Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday, February 28, 2010
Waxing Moon
Mars Retrograde
Gray and gloomy

Yesterday was mostly about the conference, which is as it should be. We are buckling down to work. It’s a smaller conference than the Muse, so it’s easier to give the students more individual attention. It’s easier to work in depth with a dozen students than over a hundred, which is what I’ve sometimes had.

Comcast is driving me nuts. I’m kind of shocked by how badly Comcast sucks. I’m managing to get the work done, but I’m worried about the live chat this afternoon. I’m deeply grateful I have Optimum back home.

Cooked tuna steaks for supper, which was great. Watched the Olympics for a bit. Fox’s idea of supporting HUMAN TARGET was to run a marathon of the few episodes already aired on FX — but with more commercials and cutting scenes, most of which were Jackie Earle Haley’s, which royally pissed me off, since I think they’re the best scenes in the show. People work so hard to put on a show — 18, 20+ hours a day, and, having worked on hour-long dramas, I know how hard it is. And then the network messes around and makes stupid decisions. You know the old adage, “Those who can’t do, teach?” — which isn’t true if you get a good teacher. What is true is “Those without a creative or commonsensical bone in their bodies become network executives.”

Did just over 1000 words on one of the short stories, which was good. Did notes on another piece. Worked on my next assignment for the humor workshop. My first two assignments were well-received, so hopefully, I’m on the right track. It’s a challenge, but I like it.

Word from home is I received a royalty check — always like that. I think I’m going to use it for a pottery workshop in May. I haven’t been able to afford the 14-week course, in either financial or time-related terms, but there’s a one-day introductory workshop in mid-May I’d like to get into at the professional studio next town over.

That’s pretty much it. I commented on exercises in both workshops this morning. I have a live chat on freelancing as a career not a hobby (look out, content mills, I am saying exactly what I think of you), commenting on more exercises, working on my assignment, and, hopefully, getting more writing done. The plays are percolating, so once I get home this week, I’ll put time into those. I have to get two of them out to my producer by mid-March, and well, tomorrow will be March.

Back to the page.

Devon

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Saturday, February 27, 2010
Waxing Moon
Mars Retrograde
Snowing

Spent a great deal of yesterday on conference work, which is as it should be. Unfortunately, it took much longer and was frustrating because the conference site kept kicking me off, and then, when I tried to post, it said I was flooding the site and would be banned. Excuse me, I’m doing my job! After several hours of it, I was ready to say, “No more.” I did sent a relatively polite email to the conference organizers asking for ways around it and expressing my frustration in (for me) relatively mild terms. They’ve tweaked something so the threat doesn’t appear, and now I’m only booted off every half hour instead of every five minutes.

It definitely makes tomorrow’s live chat a challenge, and makes me even more grateful that I have Optimum at home and not Comcast, like I have here, because Comcast isn’t as good or as reliable. Who would have ever thought I’d find a reliable provider? Now, if I can only wrestle away the websites to a new host, I’ll be all set.

Finished reading THE JOURNAL KEEPER, which is lovely. I highly recommend it.

Will go back to THE MANUAL OF DETECTION later today, in and around conference work.

Looks like I will be here until Monday, after all, which is a good thing, although Monday is turning out to be chaotic. I thought I’d have a full eight hour workday here before heading back to NY, but, although I’m still heading to NY in the late afternoon, my workday is truncated because someone else is coming in during the afternoon. I can’t change my ticket — they’re still trying to catch up on the cancelled transportation during the snow — so I have to either try to work elsewhere or do other research, et al for a few hours before coming back, picking everything up and leaving. I will probably do the latter.

Went to Trader Joe’s to do some grocery shopping — it was packed. Seems no one went to the store before the storm hit, so they’re all going now that they’ve emptied the larders. But I can cook and eat properly here now, instead of opening cans or putting something in the microwave or eating out all the time.

A family member in Maine has been diagnosed with cancer — that will change this year’s schedule quite a bit, as I’ll travel back and forth to help out as needed, and we’ll all do what needs to be done so he can recover.

About a block away is a music studio. They’re rehearsing with their windows open, and, due to the direction of the wind, I can hear the pieces. It’s quite lovely. Lots of french horn. Although the 34th time you hear Ravel’s “Bolero”, it gets a little old!

Conference is going well. We had to get some specifics sorted out — things that, to me are common sense, and, had the students pulled that at ANY of the writing programs in the country, they’d have been bounced. But, as a friend reminded me, this is the first conference many have attended, and they don’t know. To me, it’s common sense, and, even when starting out, I wouldn’t have dreamed of pulling such a stunt. But, for the moment, I clarified the position and will give them the benefit of the doubt.

I’m even taking a workshop in a genre out of my comfort zone to push me a bit.

I miss the cats, and, from what I hear, they are being spectacularly rambunctious in my absence, but I’m settling in a bit and getting down to work.

Back to the workshops.

Devon

Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday, February 26, 2010
Waxing Moon
Mars Retrograde
Snowing

After quite a bit of chaos and thissing and thatting, I am here in Philly. And, even more importantly for conference purposes, online.

I was out the door in sleet early on Thursday. Had to stand on the train, which wasn’t my favorite way to travel, but, really, it wasn’t so crowded it got disgusting, so I was fine. By the time I hit Manhattan, it was snowing, but lightly, so I figured what the hey, and started walking from Grand Central to Penn. Yes, with the luggage. Once a drop of water falls from the sky, it’s impossible to catch a cab. They all put on their ‘off duty’ signs and dash away.

The snow escalated steadily as I walked, and by the time I hit Penn, it was falling quickly in big, thick flakes. But the busses were still running, and Megabus even brought in the busses earlier than usual to load us up, so we didn’t have to stand out in the muck. I met a lovely woman who travelled all the way from Toronto, starting the previous day, headed for Philadelphia because she loves the city so much. She’s taken 18 trips down there in the past year.

On the bus, iPod on, book out. Once we got into Weehawken, it was seriously snowing, and it was so bad around Newark, I worried we’d have to turn back. But we pushed on through. The snow-drenched trees were heartbreakingly beautiful.

The book I’m reading is fascinating: Jedidiah Berry’s THE MANUAL OF DETECTION. I’m not sure if it qualifies as surrealism or magical realism, but it’s quite wonderful. Just a delightful book all the way around.

Arrived in Philly only a little late, in much lighter snow than we’d driven through. We make the first stop, opposite the Liberty Bell — and the door gets stuck in the “open” position. Well, at least we were in Philly and not stuck on the Jersey turnpike, right? Eventually, they got the door shut and got us to our stop at 30th St. station. I trundled my luggage down JFK Blvd, to Site A — not where I’m supposed to stay for the duration, but, because the people for whom I’m covering couldn’t leave due to weather, that’s where I had to stay for the moment. Dropped off the suitcase, got the keys, took my computer bag, etc., and headed for the other site on 17th St, where I should be based for the bulk of the job. Dropped off the computer bag, did a few things that were site-specific, then headed out.

Had lunch at Elvez, on 13th and Sansome (remember that place, Lori?), because I’ve been thinking about their mahi-mahi tacos for about three months. They did not disappoint. Passed Robin’s Bookstore — looks like they’ve lost the two-story enormous space they used to have and are now just upstairs, making room for a wine/pizza bar and an upscale florist. Ick. If I’m here through the weekend, I will go back and spend some money there.

Hit another bookstore, which had put aside for me Louise Erdich’s SHADOW TAG and Phyllis Theoroux’s THE JOURNAL KEEPER.

