Fri. Feb. 26, 2016: Changes to the Freelance Work

Friday, February 26, 2016
Waning Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Sunny and cold

Yesterday seemed longer than it was, although that was mostly because I’m tired.

Over the past few days, I’ve updated both the Fearless Ink and the Devon Ellington Work websites. I decided that I’m no longer going to take on private editing clients, unless I’m hired by the publisher. I’m going to finish up the contracts I have, but enough already.

First and foremost, I need to spend that time on my own work. Every minute I work on something by someone else is time taken away from my own work that I can never get back. In my experience, the bulk of the editing clients: don’t want to pay a fair rate for the work they want done; have no interest in learning craft; don’t meet deadlines; book time and then don’t send in their material, which means I’ve turned down other paying work, and then I’m short. Not every editing client has been like that, and I’ve had some wonderful, exciting stuff to work on over the years, but the bulk of them have fitted into one or more of the above. When I accepted editing work from a publishing house, the work has already been vetted, so there’s at least some craft involved, they are as committed to the schedule as I am, they understand this is a business and not a hobby, and they pay on time. All around, it makes more sense.

Plus, I’m getting more script work and more marketing writing work, and I enjoy it more. So that’s what I’m focusing on. I’ll teach workshops if I’m brought in by an organization and paid in proportion to what I’m teaching, paid a deposit, paid the balance on the final day of the class (not this 30 days after crap), and, if necessary, paid a cancellation fee if they can’t fill the class. I’m happy to develop custom workshops for organizations, but there’s a fee involved.

And if you’re not going to pay an appropriate rate for my work – you don’t get it. I will take my work elsewhere.

Setting those boundaries has removed lots of stress from my life, and I feel much better moving forward. This is a business, not a hobby. I don’t have to accept any and every offer that comes down the pike.

The Freelancers Union motto: “Freelance isn’t free.”

Today will be another long day. I’m going to the opening of an acquaintance’s exhibit this evening, which will be fun. I’m in tomorrow, and then it’s heavy duty studio time. On Sunday, I’m going to a meet-and-greet of a fellow NYU alum who is running for state Senate. But the bulk of the weekend has to be studio time, to get this project in under deadline, and then back to DEATH OF A CHOLERIC, which won’t be finished by Monday, but I hope to finish by the following weekend, because TIE-CUTTER has to get back into the mix and finished, too. I’m very eager to get back to SONGBOUND SISTERS, and am taking notes. I also have to finish the first draft of the play.

And do things like my taxes.

Busy times ahead!

Have a great weekend.

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Published in: on February 26, 2016 at 9:57 am  Comments Off on Fri. Feb. 26, 2016: Changes to the Freelance Work  
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Thurs. Feb. 25, 2016: Preparing for a Creative Weekend Push

Thursday, February 25, 2016
Waning Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Rainy and cool

Long day at work yesterday, mostly because I was tired. The temperature fluctuations are wearing me out. Things that really aren’t a big deal were irritating out of proportion to their actual importance.

Working on a proposal to co-teach a workshop with a friend, and also working on another proposal that I think is a long shot. But, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Made some important decisions regarding the next phase of my career.

Didn’t get much writing done this morning, and have doubts about the last few days. However, what’s important is to get this draft done, so it can marinate and then get back to work on TIE CUTTER and on finishing the first of the two plays. I also need to focus on studio time this weekend, because my piece has to be submitted on Monday.

Onward!

Published in: on February 25, 2016 at 9:22 am  Comments Off on Thurs. Feb. 25, 2016: Preparing for a Creative Weekend Push  

Wed. Feb. 24, 2016: Reconnecting With an Old Friend

Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Waning Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Rainy and cold

Busy few days. I did reading and research – and cleaned the house. I wasn’t feeling wonderful, so I tried not to push too hard. The light was poor, so I didn’t get the studio time I wanted.

Irritated that, at the end of the day on Friday, the person who booked me to speak on March 16 changed my topic. I’ve spent plenty of hours on the talk and put together a terrific packet of handouts. And I’m not being paid for the appearance. I was tempted to say no, but the topic is something I’ve taught before. I’m going to look and see if I have any old handouts. I’ll do the talk, and that’s it. I’m seriously considering skipping the conference this summer and placing my attention elsewhere. I thought maybe I was making too big a deal about the whole thing, but I talked to several colleagues, who were genuinely angry on my behalf, thought the whole thing was disrespectful, and I should have simply refused and told them to get someone else. I shouldn’t be surprised by the behavior of the organization – it’s part of the pattern that caused me to leave the organization in the first place.

