Sunday, September 20, 2009

Tomorrow, my dear friend Lara Stauffer is guest-blogging here, about YA fiction. Please stop by.

I’m headed back to the US tomorrow, in time to celebrate the Equinox on Tuesday, and then head out on another trip on Thursday morning.

Gotta love it!


Published in: on September 20, 2009 at 1:37 am  Comments (1)  

Saturday, September 19, 2009

No guest bloggers today. Maybe I can sneak in a post from Prague, maybe not.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the posts.

I can’t believe how fast this week has flown!

Published in: on September 19, 2009 at 1:35 am  Comments (1)  

Friday, September 18: Guest Blogger Susan Johnston

One of my favorite colleagues is Susan Johnston, of The Urban Muse, and she generously agreed to share some insights:

5 Excuses That Undermine Writing Success
by Susan Johnston

It’s scary sending out your work and possibly facing rejection, but that’s the only way to get started. Editors sometimes offer assignments to established writers without a query letter, but when you’re just starting out, you usually have to initiate contact with an editor.

Here are some of the excuses that writers tell themselves, plus the reasons why these excuses shouldn’t hold you back.

1. “But I don’t have a journalism degree.” Neither do I. A lot of successful freelancers started out in other fields and switched to writing later on. That’s not necessarily a liability, because these writers bring knowledge of their previous careers, which gives them lots of fodder for article ideas. Also, many people have an innate ability to write without going to j-school. There are tons of books and classes that can help you bone up on reporting or help you develop a writer’s voice without a traditional degree.

2. “But they already rejected me.” Someone told me this when I encouraged her to submit an essay to a certain publication. Actually, they didn’t reject her, they rejected her essay. But that doesn’t mean she (and all of you) can’t keep trying with different material. Unless you’ve committed some terrible faux pas like Facebook-stalking the editor and forcing her to get a restraining order, then she probably won’t even remember your earlier attempts.

3. “But I don’t know anything about X.” Many freelancers are generalists, but that doesn’t stop them from writing about varied topics like crocheting, macrobiotic diets, or, say, nuclear fission. As long as they know where to find research and experts in those areas, in most cases they’re good to go.

4. “But I don’t have time. I’ll write when I have more time.” Newsflash: that time may never come! Either you’re planning a vacation or getting ready to move or chasing after a toddler. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find time to write. Maybe you can carve out a few minutes early in the morning or in between meetings. If time is an issue for you (as it is for most of us), then I highly recommend the book Time to Write: Professional writers reveal how to fit writing into your busy life.

5. “But I don’t know what to write about!” I admit this can be a challenge. You don’t want to query with an idea that just appeared in the publication, but you also don’t have to wait until you find the most brilliant, original idea of all time (chances are, it’s been done before, too). I’m often surprised to recieve a rejection for an idea that felt really fresh and original (to me, at least) or get an acceptance for one that I wasn’t 100% sure about. Querying is a numbers game. You want to get as many ideas circulating as possible and not get too invested in any single idea. Ultimately, it’s up to the editor, so keep sending those ideas and let them decide if it’s a fit for their publication.

What about you? Are there other issues that prevent you from sending a query or sitting down to write? Leave a comment and let’s discuss!

Susan Johnston is a Boston-based freelance writer and blogger who has covered business and lifestyle topics for The Boston Globe, The Christian Science Monitor,, Yahoo! HotJobs, and many other publications. Want to know more? check out The Urban Muse or follow her on Twitter.

Published in: on September 18, 2009 at 1:02 am  Comments (2)  
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Thursday, September 17, 2009: Guest Blogger Colin Galbraith

Colin’s one of my favorite writers and my favorite people. He kindly agreed to guest today, with some opinions on why literary festivals are so important.

Publishers and Literary Festivals: Why We All Benefit
by Colin Galbraith

Literary Festivals in Britain were once a very sparse commodity. In 1983 when the Edinburgh International Book Festival began, there were only around 30 literary festivals in the whole of the UK. Now there are over 300 and their burgeoning popularity can be attributed to several important elements, not all of them what you might assume.

Despite the mistaken belief that the sale of books is in decline brought on by the worldwide recession, more books are now being sold in the UK then ever before. Some economists commented that the public’s drop in disposable income might lead to a decrease in sales, yet with more people looking for new and cheaper forms of entertainment within their homes, the good old book seems to be benefiting greatly from the credit crunch.

This increase in book sales is often attributed to the popular market for of so-called celebrity biographies. A girl/boy band member or popular sports personality that sells their story before Christmas will usually be guaranteed a best seller with massively hyped royalties. However, scan your eyes down the best seller lists on any given week and it’s clear to see that celebrity tell-alls are not the only thing people are buying in numbers. As I write this article, the UK fiction chart lists such writers as Gregory Philippa, Kathy Reichs, Mark Billingham and Danielle Steele. Score the celebrity entries out with a pen and it becomes clear to the naked eye that something great is happening in this country—mainstream and literary fiction are in huge demand.

