Fri. Feb. 5, 2016: Wintry Writing Weekend

Friday, February 05, 2016
Waning Moon
Rainy, expecting snow, falling temps

Yesterday was busy, but hard to focus.

I’d hoped it would snow overnight and we’d have a snow day today, but it’s rain that will change over at some point during the day.

Up early this morning. Got about 750 words done on LAUGHTER RETURNED, and I’m actually happy with some of them, which is good. One of the supporting characters, who I’d planned as a bit of a British dandy sponging off the main characters has turned out to be a tough Western American. He’s got an agenda, intelligence – and more to offer than the original concept of the character, which I think will work better in the overall scheme of the book.

Background reading on another project. Originally, I planned to set in the 1950s, but the early 1920s seems to support more of what I want out of the piece.

I’d left my flash drive with what I needed for CHOLERIC in the other computer – glad to find it safe, and I’ll be more careful today, so I have what I need to work at home this weekend.

Finishing up some material for Monday’s NMLC board meeting, and hoping to finalize the ArtsWeek Boston panel. February’s book groups got a nice mention in today’s paper, so that’s good. Always good to see the PR’s hit properly.

The bulk of the next four days will be about writing, although I’m attending a friend’s event tomorrow afternoon in Sandwich, have to go over the bridge for some errands on Sunday, and over again on Monday for the board meeting (weather permitting).

But, overall, I’m looking at a reasonably productive weekend. I also plan to dig back into contest entries. I had a week off reading for the contest, so now I’m ready to go back. I much prefer getting the entries in batches, rather than 100+ books landing on the doorstep all at once.

I’m sorting through some possible opportunities, to see what it makes sense to accept, and what will throw the schedule so far off-course (without enough recompense to make it worth while) that I should decline. I’ll have my lawyer look at the contract extension before I sign it for the Jain Lazarus Adventures, and I’m in the process of getting the paperwork for the rights to the pieces I have with Amber Quill, so those can go on to their next lives.

On an exciting note, I’ve been asked to be on a judging panel for a high school radio writing contest in New York State. That will be lots of fun.

I’m also going to start preparing my talk for the March Writers Night Out and the handouts this weekend.

This weekend will be the good kind of busy! ;)


Thurs. Feb. 4: Retreat Wrap

Thursday, February 04, 2016
Waning Moon
Rainy and mild

It was quite the trip to Vermont. Very interesting experience, and, overall, positive.

I’d entered a contest to win a stay at a writing retreat in Vermont. I entered with a “what the hell” attitude, never figuring I’d win.

Once I got the email stating I’d won, I researched the place. It was legitimate, although their model is to invite you to a free stay, but paying for food, in hopes you’ll come back again at full price and purchase coaching and/or editing services. I contacted them to let them know that I’m not in the market for that (my publisher assigns my editor and I’m motivated enough not to need a coach). I’m not an “aspiring” writer in the usual sense of the term. While I “aspire” that every book is better than the last, in both craft and story-telling, and that I’m always growing, I am a working, published writer. If they only wanted unpublished writers up there, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t taking someone else’s slot.

But they said I was still welcome, I paid my deposit, we confirmed dates, I paid the balance, and there we were. I’d jokingly called it “Poconos for Writers” hearkening back to the seventies and eighties when people were invited for a free stay in the Poconos in the hopes they’d buy a condo there.

I got on the road by 8 AM on Sunday. Decent driving conditions, not much traffic. I made it up to Brattleboro near noon, and had a lovely lunch with author Archer Mayor and his wife Margot. We had a good time, and talked about lots of things.

Then, I headed further up Rt. 91, took 107 across – and the weather started getting worse. 107 was slippery, and I spent most of the time hoping I wouldn’t slide off the road into a river.

I was also concerned about the dearth of gas stations.

Made it across 107, got onto 100 (which is also rather small and narrow). The gas station in Rochester was closed (it being Sunday afternoon in a small, rural town).

The directions were vague, and I don’t have GPS, but I found the turn-off – or, I should say, turn-up. I had to drive up a mountain. Without four-wheel drive. In a VW rabbit. Fortunately, it IS a VW, and the new battery put in last week served me well. I would have never made it on the old battery. The car had to work at it. Plus, the unpaved (or barely paved) road was icy.

I paused at the quarry about half way up to catch my breath. Stone soothes me, and I took full advantage of the big hunks of it to get re-situated.

I made it up the mountain, followed the signs (not easy to see in the twilight), and found the place.

I was in the Mark Twain room, which was a lovely room with plenty of light, Mark Twain memorabilia, and a wonderful antique desk. No chair except a rocking chair (too low for the desk), but a lovely antique desk. The bathroom was tiny but functional – situated in what once had been the room’s closet, and a hanging bar for clothes. It’s not like I had gowns and things that needed a lot of hanging space, so it was not an issue. There was no lock on the door – disconcerting for an ex-New Yorker, especially since the room was right off the front entrance. But it had a hook and eye.

In the Welcome Packet, it stated that beer was $4/glass and wine was $8/glass and we weren’t allowed to bring in our own liquor. Um, I’m a legal adult and mostly responsible – if you’re going to tell me I can’t have a glass of wine in my own room, I need to know that BEFORE I come up (and I probably won’t come).

I got settled in, and went for “cocktails” at 5:30 to meet the other writers. There were two other writers that first night, a father/son combination from New York (they didn’t write together, they’d traveled together). We had lovely conversation in the Library, in front of the fireplace, and then had an amazing dinner by the private chef: salad with strawberry vinaigrette, pineapple/rosemary sorbert as a palette cleanser, and a seared tuna on a bed of kale and quinoa. Wonderful dessert. Outstanding.