Part of Saturday was spent across the bridge, running errands in Wareham – and finally using most of my LL Bean gift cards! 😉

I managed to get some decent work done on the mystery Monday, Tuesday, and this morning. I’ve passed the 250 page mark, and have started Chapter Twenty Two. I figure I can wrap it up by Chapter Thirty or Thirty Two, and I’ll be close to the February 29 deadline I set for myself. Then, I can put it aside to finish TIE-CUTTER. After TIE-CUTTER, SONGBIRD SISTERS comes back onto the roster.

I also cooked a good deal – baked a chocolate cake Monday night for the company; put a pork loin in the cooker and prepared a salmon salad for Tuesday lunch.

An old friend arrived around lunchtime on Tuesday. We ate, then I took her on a short tour of the Barnstable-Sandwich area. Came back, freshened up, and headed out to the Artist Hob Nob event at Kelly’s on Main. That was a ton of fun – a lively, interesting group, and we’re all doing all sorts of interesting stuff. Met some interesting people, caught up with people I always enjoy, and my friend got to see the more vibrant side of Cape artistic life. We had a good time. I’m glad my friend visited. It’s good to keep up long-term friendships.

Came back, ate, visited. Up early this morning. Got some writing done, fixed eggs Benedict for everyone for breakfast, and now a long day at work. I’m overtired, so even though everything’s fine, I’m, well, over tired! 😉

Too much to do – a proposal to finish (with someone else, so it’s not all on me) and another to write, plus I have to write up the blurb for the speaking engagement I no longer have any interest in doing.

I’m sure I’ll be less crabby once I get some sleep. I’m just run down right now, and have to recalibrate. It will all seem silly to be so stressed out very soon.

Devon

Published in: on February 24, 2016 at 1:14 pm  Comments Off on Wed. Feb. 24, 2016: Reconnecting With an Old Friend  

Fri. Feb. 19, 2016: In the Blissful Stage of Book Writing

Friday, February 20, 2016
Waxing Moon
Cloudy and cool

Busy day at the library. Well, patron-wise, it was quiet, but I was busy. I had books to process and proposals to write and press to prepare.

I was also thinking about the book, in and around everything else, and couldn’t wait to get back to it in the evening. I don’t usually write at night, unless I’ve missed my morning writing session, but I’m at the point in the book where I want to spend as much time as possible with it every day.  I love this phase of it.  I actually love the physical writing of a book.  Yes, “having written” is satisfying, but it’s far more satisfying to actually write.

The work last night wasn’t stellar (I was too tired), but it did get me moving forward. I woke up early, again, eager to get back to the book. The layering sometimes feels like I’ve stalled the forward momentum, but it’s vital to the last portion of the book. I’m setting in both the actual clues and the red herrings better, giving my murderer a clearer introduction (not the murder part, but who this individual is), and introducing another character who is vital to the arc that will go through several books.

Today will be a long day, and then I have a boat-load of work over the weekend, including cleaning the house for my guest, and putting in enough studio time to finish my project. That has to be finished and photographed and sent next week.

I can’t believe it’s nearly March. This year is already flying past!

Published in: on February 19, 2016 at 9:24 am  Comments Off on Fri. Feb. 19, 2016: In the Blissful Stage of Book Writing  

Thurs. Feb. 18, 2016: Post Luau

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Waxing Moon

Sunny and cold

 

Busy day yesterday. Up at 5, finishing the food for the luau.

 

Worked on the mystery, layering in a better set-up for my murderer. I made some decisions, with an eye to future volumes, that shift what I set up here.

 

Arrived early at the library. Helped set up. It looked beautiful!

 

The day, however, was the first nice day we’ve had in a long time, and people were busy being out and about, instead of coming in to the library. Last year, when we squeezed the luau in between snow storms, we had a lot of people in during the course of the day.

 

We watched the first episode of SHE-WOLVES: EARLY QUEENS OF ENGLAND for Masterpiece. It was fascinating. It reminded me that Margaret Frazer wrote a series of mysteries set in the time where Stephen and Matilda were in dispute. We’re going to meet next week again, to watch the second episode, so I’ve ordered some of the books for the others to look at. I liked the Dame Frevisse series, but it was the Joliffe books, about Players, that I truly loved. I went to the author’s website and was saddened to learn she died in 2013.