The publishing industry has come under much scrutiny for the manner in which it has cashed in on celebrity non-fiction books, and while I can personally think of nothing worse I’d like to read, I think there is a side benefit to having these books on the shelves.

Put simply, the money generated from them allows publishers to bankroll new writers. It gives publishers the confidence to bring in new and fresh talent, and to take risks where otherwise they might not have.

It’s also a way into reading for many readers who may have forgotten the pleasure that can be gained from reading a book. Maybe they’ve begun by reading a personality biography, found they liked the act of reading and so end up walking over to the fiction shelves in their nearest book shop.

And as the interest swells and the money flows, publishers over the last few years have realised the benefit in bringing everyone together under the one roof, and thus the dramatic explosion we have seen in the literary festival.

Literary festivals are a great way of increasing the interest and keeping readers and publishers in touch, and by doing so, the cycle of publication is strengthened allowing more good books to find their way into the market place, and therefore, new writers.

Without readers there can be no publishing industry, and literary festivals take full advantage in exploiting this to everyone’s gain. When the Edinburgh Book Festival first set out it had small dreams but it is now widely regarded as the biggest in the world, laying claim to almost a quarter of a million people attending during the two weeks in August it runs. This year’s festival saw 1.8 million ticket sales and a running capacity of 80%. When one considers these phenomenal statistics, it becomes clear that something great is happening again in book-world, and everyone is benefiting.

At literary festivals, established authors get the chance to talk about themselves and their books, they get the opportunity to meet their fans, receive adulation, and feel gloriously important. They get to show off! Considering they spend most of the year with imaginary people in solitary conditions, who can blame them for wanting to get out and socialise with their industry colleagues?

And for those writers who have not hit the top 5% of writers that don’t have to worry about how the mortgage will be paid, they are able to gain the reassurance that there are other writers out there in the same boat. They get to brush shoulders with agents and publishers, promote themselves, and of course, learn from their contemporaries. Sometimes, as in the case of my own feelings towards the Edinburgh Book Festival, for example, just being around other readers and writers is enough to motivate me.

But it’s not just readers, publishers and writers that benefit from literary festivals, so too does the surrounding area and the economy. With the arrival of all these different literary groupings, hotels, bars, restaurants and book shops fill up rapidly. Everyone’s a winner!

So when you see Katie Price’s next novel on the book shelf and hear yourself moan about the decline of standards in British publishing, think about the roll on effect that her book will have. Writers, readers, agents, publishers, book shop owners, coffee shop managers, hoteliers, bar owners and everyone else who has a vested interest in ensuring that the publishing industry gets stronger and stronger, and everybody gets a fair share.

Reading fiction or poetry may not be seen as fashionable or trendy, but tell that to the millions of people who enjoy it, and the thousands that earn a living from it. You certainly couldn’t tell if you had joined me in Charlotte Square in Edinburgh this August. An underground movement perhaps, but the people are speaking, the people are shouting: “let’s celebrate the book!”

Colin Galbraith has published two books of fiction and two books of poetry. He writes the occasional article, and is the News of the World’s “man in the east” for music reviews. He can be found at

Copyright © Colin Galbraith 2009

Published in: on September 17, 2009 at 1:49 am  Comments (4)  
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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Today’s guest is my good friend Lori Widmer, from Words on the Page. She’s a phenomenal freelancer and an activist for fair pay for our work. She’s also got some great tips for handling difficult clients. She talks about two separate, yet related issues here.

Dealing with Client Insecurity
By Lori Widmer

If you spend enough time in the freelancing trenches, you’ll encounter clients who can’t make a decision without a committee, and that’s where you have to put your diplomatic and contract negotiation skills to the test.

Outsmarting a Posse

The email came in as I was heading out for the weekend. “I see several editing mistakes in the copy.” How is that possible? Simple – the email didn’t come from my client. The email, instead, came from my client’s colleague.

If you haven’t faced a posse yet, brace yourself. It’s one of the most unnerving, irritating wastes of time you’ll ever encounter. Worse, it’s almost impossible to avoid. Without fail, clients writing books or authoring their first anything will want to run it past a few friends or colleagues, who inevitably fashion themselves instant experts. When this happens, run like hell.

As there are many kinds of editors (and some with talent, some without), there will be an equal number of approaches and styles. Likewise, clients and writers have a history that a posse cannot understand. In one case, I had a client who wanted specific things in the copy that were clearly errors, but it’s what he wanted. And yes, he asked a friend to read the copy. And yes, the friend found these mistakes. And yes, the client conveniently forgot that these were things he’d insisted on against my advice. In that case, he was more concerned with getting out of our arrangement without having to pay me. He paid, alright. But not without a fight.

