Fri. Jan. 15, 2021: Die For Your Employer Day 240 — Blocks of Creative Time

image courtesy of Gerd Altmann via pixabay.com

Friday, January 15, 2021

Waxing Moon

Cloudy and cold

Although it’s milder than normal for this time of year, it’s still cold and raw.

The Mid-Month check-in is up on the GDR site, and looking at how short the list is, I feel like crap.

Which is a shame, because I felt pretty good after yesterday’s work on the book proposal. It has to go out by Sunday, although I’m hoping to get it out today or tomorrow.

This particular organization’s guidelines are structured very differently than a traditional book proposal, so I’ve had to change my process to fit it. It’s a challenge, but in the right way. I feel good about the work I did. I don’t know if it’s what they want, but I have something solid that I can use, be it for them or somewhere else, and that feels good.

It was a good mix of finding the right resources to source for research to support the themes I the novel, and to talk about schedule and process. I need to move some material around today, and polish it. As I did my first couple of editing passes yesterday, I was alarmed by the overuse of passive voice and the overuse of adverbs. Thank goodness for edits. I’m also tightening, focusing, and clarifying.

A grant application hit my desk yesterday; it’s not a complicated process, and I might as well try. If I don’t apply, there’s no chance of getting it. But that will happen AFTER this proposal is out.

Once the book proposal is out, I have to turn my attention to the article for SCRIPTMAG. I have almost all of the material. Two sources did not get back to me with the requested quotes,  so I will move forward without them. That is due on Tuesday, so I’ll finish it over the weekend.

I finished the book for review, and will submit the review today. I have one more book assigned for review; I will do that this weekend. The first box of contest entries is supposed to arrive today, and once I process them, I will have to get started on them next week.

It felt really good, though, to spend the bulk of my energy on a single creative project yesterday. That’s the way I like to work. Large swaths of uninterrupted work time.

During our Knowledge Unicorns session yesterday, we discussed the impeachment process, and what needs to happen for the Senate to convict — and what can happen if they chose to remain loyal to a traitor.

Have a great weekend, my friends. Let’s hope we’re in for better things after what will be a chaotic week next week.

Thurs. Jan. 14, 2021: Die For Your Employer Day 239 — Process & Project Outlines

image courtesy of chloestrong via pixabay.com

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Waxing Moon

Uranus Direct

Cold and cloudy

Red sky in the morning – shepherd’s warning – I guess we are getting a storm today.

The latest on the garden and the weather finally turning to winter is up on Gratitude and Growth. I don’t write anything particularly profound over there, but I do enjoy putting together the posts. It makes me look at certain aspects of my life differently, more closely, and more gently.

Yesterday was stressful, but I got through it, and that’s what matters.

I was happy that I had a good session early on, working on the book proposal. In this particular proposal, for this particular organization, my synopsis/outline can only be 1000 words. It’s a good challenge to write a book outline that succinct. Especially for a book that hasn’t been written.

I often do what I call my “Writer’s Rough” outline early in the process. I’ll get an idea, I’ll write a few notes. I’ll write about three or four chapters into the book, to see if it can sustain (both in terms of plot and character, and my interest in writing it).

At that point, I’ll take a few days and write my Writer’s Rough outline. That’s made up of me telling myself the story, often with snippets of dialogue, and not necessarily in order. Most of the time, I’ll do this in longhand, scribbling, separating scenes or sequences by skipping a line here and there.

Once I’ve told myself the story, I’ll read it through a few times, and number the paragraphs, putting it in what I think is the order in which I want it to flow.

I also make notes of what needs research.

Then I’ll type it up (I don’t use numbers in this). My Writer’s Rough can run anywhere from two or three pages for an idea that needs more fleshing out, to twenty or more pages, similar to a script treatment.

This allows me to work on the piece whenever I can schedule it in, without sitting there looking at a blank page, wondering what I meant to write next in it. Juggling multiple projects (the only way to keep a roof over my head) means outlining saves me pain and time. It makes my writing life more efficient.

It does NOT interfere with creativity or spontaneity. The outline is a roadmap, not a prison.

When the book is ready to submit, after however many drafts I’ve done in order to make it feel submittable, I then go back through it and create the outline (I talk more about this in the Topic Workbook SETTING UP YOUR SUBMISSION SYSTEM, which should re-release in a few weeks).

Once I write the Submission Outline, I use that to write both versions of the synopsis.

With the series under contract, the process is a little different. My publisher is tiny, so it’s more informal, and there are fewer layers. While I landed the initial contract with finished manuscripts, the books to come are a little different. With the Coventina Circle series, I gave a rough overview of the whole series. It was originally six books, and will now be nine. I’d always planned four books for the Gwen Finnegan series, although I’m being urged to do more, if the next couple of books do well. The Nautical Namaste mysteries can go in many directions, but I did thumbnails of the first six.

At this point, I do a rough synopsis of where I see the book going, my editor and I have a conversation (in case she feels I’m going off-track), then I go and write it. I do my Writer’s Roughs for the books. The Coventina Circle books tend to veer off, although the other two series tend to stay pretty well close to the original vision.

In this case, I’m writing up an idea for a book that wasn’t even on my radar until I heard about this foundation’s invitation for proposals. They do mostly non-fiction, but are interested in looking at proposals for fiction, because they want something different. I’ve been in contact with them, because I wasn’t sure I’m appropriate (on any level), but they encouraged me to do it.  They want fresh perspectives on their topic. Most of those who pitch to them are serious academics. I’m the outlier. It’s a longshot, but the topic and the challenge interest me, and it’s not something I would have come up with on my own.

So I’m basically doing my Writer’s Rough and then transforming it into a Very Short submission synopsis without writing any of the book – and keeping it in their specific proposal word count and guidelines.

It’s a good exercise in being specific, but it means stretching my process within a finite time frame.

That’s what today is all about. The entire day is blocked off to devote to the proposal.

Yes, I’ll take breaks to do some admin work and read the book for review and attend the online meditation group. I might even answer some email and get out an LOI or two.

But my primary focus today is this book proposal. The deadline is Sunday, but I’d prefer to get it out earlier. I’ve been working on it on and off for weeks, and thinking about it since I first heard about it a couple of months ago.

