Mon. Oct. 22, 2012: Scary Times with Sick Kitty


Iris lounging on a better day

Monday, October 22, 2012
Waxing Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Sunny and mild

Quite the weekend! But before we start on that, hop on over to A Bible Paradise for a cool round-table interview with some of the contributors from DEATH SPARKLES.

The big and scary thing for the weekend was that Iris was very sick. Yesterday morning, I couldn’t find her, and, when I did, I thought I had to rush her to the emergency vet. She was in bad shape, and I have no idea why. About 45 minutes later, she was a little better, so the vet & I agreed to keep her quiet and watch her, and, if it got worse, bring her in later.

She hid for a few hours (and we checked on her every 20 minutes), then came down on her own in the early afternoon, ate, and curled up in her usual spot. She was quieter than usual, but definitely not at death’s door. She even had bedtime snacks, although she decided to stay downstairs instead of coming up with the others. This morning, she was moving slowly and quiet, but she ate all her breakfast and most of Violet’s (the usual), so, hopefully, she’s on the mend.

I think she had another seizure, like she had four or five years ago. I’m going to watch her for a few days to see how she does, and maybe take her in for a blood test. Last time, they couldn’t find anything and said either they’d be infrequent, or she’d get more of them and have to be put on anti-seizure medication. This is the first one she’s had in years.

Scary times, and the other two cats worried and stuck close.

I don’t remember much of Friday, except I worked hard, and had a phone conference with an agent about the proposal. A few things I was worried about Thursday were cleared up Friday — as usual, I was fretting when no fretting was necessary. And I got my hair chopped off — it was too long and I couldn’t stand it anymore. I’m much happier with it now.

I read my fellow students’ projects for the Sustainability class and commented on them. I wrote my final paper (“Full Circle Humanity”) and submitted it, and commented on the discussion projects submitted for grading. Uploaded my lectures and exercises for my own class.

Saturday morning, I watched the video lectures for my final week in Sustainability and took the quizzes. I think one of the speakers in the TED talk video might be good for a keynote speaker at the Writers’ Conference next year. I’ll suggest it.

I worked with my students all afternoon and well into the evening (their work was awesome and it was a pleasure), and then caught up on the Greek & Roman Mythology lectures and took the quiz (got 100%). I started the lectures for the World History class and took the quizzes for the lectures I’d watched (100% on all of those).

Sunday, I had the worries with Iris, which framed the whole day. In and around that, I did follow-up with my students, watched the rest of my World History Lectures, took the quizzes (100% on all of them), and wrote my papers for both classes. I’d been working on them for the whole week, but it was a case of pulling it all together and on paper.

My Greek & Roman Mythology paper was, from a writer’s perspective, why Homer needed book 24 of the Odyssey, instead of stopping at Book 23. The original paper was nearly 1300 words (and could have been much more), but I had to cut it down to 350. Talk about a challenge! However, it was interesting, and I want to dig deeper and expand it out beyond class.

My World History paper was on how conversation changed the world. The very structures that allowed the moneyed and educated to meet and discuss ideas about liberty and rights — a structure that allowed for servants and/or slaves — made it possible for these “unseen” in the room to learn, too, and start applying those principles to themselves. I tried to integrate the feedback from the last paper — specifics from my research within the text — so I did that, this time. Again, this is something I want to expand on beyond class — a really interesting topic.

And my lovely, diplomatic professor addressed the whiners complaining that there is work for the class and deadlines that have to be met by pointing out that that’s part of the university experience!

I worked on the tweaks for the proposal last night and sent it off to the agent. We’re going to talk more this afternoon, for any final comments and changes, before she takes it out into the world.

I already spoke to the vet this morning, and I’m on my way out the door for meetings. When I come back, I have to clean the house (Costume Imp arrives tomorrow), get the recycling out, and finish the edits on OLD-FASHIONED DETECTIVE WORK.

The Sustainability Course is done — I’m just waiting for my final grades, and having separation anxiety! So this week, only Mythology and History — along with all the other stuff that needs to get done!

Onward!

Devon

Wed. Oct. 17, 2012: Earthquake & Book Proposal


I love this photo. I took it on the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard last month

Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Waxing Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Sunny and cold

Intense day yesterday, part of which culminated in an earthquake in the evening. Yup, an earthquake in New England. No wonder the cats were restless and upset all day, and I was ready to turn inside out. The quake was centered in Maine, but felt all the way into Rhode Island.

For me? Cats were upset, but I wondered why a garbage truck was on our little street after dark!

Sounds silly, but it did feel like that bubble of tension that was building all day inside me was relieved once the quake actually happened.