You may not be able to avoid a posse, but you can outwit the posse interference. Since I’ve been burned so many times I feel like a human marshmallow, I now include a clause in my contracts that specifically excludes third parties from taking part in the writing and editing process. Also, I counsel my clients on the dangers of employing non-experts to look over expertly drafted work. Typically, I will repeat in email before the contract is signed and as I’m delivering it that the contract is between two people – the client and me. Any outside input is not part of the process and will not be honored under the current contract. Instead, third party involvement will be priced separately (and heavily).

What can you do when the posse undermines your work? Whatever you do, don’t go into defense mode, and certainly do not start trying to please everyone. It won’t work. In the end, you’re all going to be miserable. I restate the terms of the contract, I restate that I’d be happy to take additional payment in order to work with these new people, and I reiterate that I’m the one who’s being paid to give the client the best possible product based on my skills, research, and interactions. Then I let it go. It’s no longer my situation.

About that email – the “mistakes” referred to were actually factual mistakes and not editing mistakes. That the colleague had called them editing mistakes was unnerving, but I was able to recover quickly by sending a note to the colleague, copying my client, and letting him know I was glad the mistakes he referred to were not editing mistakes but errors in fact. That was my one and only communication with that person, and that was to clear up instantly any misconceptions the client may harbor about my abilities. In other cases, I’ve not been that lucky. There was the client who used Grammar Check and thought it was The Final Word in grammar. I had to quote him Chicago Manual passages before he realized it may not be such a great tool. He still ended our relationship, but on a congenial note. I had a client who took the advice of an acquaintance and began reframing and rewriting the entire book. Some you win, some you don’t.

Yes, you may lose that client to the whims of a posse. So be it. Just make those contracts airtight and don’t you dare work one second for anyone who isn’t listed on that contract.

And that’s’ why it’s important to not only have a strong contract in place but to

Assert Your Contractual Rights

I had occasion recently to work with a favorite client on a new project. He provided the contract and I got to work. I finished the project, sent the invoice, and went about my business. It wasn’t until he came back with edits that I realized it was time to restate to him our contract terms.

The contract was very specific in whom I would work with – him. His contract, his terms. This new twist he’d thrown in had me working directly with his colleagues, who were invisible to this point. If these colleagues had been part of the original agreement, my fee would have been much higher. Working for a group is much more difficult than working one-on-one. As they say, too many cooks.

Despite my great relationship with the client, I asserted my boundaries, restating to him (very politely and very tactfully) the terms of our agreement. I added how happy I’d be to continue and if that was his intention, I’d gladly provide him with new terms. He realized the error he’d made in drawing up the contract minus the additional people involved. I salvaged a tenuous situation by being assertive yet friendly.

Would it have killed me to continue on with the project and work with these new people? No – not right away. See, projects tend to snowball. If Carl wants Jill to look it over, Jill may want to impress Carl with her editing skills to perhaps procure that promotion he’s dangling over her. Or perhaps Carl and Jill have a shaky history and Jill’s itching to stick it to him. Now enter Fred, who’s a ladder climber, and Pam, who took a communications course in college and thinks she’s an expert, and you can almost hear your project blowing apart.

Since I’d been burned too many times to count in the past, I knew I had to halt the misconception before it turned into precedent, for this client had hired me to complete a number of projects for him. Did I risk losing him? Sure. But I risked that simply by taking on the project and doing my best. Risk is part of most business arrangements. It’s also why we have contracts – to minimize our losses should things not work out.

It’s also more professional to alert your client to an issue at the outset than to try working with it, finding out it’s too much for you, and trying to back out later. It’s much better to risk losing a client than to work endlessly for the same client (one client project I had went on for a year) only to be stuck with a set project fee you can’t alter.

If you’re providing a contract for your clients, I highly recommend you put a clause in it dealing with third-party review or input. My contract states the contract is between the named individuals in the contract only. Any third-party input will be contracted – and priced – separately.

Lori Widmer is a veteran writer and editor with over 15 years of experience. Visit her writing blog at

Published in: on September 16, 2009 at 1:13 am  Comments (6)  
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September 15: Guest Blog by Michelle Miles!

If all goes as planned, today Costume Imp and I land in Prague to start our adventure.

I don’t want you to miss me too much, so I’ve got a series of guest bloggers while I’m gone –and, if I hit an internet cafe and can, I might sneak in a few quick posts myself.

My good friend and fellow author Michelle Miles kicks us off, talking about packing an emotional punch in one’s writing:

Giving Your Characters Emotional Punch
By Michelle Miles

When Devon asked me to guest blog, I had already started writing this little article on emotional punch. I thought it’d be the perfect guest post for her blog, so here I am!

Writing emotion is probably one of the hardest things to learn. You have to do it in such a way that makes the reader believe that’s what the character is thinking and feeling and you have to make the reader feel it, too.

I write romance because I love seeing two people overcome impossible obstacles and odds to get together and have that happy ending. That’s what it’s all about for me. And, as we all know, romance stories are character-driven. I can suspend disbelief in the hokiest plot as long as the characters are unforgettable and the romance is timeless. Seriously.

