Keeper Habit #1

Dear Readers,

All of us have spent over a year now dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic in our own ways.

Perhaps like me, you have watched others—from a safe distance—in order to gauge how they have coped compared with yourself. I know I have learned some new, beneficial habits from admirable neighbors, family, and friends. These people and habits have helped anchor me amidst the chaos and tragedy that have unfolded worldwide.

Thankfully, this past year has also allowed me to rediscover my inner strength and develop some good habits, just by going about the business of living healthily day in and day out. And most of us have been so lucky because we’re still here. What’s that saying? When the going gets tough, the tough (and the lucky!) get going.

Over the next five news blogs, I would like to share with you my sweet habits, one per blog, that I plan to keep post pandemic.

I’m interested in yours, so I hope you’ll share by clicking HERE  Do we have some overlap? I suspect so.

Here is Number One:

  1. Make Do. The images of empty food shelves are etched into my brain from scary visits to the grocery store last spring. Masking, disinfecting, distancing, and panicking are words that describe those times for me. We were like ghosts, weren’t we, floating among the aisles, looking for our favorite brands of whatever that weren’t there? And such joy when during the next visit, there they were on the shelf! But I didn’t starve. I adjusted. Ultimately, there was plenty. Those events taught me never to complain again when the store is out of something. Better yet, I will never take a grocery store or its employees for granted again. I have learned to compensate and be happy doing so. There is some nobility in such sacrifices, I feel. This must be what my parents and grandparents did successfully during World War II.

So, get a clue, Readers. What new habits will you keep post pandemic? Please let me know by sharing HERE. Such habits can help the tough keep going.

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My Upcoming “Quar-Retreat”

Dear Kids and All Readers,

In May, I will be traveling to the East Coast for the birth of my grandson.

Even though I’m fully vaccinated, I have to quarantine for ten days at a hotel before the big event. (I’ll spare you the good reasons.)

Instead of fretting about the isolation that some experience in quarantine, I’m embracing the idea. I’m even looking forward to it. Why? Because time away from my daily responsibilities should give me an opportunity to carve out space just for myself. This “retreat” within quarantine, or my “Quar-Retreat,” will provide a welcome chance to walk, story plot, recharge, and get some serious writing done–purely on my own schedule. Ah, solitude. Isolato as the Italians call it, remember?” What a welcome gift for any writer!

So you know, I have been busy here at home. Publishing activities for my Book 3, Walnut Street: Phantom Rider, have ramped up as I work with my editor and built an advance reader team in anticipation of the book’s November 9, 2021, release.

Then, there’s Book 4, Saffron Street: Island Danger. The first draft is about twenty percent finished–only. For me, this has been an itch needing scratching for a number of months as I’ve been constantly pulled away to do other things. I’m counting on changing that during my Quar-Retreat. I will drift away blessedly to Botanic Hill at my computer and help my detectives solve their fourth case.

So, get a clue, Readers. With inspiration and hard work, I hope to report by late May that I have been productive while Quar-Retreating. Specifically, I want to made a very serious dent in my Book 4 writing. We all need to get away occasionally for some “Me Time.” Where is your favorite retreat spot? May you get to spend time there soon.

 

 

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Neighborly

Dear Kids and All Readers,

I hope all of you are as lucky as I am to be surrounded by kind, cheerful neighbors!

In my neighborhood, about thirty of us of all ages gather on the First Friday of each month for a potluck dinner and good conversation. One family hosts per month. Usually, it’s indoors, but we often spill over into the backyard on warm evenings.

During the pandemic, we’ve had to get creative in order to to stay together. A couple times, we Zoomed. Another time, we gathered with social distancing in the street and sang Christmas carols to an ill neighbor. Others have brought us together by gathering for a sunset group photo while social distancing and masking. Another couple delivered treat bags to everyone.

I’m copying the treat bag idea for my turn on May 7. I will deliver goodies to each neighbor’s door, whether they’re home or not. If they come out, great! Perhaps, we can chat a while. Then, I will invite them to fall in behind me and caravan on foot to the next house.

So get a clue, Readers. Is there anyone in your neighborhood who could use a treat and a chat? Or maybe now, you have an excuse for a monthly get-together! May you enjoy the harvesting of your neighborly intentions.

 

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The Isolato

Hello, Kids and All Readers,

I was a shy kid. Still am–including the kid part. How about you?

