Friday, March 25, 2022

The Monday Night Zoom Boys


HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: The crazed promo person in my brain is insisting I call this Guy-Day Friday! But that’s so silly. So I won’t do it.

But what a wonderful guest we have today: The truly brilliant Charles Salzberg not only brings us the power of his positive thinking, but a positively wonderful event that emerged and bloomed from the pandemic – – yes, a good thing!

Here’s how, with a little help from his friends, Charles found a silver lining in the pandemic. And the friends did too. And as the pandemic wanes (we hope)-- these fab “five guys“ are only beginning their adventures.

(And he has a new book! Keep reading. Because there's a giveaway! )

How the Pandemic Saved My Life (Kind of…)

by Charles Salzberg




When the pandemic hit two years ago and we were ordered to shelter at home, most people became anxious, wondering how they could, in this new world order, shelter in place, day after day, night after night.


Not me.

As a writer, staying home not only wasn’t a problem, it was a gift from the gods. And so, when friends asked, “how are you doing?” My guilt-ridden answer was, “fine.” But in truth, it was way better than fine. It was giving me permission to do something I’d been rehearsing for all my life.

When I was in my 20s, knowing I wanted to be a writer but struggling to decide how I was going to make a living, I scored a job at New York magazine, working in the mailroom. I loved magazines and despite not knowing what editors actually did all day, I thought I could put the only marketable skill I had to good use by becoming a magazine editor. And this, I was told, was a good to start from. But after a week or so of stamping, sorting and delivering mail, I didn’t see my future sitting in an office all day. And so, after a mere three months, I did something that in hindsight was not only downright foolish, but irresponsible. Without having any idea how I would pay the rent, and put food on the table, I quit, and declared myself, without having sold a word, a “freelance writer.”

Fortunately, the dumb luck of the stupid kicked in. Almost immediately after quitting, I sold two articles. One to New York magazine, the other to The Daily News Sunday Magazine. It wasn’t much, totaling a little more than $1,000, but it was enough to make me think I could make it living the life of a freelance writer which, as the winter weather became worse and worse, became more and more appealing. I’d never have to wear a tie and jacket. I wouldn’t have to go out in bad weather unless I wanted to. I could rise whenever I wanted. I could sleep whenever I wanted. No longer would I suffer the “Sunday night blues,” anticipating I’d have to go to work the next day. No nine to five for me, baby. That was for suckers. Instead, I could work whenever I wanted, morning, afternoon, or night.

Then, because of the pandemic, I was ordered to stay home. Was I bored? Absolutely not. Almost forty years of practice gave me a pretty good head start on the rest of you.

There was plenty to keep me busy. Netflix, HBO-Max, Prime, Hulu, Apple-TV, and a host of other streaming services. I discovered true crime podcasts. I read at least a couple books a week. I took long walks with friends. I even Zoomed my weekly lunches with my good friend, Ross Klavan. Instead of having to travel to where I taught writing classes, I Zoomed my classes from my dining room table, revealing other perks: I didn’t have to wear pants. Or shoes. The travel time to work was cut from 20 minutes to as long as it took me to get from my living room to my dining area. And when class was over, no problem. I was already home.

Let’s face it, I was living la bella vita.



As if that wasn’t good enough, there was one other unanticipated bonus that came from those many months of social isolation.
Every Monday night I Zoomed (a noun became a verb) with four other crime writers: Reed Farrel Coleman (center of photo), Tom Straw, Matt Goldman (left) and Michael Wiley. And even though we were spread out across the country—I’m in New York City, Reed in the outer reaches of Long Island, Mike in Florida, Tom in Connecticut, and Matt in Minneapolis. But for an hour and a half every Monday night, we were in the same room.

Every Monday night, a few minutes before 7 p.m., I’d set up shop in front of my dining table and for the next hour and a half, I had the time of my life. After all, these guys weren’t just crime writers. They’d all lived very interesting lives. Tom and Matt are also very successful sitcom writers. Matt worked on Seinfeld, The New Adventures of Old Christine and a bunch of other hit shows; Tom worked on Night Court, the Craig Ferguson Show, Grace Under Fire, and Nurse Jackie, and others. Reed has held a number of interesting jobs, while my background as a magazine journalist and nonfiction book writer, dovetailed very nicely with this diverse group.

The conversation ranged all over the map. What we were reading. What we were writing. What we were watching. Anecdotes from our past lives. Whatever happened to be in the news, other than the pandemic and politics. After all, we were there to have fun, to make human connections in troubled times, not deal with the news which seemed to get worse and worse.

