Jilly: Independence Daze

Happy Fourth of July to the other Ladies, and to all American readers of 8LW. It’s been a year like no other, but I hope you found a suitable way to celebrate.

Here in Merrie England we’re also enjoying a very special weekend. The Prime Minister announced an easing of covid-19 lockdown measures, beginning yesterday, and suddenly all kinds of socially distanced fun and games are back on the cards.

Now that so many suspended activities are possible again, it’s been interesting to see which ones I’m desperate to return to and which ones I’ve decided can wait a little longer.

Home Visits
We’re allowed to receive visitors at home now, though outside is better and social distancing is de rigueur. We’re expecting an in-person visit from a real, live friend this afternoon. We’ll sit in the garden and keep our distance, but the idea of an in-the-flesh social interaction is thrilling. Humans are social animals, aren’t we? Zoom, Skype, and Facetime are better than nothing, but they don’t come close to a face to face catch-up. We’re expecting visits from another friend, maybe two, before the end of next week and I couldn’t be happier.

Restaurants
I don’t feel tempted to check out smart city center restaurants, but we’ve missed our weekly visit to the local Bangladeshi eatery. It’s part of the fabric of our neighborhood—everyone goes there. The food isn’t fancy, but it’s tasty and consistently good. The people who run the show are great—smart, hardworking, and kind. Dinner there is part of my routine, like taking a grocery delivery or writing a blog post. We like to eat early, when it’s nice and quiet. I’m looking forward to getting into that groove again.

Hairdressers
It’s been four months since I had a haircut. Normally I get fretful if I hit the five-week mark. I’ve been going to the same stylist and colorist for around 20 years. I’m good friends with both, and with many other people at their salon. My stylist is a great supporter of my writing. He loves to talk creativity and gave me the germ of the idea that became the elan stories. My colorist usually works with celebrities around the world and is a great person to quiz for the latest ideas, trends and insights.

I can’t wait to see them, but I’ve been checking up on the covid-secure rules for running a salon and don’t envy them the task of putting the necessary measures in place. They’ll be trying to do everything right, delivering their best work while keeping their staff and clients safe. Balancing a waitlist of demanding clients while keeping the salon half-empty and adhering to their long list of protocols. I’ve decided to give them a few weeks, maybe a month. If the salon has settled into a new normal by the end of August, that will do nicely.

Dentists
Our dental surgery re-opened. Whoo! My husband and I have appointments next week for check-ups that were canceled months ago. The experience is likely to be weird. Our dentist is chatty. His practice is friendly and informal. It’s going to be strange to see him kitted out in PPE and talking through a visor. I like him a lot, but I’ve never before thought of a dental check-up as a treat. I snapped up the first appointment I was offered and am feeling ridiculously excited about it.

Travel
From today people in England are allowed to travel for pleasure and to stay overnight in hotels, campsites and B&Bs. That was a popular decision—yesterday there were huge tailbacks on roads heading to the coast and well-known beauty spots.

We’re also starting to relax quarantine rules for arrivals from various countries. Airlines are scheduling flights, and apparently optimists are rushing to book holidays before their children go back to school (in September, assuming that goes to plan).

I’ve always enjoyed travel, and dear lord I’d love a change of scenery, but right now I feel no inclination to buy a train ticket or book a hotel, let alone hop on a plane. It’s partly the health risk, but at least as much the knowledge that the world could change again in the blink of an eye and we could find ourselves stranded, far from home, possibly for a very long time and potentially uninsured. I’m glad we’ve taken some very special trips over the years, because I can’t see us straying far from home unless/until the dust settles, and I’m guessing that may take years rather than months.

It’s exciting to feel that we may be returning to a kind of normality, though as I’m watching the rest of the world I have a sinking feeling that this may just be a lull before the next storm. I hope I’m wrong.

So…how’s your weekend going? And have you noticed a change in your priorities during these crazy days?