In some of the contest entries I’ve read, the story is great, the pacing is fine, the plot is good. The author even has a good voice. But the characters are flat, flat, flat. You have to dig deeper and go beyond the physical description to make me want to cheer for your hero or heroine. It’s not just about how they look, it’s what they feel and how they feel it. You have to make me ignore my dirty house, the litter box that needs to be emptied, and the mounds of laundry to spend three hundred pages (or more) with your peeps.

How do you give your character that emotional punch?

Dig deeper! I bet you’re wondering how you can do that. The best way I can describe it is put yourself in your hero/heroine’s shoes. Think like they do. Channel their personality through your fingers as you type their actions, thoughts, feelings, dialogue.

Before you run screaming from the blog, here are a few examples that can help you get that power punch. These are from my current work-in-progress, Phoenix Rising.

“No!” Elena shouted. “I won’t do it.”

“Oh, yes. I think you will. Because if you refuse,” the Emperor said, “then I’ll have you both killed right now. Accept and perhaps one of you will live.”

“We’ll do it,” Cassius said quickly.

“Cassius, no—”

“Done,” the Emperor interrupted.

“No!” Elena shouted. “I won’t do it.” She floundered in the agonizing maelstrom swirling within her. She couldn’t face Cassius in the arena. She wouldn’t! She’d rather die on Death Hill. She’d rather die in the jaws of the tigers. Anything but fighting Cassius, one-on-one to the death.

“Oh, yes. I think you will. Because if you refuse,” the Emperor said, “then I’ll have you both killed right now. Accept and perhaps one of you will live.”

“We’ll do it,” Cassius said quickly.

“Cassius, no—” The desolate shock held her immobile, a terrible sense of bitterness assailing her.

“Done,” the Emperor interrupted.

When I read the revised version, I can really feel her desolation, her shock, her fear all boiling out of her. The thought of facing the man she loves in the arena is devastating to her. And when I wrote it, I tried to channel that into Elena. I asked myself how *I* would feel if I had to fight the man I loved to the death. Not a happy feeling, to be sure.

But emotion isn’t all despair like this. Sometimes, it’s all about feelin’ the love. Romance novels (and Hershey bars) are about giving the reader that intense feeling of falling in love. Who doesn’t want to fall in love over and over again? If you’ve ever been there, then you know what I’m talking about. You can’t breathe if you don’t have that person near you. Your world is whole now that you’ve found your certain someone.

Showing with your character is all about feeling it, too.

Sometime during the night, Cassius slipped out of her apartment and left her alone. It would do neither of them any good if he were to be found in her company the next morning. It was a risk both of them knew they couldn’t take, even though she desperately wanted him to stay the night.

Her sleep had been restless. She tossed and turned for much of the night. Without a doubt, she had allowed herself to fall in love with him. As she watched, the sun’s rays filtered brighter and brighter through her room.

Can you spot the telling? Here, I’ll help. Telling: Without a doubt, she had allowed herself to fall in love with him.

BOR-ING. This makes me want to hit the snooze bar. Instead of telling the reader she loved him, how can we show it? Read below.

Sometime during the night, Cassius slipped out of Elena’s apartment leaving her to her restless sleep. Memories of skin meeting skin, breath mingling with breath, bodies brushing in the heat of desire and lust haunted her dreams. Her heart skittered in her chest more than once when she thought of him. And a constant flutter in her lower abdomen had her pressing the palm of her hand against her skin to quell the flurry.

With the blood quivering in her veins, she realized it was more than lust. More than illicit sex and defiant passion.

    By the gods, I love him.

Rolling to her side and drawing her knees to her chest, she clutched the ratty blanket and squeezed her eyes shut. Was the Goddess of Fate playing a horrific trick on the two mere mortals? Or was her love for Cassius, the man who would be the Emperor’s killer and her savior, truly meant to be?

No matter how she played out the scenario in her mind, she still came up with the same answer: she would either be dead or alone. And neither sounded very appealing.

The revision is so much better than the original, don’t you think? It really shows what Elena is thinking and feeling about Cassius. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had intense emotions like this before. And instead of telling the reader she’d fallen for him, we feel it. So much better!

One more example and then I’ll close this post.

I never really “got” the emotional punch until a critique partner pointed out all my missed opportunities. And when I forced myself to sit and really think about who my characters were and worked on their emotional responses, I think I have a much better story.

She couldn’t—or wouldn’t—let it go. She had managed to work herself into a frenzy. “Just because I’m stuck in this pit of hell doesn’t mean I want to be. It doesn’t mean I want to kill people. It means I’m a slave of Rithos, just like you are now. Just like any of us here in the Games. Forced to fight or die. I have no choice. I hate it!”

What can be changed in the above paragraph to make it more emotional? To give it more of a punch? Here’s the sentence I changed: She had managed to work herself into a frenzy.

