Social Media vacay

If the past months have taught me anything, it’s the lesson that I shouldn’t overload myself with too much news and time on social media. So, I have limited my online presence lately, neglected all of my sites, and have limited my news to some morning programming with my first cup of coffee.

The rest of my day has been devoted to family, friends, my little doggos, reading for pleasure, and soul searching. Last year was full of excitement as my husband and I built our retirement home in the Arizona desert and stress related to a major surgery and rehab for me.

The Chaos Twins

I thought 2020 would be the year I’d get back to normal, so I find the time to write regularly and finish the book I’ve been working on. Plans don’t always pan out. Who knew we’d be facing a pandemic and that half a million people (and counting) would die around the world. It touched my family in various ways with the loss of a family friend and extended family members.

My mom is in a care center and I haven’t been able to visit her since the end of February. I call her daily, but she is aging and I worry that I might not get to hug her or kiss her cheek again.

These are the things that bother me most — not wearing a mask or being able to shop or dine as we have in the past. It’s the loss of contact with people I love.

Books have been my escape and my social life while the characters have become my friends and foes. I discovered by reading the type of stories I love, my inner voice cleared its throat and began whispering bits and pieces of dialogue and plot points. The stresses of life had dulled that voice but it’s there, faint but growing stronger.

I’ve written a couple of times about my struggles with writing over the past year. I wondered if I’d ever write again. Where had my drive from years past disappeared to? Maybe I didn’t have anything creative left inside? I questioned whether it was a new environment that had thrown me. Or current events? Who isn’t feeling off kilter with what is happening?

Some people suggest that you should write each day even if its crap. Trust me, even when I’m motivated I write pages of copy in desperate need of editing help.

I am feeling more and more that it is a combination of things that had sucked my energy out. I was exhausted by the pace of my life. My time away from social media, the blog, and writing has started to recharge my creative battery.

When too much noise surrounds you, how can you hear the voice within? You can’t–or should I say–I can’t. Some writers are very focused on making money with their writing and pour a lot of time into promotion, social media and scheduled writing. I find if I put that kind of pressure on myself, I will focus on the wrong thing for me.

The story is the goal. Connecting with readers is the goal. If I apply myself to those two items perhaps the money will follow.

Being an Indie writer and self publishing is hard; especially, when you are working with a limited budget. Each writer has to find the path which is right for them so they may continue to stoke the creative fire within themselves.

For me, I needed a vacation. I needed to sit by the pool, drink an occasional margarita, play with my dogs, and to laugh and cry with my family.

The vacation is finally over.

What’s Kate Reading?

Just I started the book, Distant Shores by Kristin Hannah and am enjoying it very much. Birdie loves her home along the ocean and her children. Her husband was once the love of her life, but now something is missing. Birdie wonders if she’s the one whose missing out on life.

A Glimpse at the ‘Work In Progress’

Hi all! I wanted to give you a glimpse at the first chapter of my current WIP. It’s a story of second chances, love lost and found, and dealing with a new chapter in life.  The story’s protagonist is Libby Crenshaw — a 50-something widow whose life is empty when the story begins… 

Here is a glimpse at Empty Chairs, Empty Promises


Chapter One

I suppose some of my neighbors would call me crazy IMG_1889or at least odd if they watched me standing in subzero temperatures along the Mississippi River. I wasn’t sure how long I had been standing in the snow. I didn’t wear a watch today. Hell, I don’t even remember what day of the week it is. Don’t even ask me the date.

I think I’ve been frozen in this same spot for more than a few minutes. My fingers start to feel numb inside my thick gloves as I stand on the riverbank searching for the small splotches of white among the bare branches along the river. Slapping my hands together does nothing to relieve the effects of the winter temps. My breath surrounds me with crystalline clouds.

For the last twenty years, I’ve watched the bald eagles soaring over the river and roosting in the bare trees. Today they are absent. The other oddity is the frozen river. For the first time, it froze solid without a trace of open water. Would it hold me if I walked out on it? Could I make it across the wide expanse to the other side without falling through the ice and being swept away by the force of the mighty river that flows beneath it?

Something bumps my leg. I look down — for a moment perplexed — at the yellow lab smiling up at me with its tongue hanging out the side of its mouth. Mia. That’s her name. She pulls on her leash encouraging me to move. It wasn’t a bad idea, I guess. We would be much warmer inside.

I pull up the collar of my wool coat and adjust the scarf around my neck. Definitely, time to get away from the river and the cold winds blustering through the valley. I wave at the passing vehicles and stop briefly to exchange a few words of greeting with some of my more adventuresome neighbors who brave the cold as I have to walk the dog or get some exercise.