If they like it, I land a contract that stretches me and challenges me in wonderful new ways, and I’ll be well paid for it. If I don’t land this contract, I still have an interesting book proposal I can use elsewhere – and sell.

That’s the difference between doing something like this and the unpaid, project-specific samples companies often demand. This is a project proposal that yes, takes work, and yes, there’s no guarantee the pitch will land me the contract and enough money so I don’t have to worry about freelance clients during its duration. But if it does not, it still opens the relationship with this organization AND I have something I can sell elsewhere. When you do unpaid labor as part of an interview for a company, they believe they have the right to keep and use your work without paying you for it in order for THEM to make a profit. Which is why I created my test/sample agreement.

That’s the next few days, in a nutshell. Once the book proposal is out, I turn my attention to finishing and polishing the article. I’m still missing two quotes, but I have plenty of material. That will go out on Tuesday.

The Sociopath was impeached again yesterday. Now, every death, either from violence or COVID, is squarely the fault of Mitch McConnell, who, as usual, is dragging his feet and trying to play both sides against the middle. McConnell needs to be prosecuted along with the rest of the corrupt and the violent.

I’m looking forward to today’s online meditation group. I definitely need it.

And, I’m looking forward to an entire day immersed in this book proposal.

Peace and health, my friends.

Wed. Jan. 13, 2021: Die for Your Employer Day 238 — Working on Multiple Levels

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

New Moon

Uranus Retrograde

Still dark outside, but I think it’s pretty cold.

I’ve got a post over on Ink-Dipped Advice, breaking down the cost when a company demands you make an “introductory video” as part of its toxic, one-way interview process. I knew the unpaid labor racked up lost income/billable hours, but I was shocked at how much more it was than I estimated.

Worked on the article; worked on the book proposal. I figured where I was getting in my own way and bogging down with the book proposal. It’s flowing better now. Got some client work done.

My friend Paula’s been urging me to adapt my short story “Help, No Questions Asked” into a series pilot. That would be so much fun. That’s been percolating at the back of my brain while I work on other things.

Got out nine LOIs to potential new clients. One, who claimed to want to hire more women, was immediately knocked off the list when they sent me a set of unpaid assessments in response to my LOI. It means they never read it, because my LOI clearly states I don’t do unpaid labor (be it tests or project-specific samples). I have a rate and a contract for that. However, I did have a nice exchange with a prospective client to whom I’d sent some materials late last week. Enjoyed it very much, so we’ll see how it goes.

Didn’t get much reading done; will have to spend more time on the book for review later today.

The Knowledge Unicorns session yesterday wasn’t about homework. It was the kids, the parents (and even my 96-year-old mom) talking about the domestic terrorism last week. We watched footage (nothing like having multiple devices running), including clips from Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes, and the BBC.

We talked about the Constitution, what it means to take an oath of office, what it means to put country over party – and the reverse. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, or that my opinions are the only ones, but we shared resources, talked about how Fox News and other disinformation channels were handling it, and consequences of actions.

It ran well beyond the scheduled time frame, but it was important. One of the kids admitted to not feeling safe anywhere, and not believing she ever would, and I think it’s heartbreaking. But that’s where we are.

In my lifetime, this has been the road we’ve been headed down since Reagan. I’m sure parts were put into play much earlier. This could have been stopped so many times, but we haven’t had a radical left to balance the radical right since the early 1970’s, and what’s now considered “far” left is a little bit right of center. Basic human decency is considered a “radical left” concept. People allowed themselves to be boiled like frogs for at least the past 50 years, probably longer.

You can’t “reconcile” or “unite” with people who are actively determined to kill you. You have to remove them from the equation. If you give them an inch, they’ll use it to reach over and slit your throat.

On that happy note, I’m gearing up for a stressful day in the office. I may have to miss Remote Chat, which will make me sad, but if I get enough done at the office today, I can focus on the book proposal (due on Sunday) and the article (due on Tuesday) for the next four days.

Stay safe, friends, and keep letting your elected officials know what you need them to do to fix this.

Tues. Jan. 12, 2021: Die For Your Employer Day 237 — Chop Wood, Carry Water, in Spite of What’s Going On

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Dark Moon

Uranus Retrograde

Partly cloudy and cold

Well, it’s been a week, hasn’t it? I guess 2021 really is saying “Hold my beer” to 2020.

I have a post on reading goals up over on A Biblio Paradise.

I spent a good deal of time over the past few days in touch with my Congress people – telling them I am glad they are safe, but also encouraging them to take swift action. It is repulsive that those behind the domestic terrorism are still in power.

In the vein of chop wood, carry water, having to get on with daily life, I spent time working on the article – almost all the quotes have come in. I noodled on the book proposal, and am not sure I can get it done by deadline. I have the end game in my head fairly clearly, but getting there is a struggle.

Did a lot of laundry, especially the holiday fabric. Put away more decorations, and managed to get everything into the Christmas closet. Still have to pack the fabric, take down the ribbons and roll them, and take the wax out of a few pieces of fabric.

I did not clear out any boxes from the basement, with the packing away of holiday décor, so I have to make up for that this week.

Sunday, I rested. I was tired, body and soul. I read nearly all day, and that was great. I didn’t read anything I was supposed to read, just things I wanted to read.

Yesterday, I was in the office on my own, as it should be. Got a lot done. Got ahead on next week’s ad/mailing. I need to update my B2B/B2C sample document. The new samples came in, and I’ve started processing them. That always takes extra work, but it will be worth it. They look good, and putting together line sheets/pricing/getting them out to the reps is a big deal.

Home, decontaminated, in touch with my Congress people’s staffs, got some reading done. More quotes came in for the article, and I’m working on structure.

Can start to put the book proposal on paper today (well, on screen, anyway).

The Direct Cash Relief payments showed up, much to my surprise. I was about to contact my Congress people to ask why the IRS had the right to hold them hostage until we filed our tax returns, but I guess that wasn’t the case, after all.

The Goddess Provisions box finally showed up and it was lovely. Soul-soothing.

The only outstanding shipment is the first box of books from the contest, which was supposed to arrive on Saturday, but has been delayed. Once it gets here, I will start reading contest entries every day, along with everything else (will be up late reading every night until May – which is a good thing). In the meantime, I will read my book for review in the next couple of days, get that out, and get started on the next book for review.

