It’s been a while since I posted an update on the broken ankle. I had a visit with the doc last Monday for X-rays and evaluation. The news was good–the bone is healing well. He told me I could go ahead and walk on it as much as I could tolerate. Turns out I can tolerate quite a bit. It aches some toward the end of the day, but mostly not too uncomfortable. I was using a walker last week because the boot made my balance wobbly. I’m now transitioned from the boot to a much less bulky ankle brace and walking with the help of a cane. I’ve lost a lot of muscle in the bad leg after not using it for six weeks and it’s noticeably weaker than the other leg. I go back second week in October to check on the healing, but as of right now, it’s progressing well. I just need to build up strength.
I’ve been absent for a while, but I have an excuse. Here’s why:
I’m not known to family and friends as a particularly patient person. I’ve occasionally said that it would probably benefit me to learn more. You know, everyone says it. No one really means it. I didn’t.
Nonetheless, I’ve been given the opportunity to practice the virtue. I’m not happy about it.
On August 12, I slipped on the bottom steps of a staircase and broke my ankle. My left leg and foot are now in a heavy boot and I’m not supposed to put any weight on it. The docs initially said I’d likely be off it completely for 6 to 8 weeks. I’m now close to five weeks and it’s driving me crazy.
I have crutches and a knee scooter, which let me get around the house and take care of my basic needs, but it’s hard to do a lot of things. I’m fortunate to be married to a wonderful man who has been great about picking up all the tasks I can’t do. It doesn’t mitigate the frustration, though.
The doctor insists I sleep in the boot. A friend suggested putting a pillowcase over it to protect the sheets. That works, but it doesn’t mitigate the fact that this thing feels like an anchor on my foot and there are only two positions I can manage comfortably. Rolling over at night is incredibly hard. Making a middle-of-the-night trip to the bathroom is a major project.
In fact, doing almost anything is a major project. Everything takes twice or even three times as long as it would if I had two good ankles.
I’m learning patience and empathy for those who have any kind of disability. It’s hard for most of us to understand how difficult it is to do normal things with limitations.
In central North Carolina, gardening in July is mostly about maintenance and enjoying the fruits of the spring labor. Since I do mostly flowers, I don’t mention the abundant and wonderful fruits and vegetables. The Farmers’ Markets are overflowing with summer bounty right now.
The roses have had their showtime. When temperatures regularly hit above 85, they’re done. Time for a nap. But that doesn’t mean I’m done with them. In fact, they need a lot of help to make it through the hot, humid summer days, when they’re attacked by blackspot, beetles, and other bugs. I’ve found BioAdvanced 3-in-1 Rose Care is the best solution for keeping roses going through the stressful summer.
It’s time for hydrangeas, daylilies, gladiolas, and other summer blooming perennials to do their thing. The shasta daisies, rudbeckia, coreopsis, and veronica are all gorgeous right now.
The annuals are putting on a glorious display. Zinnias, marigolds, alyssum, cosmos all seem to thrive in our hot, steamy climate and clay soil (supplemented with as much organic matter as I can manage to mix in).
Now’s the time to sit on the porch swing and admire the show.
I said I wanted to do two novels-finishing Treadwell House-Sanctuary and the next novel in the Market Center Mysteries series. As of right now, the first draft of Treadwell is at 60,000 words of a projected 75,000, so I should finish the draft within a month. So far, I’ve done some thought-work on the fourth of the Market Center Mysteries, but I’m not ready to start writing it.
Another goal was to write five more short stories and submit at least three of them. At this point I’ve done three short stories and submitted two of them. One of them is the wedding story included in the forthcoming Malice, Matrimony & Murder anthology. I’m well on the way to meeting that goal.
Then there was the audiobook thing, which I haven’t done much about yet. Sigh. I also wanted to do better and be more consistent about blogging. Well… I’m getting better. I still sometimes go for a while between posts, but I’m getting more regular about it.
And there are the personal goals—working on my memoir and eliminating stuff. I’ve made some progress, but not as much as I would like. I need to do better with both.
I just got a letter from Sweet Promise Press reverting the rights to my three “No Brides Club” books to me. The publisher is closing its doors. <Sigh>
It’s not the first time this has happened to me. In fact, it’s become a pattern.
My first four books were all published by Avalon Books. Avalon no longer exists, having been bought by Amazon some time ago, although this was well after my time with them. That came to an end when my then-editor left and the new one didn’t like my writing so much.
A few years later, New York publisher bought one of my books. Within weeks, though, they closed down the line I was supposed to be part of. I got paid, but my book was never published.
I then sold a number of books to four small-press publishers. Not one of those publishers still exist. Rights for all but two of those books have reverted to me. I’ve mostly released those myself since then. My two fantasy novels were an exception. They were originally published by one of those now defunct companies, but ImaJinn Books acquired the rights and republished them. ImaJinn is now a branch of Belle Bridge Books, but those two are still in print with them.