Mia’s pace increases as we near the large white house I’ve called home for the past 25 years. The house I had shared with my husband, Joshua, for almost as many years. Our children are grown and live far away. They call, but it isn’t the same. I open my back door and stomp my boots to get the snow off. I unhook Mia’s harness hanging it, my coat, and scarf on the hooks next to the door. Toeing off my boots, I kick them into the corner and scurry across the icy cold cement floor in my socks eager for the heated interior of my home.

The warmth of the kitchen is comforting on such a cold morning. The radio is tuned to the morning news and fills the still house with the humming drone of the announcers. I find it soothing. Leaving the radio on during the day is a new habit. The house has been too quiet, too empty. The hypnotic tick, tick, tick of the hall clock just reminds me of time passing me by.

My birthday is just around the corner. I’m going to be fifty years old. I never envisioned my life would take this fateful turn. I pictured vacations to exotic locales with my husband at my side. In my dreams, I watched with pride and pleasure as my husband walked our daughter down the aisle. Our future would involve both of us playing with the grandkids. And on days like today, the two of us sitting at the kitchen table enjoying a hot cup of coffee as we planned our day.

Oh, I’ve heard all of the platitudes. Life isn’t fair. You’re young — you’ll meet someone else. You’re lucky you are financially stable. And my favorite, don’t you think it’s time to get past this and get on with your life. I’m sure most of the advice is well meaning. But I will handle my grief in my own way and in my own time.

I fill Mia’s bowl with kibble adding a tablespoon of coconut oil because I read somewhere it was good for her coat. Grabbing a mug from the dish drainer, I fill it with water and pour it into my coffee machine. The new coffee makers are quick and make a decent cup of coffee, but personally, I really miss the sound and smell of coffee percolating. Inserting a packet into the correct slot, I wait for the machine to produce my hot cup of caffeine. My chilly hands welcome the wonderful warmth radiating from the mug.

The kitchen did have a table and 4 chairs by the bay window overlooking the back yard. After Josh died, I was overwhelmed with the thought of sitting at that table alone with three empty chairs. I replaced it with two chaise lounges with a round table placed between them. The second chaise doesn’t cause any discomfort for me. It provides the promise of one of my children visiting. Nathan is in the Navy stationed in Washington state and Carrie moved to New York City to pursue a banking career. They returned home for the funeral, but their work commitments cut their time at home short. I understood. They are adults with their own lives.

Within the toasty security of my kitchen, I look through the help wanted ads in the local paper. Housekeeper. No thanks. I don’t like cleaning my own house much less anyone else’s. Bartender. Not in my skill set. Milker. I try to picture myself up at 4 am every day hooking suction cups to cow teats. The mental imagery makes me giggle. It could be a backup plan.

The radio news changes to easy listening music. I tune the radio to a station that plays classic rock. It’s the beginning of another long day.

After a morning of repetitive tasks, I’m ready for a break. The sound of the doorbell gives me an excuse to cease and desist from my chores. I wipe my hands off on my jeans and shoot a fast glance in the hall mirror as I pass. I look like crap. At least my hair is combed today.

I open the door and a gust of frosty air intrudes into my home. My body shivers at the sudden decrease in temp. Standing on the stoop is a dark-haired woman who looks to be in her early 20’s. I don’t recognize her and wonder if my mind is failing me again.

“Can I help you with something?” At my query, the young woman squares her shoulders and runs her tongue over her dry lips before answering.

“I am looking for Mr. Joshua Crenshaw.” She gazes past me into the house, her eyes searching.

“He doesn’t live here anymore.” It sounds like a half-truth, but I don’t know this woman and my husband’s death is too personal to share with strangers.

The brunette’s eyes widen. “This is the address I was given. Do you know where he lives now?” she asks. I sense a weariness in her voice as well as her appearance.

“Before I tell you anything else about my husband, could you tell me your name and your business with him?” I have an uneasy feeling. Nausea makes my insides churn as my hands grow clammy.

“My name is Amanda Norton. Joshua Crenshaw is my father.” I gasp. The room spins around me. I detect a distant voice asking if I’m okay. My tongue lies heavy in my mouth. The acrid taste of my coffee coming back up in my throat makes me gag. I lean my forehead against the frigid surface of the front door hoping this is a nightmare and I’m still in my bed.

I croak out the words, “My husband is dead.”

The Time to Write

No one likes the reason for the Stay At Home orders we have been under. Who among us is okay with 90,000+ citizens of the United States dying from an enemy too small to see with your naked eyes?  I know I’m not.

I would much rather go back in time and stop the last few months from happening, but that is the stuff of fantasy or science fiction novels and not the reality of life right now. Instead, some of us have made certain that we have enough toilet paper to last the rest of our lives while the rest of us are left pondering what items might be used in its place.

