Mon. June 18, 2018: Follow Your Dreams — A Personal Story #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, June 18, 2018
Waxing Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde

I’ve lived my life by that motto.

I knew I wanted to be a writer by the time I was six years old. I published in school magazines and newspapers. As a teen, I wrote plays, and I did press releases and other articles for local and regional newspapers about the high school music groups with which I was associated.

In college, I got away from the writing (although I wrote plenty of awful poetry) when I committed to theatre. I graduated high school early, tested my way out of freshman year, and entered Florida State University in Tallahassee mid-year. I took a stage lighting class. I was supposed to put in 20 hours of lab work in the theatre during the semester. I put 20 hours in my first week and never left the building until I transferred to NYU’s film and television program a year later. I got terrific experience at FSU, and even picked up a few side rock and roll gigs.

I transferred to NYU and got into the film department. My first day in film school, I met the guy who still, all these decades later, is one of my closest friends. But, because I was practical and a problem-solver, I wound up more on the production management level than the writing level. I had two brilliant professors, who encouraged me, and with whom I’m still in contact. One was my screenwriting professor, and I wish I’d studied more with him. I still use what I learned from him, in screenwriting, playwrighting, radio writing, and novels.

I picked up theatre jobs here and there. In other words, I started earning my living in the arts when I was 18. Any non-arts job I ever had was only temporary, and in between shows, for the cash. I knew I wasn’t suited to an office job or anything the fearful call “a real job.” Honey — working in the arts is about giving EVERYTHING and leaving it out there. It’s far more real than ANY office job. So shut the eff up.

When I graduated from NYU, I moved to the west coast for three years to work in regional theatre. I knew I needed experiences outside of New York. I loved it, but I also knew that if I was going to realize my dream of working on Broadway, I had to be in New York. While I was west, I spent some time in LA and knew it wasn’t for me.

I came back east, initially to help with a family issue, for two months. I immediately landed a stage management job and worked my way up in the off-off-off-off Broadway community. (I had worked as a stage manager and production manager in San Francisco, and as a props person in Seattle). I switched to wardrobe (as a stage manager in small SF companies, I’d often both stage managed and handled quick changes). I worked my way from off-off-off Broadway to off-off Broadway and then to off-Broadway. I did some work in New York as a stage manager and an associate production manager, for the Pearl Theatre and for Manhattan Class Company. I did wardrobe for the Vineyard, and then spent several seasons at Manhattan Theatre Club, which led to open-ended runs rather than repertory.

While I was still working off-off Broadway, I spent three years working during the day for an art book publisher. I learned an enormous amount that has served my writing career well, working both sides of the table. I worked in the development offices of the Neuberger Museum and the Guggenheim Museum. At the latter, I spent my lunch hour walking the museum, immersing myself in the art. I worked part-time for five years for the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation, when it was so small the staff consisted of the Executive Director and me, putting on seminars and support groups and roundtables and award shows. I learned so much.

It was at Manhattan Theatre Club where I had the honor of working with Arthur Miller and Athol Fugard within the same six months. I’d started writing again. Even though I was the wardrobe girl, Athol respected that I wrote, that I was starting to define myself as a writer. He invited me to sit in on rehearsals any time I wanted, to ask any questions I wanted. I did, and I learned an amazing amount from him. He directed what he wrote, but he kept his writing self and his directing self separate.

On the first day of rehearsal, in his opening remarks, he said, “I have good news and bad news. The good news is that the writer is dead in this process. There will be no revisions during rehearsal. The bad news is that I promised him you chaps would speak every line exactly as written.”

I loved it. He demanded respect for the words. No paraphrasing (which American actors tend to do more than any other actors, claiming to be “in the moment” when, in reality, most of them simply haven’t bothered to take the time to memorize).

I worked with Arthur Miller within the same six months (their plays were produced one after the other in the season). I adored him. He was one of the most vibrant, vital, intelligent people I ever met. He used to hang out in the wardrobe room during the show sometimes.

At the time, I was getting back into writing. Monologues for actresses with whom I worked, who couldn’t find good monologues for auditions. Who landed the job every time they used something I wrote for them. I was also working on a short story, for a themed competition.