Headed back to 17th St, to get some work done, but didn’t manage to get online.

Met friends for a tapas delight dinner at Continental on 18th & Chestnut. The food’s very good, the atmosphere a little loud and echoey, the service okay but not brilliant. There was a bit of attitude at first from the hostess (I was so cordial she backed down — when I start getting “cordial” as opposed to “polite” or “friendly”, watch out, because it means I’m preparing to rip your lungs out). Obviously, the message came across, because there was a serious attitude adjustment. Our actual server was lovely, and the manager sorted things out. Other than bringing out the string fries AFTER we finished the meal instead of WITH the meal, it was fine. The BBQ Chicken Quesidilla is awesome. We ordered seconds.

Back to JFK Blvd., cup of tea, Olympics on, tried to get online — no luck. Slight panic attack, but it’s not a crisis until today.

Worried because, when I called home, the brook was within 6 inches of overflowing. Made arrangements to get the car to safety; made arrangements with friends to check on my mom and the cats if it actually flooded. Stressful to be away at such a time, but at least everyone who usually depends on me during flood times had resources and a Plan B. Instead of “what do we do?”, it’s a case of “If this happens, do X; if that happens, do Y” and so forth. It didn’t flood last night, thank goodness, but I was a bit of a wreck.

Started reading THE JOURNAL KEEPER instead. If you write or paint or have any sort of creative life and try to balance it with the rest of your life, you MUST read this book. If I tried to pull quotes for you, well, there are wonderful quotes on every page.

My favorite is “The soul cannot do its work when we are in constant motion.” (p. 41).

Fell asleep early, exhausted. Woke up early, to see much more snow falling today than we had yesterday. Meanwhile, rain turned to snow at home, with 10 inches falling overnight and snow expected all day today. The snow’s blown against the windows, and the cats don’t understand why they can’t see out. So, according to my mom, they decided to take another nap and try again later. Gotta love their attitude.

Yoga, breakfast, some reading. Not a pot or pan to be found at that site, but at least there was a kettle, and I’d picked up a croissant on my rounds yesterday. I carry my French press when I travel, and had coffee, so I could make coffee or it would NOT have been pretty. Packed up around 10 and shifted everything back over to the other site, where, miracle of miracles, I’m online. I’m going to take care of my workshops now, and then take the rest of the day as it comes.

The people for whom I’m covering are supposed to fly out tonight. If that actually happens, I’m here through Monday; otherwise, I will try to trek home tomorrow.

Off to the workshops. Let’s hope I can settle in here for a few days. The thought of lugging everything back home tomorrow exhausts me beyond belief.

Devon

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Thursday, February 25, 2010
Waxing Moon
Mars Retrograde
Stormy

By the time you read this, if transportation is running properly, I’ll be on my way to the gig in Philadelphia. I’m promised a good internet connection, although I’m bouncing between two separate locations, so you’ll hear from me over the next few days.

There was all sorts of chaos due to the impending storm — the plans in Philly changed, but we’re getting hit harder supposedly, and later, so if I tried to leave later it would be impossible. I wanted to leave late last night so I’d BE THERE already, but the final decision (not up to me, unfortunately), was that I should try to make a run for it today in the nor’easter.

Yes, you really can sense my eyes rolling.

Worked steadily, got done what was necessary, but felt rather like a draft horse. We all have those days. It wasn’t a bad day, it wasn’t a great day, it was simply a work day.

The only writing-related magazine I find useful at this point is POETS AND WRITERS. I find the other mags are almost entirely newbie-oriented, which is great when you’re starting out, but once you’ve subscribed for two years or so, it’s recycled content. POETS AND WRITERS always feels fresh to me, and it has great information over a lot of areas. It’s less oriented to how to break in and present yourself as a business person than it is about writing the best books you can write, and the articles are more than page or two-page sound bytes. They are actual ARTICLES, not advertorials.

The March/April issues is especially gratifying for Phyllis Theroux’s contribution to “The Literary Life” section. It’s a wonderful essay for anyone who is a writer and also has a life to live. It makes me eager to buy her memoir, THE JOURNAL KEEPER, which is supposed to come out any minute. Maybe I’ll pick it up in Philly! ;)

There was also a wonderful article by writer and BU professor Wiliam Giraldi on John Donne. It made me realize that, despite my supposedly good education, I’ve read ABOUT John Donne, but never actually READ John Donne. i intend to remedy that the next time I hit a bookstore, and certainly next time I visit Niantic’s enormous Book Barn (which should be around my birthday, in about two weeks).

Confidential Job #1 sent my next assignment, so I’ve tucked it into my bag and will start it either on the bus or while I’m down there.

Will check in once I’m settled in Philly — provided I get there! ;)

Devon

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Waxing Moon
Mars Retrograde
Rainy/sleet and cold

The weather was lousy yesterday, and I’m trying to mentally prepare myself for travelling in awful conditions tomorrow. If it wasn’t job related, I’d postpone, but since it is, I can’t. Minute by minute, with fully charged iPod and a good book will be my sanity-retainers. I’ll try to consider delays as extra time to read or meditate!

Lori, to go back to your comment on yesterday’s post, I think a lot of people like the “idea” of being something rather than actually putting in the work to do it. Yeah, sure, it’s fun to fantasize about being something brilliant and unique and wonderful and skilled and totally different than the life you lead. We all need fantasies, and some of them stay just that, and it’s fine. You can be the first three naturally, but unless you build the last, the skill, you can’t achieve the dreams. Because we’ve been forced into short attention spans/instant gratification/the-minute-you-don’t-feel-wonderful-take-a-pill mentality, too many people aren’t willing to put in the work and give up something, even as simple as a time-waster, in order to achieve what they think they want. And I think a lot of people also don’t have the courage to follow their dreams. It’s much easier to hide behind daily “duties” and blame everyone around one than it is to take a stand and say, “I’m going to do this, and this is how our schedules are going to change so all of us get to participate in what we want.” The pendulum’s swung back to martyr syndrome. I see it in people around me all the time — they’re desperate to feel valued, so they’d rather set up situations where, whether it’s at home or at the office or backstage, things “can’t function” without them. That level of dependence is unhealthy. Instead of doing what they really want and love to do, they do what they believe others want them to do, but expect emotional compensation and value for it. Most of the time, that behavior backfires and spirals downward into resentment and unhappiness for everyone involved. People get sick, emergencies come up, jobs are lost, deaths occur, there are life-changing accidents, all the rest. If people work on a method of independence along with a CHOICE of interdependence, because working together is more fun and more productive than working alone, rather than “this place CAN’T function without me”, I think, in general, both work and home atmospheres would be happier, more productive, and more would get done on all fronts.

It happens a lot backstage — a dresser will set up a track and purposely not put certain cues in the notes or not teach certain elements of a track to a swing, because that dresser doesn’t want any else to be as good or better. That dresser wants the actor to be dependent, and anyone who fills n to fail. That sets up a bad and sometimes dangerous situation backstage. When the dresser is confident in his/her own worth, the dresser wants things to work well in ALL situations, teaches things properly, communicates the details, and helps build the trust between the swing and the actor. That sets up a good atmosphere backstage, and the show runs well no matter who’s in what slot. Everyone brings something unique and different. And when you all work together positively, it benefits everyone. Fresh blood, people filling in for each other, can give an energy boost to the show, without devaluing the people who usually fill various roles. Managers don’t always like that, because they’d rather have people at each other’s throats to maintain a level of control. Good managers know better.

