Over the last two and a half years, I have struggled with anxiety.
I wrote that in past tense, but anxiety is anything but in the past for me.
Despite knowing I have no reason to be ashamed of these admissions, I rewrote the beginning of this post multiple times. I worried how my honesty on this issue would be perceived. I’m a private person when it comes to what I post online. I worry that talking about these issues will be judged as attention-seeking when truthfully, I’d rather talk and think about literally anything but my anxiety.
But I think that’s why sometimes it’s important to allow others to see the struggle. Not for attention for myself but because I want to let others who may be feeling the same way know that they are not alone.
Throughout my life, I’ve always been an optimistic person, with my eye on the future and focusing on the positive. I think most people who know me well can attest to that. I make an effort to encourage others and celebrate their successes. I look for the good in people, sometimes to a fault. I was the girl voted “Most Smiley.” If I failed at something, I paused briefly to learn from the experience and then moved on to the next thing, setting new goals without letting the past weigh me down. I had one year, three year, five year, and ten year plans for achieving those goals. I knew where I was heading and I was determined to get there.
And then 2020 happened.
Well, my anxiety had been nipping at my heels for three or four years before that, but I powered through with sheer force of will, believing hard work and determination would get me through.
I know I am not unique.
I know other people have far more reason for fear and overwhelm.
I know in many ways I am lucky.
Acknowledging those facts does not diminish the awful effects the last two and a half years have had on me.
When I did pop online to read about what my friends and colleagues were up to, I saw so many of them talking about “using this time” to write that book or fling themselves into a new endeavor. Somehow, I thought I could do that too. I wanted to stay involved in my work. I signed up for some online writing courses to improve my skills. I attended professional Zoom meetings to keep in touch with the industry and to learn strategies for adapting to changing trends. I invested in books on craft I had every intention of reading. And I even made a schedule for myself, using Pomodoro timers to do writing sprints and squeeze in some “creative time” to make some progress on my projects.
But for all my serious intentions, I just couldn’t focus on creative work at all.
At first, while my dad was more able to manage for a few hours a day without direct attention, I focused on ensuring we had enough of our basic needs met. I stockpiled food in case supply chain issues got worse and we had to muddle along.
I occupied my mind with making lists and working on projects around the house.
I shoveled snow.
I bought multiple kits for raised bed gardening, hauling dirt and ordering seeds online for an immense expansion of our backyard vegetable garden. It felt good to be doing something physical, to be busy.
I bought a fire pit for our patio and had a friend help me put it together so dad could sit outside when he had good days.
I cooked extravagant meals as often as I could, trying to celebrate each day with my dad and to find reasons for gratitude.
I walked the dogs.
I listened to audiobooks.
I journaled, often as a way to plan for the future, what we would do once this was over, while dad was still able to be with us.
Autumn came. Dad got worse. Lockdown continued.
Afraid he might fall, I bought everything we needed to turn our 125 year old house into a smart home with Alexa in every room, acting as an intercom, streaming music and news, and turning on/off lights for my father as he became less and less able to do things for himself. I used the devices to set timers for his medication times and to remind myself of basic tasks I normally would have had no trouble remembering. Sunday nights, take out the trash. Water the plants every morning.
I bought a robot vacuum to help me keep up with cleaning.
I signed up for every possible streaming service so he had all the options for things to watch.
I ordered tickets to online concerts so he could listen to musicians play Bach and Mozart and Chopin from his seat in the living room.
I stopped reading. Entirely. I didn’t have time or the energy to focus on reading at all.
Instead, I bought a Kindle Unlimited subscription and chose books for my father to read.
My sister and brother-in-law came after quarantining for two weeks and they helped with projects around the house.
I made sure our gas powered generator was tuned up and worked so it was ready for winter.
I arranged for us to vote from home.
I stopped trying to work on any of my projects. My mind was constantly racing, and I couldn’t strap myself down to my writing desk and make anything happen there.
I stopped listening to music except with my dad.
When my dad started going to bed earlier and earlier, my mom and I started spending an hour together in my office, drinking wine each night and reminding ourselves of the things that were good each day.
I began each day writing down things that were good as a lifeline to cling to when things felt overwhelming.
The typical lists went something like this:
Winter came. Dad was much worse. The insurrection happened. I started giving him morphine four times a day.