Some more article ideas are percolating; once I get this article out, I will work on more pitches. Will get a bunch of LOIs out today, I hope.

Had a bunch of responses to LOIs wanting free, project-specific samples, which isn’t happening. Had one company try to get me to sign an NDA for an interview. It was one of the more insulting NDAs I’ve ever read, and I would have been an idiot to sign it. Not to mention the demand for free work on top of it. I countered with my test/sample agreement, and the changes they’d have to make to the NDA in order for me to sign it and they sputtered, so I said thanks, but no thanks, and moved on.

I’m not 20 begging for my first job. I have decades of experience. They can shove their demands for free labor right up their collective ass.

Today will focus on writing, over an array of several projects, and then the Knowledge Unicorns reconvene tonight. We have a lot to talk about.

Have a great day, friends! Let’s work for justice, so we can have peace. Otherwise, things will just get worse.

Fri. Jan. 8, 2021: Die For Your Employer Day 233 — Congress, Do Your Job!

image courtesy of Sang Hyun Cho via pixabay.com

Friday, January 8, 2021

Waning Moon

Uranus Retrograde

Sunny and cold

I kind of feel like I’m juggling pitchforks right now, but that’s where we are. Having a migraine doesn’t help, either.

The post isn’t yet ready for the food blog, Comfort and Contradiction. That will go up later today, possibly in the afternoon. It might even be tomorrow.

It was difficult to focus yesterday, especially since Congress isn’t doing its job and removing the Sociopath. Why anyone thought Pence would step up and do the right thing with the 25th Amendment is beyond me. He has never done the right thing in his life or his career. He’s incapable of it, which is why he was chosen for the job. And the cowardly cabinet, jumping ship so they don’t have to go on record? May they all reap what they’ve sown.

I was in touch with my Senators and Representative early yesterday, and will do so again today. I’m lucky that they are smart, determined, and listen, and so do their staffs.

The riots at the inauguration will be terrifying. They can be stopped, but those with the power to do so are refusing, and that is unacceptable. We can’t wait until “the middle of next week” to START impeachment. It needs to happen today. It should have happened on Wednesday night, or early Thursday morning.

Worked on my article and the book proposal a little bit yesterday. I will do some more work on the article later this afternoon, and the weekend will focus on the book proposal. Did some noodling for an email blast for a client that needs to go out on Monday; will do some more work on it today. Will also start reading my book for review.

The architect’s lamp arrived yesterday, to replace the one my dad bought in 1967 that gave up the ghost last week. It’s wonderful. It’s so nice to have really good light in the workspace again. I do want to see if, at some point, I can get the lamp fixed, though. It’s a wonderful lamp, and a strong connection to my dad, who died in 1972.

The teal velvet arrived – in a large roll. My postal carrier must hate me. I’d ignored the information that the fabric was 60” wide rather than 45” wide. So, I have a LOT of teal velvet. Seriously thinking I could reupholster the couch with it instead of making clothes. Because it would look a little weird if I wore something that matched the couch exactly. The price was fantastic, so I have no regrets. I might rethink how to use it, though.

The necklace I ordered from Peculiarity Shop also arrived. It’s delightful. That was part of the inspiration for the teal velvet.

Most of the day was spent taking down the holiday decorations, in and around keeping up with the news. We’re almost finished – I have to finish packing up the decorations in my office and the back room and put away the small tree. I also need to finish switching out the fabric and take down the ribbons around the doors and windows. And put up the Carnivale decorations.

I heard back from the potential client, whose questions I’d turned around yesterday. The client wants me to do a copywriting test – under NDA. In response, I sent my Test/Sample Agreement, including the rate – and pointed out that one clause in the NDA has to be either struck or modified, because if I signed it as is, it would negate my agreement.

I have no doubt they’ll refuse, and we’ll both move on. But I don’t work for free, and I don’t do unpaid labor as part of the interview process. If I start a relationship by capitulating, it means they will continue to try to take advantage. I’m not 20, begging for my first job. The whole “testing” process is ridiculous anyway. Read my samples. If you can’t tell whether or not I’m a fit by the samples, that tells more about your lack of critical reading skill than my writing skill.

Did a no-contact pickup of a new-to-me beautiful rocking chair I got on craigslist. It’s wonderful. I decontaminated it, so it could come into the house without sitting in quarantine for several days. With over 7100 new virus cases from Wednesday into Thursday, I have to be careful. I was going to do an early morning grocery run to Star Market tomorrow for a few things I couldn’t get at Trader Joe’s, but I’m considering putting it off because even going to the grocery store at this point is a risk.

About to run down to the library for a curbside pickup, then home, decontaminate, and it’s back to work, taking down the decorations and focusing on writing.

Have a great weekend, friends. Let’s hope next week is more hopeful and just. Let’s hope we have a country by next week.

Thurs. Jan. 7, 2021: Die For Your Employer Day 232 — Sedition and Domestic Terrorism

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Waning Moon

Uranus Retrograde

Cloudy and cold

How to articulate the rage and the sadness I feel about yesterday? I can post an immediate response, but it will take time and perspective to articulate it properly.

None of this is surprising. I’ve been talking about the likelihood of this since the 1980’s, and called an alarmist. This IS what the Republican party has been about in my lifetime.

They have to stop getting away from it. Expel, indict, prosecute, incarcerate. When they are released from prison, they must be exiled. Not ever allowed on US soil again.

Sure, other countries don’t want our mess. Then let them be refused entry to other countries, and have to roam, without home or country.

It is also not the time for the dead to rest in peace. They must haunt these seditious, treasonous Congress people the rest of their natural lives.

The breaches at the Capitol by domestic terrorists was planned and allowed. And GOP Congress people stood on the floor, several hours later, continuing to lie and support them. There MUST be consequences.

Not to mention that the 25th Amendment must be used NOW. Pence and the Cabinet won’t do it, because they enjoy this. They are just as evil as the Sociopath.

Letting domestic terrorists run rampant in the halls of the Capitol and then just walk away? Unacceptable.