And fun we had. In fact, we got along so well that we promised ourselves that when we’d all been vaccinated, we’d take a trip together.


So, last May, after we’d all had our second dose of the vaccine, the Monday Night Zoom Boys rented a villa down in Hilton Head a
nd four of us (Tom preferred to stay home because he didn’t want to put his elderly mother-in-law in jeopardy) spent five days (and nights) together. We got along swimmingly and that ranks as one of the best vacations I’ve ever had.
 

(Here's Tom, gallantly at home.)

Last summer, as the pandemic waned, and the vaccine freed us from captivity, we all mourned the inevitable passing of our Monday night ritual. But wait. Not so fast. Instead of totally abandoning our Monday night meetups, we decided instead to cut back to every other Monday night. And so, our Zoom calls continue to this day.

It’s a close bond that wouldn’t have been possible before Covid hit. In fact, our close relationship has only grown, as evidenced by the fact that four of us are attending Left Coast Crime, where we’ll be able to hang out together in person. And in September, there’ll be Bouchercon in Minneapolis, Matt’s home turf.

So, now that we seem to be approaching a return to “normal” pre-pandemic life, I can’t help but be grateful to a deadly virus for bringing us together.

HANK: Isn’t this great?

And oh, see below for more of Charles' brand new book, CANARY IN THE COAL MINE. Doesn’t it sound amazing? I’m giving a copy to one lucky commenter!

Funnily, my fellow Career Authors bloggers (Dana Isaacson Dana Isaacson, Jessica Strawser, Paula Munier, Brian Andrews and I) meet every Monday morning at 10, on zoom, with coffee and Monday brains, and we’ve been doing it from the very beginning. It is such a joy and reassurance. And ooh, we are doing something together in real life, too – – the first ever in person MIT Endicott House Career Authors Weekend Writers retreat! (Click here for more info. Space is limited.)

How about you, Reds and Readers? Dare I ask…did you discover anything good in the pandemic? (I can tell you, also, I swore I would put the books on my bookshelves in alphabetical order. But nope. Didn’t happen.)

And remember, comment to be entered to win!  (This week's winners will all be announced Saturday!)



CANARY IN THE COAL MINE


Pete Fortunato, a New York City PI who suffers from anger management issues and insomnia, wakes up one day with a bad taste in his mouth, which is usually a sign of trouble. When he arrives at his "office," a desk in back of a friend's real estate office, he's hired by a beautiful woman to find her husband, "dead or alive." He successfully completes his job in a couple days--he finds her husband shot dead in the apartment of her young, stud boyfriend--only to find that his client's check bounces. This is only the beginning of a nightmare that gets him half-way across the country in an attempt to find money which can save his life.





Charles Salzberg is a former magazine journalist and nonfiction book writer (From Set Shot to Slam Dunk, an Oral History of the NBA and Soupy Sez: My Zany Life and Times). He’s twice nominated for the Shamus Award for Swann’s Last Song, the first in the series, and Second Story Man (also winner of the Beverly Hills Book Award). Devil in the Hole was named one of the Best Crime Novels of 2013 by Suspense magazine. 
He lives in New York City and teaches writing for New York Writers Workshop, where he is a Founding Member.

93 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your new book, Charles . . . it sounds like Pete is in for quite an adventure! I think yours is the best pandemic survival story I’ve heard!

    What did I discover in the pandemic? I really dislike virtual church services, but I’m a fan of Zooming in on author book-talks and First Chapter Fun . . . .

    It was good to be able to lounge around in comfy clothes [but so not good that I couldn’t visit my children/grandchildren whenever I wanted] and, no, the books on my bookshelves did not get alphabetized, either . . . .

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    1. Here's my problem now, Joan. It's pretty much over, but you have to practically blast me out of my apartment to do anything. Of course, once I'm out, I'm fine. I just think I have to do this re-entry slowly.

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  2. Oh, I am so relieved to hear that, Joan! I feel better! Xxxx
    And we are so delighted to have you at first chapter fun—thank you! I have to admit I think it is wonderful.
    And oh dear, my poor and neglected high-heeled shoes. :-)

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    1. You have a whole room full of them, right, Hank? Is it still comfortable to wear them?

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    2. Your first chapter fun community is amazing Hank! Thanks for allowing me to visit yesterday xo

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    3. Ha Edith! I try them on from time to time, they are still fine, but not as comfy, I have to say, as… Almost anything else :-)

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    4. Lucy, your book was so well received! And you had a marvelous audience – – it was so much fun!