Did a lot of practical, business-oriented work. It never ceases to amaze me that I can spend a day full out on practical/business writing, knock off everything that has to be done, and feel like I’ve accomplished nothing; but if I spend the same time writing fiction, I feel like i’ve gotten somewhere.

My producer needs my next play faster than ever because the currently-contracted playwright up and died before finishing the play, and his was next up on the roster. I’m not kidding. There’s some sick cosmic joke in it all, but that doesn’t change the fact that, in and around teaching the workshops in the coming week, my primary focus needs to be on the plays. It’s tough to be under pressure to be funny, because humor has to come organically (initially) from character and situation, and then get tweaked and massaged with wit (at least, in my experience). Sitting there thinking, “this has to be funny” is counterproductive, so I have to read through my notes and outlines, and the first few scenes I have for BLOOD SOUP and see where it goes without forcing it.

I’ve been asked to speak again to middle schoolers in mid-March — different group — since the ones I spoke to in October are still talking about it. So that’s all good.

I’m figuring out what I need to bring up for my stint in Maine in April — I have a feeling i might carry up some of my pots, pans, and spices!

Started reading a biography of artist NC Wyeth, which is very interesting. I don’t know much about him, although I recognize the work when I see it. My grandmother was a big fan of his work. This book is something I gave her for Christmas in 1998; when she died last year, I received her art-related books. Reading it is a bit like remaining connected to my grandmother.

Seriously considering packing up and working at Greenwich Library today, where it’s quieter. When I get back, I can finish packing the writing bag and chill out a bit. I doubt I’ll watch much Olympics tonight — I need to be up early and out the door.

I’ve been promised good internet in Philly, so at least I’ll be able to blog, teach, and tweet!

My cats are seriously unhappy, although my mom is staying with them while I’m gone, and she’s their favorite human slave.

Back to business, to get everything done that needs to get done before I have to leave. If I can get the practical out of the way properly, maybe I can spend some time on the fiction.

Devon

Published in: on February 24, 2010 at 9:28 am  Comments (8)  
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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Waxing Moon
Mars Retrograde
Rainy and cold

I think one of the reasons we admire the Olympic athletes so much is because they don’t make excuses. They follow their passion without compromise. They don’t use families or day jobs as an excuse not to follow their dreams, and most people simply don’t have the guts to be that committed to something that’s not guaranteed to pan out. If they have family emergencies, they take time off and deal (or, as in the case of the figure skater whose mother died of a heart attack upon landing in Vancouver, work through it), and then make the decisions whether or not to come back. If they don’t feel like training, if they’re tired, they still do it, because they know anything less means failure.

Whether it’s sports or writing or acting or painting or music or whatever, if you expect to have a successful career doing something like this, and not punching someone else’s time clock for the rest of your life, you have to stop making excuses and go do it. I”m not a fan of many Nike policies, but their slogan “Just do it” is apt.

Either you do it or you don’t. There’s really no middle ground. And it takes courage to follow your dream and transform it from dream to reality. If there’s something you really want to do, you have to ask yourself, “Do I have the courage?” And if you don’t, it means you don’t want it enough.

Which is fine. Keep it as a hobby or search and find that about which you are truly passionate. But don’t whine, and don’t make excuses, because the rest of us have stuff to do. We ARE making our dreams reality, even when it’s hard and ugly and heartbreaking and means giving up things or people, because those moments when we DO it are worth everything.

And, especially if you’re a woman, you still have to vacuum, do the laundry, and the dishes. Actually, I’m a huge believer in “chop wood, carry water” because when you start having people around you take care of the daily details, you’re on your way to buying into your own press and headed for a fall. I’ve watched it happen, first hand, to dozens of actors. One foot on earth, one foot in the stars, follow your passion, and don’t let anyone else define you.

Yesterday was busy but good, with errands and practicalities. I’m mostly packed for the trip to Philly on Thursday, which looks like it will happen in vile weather. I did some writing, but not enough, and started work on some of the magazine pitches I plan to get out over the next few days. I want to make sure I have all my clips ready — some of these places don’t want email pitches, but hard copies, so those will have to wait until I get back, but at least I can prepare everything. I want to take a break from ANGEL HUNT until I return — if I get caught up in it again this week, nothing else will get done.

I spent a good portion of the afternoon tweaking the workshops. I posted the Welcome message for both workshops, and this morning, I post the first exercise for the “One Story, Many Voices” workshop, so people have a chance to think about it for a few days. This is the base story, the foundation story for the week, so I want to give the students more time to think about it. I made notes for my live chat on Sunday, and rearranged some of the points I want to hit.

I also watched the US Women’s Hockey team beat Sweden 9-1 — awesome game, and it puts them in the Gold Medal game on Thursday. And I watched last night, everything that was on. I don’t get curling — I’d like to get it, but it baffles me.

Although I’m not writing articles about the Games themselves — the coverage is so poor and fractured that I couldn’t get the right information in by deadline — I’m making notes for future articles. One of these days, I’ll get to cover the Winter Olympics on site!

More errands today, a trip to storage, and some correspondence. 1and1 has gotten so bad and so uncooperative that I can’t do anything connected to the websites. It’s out of control. I’ve got to figure out a way to pull the webmail files onto my hard drive — NONE of the ways or FTP servers so far suggested have worked. I have GOT to switch hosts — i’ve lost way too much income because I have a fraudulent web host, and believe me, I am filing the appropriate paperwork with the appropriate authorities.

Back to work — tomorrow is my last day working from home, and a lot has to get done between now and then.

Devon

Published in: on February 23, 2010 at 8:41 am  Comments (5)  
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Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday, February 22, 2010
Waxing Moon
Mars Retrograde
Sunny and pleasant

I’m back home, for a couple of days. Weekend gig was good, but busy. I could only get online via the very slow PC, so all I did was check messages and tweet occasionally. The essay I busted my ass so much to get in on time — still not up. Typical. Last time I take a quick turn-around demand from them seriously.

Didn’t do much work on ANGEL HUNT. I’ve gutted chapters 10 & 11. I’m going to combine them in the current draft, and I think I’ll write most of it from scratch without looking at the earlier draft, and then fold in anything that’s still relevant. Right now, by trying to revise what’s on the page, I’m getting caged by it, when what I need to do is take the literal meaning of the work and Re-Vision what purpose the chapter needs to serve and how to get there. I won’t be able to take the hard copy with me to Philly — I’m not hauling around several hundred pages of manuscript — so I won’t do much work on it while I’m there.

Besides, the conference starts on Friday — I’m teaching two workshops for an entire week AND doing a live chat on Sunday afternoon. That will take up the bulk of my time.

Made some notes on a few other pending projects, worked a bit on the short stories. I’m trying to gear up and get back into the headspace for the commissioned plays, but the light humor isn’t coming through. I need to get on the ball with those — the producer has to plan next season, and I want to be a part of it.

I did start another play, a much more serious one. that just sort of came to me out of nowhere, and wrote the first two scenes.

Reading-wise, I finished THE SWAN THIEVES. I liked it, although I felt the end was a little anti-climactic, and there were questions left unanswered (not directly related to the main plot) that I needed answered. In a way, it reminds me a little of AS Byatt’s POSSESSION, which is one of my favorite novels (never saw the movie).

After THE SWAN THIEVES, I needed something light and completely different. I read Michael Thomas Ford’s JANE BITES BACK, which is quite clever and funny, riding the Austen and the historical figure re-creationist wave while also poking fun at it.

