Thursday, October 4, 2007

Thursday, October 4, 2007
Waning Moon
Hot and humid

Okay, here’s enough to make me reach for the nearest bottle of single malt: 152 people have signed up for my workshop next week. Actually, I’m pretty excited and happy about it. I think it’ll be a great time, and knowing the group is large, I can adjust what I do to make sure everyone gets the personal attention he or she deserves.

Got two articles polished and out yesterday morning, and a follow-up for an interview. Got it together and walked down to Gramercy Park. Now, if you don’t know the geography of Manhattan, I am on 9th Avenue (the west side) close to 40th St. Gramercy Park is on 21st Street east of Lexington Avenue on the East Side. It’s a bit of a hike.

I walked across east across 40th Street to Park Avenue, then south down Park Avenue until it turned into Park Avenue South, then east on 22nd Street and a little south again to hit the park. The park is locked, and only people who live around it get a key. The lock is changed every few months and new keys are issued, so that “others” don’t get keys. The National Arts Club and The Players Club are both on Gramercy Park South. I remember in college, I always thought I’d be a member of one or both clubs, but I never got around to it. I’m not really much of a club person anyway. I think they’re great to be a place to stay when you’re in town, and a place to hang out between gigs to keep connected to other artists and not get glum –but, really, when am I NOT working?

I took a lot of photos and found the building I’ll use at least as my inspiration for Althea’s townhouse. I will research the history of the actual building I want to use – I might have to wedge in a fictional one next to it or something, if that actual one has too much traceable history.

I considered wandering all the way east and a bit north, up to Bide-A-Wee. Olivia, Felicia, and Maude were all adopted out of Bide-A-Wee, and I think their vet clinic is one of the best in the city. But, let’s face it – there is no way in heck I can walk into a shelter and walk out without adopting another critter. Right now, I’m staying in someone else’s home, and my own home situation is unstable, so now is not the time to bring in a new family member.

I walked down Irving Place –beautiful architecture and Pete’s Tavern, which existed under a different name (which escapes me at the moment) during the time of my novel. In fact, Althea’s younger, card-sharp brother Wesley hangs out there. Walked west to Union Square and wandered the Green Market. It’s one of the first that came to the city and is still fantastic.

I read all these articles in the past two months about how the area around Union Square has gone all healthy, holistic, yogic, great OM vibe, etc., etc., etc., so I was excited to visit. It’s been awhile since I was there.

Um, obviously the writers haven’t spent much time in Manhattan, or are familiar with Union Square. The vibe’s exactly the same as it’s been in the 80’s when I went to college and in the 90’s when I lived in the city. It’s been a political gathering place for decades, but everyone is as stressed, cranky, and frantic there as they’ve ever been.

Also, in this midtown neighborhood, I’ve noticed a decline in the past few months. Over the past few years, shortly after I left my abode one block off Times Square, 8th Avenue in the mid-40s has gotten exceptionally sleazy. And, I noticed last night, 42nd Street itself is worse now than it was in the 1980’s before the clean-up. They might sweep it clear for the tourist commercials, but it is BAAAAAD. And if I think it’s bad, after the 13 years I spent living on the Deuce –it’s bad. The homeless situation in just the past months in this neighborhood has tripled –since I last stayed here a few months ago. I have to keep cleaning people off the stoop to get in and out of the building. I mean, there was that homeless mariachi band that used to play under the window that I always joke about, but it’s much worse than that.

The developers are to blame for a lot of it. They’re shoveling people out of their apartments to convert them into luxury condominiums or co-ops – and dozens of these buildings are standing empty because people can’t afford them. And people who work in the city have to commute from farther and farther away, because even in the outer boroughs, it’s too expensive. The developers don’t care, because they made their money and left – they don’t have to deal with the fallout in the neighborhoods. When studio apartments go for $2200-$3500/month – there’s a problem. People can’t afford to live in those apartments, and realtors don’t want to rent to people without high paying, white collar jobs. A solid percentage of the people in shelters HAVE full-time jobs – and not minimum wage jobs, but white-collar, salaried jobs. And they can’t afford an apartment. Something is seriously wrong here. But the city is run be realtors, developers, and corporations – as long as the execs get their multi-millions, they don’t care if the city burns around them.

New York’s headed down the path of ancient Rome. It’s going to implode from greed. When you’re commuting, you notice the stresses; when you walk the streets and LOOK at what’s happening, you see the causes.

