COVID, Friendship, Writing, and Books: We’re better

It’s official — as of yesterday, I can smell the cinnamon in my oatmeal and taste hot chocolate — hurrah! Smelling flowers is uplifting — but no longer worrying that I could be snuffed out by toxic air or spoiled food? — mega-hallelujah!

Senses, mwah and mwah! Please don’t ever leave me again! Here’s to hoping that a benefit of COVID will be more research spent to help all who have limited abilities to smell or taste…

Illness is dreadful, but now that I’m securely on the other end of it, I see it provided me some upsides. For one thing, it’s reminded me how beyond-lottery-winner-fortunate I’ve always been in regards to wonderful friends — and that includes you, dear reader. Most strangers are merely people we haven’t yet had the opportunity to become friends with, no?

Besides appreciating the kindness of pals and soon-pals, I wish I could say I completed extensive writing on my “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat” and “Tango & the Sitting Cat” novels, but my writing energy was nowhere to be found.

However, sitting and lying about  enabled me to do some reading. Without revealing plot points, here are my reviews of four books I’ve just finished. When I review books I appreciate, I notify the authors. Occasionally they email me back 🙂

Cover of "Earthlings" by Sayaka Murata

Earthlings: A Novel by Sayaka Murata

Pardon the gray matter, but my brain just exploded. This book is like nothing I’ve ever read before — and I read a lot of books and genres.

Picture Sayaka Murata’s earlier book, “Convenience Store Woman,” as a string of firecrackers that cleverly illuminates how soul-sucking capitalism can be. “Earthlings” is akin to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, when 80,000 people vanished in the blink of an eye and 200,000 mostly civilians perished.

Equal parts sci-fi, reality, magical realism, comedy, horror, satire, and gore, she says this is her other-worldly response to a Japanese health minister’s announcement. In 2007, he said, “The number of women aged between 15 and 50 is fixed. Because the number of birth-giving machines and devices is fixed, all we can do is ask them to do their best per head … although it may not be so appropriate to call them machines.”

Granted, there are beaucoup reasons “Earthlings” isn’t for everyone — but I have no time for those who’re simply offended that the story isn’t as cutesy as the iconically Japanese cover. The same goes for reviewers who lament the dearth of “likable” characters. For Murata, no one is all-good or all-bad, and no gender or age has it easy. Surely when Murata named an essential character “Yuu,” she knew the meaning of “you” in English.

Cover of "Friendshipping: The Art of Finding Friends, Being Friends, and Keeping Friends" by Jenn Bane and Trin Garritano

Friendshipping: The Art of Finding Friends, Being Friends, and Keeping Friends by Jenn Bane and Trin Garritano

This is a wise and chatty culmination of what the authors learned as co-hosts of their “Friendshipping” podcast. Their mantra: “Friendship is a skill.” Indeed, it’s one that merits continual honing, for which they offer great suggestions.

Cover of "The Listening Path: the Creative Art of Attention" by Julia Cameron

The Listening Path: the Creative Art of Attention by Julia Cameron

Julia Cameron’s 12-week manual, “The Artist’s Way: a Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity,” is ultra groundbreaking to creatives of any ilk. Each non-fiction book Cameron has published since then reiterates much of her original teachings — but for me, the repetition often works. This newest text is a 6-week DIY course that emphasizes the value of listening to each other, our environment, and ourselves.

Cover of "The 90-Day Novel" by Alan Watt

The 90-Day Novel: Unlock the Story Within by Alan Watt

Good chance Julia Cameron fans will enjoy this, given that there are a few similarities. If Cameron doesn’t resonate, you still may find this bread-crumbs/inside-to-out writing approach useful.

Are you reading or writing lately?

1st podcast!! + D. Sharpe’s Sci-Fi “Another Day in the Twilight Zone”

This is an exciting post for me because — hurrah! — today you’ll listen to my first ever podcast!

Please help make it a success by subscribing to it, sharing it, commenting on it, and liking it.

https://youtu.be/LG91OXR95tE

Tale-telling has been around for eons, yet we can never get enough of stories. Drawings to hieroglyphs, scribes to printing presses, photography to film to radio to TV… am I leaving anything out?

Enter podcasts! Do you listen to any that are dedicated to novels? If you do, how did you learn of them chose, and how do you listen to them?