I also picked up another book that I loathed. I won’t bash the writer here — it’s too hard to make a living doing this. Let’s just say that, after 50 pages, I was so furious, and the fury gained when I skimmed it, that I took it back to the store and swapped it out for something else. I don’t know if I’ve ever done that before. It was unrelenting, unnecessary gore, and unrelenting violence towards animals, which is one of my personal “don’t cross” boundaries. In the first 50 pages, a horse was brutally slaughtered in detail AND a supposed favorite pet dog was handed to a character to be eaten alive — no way. And that’s not even touching what was done to people.

Elegantly sparse prose can communicate horror much more effectively, in my opinion, than the verbal equivalent of a slasher film. And that’s what this was. Not for me.

I picked up something that looks far more interesting. I stuck it in my bag to serve as my travel book to Philly later this week, and, if I like it as much as I hope, I’ll write about it.

Watched the Olympics nearly non-stop. I don’t think I’ve ever had the television on so much in my life. The US Women’s Hockey Team continues to thrill me. I just can’t get enough of them. The US Men’s Hockey Team has come together nicely, as evidenced by their 5-3 win over Canada last night, which was a great game. and goalie Ryan Miller is obviously one of the unsung heros, until now, of the sport. These Olympics will change all that. Earlier in the day, I’d called the game as going 4-3 to the US, but they got that extra, empty net goal. The Russia-Czech Republic game was also great, although I expected at any minute, they’d start ignoring the puck and go after each other swinging. Yes, you can’t have physical fights in Olympic hockey, the way you can in the NHL, but you could tell they REALLY wanted to!

One of the things I like about the snowboarding is how much individuality the participants retain. Watch someone do a run once or twice and you don’t need to look at the screen anymore to know who it is — the style is that distinctive. I hope that doesn’t get sponsored out of the sport.

Watched a lot of the skiing, the aerialists, the ski cross (first year for that). I’m annoyed that the Olympic committee won’t allow women to have a ski jumping event — they do it, why not include it? Watched the speed skating and short track — so glad for Apolo Ohno. As I said before, it’s wonderful to watch him really grow into himself. Delighted that Bode Miller’s doing so well, and loved his interview about his definition of success and basically telling everyone who tries to force him to define himself in their terms to F*&k off. I totally relate, since I live by my definition of success in my field and am constantly attacked for it — especially by those who can’t earn a living at it. He articulated what I feel very well.

I love that fact that Julia Mancuso wore a tiara to the medal ceremony. She’s my favorite of the female skiers. And tiaras and cookies make everything better, in my opinion!

Good for Evan Lysacek, congrats to him. I felt Johnny Weir’s program was underscored, though, because it was gentle instead of flamboyant, and he should have gotten third or fourth.

I know I’m forgetting some of the fun moments, but I didn’t write them down, so, oh well.

Research books were waiting for me when I got home, including one on taxes (since this is the year I start the whole self-employment tax thing), the Mac, and the new WRITER’S MARKET. I started going through the WM. So far, I have 15 pages of single-spaced notes on markets to which to pitch articles. ARTICLES, not fiction or anything else. And that’s just the list that covers topics with which I’m familiar and don’t have to spend hours or days in additional research. So, when some wanna-be who defends content mills and getting paid for pennies starts up that there’s no work out there — if I can have 15 pages of notes on well-paying markets just on topics where I can pitch myself as experienced — there’s well-paid work out there.

More fuel for my live chat on Sunday on making a living as a freelancer.

I’m reworking my workshops a bit, tinkering to make them the best they can be for this group, and will post Welcome messages hopefully later today.

The next few days are filled with practicalities, admin, pitches, errands. I leave later in the week for Philly, and every duck has to be in a row before that. But it’s a good busy, so I’m going to enjoy it.

Devon

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thursday, February 18, 2010
Waxing Moon
Mars Retrograde
Sunny and milder

Just a quick check-in, I’m headed out the door to work a job in CT all weekend. Yesterday was mostly spent on ANGEL HUNT — made more cuts to the first third of the book, got rid of a lot of dialogue that went around in circles, dumped unnecessary adverbs, made the description active instead of passive. I’ve cut nearly 4K out of that section, which is close to what I needed. The initial scene, which used to run just over 4 pages, is not 2 1/2. Yes, I lost some of the verbal sparring between Lianna and Lucius DeWitt, but the scene is tighter and has more resonance with the rest of the piece. Zeke’s first mention is now on p. 8 and his first appearance is on p. 11. I’m thinking of having another short scene with him somewhere in the first nine chapters. He’s not named yet, but his presence is both felt and foreshadowed. Whereas in the serial, I had to draw everything out as long as possible, now I’m cutting and reshaping to make the story move and make every element that appears matter in the overall story. Do I lose some fun and interesting interactions? Yes, of course. But, overall, it makes for a stronger book. I even managed internal cuts the fight scene with the Witch Hunter, and yet get everything done in it that I needed to get done.

Printed it all out — a total of 22 pages cut from this section, it’s shorter and tighter, which is a good thing. Will take the chapters with me.

Since I have to gut Chapters 10 and 11 and restructure them completely to make a bridge into the next section of the book, I might combine those two chapters. I can probably make a few internal cuts with the sphinx — although it’s one of my favorite sequences — and tighten the other two challenges that gain her entrance into the Library. Also, more has to actually happen within the library; the reason for the attack has to be clear, and she has to leave the library with tangible facts that help her in the hunt, not just personal insight.

I’ve got my work cut out for me.

Did some outlining on a project and some work on one of the short stories.

Spent most of the afternoon and evening watching the Olympics – watched the Men’s Hockey, Finland vs. Belarus (Finland won, 5-1). The Finnish team looked good,a nd it was a good game. Lindsey Vonn got the gold, good for her, although all the crashes on the course were disturbing. I felt the cameras were far too intrusive after her win, but she’s done so much press leading up to the event that it wasn’t a surprise. I much prefer Shawni Davis’s tack of giving minimal time to the press before he competes, and talking when he’s done. A similar rule should be enforced for athletes as we enforce for the actors backstage — no guests after half hour, giving actors time to get into make-up, costume, and headspace for the performance. And believe me, I am the ultimate Dragon at the Gate when someone wants to mess with my actors!

My favorite, last night, was, of course, the snowboarders. One can’t help but admire what they do out there, and how could anyone not love what Shaun White brings? People tend to forget just how smart he is, in addition to his athleticism. He’s built himself a business empire in a really smart way. He gave an interview when he was about 14 saying it sucked that he got kicked out of school for lack of attendance, because he was getting A’s, and that if he was a figure skater or a horseback rider, they’d have taken his sport more seriously. He’s being taken seriously now, and he deserves it. I also like and respect the fact that he does a lot for other people and causes that interest him without manipulating everything he does into photo opportunities. He’s public when he’s performing, and he delivers. And then he goes off and lives his life and does what he believes in. He knows when to have fun and when to be serious, and he’s smart enough not to buy into his own press. For a 24 year old, he’s got his head screwed on pretty straight. And one of the things i really enjoy about the sport as a whole is that the joy is still in it, the excitement. I think a lot of the joy has gone out of sports like figure skating and swimming and some of the rest, because they’ve been over-corporate-tized. Yes, snowboarding’s gaining a lot of corporate sponsorship, but they don’t seem to have the minute-to-minute control over the athletes that a lot of other corporate sponsors do, and I hope snowboarders in general retain their free spirit, let’s-push-it-further quality.