About ten years ago, I sold the first of my Market Center Mysteries, A Gift for Murder, to Five Star/Cengage for their mystery line. They produced a beautiful hardcover book that sold pretty well to the library market. A couple of years later, I sent them the second book in the series, Wired for Murder. The editor accepted it. I waited for the contract. And waited. And waited. Almost a year later Five Star announced they were closing their mystery line and reverted all rights to the authors.
And now, this. Another in a long line of publishers I’ve worked with is closing its doors. I’m glad to have my rights back, but disappointed that an enterprise started with such high hopes has crashed.
I’m not giving up on those books, though. Some of the other No Brides Club authors and I are hatching plans to republish the books ourselves. Stay tuned.
Our recent Edisto beach trip featured one event we’ve never seen there before. During our stay, a couple of trucks parked on the road behind the house and workers spent most of a day trimming and cutting down a couple of the larger palm trees that lined the road.
We’d heard this would be happening in the town this summer, though we didn’t expect it to impact us or to see it so closely. The town had previously announced the power company insisted on the removal of thousands of trees on the island that posed threats to power lines during a storm. Being a barrier island, Edisto is subject to frequent, sometimes severe storms.
Nobody likes to see the guys show up with chain saws and bucket lifts. Trees have a natural grace and beauty that no artificial barriers can match. They enhance every setting and are difficult to replace when removed.
On the flip side, we all depend on electricity. We don’t realize how much we rely on it until it goes out. I live in an area where outages happen at least once or twice a year, and it’s always frustrating. It can seem like everything we do relies on electricity.
We also have a lot of beautiful old oak trees in the neighborhood and every few years, a service employed by the power company comes through and trims or removes them in ways that are often just downright ugly.
I don’t like seeing healthy trees disfigured or cut down. I hate it. But I don’t like losing electricity in a storm, either. Power companies are starting to bury power lines now, but that’s not feasible everywhere. I don’t have an answer. Do you?
Today, I’m joined by my friend Lois Winston, who talks about life as a writer and her newest book, just released!
No One Ever Promised Life Would Be Fair
By Lois Winston
I graduated college with a degree in graphic design and illustration back when, according to my kids, dinosaurs roamed the earth. My first two jobs were as an art director at small suburban ad agencies. Impressive titles. Teensy tiny paychecks. At both jobs, I was the one and only artist on staff. The only person I directed was me, myself, and I.
One day I was complaining about something to the office manager, and she said, “Lois, no one ever promised life would be fair.”
That conversation took place so long ago that I don’t even remember her name, but her words have stuck with me. Over the years I’ve had some major disappointments while others around me had great success. I’ve often been reminded of her words, especially when I look down the long and winding road of my writing life.
The outside world (those millions and millions of people who know nothing about publishing) are under the impression that every published author is pulling in big bucks. Friends and relatives expect free books because you’re a published author and can afford it. (I’m sure the published authors reading this are ROTFL.)
Reality is quite different. I sold my first manuscript in 2005. I made a whopping .24 cents in royalty on each copy sold. My second book increased to .28 cents only because the publisher increased the retail prices of their paperback line.
Most published authors, including many who have hit the NY Times bestseller list, can’t afford to quit their day jobs. Factoring in the hours most of us devote to crafting each novel, then promoting it, we’d make more money per hour asking, “Do you want fries with that?”
Anyone sitting down to write a novel, thinking it’s a quick road to riches, is in for a huge reality check.
So why do we do it?
We write because we can’t not write. (Apologies to my junior high school English teacher for the double-negative.) Writing is hard work, often filled with setbacks. You can’t sell what you consider your break-out book. Your last royalty check was in the low two figures. Your publisher drops you. Your foray into indie publishing has resulted in sales that might sustain your Starbucks habit—if you’re lucky.
And still, we continue to write.
No one ever said life would be fair—or easy, but the struggle makes us stronger. And more tenacious. And better. We keep writing. Keep honing our craft. Maybe someday luck will be on our side, and we’ll reap the rewards of all that hard work. Maybe not. The reality is that most of us won’t. One thing is for certain, though, if we give up, we’ll never know what might have happened if we kept at it.
So, we keep writing.
But that’s not the only reason I write. I write because for me, it’s cathartic. And it’s fun. I love losing myself in the world of my characters. They’ve become a second family, even if an imaginary one. I don’t want to let them go. That’s why the recently released A Crafty Collage of Crime is the twelfth book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, and I’m already thinking about a plot for Book 13.
An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 12
Wherever crafts editor and reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack goes, murder and mayhem follow. Her honeymoon is no exception. She and new husband, photojournalist (and possible spy) Zachary Barnes, are enjoying a walk in the Tennessee woods when they stumble upon a body on the side of a creek. The dead man is the husband of one of the three sisters who own the winery and guest cottages where Anastasia and Zack are vacationing.
When the local sheriff sets his sights on the widow as the prime suspect, her sisters close ranks around her. The three siblings are true-crime junkies, and thanks to a podcaster who has produced an unauthorized series about her, Anastasia’s reputation for solving murders has preceded her to the bucolic hamlet. The sisters plead for her help in finding the real killer. As Anastasia learns more about the women and their business, a host of suspects emerge, including several relatives, a relentless land developer, and even the sisters themselves.