I’m asking because eventually, hopefully, sooner than later, I’ll podcast my novels, starting with “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat.” With that as my plan, I’ve spent the last several weeks of my ‘sheltering in place time’ taking an internet class on podcasting. It’s offered online with a professional Gale Courses teacher at the other end — for free! Thank you, Los Angeles County Library, for which I’ve sung the praises of numerous times, most prominently here and here.

Perhaps you have a podcast of your own? If you do, share your hands-on insights: your do’s, your don’ts, your money-making tips, your platforms, and what has worked best for you, especially when it comes to getting people to listen.

The class I took recommending starting with Podbean as a podcast host. In addition to that, I’ve uploaded this first-ever of mine to Youtube. I’ve already got an account there for the shorts I’ve featured already like this baby chick one and this amazing cat one. Plus, Youtube commands a heck of a lot of traffic.

My first podcast guest is Dwayne Sharpe. He’s the generous member of a local library writing group. I’d only just discovered it in real life — but— that was right before the COVID19 crisis knocked us sideways. First, we bumbled about with convoluted email lists. Recently, fingers crossed that we haven’t already lost all our members — we’re experimenting with Facebook.

All that aside — back to Dwayne. As far as I’m concerned, prolific is his middle name. He’s written scores of tales, and he’s published two books. One is called “Thomas’ 100 Cat Tales,” and the other is “Blaze Mysteries,” both available at Amazon.

Listen to Dwayne perform his chilling short story, “Another Day in the Twilight Zone,” for the podcast. Here’s a player for just the audio. Below it, you can also read the tale…

Dwayne Sharpe Dwayne Sharpe

“Another Day in the Twilight Zone,” a short story by Dwayne Sharpe

Wow! The sun is shining, and a few cumulus clouds drift around the morning sky. Dressed in a light sweater, I venture out. The need to stretch the legs fills me with energy to bound down the steps and take a deep breath. The concrete walkways entice my exploration traits as I trudge north, then west in a zig-zag pattern of streets and alleyways. Time has no meaning while the feet are moving, now east, and again north.

Where is everyone? My journey passed many homes and a few businesses, but no one in sight. Nary a vehicle is heard, only a few birds. I begin a closer inspection of the houses I pass, seeking movement behind curtains and blinds. Surely a child’s scream of laughter will break the silence. A breeze causes a few leaves to bristle, nothing substantial.

A pocket park lies ahead. Surely there will be kids playing on the swings or giggling down a slide. Alas, the park is empty, not even a dog walker. The picnic table sits empty, with an inviting BBQ standing next to it. I take the path where a sign reads, “Quarter-mile fitness walk.” Pine trees stand guard along the narrow gravel path. A pine cone lies in wait for me, and a swift kick sends it along.

The sun has moved behind darkening clouds, and a chilly wind has begun to blow. I travel south, then east, a different thoroughfare than before, hope fills my mind of seeing someone, anyone. Cars parked alongside the curb, abandoned, gasoline no longer available. Leaves piled up around the wheels. Weeds have grown tall, replacing the lush green grass of years past.

Today’s expedition ends as I approach the only house on the block, free of tall weeds. A weathered sign in my yard reads, “We are all in this together.” I inspect the sign and look up and down my block. There is no one left to speak these words to. I pull the picket sign and toss it into the growing pile of debris. Not even the sanitation engineers will come. Am I the last person alive?

About Dwayne Sharpe: In addition to his books listed above, he’s written over 50 short stories in subjects including Love, Crime, Adventure, and Fantasy. His hobbies include genealogy and geocaching. He lives with his wife in Long Beach, California. (Learn about geocaching here and here.)

Please support my 1st podcast ever by sharing, subscribing, liking, and commenting… And tell us about your experiences with podcasts for fiction books…

COVID19 Gratitude?! Plus I’m working on my 1st podcast ever! by da-AL

Podcast photo of da-AL with K-D for Happiness Between Tails.
We’re hard at work on an upcoming podcast for you to enjoy!…

“Stay safe.” How many times a day do you hear that? During this COVID19 era, whether the conversation is for business or pleasure, the majority of mine end with someone telling me, “Stay safe.” Then I ask them to do the same.

Here in Los Angeles, weeks have turn into months. No complaints from me, proud of the liberal blueness of my state as I am. Assuming folks remind me to ‘stay safe’ at home with super-clean hands, for my part, I mean something different. Stay safe, dear reader — stay safely happy as well as healthy.