The owner of the establishment joined us for dinner, and told us about the place and the vision of the place. For me, it was too much of a hard sell, and it was also not what I want or need at this point in my career – especially talk about filming pitches and doing a docu-drama/reality-type show. I have a “no-photos” clause in my contracts – appearing in a reality show is simply not an option, in addition to disagreeing with the concept on many levels.

By the time we disbursed for the night and I was back in my room, I was having second thoughts. I woke up in the middle of the night and wondered if I should simply leave the next day.

But, I decided to give it a chance.

Stumbled out of bed Monday morning, retrieved a cup of coffee from the kitchen, and went back to my room for my yoga, meditation, shower, etc. I did some writing, but not as much as I wanted to. I’d hoped to get a full 1K done before breakfast. Didn’t work out that way. I borrowed an extra chair from the dining room, which suited the writing desk.

Breakfast was delightful: mushroom scrambled eggs with salad, berries with yogurt. But breakfast is late in the morning – after 9 AM, so it’s nearly 10 or later by the time one gets back to the room and to work. With lunch being shortly after twelve noon, that doesn’t give one much of a writing morning, unless the bulk of it is done before breakfast. Which is fine, but my strongest writing hours are between 6 and 10 AM.

Mornings are a busy time there, because the staff has to prepare rooms, clean, run the washer, prepare breakfast, clean up after breakfast, and prepare lunch. There was music playing – jazz, which didn’t bother me at all, but some of the others found it a bit distracting.

I think it’s easier when the studio space is separate from the living space, because then one can really be isolated during working hours, and then come together in a separate building for communal time. It’s harder when it’s all in one building.

I did some more work on DEATH OF A CHOLERIC, and then put it aside and concentrated on starting the play set in 17th Century Italy. Read through my notes. Started working on the play.

Lunch was lovely: soup and grilled cheese.

Back to work after lunch. Hard not to take a nap. I hadn’t slept well, so I dozed a bit, and did some background reading.

I went back to the play, decided I didn’t like anything I’d written, threw it all out and started over. This time, it worked out better, and I got a solid eight pages written. Much slower than my usual speed, even in longhand.

I looked something up on the 365 website, and saw a familiar name – an actress with whom I worked on a film in college. I checked her website – beautiful – and shot her an email to see if she was the same person and if she remembered me.

We met up for cocktails again. Two more writers had joined us – one from New Jersey and one from Maryland. We got acquainted, then moved on to a lovely dinner: a lovely appetizer, a ginger/coconut sorbet, seared steak tips on a bed of mashed potatoes and cauliflower and sautéed vegetables, and another wonderful dessert.

Dinner conversation was about out day’s work to an extent, but also other things – anecdotes of personal experiences, politics, etc. Since this was the night of the Iowa Caucus, and since this election has a lot at stake, it was nice to be able to have a lively discussion about what is going on and why certain candidates resonate with people.

After dinner, we gathered our reading materials.

I did not read from what I’d written that day. Reading a first draft is detrimental for me, not helpful. First drafts are for me to figure out WHAT I’m trying to say. After a few drafts, feedback is helpful to let me know whether or not I’m saying it successfully, and where the strengths and weaknesses are.

Reading from either DEATH OF A CHOLERIC or the new play simply was not an option.

In my manuscript bag, I discovered I’d brought the first two chapters of SONGBOUND SISTERS. I’d written and then workshopped the first chapter of it at the Cape Cod Writers Conference last August, and it’s back on the roster to be the primary focus starting in March, with a first draft by June. The feeling in August was they wanted more narrative focus and less dialogue-driven, so I read how I’d expanded the original pages. The response was supportive with insightful and useful comments from everyone. I feel I’m being heavy-handed on several points, but I guess I’m not, because they didn’t really pick up on them.

The other writers who read had very good work. We all listened to each other carefully, and the comments were specific and constructive. It was a very positive dynamic, yet still focused on making everyone’s work better.

We were up until nearly midnight. I kept checking the caucus results when I went back to my room, but they were still counting.

I heard back from the actress – she IS the person with whom I worked, and seems happy we’re back in touch. We both wrote plays for 365 Women, which I think is fun.

I didn’t sleep well, again, which was disconcerting, and then I overslept. I staggered into the kitchen for coffee in the morning, and someone tried to talk to me while I was trying to jam the filter into the Keurig. Always dangerous. So I’m trying to be friendly, while still protecting my “I don’t talk before coffee or my first 1K”.

Considered skipping yoga and meditation, but that would have been a BAD idea on oh, so many levels. Did it, showered, integrated the comments from the previous night into SONGBOUND SISTERS – moved a few things around, added a bit of detail that will make the context clearer.

Breakfast was good – pancakes and bacon, and I was actually coherent enough to have conversation in full sentences.

Wound up putting on my iPod and headphones to cut out morning distractions. I was having trouble with the Town Hall Meeting scene in CHOLERIC; I finally stopped struggling and went over to the rocking chair to re-read the material I’ve written on TIE-CUTTER – again, about a third of the book. That deadline’s up after CHOLERIC is done, and then SONGBOUND SISTERS comes into the rotation.

The material is much stronger than I remembered, which was a relief. I’m onto something here. Something very different from what I usually do, but I’m onto something.

All of a sudden, it was lunchtime (buffet salad). Very good, but I needed to get back to work.

