Friday, April 25,2008

Friday, April 25, 2008
Waning Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Sunny and warm

So, pretty much everything is happening next week. We’re leading up to the Derby; I’m doing five shows; The PEN World Voices Festival, which was an absolutely life-changing experience last year, is on and I can’t go to anything; and the Tribeca Film Festival is on, and it looks like nothing I really want to see is on at a time I can actually go to see it. So that’s a bit frustrating, but, well, that’s what happens when you’re in a city with a gazillion things happening all the time.

I did some work on the adaptation, and I’m figuring out Yuri’s Tale as I go. I have to sit down and do some free writing on it. The ideas feel like they’re just beyond wherever I am, so I have to catch up to them.

I found some interesting submission calls; there are one or two I’d like to try. A story of which I’m rather fond, but hasn’t yet found a home came back from a Trusted Reader who said, “You tried to mash a 75K novel into 2500 words; good ideas; poor execution.” Of course, the Reader is correct – the guidelines said 2500 words, and the story is beyond that, so there was lots of stuffing, so I have to re-think the whole thing. I just really want to get some shorter pieces out there to have a feeling that I’ve accomplished something. The whole novel – and even novella – process is very long.

Worked on a bit of a short story for one of the submission calls – and this definitely IS a short story. Could be kind of fun, but I have to refresh my memory on some Atlantic City geography.

I’m frustrated with a two of the books I’m reading. One is by an author whose work I adore, the series is one I adore, and this character is one I adore; unfortunately, the partner for this particular character’s story leaves me cold. I don’t think she’s good enough for him. And then I feel guilty, because it’s not MY vision, it’s the author’s, and I really have no right to say anything, but I feel proprietary and protective of this character. However, I have to also trust the writer’s overall vision for the series and see where it goes. But I’m struggling now, with this particular book. I want to be as in love with it as I am with the others in the series, and I’m just not.

The other book is by a new-to-me author, although someone with quite a track record. I like the premise, the research, the pace, the inventiveness, and yet something about it leaves me cold. I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Maybe I should switch to some non-fiction for awhile, but I am simply not in the mood for astrobiology right now. I took out Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare and began re-reading that, taking notes because it’s relevant to several upcoming projects. It’s one of the best biographies I’ve ever read, so I’m excited to get back into it.

I finally got my hair cut yesterday. I couldn’t stand it anymore. It’s still a little longer than I’ve kept it for the past few years, but it’s kind of like a windblown pageboy. Since I always look windblown anyway, I might as well get it styled that way.

Busy day – storage, grocery shopping, measurements, writing, finishing the pre-Derby article. Maybe watch some of the video I need to watch to formulate questions for another interview. There’s so much background material for this particular one that it will take over my life if I let it. And I won’t.

Hope you have a great weekend!


Adaptation: 18,522 words out of est. 90,000

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
18 / 90

Devon’s Bookstore:

5 in 10: Create 5 Short Stories in Ten Weeks
by Devon Ellington. This ebooklet takes you from inspiration to writing to revision to marketing. By the end of ten weeks, you will have either 5 short stories or a good chunk of a novella complete. And it’s only 50 cents, USD. Here.

Writing Rituals: Ideas to Support Creativity by Cerridwen Iris Shea. This ebooklet contains several rituals to help you start writing, get you through writer’s block, and help send your work on its way. It’s only 39 cents USD. (Note: Cerridwen Iris Shea is one of the six names under which I publish). Here.

Full Circle: An Ars Concordia Anthology
. Edited by Colin Galbraith. This is a collection of short stories, poems, and other pieces by a writers’ group of which I am a member. My story is “Pauvre Bob”, set at Arlington Race Track in Illinois. You can download it free here:

Published in: on April 25, 2008 at 7:31 am  Comments (7)  

Friday, October 5, 2007

Friday, October 5, 2007
Waning Moon
Sunny and HOT!

It’s the vibration that bothers me as much as the noise. I really need to live someplace quite and quietly rural.

Took a walk about mid-morning. It was so hot yesterday that I had to run the air conditioner for awhile. Scanned the job boards. Procrastinated instead of buckling down and getting my articles done.

Fretted about fiction projects, which is just silly. Pick one and DO it.

Considered going up to the NY Historical Society to do research, but they’re closing early for a private party. Besides, I’m not in the mood to work in pencil. If anything, I’m in a magic marker mood.

Managed to get my act together to finish, polish and send two more articles out. I think one of them is too long and too personal; might have to do a rewrite. I have to finish two more – these two are more difficult – today, and then I’ve met my commitment through the end of the year, for this particular publication.

Thinking about how I want to shape my next Lit Athlete column, using both some of the material the agents brought up, but that I couldn’t use from the one about to publish, and also the ideas sparked by the agent with whom I spoke at the PEN event.