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. Continue reading

Jilly: Seizing the Day

Time flies when you’re having fun 😀

I won’t be doing much writing or blogging this weekend, because I’ll be helping my husband celebrate his 60thbirthday. This will be the fifth Big Birthday I’ve celebrated with him, and we’re both wondering where the time went.

On his 20thbirthday we were at university. I made him a chocolate cake in the shape of a hedgehog, with chocolate buttons for spikes. It seems like yesterday. Now we’re retired and enjoying the luxury of a kind of golden age.

So this is a quick post to say life is fleeting. Blink and you’ll miss it. Don’t forget to take time to celebrate your successes and enjoy the good moments with the people closest to you.

What will you celebrate this year?

Jilly: 2020 In A Word

It’s a new year, the beginning of a new decade, the perfect moment to take stock. In recent years I’ve chosen a watchword to epitomize my approach to the coming twelve months. I’ve decided to continue the practice for 2020.

I like the idea of a watchword. It’s less prescriptive than a set of resolutions. More like a theme. An idea that recurs and pervades.

My word for 2019 was CONCENTRATE, defined as:

  1. To focus all one’s efforts on a particular project or activity; and
  2. To distil something to its essence by removing or reducing any diluting agents.

For 1., my priority project was to indie publish The Seeds of Power. I made it (just). Yay!

For 2., my intent was to remind myself of the choices I’d have to make in preparing the book for publication—content edits, title, genre positioning, covers, blurbs, and so on. I wanted the book to be professional and marketable, but most of all I wanted it to be the clearest, strongest, most intense version of my voice and story vision that I could achieve. I think I got that too. Double yay for 2019!

After three whole weeks as a published author I have a pretty good idea of how I want to approach 2020. First and foremost, my priority is to keep writing. I want to write a second Elan Intrigues story, provisionally titled The Pulse of Princes, and then update Alexis’s book. Second, I need to prepare The Pulse of Princes for publication. At least I have a better idea what to expect this time, and I found some great professionals to work with. Third, I need to get to grips with marketing. That’s the last part of the indie author trifecta. It’s not my strong suit, and it’s the bit I didn’t really get to grips with in 2019.

So: my challenge for 2020 is Continue reading

Kay: Ladies, Slip the Leash!

Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images

How does this picture make you feel? It depresses me.

It’s a photo of the wives of the G7 leaders, currently meeting in France. (I don’t know who the dude is on the right, but I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that he’s an aide. Although he looks a little bit like Justin Trudeau.)

So the First Ladies and Dude are watching a performance by Basque dancers, although the First Ladies don’t look like they’re enjoying it much. They got dragged to a bunch of stuff on this cultural tour, including an inspection of the locally grown peppers, which they ate at dinner. I bet inspecting those peppers was a lot of fun. However, they did go to a wine tasting, so maybe they copped a few bottles for the hotel room later. Continue reading

Elizabeth: The Jar of Life

Justine talked about procrastination in one of her recent posts.  That’s a topic that always resonates with me since procrastination is a skill that I have honed over the years.  Really, if procrastination was an Olympic sport, I’d totally be a multi-gold meadalist.  I’ve posted before about my efforts to combat my natural procrastination tendencies, but I think I’ve learned to work within my existing style more than I’ve actually changed.

 “I’m not procrastinating; I’m prioritizing the most appealing tasks first.” ~ Me

Periodically, however, I take a step back, look at my To Do list, which is only exceeded in length and breadth by my To Be Read list, and think, “I should make some changes.”

Coincidentaly, when that thought reared its ugly head the other day, I was right in the middle of a leadership training program at work where we were working on a “priorities” module.  While priorities and procrastination are two different things, it made sense to me that prioritizing certain tasks could lead to procrastinating about others. Continue reading

Jeanne: Spring Fever

Front Porch Flowers 2019
I meant to do my work today—
But a brown bird sang in the apple tree,
And a butterfly flitted across the field,
And all the leaves were calling me.And the wind went sighing over the land,
Tossing the grasses to and fro,
And a rainbow held out its shining hand—
So what could I do but laugh and go?                                                 Richard Le Gallienne

I usually write my blog posts on Sunday afternoon, but this Sunday, after a week of rain and cold, the weather turned beautiful. So, instead of hunkering down at my desk, I bopped up to the garden center around the corner and bought geraniums and begonias to fill my front porch planters. And then I spent a happy afternoon playing in the dirt.
We’ll categorize this post as “Work Life Balance.”