The worst was the local ABC affiliate news, WCVB — they cut into programming to announce it. Okay, fine, makes sense. Then, they ramble on and on and on, repeating the same three sentences over and over and putting people on TV who said things like, “my couch moved a few inches” or “my bedroom door popped open.” Um, and this is news because. . .? There weren’t injuries or fires or power outages. Tell us that and go back to programming. The anchors, who usually give the impression of being a few beats the music behind anyway, looked like utter morons. Totally left out to dry by their EP. Embarrassing. They kept the crawl under the programs all night — the same three sentences. If you don’t have something valuable to say, shut up and don’t waste our time.

I spent time with my tarot students yesterday, but the bulk of the day was spent on the non-fiction book proposal and the query letter. I’m finally happy with both. It was a huge challenge, well out of my comfort zone, but also incredibly exciting. If the proposal sells, it’ll be a great experience to write. What I’m not satisfied with yet is my sample chapter. So I’ll do some more work on that today, and then . . .of it goes.

I have a lot of work to get through today, since I spent so much time on the proposal yesterday, AND I have to make two dozen devilled eggs — we’re having a cocktail party at the National Marine Life Center this afternoon.

Also, time to turn some attention towards the school work. I’m excited about the mythology paper and turning over ideas for the world history paper. I THINK I have one final paper to write in the Sustainability class, too. Plus, I have to review my peers’ projects.

Back to the page.

Devon

Don’t forget to sign up for the First Three Pages:Dynamic Openings, this Sunday, Oct. 20. Take your book or story’s opening, and make it the strongest it can be.

Have you read DEATH SPARKLES yet? This anthology’s got nine vivid, exciting stories about death and diamonds — and is a top 100 Amazon seller! Proceeds go to literacy charity.

Mon. Oct 15, 2012: OLD-FASHIONED DETECTIVE WORK Cover & Rough Weekend

Monday, October 15, 2012
New Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Cloudy and mild

Here it is! The cover for the second Jain Lazarus Adventure, OLD-FASHIONED DETECTIVE WORK! Once again, my cover artist is the wonderful PJ Friel, who did the art for HEX BREAKER and also for the anthology in which we both appear, DEATH SPARKLES. I’m pretty happy with it. I’ve also got my second round of edits to deal with this week!

“The First Three Pages: Dynamic Openings”
workshop is on for next Saturday, October 20, where we spend the day making the opening of the novel or short story as strong as possible. More information here. “Dissecting Submission Guidelines” has been rescheduled for November 3.

The weekend was rough, on several levels. Good, too, but rough. Deadbeat client still hasn’t paid me — the check can’t be “in the mail” for this long. Typical of someone who runs around yapping about how much they “work with spirit” — total bullshit. Especially since I’d given this client a special rate, lower than my usual one. Not happening again.

Wrote one of the best kick-ass critical essays on a book in my life on Friday. I’d been working on it for two weeks, had voluminous notes, but sat down and pulled it all together on Friday. My editor loves it, is taking it to his bosses — but, it still needs to be cut by 2/3. That’s my first task this morning. He’s still going to use it to try to get me more prestigious assignments, and I’m going to use it as a sample, and possibly as a basis for an article on a quartet of semi-related novels this author has written (which I couldn’t address in this piece), It wasn’t wasted, even if this publication can’t use it in its entirety. That’s the reality of word counts and space requirements — something, I would say at least 80% of writing students don’t get on any given day. You have to be able to fit the available space, or you don’t get in. They can’t expand space for YOUR work and lose advertising or encroach on someone else’s space.

Wrote a paper for my Sustainability class on leveling the policy-making field by removing lobbyists (and how to do that). Kept looking for the feedback on the rough draft of my final project, which was supposed to be ready by Wednesday and . . . nothing. A little disheartening, as was not getting a timely response on my submission questions and finding out that I could only present one and not both of my projects. I realize there are a lot of us, but the lack of administrative response for things is not handled as well in this particular class as in both the others. And if the feedback is supposed to be available Wednesday, and the final project is due on Sunday — the feedback should DEFINITELY be available by Friday. I went out of my way to provide feedback on more than the required amount of projects during the first couple of days in the week because I know that, even though all 26,000 students didn’t submit projects, a lot did, and everyone who puts in the work deserves feedback.

Also took the time to comment on five of my fellow students’ papers in the World History Class, as was required. Lots of good writing, but only one out of the five went beyond regurgitating the information we got in class, which was disappointing. Of course, my paper went way out of the box, and I bet you dollars to doughnuts “my peers” grade me down for doing more than spitting class notes back up (but I have a list of really cool sources, and I’m going to use it as a basis for an article for the AFL-CIO magazine).