I didn’t get much sleep last night, because who can sleep when there’s such insurrection? Expel the members of Congress who support this, prosecute them, and don’t let any of them ever have a platform or a moment of rest in their natural lives. Destroy them, personally and professionally.

I will not have “unity” with those who are trying to kill us. Stop talking “unity” and start talking “justice.”

Or it will keep getting worse.

I am grateful to the MA delegation for taking a stand against this, and am in steady contact with their staffs.

On a personal level, client work was stressful, mostly because every tech product decided to do a different update at the same time, and it was chaos. Nothing would work together. Or even separately. Everything had to be disconnected from the network, updated, passwords changed and shared amongst those who use the devices, and reconnected. By people who are not IT experts. Oh, and Comcast tripled the client’s monthly bill, which is ridiculous. We’ve been staggered in the office, and the office closed more than open since last March.  It’s not like we’re overusing the Internet there.

That’s something else the incoming Congress needs to do in the coming months – break up Comcast.

Home, decontaminated, Remote Chat, which was fun.

Started taking down the decorations. It needs several days to get everything packed up, put away, the fabric washed and ironed. There’s wax on some of the fabric from the candles, and I’ll have to get that done, too, with butcher paper and the iron.

This morning, I already answered some questions from a potential client and sent them off. I have meditation in a few hours with the weekly group – I’ll need it. Then, more work on the article, some client work, some LOIs, but most of the day is devoted to taking down decorations.

I may need a nap in there somewhere, too. Not even 7 AM and I’m wiped out.

I have a garden post over on Gratitude and Growth. I wish real winter would move in. The plants need it. Much as I don’t want to shovel snow, we need it.

But there will be no peace in this country until there is justice. Domestic terrorists cannot be allowed to do whatever they want without consequence because they are white.

Democrats cannot be milquetoasts about this. There must be strong, definitive, action.

Today.

The Sociopath must be removed and neutralized.

Today.

Wed. Jan. 6, 2021: Die For Your Employer Day 231 — Twelfth Night

image courtesy of Gerhard G. via pixabay.com

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Waning Moon

Uranus Retrograde

12th Night/Epiphany/Start of Carnivale

Clearing up and cold

Today’s Ink-Dipped Advice post talks about starting with a clean slate and building your new work plan on that. Check it out.

Dreamed about herbs and spices last night, so I guess December will be delicious!

No idea what I’ll do for the 12 drummers drumming story, but I hope that will evolve as I work on the earlier pieces. There’s one possibility percolating, but it might be a little too wacky to fit the tone of the other pieces, although so far, they all have a kind of odd humor to them.  I’m also thinking of doing a 13th story that kind of wraps everything up.

Yesterday was a good day, although I didn’t get done as much as I’d hoped. Which seems to be my refrain, because I always want to do far more than makes sense to do.

I got some writing done in the morning (not a very good session). I started sending out interview requests for the article that was greenlit on Monday.

When senior shopping hours were over, I got into the car and did a grocery run to Trader Joe’s. Bought more than I planned (as usual), but it’s always good to stay stocked up. Popped in next door to Christmas Tree Shops. There were only two of us in the enormous store, so we could stay far, far apart. I grabbed some stuff that was 60% off for next year.

Decontaminated everything, decontaminated myself. Got out more interview requests, and did background research. Was frustrated at people not having contact information on their websites. There were a couple of artists I would have liked to interview, but when trying to find contact information takes longer than the actual interview would, I have to stop and move on. I’m on a deadline.

Got out some LOIs. Refused a couple of people who believe that free labor is part of the interview process and moved on from them.

Worked on an ad for a client. Worked on a proposal that needs to go out next week. Did a bunch of admin.

Unsubscribing from a slew of lists last week was a good choice, although there’s still an amazing amount of admin that has to be handled every day. Last year, I set aside chunks of hours every few days, but it’s really better to handle it every day.

A book I ordered nearly a month ago finally arrived (not from Amazon – they’re not even trying to hunt for the books they lost).

The Knowledge Unicorns are taking an extra week offline. Everyone’s school needs are still being sorted out for the coming months.

Anxious about the Georgia Senate races. The news seems to be good, so far, but I’m not counting on anything until it’s finalized.

I have to go to a client’s office today, and expect that to be more stressful than it needs to be.  Then home, decontamination process, Remote Chat, and then, it’s time to start taking down the holiday decorations. It will take a few days, but everything needs to be well packed up this year, in anticipation of the move.

We had so much joy in this year’s decorations. We had the chance to really appreciate them this year, since we weren’t running around to this, that, and the other holiday event.

I should make a King Cake for tonight, but don’t know if I will.

Just focusing on getting things done today. Hope you have a great Wednesday!

Tues. Jan. 5, 2021: Die For Your Employer Day 230 – Riding Into the New Year

image courtesy of Brent Olson via pixabay.com

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Waning Moon

Uranus Retrograde

11th Day of Christmas (11 Pipers Piping)

Rainy/sleety and raw

Happy 2021! I hope you had a joyful transition into the New Year, while you stayed the F home.

Thursday was fine, although I got frustrated by the lack of room in the kitchen as I juggled the cooking. To think, when we first moved here, this kitchen seemed so big after all the galley kitchens in small New York apartments!

Quiet night, watching videos, burning the bayberry candle for prosperity. We tried to watch the ball come down over Times Square, but the camera focused on the Kia ad rather than the ball drop directly above it, so we felt cheated.

In the years I lived a block from Times Square, it was cool to watch the ball drop from my window. The years I had to work on the Eve and couldn’t come home until after one a.m., forced to go out to an overpriced night after the show, weren’t so much fun. The years I worked a show on the Eve, then had to go up to cut through Central Park to get to Grand Central Station to catch a train, and then spent midnight on a train – not so much fun, either. I like being home and quiet.

Went to bed a little after midnight. Was up fairly early on New Year’s Day.

Performed the Fire & Ice ritual to get us off to a good start, using the last of the jasmine oil on the candle. Will have to source jasmine oil again soon.

Traditional Eggs Benedict for breakfast, complete with hollandaise sauce and prosecco. It was really good.