I’m signed up for Nano, even though I don’t know if I can do it. Nor can I decide which project I want to work on, if I can. It can’t be the Untitled Literary Fiction, because that can only progress at about 500 words/day. That is the piece’s rhythm, and I have to respect it. Perhaps I will get some ideas in the workshops I plan to take next week, at the Muse Online Conference, in addition to the one I’m teaching.

Started reading American Vertigo by the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy. I’d first heard about the book when Jon Stewart interviewed him. I picked it up during the PEN World Voices conference, in between seminars, when Alain de Botton’s views on travel gave me so much to think about. As stresses mounted this summer, it stayed in the “To be read” pile and I read mind candy instead, but now I’m finally coming back to it. Reading a French philosopher’s work while sipping wine – all I need is to be in a brownstone in Greenwich Village and I’m a total cliché! 😉

I “should” be out and about, spending time with my NYC-based friends, but I just don’t have the emotional energy this week.

I roughed out what will be my Nano if I’m in a position to do it. It’s a comic mystery called Effie. If you’re a Dashiell Hammett fan, you’ll get it. If you’re not, oh well. I need to figure it out scene-by-scene, but it’s an idea that I’ve tossed around for ten or fifteen years, so it’s about time I write it. And if it’s not Nano, at least I know I’ve got another novel planned.

Good core workout last night; good yoga workout this morning.

Difficult morning’s work on Prince Paisley’s Chintz. Good morning’s work on the Revenge Tangents revision.

Errands to run, bills to pay, and then more articles to write. It’s a busy day. And so hot! It’s supposed to be autumn, and it feels like July!


Prince Paisley’s Chintz
– 2,625 words out of est. 25,000

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
2 / 25

Revenge Tangents
typed draft 1A – 3,101 words out of est. 25,000

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
3 / 25
Published in: on October 5, 2007 at 8:25 am  Comments (6)  

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, September 24, 2007

Monday, September 24, 2007
Waxing Moon
Sunny and warm

I cooked Cornish Hen for the Equinox celebration, stuffed with carrots and parsnips, drizzled with olive oil, rosemary, sage, and paprika. I served it with mashed potatoes, mashed yams seasoned with orange juice, and a mixture of corn, green beans, and broccoli. It was very good, if I do say so myself.

Had a story idea while I was doing the dishes – isn’t that always the way?

Worked on notes for a new project which may or may not become the Nano. I’ve tossed this idea around for several years, and now I’m ready to start asking the questions about the characters and their arcs that will allow me to plot the books – because I suspect that, if it works out, this will be series. It has potential for a variety of plot and storylines as the characters grow and change. But, we’ll see. First, I have to know who they are. Then, I have to know what they’re doing. And I have to figure out why they’re doing it.

Got some work done on Revenge Tangents – it’s taking some interesting twists and turns. And, because I’m not writing it to someone else’s guidelines, I have a freedom to play, which I enjoy. I know where it’s being marketing and how, so I can relax.

Finally got off a couple of critiques that it took me way too long to do.

Told DHL how disappointed I am in them – during the flood in March, the guy waded through thigh-high water to get me my material; now, six months later, when there haven’t been any problems, the new guy can’t be bothered to stop the truck – he just says “the premises are closed” – I left a note for him LAST WEEK that hasn’t been touched – which means he’s lying to his bosses. Not acceptable. I’m going to start invoicing DHL for every day my work is not delivered.

I’m trying to put together my materials for next week. I want to work on Revenge Tangents and Tracking Medusa. I’m trying to figure out if I should try to type material for Good Names or just do research in the archives. Hopefully, the material from Confidential Job #1 will have arrived, and I can take that. And, of course, there are things like, well, clothes, especially since I’m attending a PEN event.

I have several articles to hammer out this week, so I better get to it. The back is better; Downstairs Neighbor had his television on more quietly than he has (but I still woke up every time he changed the channel). So, all in all, not a good night’s sleep, which has left me a bit out of sorts this morning, but nothing like the dull, blue sensations of Saturday.

I’m actually looking forward to getting some work done today!


Published in: on September 24, 2007 at 8:14 am  Comments (6)  

April 30, 2007

Monday, April 30, 2007
Waxing Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Cloudy and warm

Derby article went out yesterday morning. Short, sweet, and to the point. It will be up on Femmefan either Tuesday or Wednesday, so look for it. It’s called “Kentucky Derby 2007: The Horse.” I think this year’s field is much less wide open than the past few years.

I took the train in around 10 AM yesterday. A woman accompanied by three boys under the age of ten was on the train. One was her son, who was in a wheelchair; the other two were in her care for some reason, the smallest barely beyond toddler. I helped her get them on the train. We all sat together in facing seats and I made up a story to keep them entertained, giving each of them a magical power. I included the tattooed guy sitting beside us because he was so obviously listening. I may well use it as the basis for one of the train stories.

I wasn’t pleased with having to stand in line for 40 minutes outside the NYPL, and then having to walk the length of the library on a broken foot and down several flights of stairs to the PEN event.