I got a good chunk of work on CHOLERIC done in the afternoon. Nowhere near what I’d hoped to, but it’s solid, and will work. I realized that one of the primary antagonists (not just in this book, but in the first several books of the series) was introduced here at Town Hall, on p. 156, and that just won’t do. So I went back and inserted an encounter with him on p. 14 that foreshadows the rest, without going into a long introduction.

I realized something important: I work WELL at home. Plenty of people don’t. But I set up close to the writing room of my dreams – terrific light, my books around me. Okay, so I couldn’t decorate in complete Old English Library style – but it’s a happy, pleasant, workable room, and, in it, I’m productive. That’s a good thing.

But it also means I have to pick the whens and wheres of writing retreats very carefully, because I don’t need to go on many of them. I do well at home. My first 1K of the morning – no problem. On a day where I have additional writing time blocked out, anywhere from 3-7K is the norm. I was struggling to get 3-4K at the retreat. With two full days of writing, I should have (and expected to) get 8-14K done. I expected to get at least 6K done on CHOLERIC and finish the first draft of the play, along with writing the outline for a new idea, for which I’d brought up some background reading. I was disappointed in myself.

But it means that the home writing space I have set up works, and that’s a good thing, and also important to know, because than the grass isn’t always greener (or the ink bluer).

Cocktails (this time with wine served), good conversation, another lovely dinner of a blue cheese tart, blood orange sorbet, and Vermont chicken pot pie, and a lovely layered dessert.

So Cruz won Iowa. The fact that he’s a climate change denier should completely knock him out of eligibility for office. Trump, of course, is acting like a spoiled child and wants a “do-over”. Hillary won by 5 votes, some of them a coin toss. Good outcome for Bernie.

After dinner, more readings. This night, I read the opening of the second chapter of SONGBOUND SISTERS, one written in absolutely my style. That went over very well. VERY well. There were still comments, very useful ones (I’d missed a kind of important detail that was in my head, but hey, the audience has the page, not my brain). It gives me both the confidence and ideas to rewrite the first chapter in that style – the style that I know connects with readers and also serves character, plot, and story well. I made some notes, and I may do some work on it this weekend, and then put it aside until it comes back up on the roster in March.

Speaking of March, I figured that I won’t make the February 15 deadline I’d set for myself to finish CHOLERIC. Not without doing a minimum of 12K a day on that, and it’s not an option. February 29 is a more realistic deadline, but that also pushed back TIE-CUTTER and SONGBOUND. We’ll see. Maybe I can work CHOLERIC and TIE-CUTTER in tandem, the way I did during Nano, and not get too far off track.

The material read by the other writers was also very good. We gelled quickly into a very, very good group. They are writers whose work I want to read more of (and I’ll buy their books), and I have every intention of acknowledging their help for SONGBOUND.

In other words, I’m glad I stayed.

My contract extension’s come through for OLD-FASHIONED DETECTIVE WORK, so I’ll need to do a big PR push for them later this spring, especially with everything I have at AMBER QUILL going out of print.

Packed, slept (not well, not too badly). Overslept again, and packed the car first thing in the morning. Got 1K done on CHOLERIC before breakfast. The weather was vile, so I hit the road as soon as possible after.

Made it down the mountain (slowly, very slowly) and to the gas station. Filled up, headed south on 100, which was a nightmare, except for Killington, which is wide, even, and well-maintained to encourage people up there in bad weather. By the time I hit Rutland, I was ready to pull over and check into a motel. Rutland had lots of street flooding, and the weather got worse and worse. It lightened up a bit by Bennington, where one of my headlights conked out. Driving down through the Berkshires was okay. It had lightened up a bit by Lenox, so I decided not to stop there.

But it took me 4 hours from Rochester to the MA Pike. Hit the Pike (luckily, it didn’t hit back). By Springfield, the fog was so bad, I could barely see anything. And how much of a dumbass does one have to be to drive in that kind of weather without any lights on, just because the clock says it’s daytime? Morons.

I’d decided to stop in Sturbridge, but things lightened up by then. I’d pulled ahead of the storm, so I kept going. Got through Worcester, down 495, and by the time I reached the Sagamore Bridge, it wasn’t even raining anymore.

Made it home a little after 4 pm, just about ready to collapse. Everyone was glad to see me, including the cats.

Unpacked, had a glass of wine, caught up, had dinner, but went to bed ridiculously early.

Slept well, but overslept.

Took the day off from writing this morning. Back to work – they were glad to see me, too. I had reports to write, PR to get out, and I have to finalize the panel so I can get the paperwork in for the ArtsWeek Boston event.

We’re supposed to get snow all day tomorrow during working hours, so we might be closed. We’ll see.

Looking forward to serious work on both CHOLERIC and the new play this weekend, along with adapting “Confidence Confidant” into radio format and “Broken Links” from US format to BBC format.

Although I feel like I could sleep for a week!


Published in: on February 4, 2016 at 12:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Fri. Jan. 29, 2016: Ready for the Retreat

Friday, January 29, 2016
Waning Moon
Cloudy and cold

Feels like we might get some snow today. Better today than when I’m on the road!

Busy day yesterday. Wrote a lot of press releases and got them out; worked on putting together panels for a couple of upcoming programs.

I’ve been doing a lot of work to prep for the Marine Life Center Board meeting in a couple of weeks. What I’m doing for them right now is time-intensive.

I’ll finish reading my friend’s manuscript tonight, finish up the notes, and send them to her tomorrow.

I’ve packed my writing, my yoga materials, etc.,for the upcoming trip, but not the clothes. I better get going on that – too cold to go anywhere without clothes! ;)

I didn’t get enough writing done yesterday or today, and I won’t get much done tomorrow, but I plan to make up for it the following few days!

