“Lucy by the Sea” #amreading #Covid #Novel

After reading My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Stout (recommended as a novella, but I would say it’s a novel), I was intrigued by the continued story of the main character in Lucy by the Sea. Reading the sample, I was super intrigued as I realized I was now ready to read a Covid story. In fact, it’s got me thinking about my own awareness of Covid and the reactions we had back then.

We’d moved back to Las Vegas from Florida and were living in a rental, although I was missing the Vegas house we’d owned for so many years. It took awhile to sell the Florida house and so we were keeping ourselves busy househunting, although I wasn’t sure I wanted to own another home in Vegas after living through the housing bust and being underwater, anxiously awaiting the market to pick up again so we could leave. I thought maybe we’d rent this time so we could be more nimble.

But the rental sucked! It was in a very nice part of town, super nice neighborhood, and looked nice but so many things were broken and they had no intention of fixing them. The stove top, for one. We used the microwave, electric skillet, and rice cooker instead. They only replaced the leaking toilet and half bath vanity when the water department sent a notice to say there was a leak and must be fixed immediately.

I loved the casita–a separate building where I set up my studio, but the air conditioning wasn’t working and there was no heat. They finally did fix the A/C (law requires it), and I used a space heater in the winter. But then the sliding glass door that led to the casita went bonkers and wouldn’t close completely – at least, only with force that my husband had to administer. So I stopped using it.

We’d left a beautiful home behind in Florida and I desparately missed our French door refrigerator. This rental had one of those small apartment-like fridges. I was determined to have my own refrigerator, even if we had to buy one and squeeze it into that small space – lol! So we scoured the area for a better rental, and were just about to sign the lease, when something made me stop. Instead, we decided to go under contract with a new build, although it was a bit smaller than we were used to, but it was better, we thought, than a townhouse. Anyway, our house would be finished by the end of April.

And we all remember that March, right? Everybody was hoarding toilet paper and here we were living in a rental, about to move out, and we certainly weren’t hoarding anything. I began to use each square of TP with judicious care to make it last until we could get some more (and swore at all those people who were hoarding it).

My husband began to work at home. We were holding our breath waiting to hear if new construction was “essential” or not. What if they stopped building our house? Thankfully, it was deemed essential and we continued to hope that we would be in our own home soon. Having your own home suddenly seemed even more important than ever–to be able to control your own environment was at the top of the list.

Layoffs were happening all over, but, thankfully, my husband was also on the essential list. But somehow our builder rep thought he was on furlough so we had to set him straight right away. Don’t stop working on our house–we’re counting on moving in! We did hear rumblings of appliances being unavailable. Refrigerators, washers, dryers, etc. We opted not to go through the builder for those–otherwise, closing may have been delayed until they could get their supply. No, we went through Home Depot, and though there was a bit of a delay, eventually, we got them delivered. They gave us a refrigerator rental (yes, one of those small apartment-like refrigerators) for a couple of days.

As is true with every new house, it seems you must buy new furnniture to fit the new space. We donated some of our stuff that didn’t fit and bought new stuff, although the choices were limited.

Two years of living in that “tiny house” (the downstairs was the problem–the kitchen and living room were squeezed together with no dining area)–the rest was taken up by the garage. And with both of us working full-time in our adjoining spaces upstairs, feeling squished, and with companies more supportive of remote work, well, all this led us to moving back to Florida. Thankfully, we’ve always been able to have a larger, single story house with plenty of room for both of us to co-exist in our own workspaces in Florida. We took that window of opportunity and sold tiny house at top market value. But post-Covid brought its own set of problems.  I’ll tell that story another day.

In the meantime, I might be inspired to get back to another manuscript I’ve started about living in a tiny space. My editor says proofs for “She’s Not That Good” should be coming within the week and I’m hoping the changes are minor and I can send it out into the world by the end of the year.

Breaking Out of “Cave Syndrome” with the Help of Tommy Bahama

After over a year of isolation, writing and producing music in my home studio, I had a feeling I would find it difficult to get back to “normal” life. I’d remembered how during a time in the Bay Area in-between jobs, I found it difficult to leave Fremont to commute to San Jose. And after this past year when my world shrank even more, I would not be surprised if I struggled to go out for fun.

We’d gone to SoCal a few times for special events at Knott’s Berry Farm and Disneyland, but I kept finding reasons not to go out to a restaurant here in Las Vegas. Rich kept making reservations at Tommy Bahama, but I talked him into ordering in from various places instead.

But when I found myself sitting in the garage Friday afternoon waiting for Rich to finish his work day in his upstairs office, reading about “Cave Syndrome,” I knew it was time to take steps.

