Summer is for reading

I just spent 3 hours this morning in a Zoom meeting for the Democratic District Convention. It was great to hear from all the candidates, but I confess I felt myself nodding off about halfway through. I don’t know how you feel about attending large meetings in person, but I was happy to attend virtually — especially since it was set up so that no one could see me unless I asked to speak. Which I didn’t.

I also spent some time last night with my oldest son in a virtual meeting so he could help me with some computer problems. His Internet server kept dropping him, so we gave up.

Ah, technology. Wonderful when it works, right?

All last week I struggled to get my manuscript loaded in KDP. My goal was to have it ready by yesterday, but obviously that didn’t happen. My first proof copy had the font size and spacing wrong. I am not clear how that happened. I know it comes back to me doing something wrong. Formatting a book is definitely harder than writing it! Or at least, much  less enjoyable.

Second proof had the right font, margins, etc., but my little picture that divided scenes kept moving around. I finally got that fixed, saw a few other bloopers and fixed them. But when I uploaded, there was a blank page right between pages 9 and 10. So I do what I do best, I consulted Google. After a full day of trying every suggested remedy, I finally eliminated the extra page.

Another upload. This time things look good, so I am going to release “Bethann” on Amazon and the e-book on Smashwords  (which will distribute it to other markets) on Memorial Day. Because you have been following my journey on writing this book, I hope you take a look.

Speaking of Smashwords, their Authors Give Back sale is still going on. It has been extended to the eSmashwordsnd of the month. Have you checked www.smashwords.com for free and discounted books for your Kindle or iPad?

I was delighted many people took advantage of my free books. I hope they enjoy them and will be ready to purchase “Bethann” when it is available.

And, now that I have time to read, I plan on going there right now and load up. It looks like it is going to be a long summer.

Stay safe!

 

 

Zooming along

Just when I think I’ve figured out modern technology, something new comes along.

In the past two weeks, I have participated in no less than five Zoom meetings: two club meetings, one county convention, and two family meetings.  My son pointed out that Zoom is not exactly new, for we have had Facetime and Skype, but for some reason, Zoom has caught on. I love seeing everyone, once people catch on to how it works. You know, like how to turn on their mic or camera first. And I don’t mind people seeing me, for we all have bad haircuts. My granddaughter said she has “quarantine bangs” after a DIY with scissors.

I have tried to keep my person-to-person meetings to a minimum, but when I make a necessary trip to the grocery store, I am appalled by the number of people choosing to go maskless, refusing to obey the one-way signs in the aisles, or staying the recommended distance from other shoppers. I value my health and the health of others and it pains me to see how careless people are. If they don’t care about themselves, they should at least care about their older friends and relatives. I guess there isn’t enough technology in the world to cure stupid complacency.

Is it just me, or does this look like a dragon fell from the sky instead of a broken off tree-top?

 

My less rewarding technological effort has been with formatting my book. I have done it before, but somehow I got the page size wrong and from there everything went downhill. My proof copy was not at all what I envisioned, so here I am doing it all over again. I hate being tied to the computer on these nice days! I’d much rather be outside.

And, I need to be outside. In addition to the regular yard work, the high winds lately have contributed to my chores. First, three large limbs came down from the pine tree in the left corner of the yard. I think one limb struck the limb below it, and both then took out the third. Anyway, I managed to saw off the smaller branches and ended up with three logs I can hardly move. In fact, I got the hand truck out of the basement to move two of them to one side. I don’t know how many trips I made from the back of my property to the road with a wheelbarrow full of debris.

Then, just yesterday, high winds snapped a sweet gum in the right side of the yard “half in two” and I now have that mess to clear up. Luckily, neither mishap hurt any overhead lines.

Now that would have messed up my technology — as well as my neighbors’!

 

 

Cover reveal and other accomplishments

During this period of social distancing I have accomplished several things. One is that my kitchen cupboards and drawers are much cleaner and neater.

I could not believe the things I found while organizing. For example, a perfectly good coffee grinder. I purchased one not so long ago after receiving a bag of coffee beans.  I mused that this is what I got for not checking to see if I already had one.

I also found a waffle maker I didn’t know I had. I cleaned it up and bought some waffle mix and syrup. I am looking forward to a Sunday morning treat.