I wrote the first draft on butcher paper in between cues in the wardrobe room. I typed it up and worked on revisions between cues (there were long periods where I didn’t have any quick changes with my actors). I hid the pages in the room, but Arthur found them one evening when I was on the deck doing quick changes.

I was mortified when I returned to the room and found him reading the pages. He was Arthur Miller! I was, well, me.

He looked up and said, “This is good. What are you doing working backstage?”

“I like it. Plus, you know, I like to do things like eat. I have to pay the rent.”

“You need to write full time. You’ll never be the writer you can be, find your full potential, until you rely on it to pay the bills.”

David Mamet told me something very similar when we worked together.

Arthur gave me some suggestions on the text. He never treated me like “less than” because he was Arthur Miller and I was a wardrobe girl scribbling in a corner. He always treated me like a colleague. We kept in touch until his death, and he always pushed me to do better, be more — and only write.

It was quite a few years before I had the courage to only write — and it was AFTER I’d accomplished my dream of working on Broadway.

The monologues I wrote expanded to plays, the plays that would take me to fringe festivals in both Edinburgh and Australia. I found my work got a much stronger reception in Europe than in the US. It wasn’t angsty enough for the American audiences at the time; there was too much sharp humor.

I landed at the Public Theatre and worked with one of my idols, Hal Prince. Another person at the top of his craft who liked and respected everyone with whom he worked. The assistant designers at the Public were working on Broadway and took me with them when the show at the Public closed.

I found myself learning how to be a swing dresser on Broadway, on the production of MISS SAIGON, and in the union. Each series of cues a dresser performs during the course of the show is called a “track.” If you read my novel PLAYING THE ANGLES, set backstage on a Broadway show, my protagonist Morag is a Broadway dresser.

MISS SAIGON had 13 tracks. I learned them in 26 performances. You follow the dresser once to learn it; the dresser follows you as you do it. Within three months, after swinging every track on the show multiple times, the lead actresses who played Kim requested me when their regular dresser took another job. I stayed with the show for five years, until it closed.

It was an amazing, creative group. We wrote plays, songs, other performances, and all went to each others’ shows. Which took place at midnight, in various venues around the city. We put on our own shows, and hung out with the cast & crew of other shows like SNL at KGB. We did The Easter Bonnet Competition and Gypsy of the Year and Broadway Bares to raise money for AIDs and breast cancer. I worked the Tony Awards once and attended it twice over my years on Broadway.

I think I had four shows I wrote produced during that time, in small venues. Dozens of monologues and short pieces. A few short stories published. MISS SAIGON closed and I worked on other shows at other theatres: RENT, GYPSY (the Bernadette Peters version), FOLLIES, 42ND ST, SIX DANCE LESSONS IN SIX WEEKS (with Mark Hamill, who became one of my favorite people ever), URINETOWN, and then as a swing on the first 3 1/2 years of WICKED.

I loved it, but I knew I was aging out. Physically, it was getting tougher and tougher. Mentally, I was struggling to get the writing done and work full time on Broadway. They’re not kidding when they say, “The theatre is a jealous mistress.”

By this point, I was also day-playing on television shows shooting in New York. For the money. I could earn in one day on set when I earned in a week on Broadway. I liked it. I learned so, so much. But I didn’t love it the way I loved Broadway. I’m better suited to theatre production than television production. Which is a shame, from a financial standpoint.

I was also writing about sports for various publications. I covered horse racing and ice hockey. Thirteen years’ worth of Triple Crown races; traveled with a minor league hockey team for eight months as background for a book. Covered America’s Cup races and learned about sailing, although I can’t even swim.

By this point, the first Jain Lazarus Adventures were out, ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT, DIXIE DUST RUMORS, and a bunch of short stories and anthologies. I was writing for calendars and almanacs. I was doing marketing writing for companies. I was writing and teaching and working on novels and trying to build a writing career as the publishing world changed. I hit a point where I had to make a decision. I had to decide if I would stop writing or if I would give up Broadway.

