Thursday, December 15, 2016

My Year in Review

I seldom pause between years to reflect on the things that happened , but this year I will take a moment and look back on 2016 before it draws to a close:
    I self published my 2015 NaNo novel Life Skills, a contemporary novel set in the Portsmouth/Hampton Beach/Rye area of NH. It's about two damaged young people who find a common thread in their lives that binds them. Together they forge a path out of the past and into a happier future.
    I was in conversation with a publisher that helps authors self-publish, had a novel written, had some money to get things rolling...and then John's mother passed away at the end of the month.
    MassMutual eliminated over 300 jobs and John's job was among those they got rid of. 5/6 of our income vanished. Life changed drastically.
     John struggling with depression over the loss of his mother and the loss of his job for the past 32 or so years. He attended job counseling sessions that were basically useless. My plans for a more professionally self-published book were shoved so far onto the back burner there was no heat whatsoever left. We needed the money to remain in the bank for living expenses because the job market more or less sucks for people in their late 50's.
     Had a rather dismal 58th birthday but was writing Black King Takes White Queen. Also got myself invited to be one of the local authors at the Artworks event on April 30th here in town. It was my first public appearance as an author. Made some valuable contacts and sold a couple books.
     John got himself on unemployment but the amount they were giving him was less than two weeks salary he'd been making, but it helped pay bills. Edited Black King Takes White Queen. We lost our dental insurance and had to COBRA our health insurance. Kelly had to scramble to get onto her employer's health and dental plans because her father had figured he'd still have a job and she could stay on our insurance until she was 26. I had wanted her to get her own insurance, but she listened to him and was without health insurance for two months for not taking her mother's advice.
     Was one of 10 local authors at the Agawam Public Library's READ LOCA; event. Again, met some other authors and made some valuable contacts. Sold a couple books and donated two to the library. Kelly turned 25 at the end of the month. Black King Takes White Queen was self published using CreateSpace.
      Miserable, long, hot, dry summer. Continued to get up and go to work through RA flares because we could not afford to not have me work. John still looking for work. Contacted Bookclub Bookstore and more! about holding an author event in the Westfield store. Began attending Artworks meetings as a general member representing the literary arts in Westfield.
      More of the same. Was given October 8th as my author event date for Miss Peculiar's Haunting Tales, Volume I. Began attending author events as time allowed at the bookstore.
     Attended Gerald McFarland's author event for A Scattered People. Met a number of local authors and began to form some friendships with them. Was introduced to mystery author Russell Atwood and invited to participate in his upcoming event, Ghost Stories LIVE! Halloween on October 29th.
Also met authors Katherine Anderson, Mike Walsh, and Melissa Volker among others.
     Had my first solo author event on the 8th at the renamed Blue Umbrella Books store. It was a little nerve wracking but my main support group was there. Later in the month I read The Hour of Phantoms at Ghost Stories LIVE! Halloween. That was a fun event. My brother got up and told a real life ghost story at the end of it. Am beginning to be recognized by a certain group of people- those involved in Artworks and Westfield on Weekends plus bookstore regulars. A strange thing that is for a rather private person.
    John's had some interviews but companies are in no rush to hire anyone. Extremely frustrating as his unemployment ran out this month so we're living on my pay checks. I have not had a raise in three years and Christmas bonuses stopped, too. My health is shaky at best...don't have the energy and stamina I used to have. Just thinking about trying to find a better paying job is overwhelming. Working on a new compilation of haunting stories titled 13. Took a brief vacation in Maine just to get away from all the stress. Kelly was able to go with us Decided to  remix Christmas stories putting the very best of them into one volume...but too late in the year for that to go anywhere-so it's tabled. It was NaNoWriMo month so I had to concentrate on my NaNo novel, the sequel to Black King Takes White Queen- Black Knight, White Rook. Held two NaNo write-ins at Blue Umbrella Books and met another area writer, Bree. Completed my novel in 22 days with 4 days taken to write notes