Rich made another reservation at Tommy’s and we actually went. But walking to the restaurant from the parking garage, passing strangers wearing the usual masks, I wondered if I was truly ready. Had this thing changed me forever, leaving me in a mental haze where all of life seems a bit dim?

But as soon as we were seated, we noticed that unlike Disney, we were not required to sit there wearing masks until our food arrived, and, unlike Disney, our server was mask free (allowed if vaccinated), my heart leapt with joy! Suddenly, life was feeling a lot rosier, the fog began to lift. And by the time my Blood Orange Margarita and Rich’s Key Lime Martini arrived, I was downright ecstatic!

I began to feel hopeful that there is, indeed, life after Covid, that I can do the WDW trip, and that maybe even our November cruise is possible! It was quite a watershed moment.

If Politics is the New Religion, Then Twitter is Church

I read somewhere that “politics is the new religion” and a light went off. So that’s why we all seem so divided and verbal about it today. This is a recent thing. Even if my childhood was long ago when people agreed not to discuss “politics or religion,” until recently, people really didn’t.

I’ve been trying to delete Twitter for some time (been off Facebook and Instagram for years – yay me!), but I keep going back for more of the Twitter Kool-aid. I keep believing the lie that somehow I need it. “Just this one,” I tell myself. I need one social media. YouTube doesn’t count, right?

But people on Twitter are annoying, to say the least, that it’s affecting how I feel about people. It’s giving me a somewhat skewed idea of who people are. This is not real life. There are plenty of lovely people out there. But social media (and reality TV shows) puts the idiots in my face. And they’ve never seemed more idiotic than during this pandemic.

Just yesterday somebody tweeted something like, “Have you ever known just looking at a person that they must be Republican?”

I’m neither Democrat nor Republican so I wasn’t offended by the statement. But that view, in my opinion, is taking politics way too far.

I deleted (deactivated) my Twitter account again today. I don’t want to be a member of a cult.

The other social media trouble spot I have is with Youtube and YouTubers. For me, that usually means the Disney vloggers and cruise vloggers where, after a while, I must question their value. I receive value from musicians showing me how to use Ableton Live or LogicPro.

But the reason I say I don’t receive much value from Disney and cruise vloggers, is that their experience is not your experience. Besides, at closer inspection, you realize their content reveals them to be either too stupid, too dishonest, or too lazy to educate themselves on their topic (not all, but way too many).

They’ve so fooled people that people send them gifts and money as if that will give them some kind of similar experience. My experience is always different from theirs. But sometimes I’m tempted to peek in when I can’t have that experience. What I’ve discovered is that by watching their experience, my experience is less than.

Full disclosure: I have a YouTube channel where I upload videos from my travels, or book trailers for my novels, and include some of my music. And I don’t mind others who do that. But not the ones who are aggressively marketing their channel, who will use click-bait headlines, the ones who make it their daily job to come up with just about anything to get views, often giving dishonest reviews, those who hold live chats where people send them “super chats” and they may or may not interact with you if you don’t (mostly not).

I confess, I watch them way too often. It’s been unbelievably tough during this pandemic, my head is still swimming, and I think a lot of us have leaned on YouTubers to get us through this. I know my channel got a lot of subscribers during this time, and are probably now busy unsubscribing – lol! I know I am.

I’m much better off if I spend my time in my studio, writing songs, producing tracks, writing stories, and reading. My latest find that I can’t wait to get to? The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection
(found on Author Roni Loren’s blog when she was trying to focus her life away from the internet and to encourage her son to spend quality time unplugged.

This is just one book on her list. I’ve read a few of these and find them fascinating how the internet and social media is changing our brains. Now that’s scary. But I’m hoping it’s just more inspiration to get me away from all of it, including YouTube.

Managing social media and other distractions is even more important for writers and other artists. After all, “Solitude courts the muse.”

 

 

Writing Fiction: To Covid or Not to Covid

I’ve written several times here about my struggle to juggle writing music and writing fiction. My brain works differently for each art but what excerbates the whole situation is well, Covid. I had finished the first draft of “She’s Not That Good” (posted exerpts of the first couple of chapters on this blog), when it started but haven’t been able to continue working on it.

Do I continue writing it with no mention of Covid as if it never existed? Do I rewrite it to include Covid? Do I purposely set the date pre-Covid? Do I write it as if Covid is over? Do I change the time and place? All questions writers are asking themselves these days. But one complication is that it’s set on a cruise ship. I couldn’t even mention cruising on Twitter (regarding my 2 other novels set on cruise ships), without people going all crazy on me.

