing a BDSM Regency right now. I don’t even have an pseudonym for that subgenre (hur hur, see what I did there). Back into the inspiration hutch with you, little plot bunny.