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  3. I got to work from home for the first time (something I never thought I'd do), and I LOVE it. I really wish it would continue indefinitely, but there is talk of going back hybrid. At least it's not full time back in the office.

    I, too, enjoy getting to do virtual author events. And I get to attend the church where my brother is a pastor, which is hours north of me, in addition to my local church, which I've been back to attending in person for a year now.

    And I invited a couple of friends over to watch Babylon 5, my favorite TV show of all time. We wound up taking a vacation together last September, and it was a fabulous vacation. Mind you, we were already friends, but we became closer friends as a result of all the time spent together.

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    1. OMG, Mark, I love Babylon 5, but California is too far from Connecticut for me to just drop by to watch TV. Too bad!

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    2. Yes, being together in real life changes everything. And I have never watched Babylon 5… Should I? Should I come to your house :-)?

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    3. Yes, you should watch it, Hank. I think Jay is a fan and he lives closer. That would be such a fun party! BTW, Hank, the plot/story took 5 seasons to tell.

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    4. Mark: One of my all time favourites, too.

      Hank: Babylon 5 is probably the best sci-fi ever to be on TV because it has depth. It beats Star Trek Next Generation only because it is 5 seasons with a complete story arc and lacks the pollyanna aspect that marks ST. There are some things I would argue with these days, but it is still good TV. So, yeah. Watch it.

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    5. Okay...stepping my toe into the water...xoxoo

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    6. That's the big decision I made each day (if I could figure out what day it was), what do I watch today? Netflix? Prime? HBO-Max. It just about wore me out.

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    7. The days are all the same. I feel like a weird version of the Dowager Duchess--"What's a weekend?"

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  4. CHARLES: Congratulations on your newest book.
    I will be at LCC ABQ so I am looking forward to seeing the 4 Monday Zoom Night Boys in person.

    Having to quarantine at home after catching COVID at LCC2920 was no fun at all. But a definite POSITIVE from those 7 weeks stuck indoors was that I was able to participate in a bunch of virtual author events (via Zoom or FB or Crowdcast). I have attended author book launches, virtual conferences that I could never do in-person.

    Without the pandemic, wonderful online events such as First Chapter Fun (every Tuesday and Thursday) and The Back Room on Sunday evenings would not have been created! And my TBR mountains are out-of-control but I'm not really complaining.

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    1. Yes, it has been fun to get together this way… Interesting that we would never have done it otherwise, you are so right!

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    2. HANK: MANY THANKS goes out to you and Hannah (FCF) and Karen (Back Room) for bringing us together virtually. And I wish I could travel to Boston to alphabetize your books (and meet Flo & Eddy in person)!

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    3. Oh, Grace, I do, too! Someday! xxxx (and aw, thank you!)

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    4. Grace, be sure to look for us to say hello. Look forward to meeting you.

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  5. Charles, I love this story and how you came up with a way to stay connected with your friends. Congratulations on your upcoming release.

    I think the pandemic brought us virtuality as we stayed home, but still got to *see* our friends. I enjoyed working from home (alas we are now back to three days in the office). And I loved that authors came together to bring us group chats like the Back Room, SinC webinars, among others.

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    1. Nothing like panic to make you find a pet plan B, right? So many author events came out of fear that new books would go unnoticed… And as a result, everyone’s book lives changed.

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    2. Thanks, Dru. And as a matter of fact, this coming Monday night is Zoom Night.

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  6. Charles, I also felt guilty that I was able to stay home and write my brains out. I never lost my writing (or reading) mojo, as some did. Except for not being able to see family and friends, my life didn't change that much. Writing was a great respite from the outside world.

    I also got to be part of author panels in Arizona, Pittsburgh, Virgina, and elsewhere, places that would have been a lot harder to get to in person. Last night I spoke about writing multiple series to over a hundred people! Zoom has been a real silver lining.

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    1. So exciting, Edith! Is that recorded somewhere?
      And congratulations on your lead article in Mystery Readers Journal! That’s phenomenal! And oh, thank you for the very kind words.

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    2. Thank you, and you are welcome!

      The recording will be posted on the SINC Grand Canyon Writers site next week, not sure exactly when. I was there with Jeff Mariotte, who has written SEVENTY novels in all kinds of genres. We had a fun chat!

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    3. Cannot wait to hear it. You are an inspiration!

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    4. I've been surprised at how well panels do work on Zoom, but I still prefer person to person.