Wrote a bit, noodling with some ideas and working on the 12 Days of Christmas stories. I’m mostly roughing them out at this point, and then will go back and finish, revise, polish, over the next few months. Letting my mind percolate the idea for a proposal that needs to go out no later than January 18. It would be a big, big project.

Received an invitation to write for 365 Women again this year – any woman I want! I could even write more about Kate Warne. Maybe this will be the right venue for the Dawn Powell-Dorothy Parker piece I want to write. There’s also another woman about whom I want to write, but I’m not sure I can do all that this year and move. I’m thinking about it.

Percolated some ideas for article pitches.

Started reading my first book for the new year, one of Nell Simon’s memoirs. I go into more detail about it over here on A Biblio Paradise. The choice of first book in a new year is a big deal for me.

Went through the paperwork for the contest. The first box of books has shipped. This week, I have to clear old eBook files I no longer need out of my Kindle, so next week, I can download and start reading the first of the entries sent digitally.

Set up 2021 files.

I need to set up information on all the plays that I can cross-reference – the play, the logline, characters, length, submission/production history. It makes the most sense to do that in Excel. Sadly, I loathe working in Excel (although I’m perfectly capable of doing it).

Most of Friday was about giving myself the physical and emotional space to think, to daydream, to allow the internal creative process room to actually create.

Saturday morning, I jerked out of sleep from a dream about someone trying to kill me. So I guess August is going to really suck.

Got work done on several article proposals. My trusty architect lamp, that I’ve had since the late 1960’s blew up – something with the switch. I need a lamp on my computer desk, so I went ahead and ordered another from Staples. It should be here by the end of next week.

Sunday morning, made biscuits, did admin work.

At noon, I joined the Table of Silence Project’s weekly meditation. This week, it was rooted in 12 Repetitive Gestures, that were taught first, and then the company, in their socially-distanced private spaces, led us through them. It was beautiful and powerful. It also made me realize how much I miss working with people dedicated to their craft.

I’m tired of those who are always moaning about “not having time” because they put their “day job” first, instead of remembering that the only function of the “day job” is to make their survival to create art possible. They do so because their art is NOT their first priority. I’m sick of being mired amongst people who won’t make the commitment. It’s fine to have art as a “hobby” but it’s also toxic to perpetuate the myth that artists deserve to starve and shouldn’t be paid for their work. Too many hobbyists in the arts continue to perpetuate that myth, because they don’t have the courage to pursue it full time, and it gives them joy to punish those who do. I made my decision in high school that I would build a life in the arts, that my art would always, ALWAYS come first. It has, and I have no regrets. I also made the choice, back in my twenties, that I did not want fame. I wanted respect in my field, but not fame. Especially around here, the derision aimed at me for that decision (by people who make excuses not to do what they claim they love to do) is enormous.

Apart from that realization (and isn’t one of the points of meditation to gain clarity?), the meditation itself was wonderful and powerful – movement, because it’s a dance company. Movement with meaning, and it felt good to be in my body and ground again. The morning had left me feeling grumpy and unsettled.

In the afternoon, I cleaned out five boxes from the basement, catching up to my goal for that point. I found some really cool stuff that will get integrated into the household (until it’s packed for the move), found other stuff that needed to be repacked, and tossed a good bit Also did 15 minutes on the exercise bicycle. Only half of what my 96-year-old mother does every day, but it’s a start. One of the things I found is one of my favorite patterns for comfortable pants – only three pieces, and it only takes two hours from the time I start laying out the pattern on the fabric to the finished pants. They’re casual pants, but I found some fabric in the clearing-out I did a few months back that I want to use.

One of the late packages arrived: a pair of dusky rose velvet ballet flats, which are wonderful (but I can’t wear in the rain), and two pairs of pants that are both comfortable and stylish.

Sunday into Monday, I dreamed that someone was lying to me, so I guess I need to be cautious in October (10th day of Christmas). The story for Day 10 is centered around Morris Men (Ten Lords A-Leaping). I still have no idea what to do for Eight Maids-A-Milking.

Got my act together, dropped off two bags’ worth of library books at the drop box, went into the office. I was the only one there, which is as it should be, and got a lot done. Also managed to send out all four article proposals I’d written over the weekend.

By the time I got home, one of them had been accepted. Good way to start the first official workday of the year!

Did a curbside pickup at the library, decontaminated, did 15 minutes on the bicycle. After lunch, I did some admin work, got out some LOIs. Wrote some blog posts.

I’d put dinner in the crockpot before I left for work in the morning, and it smelled delightful when I got home. Slow cooker chicken and vegetables, over leftover jasmine rice. Quite yummy.

Watched some videos, did some reading.

Good dreams of baking set up a happy November (11th Day of Christmas), although I have no damn idea what story to build around 11 Pipers Piping. I have a feeling, as I work on the earlier stories, it will start to come clear, since each story stands alone, but is also linked.

If the weather improves by 9 AM, I will do a quick grocery run to Trader Joe’s. If not, I’ll put it off until Thursday. Otherwise, there’s writing, client work, and I’m getting out the interview requests for the article. Then more admin work, and I want to go through at least two more boxes today, to stay on mission for the clearing out.

So much is on the line today in Georgia’s election.  I’ve done what I could; now it’s up to the voters.

The Sociopath should be impeached again for trying to overturn the Georgia results. And every single Congress person who plans to squawk against certifying Biden’s victory tomorrow should be removed from Congress and exiled. Not allowed to set foot in this country EVER again.

It’s time we had some actual consequences for trying to shred the Constitution. There will be no healing, no rebuilding, until there is justice.

Let’s get this done, people.

Thurs. Dec. 31, 2020: Die For Your Employer Day 225 — Get Thee Gone, 2020!

image courtesy of Dirk Vetter via pixabay.com

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Waning Moon

Uranus Retrograde

6th Day of Christmas – Six Geese A Laying

6th Day of Kwanzaa – Creativity

Rainy and cold

Buh-bye, 2020. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!

I’ve got a garden post up on Gratitude and Growth.

Yesterday morning’s first writing session left me feeling so optimistic and energetic for the day. Sometimes, I use up my early morning creative energy on email or “have to” work. When I remember to start with my first 1K/day of fiction, the rest of the day is much better in every respect.