I never thought Isopropyl Alcohol (also known as rubbing alcohol) would be a hard to find item. Who thought it would come to this?

I did think I would get more writing done than I have. Instead, my daily routines are checking my news feeds, drinking copious amounts of coffee, walking my doggos, trying to find a mask, and searching the stores for toilet paper.  For my mask, I opted for a bright pink bandana and have dubbed myself the “Geriatric Bandit”. The staff at the local grocers are very familiar with my signature look.

I’m very fortunate to live in Arizona so I can soak up all of that healthy Vitamin D. Let’s just say, my skin has turned brown and now I stress over getting skin cancer despite applying a sunscreen with an SPF of 100.  I burn off excess energy in the pool each day.

While I’m busy with all of these daily tasks, I think about writing. I have written a few chapters for my WIP. I have recorded a short story for a podcast and I’ve started writing another short story.

The time I always wished to have free to write unhampered by outside influences is here, but I can’t help thinking about those people we’ve lost too soon. The medical personnel who leave work exhausted and in tears over what they’d seen that day.  The people who go to work in those jobs that are so necessary for our society to function but are poorly paid and never shown the appreciation they deserve — cashiers and baggers at the store, the garbage men, the construction crews, funeral directors and staff, transportation workers. The teachers putting packets together for students and families each week. The families of the workers who expose themselves everyday. The lists go on and on.

I think of you instead of my imaginary characters.  I don’t write very much right now, but I pray for you.

Writers in a Covid-19 World

It might seem like social distancing, staying at home and wearing a mask would be a dream for many writers. I have more often than not referred to myself as a introvert and chilling on the couch with a good book, listening to music and binge-watching movies have all been favorite past times for me.

I take this pandemic seriously, too. When I hear doctors, nurses and paramedics tell their stories with tears in their eyes, I believe. I was a practicing nurse for over thirty years — things are bad right now. Perhaps that is why I’ve had difficulty focusing on just one thing. I flit from project to project, write sporadically, rarely post anything of my own on social media, and keep busy doing laundry and housework.

It was easier when I was walking several days a week, but I had to take a break from my daily walks due to some inflammation that wasn’t getting any better. This gave me more time to think. Only I wasn’t thinking about writing.

I decided I’d be better off if I turned off the news. It has worked for the most part. I have completed two chapter in two months. Not a lot of progress but progress all the same. I made some friends in our new neighborhood; although, social distancing has slowed down our gatherings to backyard chats across the fence (picture the TV show, Home Improvement with Tim and his neighbor, Wilson).

It’s a reminder of how I felt on 9/11 when I saw NYC, my birthplace and home of my youth, devastated but not defeated. I was transfixed by the images, and I felt the world had changed and it had. Once again, New York City is one of the worst epicenter’s of the disease thus far and I know things will change.

Mother Nature is feeling better because we have altered our patterns.  We see clearer skies and waterways while the wildlife roams more freely than they have in years in our parks and wild areas. The world has had a slight pause, but not a reset. At least not yet. That will depend on all of us and how we look at our world and our lives.

I plan to think a bit more about how I live and want to live in future. My writing will become a daily respite and not a task that needs to be completed.

My world has been topsy-turvy for the past year — loss of a dear family member, placing my mother in a care center, having a total knee replacement, building a house and moving across the country. There seemed to be very little energy left to devote to writing. My life has to change.

I have a good thirty years left on this earth and my bucket list includes writing stories that entertain as long as I’m physically and mentally able.  Stay safe, stay healthy my friends.

The Hair-pulling Joys of a New PC

The author’s dreaded but inevitable challenge of the old reliable laptop deciding it’s time for retirement. Oh my goodness, talk about the drama! I knew that my lovely laptop that  ushered in all three of my novels was starting to slow to such a point it was taking thirty minutes to boot.

I postponed the decision to go computer shopping. I did lament over it with comments like “I think I may need a new computer” and “I hope this laptop lasts a little longer”. The biggest challenge is reloading all of the programs I use on a regular basis.

One of those programs is my writing program. I spent a bit of change on it a few years ago and have taken it for granted that I would be able to transfer it seamlessly to the new PC. Nope, it isn’t recognizing my license number. Do I really want to buy a new program after forking over money for the new computer?

The answer is no. So, I’ve emailed the company praying they will assist me and I can return to writing my long-awaited book (although, I know I’ve kept my readers waiting too long).

The point of all of this blogging is primarily a writer’s opportunity to publicly wail and thrash around throwing words instead of physical items out there. Now, my hissy fit is finished, and I wish each and everyone of you a good day.

Stories that thrill with a kiss and chill with the promise of danger

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