Along with the usual housework (and I am still ignoring that full ironing basket), yard work, and crafts  — why, oh why, did I think it would be fun to do a cross stitch of a black cat? — I finished my book!

Yes, it was written, edited, and critiqued. But then there was the formatting to do, and then uploading the cover. For some reason, KDP kept telling me it didn’t meet their criteria. It seems the cover width was  — picture me pinching my thumb and forefinger together — this much too short.

I couldn’t figure it out. I was using their template, so shouldn’t it be the proper width? After several unsuccessful attempts, I took the darn template itself and changed its dimensions by the veriest smidgen.

Yep, that worked. So I ordered a proof copy, and if all looks good, I may have the book for sale by May 15.

I am happy that is something I can check off my list.

Now, let’s see if I can complete that cross stitch cat!

 

 

Stories, please

Like everyone else, I am staying home. Or trying to. There was a doctor appointment, and a trip to the car dealership to check on an engine warning light.  And I had to pick up a prescription.

But mostly, staying home. Connecting with others via telephone, Facebook, texting, and Zoom.

Doing a lot of cross stitch, basket weaving, and Solitaire. Watching TV. Reading.

Today I went outside and raked up sweet gum balls,and dragged limbs into a pile to be taken to the curb. Me against nature. I’m not sure who is winning.

A few days ago I wondered what I could do to help others. I know parents have their children at home, and possibly both parents are trying to work from home as well as make sure their children keep up with their lessons. But what about when said children are bored and whining that they have nothing to do?

The Swineherd and his magic kettle

 

I remembered that I used to read stories to my children and grandchildren. There doesn’t seem to be any substitute for curling up on Mom’s or Granny’s lap and listening to a story.

I remembered the stories I loved to listen to or read when I was a child. And so I dug out the faded and tattered copy of Andersen’s Fairy Tales. No copyright issues here, Andersen’s most loved fairy tale, The Mermaid, was first published in 1837.

So I set up my iPad on a table on the deck and began to read.

So far I have read six of his stories, some short, some long. Most have a somewhat happy ending. Andersen was not known for happy endings. Remember The Little Match girl or The Steadfast Tin Soldier?

Some are Christian allegories and filled with bloodshed. I even wondered about the soldier in The Tinderbox who murdered his benefactress with nary a glimmer of guilt. Or The Red Shoes, where poor Karen cuts off her own legs in order to stop dancing?

Then I realized something. What these children are living through today has nothing on Andersen’s most frightening tales.

I will continue to read, and leave it to the parents’ discretion as to whether their children can take a 200-year-old story of witches and goblins and kidnapping and whatever else the storyteller had in mind.

I read them all when I was a child, and it didn’t harm me. The world is a dangerous and often wicked place.

Our children know that.

You can find me on YouTube by typing in “Meemaw Sandy reading.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scatter Joy

My daughter-in-law is a United Methodist minister and sends me a preview of her Sunday sermon.  She delivers it on line now, as so many other pastors are doing.

Her subject was finding joy.  It seems there isn’t much joy around lately to find unless you are looking really, really hard.

Recently, I attended a funeral for a member of our book club. This was the last such gathering before the admonition to avoid large g She was much loved, and the service was well attended. Later on, we wondered what we could do to keep her presence at future meetings.  (You can’t leave our club by moving away, or even dying.)  Another deceased member is remembered at each meeting when we pass around a dish of “Barbara’s chocolates.”

So how to remember Jane?

Another member showed us birthday card Jane had sent her. The message on it was “Scatter Joy.”

That, we decided, would be a fitting tribute to a woman who found joy in simple things, and radiated that joy to all she met. The card will be displayed at all future gatherings.

So here you have two halves of the whole. Find joy, and scatter joy.

Sometimes we are the receivers, and sometimes we are the givers. But if we find joy, shouldn’t we share it? Sharing joy diminishes nothing.

I hope that in these dark times you find a little joy. And that if you do, you find it easy to share.

Stay safe. Stay home.

 

 

 

A little something

Social isolation. Unthinkable when we went into March and very much a reality now. I’m getting used to it, but as a person who had something to do and somewhere to go almost every day of the week, it is hard. I look back to 19 years ago when I was battling breast cancer. I felt too ill to go out, so I curled up with a book and our two dogs.