One Neil Gaiman wanna-be (but without the intelligence, the humor, or the gentleness), in full black regalia asked me why I wasn’t in black (I was one of the few in line who was actually wearing a color). My response was, “I’m secure enough in my intellect not to need the uniform.”

However the even itself, “Voyage & Voyeur: Travel and Travel Writing” was magnificent. Moderated by Paul Holdengraber (there should be an umlaut over the “a”, but I can’t get the key code to work), the panel consisted of Alain de Botton, Ma Jian, and Illija Trojanow. The discussion (sometimes a debate) was what travel writing really IS – which is not, necessarily, a list of good deals and sightseeing. Inner and outer landscapes, getting to the depths of a place and the self, etc., etc. I agreed with much of it, disagreed with some of it, was fascinated by all of it. De Botton made a point about many people who are disappointed with travel experience because one always brings oneself. I agree, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I rather enjoy bringing myself along when I travel. The exterior cacophony is quieted, being out of my – well, I don’t exactly have a routine as a freelancer, but the usual daily chaos – and I can hear the inner voices. I can recharge the well.

Of course, the trip tomorrow is flat-out running away from the stresses of the past months – I want to pretend they don’t exist for a few days. It’s simply escape. Plus research for a Sean/Elle story and probably a backdrop for a novel, sometime in the future.

There was a lot of pushing and shoving at the book table, but I managed to purchase Ma Jian’s The Noodle Maker and de Botton’s The Consolations of Philosophy. I didn’t get to the stack of Trojanow’s books, and will have to hunt them down later. De Botton was kind enough to sign the book for me, and then I limped out. By now, it was far too late to cross over to the east side and up to the seminar I wanted to attend on Exile – but I was still to full of this seminar to be able to concentrate properly anyway. There were so many points to think about – far too many for a blog entry – that I decided to take the afternoon to enjoy them.

I meandered down Fifth Avenue, from the library on 42nd Street to Union Square, down on 14th Street. For some reason, standing on the broken foot hurts, but if I walk carefully, I’m okay. Good to know, since I’ll be doing some hiking on Thursday.

Once at Union Square, there was some sort of performance chaos going on within the park, and I needed some solitude, so I ducked into the B&N (not the best choice). It was packed and noisy. I found another book of de Botton’s, The Art of Travel, which I picked up (the one relevant to the seminar). I also picked up Bernard-Henri Lévy’s book American Vertigo, which I’ve wanted since it was first published, and Jeremy Mercer’s memoir of his time at Paris’s Shakespeare & Co., Time Was Soft There.

Laden down with far too many books (now THERE’s a surprise), I continued wandering down to Cloisters on E. 9th St. and had a café au lait and cappuccino cheesecake in the garden.

I set part of Tapestry in that restaurant, and it was nice to re-visit it. It’s where Nina is first introduced to Tom.

I started reading The Art of Travel, and I will forever associate it with the scent of dill wafting over from various brunch dishes. It’s an excellent book, and I found myself having a conversation with it – agreeing with parts of it, disagreeing with others. I think I travel differently than most people – which is probably why I’m not being hired by the slick travel mags! I’m not that interested in the spa at the Hilton – I’m interested in what’s available at the market and how people use it.

Wandered back to the B&N on Astor Place – big mistake. Packed, a pick-up joint, and people shouting at each other across the floors like we were in some sort of carnival. Ick. Kept wandering westward to Washington Square Park, where jazz played and magnolia blossoms wafted on the wind.

I sat and read there for awhile, until it got too cold. I’d hoped to stop in to Posman’s books, but it’s no longer just off Washington Square. Kept on going to 8th Street, headed east again. Stopped at Cosi for a coffee, and then it was time to pick up my tickets and get in line over at Cooper Union.

I left B’s ticket at the box office, got in line with my ticket, and continued reading, which was a much pleasanter way to wait. I got a good seat and saved one for B. She arrived soon after, having jumped a cab after getting out of work on the show. We settled in, and listened to the Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture, which was given by David Grossman, who was then joined by Nadine Gordimer in conversation.

Again, it was astonishingly inspiring. He talks how the stress of daily trauma affects the life and the work, and how the desire is to someday return to something “normal.” Gordimer strongly believes that, no matter what, the social/political/daily traumas must infect and affect the characters. And Grossman spoke of the responsibility of the writer to show people that there IS another way, that there ARE other choices.

Again, the emphasis is on craft and content and responsibility to humanity, not on marketing. Salman Rushdie came on stage towards the end, to close the festival, and the emphasize that there’s room for all kinds and genres of writing, and there’s NEED for all kinds and genres of writing, but how important it is to keep these international connections and discussions going beyond the festival. And he’s absolutely right.

I was reminded again of working with the Core Freedoms/Freedom To Write program just before the holidays, writing cards to imprisoned writers all over the world. I remember the shock I felt writing an address to a labor camp in Vietnam. I’m grateful that I’m not in that situation, but I’m also aware of how spoiled I am in this life, and my responsibility to try to make the world a better place through my writing. That doesn’t mean everything has to be serious and with a Greater Purpose. But it means emphasis on content rather than market.

