Friday, June 25, 2021

The Dreadful Day


I haven't been online for a few days, and I need to explain why--partly because I'm still trying to process what happened. This is not an excuse for being behind--I was already behind on a number of things.

Thursday morning I was working in my downstairs office and I heard screaming from the house behind ours. For those of you who follow me on Facebook, yes, this is the house where several years ago the lady got locked out by her then two-year-old, and where two years ago, they set the palm tree behind our house on fire with their barbecue and then proceeded to scream and accuse each other (husband and wife, that is) instead of trying to put the fire out. (The fire was put out by me and other neighbors.)

The husband has a horrendous temper--at least by the sound of it. He's always screaming and cursing at the kids and at the wife. That's a kind of abuse, but it doesn't mean he's dangerous per se. Just...unpleasant. Certainly, an unpleasant neighbor. Maybe he's a great guy otherwise. I wouldn't know.

But when I heard her screaming, I thought they were fighting again, so I stopped and listened for a minute, and I thought she sounded more terrified than usual. I thought I heard her scream, "No, no, no." And I could hear the kids screaming (they have three little boys and a little girl).

I got up and went to the glass door which opens onto the backyard and listened--I heard one of the little boys cry, "Oh God, help us."

I ran to the back wall, which is chest high, and called, "What's wrong? What's happening?" 

But he was gone. I could hear them further inside the house, and they were still screaming--I couldn't understand what they were saying (the parents are Armenian, I believe). So I called out again, "What's happening? What's wrong?" 

I was trying to decide whether to call 911 as a domestic, and as I looked around their yard, a flash of pink caught my eye. I thought it was a pool toy. I looked again and it was the baby daughter at the bottom of the pool. 

That image is burned into my brain. I don't think I will ever be able to forget that. 

She was on the bottom in her little pink pajamas. No movement, no bubbles, the wrong color--I could see it all.

I ran inside and called 911 and then I ran back, still talking to 911 and began to scream, "Get her out of the pool, get her out of the pool!" Screaming over and over. To nobody.

One of the little boys ran out and I yelled, "Can you swim? Get her out of there!"

He jumped in and dragged her out, and I told him to get her on her side--and at that point the mother and the other kids poured out of the house. She was on the phone--to her husband, I believe--and she began to beg me to climb the wall and help her. I waved the phone and said, "I'm on the phone with 911. I'm going to talk you through." She kept begging me to come and help her.

It was pandemonium. The young German shepherd next door was trying to scale the wall next to me, barking his head off, the mother was screaming and hysterical, the kids were screaming and hysterical, I could barely hear the operator--who by then was an EMT. 

I finally got the mom to listen, we went through the whole thing of CPR--she kept stopping to wail and sob--which I don't blame her for because I was also crying. When I saw the little girl, I believed it was already too late--but we kept at it. Thirty chest compressions, nothing. Then I tried to instruct her on mouth-to-mouth. I could go on and on. It seemed to take months before the sheriffs arrived, but I think it was only about five minutes.

They took the little girl away and I broke down and started sobbing. The operator/EMT guy said, "Listen, you did a great job. Really. You did everything you could."

Which I would like to believe. But of course I feel guilty. 

A while later a neighbor down the street came to our house to say she wanted to make sure I was all right. She had seen the whole thing from her bedroom window. How many other people were watching? People who were closer and could have been of more help? I mean, it was early and most people would be at work, but was I really the only person able to respond? 

It's a little bit of comfort that she said, "You should know that you were great. You were so in control and so calm (I was not, for the record, either of those things). I could hear everything you said to her. I could see you petting and calming the dog (which I'd totally forgot) and counting for her and talking to the kids."

The sheriffs came to interview me and I told them what I knew. They took photos of my yard and their yard. They said the little girl had not been pronounced but it did not look good. 

Anyway, that's it. That's where I've been. I'm doing my best not to think about it, and today is much easier, but it's woven into my dreams. It pops into my head at unexpected times.  It's not my tragedy and it is not about me, but I still have to work through my inadvertent part in it. I do believe I did everything I could.  But it's still...dreadful. 

Friday, June 18, 2021

The Dog Days of Summer


Currently it's 99° and headed for another day in the triple digits. It's been like this for an entire week, and I think I speak for everyone is this household when I say UGH

We woke to the sound of patio lights falling and the backyard umbrella crashing down when a sudden windstorm ripped through the yard...and then disappeared. Next, our neighbors' German shepherd puppy escaped and was on the lam, so we helped chase him down. (The SO used Marlowe as bait to lure the runaway back). Now all is quiet. Dead still, in fact. Hot and humid and still. I'm settling down to work, my faithful doggie companions curled up in the giant comfy chair with me (it is a bit warm for curling up together, but they don't seem to mind).

I don't know how people can say dogs don't dream. Spenser's tail is wagging as he sleeps. Marlowe's little muzzle is twitching and wrinkling like he's telling Cowboy what he thinks of him for running away. They are most definitely dreaming--and not about the same things.

