Monday, October 24, 2011

Autumn in Western Mass

Monday, October 24, 2011
Day before Dark Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Sunny and crisp

Playing catch-up on oh-so-many levels. Friday, I was sick and frustrated and just over it all. I left after lunch and hit Sturbridge around 3-ish. I checked in to the Publick House Inn — I had a deal to get a good rate. Unfortunately, I could only get one night, because the next day, they had a wedding and the entire place was booked. But one night was better than nothing, so I took it.

I wasn’t in the main, historic building. I was in the outbuildings, more like Catskill motel rooms than anything else. My room was fine, although have you ever seen so much toile in your life? And I’m not a fan of toile. Fortunately, I thought it was hilarious, and the tiny balcony was nice, too.

I settled in, ran some errands, had someone come up to fix the heat which wouldn’t turn on. I had dinner in the tavern, enjoying myself and eavesdropping shamelessly. I even jotted down some notes on a cocktail napkin to use in the presentation the next day. I had the roast duck in a cranberry glaze with sausage stuffing and sweet potatoes, paired with a wonderful Argentinean wine. Very good.

I worked on my presentation a bit, but went to bed early, because I felt like crap. Someone from the conference had called while I was on the road, but the message felt more like they were worried I’d make a scene, rather than trying to make things right.

Up at 5:30 the next morning, yoga, shower, ran through the presentation again, packed the car, checked out, had breakfast at the inn. A group of people were whining about the very good coffee — I walked out before I bitch-slapped the whole group silly. These people were idiots. They didn’t seen the coffee made in front of them; therefore, because it came out of an urn, they were going to bitch about it.

I’d woken up with a hacking cough and NO voice — was a little worried, but some slippery elm at least got me croaking again.

It took me a little less than an hour to drive to the conference. The color’s more advanced in Western Mass than there on the Cape. It was lovely. There were people to help me unload, which was great. I parked ‘round the back, close to where my actual presentation room was, which later made re-loading the car much easier.

Met Corrina Lawson, with whom I’ve been tweeting for months. She is SO wonderful. I mean, she’s always been wonderful on Twitter, but she’s even more fun in person. Terrific person. Unfortunately, we were presenting at the same time, so we couldn’t attend each other’s sessions!

Keynote speaker was great, again emphasizing the need to sit down and do the work. First session was good, but I had to excuse myself a couple of times when I felt a coughing fit come on. I didn’t want to be distracting, and it was less distracting to slip out of the room and cough up a lung in the ladies’ room than do it in session.

My own session was fun. I barely sat down — I was walking around, using the props. I hadn’t trusted them to supply me with the easel and the pad of paper, so I got my own pad of paper and pre-wrote bits I wanted to display. They did come through (I know, I was shocked, too), but I already had my stuff, so that’s what we used. They got their handouts, I made them WRITE in class. And what they wrote was good. They embraced the exercises and the energy of the presentation. And bore with my failing voice, which lasted for the session, and then got weaker and weaker. Sold some books, answered a lot of questions. Had help reloading the car.

I think people had a good time — most of the presentations were panels with Q&A. They were great, but mine was really different, which I think was a good contrast. This was more interactive and made them apply what we discussed in the moment, rather than them thinking about it and maybe using it “someday.”

Lunch was fun — buffet style, soups and salads (good quality), small tables, real linens and silverware. Very nice spread. We had lots of fun, lively discussion at the table.

I managed to connect with the student who’d brought me into the conference and we got some of the frustrations sorted. I still think they should have come up with a SOLUTION instead of just shrugging when they found out about the series of fuck-ups, but whatever. I HAVE a solution for next year, which I will send them, and I’m resentful because it’s not my job. It’s my job to provide what is asked and do a kick-ass presentation, not fix THEIR fuck-ups. But, as a B’way pal said, “We’re in production. That’s what we DO. Solve problems. People who aren’t in production can’t see that there’s more than one possibility. That’s why they’re NOT in production.” Well, putting on a conference is being in production, as far as I’m concerned.

Anyway, I lasted through one more speaker, and then I knew I was fading fast, hacking up not just lungs but all kinds of additional organs, and just miserable. I excused myself, got in the car, and drove all the way back to the Cape.