During the “Voyage and Voyeur” discussion, the point was made, several times, how it’s easier to tell truth in the context of fiction, which is something I’ve believed for years. People connect when it’s part of a story and part of a character about which they care.

These past days gave me a lot to think about as far as how I want to shape my work, my career, and my literary life.

B. and I wandered over to a favorite haunt of ours, Telephone Bar and Grill, on 2nd Avenue and 10th Street, to get something to eat and discuss all the ideas.

I managed to catch the 10:40 out of Grand Central. However, it was well after midnight when I got home. God forbid Metro North actually run a train. First, the excuse was that the bridge was up and we couldn’t get off Manhattan, so we sat for 15 minutes or so at 125th St. Once we got over the bridge, we stopped in the middle of nowhere for who-knows-how long. I called the Customer Service line to complain and got, “Oh, there’s a train broken down ahead of you. We don’t know how long you’ll be there.” I told them I was sick of something going wrong EVERY day, and this was the fourth time in six months something like this happened. It’s not acceptable. .

The train began to move.

Then, at two of the stops, they had bridge plates up, couldn’t line up the car to the plates, only opened one door – AND NEVER TOLD THE PASSENGERS. So we had to wait for 15 minutes at each stop while passengers scrambled to find the single open door.

The level of incompetence grows exponentially week to week. I’m sick of it. Why should we pay them? They should pay us to ride the damn train. It should not take 2 ½ hours to go 25 miles!

Today, I’m finishing my packing, doing last minute errands, getting the report off for CJ #1, and getting set for the rest of the week.

I think I’ll blog early tomorrow morning before I leave, but we’ll see.

Hope this is a great start to a great week!


April 29, 2007

Sunday, April 29, 2007
Waxing Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Cloudy and warm

It was a good trip, but not an easy trip. Nothing like your family to completely tip your equilibrium!

I received the next assignment from Confidential Job #1, along with the notification that the invoice I submitted was approved. Woo-hoo! Guess they like me! I’m still waiting both for payment from Confidential Job #2 and if they’re going to give me another assignment. Another freelance job asked for samples; I sent them; when I got back yesterday, there was the exact same email asking for samples, so I RE-SENT them, with a pointed email saying that’s what I did.

Icelandair fixed the problems, with many apologies, so it all seems good – provided they actually did what they said they did. I have all the paperwork, so we’ll see.

Wednesday night, I took my friend J. to the PEN World Voices Festival – readings at Town Hall. We went in early enough to have a cocktail at the Algonquin’s Blue Bar (one of my favorite places). I had a sidecar – they make the best sidecars ever.

The event itself was amazing! Tonight’s event was “Writing Home”. Salman Rushdie provided the introduction – and, three times, admonished people to turn off their cell phones and some idiot’s phone STILL went off halfway through! The writers reading from their work were: Steve Martin, Pia Tafdrup, Don DeLillo, Tatayana Tolstaya, Saaadi Youssef, Kiran Desai, Alain Mabanckou, Neil Gaiman, Nadine Gordimer, and Salman Rushdie. Each one was uniquely exquisite.

We left walking on air. What a wonderful way to replenish the soul!

THIS is a writers’ conference. A place where writers share ideas and responsibility and use their talents to change the world, to make it a better place. This is an international organization of writers committed to justice, peace, and making a difference in the world, inspiring everyone with whom they come into contact, and I am honored to be a part of it.

THIS is what a writers’ conference should be, rather than what most are – places where wanna-be writers try to find agents for books that will never be written and go to marketing seminars for work that they’ll never finish. Yes, it’s important for conferences to provide the business protocols on a regular basis, both because of the constant influx of starting writers and those who, no matter how many times they’re told, believe none of it pertains to THEM, but there’s really nothing out there for the working writer. Conferences bring together starting out writers and wanna-be writers with best-sellers. There is nothing for the steadily working writer who’s crafting a career – and a life – in the art form without bestseller-dom or spending 80% of the time marketing rather than writing.

PEN’s festival is about craft and content, not marketing. There was a sense of community, of writers and readers embracing each other, rather than a sense of competition and cliques which pervades so many conferences. These are people who want to talk to those who attend, who want to interact, who give a damn. They are confident in their skills and their work and in their sense of responsibility to humanity at large, but also humble.

It was an eye-opening, soul-reviving, life-changing experience.

Afterwards, J. and I went to the Campbell Apartment for another drink and to continue that feeling of well-being (because once we got on wonky, unreliable Metro North, it was hard to maintain).

I’m seriously thinking of writing a book of short stories based on Metro North nightmares. Darkly funny. Because there’s got to be a way to make positive use out of all the pain and frustration this train line causes on a daily basis!

Unfortunately, when I got home, I discovered that I’d broken the little toe on my left foot and it was black and swollen. I knew I’d tripped over something earlier in the day, but didn’t think it was a big deal.