I knew I couldn’t continue physically on Broadway much longer — heavy costumes, raked stages, blowing out my knees running up and down concrete steps carrying stacks of clothes.

I chose writing.

SPRING AWAKENING was my last show as a swing on Broadway. The last event I worked was a staged reading of ALL ABOUT EVE, which had a plethora of people I loved working with involved, AND I got to bow out by working with Jennifer Tilly, Keri Russell, Peter Gallagher, Annette Bening, Angela Lansbury, Zoe Caldwell, and more. It was a great way to leave the business. I’d heard so many stories about how wonderful Peter Gallagher is, and thought, “No one can be that great” — he IS that great, and even better. I’ve never laughed as much with anyone as I did with Jennifer Tilly, and I loved working with Keri Russell (we had five quick changes in a staged reading, which means walking around holding scripts).

I moved away from New York to write. There are challenges. I live in a place that is a prime example of how trickle-down economy does not work. I live in place that, if you’re a working artist who visits, they fall all over you, but if you chose to LIVE here, you’re considered a failure and should get a “real” job. Honey, this is a real job. Granted, most of the clients who pay me well are remote, but I’m working a real job. I’m writing material that helps businesses grow and spread their message. I’m writing books that I love. I’m writing plays and radio plays that invigorate people.

I have always made the choices to do what I love. To fight for what I want, to refuse to compromise and be forced into work I hate. I have made plenty of personal compromises along the way.

Every single one of them has been worth it.

Just because I love what I do does not mean I don’t deserve to be paid for it. Loving my work does not mean I don’t deserve to earn a living at it. I do. And nothing less is acceptable.

Those who don’t have the courage to follow their dreams often try to punish those of us who do.

They are not worth our time or our energy.

Do what you love. Follow your dreams. Make them your reality.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Thursday, May 6, 2010
Waning Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde
Cloudy and warm

I’ve gotten some really nice emails/comments about both yesterday’s Jenny Storm interview and the Anita Blake essay. Thank you! I learned a lot writing both, and hope I can apply that moving forward. Talk about work in two very different arenas, right? But that’s what makes writing such fun. I can switch between a rather innocent piece for middle grade readers and an examination of using sex as a character-building device.

I’m going over the first six chapters of POWER OF WORDS and sending them to Trusted Readers. Normally, I wouldn’t send first draft pages – I usually send out about third draft — but I need to know specifics about what does and doesn’t work in certain elements here in order to focus on the next bit. The next bit, the section dealing with rehearsals, has to be massively rewritten. A lot of that is because of changes I made in this section, dealing with the audition process.

Relationships in this industry tend to be transient, not because the people are shallow, but because, when you spend 18 hours a day for months working on a creative process, creating as a group, there’s a special bond and intensity that no one outside of that specific project shares or understands. The project ends, as it must, you scatter to other projects, and it starts again. Some people you never see again, and that’s okay; some you miss a lot, but lose touch with. Some strong friendships are formed, and you keep in touch regularly wherever you go. Some people you don’t really keep in touch with, but if you land on another project again or even run into each other in the street, the warmth is there instantly and you pick up the conversation right where you left off. It’s very different than working in any other industry. People truly do fall in love during a project — it just is often not a “forever” type of love portrayed in romance novels. That doesn’t make it any less real or less intense, but it’s a different kind of love than most people see as the traditional, settle down forever love. It takes a lot of life experience, self-knowledge, and self-esteem not to blur the line between the creative process and one’s life. And there are all kinds of strong emotional bonds created on a production that have nothing to do with affairs or romance. Some do, of course, but plenty don’t. You’re dependent on each other for your creative and emotional lives. And since each project is sooo different and each experience so different, only those on a particular project can ever really understand the experience. Even when it’s bad, there’s a bond. It’s much closer to the type of bond soldiers share in the field than people going to an office. The threat of physical death rarely exists on a production (unless the director and producers are totally irresponsible, hence the strong safety regulations enforced by unions), but the threat of emotional devastation is always there. Some directors feel they get better work out of actors if they are emotionally or verbally abusive. I think that’s a crock, myself, but that’s the way some people work. Or, you can pour your heart and soul into a project, but sometimes it still doesn’t work No one WANTS to make a bad film, but sometimes the elements just don’t come together, for a variety of reasons. That’s devastating, not just because it can make it harder to get hired again, but because you gave your all and it failed. Usually, it’s because the original vision was diluted by a bunch of executives who shouldn’t be making creative decisions, but are trying to justify their salaries. The more diluted the vision, the more of a mess the project. Or, if you cast because you want a name instead of getting someone who’s not only right for the role but enthusiastic, you can run into problems. You want someone low-key, with a strong work ethic, who treats people well and can retain a sense of humor in difficult situations. Theatre-trained people tend to fit that bill better, because it takes a lot of stamina, professionalism, and humor to do eight shows a week indefinitely. It’s one reason, when I have a say in the casting process of my own work, I am adamant that there’s a good theatre resume. Most big name actors who are known for their acting rather than their lives have solid theatre credentials, and come back to Broadway when they can (Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Hugh Jackman, etc.).