I woke up at 8am. Let the dogs out. Gave Dad his medicine. Fed the dogs. Made breakfast. Mom did dishes. I went out to my office. Did twenty minutes of meditation. Made a gratitude list. Went back into the house. Washed clothes. Fixed the TV or updated software on phones, iPads, or streaming devices. Cooked lunch. Gave Dad his medicine. Mom and I helped him settle in for a nap. I went out to my office and sat for half an hour with a cup of coffee and patted a dog. Ordered groceries or supplies. Scanned the news on my phone. Checked my task list for the week and arranged for grocery/supply/medicine pickup or delivery. Talked to the nurses or doctors about the next visit. Went back inside. Gave Dad his medicine. Cooked dinner. Found something we could all agree to watch on TV for a few hours. Gave Dad his medicine. Put him to bed. Sat up with Mom for an hour to talk and unwind. Went up to bed.
That went on for…three months? Four? I don’t remember those days.
Dad asked for a birthday party with all his friends and family. I had to tell him no one could come because of the pandemic. I made him a cake and a fancy meal, and we Skyped with people. It was the best I could do, and it felt inadequate and awful.
Most days I was numb.
The electricity went out twice because of winter storms. Somehow, I got him through that, but just barely. I remember my terror he might die before I could get him switched from his oxygen machine to a tank in the dark. I remember struggling to get the generator started and calling the police in a panic. An officer came and helped me. Our neighbor stretched a power cord between our houses to ensure I never had to be afraid like that again.
Both of our 11 year old dogs died within days of one another.
One month later, we got a new puppy at Dad’s insistence.
Spring came. Dad was very frail. He needed more morphine. It made him reckless, and I was constantly afraid he would fall.
Our new puppy was one more responsibility added to the long list of daily tasks, but we needed her. Her antics made Dad smile constantly. She gave good snuggles.
I’d paid for online access to a concert at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, and we watched them perform Handel’s Messiah. Dad cried, it was so good.
He had one last car ride with one of the nurses helping me, and we looked at the flowers that were just starting to appear. He was so excited just to be outside the house, even though it was less than an hour. He was still wearing his bedroom slippers and pajama pants.
After that, he was too weak to go.
We got our vaccines. Finally some family members could visit.
My sister and brother-in-law came for Easter, and I took a rare trip to the local greenhouse with my brother-in-law to buy some plants for the garden. Things Dad wanted us to grow. Meanwhile, my sister helped Dad sort through his clothes to donate things to charity.
I made Dad tater tots in the air fryer nearly every day because he loved them. I cooked whatever food he asked for, even if everyone else hated it. Whatever made him smile, he got.
Then one day he couldn’t get up from his chair. We had a hospital bed brought. The nurse upped his morphine dose. I called my sister and brother-in-law and told them they needed to come back as soon as they could. They arrived in time for him to know they were there. Our wonderful neighbors came to see him one last time. Family members called and spoke to him in turn.
I tucked him in and asked if he was comfortable. Through his pain and morphine, he shrugged and said, “Eh, I make a living” and winked. An old joke to make me laugh. And I did. That was the last thing he ever said.
He died the next day with all of us around him.
I spent the next month helping Mom prepare for his funeral and wrapping up his financial business.
When the funeral was over and everyone had gone home, Mom and I both felt lost. That month I started taking Paxil for anxiety. I ended up taking it for about a year.
The rest of 2021 is a blur.
We worked in the garden.
I twisted my knees badly and spent more than six months going for treatments and physical therapy.
I helped a close friend find a house near us and helped her move into it a month later.
We took a trip to North Carolina with some of Dad’s ashes.
Then it was Halloween. No kids came trick or treating so we ate all the candy ourselves.
Thanksgiving was at my aunt’s house, and we all drove down to spend the holiday together.
Our puppy turned one year old.
Christmas was just Mom and me and the doggo at home.
And then it was 2022.
I had seven writing projects in various stages, but nothing even close to completion, and I couldn’t make my brain work to write. At all. I sat at my desk and stared at the computer and drank coffee. I wrote words and then deleted them. I read over scenes I’d thought were good and found I hated every sentence.
I started feeling annoyed at my lack of progress. Then I was disappointed. Then I was angry.
Then I stopped going into my office at all.
Instead, I worked on my physical therapy and planted the garden and and avoided watching the news on television. Once every week or so, I spent time with a couple of close friends.
I tried to make plans for the future, but I couldn’t envision past a week at a time.
Then one day I started feeling better.