Meanwhile, Anastasia becomes obsessed with discovering the podcaster’s identity. Along with knowing about Anastasia’s life as a reluctant amateur sleuth, the podcaster has divulged details of Anastasia’s personal life. Someone has betrayed Anastasia’s trust, and she’s out to discover the identity of the culprit.
Craft project included.
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-crafty-collage-of-crime-lois-winston/1143442079?ean=2940161008225
Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/a-crafty-collage-of-crime/id6448801378
Bio: USA Today and Amazon bestselling author Lois Winston began her award-winning writing career in 2006 with Talk Gertie to Me, a humorous novel about a small-town girl in Manhattan and the mother bent on bringing her home. That was followed by the romantic suspense Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception. Lois wrote her first mystery thanks to a conversation between her agent and an editor looking for a crafting-themed cozy series. Thus, was born the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, which Kirkus Reviews dubbed, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” The series now includes twelve novels and three novellas. To date Lois has published twenty-one novels, five novellas, several short stories, one children’s chapter book, and one nonfiction book on writing, inspired by the twelve years she worked as an associate at a literary agency.
Newsletter sign-up: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/r2e9v1
Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog: www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com
When we returned home from the beach, our youngest daughter and her four sons came back with us for a visit. We had a couple of nice days that coincided with everyone being healthy (more on that later) and took advantage of those things to take a trip to the North Carolina Zoo.
Although we have a very nice local zoo at the Greensboro Science Center, the state zoo in Asheboro is much larger, with a broader variety of animals. It’s about a forty-minute drive, in a mostly rural area of central North Carolina, which gives them the luxury of settling animals into more natural and extensive habitats.
The weather was practically ideal, starting off cool in the morning but getting warmer as the day went on. Cooler temperatures means more of the animals are roaming around, eating, drinking, and playing rather than sleeping in shady corners and burrows as they do when it gets hotter.
We started at the African end of the zoo where we had sightings of elephants, rhinos, gorillas, chimps, zebras, a lion, and various others I can’t quite recall at the moment. The giraffes were not out, which was a small disappointment, since there is a newborn. That took up most of the morning.
After a stop for lunch, we took the tram to the other end of the zoo, and the North America exhibit. Another disappointment was that the polar bears were not on display, but watching a playful seal made up for it. The crocodiles were impressively large and toothy, but mostly napping. We thought the black bears were huge and scary until we got to the grizzly bear display. Those many six-inch claws made very clear why you wouldn’t want to mess with them. Elk and bison were impressive, too.
By mid-afternoon, we were all flagging, but a stop for Dippin’ Dots provided a burst of energy. The Desert pavilion was quite warm, but filled with unusual birds, reptiles, and small mammals. I knew road runners only from childhood cartoons, but finally got to see one in the flesh!
The zoo has clearly done a lot of work to make itself a friendly place for everyone. The tram only makes three stops – at either end of the zoo and the plaza right in the middle. It’s enough to make it possible to take in a day a zoo which probably stretches out over a couple of miles.
Someone must’ve realized that one of the most disappointing features of the experience for small children is their inability to interact with or even get very close to many of the animals. So they’ve scattered interactive informational signage near the fences and pens, and erected replicas of many of the animals that children can pet and climb on.
My daughter, Liz, makes amazing cakes. Not only are they delicious, but her decorating skills astonish me. Her knack for it was on full display with two cakes she created for the birthdays we celebrated on our recent family beach trip to Edisto.
For my grandsons, my younger daughter always lets the birthday boy choose a theme for his party. This year her second son, who is turning 10, wanted an “Asterix” theme. For those who don’t know, Asterix (https://asterix.com/en/portfolio/asterix/) is a series of comic books (and apparently a group of French movies) featuring the titular Asterix, a barbarian hero during the time of the Roman conquest. He adventures around Gaul, and beyond, with his somewhat thick-headed friend Obelix. Books at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Asterix-Omnibus-Gladiator-Banquet-Cleopatra/dp/1444004247/ . The birthday boy loves those comics.
They presented a bit of a challenge when it comes to theming a birthday party, however. The usual stores are short on related merchandise. Elizabeth (Aunt Lizzy to the boys) used her imagination. She made tee-shirts for each of the boys with an iron-on Asterix and Obelix, and then she came up with this brilliant idea for a cake mimicking Obelix’s peculiar garb.
The other birthday was my husband’s and his cakes often have a book theme, since he is a scholarly sort. This one may be the best yet. I believe the title was suggested by either my younger daughter or her husband, a professor of Theology at Notre Dame. It’s a gloriously wonderful pun, suited to the amazing two-book-stack cake she created.
Just a couple more days left to back this project for an opportunity to get lots of juicy bonuses!
I’m excited to be part of this unique project. Twenty-six authors (myself included) have contributed mystery/crime stories centered around a wedding. Each story is complete in itself, but each also contains a clue to an overall mystery, which you’ll learn about at the beginning of the book. Solve the big mystery and win some interesting prizes. My story is The Other Wedding Crasher. Learn more and sign up to support the project here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/marlabradeen/malice-book?ref=4oje6u