Writing our History into our Fiction

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Pixabay photo.

I’ve decided to write COVID-19 into my current fiction work-in-progress. Doing so makes me think of Stephen King’s The Stand with a shudder. Stores closed, streets practically empty. That is, until two weeks ago, when governors started announcing gradual re-openings. I am still playing it safe, though. If you were to write COVID-19 into your current work-in-progress, would you mention toilet-papergate? Stores running out of hand sanitizer? Stores with signs up requiring you to wear a mask? These are unprecedented times, and they are worth remembering and writing about. In my novel, the character will travel to our times from the earlier 2000s and will see some of those things. I do not plan to make it tragic, though. Still, who knew this would become our reality?

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In my most recent work of published fiction, Malachi, Ruse Master, I have written a whole chapter on Sept. 11th, 2001. My character is a young man living alone in the D.C. area. An ordinary day turns into an exercise in fear and uncertainty as news reports come in about the attack on the World Trade Center and the plane that headed for the Pentagon. The emotions were real, I experienced them and recall clearly what 9-11 was like.

I did a little research on what it may have been like for someone living in the D.C. area during 9-11 to get my facts straight. I do not know anyone who lived there at the time. I had lived there as a child, and I’m always reminiscent of the Potamac River and the weather changes. Living in Florida, the seasonal distinctions are not as clear. So, having a character living in that area around that time lent itself to writing that event into the setting. I feel that this is a way to frame the events of a novel, adding something we are all familiar with.

Like my character, Malachi, I did not really have a feeling of community reinforced for me. I just felt more alone. Though, I suppose, that is a result of terror. So why add such a horrible event into the setting? Because it is something we all remember, in many different ways. I also feel it helps us sympathize with the character. The book is considered a young adult novel, but it is not written specifically for young adults. It is something we all can identify with in some way; we’ve been there. My hope is that readers of all ages will find something to identify with in this book. You can learn about or get a copy of Malachi, Ruse Master at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B086VYJYZX

As I grow in my writing journey, I am finding the importance of setting in a book, how it makes readers connect to the characters in the events. In a sense, a setting in any book is a character in itself.

What historical event have you lived through, and which fiction books express the experience well for you?

Weekend Coffee Share, Greetings from My Little Corner

 

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Morning, Day 14 of Social Distance Haiku by Pamela Schloesser Canepa, (c)2020

Morning birds sing out

Mankind has taken a pause

Breathing and waiting.

Welcome to my Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Allison at Eclectic Ali.

It’s a beautiful morning, and it’s poetry month, so I thought I’d share a haiku reflecting some thoughts on nature (and mankind’s place in it).  I took a nice walk twice around the block in 83 degree weather this morning, sun shining and nature in all of its glory.  There were a good number of people out, most on their own.  A man with his child in a stroller waved at me.  A boy on a bike was riding me way but then turned around in a circle.  Good move, I thought.  Socially distance yourself.  A woman was walking my way, talking on the phone.  She seemed oblivious to me.  So I moved to the sidewalk on the other side of the road.   Still, it was nice to be out in this wonderful day.

I feel a little cut off from this community, since I have been trying to get a grip on the online teaching requirements and methods our county is using.  Still, I have to tell you, it has been overall positive for me! The students are so polite online, and I’ve received several e-mails from parents expressing appreciation.  I wrote a post on Medium here, this is a link which does not require membership:

A Day in the Life: Teaching in the Coronavirus Era 

I am learning a whole lot from this experience, and while we owe the doctors and nurses of our world a debt of gratitude, I am pleased to feel as if I have a purpose in this whole situation.  It is good for my mind.  I am also trying to exercise regularly; I take yoga or pilates online a few times a week. The outdoor walks are also helpful, providing my Vitamin D and a feeling of well-being.  Hearing the news does not help.  I only turn on Netflix and try not to look at any news reports more than once a day.  The stress and anxiety do not help me sleep, you know.  I started The Witcher earlier as I love to watch Henry Cavill, and my son and I sometimes watch Money Heist together, though he is way ahead of me!