Now, read below.

She couldn’t—or wouldn’t—let it go. Her heart palpitated at a quick pace. Her palms had broken in to a hot-cold sweat. “Just because I’m stuck in this pit of hell doesn’t mean I want to be. It doesn’t mean I want to kill people. It means I’m a slave of Rithos, just like you are now. Just like any of us here in the Games. Forced to fight or die. I have no choice. I hate it!”

Not only do we see and feel her frenzy, we hear it, too, in her dialogue.

So, do you see how do you get an emotional punch? It’s your job as the author to feel character’s feelings, too. Don’t play it safe and tell the reader, show it. Push yourself. It’s not always going to be comfortable for you or your characters (and, if you’ve done your job well, your readers!).

If you can do that and translate it successfully on paper, then you’ll have one heckuva punch!

Now go take on the page!

Michelle Miles is a member of Romance Writers of America® and serves as President of her local chapter as well as Treasurer of the Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal special interest chapter. She writes hot contemporary and fantasy romance. For more information about her books or to sign up for her monthly newsletter, visit her website at

Published in: on September 15, 2009 at 1:24 am  Comments (16)  
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Monday, September 14, 2009

Garden at The Mount, Lenox, MA

Monday, September 14, 2009
Waning Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde
Sunny and warm

I leave today for Prague. I can’t believe it — after all this planning and preparation, I almost feel like I’ve already gone and returned.

While I’m gone, I have a roster of wonderful guest bloggers scheduled, starting tomorrow, who include Michelle Miles, Lori Widmer, Colin Galbraith, Susan Johnston, and Lara Stauffer. I hope you’ll stop by and visit.

If I can slide in a few words here and there from Prague, I will, but don’t count on it.

When I return, I will run a “poetic justice” contest for my new novel. I wanted to post it today, before I left; however, I think I need to format it so it’s responsible and not snarky, and to be around to answer questions. So the details will go up probably in early October.

I still have a few errands to run (like paying the phone bill and picking up a few last minute items at CVS. I’ll leave a little bit after noon; I’ll return a bit after midnight in a week. The cats are beside themselves, but they have round-the-clock care here, and their every whim will be attended. I’ve set up my mom as far as food and medication, so she should be fine. I have one more bill to write that doesn’t need to be mailed for a few more days. The proposals are in good shape; I should be able to do one more read-through and then send them out in the 36 hours between returning from Prague and leaving for the Cape.

I just want to get on the plane already!

I look forward to sharing my adventures with you when I return.

New York Botanical Garden

Published in: on September 14, 2009 at 7:56 am  Comments (7)  
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Sunday, September 13, 2009


Sunday, September 13, 2009
Waning Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde
Sunny and mild

I’m over at Sole Struck Fashions today, talking about Fashion Night Out.

I was completely useless yesterday. I ran some errands, got the groceries in, tried to get my mom settled in her new medications, fiddled more with packing, got my watch fixed.

It was rainy and icky, so the cats and I napped in the afternoon (they are such a bad influence on me), and I worked on the proposals. I’m seriously considering sending out at least one tomorrow morning, the one I really, really want. Nothing like last minute, right?

I can’t believe I’m leaving for Prague tomorrow. In addition, I’m planning for the gig on the Cape that will happen 36 hours after I return, the trip to Washington DC in November, and a trip next summer to the Bay of Fundy (since New Brunswick is quickly rising on the list of possible relocation sites).

Thank goodness I cleared off my deadlines early, because I am just a waste of food.

As soon as I get through security at the airport tomorrow, I can relax. But hauling the luggage onto the train and the bus and then, the worst, standing in line at the check-in counter, is what stresses me out.

Well, I’ve got to do the last-minute things to get ready, and make sure I leave everything here as organized as possible.

And I want to get that proposal out.

Eastham, MA

Published in: on September 13, 2009 at 8:43 am  Comments (4)  
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Saturday, September 12, 2009


Saturday, September 12, 2009
Waning Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde
Rainy and cold

I’ve got a great interview with the wonderful Colin Galbraith up on A Biblio Paradise, where he talks about his terrifically unique novella STELLA. Hop on by and leave a comment.

There’s also another wonderful essay up, by Christopher Hayes, someone whose work I admire enormously, a meditation on grief in the wake of 9/11, and his own personal loss.

Yesterday, I was what is commonly known as “a waste of food.” The migraine is down to a low throb, but still there, I’m trying to get the last bits of things done before I leave, and I don’t feel like doing any of them.

I managed to pack, although how I can have so many dozens of socks and NONE of them are in any shape for this trip just makes me shake my head. Whether they need darning or are just orphan socks — amazing. So I may just save myself some aggravation and buy yet more new socks.

