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Unless you’ve been meditating in the desert for weeks like Jared Leto, you know that we are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. How long will this last? No one knows, but we can make it better by doing what is recommended: staying away from people as much as possible and washing our hands. It seems trivial to some, but my dear friend in Italy has seen just how bad this is. She and her family are fine, thank God, but so many are not. There are hundreds of deaths every day in places where there used to be such joy. I watch video from Rome, Florence, and Venice and remember how full of life those cities were when I visited just five years ago. The streets are empty, the obituaries are many. This is serious business, folks.

I don’t think I really have to explain the term “social distancing” since the entire world is doing it. If you’re not right now, you should be so we can get rid of this stupid virus and hug people again. I don’t know about you, but I miss hugging my friends. I hug Marty, obviously, but he does not want to be hugged all the time. Hugging Youngest Child is like trying to hug a rock right right now and he makes funny noises when I do. It will be good to hug other people again. Someday.

Like everyone else, we’re trying to find things to fill all of the extra time at home. Of course, there are always things that should be done, but aren’t pleasant. I’m forcing myself to do some of that. Things like scrubbing the kitchen cabinets. Or individually dusting all of the books in a bookshelf and then moving the bookshelf to clean the years of dust bunnies behind and underneath. I know, I know, I’m enjoying myself way too much, but it has to be done. Sigh. Sidenote: I hate cleaning. I keep a (mostly) clean house because, well, I don’t want to live in a dirty house and I love it when the house is clean, but I actually hate the process. I used to think I was a domestic person, but I’ve come to realize that I’m not. My mantra is, “Someday, I will hire a maid.”

Youngest Child has also decided that we are going to work out this entire time and that my running and sit-ups aren’t enough, oh, no. In the spirit of Jillian Michaels, he has added push-ups to my routine, six sets of an increasing number every night with a minute rest in between each set. Last night, I made it to six sets of seven. I hurt now. Marty wryly watches me struggle from the couch as the six-foot-tall teenager says that it’s good for us, that we’re going to be “ripped” this summer. Tonight, I’ll be up to six sets of eight. I don’t like push-ups.

Marty and I are also teaching remotely from home, which has been an interesting experience. We have apps that we can use to help us assign work and the students are familiar with the apps, but getting all 100+ of them to go online and do the assigned work is some of the problem. Most are, and they’re doing a great job, but some have limited internet access, even though the school lent out laptops to those who needed one. There are also others who are choosing to not do anything. We are grading their assignments, but at this point, the grades don’t count. The behavior management part of this has been FABULOUS, though. I haven’t written anyone up of kicked them out of my class in a week, although I did turn off a kid’s camera on Zoom yesterday for flipping everyone off. I was not shocked at who did the flipping off, either. It’ll be interesting to see where this all goes in the coming weeks.

There is no theatre right now. That’s something I’m super sad about, as are many people that I know. My cast and I were at least able to perform one weekend of The Glass Menagerie with wonderful reviews before we got shut down and there’s still a possibility that we could have one more performance to record, with no audience, and a cast photo once things settle down. Other theatres around here didn’t even get to open their March shows at all. Many are postponed until at least May or are cancelled outright. And that really, really sucks. I don’t want to get too deeply into that because I’m still having a hard time dealing with it. I know that there are many others in the same boat, but that doesn’t make it any easier. In the meantime, I’m still going over my lines every day, just in case.

With no theatre, I’m trying to focus back on writing, which is a good thing. I’m very close to finishing my sequel to Traveler (which is, by the way, available on Amazon. Hint hint.) and I have have a couple of other projects going as well.

I’m also focusing more on meditation. I’m very much in a learning frame of mind with metaphysical things and this has been a great time to explore, really be quiet, and let it happen. More on that later.

There’s time to read for fun again. I have a long way to go before I catch up to where Marty is, but I’ll try. I have about five books that I’m reading simultaneously at the moment.

Oh! I’m also planning my garden. I’m making a Shakespeare garden, kind of a big deal, with plants that Shakespeare references in his works. There will be a lot of new landscaping and I ordered a bunch of seeds that should be here any time now. I’ll post before and after pictures when things actually begin growing. Marty is scared.

So, what are you doing during this time? Drop a message in the comments or give this post a like. I’d love to hear from you. Reading comments gives me an excuse to not clean the basement.

Stay safe, everyone.

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It’s the holiday season! If you’re looking for the perfect gift to give a family member aged 10+, consider giving a book by yours truly. Traveler is a time-travel story about family, justice, and courage. If you’re in the Detroit Metro area, pm me to get a signed copy or order on Amazon here:

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Let me say up front that this is not a pity party. I’m not expecting pity, I’m not wallowing, but damn, I wish I had that carefree spirit of not really caring whether I am accepted or not. It’s easy to say that I don’t care but it’s not the truth. I do care! Most people do, whether they want to admit it or not.

Rejection sucks, even though I knew it was coming. I’m beginning to think that it’s never going to happen, that no literary agent is going to take a chance on me. A temporary setback in my mindset, only a flesh wound.