Tomorrow is Palm Sunday, and I will be viewing my church service online.  Maybe I will wear a dress, just to get a sense of normalcy.  When I have to go to the store this week, I will wear a mask and gloves.  The mask was bought for me last year when the flu virus seemed bad; I work in a germ factory being a middle school teacher, but there has not ever been a germ like this.

My manuscript, Malachi, should be ready for release in 2-3 weeks.  My formatter got it formatted, and I need to check those files and get the paperback cover done.  It’s happening!!! I am excited.  We all need something to read right now.  Please stay tuned….

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Malachi is a college drop-out who just lucked out and fell into an unusual job, once that promises excitement, a good rate of pay, and the chance to put his acting skills to work.  Will Malachi do anything for a dollar?

I am still sort of working on the description and bi-lines for this book.  Malachi is sneaky, a great actor, and really good at lying.  He also needs a good meal.  The book is somewhat of a young adult/new adult book, appropriate for those 16 and up.  Malachi gets a chance to find out who he really is.

I hope you all have a great weekend with family or loved ones, practicing your social distancing and staying away and safe from coronavirus.

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share, Surviving Sequestration

Welcome to my Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Allison at Eclectic Ali.  I only had half-caff today, but it really invigorated me, maybe because I finally got at least six hours of sleep last night!

I have made it through week 1 of online teaching! Our school district was told there would be no return to school until April 15th, but I suspect it will be longer than that.  I worry about our world, I worry about strangers I pass by in the store, and I worry about how much worse this might get. But I am really happy that I am able to connect with my students again and have some sort of influence on their lives and how they view their world.  I’ve seen students helping each other while online when I can’t reply to their questions right away, and they seem so grateful to be able to chat with me on our educational platform, too!  For a brief while, I forget what is happening outside.  I try to focus on the positives and tell them some jokes.

Sent from a student in the Microsoft Teams chat after being told to start on The Giver or read a book they already have at a set time daily:
“Can’t wait for reading I have a good book to read!” Another messages at 1:50- ‘Yay! Reading time!’**

They warm my heart! Do they know how such things keep me going?  I’ve tried really hard to distract their minds from world news and fill their heads with imagination and art. A number of parents e-mailed me thanking me for being so positive in my educational videos, stating that my videos make the student feel part of a classroom again, somewhat back to normal. Though I admit, I did not teach anything new yet except for how to navigate a new learning platform and turn in assignments, and that is likely the way it should be.  

The above shows my go-to hairstyle these days.  I have canceled hairdresser appointments two weeks in a row.  I am afraid to be around people in that close capacity right now.  My mom is 78 and I don’t want to bring a virus back to her!  I re-scheduled for two weeks from now.  We’ll see.  Meantime, I am growing my hair and putting it up.  I am trying to take at least two yoga or pilates classes online per week and to do ab exercises along with my arm/shoulder workout every other day.  I’ve found many helpful online exercise videos, too.  So, my health is holding

After watching my church’s service online, I went to the grocery store this morning, and guess what: no toilet paper.  I have some on order from Amazon, and a friend ordered extra through some other shopping app.  They told me at the checkout that I could not get more than two of any particular canned food item.  I wish they had started that with toilet paper before this whole fiasco first happened! Sadly, I had 8 cans of Chef Boyardee since I wanted to donate some of them to a Food Bank.  The cashier apologized and said they were just being really strict about that.  

If you are interested in a dystopian/apocalyptic story, you can download my free short story here at https://bookhip.com/HPNJFT  It is called “They Shall Inherit the Earth. I also started on a love story, set in these times of Coronavirus.  It is a little more hopeful and should be available next week or so, and will also be free!

Take care my friends!  Stay healthy and stay sequestered.  We can do this!

Weekend Coffee Share, A New Routine

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Welcome to my Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Allison at Eclecti Ali.  I’ve got to say, my coffee is sooo good today!  Maybe I am just feeling a sense of gratitude, trying to make the best of strange times.  I am beset with a lot of changes, as most of you probably are, too.