I’m excited to jot down some notes on the project where I finally figured that the change of perspective will fix the problems, I’m excited to start the next play, and I want to get back on track with DEATH OF A CHOLERIC.

Time to apply those time management skills!


Published in: on January 29, 2016 at 9:11 am  Leave a Comment  

Thurs. Jan. 28, 2016: Prep Work and an Aha! Moment

Thursday, January 28, 2016
Waning Moon
Sunny and mild

Most of the snow’s melted, thank goodness, but my front yard looks like a mud flat. Oh, well.

Yesterday was a long day, up and down. Lots of good ideas brainstormed, some good writing for work-related projects done, invitations issued, etc. Interspersed with the other stuff.

The short radio play is out, and was acknowledged by an actual individual just a few minutes after it was sent. Always nice.

Very tired when I got home. I had to do some work on my friend’s manuscript, and watched some TV, but mostly, I tried to get my energy back. I had a migraine, which didn’t help, either. The migraine made it hard to get to sleep, and then I overslept this morning, and couldn’t get done as much as I wanted to, writing-wise. The migraine is still there, unfortunately, so that will make for a difficult day.

There was a contest, with a decent cash prize and a big name, that came to my attention. I have a piece that would work for it, but ended up not sending it. Once I hit the 27th point in the submission guidelines, my eyes crossed and it wasn’t worth reading the rest of them. Not to mention that the tone of the guidelines was downright nasty, and some of the demands were insulting. Decided to pass on it.

That’s a big mistake many writers make early in their careers — they submit, regardless of the guidelines, thinking their piece is so good, it won’t matter. What they refuse to recognize is that if they don’t follow the guidelines, the piece will never be read; it will simply be discarded. And then the guidelines will get even nastier, because the people who get all these disrespectful submissions get angrier.

In my case, I read the guidelines, I disagreed with them, and therefore, I did not submit. We all win. Winning doesn’t always mean the submission or the publication — it’s finding the right match.

I’m putting together the project bin I’m going to take on retreat. I decided not to take any “have to” reading — in other words, no contest entries. I’m taking some background reading on a few projects, and some pleasure reading. And plenty of pen and paper.

I want to get started on the next play this weekend, and do work on both DEATH OF A CHOLERIC and TIE-CUTTER. I won’t have the play completely adapted into radio format before I go, but that’s okay. I can work on it during February, and get it out at the end of the month. I’m still waiting to hear back on a few things before I can make those submissions anyway.

I also had an “aha!” moment on a project. It’s an idea I’ve been playing with, on and off, for several years. I finally realized I’d approached it from the entirely wrong angle! Now that I have a good idea about how I want to do it, I think it will fly. I’m still trying to decide if I want to set it in the earlier part of the 20th century or the latter — I have to do some background reading — which means re-reading one of my favorite books. So yes, that book went into the project bin.

I also had an idea that I think might fit in to a friend’s exciting new project, so I’m going to share it with her, put a bug in her ear, so to speak.

I’m excited about the creative opportunities this year, and, once again, getting more ruthless about my time.


Published in: on January 28, 2016 at 9:27 am  Leave a Comment  
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Jan. 27, 2016: Creative Flow

Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Waning Moon
Mercury Direct (as of the 25th)
Rainy and mild

We had a nice big snowstorm on Saturday into Sunday — 15 inches. So much for the idiots who said it would be 3-5. We dug out with the help of our neighbor, but stayed tucked inside for most of the day.

I mostly read, working my way through contest entries, reading my friend’s manuscript, doing research. I outlined a new book, and wrote 11 pages on it, so the characters would stop bugging me.

I re-read the work I’ve done on RED WIDOW, and really like it. I need to find a way to work that piece back into the queue.

I worked on the short radio play. Tried a bunch of things that didn’t work, and finally found what did. The play is finished, polished, proofed, and will go out today. The deadline is Monday, so I’m happy to get it in a bit early. It’s a lot of fun. I’ll have to convert it to BBC format, and get back to converting “Confidence Confidant” into both BBC and US format for radio.

I came across GLAMOROUS HEARTS — that’s a lot of fun, and I think I’ll do something with that in the coming months. I’m finding all kinds of interesting stuff as I go through my boxes.

I did some work on DEATH OF A CHOLERIC, but not as much as I’d like. I feel like I’m behind where I should be, to meet the mid-February deadline for a first draft.

Last night, just moments after I finished the play, I attended the monthly HobNob. It was lots of fun, nice crowd at the Cotuit Center for the Arts. Carl Lopes was our speaker — his work is wonderful. We had a lovely conversation. I also met actor Neil McGarry — I like his one man CHRISTMAS CAROL, and we talked about all kinds of theatre stuff, and the possibility that he’ll do some Shakespeare for the library in April. All in all, a creative evening.

Picked up my mother at knitting. Only got about two rows done, but that’s life.

The radio play goes out today. I turn my main focus back to DEATH OF A CHOLERIC then, and I think, this weekend, I’ll also have the chance to start working on the next play, set in 17th Century Italy.

I will have a long day at work, but I want to get a couple of panels finalized, and get us into ArtsWeek Boston before the deadline.

I can’t believe January is almost done!

I have an article on answering when opportunity knocks over on the GDR site. I hope you check it out.


Jan. 22, 2016: Storm Prep

Friday, January 22, 2016
Day before full moon
Mercury Retrograde
Sunny and cold

Busy day yesterday; plenty to do. Worked on book orders and PR and programming.