It was. I had to adjust it (all together now – Owww!), ice it, and tape it.

Since I got home after midnight, I had a heck of a time getting up at 4:30 on Thursday morning. We were an hour late starting off for Maine – and I was up, I was packed, but I couldn’t get it together to get out of the house!

The drive up was fine, as always. The Rabbit drives like a dream and loves the highway. We stopped at my favorite Nutcracker Bakery in Newburyport, MA for coffee and a snack, then I nipped in to visit Jabberwocky Books there. If you’re ever in Newburyport, or near it, you MUST visit Jabberwocky – it’s an amazing bookstore and right next to the bakery. Tess Gerritsen turned me on to that place, and every time I go to and from Maine, I thank her for it!

We meandered through lower Maine the way we usually do – did some shopping in Kittery, stopped at the thrift shop in York, the Book Barn in Wells – which is about to close! After 25 years, they are going into semi-retirement and only working online via Alibris. The two lovely frame houses that are the store and the house have been sold to the shopping center beside them. I hope they’re not torn down! I bought my two final books there, and will miss them terribly.

We made our usual stop in Stonewall Kitchen in York. Stocked up on some more of their Wild Maine Blueberry jam, horseradish cream, shallot and champagne mustard, and they had a spicy corn relish that’s so good I bought the biggest jar they carry.

My grandmother had asked us to buy a few things on the way in, so we went to the Wells Food Mart (beside the bookstore) to get things. Then, it was a stop at the wonderful Maine Diner for a lobster lunch, and back onto the Maine Turnpike at Kennebunk. Those Bushes really ought to give the town some money to fix the roads! They can spare it, and the roads are in bad shape!

We got to my grandmother’s, unloaded the car, and filled up the freezer with all the things I’d cooked. My grandmother is too ill to cook anymore, so when I go up, I cook batches of things she and her brother like, put them in microwave containers, and stock her freezer. We also brought her a stack of Large Print mysteries – her eyesight’s failing, so she can’t see to read unless it’s Large Print. I taught her how to run the CD player I’d given her for Christmas so she could listen to the Books on Tape I’d bought (because no one else could be bothered to take the two and a half minutes to figure it out). My grandmother’s cousin and her granddaughter stopped by, whom I’d never met, so we had a nice visit.

We ordered in food from Bob’s Seafood over in Windham, and my great-uncle got a ride in the new car with me to get it, which was fun. We visited and caught up. My grandmother’s Parkinson’s is much worse, but she says it’s better since they switched her medication, so I can only imagine how bad it was in the interim.

My foot was killing me, so I put it up and iced it off and on for a few hours (in ten minute bursts – any more and it hurts the nerves).

Friday morning, I read a colleague’s manuscript (which is GREAT by the way. Not good – GREAT. Any agent or publisher who doesn’t snatch it up immediately is a complete and utter moron and the publishing industry is DOOMED). Meanwhile, I had the laundry going downstairs. We’d brought up two loads of laundry from NY, because we don’t know when we’ll have a laundry room again, and they had some laundry, and since I AM a laundry goddess, I did the whole lot of it.

My grandmother felt well enough to dress and wanted to come shopping. We made a list and went to Shaw’s. I LOVE that store! Ever so much better than many of the stores around here. And everyone’s so friendly and helpful. And it’s set up logically. The matches are with the lighter fluid and fireplace logs instead of in the middle of the dish soap (as in one store here) – and most stores in my area no longer sell kitchen matches “because everyone has a lighter”. So I stocked up on things like kitchen matches and oyster crackers to take back to NY, and got my grandmother’s grocery shopping done, and then ran into Staples to get some 3 hole punch paper (which is hard to get down here, but it’s what I use for drafts because I put them in binders).

Got Grandma back home, the groceries put away, the laundry folded, more work done on the manuscript. Then, it was back to Bob’s Seafood for lobster rolls for lunch (yum). After lunch, I had to head back out because I had to find a place to get keys copied. I have a 30 year old security lock on my door here, which does make me feel secure, but a single key makes me nervous. Down here, key cutters shrug and say they “can’t.” So I thought maybe a more rural area would have more resourceful locksmiths.

I found one, and I learned more than I ever knew about making and matching keys. You know it’s going to come in handy in a story someday. He was absolutely lovely, and I may need to base a character in something on him someday. Of course, I couldn’t test the keys until we got back to NY yesterday, but – they work! Ta-Da!

Did some other shopping (like I needed to spend the money). Came back to the house, finished the manuscript, wrote up the notes, and my grandmother’s sister-in-law stopped by, and we also had a nice visit. Then I started the next assignment for Confidential Job #1, fixed dinner, and helped my grandmother go through some things which I took back here to NY to get repaired – since I’m in wardrobe, I know the places that specialize in these kinds of repairs.