Now that we’re on the subject, how are you managing that? Me, I do my usual keeping busy. Let me preface that with: it’s easy for me. I am most definitely lucky, lucky, lucky. I’ve got food, shelter, and all my people are sound inside and out. That includes my four-legged furry little girl. And I live in an area where Spring has sprung amid a fabulously mild climate.

Recently I heard that sheltering has affected dogs (surely the menagerie of other beloved pets too) — in a good way! It turns out that at least one doggie needed vet-prescribed relaxation to recover from wagging their tail so much. Ah, the sheer bliss of having one’s person(s) home ‘round the clock, ‘round the week!

My heart goes out to everyone who struggles as a result of the pandemic. Thank you, all who are working away from home. You are my heroes.

But I feel guilty. You too? Because for as terrible as the situation is…

These are some of the gifts that I will miss when sheltering is over…

  1. I live within walking distance from a commuter airport, and my home has single-paned windows. Fewer flights mean I’ve been sleeping better and now I hear more birds in the daytime.
  2. Though I didn’t eat out much even before the sheltering, stocking up for two weeks at a time takes rethinking errands and cooking. That’s not so bad — I’m finding that shopping far less often leaves me more time to write, to walk, to do all kinds of things.
  3. Nature too is getting a ‘reboot.’ Fewer drivers result in cleaner air, more birds singing this spring-time, and less road-kill. It’s nice to look up to a night sky of more twinkling stars, fewer airplanes.
  4. It’s lovely to see neighbors I never knew. They ride their bikes past my window, their kids following like ducklings.
  5. More pets are out with their owners. On my strolls, dog in tow or not, it’s a relief to not worry about rush-hour traffic mowing us down.
  6. People are adopting more pets!
  7. My expenses are down. Since this started, I haven’t needed to put gas in my car.
  8. I have less laundry and buy fewer clothes I haven’t gotten my hair styled, and I definitely use fewer cosmetics.
  9. My rare drives are a breeze in the reduced traffic.
  10. Definitely, it would be great to see my friends and family in person soon. On the other hand, with all this extra time, we’re keeping in closer contact thanks to Zoom and FaceTiming. Moreover, visual visits require us to really pay attention to each other.
  11. When I had my annual physical, speaking with my doctor didn’t cost me a co-pay, as it was a phone visit.
  12. Without the commute to parties and my beloved yoga studio, I’m keeping fitter with fewer days of over-indulgence and the daily zoom workouts.
  13. My husband is whiling away his extra time by assuming much of the grocery shopping and cooking duties.
  14. For all anyone knows, I’ve got a mustache and mask-tan lines on face — but I won’t tell!

Apparently, I’m not the only one who feels this way. When I asked my Facebook friends, they had plenty they appreciated. I forgot to ask permission to name them, so I’ll paraphrase. Some are exercising to videos and glad for more time to cook, garden, create art, and to watch old and new favorite TV shows. Personally, I’m totally on the same page as the friend who’s binging on “Monk” shows. Even my local newspaper, The Long Beach Post News’ columnist Tim Grobaty, reports some good fallout from all the pollution slow-down.

Need some self-soothing boosts? Here are three f-r-e-e apps that help me — this one from Australia, this one through a company that also features free mind games, and this one that utilizes tapping.

People are grateful for…

  1. Time to enjoy flowers.
  2. Along a beach on Lake Huron, Canada, the sky is breathtaking… clean, clear days and inky nights with exuberant stars.
  3. I’m using less gas, and I love how gasoline prices have dropped.
  4. Less traffic is excellent for motorcycling.
  5. Now I have time to practice meditation.
  6. Now there are a lot of swans at my park.
  7. I’ve got more time to garden. The clean air and bright sun are lovely on my walks with my dogs.
  8. I’ve taught myself new line dances as I practice in my kitchen!
  9. As a baking enthusiast, I’m taking cakes to friends stuck at home.
  10. I don’t like that I still have to go to work, but it’s nice to see others spending more time with their children.
  11. This is giving everyone a chance to reevaluate their priorities.
  12. My cat has more time to sit on me.
  13. My blood pressure is way down.
  14. I’m feeling more relaxed and healthier than I have in years.

What’ll you miss once the pandemic is over? Are there any gifts you’re determined to maintain?

More of Happiness Between Tails posts regarding the current crisis are here and here and here and here and here and here and here.

Now about my first podcast — I’m hard at work on it! It’ll be ready for your listening pleasure soon!