My mother used to say to me, “Sherrill, get your nose out of that book and go outside and play.” Some kids would welcome hearing an adult say that to them! I dreaded it. My calling was to be curled up reading my mystery du jour (kids, that means “of the day”). e.g., Nancy Drew. Still, I went out and played–which was a good thing for my socialization and physical development–but my mind usually remained transfixed on my book’s plot or characters awaiting me on my nightstand as my friends and I played “Moonlight, Starlight. Who’s Going to Find That Witch Tonight?” or similar games.

The pandemic and my new career as a writer have caused me to focus on a topic that has always intrigued me: The isolation and resulting angst of the artist. Or, as it is called in Italian, isolato. So, imagine my joy when in the mail the other day arrived the Spring 2021 issue of The Phi Kappa Phi Forum. The entire issue focuses on Solitude.

One article especially resonated: “Isolato,” by W.D. Wetherell (pages 18-20). He has authored over twenty books and in the article, discusses how he knows a thing or two about isolation. He has, in his words, “overdosed on it” throughout his life. Why? Because Wetherell thinks solitude, or isolation, is essential for serious artists if they are to carve out that space and time where they can develop their craft. As he puts it, “Writers need unadulterated quiet–no interruptions or social obligations to interfere in their work.” He explains that loneliness, aloneness, or alienation have characterized many first-rate American authors like Poe, Hawthorne, Thoreau, Dickinson, and J.D. Salinger. They didn’t voluntarily join the “Loneliness Club”; rather, solitude “comes with the territory” for serious artists. In other words, many artists appear to be on an endless, heuristic path with the help of isolato.

Perhaps because of the pandemic, and despite every author’s wish to be labeled “first-rate,” Wetherell and I agree that isolation is not trendy. It has come to be seen as a bad thing and very old-fashioned. But, he and I further agree the isolato–being in that “quiet zone”–can help us get in touch with the lonely, stricken, and oppressed of the world. How? We give ourselves the requisite time and space to have empathy for others like ourselves as we artists are chained to our writing desks, easels, musical instruments, or dance studios! The isolato is just what life has forced upon us.

So, get a clue, readers. Do you seek the voices of the lonely, either by choice or by default? For me, it happens most often at my desk where, ironically, I suddenly shift from being a hermit. I’m off in great company with my characters, delving into their hearts and lives, in order to deliver them and myself to the world.

 

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Spring Has Sprung

Dear Kids and All Readers,

Here in San Diego, spring has arrived. I know. Some say it never left. But being a native San Diegan, I can definitely detect the waxing and waning of each season. I hope spring’s beautiful warmth and radiant blossoms now surround you as well.

For today, I would like to offer you two literary works to celebrate this glorious season:

 

From “The Poppies” (1993)

By Mary Oliver (American poet, 1935-2019)

 

The poppies send up their

orange flares; swaying

in the wind, their congregations

are a levitation

of bright dust, or thin

and lacy leaves. . . .

 

From Atalanta in Calydon (1865)

By Algernon Charles Swinburne (English poet, 1837-1909)

For winter’s rains and ruins are over,

And all the season of snows and sins;

The days dividing lover and lover,

The light that loses, the night that wins;

And time remembered is grief forgotten,

And frosts are slain and flowers begotten,

And in green underwood and cover

Blossom by blossom the spring begins.

 

So, get a clue, Readers. I hope you’ll take some time to watch spring’s beauty unfold around you. May it and perhaps some poetry inspire you to new heights. Happy spring!

 

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Get Ready to Strike Gold!

Dear Kids and All Readers,

You’ve been waiting for it, and here it comes! Walnut Street: Phantom Rider, Book 3 in my Botanic Hill Detectives Mysteries series, will release on November 9, 2021. Hurray!

Here’s a teaser:

Objects of value have been disappearing from the Mayfield family’s rural California horse ranch and youth saddle club for kids with emotional issues. The Mayfields invite our four intrepid detectives to their in-town house on Walnut Street to fill them in.

 Adding to the excitement is that somewhere on the forty-acre ranch just outside the mountain town of Cody is a long-lost gold mine staked by thirteen-year-old Ben Mayfield’s five-time great-grandfather, Aloysius “Papa” Mayfield, in 1875. Papa was one of California’s first Black deputy United States marshals turned gold miner.

In private, a nervous Ben reveals a frightening secret to the detectives. At the ranch, he alone has seem a threatening black-clad figure on horseback whom he calls the Phantom Rider. Who is this mysterious person? Is he responsible for the ranch thefts? Why are objects disappearing? Is he somehow connected with the lost gold mine? The detectives aim to find out.

And above is the placeholder cover from my website, but the real cover will be revealed in September.

So, get a clue, Readers. Saddle up and stay tuned for Book 3, Walnut Street: Phantom Rider. You’ll strike gold with this one. Yee-haw!

 

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