I still think this is the worst-handled coverage of any Olympics I’ve ever seen. There’s no artistry — and, if you’ve seen well-covered sports, camerawork for sports is a special skill. AND good reporting is an art. The fact that the TODAY show has the unskilled, unqualified, unprepared Jenna Bush Hager running around asking lame questions rather than hiring qualified sports reporters who cover the various sports year-round shows how far the coverage has fallen.

I did sneak away from Olympic coverage here and there to watch most of HUMAN TARGET. The episode was a good, one-hour action movie. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the lack of development in the antagonists still bugs me, I still enjoy the scenes with the three leads, and can’t wait to see what Jackie Earle Haley brings to any scene he’s in. His choices are detailed and clear without being self-indulgent. So, even when I know where a scene’s going (and I’ve fallen into the rhythm of the show, so there are very few structural or plot surprises for me at this point), I look forward to what he’s going to do next. I had problems with the camera work in the last scene — it felt as though the camera’d slipped down a few inches instead of set where it needed to be set for the scene, and the framing annoyed me. Fox is not showing another episode for three weeks — the ratings are decent, although they’ll probably drop off during the Olympics, but they’re not giving the audience a chance to grow by shifting around time slots and then not showing it for a few weeks. Very frustrating.

But what I’m learning from the show I’m applying to my own work, when appropriate, as far as structure — and I’m more conscious of making my antagonists more dimensional!

I meant to stay up and watch the Czech vs. Slovakia hockey game at midnight last night, but I was too darned tired. I had weird dreams all night, so don’t feel well-rested.

I need to grab some breakfast, finish packing the writing bag and head out. Will try to post from the site — at the very least tomorrow, I’ll post the link to the essay.

Enjoy!

Devon

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Waxing Moon
Mars Retrograde
Cloudy and cold

What a difference a day makes! I feel much better, back on track, and like I’ve gained some perspective again.

It snowed on and off all day yesterday. Not a lot of accumulation, and I didn’t have to go out in it.

I tried to do some work in the morning, and had NOTHING in the creative tank. So I gave up, went offline, and had fun.

Part of the fun was starting Elizabeth Kostova’s THE SWAN THIEVES. I really like it. This is not a book one dips into with a few spare minutes — you have to sink into it like a featherbed for several hours at a time. Her writing is beautiful and she takes her time. Genre books are now being stripped in both word count and content so it’s plot/action, dialogue, sex. Kostova’s work is genuinely “literary fiction” — she fills all the senses with her textured worlds without the self-indulgent navel-gazing that’s become associated with so much literary fiction. Even when her characters are contemplative and self-reflective, it’s not self-indulgent.

I also decided to change the location of the Hillary Ice story from San Antonio to Bath, ME. Yeah, that’s quite a switch, and it changes a lot of the texture in the story. I haven’t been to San Antonio for fifteen years or more; loved it then, but unless I make it a period piece, I can’t write about that San Antonio — and this is definitely a contemporary piece. I can’t fly out to do on-site research. I could sit with the maps and the guidebooks and track down natives through blogs and bookstores and schools to ask questions. But that still won’t give me the texture and the emotional geography. I can’t get that without being there, because, no matter how well-researched, no other person will have the exact same sensory responses that I do, and anything I write will feel like a copy of a copy, instead of the direct experience.

I need to know more than just the correct streets and neighborhoods — I need the feel of the place.

Why Bath, ME? Other than I don’t think a whole lot of fiction is set there. Well, for one thing, Hillary’s main partner in this story, Jasper, is an artist who works in both iron and silver. Until I started exploring the story, I didn’t realize it, nor did I realize how vital his art and craft are to the plot. I did some research on forges in the San Antonio area — they’re not set in the area I need them, and I’m pretty sure the zoning in the area wouldn’t allow him to have a studio with a forge in it in the residential areas. I have family near Portland, and one of them has worked as a welder in the boat-building industry up in Bath for his entire career. I haven’t spent a lot of time up there, but the historic town, the contrasting neighborhoods, and the smell of hot, wet iron mixed with sea salt will add the right kind of texture to the piece. Also, if you continue up past Bath towards Booth Bay Harbor, there are artists who work not only in clay (the wonderful Edgecomb Pottery), but I remember signs for and by artists who work in iron. They DO have studios on their properties. Add to that the fact that I’m spending a good chunk of April in Maine, both for research purposes and to deal with a family matter — and I can hop up to Bath easily to walk the geography and add even more textural details.

My concern is that Bath, ME isn’t far from Salem, MA, the headquarters of the organization from whom both Hillary and Jain Lazarus work. I wanted her to be physically far away from them as well as psychologically. But I’ll figure it out.

Jasper is a breath of fresh air after Zeke and Eddie. He’s definitely got his own issues — his third marriage breaking up and children by the first two wives — but he’s come to an acceptance of how his past decisions affect his current circumstances. He’s at peace with that, although he’s still searching for something and doesn’t know what it is. And Hillary, who’s trying to run from something and winds up, through Fate, helping Jasper’s son, has a lot to play off of with that. It’ll be fun to play with, and there’s no fixed deadline for this piece, so I can let it unfold as it wishes.

On the Olympic front, I was in hockey heaven yesterday — three games back-to-back. The US Men’s team beat Switzerland 3-1, the US Women’s team whomped Russia 13-0, and the Canadian Men’s Team beat Norway 8-0. I could have watched the women’s China vs. Finland match, but even I get hockey-ed out after a while! ;) Because the rules are different in men’s and women’s hockey, with less physical contact for the women, their games seem much cleaner, faster, and more graceful. The men looked rather lumbering and awkward in comparison. Well, the US Men’s team DID lumber, and they WERE awkward — lots of miscues and stumbles. Imagine six foot tall puppies on ice skates — that’s what it looked like. They got the job done, but will have to improve as a team very quickly to be a real contender. The Canadian men’s team was much more in synch with each other, although they made some mistakes, too. It was annoying that the commentators were surprised that Norwegian and Swiss teams were good. Why wouldn’t they be good? Got to give Jeremy Roenick credit, though, in his commentary on the US Men’s game — he says what he thinks, doesn’t back down, is not afraid to disagree,and not afraid to tell Mike Milbury where to get off! I was afraid JR would have mellowed off the ice — nice to see he hasn’t. I certainly don’t agree with him all the time, but I respect the way he says what he means (and backs it up) and stands by it. I really like and respect him, even when he’s working my last nerve. A little less hair product, and he’ll be my favorite hockey commentator. I’m delighted Mike Babcock’s coaching Canada — he’s my favorite NHL coach, period, not to mention a hell of a great human being, and I’m so glad he’s doing this.

Even though I’m not a figure skating fan, I was impressed with Evan Lysacek’s performance last night.

Back to the page today. I’ve got to print out the revisions in ANGEL HUNT, work on two articles, and tweak the workshops for next week. I’m off to a site job tomorrow through Sunday night, then home for a couple of days, and then I head back down to Philly. So I have to be focused, and the next few days are about clearing off the desk and making sure everything is in order, no matter how much Zeke, Eddie, and the others squawk for attention.

Devon

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Waxing Moon
Mars Retrograde
Snowing

We had about another two inches of snow overnight and it’s going to snow off and on all day. I took care of the errands yesterday, so I can just stay tucked at home today.