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  7. I loved all the virtual author groups that began. I hope they continue for many years!

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  8. Congratulations on CANARY IN THE COAL MINE, Charles.
    I've given a lot of writing workshops via Zoom that would have been taught in person. On the up side, you reach more (and far flung) people. I've got one coming up Sunday for Writers Digest University, a workshop on POV (and why it matters so much in a mystery). But I'm really excited to be booking in-person events. There's no substitute for being face to face when it comes to discussion and Q&A and engaging students in writing exercises and critiquing writing. I just agreed to teach at Book Passage (Corte Madera CA) at next summer's Mystery Writing Workshop and oh boy am I looking forward to it. Getting to hang out with the bookSELLERS and other writers at a legendary store that survived the plague.

    I think weirdly we've come to appreciate the advantages of remote as well as in-person. And friendships can be nurtured either way.

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    1. This blog is ample proof of that, Hallie.

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    2. I would love to sign up for that, Hallie! You are such a great teacher.
      And thank you, Karen!

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    3. Very true, Hallie. I do miss teaching in person, and when they open the venue again, I'll go back to it. It's just not the same.

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  9. Charles, welcome to JRW and congratulations on your new book. An "Old School Crime Novel" sounds like just the ticket!

    Your pandemic story is terrific and I am a little jealous of the Monday night Zooms with friends. But I had to snicker at how you hid your lack of discomfort over forced isolation from almost everyone. It reminded me of when my very precocious and totally gorgeous toddler was reading and speaking in full sentences. Sometimes, it's better to fly beneath the radar when fortune favors you.

    Like the other readers here, I have had more time to read; I've built friendships without ever being face-to-face; I've met (or at least seen) dozens of new authors through on-line events and my TBR list, pile, etc. tippeth over. It's all good.

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    1. If you haven’t read any of Charles‘s books before, I highly highly recommend.
      And we love that your pile is tipping over!

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    2. Once, in my life, I thought I should get a full-time job and I was interviewed at Good Housekeeping. They asked me to tryout for a week, which I did. But after the first day I kept, wondering, when do people do things like going to the bank? Or shopping for food? At the end of the week, they offered me the job, but I turned it down. I just needed time to do all those errands.

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    3. Gotta consider the real life stuff! (Once my TV schedule had Monday and Tuesday off. It was great.)

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  10. Congratulations on your new release!

    The highlight of my pandemic isolation was attending the Cincinnati Opera outdoor performances last summer, sitting in a defined 6 x 6 foot square in a lawn chair. The sound system was terrific, the staging minimal, the score cut to 90 minutes with no intermission. Pure bliss.

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    1. It’s fascinating how everyone is brainstorming new ways to make things work!

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  11. Welcome Charles! Thanks for bring us your story and the new book! I think this Jungle Red Writers community got stronger as a result of the pandemic time, don't you? Plus I've gotten very dedicated to two online yoga classes. And my father's brother and his sons have weekly Zooms to keep my uncle connected. I've really loved getting in closer touch with that family.

    Other than that, I do have mixed feelings about zooming...real people are special!

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    1. Yes, so now we will all have to work out our hybrid lives. And be happy with that!
      Online yoga… On your phone?

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    2. Yes, Lucy, I agree. The JRW blogging fellowship is strong, probably stronger than before the pandemic.

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  12. Congratulations, Charles!

    Life didn't change much for me as I worked from home pre-pandemic and I never stopped working. Yes, that 30-second commute from my bedroom is wonderful. Upside: I got go to book events in other geographies that I wouldn't have been able to attend otherwise. But I am so looking forward to seeing people live and in person next month at Malice!

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    1. Yes, so agree, we have met so many people that otherwise we never would have been in contact with, absolutely! Plus we can be in three states on the same day. That’s pretty funny. And efficient. Xxx

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  13. Friendships are harder to make and to cement as we get older, aren't they? Which makes your Zoom pals and sessions even more precious, Charles.

    The pandemic/quarantine/lockdown coincided with my husband's retirement and us living in a very recently built home. Like a million other homeowners, I spent a huge part of that time gardening, working to change what was bare dirt into a real garden. Steve dug the bigger holes, and I plunked plants into them.

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    1. I agree – – I think a lot of relationships got deeper over the past two years. When all of the external possibilities were impossible, many people went deeper, and enjoyed a relationship they might not have otherwise. are you doing the garden again this year?

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    2. Yes, thanks for asking. I just planted the spring veggies the other day. Looking forward to seeing ornamentals blooming for the first time and getting fruit from the berry bushes and trees, too!