I woke up on Saturday, feeling lousy and cranky, and glad that I’d been smart enough to cancel the day’s workshop, because I could not have done justice to my students. I was worse than a bear with a sore head, and that’s not fair to them. For once, I listened to myself and knew I wasn’t well enough to teach, and cancelled early enough not to screw up anyone else’s schedule.

I was even more disheartened when I logged on to the workshop I’m teaching, and, out of the entire class, only two people bothered to turn in the assignment on time. Not acceptable, and entirely disrespectful. Every moment I spend on their work is time I’m not spending on my own, and I resent it when they can’t be bothered to keep their commitments. It’s disappointing, because the quality of the work is good, but the fact that they can’t keep a simple commitment — and this is an extraordinarily light course load for one of my classes — it’s not about writing when you feel like it or “get around to it”. It’s about getting it done when it’s due.

I’m taking three classes at coursera right now, EACH requiring 7-12 hours of work a week (which means I’ve added 21-36 hours of additional work onto my already long days) ON TOP of keeping up with current deadlines, the courses I’m teaching, and freelance work to pay the bills. If I can do that, and I’ve kept on top of ALL my course assignments because I’d be letting MYSELF down hugely by not meeting those commitments — someone with a 400 word piece due and more than week to get in done can get it in on time, no matter what else is going on.

The rest of the day was spent finishing up the work for the final Sustainability project, which means I had to revise the first chapter of the marine life mystery and write the next two chapters, and then massage them so they were polished enough to submit. It took me awhile to get back into the groove, but once I did, it went pretty well. I explained, in the Cover Sheet notes, that not every topic inspired by the Sustainability course was going to be fully explored in only the first three chapters, but again, I expect to be marked down by my “peers.” And again, that’s really fine, because I’m fulfilling the commitment to the class, and I’m also getting out a lot of material I can use far beyond class. I would, however, have liked to get that feedback before submitting the final, to see if I needed to tweak it one way or another to fit the class parameters. But I didn’t, so what the hell, and I polished, proofread, and uploaded it a day early. This week, I’ll read five other class projects (as required) and comment on them. I also watched the rest of the videos and took my two quizzes. The less I study for those quizzes, the better I do on them, for some reason.

I was so tired and cranky and felt so lousy that I read Nora Roberts to do something different. Now, I totally respect what she’s achieved in her career, and admire her work ethic enormously. However, her tendency to head-hop in her scenes always leaves me feeling slightly motion-sick, so it wasn’t quite the cure I was looking for!

Sunday was all about coursework, once I’d read the paper and played with the cats. I watched all the week’s videos for the World History Class and took all the quizzes (there’a quiz at the end of each video — I aced all of them). The professor is terrific, and it really shows how we’ve been making the same mistakes since the beginning, over and over, in cycles, financial crises and all (there have been similar ones as far back as 1720, all caused by greed on those making the most money — sound familiar?). We also got our “weekly letter” from the professor; out of 83,000 students, only 1800 submitted papers and he thinks that’s a terrific percentage! 😉 We certainly do math differently, or perhaps, he just has a more realistic picture of how people lack commitment. He keeps emphasizing how he hopes the class helps us make connections in the ways different elements in history affect each other, and he’s certainly opening up my perspectives enormously.

Then, it was on to the Greek and Roman Mythology course. This professor, and his Coursera administrative student assistants, do something called “Screenside Chat” which is just awesome — taking questions from the discussion groups and going into them in more depth, so we feel like there’s more connection and community. I watched all the week’s lectures (I’d already worked on the readings) and took the quiz — I got 88, not too bad. I also got the assignment for this week’s paper, which I’m REALLY looking forward to.

So, that was a pretty good day — I felt tired but accomplished by the end of it. And I finished early enough to have a relaxing evening.

This morning, the woodpecker was back — at the same spot we just fixed. I’m going to have to go hang an owl representation in that spot to keep him away.

Will plant the rest of the bulbs today, and clear out the rest of the vegetable patch (we harvested everything left to harvest before Saturday’s light frost).

I did some work on the non-fiction proposal, and will start organizing it today. I want to get it out the door in the next few days, strike while the iron is hot.

Devon

Fri. Oct. 12, 2012: Release Day for DEATH SPARKLES!

Friday, October 12, 2012
Waning Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Sunny/Cloudy/Cold

We’re going to get our first frost tonight — this is going to be a long, cold winter!