I was in my own bed before 8 PM.

Granted, I caught myself going 90 mph. I was thinking, “Wow, people are really slow today” and then looked at the speedometer. Oops. I’m usually more careful than that.

I stayed pretty quiet, yesterday, although I observed an hilarious exchange between two guys, probably in their fifties, in the parking lot, when I went out to get the Sunday papers:

Guy 1: I just wanted to introduce myself. I’m the guy who runs past your house every morning.

Guy 2: Yeah, I’m standing there smoking a cigarette and you’re running. Don’t think I don’t get the irony.

Now that’s the seed of another short story!

Also, as I was resting in bed, got a couple of scenes flashing through my head. Scribbled them down and wound up with an outline. Will have to put it in the queue. Also ordered some books, including Corinna’s DINAH OF SENECA. Because that’s by a small publisher, too, and heaven forbid the conference’s “bookstore manager” bother to carry it for the conference. The bookstore manager who was “too sick” to attend. Riiiight. She’d have been a lot sicker if I’d gotten my hands on her, that’s for sure.

Struggled to get back into the harpy book this morning, but I finally got there.

They’re working on the roof again, I have to catch up with students, work on Confidential Job #1, and the tulip bulbs HAVE to go in today.

In the meantime, check out the essay on Nicole Peeler’s Jane True, and the one on Diana Bishop of A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES.



Today’s word count: 1,180
Total word count: 37,228

Thursday, June 30, 2011

View of the water in Newport
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Dark Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Sunny and beautiful

One of my students, Carol Dunsford, gave me a nice mention in her blog, talking about my “Setting as Character” class and my recommendation of A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES.

Stop by and check out her blog — it’s good stuff (and not just because she mentioned me). Give her some comment love!

I’m late posting this morning, because I left at 6:30 to drive to Chatham for Yoga on the Beach, by the lighthouse. It was the best yoga class I’ve ever taken. The teacher is amazing — she knows how to encourage and challenge without incurring injury. It’s Kripalu style, with which I’m comfortable, and I discovered I’m a lot more able to do many of the poses than I expected. She also had wonderful suggestions for the backbends, which I have the most problems with. There were about 30 people, men and women, from about eight years old to eighty. Great group. It was an hour and fifteen minutes, but felt like fifteen minutes. My thighs currently aren’t speaking to me, but they’ll get over it! 😉

I love practicing in the sand — there’s more give than on a hardwood floor, but there’s also support. They meet every day; I can’t take that four hour chunk of time out of my morning every day, but I hope to go at least twice a week.

Missed the turn back to 28 going home, so drove all the way out to the Eastham rotary and took Rt. 6 coming back.

Came back, watered the garden, showered, ate, and am hitting the page. I want to spend some quality time on SPIRIT REPOSITORY this morning, and then I’ll have to mow the front lawn in the afternoon.

Yesterday, I poulticed the swollen bites, which meant I had to stay quiet for 90 minutes with my legs elevated — yay, reading time! Everything’s much better now.

The annoying neighbor I call Idiot Boy was putting metal through his wood chipper yesterday. When he’s not working my last nerve by walking away and leaving his power tools on (right across from my writing room window) or sitting in his truck idling the engine for 30 minute stretches (and then moaning about the price of gas), he’s putting metal through a wood chipper. Hence, the nickname.

In spite of him, I managed to revise a short story and get it out to an anthology call that unexpectedly landed on my desk.

Bessie the Squirrel is Very Busy burying things in the vegetable bed. I hope she won’t think I’m after her stuff when I go to harvest my vegetables. The strawberries are starting to ripen, so, provided the birds don’t get them first, we may actually have a strawberry harvest soon.

Obviously, no matter how hard I work on “loving kindness” aspects of practice, I’m going to fall short when it comes to insects. I’m an ant murderess, often before breakfast (which, I suppose, is better than being an aunt murderess). If the ants would stay at the bottom of the yard, we could leave each other in peace. However, since they insist on pock-marking and weakening the whole front yard in their tunnel-building towards the house, I do not consider them practicing “loving kindness” towards me, either! 😉

In other words, although there are aspects of Buddhist Practice I try to incorporate in my own life, I’m going to keep killing ants. And mosquitos. Etc. I tried negotiating. I tried using natural pests to eat other pests. The ants are relentless. I have a momentary victory, but I’ve hardly won the war, and next spring, I will have to be much more aggressive far earlier.