It’s an interesting challenge to try to present the complexity of relationships on a production. I did a bit of that in REAL, although the circumstances of the production and the primary relationship in that book were very different. There are some similarities — the creative team has enough clout to tell many an exec to go f–um, go away! 😉

I have to say something about Tuesday’s episode of LOST. Yes, it was sad and very well-acted, but really, how could anyone be surprised by this? Look at the way they’ve jerked around the audience for six years. Again, much as I like the scene work and the actors, I sit there and shake my head and say, “Of course they chose that.” The creators never regained my trust after they broke it several years ago. I think they created a wonderful phenomena, and the amount of creative control they were granted shows how good work can happen when you leave the creative team alone to fulfill their vision and keep executives from diluting it as mentioned above. I wish networks would learn from this, but instead, they try to copy the show, instead of developing other creative teams’ unique potentials. Yes, I’m watching this final season. And I have yet to be surprised. They moved around the order of a few things I expected, but nothing, so far, has surprised me. I appreciate the talent and the vision that goes into the piece, and I think it will remain as a wonderful example of creation, even when I don’t find it personally fulfilling overall. I’ve certainly learned a lot from it. I hope the people from the show don’t keep getting hired in the hopes of recreating it; it would be nice to let them fulfill new visions, and not compare everything they do to LOST. Once it’s done, let it be what it is and appreciate it as an entity unto itself, because that’s what it deserves. However I feel about certain elements of it, it’s always been a top quality production.

A bit of work on the urban fantasy this morning, then another pass at POWER OF WORDS so I can get those chapters out (along with a list of very specific questions). Some of the typos I’ve caught are screamingly funny and entirely change the context of the chapter they’re in. Then, it’s tackling the ANGEL HUNT revision. I think I’ve finally figured out how to wrestle what I need from chapters 12 & 13. I’m going to combine them, strip them, and then rebuild them. It’s a true “re-envisioning” of this section, not just fixing a few typos. This book has made such a huge transformation since its original life as a serial, and I’m so passionate about it. It’s the best, riskiest, most challenging thing I’ve ever written.

I also need to get back to the BEHIND THE MAN adaptation. So I’ve got a busy day.

We’re adjusted Elsa’s medication to wean her off the steroid, and she’s in that delicate transitional stage, where one minute she’s better and then she’s not.

Devon

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Waning Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde
Cloudy and warm

Up early, out the door by 5:15 for my run. It’s getting lighter and lighter earlier and earlier, and it’s interesting to watch the moon’s progress. Also, it’s interesting to see how many more people are up early on a Wednesday than a Monday. I don’t know why I find it interesting, but I do.

There’s an interview with me in my Jenny Storm persona, for DIXIE DUST RUMORS here, on Katie Hines’s blog. I hope you hop over and drop a comment. Thanks to Katie for including me in her blog.