I thought I was ready for another round of, “Thank you for thinking of me, but this project just isn’t right for me”, emails and to an extent, I was. I had just forgotten how much it stings after the first onslaught. How many times did J.K. Rowling get rejected? 20? No, Google says 12. Stephen King’s Carrie was rejected 30 times, says almighty Google. Well, by now, I have both of them beat. That’s an accomplishment, right? That will be my claim to fame if I ever do get published again. I can just see my interview with Savannah Guthrie now…

Savannah: So, Julie, congratulations on your best-selling novel! Can you tell me a little about the road you took to get here?

Me: Well, Savannah, I don’t want to brag, but I was rejected more than 50 times before my amazing agent put me in touch with XYZ Publishing.

Savannah: More than 50 times? Wow, that’s more than J.K.Rowling and Stephen King combined! You must be so proud!

(Al Roker steps in, shaking my hand)

Al: More than J.K Rowling and Stephen King? That’s incredible! I can’t believe I’m meeting you!

Me: (blushing) Aw, shucks…it was nothing.

(Al grabs the copy of my book off of the table.)

Al: Please sign this for me, it’ll go right next to my Emmys in the living room!

Me: I would be honored.

Ah, well, maybe someday.

I get it, agents are inundated with queries and they have to be picky about what they take on but I have to wonder about some of the stuff that does get published. As an English teacher, I read a lot of books for kids. I mean, a lot. Most of it is great stuff, but there are always a few books that make you wonder if the author was related to the publisher or if they had some kind of blackmail thing going on. Is my writing worse than those books with flimsy plot lines and inaccurate historical details? Things that make you go hmmmmmm…

BUT…I am going to keep writing, I am going to keep trying, this is just a low moment and it will pass. I’m going to keep pestering literary agents with queries for all of those things that I’m going to keep writing and one day, one day, it will happen.

Get ready, Savannah and Al. I’m on my way!

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Hey! Good news! I’m running a Cyber Monday sale on the ebook version of Traveler. Now through Friday, you can purchase and download Traveler on any device for $0.99. That’s a 67% savings! Of course, the paperback version is also available for $15.99 and if you have Prime, the shipping is free. Shop local authors. 

 

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HEY, GUESS WHAT???
The holidays are coming up and what better gift to give your favorite reader than a NEW BOOK? Order your copy of Traveler today and if you’re out my way, I’ll even sign it. 
Available now in paperback and e-book for any device, Traveler will give your middle-grade fantasy reader a memorable adventure back in time.
Oh, and one more thing: If you’ve purchased and read Traveler already, and thank you so much to those who have, could you take a couple minutes and leave a review, even if it’s just a star rating? That would really help me out.
Thanks so much, and have a wonderful holiday season!
#ilovemyreaders

 

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I am blessed. Unequivocally, undoubtedly, blessed. It’s easy to forget, sometimes. It’s easy to let the problems of the universe sink in, to let the daily annoyances pile up and inspire resentment, but that’s when we have to take a few steps back and get a new perspective. We need to let those unimportant things go and either make a new plan or let it be. Here are some of my blessings:

  1. My husband. I am married to a man (for almost twenty years!) who has seen me at my best and most definitely at my worst. He has loved me through four pregnancies, three kids, job loss, financial crises, a depression/anxiety diagnosis, and my frustration with keeping up an older house and no money to do it. Oh, and did I mention that he has to put up with me trying to convince him to move to London?
  2. My kids. My boyos: Oldest Child, Middle Child, and Youngest Child. All different, all amazingly wonderful. I never imagined being the mother of all boys, but God works in wonderful ways and even with all of the ways they are different from me, they are my heart.
  3. My family. My family is huge, mixed-up, made up of many components, a wee bit dysfunctional, but most important, loving. I wouldn’t trade my family for anything in the world.
  4. My friends. Like everyone, I have different groups of friends in different places and from different times in my life. I am deeply thankful for each one of them.
  5. I live in a country where I’m free, not only as a person, but as a woman. In many places in the world, even today, I would have no rights to anything. The U.S. isn’t perfect by any means, but I can wear what I want, marry who I want, drive, go anywhere I like without a chaperone, and criticize the government without worrying about being thrown in prison, or worse. There’s much work to do, but things are moving in the right direction.
  6. My hedgie. She’s amazing, cranky and cuddly at the same time and I love her.
  7. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to several countries. I have the wanderlust. Bad. I believe that seeing how other people live in other parts of the world is essential. How can we work together if we live in ignorance and all we know of others is what fear mongers tell us? Granted, I haven’t visited any war-torn nations, but the places that I have been have given me a greater appreciation for the world as a whole. Now, I just have to figure out how to travel more frequently. (Rick Steves, have you looked at my résumé yet?)
  8. I’m a published author. Not a New York Times bestselling author, but I was able to get published by a company. Let’s see if it can happen again. (Slightly greedy, I know.)
  9. Facebook. This was a toughie, because Facebook is most definitely a colossal time-waster. But it has also allowed me to keep in touch with people who I may have otherwise lost contact with. In most cases, that is a blessing.
  10. Creature comforts. There’s an old hymn that says, “There’s a roof up above me, I’ve a good place to sleep. There’s food on my table and shoes on my feet. You gave me your love, Lord, and a fine family. Thank you, Lord, for you blessings on me.” It’s one of the truest songs I know. I don’t need, or want, a huge house, expensive cars, or designer clothes. Most of the world doesn’t have what I have: Enough.