On that happy note, I’m going back to the page. 😉

update: The June Wrap-up for Goals, Dreams, and Resolutions is here.


ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT available from Champagne Books and Amazon Kindle.
Annabel Aidan webpage here.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Waxing Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Sunny and cold
International Women’s Day

Yup, here we have it, International Women’s Day. I wish I’d been able to put together a project this year like I did the year my friend Avonne and I set the creation atmosphere for MOON TRIBE TALES. I say “set the creation atmosphere” because the actresses who spent months developing material for the piece are equally a part of it. It was a wonderful experience for both those participating and those who attended, and I wish I’d been set up to seek funding for it to be an ongoing project. When I look back at the script, little has changed in the intervening years. If anything, women’s rights and progress are regressing.

Actress Allison Scagliotti, whose work I throughly enjoy in WAREHOUSE 13, has a great piece up here about looking for role models in her industry. It’s difficult to find strong, complex female characters in media right now, although I think there are more of them on television than in film. Too often, they simply behave like men would, but they’re played by women. While to a point, a strong person is a strong person no matter what the gender, since biology influences a lot of how we deal with things, I’d love to see a wider range of representations in film and television.

I think women are making inroads behind the scenes — although probably not enough. You look at writers like Jane Espenson and directors like Kate Woods, and there’s progress.

I think the rise of urban fantasy in literature has created some great female characters. Look at Diana Bishop in A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES — she doesn’t fit any mold but her own and is fascinating and complex. Look at Camille, Delilah, and Menolly in the Otherworld Series — along with most of the female characters Yasmine Galenorn writes. They don’t fall into cliche, they’re certainly not perfect, but they’re strong, intelligent, and interesting. Or the characters like Ann Aguirre’s Corinne Solomon. These women are all very much women, not girls acting the way men might act in this situation, and they are very resourceful and approach the world with unique viewpoints.

To me, that’s part of what a feminist is — a woman who is strong, intelligent, and interesting, and who won’t keep anyone — male, female, Republican or alien — from allowing her to fulfill her potential to its fullest. Can a man be a feminist? Yes, if he’s willing to support the choices of the women around him to be the best and most they can be, even if it’s inconvenient to him personally! 😉

Got out the write up for Confidential Job #1 and that’s off, and got out my column. Got word this morning that they’ve already sent the next assignment. Caught up on commenting on the student work — some of the comments have been helpful, and they are diving back into the material with fresh enthusiasm, which is what I’d hoped.

MA Dept. of Revenue emailed me my quarterly vouchers, the little dears. Considering the NY State Tax Dept. could never be bothered to provide correct paperwork, nor have they ever posted a payment correctly in the years I lived there, and they generally feel they can remove any money they want from anyone because they don’t have to answer to anyone, the MA attitude is quite refreshing.

Responded to student work. They have a deadline today, so there will be a lot of work on which to comment. Also received materials from a partner for the tele-seminar, so I need to go over that. A big stack of errands to run today, but then they will be done, and I don’t have to worry about them later in the week.

Had a good morning’s work on the play — I’m having fun with it. It wants to have more characters than I’m allowed, so some of the actors may have to double. Or, I just have to keep it lean and cut them in the rewrite. I’ve written for a finite amount of characters before — I know I can do it. Want to do some more work on the play before I switch back to everything else that demands attention. Fortunately, the company wants a piece with high verbal dexterity, and those are the kinds of characters I enjoy writing.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Saturday, March 5, 2011
Waxing Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Rainy and cold

Not only did I have a migraine (and still do), but it was a very much of a Saturn-retrograde day. Let’s hope I took the “lessons” part under advisement and applied them! 😉

I’m absolutely knocked out by the material the students are bringing into the class. Every time a slimy reality “star” puts out a “book” they “wrote”, I despair for the publishing industry, but then the students come in with this quality of material, and these unique and wonderful stories, and I think there’s hope. We made need a renaissance of small, independent houses and may need the behemoths to crumble under lack of book buying, but eventually, I think we’ll get there. Story-telling and story-accepting are deep needs hardwired into us.

