Greetings from the end of the world!

Okay, maybe things aren’t quite that bad. But there are certainly days when it feels that way.

So it turns out it’s been nearly a year since I posted an update or review here, and there’s a simple reason for that: I got bored. The truth is, my blog has never exactly caught fire, you know? I’m no Bloggess, after all. And I’ve decided that’s okay. For a long time, it wasn’t okay, but as I approach nearly 60 winters on this planet (if I’m lucky!) a lot of detritus has begun to fall away. Like competitiveness and jealousy. Unfortunately (or fortunately), this blog is also one of the things falling away.

I started the blog to promote my fiction and freelance writing, and since I’m no longer doing much writing for public consumption, a lot of the motivation is gone. Publishing two novels was a disillusioning experience, to put it mildly. Writing fiction for a very small publisher is even less lucrative than it is for the big pubs. And even freelance journalism is a hard gig these days, at least as far as income generating work goes. So I moved sideways into working in libraries. There’s a lot that’s good in libraries, but much of what makes them good is also what makes them a germaphobe’s nightmare. There will be a lot more to worry about in libraries in the post-COVID world when it finally gets here (and despite what all you fools frolicking on beaches without masks think, we’re a long way from POST-COVID). I, for one, do not envision myself trying to sanitize books (assuming any libraries will even have the budget to do something like that). Nor do I want to be the library associate who hears a customer utter those words I so often heard in the pre-COVID world: “She was too sick to go in to school, so I brought her to the library!”

My other recent gig has been acting as communications coordinator for a small defense contractor. Since most of our business involved traveling great distances to facilitate meetings and present workshops on information too sensitive to be shared via conference platforms like zoom, that biz is a lot less active now too.

So what to do next?

I’ve thought frequently about writing a new book, and that may yet happen. But in two months of semi-quarantine, it has yet to make it to the top of my things to do list. So don’t hold your breath waiting for that next chick lit suspense novel from me.

What have I been doing instead of writing? Here are a few things that have been keeping me busy. Maybe you’ll want to check some of them out.

  • READING. In the beginning of this semi-apocalypse, I truly could not concentrate well enough to read anything. It’s still a bit of a struggle. I found that revisiting some old favorite books was a great solution to Quarantine Brain. Short stories have also been a great option, since they don’t require sustained concentration. Two wildly different old faves I reread were: The Crystal Cave, the first in Mary Stewart’s absolutely stupendous retelling of the legend of King Arthur, from Merlin’s POV; and Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney’s masterful example of second-person narration, ending with one of the two* best last lines in all of fiction: You will have to go slowly. You will have to learn everything all over again.
  • WATCHING YOUTUBE. But not just any YouTube. There are so many good free things on YouTube, especially right now. You can watch all the great theatre companies of the world for FREE! Take your pick from Shakespeare’s Globe, the National Theatre of Great Britain, or Canada’s Stratford Festival. You can watch The Solitary Rambler, an adorkable salt-of-the-earth British guy who takes you on tours through small towns and scenic rural bits of Great Britain. All free. Oh, and there are great workout videos there too!
  • PAINTING! Yeah, no one is more surprised than me that this made it onto the list. Blame Jim Parsons. I follow him on Instagram, and he casually mentioned he was keeping busy by doing an online drawing class via zoom. Two months and four courses** later and I’m actually producing stuff like this:

* The other great last line in literature is this, of course.

**If you too need a new hobby that makes a tremendous mess and gives you an excuse to spend money on a whole new category of stuff and say things like, “I think I need gesso for this,” visit The Art Studio NY. They have wonderful teachers who are doing an amazing job of teaching art from a distance.

So that’s all the news from my tiny corner of the universe. I hope those of you still sticking around to read these very occasional posts are all  keeping safe and healthy, and I hope we will all still be here on this messed up, wonderful, infuriating planet a year from now, when I might get around to updating again.

These days, everyone is saying “Stay safe, stay healthy,” but I prefer the Vulcan version of this. Live long and prosper, everyone.

A Time to Rest

sabbatical-mug-300x260The word “sabbatical” comes from the same root as the word “sabbath.” Sabbatical means “of the sabbath,” and Sabbath means “rest.” Which is what I am going to be doing for at least the remainder of this year, possibly longer.

I’ve been writing stories since I could hold a pen. Really. My mom had some stories I wrote at the age of maybe ten, all about Ollie the Elephant and my imaginary friend Paula. (Not to be confused with the later real-life friend also known as Paula.) For decades, I wrote nonfiction in the form of newspaper and magazine articles and press releases for WORK and I wrote fiction for FUN.

Around ten years ago, I decided to get serious about fiction. I just wanted to see if I could finish a full-length novel. I did. Then I wanted to see if I could sell it to a big-name publisher. I didn’t. Then I decided it would be nice even to sell it to a small publisher. I did. But the experience with the small publisher was disillusioning to say the least — three changes of editor in the course of editing, a last-minute publication date that allowed no advance time for promotion and a poor job of promoting it once it was published. I started a second book and pitched it to a very big-name publisher  when they held a writing contest. As originally written, the book was a spy adventure with a touch of romance called The Capri Caper. An editor at Very Big Name Publishing took a liking and convinced me to take the characters out of that plot and turn it into a steamy romance. I did. After months of round-the-clock writing and revising to their specifications, Very Big Name Publisher ultimately rejected the novel anyway and I wound up going back to the less-than-satisfying small publisher for an even less satisfying editorial experience than I’d had the first time around.