A publisher sent a rant to all the contracted authors which I felt was inappropriate, not to mention in bad taste. If you have a problem with specific authors, discuss those issues with them privately. Don’t scream at all of us. If you feel we’re all useless, well, that says more about you than about us. Whatever. Gives me information I need to move forward. It was not smart to send it out during Mercury Retrograde (when communication is screwy and people talk past each other anyway), yet I found it interesting that it went out as Pluto turned direct, since Pluto retrogrades reveal what’s hidden. True colors shown and all that. Fascinating. I decided to step back and let the cow patties being thrown hit the ground, rather than taking them in the face.

It was interesting that one of the other authors backed the rant, preening and posing, agreeing but pointing out how that particular author was excluded from the rant, like the author was “all that.” Hon, if you were “all that”, not only would I have heard of you, I’d have reviewed your work for Confidential Job #1 by now. Since neither have happened . . .

2010 will definitely be a year of change for me. And I’m going to be a lot less accommodating than I’ve been in the past year and change.

Check out the musings on the Goals, Dreams, and Resolutions page.

I’ve got a busy day ahead, mostly errands. I forgot to get my watch fixed — this will be the first time I’ve worn a watch in seven years — so I hope I can get it fixed today. Or else I’m watchless, which I think is what I subconsciously want anyway.

Until tomorrow, friends,

Maine. Possibly the setting for the next Jain Lazarus short story.

Published in: on September 12, 2009 at 7:59 am  Comments (3)  
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Friday, September 11, 2009

Disk 3 Excerpts 006_2_2
Montauk, NY

Friday, September 11, 2009
Waning Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde
Rainy and cold

A sad day for everyone, but especially for those who lost people in the 9/11 attacks eight years ago. I encountered a woman in the post office yesterday who was having a hard time — she lost two daughters that day. Everyone in the facility did what they could to comfort her, but this time of year will always be tough for her.

On the news yesterday, they were blabbing that no one pays attention to 9/11 anymore and it no longer holds meaning. Of course, every single individual they interviewed was a tourist, not someone who lived here or lost someone. Those who did have chosen their own ways to mourn, out of the spotlight.

And, to me, the most important and moving moments of the day are the reading of the names.

I think I’ve mentioned a few times how worried I’ve been about some of the bridges and overpasses in the area, to the extent that I avoid some of them and I’ve called in my concerns a few times. Well, a lot of construction workers have been around, with those green-and-white Recovery Act stickers. On my errands the other day, I walked under the I-95 overpass, which had worried me and where debris had fallen several times. They’ve been working there, and one of the guys pointed out the new plates fastening the sections back together and the new supports. Very cool. I actually drove over it a few hours later, and it feels much better. Now THAT’s the way I want my tax dollars to work! Not bailing out corporate executives, but putting people back to work on projects that actually keep people safe and make a difference.

A video clip both highly entertaining and somewhat ironic was broadcast last night. I thought it was sadly hilarious. Some of these anti-education, anti-health care wing nuts were waving around signs calling people “Morans.” I’m assuming they meat “morONs”; they can’t even be bothered to spell their message correctly. You wanna see a moron? Look in the mirror, sign-waver! I sure as heck know a lot of wonderful people in the clan of MorAN and I’d be PROUD to be lumped in with them! 😉

I had to pull clips of my work off a site that’s going dark today — just what I needed right before I leave, especially since it won’t print the articles cleanly without superimposing text on other text (I could then scan the clips back in and create PDFs in my clip file) or print/save as PDFs or even copy and paste. No luck with any of them. While I appreciate that means no one could co-opt the work, it makes it a damned sight harder to have usable clips, and I’d rather not lose three years’ worth of clips. I asked a few people and put the word out on Twitter. We came up with a few possible solutions. I tried them all, so I should have the clips saved several ways! Whew.

Also found some interesting possible prospects. I hate to pitch right before I leave, but I’ll be upfront about my schedule. If it knocks me out, then that’s the way it is; if they like my work enough and we can work around each other’s schedules, I think it would be fun.

I’m happy with my decision to skip Nano this year. I think it’s great and I encourage people to participate, and do it more than one year, because one can learn so much each year. But this year, I’m juggling deadlines and publishers and I’m getting my toe into the foreign rights waters and the websites are undergoing a massive overhaul and all the rest, so for me, this year, it would be the wrong choice. I may do it sometime again in the future. I’ll be cheerleading all my friends and colleagues from the sidelines. No challenges, no Nano, just focusing on clearing up unfinished projects, getting the backlog out, and landing better and higher-paying gigs.

I plateau’d there for awhile, and it’s time for the next leap.

I’m reconfiguring what I want to do and what I need to do in order to pay the bills, and getting them more in tandem with each other. And because I want to take some interesting creative risks next year, I have to figure out how the months around the months in which I take those risks will pay for everything. And still be open to new opportunities.

The plus side of the economic problems is that it proved I was right to remain the Anti-Niche. Except for February, which was a scary month, I managed to make steady gains in clients and income every month by being able to do a wide variety of writing. I miss the Broadway money, but I don’t miss the work in the way I thought I would. I miss some of the individuals, but not the politics of backstage. Income will be frighteningly low for September because I’m not here for a good bit of it, and more will go out then comes in. However, the content of the time away will pay off, both literally and figuratively for years to come. The trade-off’s worth it.