Yesterday at the office was only minimal overlap, so it was less stressful than it could have been. However, the client is gorging herself on right wing disinformation in order to justify her dancing around socializing and eating indoors, and I refused to give her the absolution she wants. There is NO justification for her behavior. At least she wears a mask and we deep clean the office regularly. But even contact a few hours a week with her is playing Russian Roulette at this point. So that needs to change.

On the way home, I picked up my mom’s prescription, put gas in the car (a symbol of abundance to start the New Year – full tank of gas), and decontaminated when I came home.

I don’t have to leave the house again until Monday, and I am more than fine with that.

Remote Chat was fun – it always is.

Wrestled the big bench off the deck and up the stairs into my mom’s bedroom for the winter. Willa and Charlotte had to be shut into various rooms while we had the doors to the deck open, and there was much howling and carrying on.

Later in the afternoon, I heard a thumping in the hallway. When I went to investigate, Willa had pulled a potato out of the bin in the kitchen, and was batting it up and down the hallway. How many cat toys do we have in this house? And she plays with a potato. At least she’s inventive.

Dinner was leftovers – we’re going to have festive holiday meals for the next few days, and I need the room in the fridge!

I have meditation with the group from the Concord Library this morning online, and then it’s writing. I have a short story to finish and get out on deadline. I already have laundry going – clean panties and clean sheets for the New Year! Garbage and recycling went out yesterday. Later this morning or early afternoon, I will vacuum and mop floors.

This year, I hung pairs of silver bells on red ribbons from the light fixtures on either side of the front door. They’re pretty, but they clang against the house when it’s windy. It sounds like it does when one is on a ship, bobbing in the water. Which makes sense, seeing as how we’re on Cape Cod.

So many trees have been cut down around here that the solar glare is out of control driving early in the morning. I’m going to have to get a new pair of sunglasses, once it’s safe. Not today, of course, it’s raining. But it was bad driving to the dump yesterday, much worse than previous years.

This afternoon, I’m making a pastry filled with apple, pecan, and cinnamon. I’m also making devilled eggs for us to enjoy closer to midnight. Dinner tonight is salmon in a cumin-lemon glaze, with lemon-infused jasmine rice and spinach. Or maybe peas.

Then, it’s all about our rituals.

We will eat herring before midnight (old family ritual that no one knows the origin, but we do it) and burn a bayberry candle timed not to finish burning until the turn of the year, for prosperity and health.

A minute or two before midnight, we open the back door to let the old year out.

We’ll watch the ball come down over Times Square – although I could often see it from my apartment window and that was really cool, I’m glad not to be there anymore.

Right after we toast the New Year in, we’ll open the front door to welcome the New Year.

No first-footers here, more’s the pity. Not that we could let a first footer through the door this year, anyway, even masked.

Tomorrow morning, at dawn, I do the Fire & Ice ritual, with a white candle rubbed with jasmine oil in a bowl of ice.

I’ll make Eggs Benedict for breakfast (pork before noon is the ritual), and later that day, I’ll roast a duck for dinner.

The rest of the day will probably contain a lot of reading! I always like to start the new year off with a book!

I’m almost afraid to be optimistic about 2021, yet I want it to be a good year. I have big changes coming up, and I’m looking forward to them, even though the changes themselves will be stressful.

I thank you for everything this year, my friends – the support, the friendship, the laughter. And I wish you all that is good, and that your dreams manifest.

Peace and Joy. Catch you on the other side!

Wed. Dec. 30, 2020: Die For Your Employer Day 224 — Working to Reach the Finish Line

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Last Day of Full Moon

Uranus Retrograde

5th Day of Christmas (5 Gold Rings)

5th Day of Kwanzaa – Purpose

Can’t tell the weather yet – it’s dark out

It felt good to get the garbage and recycling out yesterday.

Last night, I dreamed that I rescued a puppy by the side of the road, its mother and sibling killed by a car. Dreams on the 5th night of Christmas are tied to May.  I’m not sure if it’s a literal or a metaphorical omen for May.

I wound up spending most of the day on client work and admin instead of writing, but it was necessary to get it done before the end of the year.

I decided that I want to really re-work the Nina Bell pieces, not just rush through the revisions; therefore, they will not re-release until next holiday season. I’d like to re-release them earlier, too, like right after Thanksgiving, and really give them a good shot at a run. Maybe by then, I’ll have the third short, the one in the non-profit, ready to go, too, and can release all three on a rolling basis.

My focus today and tomorrow is on the ghost ship story, which has to go out tomorrow. I like it, but I have to layer in some sensory detail and cut out some tangents. While keeping to the word count. So, we’ll see. It has some wacky humor in it that’s kind of fun.

Of course, Mitch McConnell blocked the $2K cash relief payments. Because he’s vile and needs to be removed from the Senate by any means necessary. And then he and his corrupt wife need to spend the rest of their natural lives in prison and their afterlives in a place where they have to atone for all the harm they’ve caused.

Cooked a nice dinner, and we watched some videos.

This morning, I’m working on the ghost ship story, and then have to go to the office, which will be more stressful than it should be, but that’s what we’re dealing with. On the way home, I have to make a few stops, including picking up my mom’s new prescription, which wasn’t ready when I went by yesterday.

Then, I don’t have to leave the property again until next week, which is the way it should be in a pandemic. Especially with the numbers rising the way they are.

And the Sociopath turns his back and golfs. Anyone who dealt with him in New York always knew just how disgusting he was, but he’s only gotten worse over the past four year.

So I’m just trying to hang in there and stay alive, while I work on what needs to be done to make 2021 a better year, on every level.

Stay safe and be smart, friends.

Tues. Dec. 29, 2020: Die For Your Employer Day 223 — Trying To Hold On, These Last Few Days

Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020

Full Moon

Uranus Retrograde

Fourth Day of Christmas (Four Calling Birds)

Fourth Day of Kwanzaa (Day of Cooperative Economics)

Sunny and cold

There’s a post over on the GDR site to make you feel better about the year and the turn of it.

I hope you had a lovely holiday weekend, whether you celebrate Christmas or not.

If you haven’t read the fun pieces in the Weird Christmas anthology (including mine), you can read or listen to them here.

It was stormy here, but we were tucked inside, with blankets and cats and candles and books, so all was fine.