Body at Buccaneer Bay is off to a slow start. There's just a lot going on right now (not that that's anything new) and I'm trying not to fall too far behind on all the other stuff that has to happen in addition to writing. I can't wait for next year when I've got eight weeks between projects and can actually have something close to a normal working life. Anyway, I've made most of the adjustments to this year's schedule now (The 12.2-Per-Cent Solution still has to be pushed back to the end of July at Amazon, but other than that, I think everything is now looking pretty solid--barring the next disaster.)

IT IS A WEIRD SUMMER. Am I right? Even as we climb out of the pandemic--not that we're out yet, but I do feel we're getting there--everything still feels...unfamiliar and precarious. Maybe it was always unfamiliar and precarious, and I'm only now noticing? 


Things I'm working on this month:

Exclusive audio for Patreon. Which I'll talk about on Patreon. ;-) 

But speaking of audio, I set up my own audio storefront at Findaway Voices. To celebrate, I've knocked everything down about 50% for the month of June. Now, not all my audio books are in my storefront, but some thing are in my storefront that are not--and will never--be at Audible. AND now I'm thinking maybe I'll create more collections that are unique to my storefront and maybe a couple of other channels not including Audible. It's an idea. It might not be a good one. We'll see.

I joined the Alliance of Independent Authors as an Authorpreneur (you have to be able to prove you earn a living at your writing by showing that you sell a minimum of 50,000 units over 24 months--or whatever the page read equivalent of that is) Basically, I was looking for a discount coupon at IngramSpark, but as I read about the benefits and goals of ALLI, I realized this was an organization worth supporting. If you're an indie author, I think you might want to check it out!

I'm going through contracts and setting up accounts at various mobile publishing platforms. I'm really fascinated by mobile publishing--which is kind of a cross between Candy Crush and Netflix. On the one hand, it seems like the least efficient way to buy books. On the other hand, I play Candy Crush, so...I get it.  Right now, I'm just uploading backlist stories. And of course, that's not really the most effective way to write for these platforms, but the thing is, I'm just looking for another passive income stream. I ALREADY make a living at my writing, and as we all know, I'm not great at having to produce under super-stressful deadlines. 

There's surprisingly little insight or info about the Asian market--even though it dominates this industry--but I did find an interesting article here. What is really fascinating is that the fiction app readership is NOT your "normal" book buying audience. It is sure as hell not a KU audience given that readers could ultimately pay three times what a book would fetch on one of the mainstream book-selling platforms. Which is why I wonder how successful Amazon will be with Vella. Readers go to Amazon to buy books at the lowest possible prices. I understand why Amazon wants a slice of this particular pie though.

Always things to consider and explore in this brave new world of publishing. 

Are you doing anything special for Father's Day? I bought my dad something called Storyworth. And then I thought it was such a cool idea, that I also bought it for the SO on behalf of my step-kids. Essentially, it's a book made up of photos and reminiscences. I can't think of a better gift for my dad or the SO given that they are both writers AND big time reminiscencers. ;-D 

Anyway, that's my weekly update. 

Just a reminder that Body at Buccaneer Bay will be out toward the end of July. If you've already preordered, thank you so much.

Friday, June 11, 2021

It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood


And I am covered in scratches and scrapes from two days of long-delayed gardening. 

Last weekend I had my nephews over to try and wrangle the jungle that is my backyard into order. It's not that my garden is neglected--we have gardeners (though I don't let them cut anything but the lawn)--so it's been almost two years since I really, really gardened--as in untangled and sorted out all the lights, seriously pruned everything back, and did a bunch of replanting and repotting. 

So we made great headway, but there was still a ton of stuff to do AND it turns out that my nephews have zero aptitude for untangling lights. Under their peculiar ministrations, five somewhat tangled strands became ONE GIGANTIC KNOT that took me three hours to undo. 

Anyway, other than learning they are not very good at undoing knots (this is the danger of Velcro shoe fastenings) we had a great time. I fed them all day long on hors d'oeuvres hidden deep in my freezer since Christmas. See, this is the thing. This is the first time in 15 months I was able to get together with the boys and work in the yard like we used to do. (Not that I used to feed them Christmas hors d'oeuvres on a regular basis, but you know.) When we finally wrapped up about six, the SO barbecued and we watched the first three episodes of the Mandalorian, so it was really a terrific day and evening--and being fully vaccinated is a wonderful thing.  


So for the past couple of days I've been tackling some of that on my own as my "break" during the writing work day. The problem is, I'm a little...obsessive. You might have noticed this. So I go out to straighten lights on a rose bush and thirty minutes later, I'm still out there hacking away at the thorny dead wood that hasn't been chopped out in years. Which is where a lot of the cuts and scrapes (and tears in my T-shirt) came from.

After a weird little cold spell this week, the weather is once again classic sunny So Cal. Blue skies, bright sunshine, everything in bloom. It's gorgeous--and soon to be hot as hell. 

OH! Update--in case you hadn't heard--Marlowe the Mutt has bronchitis! The vet reassured me that his trachea is absolutely fine; heart, lungs, everything in great shape. He is a "young and healthy dog" but he has bronchitis. Yikes. So the vet put him on meds and he's back to his normal, nutty little self. 