Update: Tomorrow’s “Dissecting Submission Guidelines” is cancelled, because I am under the weather. I will reschedule it, probably for early November.

The Oct. 20th workshop, “The First Three Pages: Dynamic Openings”, however, is open for registration.

It’s here! The Death Sparkles Anthology is available. Here’s the Kindle link, and it will also be available on B&N and Smashwords. I wrote the introduction and have the final story, “Sea Diamond” , a science-fiction mystery that introduces the ass-kicking, take-no prisoners Fiona Steele. We WILL see more of her.

Nine authors contributed to this anthology, inspired from the prompt “the diamond necklace dangled from the dead woman’s hand” and nine very different interpretations of that. The wonderful PJ Friel did the cover AND is a contributor, with “The Needing”.

It’s a perfect pre-Halloween read!

Yesterday was crazy busy. Yoga was terrific. Came home and worked with my students — finally got into the Savvy forum, so I could work with tarot students and catch up a bit. I wrapped up my three day Supporting Characters workshop at the Muse Online Writing Conference, and was invited to stop in to the “Finish What You Start” Workshop and offer some tips on completion.

I wasn’t able to take anything this year, because of my schedule. They had a lot of terrific workshops, but most of them are geared to beginning writers, so there really wasn’t anything I felt I missed. There really needs to be more geared towards the intermediate/advanced and working writer –even if the person isn’t writing full-time, perpetually staying in Beginner’s classes starts having a negative return after awhile.

A royalty check for an anthology I was involved in years ago landed on my desk yesterday — a substantial one. I was thrilled. Not only did it lift my morale, it saved my bill-paying ass, since my ghostwriting client who swore up, down, and sideways, that she’d sent the check this week — STILL hasn’t paid me. I knew this project would be a pain in the butt when I took it on. As soon as I get the money, I am done with this individual.

The next round of edits came in for OLD-FASHIONED DETECTIVE WORK, so I need to get to work on that. I’ll be releasing the cover on Monday for that!

Ran some errands, got cat food in, worked with students, worked on the material for Confidential Job #1, which is due today. I’m very behind in this week’s school work. Must catch up today.

I’ve got a book proposal to write over the weekend, so there’s no time off for me this weekend.

I need a vacation — but I’m awfully thrilled about the upcoming releases.

I hope you enjoy DEATH SPARKLES!

Devon

Fri. Oct. 5, 2012: I am Home!


DEATH SPARKLES releases October 12, 2012, featuring nine authors including Devon Ellington’s “Sea Diamond” featuring Fiona Steele

Friday, October 5, 2012
Waning Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Cloudy and cool

I AM HOME.

Can’t tell you how happy I am about that. I felt like such crap by yesterday morning, really like I’d warded off days of emotional battering. I have to remind myself that unhappy people resent happier people and actively try to destroy that happiness. But keeping up defenses and constantly wondering where the next sneak attack is coming from gets wearing.

On the upside, I managed to leave early than I expected. I got on the road before the worst of the storms hit, and, although traffic was bad, I managed to stay ahead of the storms all the way home. Grateful for that. Made brief stops for gas and in Mystic, to pick up some more of my favorite coffee. Other than that, all good, and got home in time for dinner.

Tessa was delighted to see me. Iris said hi, but she had my mom while I was gone, and my mom is Iris’s favorite person, so she wasn’t particularly upset. Violet did “talk to the tail” for a few hours, and then sat on top of me and scolded me most of the night.

The storms meant no computer work last night, so I went to bed early and had a good night’s sleep in my own bed.

I hope it clears up — the yard needs a lot of attention. I was only away for a week! Managed to give the mums some love this morning, but there’s a lot more that needs to be done. As it gets cooler, we’re slowly taking in the plants that need to overwinter. I’ll be putting in bulbs soon for next year, too — have to go to Country Gardens and get them, first! I also need to start decorating for Samhain — it’s already October!

Lots of work to do today, including finishing the article I couldn’t finish yesterday and getting the rough drafts of my projects done and uploaded for class.

The cover for OLD-FASHIONED DETECTIVE WORK is awesome, and, as soon as Solstice approves it, I’ll be able to upload it and share! DEATH SPARKLES releases next week — I look forward to that, too!

Have a great holiday weekend all!

Devon

Wed. Oct. 3: Power Outage and Deadbeat Client

Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Waning Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Cloudy and cold

We had a power outage yesterday, just as I was working with my tarot students. The computer is fine, thank goodness, but it was a little chaotic, with the generator kicking in and having to report it and then getting the power back on. Couldn’t get back online the rest of the day. But it meant I couldn’t watch any of the video lectures for class, so that gets all lumped in today.