Christmas Eve, I got some admin done and some LOIs out. I got out my review, and received the next two books for review. I played with some ideas.

For dinner, I made cod paella. Talk about a Cape Coddish version of paella! The cooking wasn’t bad at all, but the chopping – let’s just say I should have started far earlier! But it was the christening of my new paella pan, and it turned our really, really well. Dessert was chocolate and lemon mouse, layered.

While I prepared the paella, as I listened to Christmas carols on the radio, a particularly passionate rendition of “O Holy Night” gave me an idea for a short story, set in NYC.

We burned our bayberry candle for prosperity and good luck as we opened presents. I think it’s hilarious that one of my friends and I made each other potholders. Because we both bake so much!

Settled in, Icelandic-style, to read.

Up early Christmas Day, thanks for Charlotte. We did stockings, and I made scrambled eggs with smoked salmon for breakfast. Usually, we have scrambled eggs with Panettone, but I couldn’t find one that looked good this year, and I used up the only fruit peel I had in the stollen.

I noodled with the story idea I’d had the night before, and worked on another piece, too, for something I’m looking ahead to do next year.

Mostly, though, we read and played with cats. I didn’t want to be on the computer, because I expected the power to go out any minute.

I made Cornish hen for the big, midday meal. Somehow, an entire 5-pound bag of potatoes disappeared in the last few days. But we had enough left over from the other bag to make mashed potatoes. However, I’ll need to get more before New Year’s. I don’t know how 5 pounds of potatoes could vanish from the kitchen, but, somehow, they managed. I also made the carrot-parsnip-mushroom dish, which was good.

Stollen for dessert.

We cleaned up the kitchen, put away the leftovers, and I cooked down the bones from the Cornish hens for stock.

One of the books I read was Christina Baker Kline’s THE EXILES. What a sad, beautiful book.

Got a notice from Amazon that they lost my package. So – when I’m looking at the print books I wanted to buy (and give my acquaintance her few affiliate cents) – they GURANTEE it will be here by Dec. 21. Once I actually BUY the books, it changes to “estimated” by Dec. 21. On the 21, it was “delayed” and would arrive between the 22-24. On the 25th, they tell me it’s “lost.”

That’s what I get for breaking my vow not to buy anything except eBooks from Amazon. They really are a vile company.

If I ask for a refund, they’ll just double-charge me, like they did last time.

I’ll wait a few more days to see if the books show up. Fortunately, they weren’t anything I counted on in time for the holidays.

Meanwhile, the velvet fabric I ordered on Christmas Eve – shipped on Christmas Eve.

Up early Saturday morning, thanks to Charlotte. Who, of course, promptly went back to sleep as soon as I fed her.

Noodled on a short story for a bit, then got the laundry and usual Saturday household chores started. It was nice out – I put the outdoor decorations I’d taken inside during the high winds back out.

Read a lot. I’m reading Laurie Cass’s bookmobile cat mysteries. They are fun. She captures the way cats behave well, and it’s nice to have an upbeat, positive protagonist instead of one all angsty all the time.

Worked with Tessa and Willa for a few hours, so they get used to having good experiences in the same room together. Willa wants to be friends, but Tessa doesn’t trust her, because sometimes Willa forgets and plays too rough. But we will get there.

Leftovers on Saturday night (yum), and more reading.

Up early on Sunday, again thanks to Charlotte. Baked cranberry-chocolate muffins. Wrote a short story, just under 1500 words, start to finish. It will need a lot more work, but I like the bones of it.

Did an early morning Target run. The holiday shelves were bare – they already removed everything instead of marking it down. I searched for bins – there were only two bins left in one of the sizes I needed, so I grabbed them. They were sold out of all the other bins I need, and one can’t order them to ship. Which is why I sucked it up to do the Target run in the first place–because I couldn’t order the bins online. So I am SOL for bins in my budget. Picked up a few other staples, and checked out. Risked going across the street to Kmart – again, no bins. The store will close soon and it’s just. . .depleted and sad.

Home, decontaminated. I was out and about early enough so there were only about 5 other people in Target and two in Kmart, so I could stay far, far away.

Read, worked with the cats. Depressed myself looking at rental listings. Too many are overpriced crap. Allowed myself a quiet day. Leftovers for dinner.

Up early on Monday. Worked on a short story. I’m trying to do a short piece for each of the 12 Days of Christmas. They’re linked, but each stands alone. It’s an idea I have for next year. It’s also a way to get the creative juices flowing properly again.

Worked on the ghost ship story. I SHOULD have finished a draft over the holidays so I’d polish now. But I gave myself a rest.

Went to the office for a few hours. I was there on my own, as it should be, and got a lot done. Had to chase down the postman to take the package. Most of the post office workers around here are great, but this one guy on the office’s route – he’s arrogant, won’t wear a mask, and tries to get out of picking up or dropping off mail to us all the time. I can’t stand him.

Had dropped off books at the book drop in the morning. At least 3 dozen people wandering around on their “walks” – no masks, no distancing. It’s disgusting.

Home, had to take my mother to the doctor, which meant I had to put off the writing and editing planned. But she’s better, and that’s what matters

This morning, up early, worked on a short story. Went to the dump to get rid of garbage and recycling, so we don’t start the new year with a garage full of garbage. Stopped at the grocery store for a few things – everyone’s sold out of leeks for the past two weeks. The world will not stop because I can’t make the leek and cheese pastries for New Year’s – I’ll make them later in January.

I’m getting ready to do some writing and editing, to catch up on yesterday, and then some client work in the afternoon. I started the day feeling pretty optimistic, but that melted away pretty quickly, and I have to work to get it back. I hope a good writing session will help.

Have a terrific Tuesday!

Wed. December 24, 2020: Merry Christmas Eve!

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Waxing Moon

Uranus Retrograde

Stormy and mild

Big storm coming in today. I’ll have to take in some decorations, and be prepared for power outages.

I have a post over on Gratitude and Growth about birch and holly – since it’s the first day of the month of birch and we love holly this season. Well, I love it all year, but. . .

Yesterday was more stressful than it should have been, and I have to have an uncomfortable conversation with a client in the next few weeks that will not end well. But it is necessary.

