Jilly: Silver Linings Saturday

While Michaeline’s away dealing with family matters (check out this post for more information), I’m borrowing her Saturday slot to ask: what good experiences did you find to alleviate the grimdark this week?

Whatever your circumstances, if you found joy in a burst of birdsong, or the spring sunshine, or an unexpected message… if you found something—anything—that lightened your heart, please share it in the comments and give somebody else a much-needed moment of feelgood.

I took a little while to make my list for this post, and to my surprise just searching for the good moments in another stressful week left me feeling uplifted.

Of course the most important thing is that all my family and friends are still home and well. Everything else pales beside that. I’m deeply thankful, and I hope that you have all been equally fortunate.

I’ve had another week of no new writing. I’m supposed to be working on the my new Elan Intrigues novel, but the opening scene is really intense. The heroine loses everything she cares about in one candid exchange, and I simply haven’t had the emotional bandwidth to do it justice. I plan to do better this week. Hopefully that scene will be next week’s silver lining.

I did, however, go back and forth with Deranged Doctor Design on the cover for my new novella, The Seeds of Exile. I mentioned last week that I found a stock photo of a cool urban dude that I hoped DDD could turn into a historical fantasy prince. No spoilers but…they did, and he looks amazing. I’m thrilled. I should get the finished file on Monday or Tuesday. I’ll share next weekend, and I hope you like it as much as I do.

Also writing-related: Draft2Digital and Overdrive (library ebook distributor) have created a promotion whereby D2D authors can opt to make their novels available to libraries at a seriously discounted price, initially through April 30th, potentially longer. Given that the world is suddenly full of people with time to read and no money to spare for book buying I think this is an excellent idea. I’ve signed up to offer The Seeds of Power. I hope Overdrive decides to include it in the promotion. If they do I’ll stay in for as long as the promotion runs.

On the home front, I noticed something different. Our house is on the outskirts of London, and for years our street has been a cut-through to one of the main roads into town. The traffic noise has never bothered me particularly. It’s at most an hour in the morning and again in the evening, and as we’ve lived here for more than 20 years I’ve internalized it. Suddenly though, people aren’t driving into the city and the absence of noise has disoriented me. Subconsciously, it seems, I’ve been using the rat-run as an alarm clock.

The days are getting noticeably lighter, and I’ve been relishing the unexpectedly clean air on my daily walks. I’ve been keeping to the streets rather than following my usual routes over Hampstead Heath, but the signs of spring are all around my neighbourhood. Daffodils, tulips, camellias, crocuses, blossom, scents. Lovely.

And on the subject of spring, did you see that David Hockney published a series of images created recently at his home in Normandy, offered to the public as a respite from current events? The images are beautiful, and I am awestruck and inspired that he is capable of such work at 83 years young. There’s hope, right? Check them out and absorb the wonder of man’s talent and nature’s glory. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-52109901

So. Those are the good bits of my week. How about yours?

Jeanne: Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Magnolia blossom

Magnolia blossoms, seen in my neighborhood on Sunday

Forced proximity is a romance trope wherein the couple in question is forced by circumstance (blizzard, long-haul truck run, bodyguard, work assignment, etc.) to spend time together. I suspect there will be an influx of these stories in the coming months but I have to tell you: I’m already tire of this trope.

Because we’re older and fairly sensible by nature, Old Dog and I started self-isolating a couple of weeks ago. We are doing better cooped up together than I would have expected. Under normal circumstances we have a tendency to snipe at each other when we’re feeling irritable, but we’ve managed to curtail that almost completely, at least for the duration.

For now, I’m able to get out and walk in my neighborhood or head to the nature preserve about 10 miles north of my house when cabin fever threatens to get out of control. If you don’t have that option, here’s a video from my walk earlier this week that may give you a little vicarious out-of-doors time. Continue reading

Jilly: Silver Linings

So how was your week?

According to the news briefings, London is the coronavirus hotspot of the UK, but so far, touch wood, we’ve been fine chez Jilly. We’re doing as instructed, staying quietly home, washing our hands, waving to the neighbors from a safe distance, watching the news, and checking up on friends and family. I’ve been having lovely long chats with friends I normally only catch up with at Christmas.

I didn’t do any new writing, but I did put together a brief for Daire’s novella, now officially called The Seeds of Exile. I had a good discussion with my cover designers about the stock photo I found for Daire, crown prince and ruler of Caldermor. The guy’s expression and pose are perfect. Unfortunately, his clothes aren’t. He’s a cool urban dude and I need a fantasy prince. I had some ideas about how he could be transformed, and I was thrilled when Deranged Doctor Design said they can make him work. Those people are a breath of fresh air, somehow managing to work with their usual upbeat professionalism even though their patch of Eastern Europe is under martial law and they’re expecting to go to full corona-lockdown soon. I really admire their attitude.

The other task that’s been occupying much of my time is chasing grocery orders. The Prime Minister suggested we should have our food and necessities delivered if at all possible. That’s turning out to be easier said than done, as the online delivery companies crumble under the sudden weight of demand. They’re beyond overwhelmed. The one I use has seen a ten-fold increase in activity, combined with a decision to prioritize ‘key workers’ and vulnerable people, which is making it basically inaccessible to ordinary customers, even longstanding ones like me.