Anyway, back to Union Square:

I was hot, tired, and hungry by then, but didn’t want to spend $40 on lunch. I headed further down towards NYU, and found, on the corner of University and 13th, a fairly new Vietnamese restaurant called L’annam. They were so nice, the lunch special was very inexpensive ($7) and the food was outstanding. I had the sautéed chicken with lemongrass and chili sauce, served over brown rice. The portion was huge and the tastes were exquisite. Absolutely perfectly prepared. It was busy, but I never felt like I was being rushed – something that’s important to me, and rare in NYC restaurants. I eavesdropped on the conversations around me – um, the ones in English, since I don’t know enough words in any Asian language to follow the conversation. So that was fun. And I felt like a new person.

Since I was only two blocks from Strand, of course, I had to go in. I spent an hour there and didn’t buy a thing. I wondered if I was coming down with something. I just couldn’t find what I wanted. I wanted a volume of diaries or letters or something, but it had to be the right one, and I couldn’t find it. Too bad for me.

Walked back up to Union Square, jumped the N express back uptown – it took only 5 minutes to get from 14th Street to 42nd St. Walked over to 9th Avenue, to the market, picked up a few things, and back to the apartment. I walked about 40 blocks today – figure 10 blocks equals a mile, so 4 miles. When I lived in the city, it was normal. I thought I still walked a lot out in the ‘burbs, but obviously not, because I was exhausted!

Come home, caught up on email, read the paper, played with the cats. I saw some jobs on the boards to which I might pitch, but a few of them sound a little squirrelly, so I have to make sure I ask the right questions. There’s one that would be really cool, totally out of my comfort zone that sounds legit – if I can write a pitch well enough for them to take a chance on me. Gotta keep pushing that comfort zone, right?

Got the workshop materials out to the rest of the list, but spent most of the evening relaxing. Did a yoga workout last night and this morning.

So many arguments happened out in the street last night and this morning that I hoped no one would start pulling out guns.

Good morning’s work on both Prince Paisley’s Chintz and Revenge Tangents rewrite this morning. Now it’s off to work on some more articles, and see what else the day brings.


Revenge Tangents Typed Draft 1A – 1,845 words out of est. 25,000

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter

1 / 25

Prince Paisley’s Chintz – 2,000 words out of est. 25,000

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter

2 / 25

Published in: on October 4, 2007 at 8:51 am  Comments (7)  

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Waning Moon
Drizzly and warm

Belated Happy Birthdays to both Brenda Birch and Colin Galbraith! I hope many of your dreams come true this year – you deserve it.

As I mentioned yesterday, I found it difficult to work on the serene scenes at the beginning of Prince Paisley’s Chintz yesterday, due to the frenetic energy of this neighborhood. So I switched to typing the draft of Revenge Tangents, since the beginning of that is set in Manhattan. It worked much better. Maybe I’ll pack up PPC today and try to write somewhere quiet. I’d say a library, but, unfortunately, people seem to have forgotten that libraries are for quiet work and now treat them like coffee shops. Come to think of it, it might work better to work in a coffee shop. We’ll see how the day shapes out. I have to finish and polish two articles before I can go anywhere.

The theatre was fine. I caught up with everyone. Someone made brownies; someone didn’t get a promised job on a new show and now has to scramble; someone is doing a bread-baking intensive at the Culinary Institute and brought the day’s work (oh, my goodness, it is the BEST); some talk about what’s going on with the negotiations between the League and the stagehands, but no one seems too worried.

Came back to the apartment; ate dinner; changed for the reception, trying to give myself a reason not to go. But I did. I thought it would take me an hour to get there. It took 20 minutes on the subway.

I’ve never been to Housing Works before, to their bookstore and café, and I’ve certainly missed a lot. The reception was hosted by PEN, to welcome their new members. The drinks were good, the appetizers were wonderful. Both Francine Prose and A.M. Homes spoke. I’m struck again, with the people I’ve met via PEN, at the commitment to the art and craft of writing, the commitment to the community at large, and the commitment to social justice. Yes, everyone does the business-y aspects of marketing that have been shoveled off from publishers to authors – but the first priority is the writing. The community comes next, and everything else just has to take a number. It’s such a refreshing change from the majority of writing groups where the majority of the conversation is either bitching and moaning about agents and publishers, or obsession with branding. Maybe if more writers would concern themselves with the quality of their work before focusing all their time and energy on marketing work that’s not ready, more of them would get published in the way they wish.

I’m always energized and uplifted by attending PEN events. They are inspirational on so many levels, and they are proof that the written word still matters – no matter what corporate poobahs squeal about the numbers. The written word is still able to change people’s lives around the world. And that is something, as writers, we need to be aware of even more than the latest Amazon ranking.