Reminding myself of how much I actually have when I want something may not stop the desire, but it does make me appreciate my blessings. I wish the same for you.

A presto.

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The time of year has come where it’s nearly impossible for me to write. By that, I mean school has begun. It’s not that I don’t feel like writing. I do. I would really love to just chuck all of my lesson plans and papers out the window with no regrets and sit at the computer all day in my fantasy world, but there’s a slight problem with that. I’m not exactly supporting the family with any writing. At least not at the moment,. I do receive royalties, albeit tiny, from the publisher of my first book, (That would be Put Up Your Hair; A Practical Manual to Nineteenth Century Hair Styles, available through www.heritagebooks.com and Amazon, if anyone is interested. I’m getting better at shameless plugs.) but since one can’t live on dreams, one must have a real job in order to survive. Especially if there are children to support. Big children who have big expenses and who are going to begin leaving for college next summer. Until I can earn a steady income from writing, I shall have to keep plugging away at the day job. This, in turn, inspires guilt about not being one of those teachers who lives for her job, but that’s a topic for another day.

The difficult part about that is finding the time to write. Heck, during the summer when I do, sort of, have time, there are people all over the house at all hours of the day. I feel like if I’m sitting and writing for a long time the house will implode without me there. Of course, I know I won’t. How arrogant of me. Nevertheless, with the family home, it is really hard for me to focus. Marty is excellent at monitoring everything that goes on, but we live in a small house and I hear everything from children arguing to them doing their normal, everyday things, such as having Nerf gun battles. I used to get a lot more productive writing done when I was a substitute teacher and didn’t get a call for the day. I could crank out 10-15 pages at a time when everyone else was gone at school, but those days are gone, at least for now.

I went to a book signing last year where the author talked about staying up late after her family went to bed in order to write her book. She had small children and could not write during the day. I thought about what a great idea that was until I remembered that after teaching all day and coming home to make dinner, running kids around, going to rehearsals, etc., I was exhausted by 10:00 pm. We’re up at 6:00 am and I’m the kind of person who just does not function very well on little sleep. That strategy was not going to work for me. Neither was getting up early to write. Getting myself and a middle-schooler out the door in the morning is a chore as it is. Besides, I find that I do my best writing in the afternoon, but that is generally frowned upon when I’m supposed to be giving a math lesson.

I think I would feel better about it all if I could actually get signed with an agent for the book I’m currently peddling, a middle grade children’s fantasy novel with the working title, Traveler. I had an offer from a subsidy publisher this past winter and have had a few nibbles, but after about two years, it’s still sitting unloved on my computer table. In search of beta-readers, I’ve read it to two of my classes who have both loved it. My last year’s third- and fourth- grade students who are now my fourth- and fifth-grade students want me to read it aloud again this year. In fact, they wanted another story about Tommy, the main character. I know that kids like it, I think it will sell, it’s just a matter of getting someone in the publishing world to agree with me.

I actually have two novels in progress right now. One is the next in the series to Traveler and the other is a historical fiction novel told from the perspective of Bessie Blount, the mistress to Henry VIII who had a son by him. It’s not a sexed-up tawdry thing like the HBO Tudor series; it’s realistic and as historically accurate as I can make it. (Okay, there’s a little bit of sex in it, but it’s historically accurate sex.) That one doesn’t have a title yet, but I’m further along in writing it than the other one. Bessie has been a fascination of mine ever since I found out about her and not much exists about her early life or about her feelings on things. I’m loving being able to give her a voice and establish her as a real person, not just a king’s plaything. Anyway, it’s a lot of fun to write and I’d really love to finish it before next summer.

As I said before, Marty Man is really supportive of my writing, so it’s really about me being proactive and finding a time where I have no choice but to stick to it. That’s the difficult part. I’m a creature of habit and it’s difficult for me to make time for new things, although I’m usually pleasantly surprised when I do. Like when I signed up for a hula class last winter, which I only did because I knew the teacher and I was confident that she wouldn’t laugh at me. At least not to my face. I loved that class! It challenged me, but that made me want to succeed even more. I think finding a writing time will be the same way. Now, I’m not going to be able to write for a significant time every day. Teaching takes an incredible amount of time that used to be free time in the evenings and on the weekends, but I do want to find at least a little time each day when I can add to things, or to blog. Right now, there’s a laundry basket full of clean clothes across from me that keeps calling out for attention, but I was determined to sit down and write tonight. It can wait. The dusting can wait. The dishes can wait. Being a full-time writer is what I really want to do and I need to find time to make that happen while still paying attention to my responsibilities. Right now, however, I need to wrap this up because the eleven-year-old tornado is finished with his shower and trying to stall before bedtime, one of my many, but lovable, distractions.

One idea that I have is to go to the library on the weekends for a couple of hours. We have three libraries in our city and one has quiet, sound-proof cubicles for working. That will be step one for next weekend. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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