Somewhere in all of this, I ended up with a tick on me, which nearly sent me over the edge, but I got it off and stomped on it before it bit me. Two of my friends have had Lyme Disease, and it’s left them with permanent damage. I’m just glad I noticed it before it had the chance to chomp.

Up early yesterday morning, got my grandmother sorted out, packed the car. We were on the road by 7:30, and stopped in Ongonquit at The Egg & I for breakfast. I’ll be writing about this restaurant soon. The short version: The best eggs benedict I’ve ever had anywhere, and scrumptious coffee. Delightful! Not only is the food great and the atmosphere welcoming, but the other diners were all cheerful and interesting.

Back on the road, stopped in Newburyport for gas. Picked up a Boston Globe, but was halfway across the MASS pike before I saw that I missed my colleague Jon Clinch by MINUTES. He was appearing at 10 AM in Newburyport – I’d taken gas at 9:50 only a mile down the road, but didn’t find out about it until I stopped at a rest area and glanced at the paper around noon! Talk about ships that pass in the night! Jon’s book is FINN – if you haven’t read it, read it. It’s a harsh, beautiful book. I would have loved to stop by and support him.

Stopped in Sturbridge, MA, at Earth Spirits, to stock up on incense and oils. Their quality is so terrific it’s always worth the stop.

Stopped at a bookstore down the street from me on the way in, looking for Jill Shalvis’s latest to take with me on the plane on Tuesday. They didn’t have it. They didn’t have ANY of her books. I was NOT amused. I said, “The reason better be that you’ve sold through them and your re-orders haven’t yet arrived. The next time I walk in here, I expect to see an ENTIRE SHELF of her books!” I bought DANCING SHOES AND HONKY TONK BLUES by Luann McLane and SUSANNAH’S GARDEN by Debbie Macomber, both of which look good. That, along with POISON STUDY, should work for the trip.

The cats were glad to see me. I unpacked, finished the assignment for Confidential Job #1, and tried to get settled for today.

Worked on my pre-Derby article, the manuscript critique, and the report for CJ#1. Got the critique done and out; have most of the report for CJ#1 complete. The Derby piece still needs more work, but I have to finish it before I head for the city this morning.

Today, I’m at the PEN World Voices Festival again all day – I can’t wait. It’s like finding an oasis in the desert. I come out of these sessions so inspired and so honored to be in the company of people like these writers. And most of the attendees are pretty fascinating, too.

I had to move the car again when I came back – the brook’s too high, and, even on Friday, there was some concern of yet another flood.

I can’t really go into the emotional impact of the trip. It’s difficult to see my grandmother, who could always run rings around everyone, grow more and more frail. And, on the one hand, she’s appreciative that I come up and do all the things no one else thinks are important enough to take the time to do, but, on the other hand, she’s always harping on me. She’s proud of all the other relatives and what they’ve accomplished, but I’m the black sheep – and only because I’m not married and not popping out babies all the time. She’s finally accepted the fact that I’ll never get “a real job” and that I’m making a decent living in the theatre and now, switching to the freelancing. She’s stopped telling me that, “well, you’ll HAVE to do something you hate if you want to succeed in this world” and I’ve stopped countering with, “I won’t.”

I think a friend of mine is correct when he said that, because she made the choice of duty to “give up her art” (she was a talented artist) in order to devote herself to her husband, and then, after he died and her sister-in-law died, to move back to Maine to “take care” of her brother, she resents the fact that I’ve always refused to make the same decision. I’m willing to support and care for the man in my life – but not to the extent of dismissing or giving up my own writing. I won’t do it. And, according to my friend, whether she’s conscious of it or not, she has to punish me for that decision. And the fact that I can make it work.

Most of the time I get so upset and enraged and hurt that I’m beside myself by the time I leave. This time, I remembered the part of “detachment” that yoga always talks about and decided to apply it. I’m not denying that it hurt, frustrated, and annoyed me. But, this time, I decided it wasn’t going to fester, nor was I going to start an argument. There was far too much to do, too little time in which to do it, and I’ve had way too much to deal with in the past months to have to defend my choices to ANYONE. And I could move through the anger and hurt much more easily by not letting it infect me like a cut that wasn’t properly cleaned. It’s almost as though catching and destroying the tick before it bit me was symbolic of the entire trip.

Off to PEN, to waft on the wings of inspiration for the day.


April 25, 2007

Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Waxing Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Cloudy and cooler

So, some self-righteous, sanctimonious, smug woman on a writing forum made a comment about how an agent must not be married and have kids and therefore has time to blog. I’m so sick and tired of married women with kids acting like they are the ONLY ones with busy lives. Honey, you aren’t. You’re not that important, and the world does not revolve around you and your kids, although YOUR world might. Get over yourself. There are plenty of people who are unmarried and childless who are making the world a better place, and to give you a world in which to raise your kids.