I reconnected with some people I’d met at other events, and met some fascinating new people – one of them is a translator and the other is an agent. I’m going to interview the agent for the next Literary Athlete column – if she still wants to do it once she’s thought about it. Her take on both writing and the business are quite inspiring and I’d like to share it with my readers.

Got home early enough to do a good, long core workout. Watched some bad TV (I’m starting to wonder if there’s much else, now that THE CLOSER and BURN NOTICE are done until next summer). Read a bit, but the book I was reading didn’t capture me – I didn’t connect or care about the characters and they were kind of floating in nothingness. I think that was the author’s point, but I didn’t care enough to continue on the journey with them, and put the book up on BookMooch.

I want to do some research for the Good Names rewrite down around Grammercy Park. I guess I better get going on the articles, so I can “allow” myself to go – paid, contracted work first, after all. I’ll do word bar updates tomorrow.

I’ve also got some ideas swirling around – one of a novella for a contest with an early January deadline, and one for a book that could be a career changer and lucrative, but I’m not sure if I want to go in that direction. Especially in light of last night’s inspiration. So, I have to think.

It’s hard to think with trucks rumbling by so that the building shakes and construction noise. Time to put on the music and the headphones and get on those articles.

Good yoga workout this morning. Costume Imp’s cats still think I’m nuts, but at least they figured out that Corpse position doesn’t mean I’m actually a corpse.


Published in: on October 3, 2007 at 8:14 am  Comments (6)  

Monday, July 23, 2007

Monday, July 23, 2007
Waxing Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Venus Retrograde
Rainy and cool

It’s raining heavily here again today, and we’re on flood watch. The positive aspect is that the construction numbnuts, who started at 7:45 this morning, had to suspend their damned noise, and I could get some work done. I hope it doesn’t flood – really not up for that, but the car’s safe, so if it does, I can hunker down and just deal.

After two months of serious flooding in the UK, we’re only now hearing about it on the news. My thoughts are with all my friends and colleagues there.

Brandy, to answer your Rowling question: I think whatever she writes next will have huge sales and huge criticism, because too many will be narrow-minded enough to want the same thing from her, but bitch and moan no matter what she writes, even if the quality is excellent. I think by whatever she writes after THAT, there will be enough distance for people to embrace it on its own merits. I suspect that the media will be harsher on her than the public, since there will be plenty there who want to see her fail out of sheer spite. Fortunately, she’s now in a position where she can do whatever she pleases and follow her heart. If she chooses to write under another name, good for her; if she continues under hers, good for her. I wish her well in whatever she attempts, and I’m pleased by her success. She’s earned it.

I worked on Chapter 13 of Tracking Medusa yesterday. I think I’ll have to rework it substantially in the rewrite – it plods rather than flows. And I have to look at the photos I took of the Scottish War Memorial – I skimped on the description.

Went to my friend’s in the afternoon, did two more loads of laundry, more research for Good Names, and this time I cooked dinner: thyme chicken, asparagus with hollandaise, and potato salad.

For some reason, I was exhausted when I got home and spent most of the evening reading magazines and half-watching stupid television.

Didn’t get a gig I hoped for. Objectively, I should be relieved, because it would tie me down more than I can be tied down right now for less money than it should be for the gig, but it was an interesting, unusual thing that I wanted to try. Oh, well. Just means something better is right around the corner.

Good morning’s work on Good Names. One of the dead governess’s dalliances has been uncovered, and it gives them some detection work to do.

I have some business-y work to do today, and then I can get back to Tracking Medusa.

Let’s hope the water stays within its banks and the electricity holds on.


Good Names — 43,882 words out of est. 100,000

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
43 / 100

Tracking Medusa – 32,990 words out of est. 90,000

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
32 / 90
Published in: on July 23, 2007 at 9:09 am  Comments (5)  

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Saturday, July 21, 2007
Waxing Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Venus Retrograde
Sunny and cooler

The construction morons started banging around at 8 AM. On a Saturday. Thank goodness for my MP3 player and headphones, or I’d be down there inflicting serious bodily harm on them.

Yesterday ended up being a good day. The migraine lifted. I got my article out on time. I went to my friend’s, did 7 loads of laundry, and spent a good portion of the afternoon lying in a poolside hammock reading a book on Gramercy Park as research for Good Names.

Not only do I need to get down there and walk it, I need to spend a few days digging in the NY Historical Society’s Archives. Guess I should make the appointment sooner rather than later.

I cheated on the cooking, though; we ordered Chinese take-out. Twice.

I don’t have to go in tomorrow for the show – yeah! – so I can get a lot done, I hope.