Had a discussion with an organization about a project I’m going to work on for the next few weeks – it’s new ground for me, and that’s one of the reasons I want to give it a shot. Got a submission out – like with any submission, there’s a 50-50 chance. Either it’s what they want, or it’s not. Have some rights questions out to another market – need more information before I know whether or not to submit.

Having doubts about the so-called “writer’s retreat” next weekend – something feels off about it. Hopefully, I’m wrong.

I have a long day today, and then, hopefully, a quiet weekend. Sounds like DC and NY are getting slammed, but there’s a chance we’ll get off better. Hope that’s the case!

I plan to do a lot of writing, a lot of reading, and a lot of research.

We have plenty of supplies set in for the weekend, so I think it will all be good, whichever way the weather blows!

Have a great one!


Published in: on January 22, 2016 at 9:26 am  Comments (2)  

Research and Reading

Thursday, January 21, 2016
Waxing Moon
Mercury Retrograde
Cloudy and cold

A blizzard during a full moon Mercury retrograde. What could go wrong? Yes, that was sarcasm.

Meeting all morning yesterday. Lots of information, good group of people, which is always helpful. My computer at work still isn’t working properly (the guy was out again — it worked for fifteen minutes after he left, and then — same old). Worked on some programming stuff, caught up on email, had to work the desk in the afternoon.

I have most of the research books I need to start the play set in 17th century Italy — I will dive into them and start note taking this weekend. I also plan to finish reading my friend’s manuscript and type up the notes. Plus, of course, finish the radio play, and keep working on DEATH OF A CHOLERIC, to meet my self-imposed deadline.

I’m gathering research for another project, set in the Berkshires. Actually, I might be able to use the research for more than one project, which is always good. I’ve got some submissions to prepare over the weekend — I might even get one or two of them out before the weekend, if everything works. With Mercury retrograde, I doubt it, but fingers crossed.

I also need to work on a potential submission for an art exhibit. I have to think about it. I’m not sure I can get my hands on what I want and need for the visual element, but I’m going to try. Again, it’s a stretch, and my piece might not be accepted — but I need to stretch. I’ve been avoiding it, on the one hand, since I heard about it last week; on the other, it’s been percolating. So we’ll see.

I’m working my way through the contest entries. The first batch of ebooks is coming in now, to supplement the print. I’m nearly through the stack of print mysteries, and then I will turn my attention to novella, then to fantasy, then to ebooks, and by then, the second deadline will have passed, and the final batch should be in. There aren’t a lot of “maybes” this year so far — they are either fully in the “yes” pile that will need to be winnowed down or the “no” pile, because the craft and storytelling just isn’t there. Previous years have had more that were right on the cusp — some problems, but, depending on the entire batch of submissions, a stronger possibility to move into the “yes” pile. This year’s strong entries are STRONG, and those winnowed out will be so by a point or two on the scale. Truly enjoyable reading. Several new-to-me authors that I plan to keep reading.

Once I’ve read everything, each entry gets a second look. Then the weighing and comparison starts. I want to make sure each entry gets full attention and a fair deal.

Washington DC and New York are hunkering down for a blizzard. Local weather people are just dithering, which is highly annoying. I’d like to at least have an idea of range of possibility. “I dunno” two days before the storm is NOT acceptable.

Today will be a long day — big upgrade to the system used for books. I’m sure it will take most of the morning to get everything back online.

I’m almost looking forward to the possibility of being snowed in. Not the shoveling part, but the can’t-go-anywhere-so-stay-home-read-and-write part.

Have a great day!


Published in: on January 21, 2016 at 10:39 am  Leave a Comment  
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Wed. Jan. 20, 2016: AAA Fail

Wed. January 20, 2016
Waxing Moon
Mercury Retrograde
Cloudy and cold

Busy few days. I was exhausted when I got home from work on Saturday. Was not very productive. I’ve started on the books entered in the contest. The ones that are good are quite good; the ones that miss the mark do so in similar ways. They have too much unnecessary information dumped into scenes instead of integrated into them, lack logic, are poorly edited and/or copyedited. In a couple of cases, they are merely a re-telling of stories that hit the bestseller lists, with a few name and location changes, but trying to fit the formula so closely they don’t bring anything unique to the table. Those are simply poorly executed, pale imitations of books that worked. There are a few that have unique and interesting premises, but the writing is so awkward that they wind up not working. But I learn a lot from each book i read.

I’m also reading my friend’s manuscript. I’ve got some notes for her — this is her first foray into writing a novel. She usually writes biography.

Got a nice chunk of work done on DEATH OF A CHOLERIC. It’s not chugging along as quickly as I would like, but I like what I’m doing, if that makes any sense.

Tried several ways to fix the short radio play. Finally found something that worked, and did a nice chunk of that on Tuesday morning. I’m close to finishing, and will be able to get it out on deadline.

Watched the second season of BROADCHURCH, which was well done, and MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: ROGUE NATION, which is one of those movies that, in my opinion, was probably more fun to make than to watch. It’s a great tribute to the stunt choreographers, it’s beautifully shot, but I didn’t really care about anything.

Did a lot of laundry — it was New Year’s Eve the last time I did laundry, so it stacked up.

We had snow Sunday into Monday — not much, but just enough so I didn’t feel like running around on Monday. Tuesday morning, I was up early, and hit Country Gardens to get a load of wood. The car coughed when it started, but start it did, and I got there, loaded up, got home, unloaded.

We then loaded the garbage to take it to the dump — and the car wouldn’t start. I’ve suspected for awhile that a new battery was in my immediate future — this is still the original battery, and the car turns nine years old this year. It’s done very well.