I ran my errands in the morning, and attacked the essay in the afternoon. I was reading it over about twenty minutes before deadline and realized just how badly it sucked. Completely flat, the equivalent of “blah, blah, blah.”

So I threw it out and started over. I rewrote the whole piece with a much stronger focus and got it in on deadline. Not my preferred working method — I like to hone and polish over a period of days — but it’s there, and I’ll post the link when it goes live at the end of the week.

Went out and played hard last night to blow off some steam, then came back and worked on a short story. It’s set in jain Lazarus’s world, although she is not the primary focus. She’s only going to appear in a single phone conversation, just to tie her into the world. A colleague of hers, who we haven’t yet met in the series, Hillary, is, and she gets herself into a pickle in San Antonio. I haven’t been to San Antonio in about 15 years or more, so I’ll have to do some digging, invest in a street map, get on Twitter and ask native San Antonians questions. Because I can’t go down there to re-research the city for a short story.

Snow plows woke me up at 5:30, so I only got about three hours’ sleep.

I think I’ll give myself a snow day today. I’m getting mentally fatigued, and need a break from the dark psyches I’ve had to inhabit over the past few weeks in my writing. I bought Elizabeth Kostova’s THE SWAN THIEVES yesterday, so I may start that. Men’s hockey starts today at the Olympics, so, if they’re covering the game live, I’ll watch that. Delighted by Seth Westcott’s win. I’m one of the five people on the planet not enamoured by figure skating, but I still enjoyed the gold and silver medalists from China. And can I just say Lindsay Vonn hasn’t even skied yet and I’m sick of her? Way too much coverage on someone who hasn’t performed yet. I’m going to have to root around online and find some more international coverage — I want to know about the international athletes, the ones I only get to see during the Games.

I’ve been watching and watching and watching the trailer for SHUTTER ISLAND (because the promos are on a lot). Suddenly, I got suspicious and thought, “What if X is really the big twist at the end? I’ll be so annoyed.” And I did some spoiler research and discovered I was right. So, now I’m on the fence about seeing the movie. I know what happens at the end, and that choice is a device that doesn’t work for me. But the filmmaking looks wonderful and I’m interested in some of the performances. Also, after having spent weeks deep within dark psyches, is it really a good idea to go out and see more? So I’m not yet sure what I’ll do.

Okay, back to the page for a bit — before I start my official snow day, I’ve got a bit of work to do on a couple of articles. But the bulk of the day will be spent playing. I need some light=hearted time to counterbalance the unrelenting darkness of Zeke and Eddie.

Devon

Published in: on February 16, 2010 at 7:54 am  Comments (4)  
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Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday, February 15, 2010
Waxing Moon
Mars Retrograde
Sunny and COLD

Happy Chinese New Year (yesterday). We are now in the Year of the Tiger, and I am a tiger, so watch out!

Got out my deadlined piece by 3:30 on Friday afternoon. I was at a location with a great wireless connection. Even managed to pitch two jobs. Got a response from one almost immediately, and it’s a case where I tripped over my naivete and stubbed my soul. The fact that this ad circulates regularly should have tipped me off. When I got more details — let’s just say it would blow the credibility I’ve built in my review work, and I’ve refused it. I was very diplomatic (hey, I’ve got a learning curve), but firm in the refusal.

Got settled in to the site job, where I don’t have a wireless connection, and have to use their PC — which is fine, it’s just I’m totally spoiled now by the versatility of Mac. So I only use the PC if I have to go online,and I limit my online time — hop on to check messages and that’s about it. The PC is just very unwieldy and difficult for me compared to my Mac. How did I ever get anything done before the switch?

Technically, I had the Olympics on, but I couldn’t tell you a thing about the opening ceremonies. I was putting in the changes to the early chapters of ANGEL HUNT, comparing draft lengths and contents. It was technical work — I’d done the creative work — so I could have the TV on, but I might as well not have. I think I looked up once in four hours. In spite of all the major cuts I’ve made, I also wrote new chunks for the direction the piece took away from its serial plotlines. So I haven’t really cut that much. Re-reading some of the edits, I feel that I take awhile to get to the meat of the scene in some respect, and, in the next pass, I’ll have to strip each scene to its essence. As I worked on the climactic sequence (my first draft of that section), I realized that there’s a huge throughline I’ve ignored and will have to weave in — which means I’ll have to go back and create new sections — which also means cutting even more.

I want the book textured. I do not want it unwieldy.

I spent Saturday working on ANGEL HUNT. The first third of the book is in good shape now, although, in the next draft, I’m still going to go back and make cuts. They will be mostly internal cuts within the scenes — I think there are still a few places where they take too long to get to the point. While, in the original vision, one of the themes was Lianna taking awhile to catch on to certain things and wrestling with her values, there’s way to much going on now for us to see every moment of that struggle. We only need the highlights and lowlights, so to speak,and then we need to keep driving forward. There are sections where it bogs down, and I need to express the same information and emotion, but more succinctly.

I gutted most of Chapters Ten and Eleven, which bridge the first section into the second section, but I think they need more work. In the serial, the scenes in that section raised more questions. In the book, they need to provide revelations. Different formats, which is why adaptation is a challenge.

The second section of the book is pretty tight, and there was only room for some internal cuts. I need to make a few more, but it holds together pretty well. Gaston takes his place of importance, the relationship with Lachlan takes the unexpected turn, Zeke becomes both antagonist and addiction. I remember when I first wrote that pivotal Lianna-Lachlan scene — I was so surprised. I never saw it coming before the scene rolled onto the page, and there are editors who will have fits about it. But it’s integral to the characters and story. And the scenes between them are damned good, if I say so myself! ;) (My crit partner agrees, although the big scene with Zeke in the climactic sequence is the favorite — my partner said it took a good 30 minutes to recover from that one, in the best possible way, so I figure I’m doing something right).

I also discovered why I’ve struggled with the climactic sequence moving forward. I was untrue to one of the antagonists — my choices for his choices in these scenes made him weak and cliched. I figured out how to fix it, which means pushing back the Lianna-Zeke scene by about ten or fifteen pages, but the payoff is worth it.

It also means I’ll have to find material to cut earlier in the book to make room for this sequence. But every other possibility I’ve explored for this antagonist winds up unfulfilling and leaving too many loose ends. I have to stay true to ALL the characters, not just my main and/or favorite ones!

I’m also frustrated because the rights reversion for the first two Jain Lazarus books are taking longer than they should, because the former publisher can’t be bothered to supply the correct legal paperwork. It makes the whole situation uglier, and necessitates me filing breach of contract documentation (I think, at last count, my lawyer and I counted 18 actual breaches), but I can’t offer the books to anyone for reprint rights without proper reversion documentation. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth and makes it harder to move forward with the series. And it hurts the momentum for CRAVE THE HUNT, although I have a publisher who’s interested in taking a look at it, once the damn thing is finished.

On the Olympic front, I was saddened by the death of Nodar Kumaritashvili, the luge athlete, and angered by the way the Olympic Committee was quick to blame the athlete and act like it was more of an inconvenience than anything else. It could have been handled with much more class. I thought Sven Kramer, from the Netherlands, was poetry in motion in long-track speed skating, and was delighted by Apolo Anton Ohno’s silver in the 1500m short track speed skating — I’ve been watching his work since his first Olympics. It’s been wonderful to watch him grow into himself as a person and an athlete. JR Celski’s bronze was pretty great, too. I’m disappointed that they didn’t show the Canadian women’s hockey, which started on Saturday night. Had it worked out for me to attend the games (as in the publications with whom I’d negotiated not gone under), I’d have covered Women’s Hockey and Men’s Hockey, with forays when I could over to snowboarding (which may have been too far away) and speed skating. I enjoy the alpine ski events, too, but they were too far from the rest of the events for me to cover; at least I can watch some of it on TV. The lack of coverage of women’s hockey, in general, frustrates me, which is why I’d so hoped to get to attend and cover these games with a lot of focus on women’s hockey.

