One artist’s humble offering to those stuck at home during COVID-19. Plus, an honest account of what it’s like to reboot a Patreon project, while being a digital nomad in Europe during the coronavirus pandemic.
Before I forget, let’s get to the goods
For those who want to get straight to the fiction, here’s a link to an online archive where I keep the episodes and art to share with my creative team. Please know that this is a work in development, and I have been releasing these episodes one by one through Patreon which is normally a paid platform for artists to earn income through their work. What I am sharing here is version 1.0 of the writing all the way through Volume 6, and more recent formats and versions are due to be released this year on the platform. That said, I’m happy to share it.
Seriously, read for free during COVID-19 downtime. No strings attached.
WARNING: I highly recommend parents assess whether this content is suitable for their kids. The content is aimed at adults, and while it doesn’t contain nudity or a lot of gore, it covers topics around death/loss, exploration of the supernatural, as well as unfiltered language… like the F-bomb and all that. Overall, I think it’s somewhere between PG-13 and R.
In a nutshell:
In light of the coronavirus (COVID-19), it didn’t feel right to lock my writing behind a paywall, especially because the Patreon release for new content is a few ticks behind schedule (read on for details). To me, it’s something I can offer now to those in quarantine or stuck waiting this out.
I’m no J.K. Rowling, and I don’t know who needs to read my work right now, but they’re certainly not reading it if they don’t have it to read, right?
That said, if you are compelled to support this project, you can still opt to become a patron here. Please know, I pass all patron income on to the three amazing women who are helping me make this series possible. All three are independent contractors, who are deeply impacted by the loss of gigs and work as a result of COVID-19.
Ways to support the creatives behind this project for no cost:
- Follow the series on Instagram and Twitter and Facebook
- Go to the Patreon, scroll down to follow (free posts) or share
- Go follow the illustrator Taryn Cozzy
- Go follow the editor Nellie Beavers
- Go follow the community manager Stacy Dove
- Share this post with anyone who needs to read it!
- Click the links in the pdfs to hear curated songs by independent musicians. These are the buy pages for their work. Many can’t gig right now! Support them by buying one song, or an album, if you can, but you could also write them or follow their social to let them know you support their work.
I’m in love with my passion project; it’s complicated
For me, 2020 has been a fire hose of surprise turns, weird disappointments, and gains paired with losses. With great gusto came big reality checks, and an accidental dismantling of best-laid plans.
Last November, I set out to reboot this series as a screenplay with limited-animation motion graphic videos. It was on track until 2020 rolled around with its delightful bundles of OMGGGG! to be folded into the #newnormal. What a challenge!
I am choosing to breathe, calm the bleep down, and prioritize what I have to be thankful for.
Back in 2019, I was energized and had a schedule with room for my goals. As the series reboot was lifting off, a batch of good news evolved out of other projects whose seeds had long ago been planted. As they say, when it rains it pours…
Around the new year, I made the choice to move from ¾ time to full-time job responsibilities, hoping I could absorb the work, and keep the project alive on weekends. But on the heels of that, prioriTIX, an early-stage startup I do brand-work for, pre-launched at Broadway Con, then promptly got accepted into a tech accelerator! Suddenly it was all systems: GO. Exciting good news, right? But, eep! My schedule hurts.
Come late January, my schedule and emotional thresholds were already in the red, and Cat Mann is PAX time I’d carefully mapped out was fast eclipsed by engagements, family emergencies, romantic snafus, and escalating international the crisis at hand.
This is a lifestyle I dreamed of, which finally came to fruition. That said, nomad life is not without its challenges, even in the best of times.
At this point in the story, I should explain that, as a full-time digital nomad, I travel 100% of the time, while working and managing clients. This is a lifestyle I dreamed of creating for myself for about a decade, which finally came to fruition in the last few years. That said, nomad life is not without its challenges, even in the best of times, so I was faced with the disappointing reality of choosing what to axe from my calendar.
Cat Mann is PAX is my passion project. It has lived expressly on Patreon since 2017, as a means to pay artists and creatives to bring it to life. So far, I’ve reinvested every cent from the Patreon back into the series. But this is not the first time I have had to pause production.
In 2018, I hit road bumps with personal and family health, which brought the project to its knees. It took me nearly a year to restructure my time and budget and restart anew.
With the reboot in fall of 2019, I had committed to dedicating two days per week to bringing it back to life. I poured my own resources back into building trailers, announcing improvements to come, and trying to make it easier for followers and patrons to get the episodes. My goal was to make the novel easier for more people by providing audio, captioned video, and ePub formatting for those who use the visual and audio tools for accessibility (i.e. translation, adjusting text size, color, contrast and fonts).
By February and March, guilt and shame washed over me. How had I relaunched this again, and failed to stay on schedule? When I look back at what feels like 10 months squeezed into three or four, I am choosing to breathe, calm the bleep down, and prioritize what I have to be thankful for.
With COVID-19 creating a scene of panic, grief, and rapid-fire emergency decision making everywhere, none of us can afford to beat ourselves up over, well… anything really!
So, I’m dusting myself off, and doing what I can actually do.
The spirit of being (cooped up) in this together
The more I took in about friends and strangers scrambling to work from home (if lucky), or waiting out the pandemic while wondering where the next dollar might come from, the weirder I felt about sitting on this reading material. I’m no J.K. Rowling, and I don’t know who needs to read my work right now, but they’re certainly not reading it if they don’t have it to read, right? It got me thinking.