I heard back from one publication – they like the three articles I’ve submitted thus far and will let me know as soon as they schedule them. And they understand that the four profiles are taking longer to write than I thought they would. It’s summer, people are away, and they’re harder to pin down.

It looks like I’ll be giving a workshop or an online chat for a writers’ conference this fall. As soon as I have all the details, I’ll post them.

I have three pitches to write, some short stories to work on, work on the e-book, figure out a giveaway if the conference thing actually pans out, work on logos, have another article to start, and I want to spend a good chunk of time on Tracking Medusa today. I’d hoped to work on it every day this past week – and didn’t.

Had a good morning on Good Names – it’s chugging along nicely. It needs lots of fixes as far as period detail, but character and even plot seem to hold together pretty well. I’m going to overwrite the second draft horribly, putting in so many details it’s silly, and then cut, cut, cut for the third draft, which will then go out to readers (like, six months from now).

And, of course, I’m waiting for my guaranteed delivery of the latest Harry Potter.

To work, to work.


Good Names — 39,757 words out of est. 100,000

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
39 / 100
Published in: on July 21, 2007 at 8:45 am  Comments (2)  

Friday, July 20, 2007

Friday, July 20, 2007
Waxing Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Venus Retrograde
Cloudy, humid, cooler

If they weren’t still down there making noise and raising dust, I wouldn’t need the air conditioner on today. Sigh.

Yesterday was nearly a lost day. The migraine came in waves; when it ebbed, I worked; when it flowed – well, any of you who’ve had migraines understand.

I have to finish, polish, and send one article this morning, and get a few more things out tonight. I have a break in the middle of the day to get some other work done, then go over to my friend’s, do laundry, cook him dinner, and then work more tonight.

I’m playing with some short story ideas for various ventures, anthologies, etc. I’m working on logo design for some upcoming projects. And I have a list of pitches to get out as long as my arm.

I’m working on the press pass for next week’s Empire State Games, New York’s mini-Olympics, which I hope to cover. Of course, the days it’s running are supposed to be the hottest days of the year, and many events (such as archery) are outside.

You know I’ll be inside the hockey rink to cover Women’s Ice Hockey as much as possible!

Nice morning’s work on Good Names. I have to get down to Gramercy Park with my camera in the next few weeks. I need to walk it and photograph it, in addition to the research I’m doing into the time, and all the fascinating memoirs I’m reading about it.

Someone in the theatre had a death in the family, so I might have to go in on Sunday and early next week. On the one hand, I’m trying to limit how much time I spend at the show, because it cuts in to my writing time; on the other hand, I feel a loyalty to the show, and I want to help out in an emergency. Unfortunately, the emergencies never seem to stop.

I watched the premier of Mad Men last night. Stylistically, it’s great. The writing’s quite good, too. However, I don’t have a great deal of respect for the lead character, Don Draper (although I think the actor does a great job). I don’t find him “complex” at all – I find him a lying, cheating user. I realize that’s part of the statement the show makes about the time, place, space, social change, and intent of the business – but the character’s going to have to go a long way for me not to want to see him fail.

Off to focus, migraine or not; too much has to get done before I leave this afternoon.


Good Names – 38,757 words out of est. 100,000

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
38 / 100

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Sunday, May 27, 2007
Waxing Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Cloudy, hot, humid

Most of the day was spent on Tracking Medusa. It’s flowing very well (nearly 6000 words yesterday), and I want to ride the inspirational wave. It’s a fun piece. I’d like to knock it out as fast as possible. I need to revisit the Metropolitan Museum of Art to get some of the geography down, and also the inside of the NYPL on 5th and 42nd. I hate it when writers get geography wrong, and don’t want to fall into that trap. But I’ve got the characters on a plane to London now, so it’s all good.

I did a bunch of internet research on someone I want to interview. Gotta do the homework! Of course, the project about which I want to interview him, I haven’t been able to locate – but I’ll just flat out ask him. First I need to find out if he’s available/interested for the interview – then I’ll ask about that particular project.

Good session on Good Names this morning. I’ve got them settled into the Gramercy Park townhouse, and now I can get in to the meat of the story.

I hope you’re all reading Ian Rankin’s Open Doors, serialized in the NYT Magazine section. It’s terrific.

Off to do the matinee, and then go out for a drink. I don’t want to get in too late, because I want to be fresh for a strong writing day tomorrow.

The friction between the writing life and the theatre life is particularly high today, because I don’t want to lose this creative wave. I’m worried that switching gears to flipping people in and out of their clothes and having to think in technical terms rather than creative ones will hurt.


Good Names – 16,537 words out of est. 100,000

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
16 / 100

Tracking Medusa – 10,717 words out of est. 90,000

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
10 / 90