So I call AAA, give them all the information, tell them I need a new battery (one of the services they now provide). The guy shows up pretty fast, but he won’t change the battery. He gives me a song and dance about how the car can’t be turned off once he’s jump started me, it’s something much more serious, and I have to take it straight to the dealer. I know my car — I know it’s the battery. But he’s insistent I need a complete electrical diagnostic and a whole bunch of other stuff. He said I didn’t want to “try” a new battery because it was $170 dollars at least — interesting, since the battery replacement service AAA claims to provide promises only $130.

I grab the Kindle and get in the now-running car and drive to the local dealer, rather than going to my regular mechanic in Plymouth (because I wasn’t sure I’d make it to Plymouth and didn’t want to break down on the way). I apologized at the dealership for coming in without an appointment and explained the situation. They figured I was right, and that we should try a new battery first. The diagnostic is an overnight thing, and let’s try the simple solution first.

It didn’t take them long to replace the battery and run a quick system check (without the elaborate overnight). Yeah, it was the battery. Of course, since I went to the dealer, it was MUCH more expensive than if the AAA guy had simply replaced it per my contract with AAA. But he didn’t want to bother, so he gave me sturm & drang and sent me to the dealer. The dealer was very nice and gave me a discount, but it was still more than I expected to have to shell out during these weeks. The dealer also told me that they’ve been getting a lot of these cases lately, where the tow driver gives them a story, jumps them, and sends them in, rather than actually doing what they were sent out to do.

Why am I paying for AAA again? I rejoined them a couple of years ago because the car is getting older and I wanted to feel secure in case something happened. This does not make me feel secure. If anything, it reminds me why I left AAA when I was a teenager, I broke down on the NY Thruway during July 4th, I had drunks shooting over the top of the car, I called them, they said there was nothing they could do, and they left me there. Not acceptable. You can bet they’re going to hear from me about it.

It wouldn’t surprise me if there’s an element of sexism involved — woman doesn’t know what’s wrong with the car, I can spin a story. I may not be a mechanic, but I know my car. It’s one of the reason I always go to Plymouth — because they don’t assume I’m an idiot.

So, not only did I have to pay more than I should have, but I lost a day set aside for getting things done. It didn’t take that long at the dealer (they were very nice to take me quickly), but it still added several hours to something that should have been a quick swap out of dead battery for new battery, and I was so exhausted by the time I got back, I couldn’t even think about driving over the bridge and dealing with errands.

Instead I spent the afternoon working on contest entries. So i didn’t completely lose the day, but what I hoped to get done will have to wait until next week, weather permitting.

We’re supposed to get slammed with a big storm next weekend. So I’ve got supplies set in, and we’ll see.

Today, I have a meeting for work in the morning, and then a long afternoon. There’s supposed to be a major upgrade on the software we use to check out and catalog, so we’ll see what fresh hell tomorrow brings.

More Mercury Retrograde — I heard back on a submission I’d made to a magazine. The story was rejected. Fine, it happens. However, it wasn’t the story that I sent. In fact, looking through my files (just to be sure), I don’t have any story with that name on my computer or flash drive. I remember sending a different story to that publication, and that’s the story that’s in the Submission log. So I’m seriously confused. I don’t know whether to say something or just write off the publication and not submit again.

I’m ready for Mercury to go direct!

I’m also deeply thankful to the car for getting me home safely with a load of wood in it, and not conking out until we were back in the garage!

Have a wonderful week, people!


Sat. Jan. 16, 2016: Doing

Saturday, January 16, 2016
Waxing Moon
Mercury Retrograde
Rainy and cold

I will be very happy when Mercury goes direct a week from Monday! It’s interesting how each retrograde manifests challenges differently.

I had a bit of a stomach bug yesterday – nothing too awful, just enough to leave me in low level misery for most of the day. I got through work, although we had trouble at the end of the day with someone who came in hopped up on something and then wouldn’t leave. Managed to get her out without calling the cops, but I’m getting a little tired of this.

I ate more than I should have for dinner, seeing as I hadn’t eaten all day. I was okay all night, just a little uncomfortable. I’m better today, just, again, uncomfortable.

I’m booked for a writing retreat at the end of the month, about which I’m excited. It’s just a few days in Vermont, but it’s a change of scenery, new place, new people, and it will give me a chance to focus for several days in a row without interruption.

I was going to run lots of errands this weekend around work, but the weather’s so nasty, I might not. I am looking forward to tackling the radio play and also reading my friend’s manuscript.

Working on the contest entries.

I have a couple of things percolating; it will be interesting to see how they evolve. Looking forward to doing some serious work on both CHOLERIC and TIE-CUTTER, once I solve the issues in the short radio play and finish that draft.

Enjoy the holiday weekened!


Published in: on January 16, 2016 at 10:26 am  Leave a Comment  

Fri. Jan. 15, 2016: Early Morning Writing

Friday, January 15, 2016
Waxing Moon
Mercury Retrograde
Sunny and cold

Busy day at work yesterday. I’m still on a different computer; mine isn’t fixed enough for me to trust it. Got a lot of PR done, notes typed up from meetings, that type of thing. Also putting together some programs for the spring.

I got a friend some contacts for research information she needed in London. I’ve gathered enough research on the immediate characters for the first historical play to get a start on it soon. The research books coming in will help me add ambiance and social/historical detail.

I’m booked to talk about scriptwriting for the March Writers Night Out. That should be fun. I’m already working on the handout.

A friend gave me a draft of her novel to read, before it goes out on submission. I’m excited about it, and plan to get started on it this weekend.