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    3. Oh, cannot wait to see the photos!

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    4. The funny thing is, I came into this crime community very late--my first novel was published in 2007, but before that I was a freelance writer for magazines and nonfiction books. So, I've been able to somehow sustain this lifestyle. Meaning not having to find a full-time job.

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  14. I, too, was lucky enough to find communities of writers AND readers to meet regularly with during the pandemic, and we're still at it. I've made friendships I never expected and have learned so much from people I never would have met in my normal course of existence. Charles Salzberg's new book sounds great, but unless there's a tech glitch in the blog copy I received, he seems to have left a gaping hole in the account of his life story. I look forward to learning more!

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    1. Yes, it’s so funny how our contracted world has actually expanded! (and I think I see what you mean… I will check on that…)

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    2. Meg, I noticed that missing piece too, but forgot about it after reading everyone's comments. Good repair job, Hank.

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    3. I did that purposely, Meg. Maybe I'll write about that, too.

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  15. The time spent near home was precious and wonderful. My 2 grandsons visited all day everyday and we had wonderful adventures together. Reading, riding bikes, baking and memorable and special experiences.

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  16. The pandemic literally upended my life. We moved from Florida to Maine. Zoom allowed me to attend conferences, meetings, and parties that would have been impossible in the before times, and I hope Zoom attendance continues to be an option!

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    1. Oh, I agree..don;t you think it will?

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    2. I hope so! It's a win/win for organizers, too. Of course it does cut down on schmoozing at the bar, but hey, I can raise a glass of wine from my desk :)

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  17. A great deal of my life is spent outdoors and I live in a beautiful and scenic area. Walks throughout the day lifted my spirits and gave me great enjoyment. Living in a quiet and secluded part of town is a real benefit. Hiking, walks and admiring the beauty allows me to realize how fortunate I am.

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    1. Yes, I did a lot of walking, too, and "noticing," if you could call it that!

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  18. There has been no working from home for me and about 90% of the time that is just fine. I know I would find something - books, yarn, television, FCF - to distract me and I wouldn't get my assignments done. But that 10% of me really, REALLY wishes that I had the ability to stay home, work my own hours.

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    1. Oh, you are so tough! It must have been difficult throughout--and we are so glad you are here!

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  19. Charles, congratulations on your new book! I'm a little envious of your Monday night Zooms--what a great thing to have come out of bad circumstances. We REDS had done some Zoom get-togethers, but we should do them more often. (Don't you think, ladies?) Working from home was nothing new for me, but I have enjoyed the virtual events and conferences. I hope we can now evolve to a hybrid model.

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    1. Yes yes yes. And I love that they made it an appointment...reliable and reassuring. And again, did I say: YES!

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    2. I'm not sure at what point, Deborah, but after a few months every one of us looked forward to that Zoom Monday night. For some reason, even on screen, it worked...and it still does. We're scheduled this coming Monday night.

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  20. Working from home created some technological problems for my husband but, once those were settled, neither of us really minded being forced to stay in. We had an income, a roof over our heads and access to grocery delivery. As long as we could get into the woods then the days passed pretty much as usual. Not being able to cross the border created some painful challenges but also cemented the practice of weekly video calls for me and my 3 sisters -- the most contact we've probably ever had. With one major exception, we've been lucky.

    Tell me more about First Chapter....

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    1. Oh, with pleasure! Every Tuesday and Thursday at 12:30 PM ET, Hannah Mary McKinnon and I read the first chapter of a new book out loud on Facebook and Instagram. (Live! What could go wrong?) We talk a little about the world and whatever is going on in our lives, and so many people chat in the comments, so it's like a quick conversation. Then we talk a bit about the author and the particular book, then we read the first chapter out loud! We're always finished by 1:00 pm, so it's not a big commitment for the listeners. We have lots of people who come for storytime at lunchtime! And Tuesday, on episode 250, we are reading THE LONG WEEKEND by Gilly Macmillan! It's a private FB group, so you have to join, but you can do so in a click or two at https://www.facebook.com/groups/firstchapterfun

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    3. HATE AUTOCORRECT ON MY PHONE, TRYING AGAIN...

      DEAUN: FCF is in its third year with MORE ADO IN '22 (i.e. they have authors lined up for the rest of 2022), And the "More Ado in '22" is a new slogan that's on their FCF swag: t-shirts, mugs, and more!
      If you're not on FB, you can also join FCF via IG and watch the live events that way.

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    4. Yes, yes, all of the above--thank you, Grace! And we have giveaways!

