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: 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