Then the self-publishing wave hit. I decided it might be cool to get my rights to both books back, get new editors, new book covers and do my own promo. It was fun. The books actually made a bit of money this time. One even made the Amazon Best-Seller List for a little while.

Since that time, about three years ago now, I’ve written and published a couple of short stories and contributed to a cookbook. I’ve started at least three different “chick lit” style novels and failed to complete any of them.

Meanwhile, my nonfiction writing career has picked up enormously in the last year — I’ve been writing half of every issue of a local glossy mag that gets distributed in a major newspaper. I’ve also done a fair amount of PR work for a couple of local clients.

And for the last year, I’ve been struggling to help my son, Dr. Sheldon Cooper as he is called on this blog, transition to adulthood. It is going very so-so at this point. He is still a good kid, still mostly happy, BUT…. And the list of “buts” keeps growing: he rejected offers from two very good local colleges for a major he seemed very sure about in favor of going to community college. Once there he changed his major four times in the first semester until a counselor pretty much ordered him to put down “General Studies” and his father ordered him to not change it again at all if he wants us to continue footing the bill. He has drifted away from a lot of  hobbies he had in high school and refuses to consider even a minor in Music, his one area of true giftedness that could help pay his tuition in the form of scholarships, not to mention leading to a fulfilling career in something he loves and at which he excels. He’s developed a serious and unexpected case of stage fright.

Frankly, life with Dr. Cooper has ever been a roller coaster, but it’s always a worry when the car takes a downhill turn, as it seems to be doing this year. I foresee another season wherein I spend almost every free minute getting him organized, boosting his spirits, cheering him out of his dark moments. A season filled with visits to doctors, counselors, coaches, psychologists, acupuncturists, even priests, trying to get him to Focus! Cheer up! Have confidence! It is an exhausting, time-consuming place to be and it is a place I come back to with him every few years. Many parents of special needs kids or kids with developmental challenges know this place as “Holland,” from the Emily Perle Kingsley essay “Welcome to Holland.” And indeed, Holland is not a bad place to be. But we wouldn’t want to, say, let him take the wrong train entirely and wind up leaving Holland for Outer Slobovia or something even less appealing.

So I will put aside much of my self again and make one last push to try and help him acquire the confidence, the optimism, and the social skills he will need to succeed at an independent life without me someday. I will fit that around the newspaper, magazine  and PR writing that pays so much better than novel writing now (although ironically it was the opposite just three years ago). I will fit it around that stuff because it’s what I do. The Boy Who Was Autistic eventually graduated from a mainstream private high school with a 3.6 GPA and a bright future. I believe he can still find that future, but he needs a few more years of coaxing and coaching and maybe even a little hand-holding to do so.

But the coaxing and coaching of Dr. Cooper takes a lot of time and mental energy away from things like novel-writing. And then there are all the market changes in the novel-writing world. Self-publishing was fun, but I’m pretty burnt out on the whole phenomenon now. The market is flooded with new self-pubbed authors who have no professional background whatsoever in writing or editing and just hope to hit it rich “like that 50 Shades writer.” Unfortunately, the market is definitely not flooded with an equal influx of new readers, leading to entire sets of full-length books being sold for as little as $0.99. You can see, then, why novel-writing isn’t even on the back burner for me right now. It’s in the freezer, cats and kitties. A freezer in the basement. In the back. And the stairs to the basement are missing.

The bottom line, cats and kitties, as I’m sure you’ve guessed by now is: no new chick noir novel in 2015. Probably not in 2016 either. Even if I get back to novel writing at some point in the future, I suspect it won’t be chick lit. Maybe it will be horror or steampunk or my old first love, science fiction. Maybe it will be a weepy women’s novel or an edgy action thriller. There’s a good chance it will be something for kids or teens, since I’m reading and enjoying more and more of that stuff these days.  But all that is in the vague future. Right now, the focus is on Dr. Cooper and my freelance business.

There will probably be book review posts in the future, and there may be some short stories and another cookbook contribution coming in the next year, but I don’t see a novel coming soon. And trying to pretend I even want to write another one right now has become another thing just making me tired and stressing me out. And so this post: a confession and an acclamation: Lynn Reynolds the novelist is on sabbatical.

All Apologies

I know, I know. I took that little break in Lent and found seventeen other ways to waste time, and I’ve barely been back here since. I warned you about my attention issues, didn’t I? But I’m back and this week I’m starting a new revolving series of posts:

~ Buried Treasure highlights widely ignored or somewhat obscure movies, books and TV shows

~ This Writing Life highlights tips, advice and other wisdom about – what else? – writing

~ Love Letter To: is just what it says: my love letter to a favorite writer, performer, or maybe even fictional character.

and of course:

~ Random Thinking – like Random Dancing, but with your brain instead of your feet. A catch-all category for all my other blog posts, like all that stuff about zombies, Sheldon Cooper and Nathan Fillion