I remind myself that, if I can invent a solution for my characters, I can invent one for myself, too.
Personally, I hope to use the extra alone time to catch up on series writing and videos. But, it’s not lost on me that I’m one of the lucky ones already working on a fully remote team.
And that promotion I mentioned earlier… Well, my day gig is Animation Producer for a talented team at the non-profit studio, Drawn from Valor. Normally we produce long-format works around medical education, but in response to what’s happening worldwide, we are pivoting to launch a series shortly that will help separate COVID-19 facts from misinformation in digestible bites for kids and families. Development for that project has only deepened my desire to be of help to the community, while we await solutions and better news.
For these reasons, I will be plugging away at the Cat Mann is PAX project on a much slower schedule, while keeping focused on my job’s important task of providing good information to the public.
In the meantime, I’m going to do my best to pay my creative team whatever extra I can, in hopes of catching up to our production schedule, and to keep funds flowing to them as they wait out the loss of gigs. And I’m releasing what I have already written for free.
The decision to let go and share
There are definitely risks to giving away creative work to the world. I’m doing it anyhow for every reason I listed above. But for other creatives considering doing something similar, here’s what I weighed into the decision:
Honoring committed fans: Since the Cat Mann is PAX series has been crowd supported, I truly questioned if sharing it would be unfair to the people who have already invested in the project by becoming patrons. In the end I resolved that these awesome supporters want to see the project succeed, and I am going to double down efforts to repay them with bonus content, gifts, and new content. My hope is that they feel connected to my efforts to ease the discomfort of living through home-quarantine or self-isolation.
To you wonderful humans who have been following this project, or have actually been patrons, I cannot express enough gratitude to you. This project is my baby. Hang tight! I intend to get it out there and complete, at any cost, in its entirety. Your support has been instrumental in getting it this far!
Fear of copyright infringement: I also wondered if sharing a serial work in mid-release would “expose it” to people who would steal it. Yes, that remains a possibility… but truthfully, the benefit of sharing it outweighed the risk. I have the full 3-season series designed and mapped out, so the chances that someone will lift it, feels like a paranoid mentality to maintain, in troubled times.
My conclusion is that it costs me nothing extra to share what is already complete, and people can benefit from something new to distract from the cabin fever and barrage of sad or scary news. Done. I’ll gamble.
Traveling as a digital nomad during COVID-19
I won’t lie. This is pretty much the worst-case scenario next to global war, while living and traveling abroad.
Navigating how to plan, stabilize, fund, and maintain this lifestyle is a major focus for me. I keep meticulous records, and book anywhere from 3 to 6 months in advance. Normal snafus and expected bumps in the road I figured in. This I did not.
Currently, I’m writing from Montenegro in the Balkan region of Europe. Until two days ago, this was the very last European country with no cases, but, for about a week, the country has been exercising preventative restrictions: closed borders, only essential businesses open, only registered guests at hotels, school closings, recommended social distancing, air travel restrictions. The latest updates include regulated shopping times for elderly, ban on all flights in or out of the country, mandatory isolation for foreign nationals, and suspension of all public transit and taxi services.
U.S.A. folks: This is not a drill.
Meanwhile, the USA has banned travel by foreign nationals from the EU and UK/Ireland. While Montenegro is not technically part of the EU’s Schengen Zone, it is nestled right in the center of eastern Europe’s coastline, bordered by other countries with a longer history of cases, and it’s just across the sea from Italy. It’s bleak trying to map safe connecting flights.
The U.S. Embassy in Podgorica released details earlier on how they will manage foreign travelers entering the country (currently not allowed, but up until now with mandatory self-quarantine on arrival). However, they did not specify what is advised for travelers from abroad who were already present in the country. My stay here was slated to last just over 40 days, across 3 separate accommodations, and with two scheduled visits from friends who would join for pieces of the trip. Ugh.
I’m doing more recalculating than my dad’s wonky GPS when we make a wrong turn!
I’m opting to step up and self-identify to the Embassy here. I can only cross my fingers that they don’t ask me to risk the travel involved in returning to the U.S. – with 13 clogged-up airports, high priced flight re-routing, and no risk-free place to self-quarantine on arrival. (My permanent residence is shared by family members who are immune-compromised). It’s a real puzzle, but I am trying to do the right thing. If I need to get tested, I will happily do it. I have travel insurance, which may or may not cover a crisis, but I am more concerned about safety at this point.
As of yet, I haven’t experienced any symptoms, and I’ve been pretty isolated by default, since my plan was to hole up and write, not socialize… But I’m now navigating how to cancel or adjust plans, and what options are available in a list of different scenarios. I’m doing more recalculating than my dad’s wonky GPS when we make a wrong turn!
We can control our personal narratives
As I reflect on this scary moment in our history, I can still empower my characters to solve problems, face challenges, and transform themselves into heroes, despite the uncertainty and powerlessness COVID-19 may inspire.
They say it’s not your circumstances, it’s how you respond to them. After a fair amount of sadness, and wine, I had to remind myself that I am a writer.
If I can invent a solution for my characters, I can invent one for myself, too. And, maybe (just maybe) sharing my stories will remind someone reading in quarantine that they, too, are empowered to write their own character and story, no matter what is happening around us.
Please enjoy the first 6 volumes of my creation. And please write to me if you would like to chat about any of this. We’re in this together. <3 AMV