The COVID Benefit-Challenge Ratio
By Caitlin Rother
I’ve been meaning to blog since my last post in April. Really. Only I’ve been too busy writing books, literally, and believe it or not, I mean books plural.
Although there were early days when I couldn’t stop reading news articles and spent hours trying to focus, the past ten months overall have been an amazing time for me creatively. Even if it has been pretty dang lonely and depressing at times, as an author this forced isolation has been quite motivating.
First, I finished DEATH ON OCEAN BOULEVARD: Inside the Coronado Mansion Case, about the Rebecca Zahau case. It’s coming out on April 27, 2021, and is available for pre-order now.
After taking a couple weeks off, I switched to another book project under contract, which I worked on every day for several months… until I lost the contract due to COVID budget issues.
I was pretty upset about that, but I picked myself up and moved on to another book project. The problem is, researching true crime right now—I’ve slowly been chipping away at the McStay family murder case—is not only unsafe due to COVID, it’s almost impossible. Courthouses are not places I want to be, and everything is moving soooooooo sloooooowly that lawyers, judges, and court clerks are on furlough half the time, and take forever to get back to me, if at all. Same with other sources.
So, I pulled a book from the back burner, and this time I decided to go with a fiction project, which seemed like a safe and fun alternative.
A good 12 years ago, right after my first and only novel, NAKED ADDICTION, came out, I started writing a sequel. But even after five years of rewrites, it still didn’t work. I stuck it in a proverbial drawer, and almost gave up on it.
Until this year, during the grips of COVID lockdown, when I finally figured out how to fix the book. Having lost my projected income for next year because of the cancelled contract, this seemed an opportune time to take another stab at it. So, I managed to get a contract to publish the sequel with the same publisher as NAKED, which is WildBlue Press, and I dug in.
Stuck at home, I worked like a fiend to dash off a 121,000-word draft in a little more than two months. The premise is essentially the same as the original, but I overhauled the narrative structure, which substantially changed the way the story unfolds.
The majority of the book is new and I feel pretty good about it for the first time. It’s as if I finally know what I’m doing. Although I pulled in some scenes from the old draft, I made myself completely rewrite and tighten them to go with all the new material and the new structure.
In the first draft I had introduced a new female reporter protagonist to interact with my detective, Ken Goode. When that didn’t work, I brought Goode back as the protagonist (as he was in NAKED), which meant that I almost had to tell the story backwards. I’m still working on it as we speak, because it’s about 118,000 words, which is too long.
I’ve also given the book a new title: DOPAMINE FIX.
Like NAKED, it’s largely set in La Jolla, and it takes the reader into some San Diego-area favorite places, like Mister A’s, Balboa Park, and Coronado. It’s got built-in conflict, suspenseful and romantic tension, and a biotech-inspired plot that is surprisingly timely given the FDA approval of the COVID-19 vaccine that is taking center stage in all of our lives.
It’s crazy how many pages I’ve written and rewritten this year. Because writing is the only way I know how to keep myself alive and sane. Sitting here at this computer, typing away.
Writing has also served as a distraction to help me survive pre-election chaos, recover from election chaos, and breathe during post-election chaos. Until today, when I saw that seventeen states are supporting the Texas AG’s bid to reverse the Biden win in the Electoral College and his 7 million-plus win in the popular vote. Seriously? That is not how elections are supposed to work. I doubt it will fly, given the failure of other legal attempts to overturn our democracy in the past five weeks, but I don’t recognize the country I’m living in and haven’t for a few years now.
I’m probably not telling you anything you don’t know, but this pandemic, the election, maybe even writing all these books, and the lockdown we are in once again have left me exhausted. Some days are better than others, but some days all I can do is search for a way not to feel exhausted, because writing requires energy, and the prolonged denial and delusion of some of my fellow citizens has sapped the joie from my vivre.
It’s tough when the fear factor increases, as it has while I’ve been watching the case numbers and hospitalization stats rise to alarming proportions. Higher than ever before, and still trending in the wrong direction.
The news media doesn’t help, focusing on our impending doom: we’re almost in the purple tier, still closer, still closer, about to happen, any day now, and then, yes, now it’s here, and it’s only getting worse. Etc. etc. etc.
As a former news reporter, I know the media is a necessary part of a functioning democracy. It’s just frustrating when the people who need to listen to and read the news aren’t paying attention. That’s partly why I quit being a reporter to write books instead. It was that way before only now it’s worse. Now there are an astounding number of people who think the earth is flat, who still think the virus is a hoax, no worse than the flu. They’re still saying that on their deathbeds.
My fear of getting sick is as bad as it was in the beginning, because our hospitals in Southern California are now almost at capacity. We watched it happen in New York and now it’s happening here. Because people won’t listen, still don’t want to wear masks, and believe that pretending the Scourge isn’t real will make it go away. Well, it won’t, and until this ends, I guess I’ll just keep writing away. Who knows how many books I’ll finish at this rate!
That brings me to my other task at hand, which is to figure out how to promote DEATH ON OCEAN BOULEVARD, while we are all still isolating. The Rona has put me and other authors into a perpetual state of “I don’t know what’s going to happen, so I’ll try to plan around the uncertainty.”
Going virtual was great at first, but people already have Zoom fatigue along with COVID isolation fatigue. Everyone is just tired of everything. But people are still reading, right? Still listening to podcasts? I sure hope so.
If you are an established reviewer, podcaster, reporter, or bookseller who is interested in interviewing me, hosting me for a virtual book event, or anything else that might help get the word out about DEATH ON OCEAN BOULEVARD, I’m open to ideas! I live in San Diego, but this is my chance to meet readers all over the country. All you have to do is ask.
Thanks for reading the blog. If any of you want to send a signed copy of one of my books as a holiday gift, please contact me through this website or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay safe and healthy out there, and please wear a mask!