I got back a lot of information I needed yesterday and now have to integrate it into various projects, and am talking this project and that project with several different editors. Finished the submissions, and am glad to be done. Live and learn.

Sent yet another reminder/invoice to the ghostwriting client, who still owes me the balance for the work and has gone completely unresponsive to the last questions so we can wrap this project up. This is why clients have to pay 50% up front -so the writer is not completely screwed. Also last time I give a deep discount because it’s set up by someone I know.

Word from home is that there’s a leak in the ceiling (the landlord came by yesterday and will fix it tomorrow), and a woodpecker’s torn a hole near my room and built a nest (naughty Carlos). Tessa is depressed and mopey — not eating much, won’t play, lies on my bed and looks sad. Poor little thing.

The week Costume Imp comes up to visit, about 6 kazillion things are going on, so I’m giving him the options, and he can choose to participate or not as he pleases. After all, it IS his vacation.

I need to spend some time on my Sustainability Projects today. The first chapter of the mystery will be the easiest, so I’ll probably work on that first. I’ve got my notes — I just have to sit down and focus. It’s more difficult when there’s someone else on the site.

I have a meeting with an agent this evening — I’m looking forward to it. A full morning here tomorrow, and then I’m back on the road to GO HOME.

Looks like DEATH SPARKLES will release on October 12 — how exciting!

Devon

Mon. Sept. 24: The Autumnal Roll!

Monday, September 24, 2012
Waxing Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Sunny and cold

Busy, busy, busy weekend. I was on the road, supposed to have internet, but THAT didn’t work out! I felt guilty about my tarot students, but, for the rest of my work, it was fine. I’d cleared a lot of work off my desk before I headed out.

The most important thing was that I finished the edits on OLD-FASHIONED DETECTIVE WORK and got them back to my editor a couple of days early. The cover (again by the amazing PJ Friel) is set to be ready on October 5, and once it’s approved by the publisher, I’ll post it. The latest word I have on the DEATH SPARKLES anthology (in which you’ll meet one of my favorite new characters, Fiona Steele), is that it will release in October.

I’m working away on CRAVE THE HUNT, and the new book (which is still in too delicate a state to really discuss) is flying out of my fingers. I’m ready to do my first chapters for the mystery I’m using as one of my sustainability projects, and ready to do the opening on the aviation book. I’m putting together the article due Oct. 1 (I need to get it out by Friday, before I hit the road again on Saturday), and this morning, I have a write-up to do for Confidential Job #1.

On Friday morning, I had to get out the door early and drive to CT. The traffic was dreadful — for some reason, we were stuck around Fall River for nearly an hour, and then it was bad again around Stratford. Got there, exhausted. Since I didn’t have an internet connection, I concentrated on writing and on the materials for Confidential Job #1 (which were really good). To bed early, up early, more writing, back on the road later that day, and home.

Saturday was the Equinox, and I managed to get back in time to do my sunset ceremony.

Sunday, couldn’t get in to the forum where I’m teaching for some reason, which meant I couldn’t catch up with the tarot students — must to that today. However, I managed to watch the last lectures for both classes and take the quizzes and do my short weekly paper (whew). Also went to Country Gardens to pick up a few things so I can put the garden to bed for the winter.

The Sustainability Course is half-way through (we start Week 5 this week), those of the original 26,000 who are still there. Of the 70,000 in the World History class, we seem to be hanging in there. The Greek and Roman Mythology class, taught by Dr. Peter Struck of the University of Pennsylvania, starts today, and there are 50,000 of us in the class!

I have a LOT of writing to do this week. Tomorrow night’s meeting was cancelled, thank goodness, but I have a meeting on Thursday directly after yoga — I’ll have to make sure I bolt a quick snack between yoga and the meeting. Friday night, my one-act is going to be read at the Play With Your Food Festival at Tilden Arts Center, and Saturday, I hit the road again — I’m working in CT next week. Busy, busy, and keeping on top of the articles and the writing deadlines and the coursework, and I still have some manuscripts to read for that acquaintance’s submission overflow (I rarely say “never”, but in this case, I’ll say “not again without major payment”).

Costume Imp is coming down late in October, I’ve got to settle a few days for Fast & Fun Workshops and finalize the information for the Playwrighting Class, so that the application can go up.

One word at a time – -that’s how it all gets done!

The guy’s here to clean the furnace this morning, and then I have to pick up/drop off some books at a couple of the local libraries. Other than that, it’s a day of being chained to the desk (but loving it).

Did you have a good Autumnal Equinox? I’m so grateful for the many good things in my life!

Devon