Mia King is a mother and a writer, and has one of the most balanced outlooks on her writing and family life that I’ve ever come across. It’s so refreshing to hear a writer who is a woman and a mother not use her kids as an excuse not to write. Men rarely make that excuse – although, when they do, it’s “my wife won’t let me” – which makes me want to barf. Are you over 21? An adult? There’s no such thing as a spouse “letting” or “not letting” unless you’re a major wimp or in an abusive situation that you should leave. Again, this is an example of a person refusing to take responsibility for his or her own life.

Mia TAKES responsibility. She balances. She knows that a career she loves does not have to endanger the family she loves. Go, Mia! May your success grow book to book, because you certainly deserve it! Jill Shalvis is another writer who keeps the balance going well – and also has a sense of humor about it.

Mothers who say they want to write should look to those two women as examples of positive ways to balance the writing life with the family life.

Work was fine yesterday. New York was unpleasant – too many people in too small a space, everyone trying to get somewhere. The usual. I’m booked for a couple of weeks when I get back from my trips in May – so that’s good. Pay some bills, replace some money used for the car.

Good thing I don’t have to go in until tonight – Metro North is down – again! Tonight, I’m taking my friend J. to one of the events at the PEN World Voices conference. We’re going early enough to stop at the Algonquin for drinks first (provided the trains run properly).

Verizon came to fix the landline yesterday and screwed up the DSL. When I called to complain, they said it was not possible for me to have working DSL without a dial tone. Then what have I been doing since last Friday? IMAGINING my time on line?

I’m so tired of idiots.

No response from Icelandiar. I am even less impressed with them than I was 24 hours ago.

Trying to get some writing done, after I scour the job boards and see if there are pitches to get out.

I’m offline for the next few days – planned. I’m going to Maine to visit my grandmother –and to do laundry – because who knows when the laundry rooms will be fixed in the building? Not a complaint, mind you – they are working their butts off to get the building back to rights. And they have to scour everything with bleach, because the smells have traveled up the old dumbwaiter shafts (one of those round stick-to-the-wall closet things helps). I checked out a few Laundromats in the area – they’re kind of dirty, and I’m not too happy with them. My friend, at whose house I often do laundry, lost his whole laundry room in the flood and has to rip everything out a renovate, too. I can’t take it to work, because there’s too much show laundry (and I don’t REALLY want to haul laundry on a three hour round trip commute on the train). I’ll hand wash as much as I can here at home, and we’ll play the rest by ear.

I’m doing my pre-Derby article that will appear next week on FemmeFan. Finally, I can reveal my Derby horse – I promised I’d stay quiet until Derby week, so the horse could do its work and mature without additional pressure.

The Plum essays were sent out for a final proof. It looks good, and I’m excited about the book’s release in June. Perfectly Plum – you can pre-order it from Amazon.

Have a great rest-of-the-week, all, and, hopefully, both landline and DSL will be working when I return.


PS  There are a lot of great moms and writing moms who read this blog.  Needless to say, I do not mean YOU — although you’re probably the ones who then worry you’re being too self-centered when you’re not.  I’m fortunate enough to have attracted a group of generous spirits here.

April 6, 2007

Friday, April 6, 2007
Waning Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Cloudy and cold

I’m a guest blogger today on Deborah Ng’s Freelance Writing Jobs
and the discussion topic is “Why I Don’t Ghostwrite”. It is a discussion, started by my opinion on the subject (and why I don’t ghostwrite). I hope you’ll hop on over and join in the discussion. I’ve gotten some interesting gigs from Deborah’s job listings.

Something that’s come up amongst my circle of freelancers is the topic of “the latte life”. Several so-called writers have published essays about how easy it is, and how they spend their time sipping lattes in coffee shops as they work. It’s set off fury amongst those of us who have to work our butts off to make ends meet. Essays talking about how “easy” freelance writing is are not only inaccurate, and generally written by people who don’t have to make ends meet via their pens – but they also drive down the pay rate for all of us. If it’s so easy, companies who read these pieces figure, why pay what we’re paying? We can get it for less.

A truly good freelancer is worth the money, and should be paid decent dollars. None of this $10 for 50 posts crap. Because a good freelance writer entices and enchants the reader and draws the reader to the company’s product. You get what you pay for.

However – and here is where some of my colleagues are going to get annoyed with me – I disagree with the points they make about having to be available to their clients all the time. I’m simply NOT. That’s the point of freelancing. Yes, I honor my work day. And I get to set the work day however I wish. But I make it very clear to the clients up front that I am almost impossible to reach by phone. I HATE phones anyway, and, to me, one of the points of freelancing is to have large swaths of uninterrupted work time. When I’m working, I’m WORKING. To me, working means NOT TALKING ON THE PHONE – whether it’s to a client or to a family member. I’m WORKING. The phones are OFF.

I have certain times of the day when I check my messages, and then I take the hour or so it takes to return the calls. And, I let the clients know that, if they email me, they’re more likely to get a quick answer, because I tend to hop on and off my email accounts in the short breaks I take in the actual writing.

