Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Staying (Relatively) Sane

 Terry here writing about :


Life:  Who, or what, is keeping you relatively sane these days? Are you able to stay motivated? How?


The operative word is “relatively.” I usually am in pretty good form, but there are “those days.” I have a long list of what gets me through the best and worst of days: Books (both reading and writing). Friends and relatives ( on the phone, in FaceTime, in Zoom or other on-line meetings, on social media, in my backyard, and in the case of my husband-friend, in my house). My two funny, eccentric terriers, Lucy and Sparky. Jigsaw puzzles. 

Jigsaw puzzle that makes me want to be snorkeling

Crossword puzzles. Sudoku. Ken-ken. Exercise—hikes, bikes, and elliptical trainer). Driving down to the bay and having a walk there. Walking with a friend. Cleaning places in my house that haven’t been cleaned in years. Tending to my garden (which consists of two tomato plants, a zucchini and some herbs.)  


These don’t take the place of travel, though, which I find stimulating. I miss it. Looking at photos or videos doesn’t make a great substitute. Which is why since my husband and I decided to rent a beach house in Malibu for a few weeks, starting mid-September. I have been giddy with excitement.


As for staying motived, I’ve always been highly-motivated. I write pretty much every day and have more projects in mind than I ever imagine finishing. When lockdown started, I was determined to keep my focus and remain productive. Ha! Apparently my version of remaining production was not the same as my brain’s idea: I wrote every day and finished my ninth Samuel Craddock novel. The first half was written pre-lockdown, and the second post- lockdown. I started reading through it to begin edits, and was shocked. I found that the second half—written after  lockdown—sounded like it was written by a crazy person. The book meandered off in odd directions, I had redundant scenes, I repeated whole paragraphs in different places, I left out crucial and obvious clues and suspects. It was a mess.


I got to work and revised it, and although I still wasn’t happy with it I couldn’t seem to wrap my head around what needed to be done, so I turned it over to my writers’ group. They all had the same response—this is a terrible book. Okay, they didn’t put it exactly that way, but I got the message. And it motivated me. Big time. I don’t recommend writing a terrible book and having it critiqued as being the best motivator, but in this case it’s exactly what I needed. I tore the guts out of the middle of the book, chopped, then chopped some more and by some miracle started to get back in the groove. I’m cautiously optimistic that it now reads more like a real Craddock novel instead of something written by a lunatic.


Above, I said that reading is keeping me sane, and I’m so grateful that so many of the authors I admire are writing terrific books. Timothy Hallinan’s Street Music, is a poignant close-out of his top-notch Poke Rafferty series. I hardly need to mention S. A. Cosby’s Blacktop Wasteland, because the buzz has been non-stop, for good reason. Not only is it a compelling read, but Cosby’s prose is luscious. I read all the 2020 Edgar nominated books in Best Novel, Best Debut, and Best Paperback categories and was blown away by this, year’s crop. I highly recommend them. And then I’ve had the pleasure of reading some advance reader copies to provide blurbs and am so thrilled with some of them. In particular, The Last Tea Bowl Thief, by Jonelle Patrick, is amazing. I had reservations before I started it because the name of it seemed odd, and it was a subject I wasn’t particularly interested in—Japanese art, culture and history. It goes to show that a skilled author can make a subject come alive. And by the end, the name of the book seems perfect. I can’t wait for it to come out in October.


I hope everyone else is managing their sanity reasonably well. I’ll be glad to hear what people have to say about it.





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