Creeping Back to Normal

I love this store. Mostly the prices.

I had a serious melt-down, sloppy-cry moment yesterday.

It started out as an ordinary day…morning quiet time, then to my desk to write for about three hours, then figure out routine chore-type things that needed doing.

Like grocery shopping. Which I hate.

However … on the tail end of the COVID panic, we somehow made the dubious decision to buy a 4-DR Jeep Wrangler, which has made all things ‘chore’ a delight, since I’m now toodling around Hilton Head Island in a black Jeep with oversize wheels/tires with no top or doors. This has changed my life for the better all around. Did you know Jeepsters have a ‘wave’? Like the peace sign, only it’s not. When driving a Jeep, one must put a hand at twelve o’clock on the steering wheel in preparation to raise the two designated fingers in a Jeep ‘wave’ upon seeing other Jeep brethren toodling around. Yep. It’s a thing. We are learning all that stuff.

But I digress.

So, breeze blowing through my hair, music pumped up, I’m happily driving to Kroger, which is mid-Island. And I think, well, TJ Maxx is right next door and I might as well go there first. This cheered me up considerably, as the Island has unmasked, for the most part, and it’s not a hideous mask-thing anymore to go shop for clothing, purses, and the like.

I hop out of my Jeep, thinking out of habit … I need to lock it. But no, the doors are off, no need. This also made me smile, and I trotted into the store, twirling the keys around my finger and looking all “Jeep girl.” I pick out a great purse, wander through the rest of the store, pick up another couple things, including a new pair of jean shorts. I guage their size with a sigh, thinking, ohmigosh another piece of clothing I have to take home that I will probably need to return. *I hate returning stuff* just saying. I head toward check-out. Notice the growing hubub at the back of the store.

What do my wandering eyes behold?

I crane my neck to look. “What’s going on?” I ask a fellow crane-necker. He doesn’t know and doesn’t care. I jerk to a stop, pull my cart out of line, and head to the hubub, just for the heck of it. As I draw closer, my heart rate picks up. My eyes moisten.

“It can’t be,” I whisper to myself. I push my cart ever closer, wondering at the mob waiting, their carts filled with clothing. I draw in a breath, and hold it until I’m finally in the center of it all. With a gasp, and a rush of tears, I cry out, “Hallelujah!” Several women, also with tears of relief streaming down their cheeks, give me a smile and a nod. They, too, cannot believe it. I dance to the front of the line and hug the woman checking us in. She laughs.

Yes, it was true. At TJ Maxx on Hilton Head Island … the dressing rooms … are … OPEN!!!

Happy, happy tears.

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It’s Release Day! Finally!

Over the past four weeks I’ve discovered Book Brush and designed about twenty images like the one below. It’s an awesome tool, but I don’t want to oversaturate people, there’s only so much I can put on FB and my FB author page and Instagram without driving potential buyers crazy. There’s ‘please buy my book, here’s an opportunity and I’ve made it so easy, right? All you have to do is CLICK RIGHT HERE! (Seriously you can click on the image below and it takes you right to the Amazon page where you can order ebook or paperback). And then there’s this approach: BUY MY BOOK OR ELSE I WILL FURTHER SATURATE EVERY SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNEL I CAN FIND hahahaha (maniacal laughter).

Well, I’ve decided I do not want to be that person. But I really do like playing with Book Brush and I’m becoming a more competent user, anyway. I have three other authors that have joined me in promotional efforts, all our books release in February and we’ve lined up virtual events and have a ZOOM call every week or so just to stay in touch, rehearse, discuss ideas, etc. which is just fabulous and AWESOME because a book launch during a pandemic…isolated…depressed…and so over it…is no fun, but with a TEAM, it is fun. Because I have to remember that even though we get together virtually, it still (almost) has the same feel as getting together personally and is encouraging and uplifting. So a shout-out to my awesome team! And also a shout-out to my awesome publisher, Level Best Books, that offers cool promotional tools like podcasts and lists of awards to submit to and pastes our events everywhere in addition to what we are already doing. Authors primarily work in a vacuum, but with this publisher, they’re pretty careful to make sure all that isolation stuff does not happen.