I still can’t get my mind to plan anything beyond the end of this year. Not yet. But for the first time since 2020, I am confident I’m back on track again.
My mindset is different from what it was three years ago. I give myself the grace of needing a pause on all those expectations I set for myself. I allow myself to let go of goals that don’t fit me anymore. I open myself to new opportunities, knowing that I am stronger and more capable after going through what I experienced. I don’t have to foresee every potential problem that might arise because I am confident I can flex and flow and overcome whatever happens.
And on those bad days, I know how to cope.
A friend of mine reminded me that it’s actually a completely normal reaction to be anxious in anxious times.
I’m still finding my feet. Some days are harder than others. Sometimes the noise of the world feels overwhelming. But I’ve learned to be okay with not having it all together all the time. I’ve learned to be patient with myself and give myself the same grace I’d give to others.
So if, like me, you’re feeling anxious and unsettled and unsure, know that you’re not alone. Millions of people are experiencing those feelings, many of them in silence. We each have our own reasons for our reactions to what we’ve been through. Allow yourself to feel it. Be patient with yourself. And know you can get through it.
I’m very excited to announce the second edition of Soar: Indie Author Business Planner, a 2020 Midwest Book Award Silver Medalist! Just in time to begin planning for 2023, with some tweaks to make this version even better than before. Organize your life, and make your writing career SOAR!
I think we can all agree this year has been the worst. I’m not going to list all the reasons. We all know them.
For me, however, the horrors of year have been overshadowed by my father’s illness. He was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a debilitating and incurable deadly lung disease, several years ago. At that time, he was told he had a life expectancy of three to five years. Now nearly 89 years old, he’s managed to defy those odds, and we are now in year eight. During that time, he continued his work as an optometrist, only retiring this spring because the virus made it impossible for him to safely continue seeing his patients.
Because of his illness, we’ve had to be extra careful. I’m his primary caregiver alongside my mother, and we’ve been on lockdown since March 12. We go nowhere. We see no one other than medical personnel. We wear masks constantly. My hands are permanently chapped from washing/sanitizing them. His condition has continued to worsen, and as of last week, he was placed on hospice. At this point, I think it unlikely Dad will get see the world return to normal.
Every single event I was scheduled to take part in this year was either canceled, postponed until 2021, or moved online, and that makes me profoundly sad. I love travel, meeting up with friends, making new ones, getting to talk about books, and celebrating the creative life. None of that was possible this year, at least face-to-face.
I also struggled with my writing productivity this year. I have ideas. Plenty of them. I’ve got seven outlines and manuscripts in various stages of completion. But finding dedicated writing time has been elusive, and my focus was so hard to keep all year long.
However, what is happening with my Dad would have happened this year regardless, so I would likely have had to put my work life on hold anyway.
I’m not saying any of this because I think my story is somehow worse than anyone else’s. The whole world is suffering right now. We all need to be gentler with one another. This year has taken so much from all of us.
But this year has also made me learn to change my gratitude scale. It’s much easier for me to have a good day.
A good day is one in which:
And there were a few AMAZING days as well.
Along the way, I learned:
While I won’t be sad to see this year behind us, I’m grateful for where I was able to spend it and for the people I spent it with.
I’m hopeful that next year will be an improvement. I wish for joy and reasons to laugh for all of us. May you find a more peaceful and loving world awaiting you in the time to come. And though this year has been the longest ever, may you find reasons to be grateful and the strength to overcome and thrive in the future. Let’s make the world a better, safer place for ourselves and the people we love.
Best wishes to you and yours.
I sat down to talk with Rachel Steele from my local radio station, KPIP, in an interview that aired today, April 27, 2020. In it, we discussed my vampire series, The Blood Royal Saga, and my progress on writing the fourth installment, Flesh And Blood.
I also have some exciting news to share about the two books I published through Eagle Heights Press in 2019!
I’m grateful and honored to have the recognition from both the Midwest Independent Publishers Association and the Independent Book Publishers Association.
The awards ceremonies will be online this year, and I’m looking forward to those events.
In addition, Sarah Read, who wrote the foreword for Dark Conjurings won a Bram Stoker Award™️ from the Horror Writers Association this spring for her First Novel, The Bone Weaver’s Orchard. If you haven’t read it yet, you’re in for a treat. She was also nominated for a 2020 Stoker Award for her short story collection, Out of Water. Congratulations to her! It’s so well deserved.