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  21. Charles, congratulations on the new book! Nice to meet someone else who finds it easy to stay at home.

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  22. For me, the best thing that came out of the pandemic was First Chapter Fun! Prior to that, I spent one afternoon each week in a library. I split my time between my library and the library in a neighboring town. After I discovered FCF, I didn’t miss the libraries as much. And then of course, I started ordering many of the books that Hannah and Hank introduced. I did have trouble concentrating on reading for a long time so I just decided I would read the books when I was able to concentrate again. I’m slowly working my way through my FCF books, and enjoying them now that I my concentration has returned.

    DebRo

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    1. Oh, this is such a wonderful story..thank you! And we have a varied selection of books, so there's always the perfect one then/now/next! And who knows what new authors you might discover, right?

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  23. A great post, Charles. Thanks for hosting Charles, Hank. The Monday night group has been a COVID life ring -- good friends and good conversation every time.

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    1. Michael! We are so pleased to see you! And yes, it sounds amazing. What a group--you must laugh and laugh. And keep us posted on your next book too--is it a Sam Kelson? Happy to host you here whenever!

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    2. Whew! Looks like I won't get drummed out of the group.

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  24. Honestly, if it weren't for the News Of Doom constantly scrolling across my screens and on the radio, I can say the lock down was wonderful for me. I've always struggled to say "no" to invitations to speak at libraries, groups, and luncheons because while enjoyable, they also often take up a whole day in prepping, speaking and traveling. Suddenly, they were all gone! Instead, I had Zoom presentations where I could talk to other authors and readers with no more prep than slapping a little makeup on and getting into my Zoom shirt. One hour later, and boom, we're done, no long drive home in the dark necessary.

    Like Charles and many of the Reds, I've been working from home for a good twenty years now, so the daily change wasn't much. And personally, I appreciated the chance to have Youngest and her friend The Guest Son stay for five months. We did themed movie weeks, Wednesday Game Night, and spent a lot of time at Celia and Victor's lake house. I strongly suspect this will turn out to be the last ever time she lives with me, and it was a splendid way to go out.

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    1. SO agree about the driving and prep--balanced with the joy of being there when you're actually there.But whoosh, that decision was taken away, for better or worse. Talking about balance, though, it's interesting how, for those who are lucky at least, the BIG picture is so different from the tiny personal picture.

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  25. What a perfect Friday post! Love the positivity!

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  26. Congratulations on your new book, Charles. I love the title, Canary in the Coal Mine, and I'm interested to see how its meaning plays throughout the book. And, how great that you and your four fellow authors formed such a bond during a time when seeing friends was near impossible.

    I confess with my head half bowed that I was quite comfortable being confined to my home. Reading and writing reviews was already part of my day/week, and I was happy to do more of that. But, there were new perks to being home. The new thing (for me it was new) called Zoom with so many of my favorite authors presenting opportunities to see them online and live. Those brilliant innovators, like Hank and Hannah and my favorite bookstores giving readers countless opportunities to see and participate in online author events. It was a landscape flowing with milk and honey for readers everywhere, and we didn't have to leave our home or wear pants. Now that things are less scary outside, we still have the online events to look forward to, because, let's face it, we've gotten spoiled over the last two years with the accessibility to our reading community. If all that weren't enough, I talked more to friends on the phone, both regular phone conversations and facetime or video calls. This became part of life and continues. So, while I was devastated by the reason we were stuck at home, and I would never ignore the suffering of so many during this time (and still), I am fortunate that staying home was not much of an effort for me.

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    1. For the first nine months or so, Kathy, I rarely left the apartment. That's because here in NYC we were the hotspot for so long. For over a year, every night at 7 sharp, you could hear pots and pans being struck all over the city--I'm on the upper west side, and I'd just open the window and listen. The problem was, that I usually do a lot of walking and I didn't start doing that for almost a year--there was no place to walk to. The streets were like a wild west ghost town. As a result, when I did get back outside I could feel fatigue after several blocks--and I'm someone who walks between 2 and 4 miles a day. So, I had to build up stamina again. And if it weren't for the fact that I know two people in my building, I hardly saw human faces in person. And you (or I) got so used to staying home that I have a bit of an aversion to going out. I do it, and once out, I'm fine. But it's not easy psychologically. I'm sure we're going to see a lot of ramifications as time passes.

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    2. Oh, and as for the meaning--you kind of find that out on the first page--and in this case, listening for that "canary" would be a good idea for Fortunato.

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