My mom went to the doctor yesterday, and she’s having thyroid problems. Then, she cut her leg this morning, which is a little worrisome. I’m going to cook all weekend and prepare meals she can heat up while I”m gone (because I know she won’t eat properly if I don’t). She’s looking after the cats, so they have their second-favorite human on the planet with them, catering to their every whim.

I did three loads of laundry yesterday and I’m going to do some ironing today and maybe even pack. I have to find the jeans i want to wear on the plane, and pick up a few things at the drug store, but, other than that, I think we’re okay.

It’s in the 40’s here today, and rainy. The cats are much perkier in the cooker weather. I certainly slept better. Autumn is my favorite season.

I’ve got most of my holiday cards sorted out and worked on the Christmas list, so I can tackle that when I get back and get things done ahead of time.

I have my eye on yet another sofa. I’ve got to stop buying sofas or I’m going to need a 16 room house just for the sofas. As comfortable as that red microsuede is when it’s unfolded into a bed, it’s far too small and low for an adult human to actually sit on. It’s the most expensive cat bed I’ve ever bought.

I’m at a stopping point with AMENDS. I tried to push through, but without sorting out what I’ve got and plotting the middle, it’s merely getting muddled. I’ll read it over before I leave and let it percolate while I’m gone.

Errands, pitching, ironing, packing today.

Violet on the most expensive cat bed I’ve ever bought.

Published in: on September 11, 2009 at 7:41 am  Comments (6)  
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Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Mount, Lenox, MA
Note: This photo was actually taken through a window. The reflection of the panes make it look like there’s a structure over the planned out walkways when there’s not.

Thursday, September 10, 2009
Waning Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde
Cloudy and cool

Yesterday kind of sucked, too. What can I say? I’m on a roll.

The stupid Chase ATM wouldn’t read the deposit. Typical. I got it sorted out, but what a waste of time. Went to Home Depot. Bought the insulated wire cutters and the caps for the live wires.

Managed to cut the wires and disconnect the phone without electrocuting myself or the cats (who all wanted to “help”). Capped the wires so they wouldn’t be a danger/fire hazard, stuffed the phone into the flimsy envelope and hauled it back to the post office. The whole thing was ridiculous.

Had a blazing headache all day, which didn’t improve my mood. Worked on artist statements for various proposals; on the international one, I kept making snide references to this country’s lack of decent health care options. I decided to put it away and work on it when I’m in a better mood. One of the other statements is in pretty good shape — not too earnest, not to flip, just an honest assessment of what I think I can accomplish if I receive the Fellowship.

Seriously, those elves tap dancing in cleats inside my skull all day yesterday really needed to cut it out. NOTHING helped, not even Excedrin. Today, it’s more like dwarves with pick-axes right behind my eyes.

Took some valerian last night for relief, and then tried to watch an acquaintance making a TV appearance post-speech — but he was a half an hour later than originally scheduled and I was in no condition to pay attention! I’m sure he was great, though; he always is. Definitely one of our best and brightest minds working right now.

I found Rep. Joe Wilson’s outburst during the speech last night disgusting. For one thing, he’s wrong — he either didn’t read the bill or he’s incapable of understanding it, and if he can’t comprehend what he reads, he shouldn’t be in the job. For another thing, whether you agree or not, you don’t shout out in the middle of the speech that the President is a liar. Period. Of course, all of these guys are the same ones that swore if anyone disagreed with Bush it was treason; yet they’re allowed to be as insulting and disrespectful as they wish. And then the non-apology. Fortunately, people are willing to speak with their wallets, and his opponent raised $100,000 overnight. It would be nice to have some adults who know how to behave with class representing people. But I guess when you have no ideas or solutions or desire/capability to comprehend what’s actually on the page, the only thing you can do is revert to the behavior of a spoiled toddler.

And I wonder why I have a migraine!

On the writing front, I’ve come to a crossroads with one particular aspect of my work, and I have to make a decision. I resent that the decision is being forced on me just days before I leave on a big trip, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. I also want to make sure I don’t respond out of anger, much of which is misplaced. What it really presents is an opportunity for new directions and to take all that was good about it and apply it moving forward. I felt it coming for awhile, but hoped it wouldn’t actually happen for a few more months. Onward and upward, right? Lots of changes are coming in the next 6-8 months as far as publishing venues for my work, and it’s all positive, even though there’s some letting go involved in the process. To make room for the new, one has to either let go of the old, or rearrange it a bit! It’s not a bad thing, it just has its own schedule, which doesn’t always align with our emotions.