With bookstores and libraries closed and people needing an escape while they’re stuck at home, I’m making books more accessible to help during this difficult time.
Right now, ebooks of In The Blood are only $.99 until the end of May!
Also, ebooks of Dark Conjurings are only $.99 through the end of May as well.
This week, The Blood Royal Saga is featured on I Love Vampire Novels.
You can find an interview with me there, plus enter to win an autographed paperback. The giveaway ends May 3, 2020 11:45 pm CDT, so hurry to enter! And while you’re there, check out their exclusive group on Facebook, sign up for their newsletter, and follow them on social media so you never miss out on great deals and book reviews.
I hope you are all staying safe. Layla and Mustang Sally and I are hanging with the family at home. I’m reminding myself daily that boredom is good because boredom means we’re all healthy and safe. There’s no emergencies. I hope the same is true for you. And if you have to work because your job is essential, THANK YOU. THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU DO. Please know that you’re making a difference, and we are all safer because of you.
Much love to you and yours!
The last few months have been very introspective for me. Winter always is, but this one especially for reasons that are very personal.
I’ve always suffered from Seasonal Affected Disorder. If you look at my grade cards from childhood, third quarter was always a slog with notes about missed assignments and distracted behavior. And always when spring came, I rebounded. This year, I decided to try combatting those winter blues with light therapy, and it seems to have made a difference.
Still, it’s not just short days and long nights that got me down.
My parents are getting older, and it falls to me to take over things that they used to manage themselves in the past but for one reason or another those tasks are now too difficult for them to tackle. I don’t mind doing these jobs. After all, they took care of me when I was too young to do things for myself, so it seems only right that I should return the favor. However, it makes me melancholy to see that they’re less able. They’ve always been very active and spent most of my life going from project to project with undimmed enthusiasm. They built everything from boats to houses to furniture. They approached each challenge with excitement and pride in a job well done, and if there was a skill they hadn’t yet acquired, they studied until they were able to do the work and gain mastery in the task. In the past, I had an assistant role, following their direction and guidance. And while many would say that I have grown to be a very independent woman, still I feel unready to take the lead.
In December, my father expressed a deep desire to change the color of the back room that is my parents’ den. He’s not able to do the job himself, so unless we hired someone, the work was going to be my responsibility. I wanted to do it for them. But before I could paint the walls, I needed to do some repairs to the drywall that went beyond simple spackling. One of the seams had drywall tape that had buckled and was peeling loose. In order to fix that seam, I would have to cut the old tape out and then attempt the job of plastering and taping with new joint compound. It’s a job I had watched and done with help, but I’d never attempted the work on my own before. I found the prospect daunting, and even as I began the project, I heard my inner perfectionist telling me I would never get it right, that I wasn’t skilled enough to make the seam disappear. For a couple of weeks, I was immobilized with lack of confidence, procrastinating while I watched how to videos on YouTube and worrying that I’d only make a mess of the wall.
Then I finally realized that my parents weren’t always skilled at the jobs they tackled when I was growing up. They just did the work anyway and learned as they went. I had always thought of them as the experts and felt I needed to have constant handholding because I didn’t trust my own abilities to do the job to a standard they would be proud of. But as I applied the joint compound and sanded away imperfections in my work, I realized that the only person who would see the flaws was me. I didn’t have to be perfect. I only had to do my best and do the job with love.
The room is finished now. Mom and Dad love the way it turned out, and I’m pretty happy with it too. It isn’t perfect, but neither is life. My work doesn’t have to be perfect in order for me to be proud of having done it. I learned as I worked, and next time I have to do that sort of job I’ll be better at it. More importantly, I won’t be so hesitant to try something I don’t know how to do. I just have to remember that even if I don’t know how to do it yet, I can learn, and if I fail, I have still learned something. That’s a gift my parents gave me, and it will continue to bring me joy and satisfaction each time I try something new.
No, my parents aren’t able to do all the things they used to do. But I can see now that I’m far more able to step up and take over where they left off. All this time, I thought they were teaching me skills for specific tasks. But now I realize they taught me how to be brave enough to try even when I don’t know what to do, how to learn what I need to know, and how to enjoy the end result even when I know there are imperfections.
I’m slowly emerging from my dark days as the days gradually grow longer. Getting through it means being patient and kind to myself while I am struggling. I know once the weather warms, I will feel the resurgence of energy I’ve come to know so well each spring. When I do, I bring with it the knowledge that I have the strength to take on new challenges, and long after they’re no longer here to guide me, I’ll have those experiences to look back on and help guide me on my way forward. For that lesson, I am eternally grateful.