It’s taking me longer to go through their initial materials, though, than I thought. Instead of spending about 20 minutes on each project for the initial, individual suggestions, it’s taking me anywhere from 40 minutes to over an hour. With nearly thirty students, that’s a lot of time. I don’t mind putting it in, but I’m behind where I wanted to be, and hate to keep them waiting.

I got some work on the play done, and, now that I’m getting in to it, I’m having fun with it. The plot is taking a different direction than I expected, but that’s okay.

Finished A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES last night. Absolutely loved it. All of the things I urge the students to do — sensory detail, integrating backstory, keeping action and dialogue clear, strong sense of place as additional characters (one of the settings actually serves the purpose of a character), well-rounded and truly frightening antagonists — it’s there. As are a very clever melding of history, science, belief, and evolution.

I’ve never believed evolution and religious belief in creation cancel each other out. I just figure God’s seven days might not be the same as what we think of as seven days. In the course of the universe, our lives are relatively short. The segments we use as time, days, etc. are in blocks useful to us. That doesn’t mean deity runs on the same schedule. I actually think the two theories support each other. However, those who want dissension because they want to control others need to keep them separate so they can continue to exert control.

The book doesn’t delve into that particular argument, but it does beautifully mix magic, alchemy, and science, and explore both the evolution of species and its possible extinction. Definitely makes me want to go back and re-read Darwin with fresh eyes — haven’t read him since college.

I don’t want to give away spoilers for those who still have the book on their TBR list, but I will say this — as satisfying as the ending was (it’s the first book of a trilogy), I am also scared for where they’re headed (in a good way), thrilled by the possibilities that opens up for the next book, and care so much about the supporting characters that I hope they aren’t pushed aside completely in Book 2 in favor of the characters that are necessary for this next step on the journey.

Brandy, did you worry about the cat near the end as much as I did?

Go read this book– it’s wonderful on many levels! 😉

A project in negotiation fell through because the company decided they no longer wanted to work in the genre. They do, however, want something else of mine, so I’ve got to hunt through the backlog and see if there’s something that might fit. I can’t start something new right now unless there’s a lot of money up front. Unfortunately, it puts me back to square one with a project I thought had a home, and has a domino effect on the projects in that series that are lined up behind it, so it’s time to reshuffle a few things. It happens. You shrug, adjust, and move on.

Right now, I need to go back to the page, and then, later this morning, back to my students. I have trouble concentrating on anything when I know they’re waiting to hear comments on something.


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Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday, March 4, 2011
New Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Sunny and cold

Hey, it’s supposed to hit 30 degrees today! Positively balmy! (Yeah, I’m being sarcastic).

Got some good, practical work done yesterday, got the lectures to my partner, started reading through the material for the class.

Ran my errands in Plymouth — they didn’t have the final book I needed for my class, but I did finally manage to get my hands on a copy of Deborah Harkness’s novel A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES, which I’ve been trying to get since it was released.

Everything went by the wayside for the rest of the day and well into the night, because once I started reading it, I only put it down when I was too tired to see straight. It’s terrific — beautifully researched with ancient texts, the interdependence of magic and science, a good dose of evolution and species extinction, beautifully integrated settings rendered so well you are living every moment of the book. Absolutely fantastic. I have about another 100 pages or so to go (it’s a big book) and I’ve put it away so I’m not tempted to go back to it until I’ve done my work for the day. It’s that damn good

I have a raging headache today, but it was worth it.

Launched into the play today (new moon, new project) and I love working on it. It’s fun, and the characters are coming beautifully to life.

In addition to the writing, I have to do some practical things today like laundry and vacuuming, and a bunch of administrative stuff. I have a couple of submissions that need to get out today, and start working on polishing the lectures for the RWA workshop I’m teaching the first two weeks of April. It’s one an email loop instead of a board, which will be good for the students, but a nightmare for me, and I have to figure out how to work in that format without wanting to tear my hair out. It was booked over a year ago, before I changed the contract and class requirements, so I just kind of have to roll with it.

I’m hoping it won’t be as much of a wet, miserable weekend as predicted, because I’d like to get out and clean up the yard a bit.

But for now — a couple of Advil and back to the page.