Decent but not brilliant morning’s work on AMENDS. I’m about a third of the way through the book, and while I started knowing where I want to end, and that’s the same, I need to sort out the middle a bit. I don’t want to lose momentum by going back into the first third and messing with it, but I feel I need to make some notes in order to plot the center third so that the final third will pack the type of punch I want. I know where I”m going; I just feel like I’ve blown a tire on the journey, and I have to make repairs and get back on the road again.

I got a lovely email from poet Sandra Beasley, whose work I stumbled across while doing research on the Millay Colony, and to whom I’d sent an email with some questions. She was very encouraging, just what I needed right now.

I hope this isn’t one of my six day migraines. The last thing I need is to get on the plane feeling like this.

I’ve got some errands to run today, and more writing to do, and laundry. The weather in Prague looks like it’s going to be low 70s during the day, high 40s at night. I’d like to get the newsletter out today or tomorrow, too. A lot will be dictated by whether or not I can get the migraine to let up.


AMENDS — first draft: 24,875 words out of est. 75,000 words
New York Botanical Garden

Published in: on September 10, 2009 at 9:05 am  Comments (2)  
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Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Waning Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde
Cloudy and cool

Yes, there are FIVE planets currently retrograde — I missed it when Neptune turned retrograde several months ago, although, as my ruling planet, suddenly a lot more makes sense! Five planets. No wonder I don’t want to get out of bed.

So, yesterday totally sucked, and for no good reason. I surrendered to it after lunch, and decided that today would be better.

I spent most of yesterday clearing stuff up, doing research for next week, and working on the proposal packets that have to go out as soon as I get back.

Apple responded to the BBB complaint with a whole list of options for the fix, most of which I was never offered. The BBB requested my response. They got it. 😉

I’ve got a home project to deal with today, which required a visit to Home Depot. We’ve got a rotary phone attached to the wall (not a jack) from the early 1970’s. It’s leased, it didn’t make the leap with us when we switched our service to Optimum, so I asked for the Detachment kit so we can remove the phone and return it. They sent me an envelope with little pictures on it. Seems I have to actually go out and buy the tools in order to detach the phone. And I’m dealing with live wires. Not my favorite choice. So I’m buying the grounded, insulated wire cutters, the caps, etc. to safely detach the phone, cap the live wires, etc. and make sure there’s nothing hazardous hanging around. I’m sending the phone back in the flimsy envelope. And I’m invoicing them for time and materials. They didn’t send me a KIT — they sent me an ENVELOPE.


Got some more correspondence to get out, the payment from Confidential Job #1 to put in the bank (I love how quickly they pay), and some letters to mail along the way.

Tomorrow is laundry day. I’m holding off packing until Saturday, which makes me nervous, but that way things won’t wrinkle. The carry-on bag is packed, and, Monday, all i have to do is check the charges on the phone and the Ipod and move a few things from one purse to another (most of the Prague purse is packed).

Part of me already left. The rest of me just has to meet Costume Imp at the airport and get on the plane.


AMENDS: 24,000 words out of est. 75,000

Published in: on September 9, 2009 at 8:30 am  Comments (4)  
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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

View of the Cape Cod Canal

Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Waning Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde
Cloudy and cool

The weather folk are saying it will be a mild winter, yet the cats are growing in thick coats and the birds started heading south last week. I think I’ll believe the critters!

I got out a lot of submissions yesterday, catching up on most of my backlog. I found a couple of pieces I want to rework, and a few to retire, but, for the most part, everything that can earn its keep is going out the door so to do.

Finished Vaclav Havel’s TO THE CASTLE AND BACK. Havel says something about political parties, with which I agree, and I think this country has forgotten: “They (political parties) should not be superior to them (government, parliament), but, rather, serve them.” (p. 119, material in parenthesis mine) and: “Parties must not be more important that the public interest. They must, on the contrary, serve it.” (p. 120). It would be nice to see that in practice.

You can feel the heaviness descending on the area that always does in the days leading up to 9/11. This will not be an easy week.

I didn’t sleep well. It wasn’t the cats’ fault this time — I don’t know why I couldn’t sleep, I just couldn’t. I finally drifted off as the sky lightened –and a PC Richards truck pulled up BEFORE 7 AM to spit out the new appliances for the two apartments that are being renovated on the first floor. Lovely. Not. There was lots of jabbering into cell phones as they tried to find/wake up the super, who’s far too busy running his own business on the side with the building’s resources to actually do anything for the building. Now I get to listen to them install the appliances all day. Oh joy, oh rapture. I will probably have the iPod in all day — though, suddenly, it’s only giving me sound in mono instead of stereo (headdesk).

I’ve got some business correspondence to take care of today and a few more things to wind up this week. Six days and counting. This time next week, I should be in Prague, and there will be a guest blogger in this space.

I’m getting to a point in AMENDS where I need to stop and make some notes so I can stay consistent. Overall, though, it’s going well.


AMENDS, first draft: 23,000 words out of est. 75,000

Published in: on September 8, 2009 at 8:36 am  Comments (5)  
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