I wasted more than seven hours trying to wrangle that online supermarket on Friday, to no avail, and now I’m done. I realized today that I’ve been approaching this challenge all wrong. Even as the big grocery chains adapt their model to help the government, this country is full of smaller independent businesses—farmers and wholesalers—who were dependent on the restaurant trade and who are now desperately trying to adapt and survive. They have families to feed, stock they can’t sell, and for the foreseeable future they’re looking to private customers to keep them afloat. From now on, until this pandemic shutdown is over, my new plan is to use my time and money to find and buy from those businesses. I’ve placed two orders with an organic farm in Devon, for delivery in May, and I have a couple of other referrals in London that might be able to tide us over for April. Those are on my list to contact tomorrow. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Oh—and our friendly indie wine merchant (also reeling from the closure of the restaurant trade) agreed with us that it would be a good idea to withdraw as much of our paid wine reserve as we could manage while the bonded warehouse is still making deliveries and the merchant is still there to liaise with them. So we did. We’ve always kept our wine in storage because we have a small house and no cellar. Now there’s wine under the stairs. Under the coffee table. Under the dining table. Wherever we could find a shady space. After all, nobody’s coming to visit. And even if we have to dine on corned beef and microwave rice every night, at least now we know it will be accompanied by a glass of something nice 🙂 .

And best of all, last Friday the Eight Ladies had a virtual get-together courtesy of Zoom. We span the East and West coasts of the US, plus the UK and Japan, and in normal times the chance of finding a time where we could all sit in front of a screen is slim to none. Right now everyone’s home, which means it’s tricky but do-able, and we did. It was great!

So how was your week? It’s been another tough one around the world. I hope you managed to find some silver linings.

Jilly: Life, But Not As We Know It

Yesterday Michaeline reported that Hokkaido is no longer in a state of emergency, so she and her family are free to socialize and celebrate the spring equinox. Yay, Hokkaido!

In my corner of London things are…strange. In true British fashion we’re not ordered to stay home, just strongly requested to do so. Pubs, clubs and bars are closed, ditto theaters and cinemas. Public transport is running a reduced service, and consumer stockpiling has stripped the supermarket shelves. We’ve been strongly requested not to panic buy food and toiletries, but so far that request has been more honored in the breach than the observance.

So far I don’t know anyone who’s had the illness, but I know lots of people who’re suffering the financial consequences of avoiding it. Friends who’ve lost their jobs or fear they may be about to; business owners who’ve lost everything almost overnight; pensioners who’ve seen their retirement savings devastated. The government is undertaking a massive program of financial intervention, and we have to hope that will mitigate the effects for the worst-hit people. Continue reading

Jilly: It’s Grim, But It’s Not All Bad

 

Yesterday Michaeline shared the events of her week in rural Hokkaido, which began with a birthday celebration and ended with the coronavirus-related closure of schools, the declaration of a state of emergency, and a strong request that people should stay home.

Here in London the Sword of Damocles is still suspended, but probably not for much longer. So far there are 20 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 virus across the UK. Nineteen of those cases are people who have been abroad recently, but the latest one is a man who is the first person to be infected domestically. The source of his infection is currently unknown. He lives in Surrey, a populous area to the south of London, and attended his local doctors’ surgery before he was diagnosed.

We’re also starting to see precautionary measures taken by employers. Last week the oil multinational Chevron sent 300 staff home from its Canary Wharf offices after one of its employees, who’d spent the weekend ski-ing in Italy, became unwell. Media company OMD, which shares the same building, sent all its staff home after an employee who’d returned from Australia via Singapore reported symptoms. Transport company Crossrail, which shares a building with Chevron and OMD, sent all its employees home. And yesterday law firm Baker McKenzie sent home more than 1,000 staff from its Blackfriars office after a possible virus case was identified. Continue reading

Elizabeth: RWA 2.0?

As we talked about here and here, the Romance Writers of America trade organization had an implosion at the end of 2019 and its 2020 has thus far been no better.  The last of the remaining Board members resigned on February 12th and the organization is currently on life-support, being kept alive through the efforts of the Leslie Scantlebury, the interim Executive Director (who seems to be doing a bang-up job).

A few days ago, the independent auditors, who were hired to investigate specific issues within the organization, released their report (accessible to RWA members only).  The results were not good – citing missteps, flaws in understanding, and gaps between policy/procedures and actions.  The report should not be a surprise to anyone who has been following along since December.  There were numerous recommendations regarding what RWA could do next, including the excerpted bit below which seemed to say that “there wouldn’t have been such a problem if people had just kept things secret.”

The publicity surrounding the handling of the ethics complaints against Ms. Milan has harmed the organization, created concerns among Ethics Committee members and candidates about participating in the process, and magnified the negative attention and reputational harm experienced by Ms. Tisdale and Ms. Davis.

I’m hoping that wasn’t really the intention of that bit, but I’ve read a lot of posts and comments by others who had that same interpretation.

So, what happens now? Continue reading

Jeanne: A Whole Different Kind of Writing

20817926 - vintage wooden door in the old part of jerusalemAwhile back, the preacher at my (teeny-tiny) church approached me about giving a sermon. He was interested, he said, in having different voices represented in the church, more than just white guys.

I declined, explaining that I’m not a speaker, I’m a writer. A couple of months later, though, he approached me again. We’ve been doing a series on the broken heroes depicted in the book of Judges and we were coming to Judges 11, the story of Jephthah. He knows how fascinated I am by the story of Jephthah. (In the early 2000’s, I wrote a book with this story as the underlying theme (though not the story).

The story of Jephthah and his daughter is the saddest story in the Bible. It makes Romeo and Juliet look like the pilot for a sitcom. I’ll spare you the theological analysis, but I thought I’d share my retelling of the story itself.

Jephthah was a great warrior from the land of Gilead, but his mother was a prostitute. His father had other sons by his legitimate wife and when he died. Jephthah’s brothers said, “You are the son of a whore. We are not sharing Dad’s estate with you.”

So Jephthah left Gilead for the land of Tob, where he gathered a band of ne’er-do-wells and malcontents and they lived off the land as bandits.

And life was good. Continue reading