I’m pretty much doing the same thing now, but with four cats. And cancer-free all this time, so I am grateful for that.

Social isolation or self-quarantine or whatever you want to call it, means staying home.

I am betting that many of you, like me, live alone (with dog, cat, ferret, beta fish, or parakeet). And like me, you are looking for something to fill all these long hours. And  I am grateful there are so many places we can turn to. First, catch up with friends and family via email or texting or even telephone calls.

And there is social media. People said our gadgets kept us from real connections, but now they are the only way we can connect.

I usually limit my time at Facebook but I have to admit I have spent most of the morning watching video posts from such diverse sources as Angela Merkel and John Oliver. Different perspectives, same advice. I have Netflix, Amazon, Brit Box and Acorn TV, so there are many shows I can watch when there is nothing on regular TV.

But, you can watch only so many movies or podcasts. I’m thinking if you are reading this, you most likely read books.

Spoiler alert: The libraries are closed. So physical books that you can hold in your hands are pretty much unavailable. If you haven’t read a book on your Nook, Kindle, or iPad, now is the time to try it.

First, let me suggest you go online and find your library’s lending site. There are Freading, Hoopla, Libby, and probably more I haven’t heard of. Check with your library’s website and it should have the information you are looking for. You will need the number on your library card handy.

And there are many, many sites that offer free or discounted books: Ereader News Today, Book Bub, ArcaMax Ebooks, The Fussy Librarian

And here is the best of all: Smashwords’ authors are deeply discounting or offering their books for free until April 20. Authors Give Back  is an incredible response to helping people get through this crisis. True, we can’t just hide our heads in books and ignore what is going on around us, but they do help when you just need to escape for a few hours.

So go to Smashwords.com and find a list of books you may enjoy. Try reading new authors. Heck, you might even like my books if you go to my Smashwords page. (If you want to look them over first, there are excerpts and descriptions on my website, sandrazbruney.com, but note that they are only FREE at Smashwords.)

We will get through this. Meanwhile, stay calm, stay safe, stay well, and stay home.

 

 

And now what?

We are living in a situation none of us have seen before and It is hard to know what to do. Should I go to church this morning, even though the Bishop has  mandated no services for two weeks? My church is following his directive, but others are open. I have a little cough, so guess I will stay home out of respect for others.

But there is a funeral this afternoon that I must attend.

And so it goes … decisions based on our welfare vs. the welfare of others in our community.

People seem to be reacting in so many wildly opposite ways. Panic buying for one thing, and then there are those who offer to bring groceries or medicine to those who cannot get to a store. People turning to God and others blaming the government.  Conspiracy theories. Voluntary confinement  and people determined to go abut business as usual.

One thing for sure, the virus has affected everyone I know in tangible and intangible ways. College kids returning home, spring break plans cancelled. People out of work … I have a grandson in the music business and with concerts cancelled, so is his paycheck. I  know people who saw their life savings cut in half when the stock market dropped a gazillion points. People who can work from home are staying there, while health care workers put their own fears and anxiety aside to help the sick.

So what do we do while hunkering down, trying to stay calm, and taking our temperature every five minutes?

If you have children home from school, you don’t need any ideas. You are too busy to worry about the downtime.

But many of us live alone. There is just so much TV you can watch, just so many books you can read, although I admit I have done both. A little cross stitch, some basketry. Talking on the phone or texting to friends and relatives. And yes, making quick, furtive trips to the store for essentials — and why people are stripping the shelves of toilet paper and bottled water is a mystery.  My essentials run to kitty litter and ice cream.

It is hard to look on the bright side. I had no less than five events lined up for this week, including a book talk at the library. They were, like a row of dominoes, cancelled one by one. The calendar that was so full is now empty.

But I also received the edits I have been waiting for, so there is that. I now have time to work my work in progress and push up my deadline, not back.

There is one thing I might suggest, and that is to limit your TV news watching. We need to be informed, but 24-7 is just going to add stress you don’t need. And for heaven’s sake, avoid FaceBook. I have never seen such hatred in my life.  Shouldn’t we be coming together instead of spreading blame and bigotry?

God bless each of you. Stay safe. Stay well.

 

 

 

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