I’m enjoying the first entries for the contest. Working my way through them. I really like getting them in batches, rather than one huge batch at the end, with a more compressed time frame. This way, I feel I can really give each entry extra attention. I always review all the entries when I’ve read everything — to make sure the “yes” pile is still my “yes” pile, re-reading the “maybe” pile to see if they move into “yes” or “no”, and checking the “no” pile to make sure they are a firm “no”.

I woke up early this morning. Rather than tossing and turning, I got up and went to the desk. I have some ideas for the next section of TIE-CUTTER, and I have a new story starting to percolate that could well evolve into one of the stories I need for an end of April deadline. I think I’ve figured out how to fix the short radio play, and will tackle that this weekend, and, hopefully finish the draft.

But what I spent my time on, during my early morning writing session, was fixing the problems in the funeral chapter in DEATH OF A CHOLERIC. It’s got a lot more dynamic now, and makes more sense. That will help me get out of the corner I wrote myself into in the next chapter.

We’re getting to the meat of it now, although I see a few places where I have to go back in the next draft to salt in a few clues and red herrings. But, after a few days of frustration on CHOLERIC, I’m back on track. That feels good.

Today will be a long day. Tomorrow is my Saturday “on”, and then I have to get in another load of firewood. It’s a holiday weekend — not sure what the weather is going to be like, so I might push some errands back into next week.

I always feel better when the writing is going well.

Hop on over to Goals, Dreams, and Resolutions, and see how I’m doing for the mid-month check-in.

Have a great weekend!


Published in: on January 15, 2016 at 9:50 am  Leave a Comment  
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Thurs. Jan. 14, 2016: Digging into 17th Century Italy

Thursday, January 14, 2016
Waxing Moon
Mercury Retrograde
Gray and cold

Long, busy day yesterday. More problems with the work computer. An IT guy came in and put out the worst of the fires, but until he can come in and really do some serious work on it, I’m bouncing from pillar to post, which makes it difficult to work efficiently.

Day ended with a long meeting. Glad to get home, eat, knit a bit, and start the research on 17th century Italy for the next play.

I also think I might have cracked the problem on the short radio play. I’ll know for sure this weekend, when I can really dig into it.

Did a bit of work on TIE-CUTTER this morning, mostly structural. Not enough, but a little.

Facing another long day, but, hopefully, a productive evening with the research and writing. I feel like I have enough information to start the play in the next couple of weeks, filling in some of the atmosphere and social history as I go. I have a stack of research books headed my way, which is always hugely satisfying.

Have a great day!


Published in: on January 14, 2016 at 9:35 am  Leave a Comment  
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Getting Back on the Writing Wagon

Wed. January 13, 2016
Waxing Moon
Mercury Retrograde
Sunny and cold

Busy few days, but at least I feel like I’m starting to get my feet back under me. It’s still hard to shake off the exhaustion, which is a little worrying.

Friday was busy and a little scattered. Since my computer at work isn’t working, I’m bouncing around, trying to get things done. Sort of like I did when my computer was struck by lightening shortly after I started the job. I managed to get some cataloguing done, and get my report for the Board meeting done, get some emails and PR out.

Saturday was the Saturday “off” and I took advantage of it. Adapted “Light Behind the Eyes” radio play from BBC format to US format. It’s actually easier to write it in the BBC format and convert it to US than to write in the US and convert to BBC. It’s not just about doing a universal change in the document — much more nuanced and complicated than that. But now the US version is ready to be registered and then submitted.

Ran out to get some yarn. My mom and I are both knitting. I’m doing very simple projects, to get my confidence up again.

Wrote a chapter of DEATH OF A CHOLERIC. I’m close to the halfway point.

Struggling with the short radio play. I either have to introduce an additional character earlier or make one of the current characters the murderer, and change the red herrings. While the wit works, there’s a structural problem, and I have to fix that or it will fall apart. Tried several things over several days; so far, nothing works.

Re-watched Season 1 of BROADCHURCH. I’d forgotten how sad it is. Love David Tennant’s work. The ending didn’t quite satisfy me, because it was too much out of left field, and seemed structured more for shock value than organically out of the character. Now, I want to watch the US version, and also the second season of BROADCHURCH. I’m interested to see where they go from here.

I’m delighted that 365 Women wants me to write TWO plays for 2016, on two very different women. I’m preparing to start research for the first, set in 17th Century Italy, immediately. I want that one out the door June 1, and the second one done by November 1. I’m adding them into the schedule, and tweaking my lists.

Up at 4:30 on Monday, to get everything done I needed to do so I could leave by 7 AM for my 8 AM meeting in Buzzard’s Bay. We had a long board meeting, but we got some work accomplished, and I have my list of what I need to get done between now and February’s board meeting. Typed up the minutes on Tuesday, so they’re all set. I’m still working on some language to help with the strategic plan. It’s ambitious, but I think it’s vital for us to be ambitious at this point.

Read BOBBED HAIR AND BATHTUB GIN by Marion Meade, which is very good. It’s a social history of how writers like Dorothy Parker, the Fitzgeralds, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Edna Ferber, etc., crossed paths all over the world during the 20s.

An idea is percolating. It might actually be two ideas, but I’m hoping to find a way to meld them. The characters are talking to me — now, if I can only convince them to inhabit the same fictional world, it’ll be great!

I have an article over on the GDR site about “The Difference Between Giving Up and Letting Go.”

Wrote just over 1K on DEATH OF A CHOLERIC yesterday, and it was a struggle. There will be things I need to restructure and tear apart in the revisions, but for now, I need to get it down on paper.