It keeps my concentration flowing, and it prevents me from being interrupted by something a client calls an “emergency”, but is, in fact, merely an annoyance. If I wanted to be at someone’s beck and call, I’d still be working in an office. To me, the point of being a freelancer is to create my own schedule, so that I’m working with my biorhythms and give the clients excellent work at a reasonable price within the deadline time.

Just don’t try to call me when I’m trying to get the work done! 😉

Rhian honored me in her “Thursday Thirteen” post yesterday by calling me one of the bloggers she wanted to be when she grew up. She even called me a “Renaissance Woman” – which to me, is a high compliment.

A few months ago, at one of the PEN events, I was talking to one of my colleagues. The discussion was about being put into boxes by the publishing industry and marketing people, and my colleague complained that, because she likes and is capable of doing many things in many areas, she’s called “unfocused”. I shot back, “Just tell ‘em you’re a well-rounded Renaissance Woman – that’s what I do!” She laughed and said she would. I got an email from her a few weeks ago, saying that, since she’s started using that line – she’s not hassled as often.

And now Rhian – who was, at that time, still unknown to me – calls me so without prompting. I am honored. I wish I had Rhian’s patience and tolerance when dealing with the world!

Polished the guest blogger article and sent if off. As mentioned above, it will appear later today.

By the way, Devon’s Random Newsletter went out. If you didn’t get your copy, send me an email to let me know; if you haven’t yet signed up, you can do so here.

I’m a member of another blog chain this week – hello to my fellow links! I did my first round of visits yesterday, and look forward to continuing visits for the next week.

I got the packages off to my cousin (nothing like a post office that can’t be bothered to open during hours that are relevant to the community), got my TSA-approved travel locks, and picked up a pound of coffee, since I was almost out. And that just can’t happen.

Dilly-dallied around too much instead of getting down to work. I’m getting in my own way on a couple of projects and have to remove myself as an obstacle.

Chaz’s book singing a siren song at me didn’t help, either. “Don’t you want to lose a few days under my enchantment?”

I got a positive response yesterday from a pitch I’d sent out the day before. They’re going to pay me to do a sample. If we like each other, it’ll be a regular, paying gig – with another confidentiality agreement. It sounds like it would be a ton of fun, so keep your fingers crossed.

I managed to deal with 350 emails, which was progress. The backlog of them, spread amongst the various addresses, is sometimes overwhelming. I try to stay on top of them, but sometimes, it all gets away from me.

Spooky visited up and down several times during the day, demanding I be his butler. In other words, he’d dash up three flights of stairs for a snack and some attention, and then demand I travel DOWN three flights of stairs to let him back out into the courtyard. Um, no. I am many things to cats, but I am NOT a butler. I caught Iris trying to pry one of the hinge pins out of the door frame –she figured she can’t pry the door open with her paw the way she does the other doors because the front door locks – and she KNOWS there’s kibble on the other side of it. So she’s working on the hinge pins. If I hear a big crash in the middle of the night, I’ll know she’s worked both of them out and the door’s fallen down. She’s very stubborn.

Both the twins missed their breakfast this morning. A group of birds were busy on the fire escape, having some sort of spring convention. Iris and Violet were in the window, chattering to them. The birds, well aware that the cats can’t get through the window, completely ignored them, except for one mischievous robin who marched back in forth right outside the window just to tease them. And Elsa ate everybody’s breakfast. You’ve gotta move fast if you want your meals around here!

I spent most of the evening working on the writer’s outline for Good Names. I rearranged some of the earlier notes and embellished, and plugged the holes. I think it’s just about ready for me to begin. Part of me wants to wait until the New Moon to start – a better time, I think. Part of me, of course, wants to begin now. The outline is eight single-spaced pages. It’s quite thorough. I like the way it’s developed. There’s one section, near the climax, where it’s going to be difficult to figure out how to pull off the action – I need the reader to know what’s happening from more than one point of view, but I want to keep the entire book in the first person. I think I’ve found a way to do it – since the entire book is a memory anyway – but it’ll be up to my Trusted Readers to tell me whether or not it works. And that’s about a year down the line or so, so I’m not going to worry about it quite yet. I need to fill in some more peripheral characters – more servants in the NYC townhouse, and the servants in the Westchester house – and decide where in Westchester the house will be. I want it on the Hudson, and might set it in and amongst the fashionable houses in Tarrytown. I have a feeling it’s time for another trip to the Westchester Archives to research. Now, if I could only find my card . . .

If I do Nano again this year – I think I’ll write Amadeus Doe for that one. It’s been percolating for nearly two years now – about time it comes out.

I need to get some work done on The Project, send off the confidentiality agreement for Confidential Job 2, and hopefully get the sample, so I can work on it this weekend.

I have an idea buzzing around my brain for a new short story, based on a botched bank robbery and manhunt that happened around here yesterday, but it’s not quite ready to go on the page yet.

It will be a busy weekend.


Published in: on April 6, 2007 at 8:27 am  Comments (8)