on what I'd already written. Wrote 105,542 words in 22 days. Winner for the fifth year in a row! Yea! Kicking around the idea of a second Artworks event in 2017. Kelly said she'd like to buy a house next year. Added two antique charmstrings to my collection. Both need cleaning but that will have to wait. Had a molar pulled a week after breaking it- took three and a half weeks to get through the pain of that difficult extraction. Just took Tylenol Extra Strength- I survived. See too many opioid abusers in my line of work- do not want to be like them. As a doctor once told John, "Pain builds character." I'm just loaded with character these days. My 2 year old RAV4 to Toyota Service due to mouse invasion. Has been there since the 10th.
    Lost ten pounds, dropped my A1C to 6.1 and stopped taking metformin. Controlling my diabetes with exercise and diet. Went to the Images of Westfield art show, ran into Russell and was told I'm a member of the Ghost Stories LIVE! cast and I could write something or read something at the December 17th Yuletide edition event at the bookstore. Went home and thought about ghosts and wrote a story the next day about an angry ghost in the attic of a Victorian house under restoration/renovation who drives a young mother and her daughter out in the middle of the night. Not quite what I wanted. So, next wrote A Christmas Séance about  group of people getting together with a Slavic medium and her creepy little assistant to try to summon the ghost of the young lady's beau who had been about to propose to her when he was thrown off a bridge and drowned. Spooky things happen and when the candle is relit MURDER is written across the young man's brother's forehead. He flees. The gaslight is lit and they find the word MURDER written across the other young man in attendance's forehead. The words on both these men's forehead eventually dissipate. The young lady is upset. She and her mother leave in an open carriage. As they pass a gas street lamp a gust of wind blows the mother's cloak hood back to reveal the word MURDER on her forehead! Too long. Next wrote about an elderly man, a hoarder, getting ready for bed, talking to his dog. They go to bed, the dog barks, waking him up, alerting him to a fire in the kitchen of the house. The man is disoriented in the dark and smoke. The dog leads him to the front door where he manages to escape. He collapses on the front walkway. From the hospital he goes to a rehab facility where his daughter visits him. The dog is with him- only it turns out the dog passed away three years ago. Again, too long. Next wrote The Little Gray Ghost about a cemetery worker who has a ghostly encounter when working late digging a grave. Have tweaked it a few times this week to make it darker, more Victorian & atmospheric. Under 2000 words- doable. This is the one I'll be reading this Saturday. Looking forward to this event. Had some fun Christmas shopping with my best friend last Saturday afternoon, but otherwise I have little Christmas spirit this year and no motivation to shop or even wrap the few gifts I've managed to get. My RAV$ is still at Toyota Service all in pieces, but some progress has been made after a month of frustration with rotating insurance adjusters who couldn't manage to coordinate a meeting with the one person at Balise who specializes in mouse invasion cases. You wouldn't think that would be too hard, but evidently it took a month to accomplish. The staggering cost of living in the woods and not having a garage for one's car- $9300. And that doesn't include the cost of a rental for 6 weeks or more, which is also covered y the insurance for $30/day. I no longer think field mice are cute. Luckily we have auto insurance that does cover mouse invasion. Many car insurances don't! Work is crazy busy, I'm still editing my NaNo novel. Feel tired and overwhelmed still. We did put up the tree on the 4th, but didn't do anywhere near as much decorating as in years past. John's father was in the hospital for a few days. He's 95 now.
  In conclusion- we're still struggling with John's loss of his job, getting frustrated and discouraged by the lack of jobs out there in his field, and how lackadaisical companies are in regards to interviewing people and getting back to them. I'm making some progress with my writing but didn't get anywhere close to where I really wanted to be by the end of this year. Some sales at Blue Umbrella Books each month. I have an amazing group of acquaintances and friends who have kept me going this year when I've just wanted to walk away from everything in disgust and disappointment.
   Hoping 2017 will be better...but the world is a crazy place these days and this country is following suit. Don't know what's going to happen next...guess we'll just have to wait and see.

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