I was happy to get home, decontaminate.

Remote chat was fun.

My flash fiction “Holiday Transformations” is up, both as a podcast and in transcript form, as part of this year’s Weird Christmas anthology. It’s a great group of flash pieces – I’m so delighted to be part of it.

Spent the rest of the afternoon finishing the book for review. I will write it this morning and get it off.

The order I was waiting for – the last gift – arrived. The quality is quite wonderful. I considered re-thinking my decision to stop doing business with that particular vendor/artist – when an email came in. It was supposedly to thank customers; what it actually contained was a self-congratulatory, delusional, and arrogant diatribe, claiming the vendor’s “ambition” was at the root of the lack of customer service (say what?) and how she was ignoring criticisms because they made her feel bad.

You do you, honey, but I’m no longer a part of that journey.

Unsubscribed from the mailing list and unfollowed on social media channels. I realize she’s young and it’s rough to run a small business, but wow. Not going to be around that.

I found my recipes for bath salts, and I can adapt it to bath bombs. I can get molds from craft stores, and re-stock essential oils, source small crystals, and go back to making them myself. It’s not like I’m doing them for anyone except myself and friends who might like it. And I won’t have to worry about the stress of poor customer service and all the hypocrisy and bombast. A much better choice all around.

Another order arrived – a treat for myself that I wasn’t expecting until New Year’s.

Got the last present wrapped and under the tree – with help from Tessa and Willa. Charlotte’s not into wrapping gifts, but the other two love it.

Woke up a little after two this morning, and couldn’t get back to sleep. Fretting too much.

But planned the next section of the ghost ship story, and some upcoming blog posts, so that’s all good.

Today, I’m sending off the review, doing some edits on one, maybe two stories, writing the next section of the ghost ship story, and seeing what else I feel like doing. I am safely home, prepped for the storm, and planning to enjoy the holiday.

Although I don’t celebrate the religious aspect of Christmas anymore (since my spiritual beliefs have taken me down a different path, and Solstice was my big celebration), I enjoy family traditions and joys of the season.

Dinner tonight is cod paella – it’s been marinating in wine and spices overnight. I’m also making a layered parfait of chocolate and lemon mousses for dessert.

We don’t have Panettone for breakfast tomorrow – I couldn’t find one in the store that didn’t look leftover from last year, and I used the only fruit peel I had for the stollen. So I will make scrambled eggs with smoked salmon for breakfast. The big meal is Cornish hen with all the trimmings. If the power is out, I will have to figure out how to do it on the stove top rather than the oven.

Whichever way it works out, it will work out.

We open our gifts on the Eve and have stockings on the Day.

Tonight, we observe the Icelandic tradition of reading books! One of my favorite additions to the holiday.

I wish you peace, joy, safety, and comfort – both physically and emotionally. Peace, my friends, and I’ll catch up with you again next week.

Wed. Dec. 23, 2020: Die for Your Employer Day 217 — Nearly at The Holiday Break

image courtesy of pixabay.com

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Waxing Moon

Uranus Retrograde

Cloudy and cold

Up early yesterday, and out the door a little after 7 AM to go to Plymouth to my trusted mechanic to get the car inspected.  I realized that it was my first time over the bridge since last December – when I got my car inspected.

In a normal year, I’d be horrified that I was turning into one of “those” people who refuse to foray beyond the bridge. But this year, hey, pandemic. We were supposed to Stay the F home, and I did so as much as I could.

The mechanic used his small business loan to transform one of his bays into a socially-distanced waiting room. Well set up – MORE than six feet between each seating area. One of the other customers brought his five-month-old, white, standard poodle puppy, who was so excited to play with all his new friends! Totally made my day. They all followed protocols there ALL the time – unlike the idiots here on Cape where I had the oil change, who not only refused to follow the mask mandate, but gave me a hard time for so doing.

The car passed inspection – I was thrilled! The mechanic and his crew were really touched that I took the time to individually wrap the cookies so that they were safe.

Driving back over the bridge took some time – lots of traffic. Once again, people are ignoring the edict not to travel during a pandemic, and we will have a grim January and February.

I stopped at the grocery store in Sandwich that was on my way home and got the last few things I needed for the holidays. I got some beautiful cod for tomorrow night’s paella. I even found a duck for New Year’s Day! That thrills me.

Home, decontaminated the groceries and put them away, then masked back up, loaded up the car with the cookie tins and made deliveries. Most were no or distanced contact. People were thrilled.

By the time I got back, it was nearly lunch time. Decontaminated myself, had lunch, and then spent the afternoon on client work and on reading the book for review. I’m nearly finished with it – I’ll finish it today and send off the review. Only a day late.

I also wrapped the presents to do under the tree. With “help” from Tessa and Willa, which was hilarious. They are getting along, most of the time now.

Crystal Bar has continued a negative pattern of behavior/lack of customer service with me, and, much as I love their product, I’m done. Too much hypocrisy. She has the right to run her business however she wishes. I have the right not to place my money there.

It’s a disappointment, but hardly life-changing. Hell, I made my own bath products for years. I can always start doing so again. I can also source similar products from other small business artisans, try them, and see with whom I am the best fit. That’s a stronger choice than every order/interaction being a stressful battle.

Done. Solved. Moving on.

Besides, I have a duck for New Year’s.

Last night was our Knowledge Unicorns online holiday party. Some of the kids started winter break at the end of last week. Others had a few days scattered in this week. But you know what they did? All on their own? I’d mentioned how lovely the original Dickens “Christmas Carol” novella is, and, ON THEIR OWN, they got copies of it, split up the parts, rehearsed, and did a dramatic reading of it. It was SOOO cool. What fun! I’m so proud of these kids.

It makes me sad to hear about so many kids/parents struggling and worrying how much their kids are losing doing remote learning, while I have a bunch of kids who are thriving.

This morning will be stressful at the client’s. But then I’m free to enjoy the holidays for the rest of the week, and I intend to do just that. Christmas has no religious or spiritual significance for me anymore, but I do enjoy a series of home-and-hearth traditions, and I can use the rest.

I also plan to do some writing.

I wish you peace, joy, good health, and happiness AT HOME this Christmas. I’ll catch up with you on the other side of the weekend.