At least they showed the USA Women’s Hockey on Sunday afternoon, in their 12-1 victory over China. I felt sorry for the Chinese goalie — she was out there without help, and she did a damn good job.

I also got to see Nordic Combined, one of my favorite events — and kudos to Johnny Spillane for making that beautiful move near the end to get silver.

I wish they’d cover more of the international athletes. I’d like to see an interview with someone like the Italian Nordic Combined athlete Guiseppe Michelli. They mention the names, but, I remember when I watched the Olympics growing up, the broadcasters actually covered the games, not just the US athletes. And would the commentators shut up and let us enjoy the sport, already? The way they drone on about nothing all the time gets really annoying. I want to see the beauty of each sport and get to know the individuals behind them.

By Sunday afternoon, I was really tired and needed a break from Lianna, Zeke, Lachlan, et al. I considered going back to Eddie, but he’s sulking because I’m not giving in and making things easy for him, and I don’t have the patience to deal with him right now.

I was edgy and restless, lots of wandering and muttering. I worked on the essay that’s due today. I want to keep it around 800 words, but I’ve had to write about 3500 to find the right 800. I’ll finish, polish, and send that out today.

It kind of felt like I was waking up after an illness, with the past couple of — I don’t even know if it’s been days or weeks — focused on ANGEL HUNT and REDEMPTION KILL.

Then, there was the Cat Sitter Trauma. I went back home unexpectedly on Saturday to drop off some stuff I finished and didn’t want to have to haul back with me on Sunday. It was obvious the cat sitter hadn’t been there — the apartment was trashed, the food bowls empty, and the litter boxes hadn’t been cleaned. There were no calls from her, and she didn’t answer her cell. I was worried –at first. I fed them, cleaned up, left extra dry food in the self-feeder just in case. When I got back Sunday, it was still obvious she had never been there. Finally, I get a message on Sunday night, “Oh, I’m sorry I wasn’t there this weekend. My boyfriend and I are going through a rough patch; he surprised me with a trip for Valentine’s day to work things out and I went. I hope it wasn’t a problem.”

Um, YES, it was a problem, especially since she didn’t call. I understand that stuff comes up and sometimes one has to cancel, although, in my Lexicon of Responsibility, her excuse doesn’t cut it. A fight with the boyfriend doesn’t constitute “family emergency.” But whether I agree with the why or not, at least call and tell me, so I can make other arrangements. Not showing up is unacceptable — both for the worry caused and for the fact that there were three little beings who needed care. Fortunately, they were cats, not dogs, and have litter boxes and have self-feeders and waterers. But it’s still not acceptable.

I just called back and left a message on her cell saying,” Yes, it is a problem” and cancelling her for the next two weekends. I’ve already made other arrangements.

I was fortunate enough to wind up the gig mid-afternoon on Sunday, which meant I could go back early enough to put the apartment back to rights and also enjoy a nice, romantic Valentine’s evening. All good.

Eddie and I made up this morning, and I’m spending some time in his world today, and finishing the essay for my publisher. It will go up on that site on Thursday — I’ll make sure to post the link before I take off again. I’m unpacked and repacked for this coming weekend’s gig, and I have to go to Costco to pick up some stuff before the next snowstorm hits tonight.

Then, it’s back to the page, the essay and Eddie’s world. I’ll give myself a break on ANGEL HUNT until tomorrow or Wednesday, and then tackle the climactic sequence of the book.

Devon

Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday, February 12, 2010
Waning Moon
Mars Retrograde
Sunny and COLD

Yesterday was a conflicted day, as far as work went. I’m on deadline for a couple of projects; at the same time, both REDEMPTION KILL and ANGEL HUNT are on a roll that I don’t want to stop.

I fought and fought and fought to keep away from ANGEL HUNT yesterday, trying to get to work on the other projects and then get back to ANGEL HUNT. I lost.

As I’m working on these last few chapters in the draft — I think I have three more to write, including the climactic sequence and the aftermath — I realize how much I’m going to have to cut. With three more chapters to go, I’m over 113K, which is unacceptable. I don’t have the clout to dump a manuscript of that size onto an editor’s or agent’s desk. The book also can’t be split into two books – it’s a single story. I already cut out an entire subplot and two whole sets of characters.

I broke one of my own rules and went back to re-read the early chapters. And I cut A LOT. There are scenes that work rhythmically unto themselves, or within the context of the chapter, but where I can cut out beats — or sometimes entire pages — without hurting the overall piece. In fact, it makes the book stronger and tighter, and keeps more of the focus on Lianna and Zeke. I’ve introduced Zeke earlier — in the first chapter, which is vitally important for the overall story, and his presence is felt in the first few pages, although about 2/3 of the initial scene between Lianna and Lucius DeWitt has been cut and tightened. There’s room for their verbal volleyball elsewhere, and just hinting at it here does the trick. Lachlan’s entrance remains where it is, although I’ve tightened a lot of the exposition. Gaston, who is a major figure in the bulk of the book is now mentioned early on, but doesn’t actually appear until much later because that serves the story best. HIs physical presence is a necessary catalyst, and to bring him in earlier would destroy the build of the piece, even though it’s an often-used convention to place all players on stage in the first few chapters. I’m careful not to make him a deus ex machina — in fact, I’m worried that such a character will show up in the climactic sequence and I want to make sure that doesn’t happen. But I can cut a lot of the debate and wheel-spinning out, so that’s what I’m doing. At this point, all the subplots feed and strengthen the main plot, but I have to streamline and trim so every word, phrase, and beat drives the piece forward. Lianna may stop to take a breath here and there, but there’s no room for a vacation! ;)

I also did some work on the short story, and on the deadlined assignments. I’ll get the one due today out the door by the end of the business day — barely. And I’ve set specific daily goals for the essay for each day, so I’m not leaving it until the last minute — I need to turn in something polished by Monday, and since the details weren’t settled until yesterday . . .and my focus is completely elsewhere . . .you get the idea.

Layer on the fact that I’m writing about the Olympics over the next two weeks, and, well, it’ll be busy.

I had a wonderful first writing session this morning on REDEMPTION KILL. Eddie’s not getting everything his way, and he’s just about reached the limit of his flexibility. So now he’s being pushed further. He’s used to facing down physical dangers, but now, emotions he thought he’d controlled for years are returning to haunt –and taunt — him. In other words, right now, I have the upper hand with Eddie instead of the situation in the past week where he had the upper hand with me.

Yes, when I’m writing them, the characters are as real as anyone who walks through the door. I’m always surprised when I go to fix dinner and they’re not in the kitchen. ;)

I haven’t even packed yet, and I’m leaving around noon. I should have limited internet access over the weekend, although I may have to switch between MacGeorge and (oh, horrors) a PC.

Better get going — noon’s not too far away!

Have a great weekend, all, and I’ll catch up on the Prolific Blogger Award (From Kim Smith) and the Sunshine Award (from Michelle Miles) early next week. Thanks to both for the honors!