 

Amazon had some Billie Bradley and Betty Gordon books available for free (two more juvenile mystery series). I haven’t read them, so I downloaded them. I want to re-read the Beverly Gray, Judy Bolton, etc. again. Some of it is background research for the piece that starts in the 1920s, but I think, somewhere is the germ of something I have to say about it all. Probably not as well as Bobbie Ann Mason, but still . . .

 

Got out a short story. Have to figure out how and where I can work on upcoming short stories that are on deadline.

 

Rights Reversion Letters arrived from Amber Quill. They did a lovely, professional job, something that will help me place the books elsewhere.

 

Home exhausted. Didn’t sleep well. Hoping to get some work done on the mystery this morning before I leave.

 

I need a lot of studio time this weekend, because I need to finish my project and photograph it. If everything works as it should, a friend is coming to visit early next week. I want to get my studio project done before then, and I don’t want to lose momentum on the book.

 

And, of course, I have to do things like clean the house!

 

 

Published in: on February 18, 2016 at 9:13 am  Comments Off on Thurs. Feb. 18, 2016: Post Luau  

Wed. Feb. 17, 2016: Steadily Writing

Wednesday, February 17, 2016
Waxing Moon
Chilly and cloudy

Weather’s been up and down and all around.

Saturday was a busy day at the library. Got quite a bit done, but I was glad to go home.

The mystery is chugging along well — got some good writing done on it Sunday, Monday, and yesterday. This morning, I’m doing some layering, so that I set up my murderer better. I feel pretty good about the end of the month deadline for the first draft. I think I’ll be within a few days of it, one way or the other.

I polished two short stories that will go out this week. I need to polish one proposal, and get to work on another proposal. I have to be careful with the latter — it’s a project I think is exciting, but I refuse to, yet again, ply my VOCATION full-time without compensation. I got the details on judging the radio contest, and I also worked my way through some more contest entries. The last batch should arrive soon, so I want to make sure I’ve finished the first batch before they arrive.

I got in some studio time, when the light was good.

Did some more background reading for several projects.

Wrote a bit on the project that starts in the early 1920s, just to get the characters quiet. I want to deal with the racism of the time — to do so properly will be a challenge. But it’s important.

Grocery shopping on Monday. Tuesday, I finally got the headlamp fixed on the car, ran some other errands. Baked the banana-coconut cake for today’s luau, and a couple of lemon cakes as thank yous for neighbors who helped us in the snow. I also made the base of the tropical punch and chilled it.

I got up at 5 this morning (after a bad night) to make the ham-and-pineapple bites and the crabmeat/avocado/mango spread. I’m not happy with the latter. I expected it to have more zing.

I feel like I’m coming down with something; hope that’s not the case. I don’t want to lose momentum on the mystery, and I have too much else going on right now. Fingers crossed I can take care of myself well enough in the next few days not to succumb.

Published in: on February 17, 2016 at 10:28 am  Comments Off on Wed. Feb. 17, 2016: Steadily Writing  
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Fri. Feb. 12, 2016: Preparing for the brrrr!

Friday, February 12, 2016
Waxing Moon
Sunny and cold

Yesterday was such a busy day, I barely noticed it snowed! I got one big box of books catalogued and processed, and then three more showed up! Basically, I catalogued/processed for most of the day, but we have some very cool books now.

Home, exhausted. Dinner,video,reading.

I had stuff to do this morning that interfered with writing, so I’m off my rhythm and slightly disgruntled. Plus, my back is bothering me.

I have three proposals to finish today, which is a little intimidating.

It’s supposed to be brutally cold this weekend. I planned to go to Boston on Monday, but I think I have to postpone. I have a feeling I won’t get much beyond Wareham! 😉

Tomorrow is my Saturday “on”, and then it’s writing, studio time, and reading. Busy, busy. I also have to prep the food for Wednesday’s luau on Tuesday – which means shopping for it beforehand, and get some other shopping done. I’ll play it by ear – I’m at the mercy of the weather!

Have a great weekend!

Published in: on February 12, 2016 at 9:26 am  Comments Off on Fri. Feb. 12, 2016: Preparing for the brrrr!  

Thurs. Feb. 11, 2016: Splitting Times

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Waxing Moon

Cloudy and cold

 

Busy day yesterday. Trying to put together three different events, all on a deadline.

