Hi, all! How are you? I know you can’t see me, but I am waving madly at you all from my home in Somerville, Massachusetts.  

As I write this, Gov. Baker of Massachusetts is extending the stay-at-home advisory from May 4 to May 15. This isn’t a surprise – it looks like we may have flattened the curve, but we’re still going at a level of approximately 1,700 new cases and at least 100 deaths per day here. If anything it’s a relief.I want sensible, science-based decisions. I want us all to be safe.

Thisbe sheltering in place.

That doesn’t mean I’m not missing so so much of what i fondly think of as the real world. Malice Domestic, for example, was supposed to start this weekend. Malice, as its fondly abbreviated, is the annual gathering of traditional (aka “cozy”) authoThirs and fans for four days of panels, chats, a bang-up banquet, and a traditional closing tea, at which almost everyone sports the most amazing hats. It’s a joyful rite of spring, a chance to greet friends. It’s also run by volunteers who work their butts off. And while I applaud their wisdom and caring in cancelling this year’s festivities, I am sorry. Here’s hoping that everyone stays safe and well and we can gather next year!

I ‘m also missing my usual writing rigor. Back in the pre-COVID days, I’d think nothing of daily word count minimums of 1,500 words a day (or more). Often I’d whiz past them, making myself stop at some tense point so the next day’s writing would kick off with a bang. These days, I’m pushing myself to write 750 (“it’s the new 1,000 words,” I told a friend). And my plotting/planning brain? Well, let’s just say I’m going to have to do a lot of revising.

I know I’m not alone in this. I’ve been lucky enough (at least until recently) to still have some freelance work, and that included covering several Zoom panels hosted by Harvard’s TH Chan School of Public Health on COVID-related stress and insomnia. I also just read an article naming the exhaustion from ongoing stress: allostatic load or, really, overload.

I find I’m visualizing my current state as an iceberg. Usually, I figure, our conscious thought process is that tip of the iceberg – the bit above the surface. The huge majority of the ice, beneath the surface, is the unconscious or semi-conscious, where all our dreams take place. That, I believe, is also where a lot of our creativity comes from – those connections that (used to) hit me in the shower or on a long walk. The “of course! She finds the weapon in the shrubbery because the murderer was the gardener!” moments. Now, however, our internal seas are so riled up that even as we are apparently coping, our underwater bits are in a state of constant screaming. The static of panic is taking up the space where our inspiration usually flourish.

So, to further mix my metaphors, how to weed that garden, or at least till the soil? Well, for me, daily discipline is a tonic. I may not be writing a good 750 words, but I am writing them. And I’ve also just completed a short story, which cheered me immensely (that I got it done, not that it’s that brilliant). As I emerge from the initial shock, I’m also signing up for online readings and events – please join me for a reading and book chat on Tuesday, May 12 at 5p.m. EST for a Teatime Reading and possibly a virtual Noir at the Bar later in the month (probably Wednesday, May 27, but please check my events page closer to). I may even have some book news soon.

Is this our new normal? I don’t want it to be. But I’m carrying on and very much hope you are as well. Would you like to share your stories with me? I’d love to hear them. Not as much as I’d love see you all, of course. Till then, my friends, stay safe. Take care of yourselves and those you love. We will meet again.