I’m a 6th grade teacher switching to online teaching to keep with the times and the state protocols. I’ve done my best to find the positives. Here is an intro video I did in the spirit of optimism:

https://youtu.be/5lLWXmpEMt8

(Yes, I know, I touch my face too much, especially when I’m feeling warm, a not-so-strange phenomenon for a woman my age :)).

So, here are five things you can do with online learning (or teaching) that you could not have done in a classroom:

1. Clip your toenails during a lesson

2. Wear sunglasses and a hoodie while completing (or grading) assignments (Good for students or teachers)

3. Raid the refrigerator for snacks as you wait for a student to give an answer

4. Pet your dog or cat, or your pet snake for what it’s worth….

5. Wear pajama pants. Really, no one will know!

I am going to enjoy the dog access the most!  (He has appreciated me being home more).  Seriously, though, I have been missing seeing my students.  I have posted to my Class Dojo a few times this last week as we had a week added to our Spring Break.  Well, now we have three more weeks off of school (at least), and Monday we will be starting online learning.  Schools in some states are out for the rest of the school year, and state testing is canceled here in Florida.  So, I am looking forward to communicating with my students and their parents.  I just have to go easy on my arm and the mouse-clicking.  I will say, yesterday after my home workout for the arm and shoulder, it felt better, despite being on a long conference call and setting up my classes online.  There is hope!

Nature is buzzing around us, even though we are avoiding many things.  A lot of parks are closed; nature is unbothered.  Birds chirp when I wake to silence, as no cars are starting up this morning.  I read that pollution has reduced drastically in China, and Venice canals are much cleaner.  Yes, we can be a parasite on this Earth.  I won’t go doom and gloom, okay.  I love the sound of birds in the morning!  My dog is happy, and I will take him for a walk later.  The sun has been shining constantly.  We will be fine!  I had some down evenings of worry and despair, but that was five days ago.  My church book group had a Zoom meeting for our discussion Thursday and will have an online service Sunday, so I’m feeling more connected.  Maybe now that I have more purpose and will be teaching my kids again, I feel better.  I can make other people feel better, since I’ve been actively seeking to learn what I can to calm my anxiety. Instead of feeling alone, we should all take this time to reflect and learn to unplug.

relax-569318_1280 Pixabay photo.

I loaded an app for meditation called Insight Timer.  I really like it so far! The Curable app for chronic pain and Mind-Body issues also has great meditations.  I signed up for an online course on Mindfulness which will yield a certificate when done through New Skills Academy online.  There is a lot about meditation in there.  I am exercising with things I learned in physical therapy and also logging in to see virtual yoga and abs classes through my yoga studio which is closed currently.  All of this is keeping me healthy; heck, it is keeping me going!  We have many ways to stay connected.  Let’s practice them!

I have also finished editing my manuscript for the Malachi novel, which is focused on a young adult man taking an unusual job to make ends meet.  This job forces him to face his own ideas of right and wrong.  There is now formatting and a final proofing.  Maybe it will be out in a month? I will let you know!  Here is a preview of the cover:

MALACHI.RUSEMASTER.eBOOK

Malachi, Ruse Master is a young adult novel with hints of sci-fi, as it intersects with characters and some events in the Detours in Time series.  People of all ages should enjoy it, as it can take you back to your own identity struggles and clamoring for independence as a youth.  There is plenty of action and adventure, too. I will follow it with a novel devoted to Ellie, whom we have already seen as a child, a teen, and an old, demented woman.  She will intersect with Malachi in this novel and then have her own story in a novel to come out in 1-2 years.  Time is not linear, you know!

If you have read Detours in Time, you should read the follow-up, Undercurrents in Time, in which Malachi is first introduced. I have reduced it to .99 for the remainder of the month.  Find it here:    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DCCQS3N

Stay well, my friends.  Do the things you love or find new things to love doing.  Read books.  Ask your writer friends about their books.  Write a book!  Exercise indoors or in your backyard.  Stop and breathe the fresh air, and find a reason to laugh, with your family, with your dog, yourself, with your friends online.  We will survive!