I’ve had my head so immersed in writing music lately that I totally missed the conversations writers were having, if only in their heads, but I find this helpful article To Covid or Not to Covid: The Challenge of Writing Fiction During a Pandemic, just what I needed to read and think about now.

Chasing the Muse at 5 a.m.

It’s 5 a.m. and my head full of song ideas feels like it’s about to burst. The muse is calling quite inconveniently. I’d love to obey and sit in my music studio and start belting out some lyrics while fingering some piano chords. But that would disrupt the household – my husband who is sleeping before getting up to start his work day (at home) and the cats (one cat loves to sing along with me). Even without hubby now working full-time at home during this global situation, it wouldn’t be kind to start blasting music at this hour – lol!

The countdown to FAWM is upon me and I don’t feel prepared. Every song I write to keep my skills limber seems to suck! I have imposter syndrome – lol. I’m starting to feel like Brandi, the leading lady in “She’s Not That Good” (my wip I’m editing and posting bits of here).

I don’t feel comfortable wailing in my studio with my husband sitting in the next room over working. We’re a close couple but I’m used to having the house to myself during the day. Perhaps I should sit and edit my novel instead of music right now. It’s a quieter endeavor I can do any time, night or day, alone or in a crowd. Life was simpler before music. Ha!

This time last year we were building a new home, living in a rental much to be desired but the saving grace was the casita – a separate building I used for my studio. I could blast music any time, night or day. Wow! That was awesome! The best part about that rental house. It was perfect for FAWM.

I woke up with so many musical ideas, but they’re starting to fade. This is really frustrating. But they probably weren’t that good – they just seemed like it at 5 a.m.

At best, I can write this blog post, write notes to myself or work on lyrics, I suppose. But as I read this back, it sounds like one big whining session, and I’m so sorry for that.

But, wait, I’ve started to work on a song using my DAW and headphones and I think I’m onto something. So, yeah, it’s always best to find some way to catch what the muse is throwing your way, no matter the circumstances.

Music Production, Writing, Reading… Running Out of Coping Mechanisms

Watching videos of people enjoying the Christmas festivities at Disney World, well, I can’t help but feel a little jealous. With California’s strict reopening guidelines and Disneyland’s reluctance to open up any of the parks (i.e., Knott’s Berry Farm) until now, and the cruising industry’s slow road to recovery, Nevada getting close to lockdown again, well, I’m going a little crazy. I mean, who isn’t, right?

I’ve spent these last 8 months at home working on music, switching back and forth between Ableton Live and Logic Pro, the latter due to the 10.5 updates. And now with news of Ableton Live 11 coming out soon, well, there’s even more for me to dive into. But there’s also a lot of stress with all of that learning and it wears me out. So I’ve taken time to read and even work on a couple of manuscripts I’ve started writing. But nothing, really, after all these months, is really working toward peace of mind. Prayers and positivity help, of course, but when there’s an underlying or maybe not so underlying crisis happening, it’s really hard to escape.

I think many of us felt a bit of relief when Biden won, even if we weren’t big Biden supporters, if only because, in my case, I did not want to sit back and watch the lunatic, aka the Narcissist for another 4 years. His behavior since the election validates everything I know about Narcissists. And once you’ve had an experience up close with one, you don’t need a psychology degree to get it. Maybe you get it even more than somebody who has just studied it. Experience is a great teacher.

So with heavy handed governors issuing mandates (sometimes necessary, but, perhaps, not done in the best way) and a lunatic for a president, it’s like reliving a dysfunctional childhood all over again. The artist’s spiritual life and food and drink and rearranging the furniture a zillion times helps for a while, but I’m running out of coping mechanisms.

Today’s joy, though, was picking up my latest copy of Electronic Musician. Just reading the masthead made me smile, reminding me of my early days in San Francisco working in production on Mac User magazine. So cool to see my name listed as Production Manager. That took me to McGraw-Hill Publishing in Berkeley, but the most fascinating part of that was sharing the building with a music studio and seeing a glimpse of artists like MC Hammer getting out of the limo. The MC Hammer dancers lived in an apartment complex down the street from mine.

And so, when all is said and done and things are back to normal and I can cruise the high seas and relive my childhood at Disneyland, well, in the end, it’s all about the art, the music, and the spiritual journey I am on.

“I’m Your Bogeyman”

We had such a fun Halloween, just the two of us, sipping a little something, dancing, and one of the songs on our playlist was “I’m Your Bogeyman” by KC and the Sunshine Band. Now that I think about it, it seems a bit appropriate for these times. I mean, who can sleep this week? Might as well dance.

“I’m Your Bogeyman” (KC and the Sunshine Band)