The first submissions for the Indie Next Generation Book Awards arrived. I’ve sorted them and started on them. Always an exciting process. Every time I pick up an entry, I hope it’s wonderful.

Worked on TIE-CUTTER a bit this morning. I’m doing the section set in Iceland. There are some important things that have to happen in that setting for both plot and character development, but I have a feeling I’ll have to strip it way back in the revisions.

Also did some writing-related administrative work. Last year, I didn’t make enough pitches or submissions. Because I was so discouraged, I didn’t track the ones I made as carefully as I should have. I intend to remedy that this year — both by making more pitches and submissions, and keeping the records up to date.

Today will be a long day, but, hopefully, a good one. I’m waiting to hear back on a couple of pitches, so, fingers crossed.


Published in: on January 13, 2016 at 11:56 am  Leave a Comment  
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Fri. Jan. 8, 2016: Revising the Writing Schedule and Goals

Friday, January 8, 2016
Dark Moon
Mercury Retrograde
Sunny and cold

Meeting in Hyannis yesterday morning. It was fine; at least I didn’t want to jab my eye with a fork, like I do at some of these meetings.

Back to work, tried to catch up. Computer isn’t working properly, so that makes it more difficult.

I got some sad news: Amber Quill, with whom I have half a dozen titles, is shutting its doors on March 30. LAKE JUSTICE, SEVERANCE, ELUSIVE PRAYERS, and TRACKING MEDUSA will cease to be available from them at that time. I wish I’d found out directly from THEM instead of through a second party, but, other than that, I’ve always been treated well by them. I loved my editor; they paid on time; they gave me good covers. They believed in their authors. I will miss being a part of the company.

So what does that mean for my writing?

Several different things.

I’m meeting with my advisors to decide what to do. There are still two months until the doors close, two months until rights revert back. Once rights revert back, unless I’m going the indie route, it doesn’t make sense to just shoot the titles straight out again. While it makes me nervous to have anything go out of print, at the same time, I need time to launch a re-release properly, wherever and however I decide to do it. I expect they will be out of print until at least September. If I go independent, I’m going to have to marshal massive marketing resources to make it worthwhile. Right now, that much marketing emphasis isn’t going to fit my schedule. I’m not convinced the independent route is the right choice for me. I prefer to work in a more traditional model right now.

I do realize that, when I’m ready to launch the series that started life as THE POWER OF WORDS (which now has multiple titles as it breaks down into multiple books), it is most likely I have to use the independent model, because it would be exceedingly difficult for a traditional publisher to put it out in the usual channels. It’s a strange monster – one I love, but one that would require the type of Gentleman (or Bluestocking) Publisher to take it on, a type of publisher who no longer exists.

I was in the throes of planning a big marketing campaign for everything over the next few months, which now will not include the titles that won’t be available, for obvious reasons.

I also had three books scheduled to go to Amber Quill this year, all Gwen Finnegan books: BALTHAZAAR TREASURE, SANDOVAL SECRET, and SHAKESPEARE’S BACON. It was a pressurized schedule, but I wanted to make sure I finished the Gwen Finnegan cycle quickly for them, with an eye to moving in some new directions, as inspired by last August’s conference, where Claire Cook gave me the push I needed to give what’s now TIE-CUTTER a shot, and Carole Bugge encouraged me to continue work on SONGBOUND SISTERS.

With those three books off the schedule, at least for the moment (which means I’ll work on them in and around other projects, without the pressure) it moves up SONGBIRD SISTERS and the aviation mystery set in the late 1940s that I’ve been playing with for a few years.

I do love Gwen and Justin, and I want to see their stories to completion, but a break may not be a bad thing. As I kept saying last year, struggling with BALTHAZAAR, I can do it fast or I can do it well. Both aren’t happening in tandem right now.

HEX BREAKER and OLD-FASHIONED DETECTIVE WORK, the Jain Lazarus books, are still with Solstice, and I’m not sure what’s next with them; we’re in a bit of a holding pattern.

I have several play scripts and radio scripts on the slate for the year, and some film and television scripts on which I worked last year, which go out on submission this year.

The focus will be more on writing, polishing, and submitting this year, building on the previous writing, but taking me in new directions that I’ve been interested in for the past few months. That’s a positive. It moves up the timeline for me, but it’s a positive. It takes a lot of the “write as fast as possible” pressure off me – something that’s bogged me down over the past couple of years and actually interfered with my productivity, instead of increasing it.

As saddened as I am by the news, I think it’s the push I need right now. My gut tells me this is a positive in the long run.

I’ll have a long day at work today, but, since I’m feeling run down, I pulled out of my commitments for this weekend. I have some work to do for Monday’s NMLC Board meeting, and I’m going to write. I want to finish the first draft of the short radio play that goes out at the end of the month, and I’ve been approached to adapt the historical play into a radio play. I’ll take a look at that to see if it makes sense. I use a good deal of sound in the play anyway, and I think if I make some changes to make it more aural than visual, it will work. I also need to get LIGHT BEHIND THE EYES into US radio format from BBC format, because I have a US market interested.

Plus, I want to stay on schedule with TIE-CUTTER and DEATH OF A CHOLERIC.

So I’ll have a solid writing weekend ahead of me.

This certainly didn’t happen the way I wanted it to, but I have a feeling that, in the long run, these changes will be positive.

I remain hugely grateful to Amber Quill for their support, belief in me, and everything they’ve done for me and for my writing over the years I spent with them. I wish all the partners well in their new ventures, and I hope we can all stay in touch and support each other’s work. Thank you, Amber Quill!

Have a great weekend, people.



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