 

Weekend Coffee Share. “Overwhelm.”

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Welcome to my Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Allison at Eclecti Ali.  I almost did not write one today, having not accomplished anything and having so much to do.  *sigh*  However, I exist in this blogosphere and love keeping contact with my bloggers’ community.  So, in a positive thought moment, I’m dreaming of when I can write some flash fiction again, when I can be a novelist and do my editing, and the day my weekend will be taken up by outdoor festivals, music, and good food, not to mention sunshine and pleasant weather.

It will be in the sixties today; I should not complain.  Though I think our cooler weather, stress, and arthritis have caused pain again in my shoulder and arm.  I am researching anti-inflammatory foods to get with my groceries tomorrow.  Trying to stay healthy and strong, I am still doing my exercises, albeit with lots of icing and occasional heat.  I can do this.  This weekend, there are projects to grade. There is a big assignment for my online class, and I have to complete my lesson plan for next week.  I know what I’m doing, it is just tedious to type up in the format required.  Oh, and I am feeling sort of tired.  A week ago I had a cold, went to pilates on Saturday anyhow, but, sleeping in until 7 a.m.,  I skipped pilates today.  I will compensate with a thirty minute cardio session.  Yes, thirty minutes is a lot for me this week.  I didn’t have time for that at all this week, just fifteen to twenty minutes, so it will feel good to achieve 30. My weight is down to a healthy place (where I’d like to stay), due to the routine of leg/core exercises and shoulder/arm exercises learned from physical therapy.  I invested in resistance bands for home.  I have to remember I am only about one month out of physical therapy, so I suppose this is all new.  I plan to keep this all up, since it can only help arthritis or inflammation, right?

It feels like I’m whining today.  So, my plans: I am going to the Celtic Fest next weekend.  The week after this coming week is Spring Break, so there is a get-together with friends in the works.  The oil change I wanted to get today will happen over Spring Break– no rush.  I planned an online assignment for my students for next week so I won’t have a mountain of papers in addition to the projects handed in.  I also dream of retiring early and run a hippie commune, or learn how to fly above it all.  Maybe I’ll become a bum and live on the beach in a broken down van, reciting poetry for pennies that will buy me bagels for breakfast and tacos for lunch?  My dog would be right there with me.  Hendrix would approve.  These thoughts calm me down when I have so much to do this weekend.  As my background this morning, I’m listening to “Ambient Study Music” on Youtube.  It calms the atmosphere, and this little chat helped me think of a plan of attack.  Keep it light, my friends!

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Weekend Coffee Share, Unwind.

Welcome to my Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Allison at http://eclecticali.wordpress.com and observed by bloggers all over the world! My dog is my source of stress relief today. School has been terribly busy this week, and the pre-holiday ants-in-the-pants syndrome is widespread in middle schoolers. I was running on a large cup of hazelnut coffee and Advil yesterday.

Today, I’m really taking it slow. I need that, sometimes. Mind you, I love my job, because I am teaching a novel I love, by Walter Dean Myers. I’ve made connections with my students by discussing things I have in common with Myers, things that go beneath the surface.

I’ve also been sharing about things that I have written, like this book, From Bedlam to Ben, something I have been proofing before I get it into paperback, even though it was published for Kindle 3 years ago.

As I’ve probably already mentioned, Undercurrents in Time is now in audio, and it seems to be doing well!

I almost have no energy to deal with writerly things today, though.

I’m writing this on my phone while I’m couching it with my dog. He sort of accompanied me as I exercised on the porch this morning.

He also was glad to sit outside with me for 15 minutes in the sunshine on this 78 degree day. You’ve gotta love the Southeast! I really needed some lazy time with my dog! Now, I think I’ll go read a book.

Yes, it just may be a tearjerker, and I really don’t mind.

Have a great weekend, my friends!