I can't tell you what a relief it is (although I'm sure you know). I love those two little dogs with all my heart. 

BOOKS. Oh yeah. THAT. 

So here's what's happening. Tomorrow I start Body at Buccaneer Bay (Secrets and Scrabble 5), and that will come out in mid-July. 

Then comes The 12.2 Per-Cent Solution (Holmes & Moriarity 5--the final book) and that comes out the end of August.

The last book of the year is The Movie-Town Murders, which I'm still hoping to finish by the end of September. It might slip into the first week of October, but not by much. 

And that's it for 2021. YOU SHALL NOT SEE MY LIKES AGAIN.

No. Wrong. If you're on Patreon, you'll get Hide and Seek in November/December, which kind of works out because it takes place at Christmas. 

But yes, that will be it for the year. Murder is Served is definitely getting pushed back to February (which is going to be the perfect time for something utterly nuts). In 2022, there will be eight weeks between writing each and every project, so no more of this crazy teetering on burnout, frantic juggling of deadlines. I have acknowledged and accepted that I can't write the way I used to. I can't rely on summoning turbo boosts of creative energy and/or panic in the home stretch. That's not in me anymore. It was never a healthy way to work. It's one reason why I suffered through two bouts of burnout (although the second bout...I don't know because that was as much anxiety and depression over politics and pandemic as creative funk). Anyway. I can't do it anymore.

So that's that. I have to keep struggling with myself not to list books for preorder too close together, but so far, so good. It is ALL good. Being realistic with yourself (and readers) is good. Allowing yourself room to breathe--and mess around in the garden--is good. :-D

What are you up to? What have you got planned for the summer? Are you fully vaccinated yet?

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

con·tre·temps /ˈkäntrətäN/


That's 17 points in Scrabble, for those keeping track.


So by now you may or may not be aware that the correct file for Scandal at the Salty Dog was actually uploaded after the book went live on Monday. 

Yes, I know.

The correct files were uploaded Monday, but that doesn't mean you have them. It means they're now available. If you've tried to get updates to the original file, but you're not able to, drop me a line and I'll send you the correct file. 

Frankly, that was the LEAST of my disastrous weekend. 

On Friday night--no, let's be precise--at two a.m. on Saturday morning, I woke to what sounded like a waterfall in the master bathroom. I staggered in to see what was happening, opened the cistern and water began shooting out everywhere. I couldn't see how to fix it, so I staggered back to wake up the SO, who was sleeping peacefully throughout my exclamations of dismay, the rush of Niagara-like sounds, and the dogs racing around, hopping on and off the bed, to join in the fun. 

At last the SO comes back to life--cue resurrected mummy sounds--jumps up, staggers into the bathroom, can't see how to fix it--coz it's a special water conserving toilet???-- tries to turn off the valve below the toilet and... It's stripped. He can't turn off the water there, so he says he'll have to shut it off at the street. Not ideal, but okay.

He staggers out to turn off the water at the street HOWEVER we don't have a normal valve out there. We have some weird jerry-rigged monstrosity that requires a special tool which we don't have. So after trying an assortment of wrenches and hammers and whatever, he says we have to call the city AT TWO IN THE MORNING.

The city says ARE YOU KIDDING? IT'S TWO A.M AND THIS IS A HOLIDAY WEEKEND. WE'RE GOING TO CHARGE YOU. I won't repeat what the SO said. The city finally staggered out and turned off the water. 

We all go back to bed.

On Saturday, we begin calling plumbers. No luck. No one can come out before Tuesday. TUESDAY. And we can't turn the water back on because, you know, weird jerry-rigged street valve. 

No showers, no washing dishes, no watering the garden, no flushing the toilets. You get the picture. It's not pretty.

By Saturday night, I was thinking it couldn't get worse.

Then my beloved little darling, Marlowe the Mutt, out of nowhere starts choking and coughing up white foam. It goes on and on and then stops. And then starts again. And then stops. And then starts again. I think something is lodged in his throat or he's been poisoned and he's dying and it's pretty much the worst night of my life. 

But then it stops. He seems fine.

We go to bed. Please, please, please God, don't let my little dog die.

I lie with Marlowe tucked against me, stroking him, listening to him breathing, all night. In the morning, he is jumping up and down, wanting breakfast, while I'm calling our vet trying to get their emergency line--WHICH THEY NO LONGER HAVE. They didn't even have the answering machine on. NOBODY HOME.

So Marlowe seems perky and fine, but every now and then he has this weird coughing spell--which I now realize could be kennel cough. So I read up everything I can find on kennel cough, and proceed to do all the things to make him comfortable.

Now it's Wednesday and I've currently called four recced vets--not including our regular vet--and the soonest anyone can take him is JUNE NINTH. Our own vet can't take him until the FIFTEENTH. 

The plumber came yesterday. Today Marlowe seems better? So maybe, maybe, maybe life is getting back to normal. I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop.