Update During Chaos

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Unless you’re living under a rock, I don’t have to tell you that the world is infirmed right now—at least, many of the people of the world are ill right now with Coronavirus or COVID-19. As of today, March 28, 2020, there are no positive cases in Dardanelle, AR, (or Yell County) where I live with my family.

Since March 17, my husband and I have been working from home, and our two children have been doing Alternative Method of Instruction (AMI) packets they received from their schools. We had spring break off from March 23-27, and then we’ll get back at it. That first week was chaotic, to say the least. Our kids were in pajamas all day long as we struggled to make things work. They got their work done, but there was no set schedule. They got bored, and my husband and I were busy working, so we couldn’t be their cruise directors—something we don’t want to do anyway.

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Boredom is the key to imagination. Kids who have the chance to get “bored” will have the chance to figure out things on their own. To help solve some of the problems we had during our first home school week, my husband and I created a loose schedule for our kids to keep them (and us) on track. One child is happy about it, and the other is not, but we’ll survive and adjust as needed. Basically, if we don’t have something, we’re all going to lose our minds, starting with me.

I have my own loose schedule for work anyway, and it helps me stay on task. I have licensing items, editorial, administrative, etc., in between all the meetings, which are now held via Cisco WebEx Teams. It works like Skype or Zoom, only it’s set up within our university to make things easier for us. My department works well virtually, so we’re all doing the best we can under strange circumstances.

Each day, I wake up and feel like I am in a dystopian novel…or perhaps a horror one. I chose the start of my “stay-cation” spring break to read Stephen King’s epic novel, The Stand, which is freaky as hell so far. I’ve been wanting to read it for a while but hadn’t ran across a used copy while thriftstore shopping before the “stay-at-home” directives, so I ordered it online through a link to support a local indie bookstore, Dog Ear Books, and had it delivered to my home. I figured, there was no time like the present to begin reading. I love King’s work, but I have to be in the right frame of mind to read one of his novels. They are well-written, but they are not easy reads for me. I read them much slower than other works because of their complexity and sometimes have to take a break and read a lighthearted novel while reading one of his to keep my sanity.

I won’t have as much time to read next week when work starts back, but I will likely still utilize my lunch breaks to read while I am eating. During vacation, I also gave myself a break from writing (thought I did write about 1000 words one night). I am working on my fourth novel, tentatively titled One Shot. I’m not in a huge hurry to finish it. Ideally, I’d like to have the first draft finished by the end of the summer, but I won’t hold myself to that. If I force myself to write when I don’t feel inspiration, I’ll write a bunch of fluff that will be a waste of time. I do much better when I wait for the inspiration to crank out thousands of words at a time. It will hit me when the time is write.

It’s taken me more than six months to get to 34,000 words, which is probably about the halfway point of this YA novel. I just wrote the the climatic scene of…just kidding…not giving away the climax of the story! I will likely feel like writing some during the evenings next week. I am churning through the ideas in my outline to finish up my story. I want to do the characters and their story the proper justice.

Of course, the current world events will likely alter the timeline of my store, which was supposed to be set in this current year. I might back it up four years or so to have an election year that isn’t so crazy—if that’s even possible in the U.S. political system. I don’t want to get started on that topic,  except for in the fictional world of my novel where the main characters’ father is a presidential candidate, though I won’t mention for which party because it isn’t important to the story, which involves blackmail and kidnapping.

In the meantime, the introvert in me is loving the time at home. At the same time, I am trying to avoid losing my mind. Just knowing that I can’t really get up and go browse books at the library is driving me insane. I get so much inspiration from the world around me, even if I am not “active” in my interaction with it if that makes sense. I listen to the people around me. I watch the people around me. I like being part of the world, no matter how small. I like going to the physical grocery store to get the supplies my family needs. While I can and will do that, I am only making essential trips and making them as quick as possible. I go with an exact list and don’t browse for sales or mess with coupons right now. Now, I go in, grab what I need (if I can find it) and get the hell out of there.

I try to reassure my kids that everything is going to be okay. I lie to them, because I don’t know that everything will be okay. All I can do is take every precaution and pray for our family and our world. I try to keep my kids from being scared because it’s my job to be scared for all of us, not theirs. I will gladly take on all the worry for them to keep their little minds happy for now. And I am scared.

But, life is all about balance. I try to balance my fear with my intelligence. Worrying won’t stop the damn virus, but it will make me more cautious to do everything in my power to protect my family. That means my kiddos are on lockdown until further notice. It’s all I can do to protect them. Jonathan or I leave the house only for food, medicine, or other essentials. We wash and sanitize our hands (not that we weren’t always washing our hands) with gusto and pray for our health.

In good news, I offered my novels free for five days on Kindle to do my part to offer something for people stuck at home who might need things to read but have limited funds. Because of this, Caroline’s Lighthouse reached bestseller status in the top 100s in one category. I took a screenshot for proof because these things change frequently.

What I Learned That Summer also reached bestseller status in the top 100s in one category.

Jordan’s Sister had several downloads as well, but the category for it is more saturated. While I make no royalties from the free downloads, I do hope to gain more readers and more reviews. We authors rely on these to sell books. More than anything, I hope to give readers a distraction from the chaos of the world. I want readers to fall in love with my characters and their stories.

I wish peace and health to everyone reading this and to their family and friends.

-Brandi Easterling Collins

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