Jilly: Into Autumn

It’s September already. How did that happen?

Technically it’s another couple of weeks to the Autumnal Equinox, but the last public holiday has been celebrated, the kids are back at school, and it’s time to knuckle down. These days most of us don’t have to take in the harvest or stockpile supplies to keep our families alive over the winter months, but we still have that legacy of applying ourselves, of needing to put things to bed before the sun sets on the year.

When I had a desk job I used to dread this time of year. It was always a perfect storm of updating the current year’s budgets; preparing for the financial year end; writing, presenting and updating the business plan for the upcoming year and five years; carrying out staff appraisals; working through bonuses and incentive plans; and trying desperately to squeeze in a little ‘me’ time for my birthday. Three and a half months would pass in a blur and I’d red-line it so much that when Christmas finally arrived I’d hit the wall and get sick.

For the last six years I’ve been (mostly) in control of my own schedule. This autumn is somewhat bittersweet since for the first time in years I don’t have to worry about my mum’s health, and we have a choice over where to spend the holidays. It makes me even more determined to use my privilege wisely and well.

Continue reading

Jeanne: The Ship to Tarshish

WhaleI intended to make today’s post a review of the 2018 RWA Conference in Denver that I attended last week. I have plenty to talk about–my first ever shot at giving away swag to promote a book, the great workshops I attended, my second experience as a Golden Heart finalist (though not, I’m sorry to say, as a winner this time).

But then I got to thinking about Jonah and the Whale, so we’re going to talk about that instead.

For those of you who weren’t frog-marched to Baptist Sunday school as impressionable children, God called on Jonah, a well-known prophet, to go to Nineveh and tell the Ninevites that they were screwing up, and to knock it off or he’d smite them.

Jonah didn’t think the Ninevites would be open to hearing this corrective feedback, so he hopped on a ship to Tarshish and high-tailed it in the opposite direction. Continue reading

Nancy: There Is No Light Without the Darkness

A few weeks ago, I went through a rough patch in my writing life. More accurately, I started going through the rough patch, because I haven’t yet climbed completely out of that hole of writerly despair. At least now I’m close enough to the surface to catch a glimpse of sunlight filtering down from above me.

There were reasons I fell into the hole, of course. I had too many deadlines on multiple projects converging at once. I was running a low-grade fever (precursor to a virus that towered a whole weekend and then some). I came to the realization that I couldn’t stay on course for meeting my publishing deadlines and at the same time attend an amazing writers’ conference being held in paradise this coming fall. I bailed on paradise because it was the right thing to do, but sometimes the right think sucks.

But there were deeper reasons, too. Poking a stick into a story idea that’s not baked enough yet. Coming to the point in one of my stories where I realized it’s all complete drivel (this happens at several points per story for me; YMMV). Falling into the pit of despair known as imposter syndrome. I knew talking to someone would help, but I wasn’t ready to share with other writers (which makes up about 90% of my circle of friends and acquaintances IRL) for fear of hearing well-meaning advice or platitudes, neither of which would have worked for me in that particular state. In fairness, my wonderful friends who also happen to be writers would have known not to do that, but I was stuck down in that hole, not seeing things all that clearly.

Which left me with the small number of non-writers in my life, and led to the realization that not only did I not want to discuss the trials and tribulations of the writing life with them in that moment, I didn’t want to discuss those harsh realities with them ever. I really had to ponder my own reaction. These are good eggs, kind people, of the loving and caring sort. Why did I recoil from sharing these truths with them? Maybe I was afraid – to paraphrase Col. Jessup from A Few Good Men – they couldn’t handle the truth, because most conversations with non-writers that touch on writing reveal a lot of misunderstanding about what it means to pursue the writing life. Continue reading