The pandemic has been a life-altering experience for us all. In my case, it pitched me from an extroverted, high-energy life into a near hermit-like existence of contemplation and reassessment. There were times over the last ten months when I thought I might go nuts if I wasn't able to head out for live music, dancing, and a few cocktails. But somewhere along the way, about three months ago, something in me shifted. The forced isolation and the space and time to think about what mattered most to me—not to mention how I wanted to spend the hours I have left in my life— settled around me like a favorite fleece blanket. The quiet in my brain helped me hear all sorts of questions I had not let myself examine through many decades of life. I grew imminently content with my solitude and my mind began to wander back into the imaginary worlds I've created over the arc of my three series. I revisited my characters, got to know them a little better—and begin to wonder what I wanted to do next in terms of my writing career.
The decision was made for me when fate and serendipity conspired with many factors spun off by the pandemic. All of which means this: As of January 6, for the first time in my life, I will be able to concentrate solely on writing my books. This is a joy and a gift I have never let myself have that before. I've been working since I was ten years old, when I began babysitting at the coveted rate of 50 cents an hour to earn the money to buy my own clothes. I then worked in an office all through high school, waited tables to pay my way through college, and began a hardcore career in marketing and communications after graduation—even as I struggled to find the time to write my books. I’ve led a high octane, over-scheduled life ever since. I told myself I needed the camaraderie of people in the workforce to satisfy my extrovert impulses as well as time alone to explore and understand the world though my writing. But now I think it's more likely I just needed the adrenaline of having too much to do. Like a junkie, I needed a fix. I would dare each day to throw much as possible at me and then proceed to tackle it all. Besides, who has time for regrets or second guessing life choices when it’s always damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead?
I'm not sure that this approach served me or my writing well. In spite of myself, I managed to write 16 books, all while juggling a full-time career and being a single mom. I'm proud of what I have accomplished in all of those areas and I would never have signed my name to a book unless I felt it was the best it could be. But now, I find myself exhausted just thinking of my former life. I find myself wanting to give my writing the honor it is due. It is a privilege to be able to write and, most of all, to know that there are other people out there willing to read what I have to say. It’s time to acknowledge that.
It has been a heady experience approaching this moment, and I will admit that the future is a bit daunting. It's easy to have ideas, it's fun to sketch out plots, it's a blast to take your characters and envision futures for them. But it is hard work to sit down and pour it forth on paper, day after day, consistently enough to create an entire book before you lose the thread of why you started it in the first place. Knowing this, I also knew that I needed to choose my next steps carefully.
I began by acknowledging that I am someone who needs to finish what they start. I have a standalone novel in progress and I'm working on that now, giving it the time that it needs to be what I want it to be. But I also want to continue at least one of my series immediately, in part so that all my readers, for whom I am deeply grateful, stay with me as I make this transition. So, I took a hard look at my three series against the backdrop of present life. I love Kevin Fahey of the Dead Detective series, but right now, in this era of existential crisis, I'm not sure I want to live with him long enough to write a new book. I then took a look at Casey Jones, who makes me laugh and gives me strength. But her tendency to kick ass and ask questions later seemed a little tone deaf to all we are going through right now. To my astonishment, the answer emerged from somewhere within my fevered imagination: it was time to revisit my very first and most gentle of series, Hubbert & Lil. What began with this idea has quickly turned into an obsession. This month, I embarked on a new book in that series that will see TS Hubbert and Auntie Lil leave New York City and journey to a retirement community where cultures and egos will clash to the merriment of all. That, I think, is what the world need right now. And I know it’s what I need.
If you have never read my Hubbert & Lil series, it is definitely a cozy series, full of innocuous humor recognizing the absurdities of life and acknowledging that appreciating them can help you get through it all with a smile on your face. This was a lesson I learned from my large and raucous family. Whatever else we were going through, not one of us ever lost our sense of humor about the vagaries of life or our ability to make fun of ourselves. I brought that same sensibility into the writing of my first series and I am returning now to where I started. Ironically, I have come full circle. But the pandemic has also given me a lot to think about as I sit on my back deck, watching the twilight descend on the forest that surrounds me on all sides. I have come to the conclusion that life often gets in the way of who we are and what we really want. The obligations, the scheduling, the reactions to the people, events, noise, and entertainment around us? It all pulls you away from who you are. In fact, it's easy to go a whole life spinning ever further out into the world and ever further away from yourself. I think one way to return to that inner core, sometimes at least, is to return to a time when you were younger, when life was simpler, when you were guided by your instincts rather than reactions or ambitions, and when what you wanted out of life was pure.
Besides, in this first series of mine, I wanted to show that it was possible for people who are quite different on the surface to come together, to get along, to love and respect one another, and to laugh no matter how many challenges life brings. I wanted to show that everyone has worth, no matter how different they may be from the people around us. And if that's not a message for today, I don't know what is. If bringing some gentle humor into the world isn't what we all need right now, then I don't know what we do need. So, please, do stick with me as I embark on this latest Hubbert & Lil.
As part of this journey, I will be feeding this blog regularly for the first time ever. Look for posts here weekly and, if you have not yet tried out all of my series, please check them out and let me know which one is your favorite. Use the Comments section to ask me any questions that you like, and I will do my best to answer them. Finally, to subscribe to this blog and a very occasional email newsletter (if I can get my act together enough to pull that off) please sign up using the form at the bottom of this page. I think that we can get through this pandemic and what life brings next together—and I hope that I can help by adding a little humor to the mix.