2019 is winding down to a close, and what a wild ride it has been!
In the last 12 months, I have:
Needless to say, professionally, this year has been nothing short of fantastic!
My personal life, however, has been full of stress. My father’s health isn’t what it once was, and he needs more help to get through his days. Migraines and Meniere’s Disease have slowed me down at times throughout the year. I’ve also lost nine friends and family members over the course of this year, and those losses have been difficult at times to bear. And we had a major project on the homefront, replacing our roof. This house was built in 1892, and up until this fall, no one had ever taken off the original cedar shingles. They had simply added another course of shingles on top of the old ones. Four layers of them were weighing our house down at a staggering 9000 pounds. All that has now been removed and replaced with new decking and shingles which has been guaranteed to last at least fifty years.
I had intended to publish two more novellas for some other writers and finish and publish Flesh and Blood: Book Four of The Blood Royal Saga by the end of this year, but given the stumbling blocks I’ve faced in my personal life, those projects have to be pushed back until the spring of 2020.
However, I’m still working diligently to make sure those projects come to fruition, and I’ve got a few more surprises as well that I’ll be announcing soon.
I’m grateful beyond measure for my friends who have joined me through my joys and journeys and supported me when I needed their strength. You are truly the best, and my life is so much better because you’re in it.
I’m honored to know and work with so many inspiring and interesting writers, artists, and creative folks and to have the opportunity to learn from and grow from our interactions both in person and online. You help me continue challenging myself in new ways and remind me that I’m not alone.
I am overwhelmed by all the opportunities that came my way this year. To those of you who gave me a hand up and who made a seat at the table for me and for my work, thank you, thank you, thank you. A thousand times, thank you. Because of you, I am changed for the better.
To the teachers I’ve met along this journey, both professional and personal, thank you for helping me grow in my craft and in my life. You have helped me understand what is possible and shown me where I want to go from here.
I’m also thankful for the readers who have enjoyed my work, supported my endeavors, followed and interacted with me on social media, subscribed to my blog, reached out to tell me they liked what I’m doing, and written reviews of things I’ve written. I am truly blessed and humbled. Thank you. I love you all.
Most of all, I’m grateful for my family who have been my rock throughout this year’s ups and downs. I owe you everything.
I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving and a joyful holiday season. I hope it is filled with laughter and love and many moments of gratitude.
Wishing you all the best!
I am thrilled to announce the release of Dark Conjurings: A Short Fiction Horror Anthology! With six dark tales, this anthology has something to please every reader this Halloween.
“Six gripping tales from new voices in horror and fantasy. Each story in this collection opens a window into a world of dark imaginings where nightmares stalk and shadows linger. Within these pages, you’ll find ghosts and ghouls, monsters and magic, murder and mayhem. Enter friend, but be cautious, lest you find yourself lost in these dark conjurings.”
Foreword by Sarah Read
Edited by Delia Remington
Cover and Interior Graphics by Cassy Crownover
Table of Contents:
This is my editorial debut, and I’m thrilled and proud of the work that went into it. Each of the authors breathes new life into classic tropes, deftly subverting reader expectations and providing surprises and chills along the way. The foreword by Sarah Read is a delight, showcasing the reasons why she is such a powerhouse of insight and creativity in the genre. And the cover design and interior graphic work by Cassy Crownover gives the entire collection a thematic cohesiveness I absolutely adore.
As for my own story contribution, “The Doctor and The Lady” depicts Mary Shelley as she conducts research vital to her horrific classic creation, Frankenstein, in a story that blends historical fiction and horror.
Available to purchase online at all the usual places, including:
If you prefer face-to-face purchases, copies are available at several independent bookstores, including:
And from the several Barnes & Noble locations, including:
Last month, I had the privilege of being interviewed by Paul Pepper for his local NPR/PBS show, “Radio Friends with Paul Pepper.” Our conversation was a lot of fun, and it was a pleasure to be on the show. Here’s the video clip from the interview.
On Wed. Aug. 28 at 8:50am, you can hear my interview with Paul Pepper on Columbia, Missouri’s NPR Station, 91 FM KBIA. It’ll also be available as a podcast download (https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/radio-friends-paul-pepper/id340253562?mt=2).
Our conversation was a lot of fun, talking about my books and all things vampire.