Devon

Published in: on February 12, 2010 at 9:09 am  Comments (7)  
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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Thursday, February 11, 2010
Waning Moon
Mars Retrograde
Sunny and cold

So this has been an interesting journey. Not only has going down the rabbit hole with Eddie in REDEMPTION KILL been difficult, necessary, and fascinating, but it helped me with the revisions in ANGEL HUNT.

Eddie in REDEMPTION KILL is called a sociopath, but he’s not. He’s on the precipice of making a choice that will either take him down the road of no hope and no return, or one that could give him a small measure of peace, closure, and the potential for a fresh start, depending upon his choices in the course of the book. Danica (who has plenty of her own issues) is very careful to make sure the choices are Eddie’s, and that she’s not manipulating him. Honestly, at this point, I don’t know where he’ll end up. In ANGEL HUNT, Lianna is desperate to save Zeke, in spite of the fact they’re antagonists. While part of Zeke wants to be saved, he’s too far gone, and the only thing he’s capable of doing is destroying Lianna. I’m not sure how that will play out at the end, either, but I’m a lot closer to finding out than I was a week ago. Yes, Zeke is even a bigger, darker, more complex mess than Eddie, and no, Zeke wasn’t in the serial of the same name. I’ve been wrestling with the revisions of ANGEL HUNT for over a year, almost as badly as Lianna and Zeke have wrestled inside the story. It was interesting that Eddie’s struggle in REDEMPTION KILL helped unlock the problems in ANGEL HUNT. Eddie and Zeke are hugely different, with hugely different motivations, although they both live in enormous pits of despair, yet devoid of self-pity.

And the Lianna-Zeke relationship brings “dysfunctional” to a new level while Danica and Eddie, although in a line of work that would horrify a lot of people, somehow craft a healthy relationship in unhealthy circumstances. The comparisons/contrasts are fascinating. ANGEL HUNT is a few drafts closer to getting out the door than REDEMPTION KILL, but I find it interesting how the two pieces feed off each other, and how REDEMPTION KILL somehow unlocked the blocks I had with ANGEL HUNT.

And of course, as I’m writing it, I’m a little bit in love with both Zeke and Eddie as I’m writing from my female protags’ POV, and then, when I get into Zeke’s psyche (not a place you’d want to be on a bad day) and Eddie’s psyche for the flip sides — well, it’s quite the journey.

It is very similar to good use of the method the way some actors do. I’ve certainly seen enough abuse of “the method” as an excuse for self-indulgence and bad behavior, but when it’s used as a tool to reach a goal rather than as the goal itself, it can help produce some excellent work.

To top it off, I wrote most of a short story as well, which I hope to finish and polish in the next few days.

There’s been a lot of discussion about how there’s a lack of pilots this upcoming season written by women. And yet, two of the features coming out that I find most intriguing were written by women: SHUTTER ISLAND and the ALICE IN WONDERLAND adaptation with Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter (oh, I am so there for that one — can’t wait to see what he does!) I’d like to see more women scripting and showrunning action, paranormal, drama, and procedural shows as well as intelligent comedy, but I’m also excited that two of (in my opinion) the most intriguing upcoming releases are written by women. Yes, they’re both adaptations of books by men, but I think that polarity will help strengthen the pieces. If those two films are successful, I think it will open the doors for a lot of talented women, the way Kathryn Bigelow’s work (over quite a few years) has opened doors. Someday, maybe gender won’t matter and we can reach what most of us actually working in the business want — that we are judged on the basis of the work’s quality alone. But we’re not quite there yet.

(Note: Yes, I am aware that I am talking about two features in the above and not television shows, somewhat apples and oranges. But while fewer women are writing/running upcoming pilots, two of the big feature releases are written by women. I found that interesting).

Moved script meetings to next week so I don’t sabotage myself. Some other opportunities have landed on my desk and I have to sort through them. The Universe is pushing me towards a particular location with several script opportunities, so I will see what happens. In another case, I was asked to do some script doctoring. I hate the script. I tried to refuse diplomatically, and the producer didn’t seem to get it. I was finally very blunt and said, “I find your script offensive and demeaning to women.” His response, “Yeah, but will you punch up the dialogue?” I made it very clear that no, I would not. They need someone enthusiastic about the script to do good work on it, and since I can’t stand it, I am not that person. And before those who haven’t worked in the biz start yapping that professionals should be able to write anything, when it comes to work like this, there’s way too much at stake to do something you despise and for which you have no respect just for the dough. Yeah, Faulkner did it and it nearly killed him. I’d rather have less money and a more peaceful soul.

Also was invited to do some guest blogs by two different publishers, which is exciting, for their house sites. One of it deals with pop culture and has to get out the door ASAP. I’ve also got to complete the assignment for Confidential Job #1, which is due tomorrow, and I need to get it out the door in the morning, since I leave for a site job around noon.

Huge snowstorm on Wednesday here. Loved it. Also enjoyed an early Valentine’s Day celebration — since we were snowed in anyway, we decided to make the most of it. ;) We had about a foot of snow, not too bad.

LOST was a huge disappointment on Tuesday. There were no surprises; it’s unfolding the way I figured it would, but hoped it wouldn’t. I knew where every scene was going by the second line in the scene. The production quality is great, I like the actors, I like the writing, but I don’t find the big choices in overall mythology satisfying. The days I happen to get around to watching it, I will try to enjoy some of the moment-to-moment stuff, but I’m pretty sure I’ll feel cheated by the end –as I’ve felt cheated most of the past four seasons. That doesn’t take anything away from the phenomenon it created. It is simply not personally satisfying. The in-jokes and the way some stuff circles around but other stuff contradicts itself is fun in the moment, but isn’t adding up to the type of whole I wanted from the piece.

And I’m getting really stubborn about HUMAN TARGET, now, digging in because I don’t feel Fox is supporting the show adequately. I’ve worked on a few of those myself — big early hype and then suddenly, no more promos, no more support. Here you are, busting your ass on 14-18 or more hours a day on the set, giving your all, and the network turns its back on you, not even running regular promos. It sucks. I also think the show’s improving week to week. Are there things that don’t work for me on the show? Yes, mainly the under-developed villains who I don’t feel challenge the protags enough. Last night’s villain was better developed — I still wanted just three or more sentences FROM HIM, out of his mouth, to really take his character where I needed it. There’s too much ABOUT the villains and not enough direct character development. The action scenes are well done, and some of last night’s were especially clever. And in the first scene, as soon as she’s waiting alone on the bridge, I knew she was Doyle’s daughter, even though it was a surprise to the other characters in the mid-way reveal. But the things that work for me really work, primarily Jackie Earle Haley’s work and anytime the three leads are in a scene together. HIs scenes in the van during last night’s episode were darkly hilarious. He can do more with a sideways look than most people can do in a three page scene. His character loves to push other characters’ boundaries to see what they’re made of. I feel that the network is abandoning the show after hyping it a lot early on instead of giving it what it needs to hit its stride, turning it into more of an underdog than it should be. I know, like my measly viewership means anything, right? I didn’t say there was LOGIC involved, just stubbornness! ;) And I have to admit that I learn just as much or more from what I think doesn’t work in the show as from what does.

Good first writing session this morning. I’m going to have to go and dig the car out later on, before everything freezes and I need a pickaxe to get the car out. Then, it’s work on the essays, Confidential Job #1, and packing for the weekend job.

No matter how deeply involved I am with Eddie and Zeke right now, a deadline is a deadline, and I don’t blow deadlines.

Devon

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