Sometimes regular life is enough
Some updates from my world
Welcome to another edition of Story Cauldron. Hopefully, you’re reading this because you’re enjoying my writing and how I see the world around me. So I decided that since a lot has been going on over the past few weeks, it might be good to share some of the high and low points with everyone.
May has been stressful and eventful in lots of ways. It’s been scary and exhausting and occasionally exhilarating. These are some of the things that have colored my month.
I’ve had a lot going on for a while, but earlier in the month things went a bit sideways.
My stepmom Joan had to go to the hospital for shortness of breath issues (she needed a stent and will need a valve repair). She had been in for about a week and was about to come home, but my dad was concerned about her oxygen levels, and the doctors decided to run a few more tests.
They had postponed her discharge until they got the results back, so my dad and I decided to go out to eat. When I got to his house, I knocked at the door and didn’t hear anything. Knowing my dad is often in the garage working on various projects, this didn’t surprise me, so I opened the door.
That’s when he popped up and yelled at me to get back. I thought he was trying to tell me the floor was wet from mopping or something and didn’t think much of it, but he repeated his warning and sounded panicked. It was very weird. Was he okay? Was there something wrong with the dog?
I still didn’t understand what to think until he finally was able to get out the words:
“Joan has Covid.”
Apparently, she had called him while I was on the way over, so there wasn’t time to warn me that he had to quarantine.
After talking to him briefly, I fetched food from the restaurant we were planning to go to, getting completely lost and a bit angry in the process. Mostly I was angry because Dad and Joan have been able to avoid Covid for two solid years, and then she got it in the hospital. (As far as the state of Missouri is concerned, Covid is over and there’s no masking or any other precautions).
I picked up the food and we sat outside at a distance talking and planning. I could tell he was worried because usually he doesn’t have a big appetite, but when he’s worried he totally stress eats (hey at least I come by that habit honestly!).
Not only was he worried about Covid for both of them, but he was really anxious about having to stay home for a week without anyone there with him (he doesn’t like to be alone, plus he had been spending a lot of time with Joan in the hospital, which had to immediately stop).
The next day he went out for a PCR test and as we suspected, he was positive as well.
I know that for a lot of people, Covid is no big deal anymore. Lots of people get it, have mild symptoms, and get on with their lives. But plenty of people—even vaccinated people—still die from it. And although Dad and Joan are double-vaxxed and boosted, they have health issues that put them at risk.
So throughout the week, in addition to getting him groceries and trying to keep his spirits up, I had lots of phone and online conversations with friends and family about how they were doing. (I’m grateful to everyone who sent their best wishes to me and my family.)
And as you might imagine, as it was playing out. I was basically a nervous wreck. I definitely had some crazy dreams—when I could sleep at all. For most of the week, I struggled to be productive but in the end, I didn’t get a lot done. And although I tried to avoid playing out hypothetical scenarios in my head, honestly I couldn’t help it.
Fortunately, they were both diagnosed early, so they got the anti-Covid meds and recovered quickly. Given their age and health issues, it’s a huge relief. They had mild cases (no loss of taste or smell, and minimal respiratory and “flu-like” symptoms). And as far as I can tell, they’re fine now.
As for me? I think I’m still a bit wobbly from the whole experience, but since they’ve both been asymptomatic for over a week, I think we’re in the clear.
By the way—it’s my dad’s 80th birthday on Wednesday. I think we all have a lot to celebrate!
On an entirely different subject…
As you may know, I am finishing up the second novel in my Favor Faeries series. It’s titled The Boy Who Can Taste Color and it’s available as a serial novel for my paid subscribers.
I had already finished a draft before I started serializing it, but as I post chapters here I’ve been revising and adding to it along the way. Over the past month or so I had to spend some time unraveling the middle of the story and I ended up rewriting most of it. It’s still a little rough but overall I consider Act II to be complete and I’ll be working on Act III officially starting this week. In other words, the end is in sight!
For those who subscribe to Story Cauldron: I also decided to turn all annual paid subscriptions into lifetime ones for the time being. (It was the least I could do to give my early supporters a special benefit!) If you’re interested in reading the first book, The Girl Behind the Camera, either in its serial form or as an ebook, and you want to start reading book 2, you can subscribe as a paid member and I’ll convert the annual subscription to a lifetime one, so you’ll only have to pay once. Click on the button below and click on “Annual” to get this special deal!
All my Substacks
As you may know, I write and manage three Substack newsletters. There’s this one (Story Cauldron) as well as my St. Louis history newsletter (Unseen St. Louis) and a third one I run with Geoffrey Golden for Substack fiction writers (Fictionistas).
Over on Unseen STL, I’ve just published Part 1 and Part 2 of my series on Radioactive St. Louis, talking about how St. Louis processed the uranium for the Manhattan Project and how one of the processing facilities and all of the waste were piled up into a containment cell and turned into a tourist attraction. I’m really proud of the work I did for those two pieces and I’d love for you to check them out.
Currently, I’m working on a post about St. Louis foods, part three of my Radioactive St. Louis series, a piece on the River Des Peres, and hopefully soon, I’ll also have a piece about the Wabash, Frisco & Pacific Railroad in Glencoe after talking to some of the guys who run it.
The best news is that both of my personal Substacks have been growing consistently over the months. May is the one-year anniversary of Story Cauldron, and I’m super excited that the newsletter has more than 300 subscribers! Meanwhile, Unseen STL, which I just started in late January, has already gone over the 200 subscriber mark.
While these numbers may be small compared to many newsletters, they mean the world to me. Over 500 people have decided to follow me and my writing, and that’s just astounding.
So to my subscribers, thank you!
Recognized by Substack
Substack isn’t just a newsletter platform—it’s also become a community of writers. I engage with many of these writers on a Discord group called Substack Writers Unite. And each week I participate in Substack’s official “Office Hours”, a discussion thread where Substack writers and staff help answer other Substack writers’ questions.
As it turns out, for their first year of doing Office Hours, I was the top contributor. To thank me for my contributions, Substack featured me in their celebration post, where I read a “poem” they wrote to encourage fellow writers. (An artist also did a drawing of me, seen above, and they also gave me a couple of small thank you gifts).
Great Substack Story Challenge
As I mentioned last time, I am participating in a round-robin story challenge. The story prompt was shared with the participants, and the title will be The Grisly Ghosts of Gruesome Time.
The first chapter will go live on May 26 on Arjun Agarwal’s newsletter, and I’ll be sure to share the links as they happen.
Whew, that’s a lot!
Thanks so much for supporting me in my writing journey and showing an interest in what I’m working on. Writing can be such a solitary experience and it’s really heartening to know that there are others out there who are reading things and encouraging me to keep moving forward.
Thanks as always for reading. In honor of my dad’s birthday, tell me about one of your favorite birthdays. Did you get a special gift? Were you traveling? Did someone throw you a surprise party?? Let me know in the comments below!
That is a lot. My dad getting Covid is one of my biggest fears!! I’m glad to hear the Covid drugs were available and helpful and they both got through it ok.
Sending good vibes across the Atlantic skies, Jackie. 🤓