It’s with a happy heart that I announce release day, today, February 23, 2021; and also with a happy heart that I’ve had lots of well-wishers and support on social media that makes me smile. It’s a great feeling. Also, it was a great feeling to discover two of my kids wanted to throw me a launch party, and I hadn’t even thought of it during this virus-of-isolation life, but we are throwing one anyway, and I’m looking forward to it. In spite of the fact that the crazy winter weather has delayed my book delivery for the event, and I’ve already changed the event date twice. I do have ARCs left over, which I am grateful for, because at least for my launch event, I’ll have those that people can touch and hold and feel and buy if they want to! Even if the books don’t make it on time, it’s about celebrating the publishing of a book, and the author’s accomplishment, not just the actual book, right? We’ll take orders and get the delayed books to them later if they don’t show up. However, I still hold out hope since the launch is still a couple days away!

I marvel over the effort that goes into a book launch. The writing, editing, and cover design take time and hard work, of course, but promotion never stops! I’ve been forced to understand Goodreads, the power of Instagram stories, the futility of Twitter (gosh how I hate Twitter), and up my game on Facebook. I’ve had my kids give me tutorials on how to post events. I’ve watched as loyal FB friends share my videos/ads. I’ve learned how to run a BookBub campaign. All the while, I’m thinking, aren’t I too old for this?

Never!

Plus I still have a newsletter I need to get out, plus the next book I have to write that actually has a deadline hanging over my head. And I hope to make it to at least one writing conference this year, and I’ll make more writer friends, which is just THE. BEST.

I always envied “author life.” Now I get it. The cool part is how impressed everyone seems to be when they discover that I’m an author. The not-so-cool part is all the sweat-inducing, profanity-laden work that goes into it. It’s okay, though. Writing books for a living beats retirement any day of the week.

 

Finding Virtue in the Virtual

Virtual church is not working for me.

Attending church was the one day I absolutely counted on to dress up a little, force myself to put on a decent amount of makeup, and head out to enjoy the company of the faithful, learn awesome biblical truths, and belt out joyful worship songs in a group setting. Afterward, (I remember fondly…) we’d hang out and talk. My granddaughters would burst out of their classes and join us at the high tops in the lobby and we’d ooh and ahh over their latest creations. Friends would pause on their way out. We’d chat and catch up.

Now, I slouch to the couch and turn on YouTube with a sigh. I alternately gaze at my phone and the TV, because, hey, who is there to judge me? It’s too easy to be distracted at home. And I’ve begun starting at the teaching part, skipping announcements and worship songs. Because…well, it’s weird to sing alone in my house, and my husband won’t sing with me because he definitely thinks it’s strange, and so there you are.

Just not the same.

My husband and I have tried masking up and attending church, which is even weirder. As though we’ve entered an alien space where people are afraid of each other, and if we do try to share a few words, conversation is muffled and hard to understand because we are speaking through two or three layers of cloth. Not to mention that we are marched in and out of the auditorium like unwilling soldiers in an Orwellian tale.

On the up side (and there always is one) I have a much higher regard for handwashing, and give it a full twenty seconds. The tireless employees that wipe down and scrub and disinfect everything in sight, in addition to their other responsibilities, have my undying respect. I’m grateful my husband works at home and does not have to battle life in an office, which has got to be incredibly hard right now. ZOOM has been a lifesaver, and at least a connection with the outside world in which masks are unnecessary.

Life is stressful at best right now and I am pressing hard into my time with God each morning. I pray for our president, and our country. I pray for justice and righteousness to prevail. I pray for our economy, which is bouncing around like a ping pong ball, and I of course pray for the plague to dissipate and life to resume. Wisdom during a time such as this is elusive, but I reach out to God for true and honest wisdom to help me accomplish the things I’m called to do…be a good grandmother, a good wife and mother; continue to write books and not bemoan the current state of affairs which precludes an in-person book launch. The deep divisiveness of the political climate plus the hostility of left-wing rioters has affected many close relationships. Keeping channels of communication open is harder, now, and another thing that keeps me on my knees.

I’m so grateful God is my source, and not circumstances. With the amazing power of prayer, the stress, division, and fear of the unknown retreat. I have even learned to wear a mask without complaining! When we are powerless over circumstances, God lifts us above them and helps us persevere with dignity and grace.

“You will keep in perfect and constant peace the one whose mind is steadfast (that is, committed and focused on You in both inclination and character), because he trusts and takes refuge in You (with hope and confident expectation).” Isaiah 26:30