 

Was glad to get home. Ate, watched some videos, did some research.

 

Since I couldn’t make the rescheduled NMLC Board Meeting, I sent some comments on the strategic plan and on my reports.

 

Up early this morning. Instead of working on the mystery, I used the time as studio time, working on the text going with the studio project. Difficult, emotional, draining, necessary.

 

Big stack of books needs cataloging, more work on the event planning, follow up with people I met over the weekend.

 

I’d hoped to go into Boston over President’s Day, but if it’s sub zero temperatures, I’ll wait a bit.

 

Weekend-wise, it’s my Saturday “on”, and then a mix of studio time, work on the mystery, and work on the play set in 17th century Italy.

 

 

Published in: on February 11, 2016 at 9:11 am  Comments Off on Thurs. Feb. 11, 2016: Splitting Times  

Wed. Feb. 10, 2016: Productive Snow Days

Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Waxing Moon
Snowy and cold

Quite the few days out here!

Friday, we wound up closing at 11, because the weather was so bad. I slip-slid home, and tucked up the rest of the day, reading research materials.

Saturday was a pretty nice day, so we ran some errands, including picking up some materials at Michael’s for a project I needed, and going to Trader Joe’s to restock. Got a lot of research reading in, and working on notes for a project.

Sunday, I worked on LAUGHTER RETURNED a bit, and the background research I need for that. I also adapted “Confidence Confidant” from stage play into BBC Radio Format, and then into US radio format. It was interesting to see how I had to adpat visuals from the stage play into aurals for the radio play. I also adapted the radio drama “Broken LInks” from US to BBC format.

Those scripts will be registered with the Guild this week, and then — off they go!

We were hit with another big storm on Monday, so that was another snow day. It was the perfect writing day. I

First, I rewrote the opening chapter of SONGBIRD SISTERS, based on the work I’d done at the writers’ retreat in Vermont. It’s much more of what I do well, and enriches the world I’m building. Then, of course, I rewrote chapter 2 (which was more tweaking than rewriting), and rewrote what I’ve done so far on Chapter 3. I need to outline the rest of the book, but I’m in pretty good shape when I go back to it in late March.

Then, after I’d worked on SONGBOUND, I turned my attention back to DEATH OF A CHOLERIC and wrote two chapters of that. I’m getting back into its groove, and I finally got the Town Hall meeting sequence right. It went over two chapters, not one, but it’s pivotal to the plot, so I went with it.

Then, it was time for a cheerful fire in the fireplace, a glass of wine, and reading some contest entries.

I also started reading TRAVELLING TO WORK, Michael Palin’s diaries from 1988-1998. They’re wonderful. It also made me laugh, because we’ve worked with some of the same people. I also love that the Pythons stayed involved in each others’ personal and creative lives even when they stopped being a troupe. All of this creative work is happening against the backdrop of the Berlin Wall coming down, Thatcher going out of power, all the bombings in London, Desert Storm — really wonderful reading, and it reminds me of a lot of what I lived through. I was in the UK quite a bit in the early to mid 90s.

Tuesday meant shovelling the 13 or so inches that had fallen all day Wednesday. Fortunately, it was light and fluffy, and only the bottom of the driveway, where the plow packed down the slush, which turned to ice, was it a problem. A problem fixed by use of the garden hoe.

Then, I worked on my handouts for the WNO event in March. I’ll have to edit them down. They’re too long. Nine pages, and I’m still talking about screenwriting. That’s only one of the four scriptwriting forms I’m supposed to cover.

I also had a chance to spend some studio time, which I did, although I started so late in the day, i couldn’t get everything done I wanted to. I will have to make time in daylight for some serious studio time over the next week, especially next weekend.

We’re under another storm alert today, but I’m heading in to work at least at the beginning, and we’ll play it by ear. If we need to close early, that’s what we’ll do. I’m hoping to get in a decent early morning writing session before I have to go.

Devon

Published in: on February 10, 2016 at 2:32 pm  Comments Off on Wed. Feb. 10, 2016: Productive Snow Days  

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! 😉

Devon

Published in: on February 5, 2016 at 9:44 am  Comments Off on Fri. Feb. 5, 2016: Wintry Writing Weekend  
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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!

Devon

Published in: on February 4, 2016 at 12:31 pm  Comments Off on Thurs. Feb. 4: Retreat Wrap  
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