I got some work done on the urban fantasy yesterday. I’m almost done with the scene with which I’m having trouble. I’m re-thinking the end of the first scene in BEHIND THE MAN. Because of production constraints, I had Max and Sally Sweet retreat to his office offstage and that what gets Ida out of her good-girl persona and start some actual detecting on her own, instead of being the “sweet office girl”. In the adaptation, I think I’m going to have Max’s office on stage, and what Ida overhears them do in the office serve as additional impetus. I think I could get into some funny and farcical elements.

I have a really difficult section to tackle on POWER OF WORDS — because of the changes I did in part one of the book, it completely changes this section. I have to expand it and develop a lot of different themes and weave in character arcs without losing sight of the ones I feel are the center of the book.

I spent far too much time fighting with 1and1 yesterday. I feel like they’re holding my webmail files hostage — I haven’t been able to download them through a file manager, and I can’t move hosts until I have my old mail, contracts, etc. It’s fat too much for me to be able to print them out. And, I’m discovering that a good many of my work-related emails aren’t getting through, and I’m not receiving a lot. I need the professional address for work. I can’t have some other non-site-related address. As it is, I’m having to send and receive a good portion of email by pulling it through mail2web, because most of the time I can’t get into the webmail, and, if I can get into it, I can’t actually get any work done in it. Plus, with their fucking “upgrade”, not only are my address books useless, but now I can’t even read some of the email that comes in. It’s so frustrating. I’m paying them and losing work — some of which can never be replaced.

In better news, I got an email from the vet this morning. There’s no tumor in Elsa’s nasal passages, just inflammation. One of the lab tests still isn’t back, but the other indicates more of a fungal infection than cancer. That’s a relief. It’s not definitive yet, but it gives us another place to work from. He doesn’t think she needs a CT scan (thank goodness). I’m weaning her off the steriod and have her on the supplement and, in a week, we’ll see how she is and see what other course of treatment to start her on to fight the inflammation that won’t trigger the rest of the infection — the antibiotics and steriod helped with the inflammation, but triggered the infection. It’s good news, but there’s still a long road ahead for the little kitty. She was doing great yesterday and has backslid a bit today, so I hope she steadies.

I have some sort of irritation on my little finger of my left hand. I’d originally hurt it during the Prague trip and didn’t think much about it, but it’s been bothering me on and off since. I took a good look at it yesterday, and something’s wrong. Of course, I can’t go to a doctor, because I don’t have insurance, and a basic out-of-pocket 5 minute consultation starts at $285 around here — that’s just for a doctor to open the door, and only at places where they’d actually agree to see someone without insurance. I’m not going to the emergency room unless I think the damn thing’s ready to explode or fall off or something.

I’m going to acupuncture today, so I’ll have her treat it and then do some homeopathic/herbal treatments and see where we go from there. But it makes typing difficult.

I’m reading an autobiography of a Very Famous Actor. I’ve never worked with the guy, but we’ve worked at some of the same places and with a lot of the same people over the years. I thought it would be interesting, and give me a good idea of the atmosphere of the era on Broadway just before I came up in the ranks. Because, of course, we always think the years just before us were so much better. In addition to the book being appallingly badly written, this guy spent so much time drinking and screwing around that it’s amazing he ever found the stage door on any given night, much less managed to get his lines out. Drunks just aren’t that interesting to anyone but themselves or fellow drunks. A bit of a disappointment, and he comes across as not a particularly nice person or loyal friend at all. Maybe that’s part of the point — confessional? Or that presenting himself as a total ass would sell more books? In any case, it’s certainly made me glad I’ve never worked with him! There’s some good atmospheric detail in a couple of the anecdotes that may be useful should I ever set something backstage during that era, but, overall, far too much I-love-my-drink-and-constant-sex and not enough approach to character or sense of fun in the overall process. Maybe part of the point is that he wasn’t having fun? I don’t know. It’s fun to read his opinion on some of the people I’ve worked with over the years, though, and anecdotes I’ve heard from them backstage told from a different point of view. Interesting, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who wasn’t doing specific research.

I need to get back to the page. I’ve got a truncated writing day today, because I’m heading off to acupuncture in the late morning, and, when I return, I’ll have to let it set.

Back to the page.

Devon

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Waxing Moon
Mars Retrograde
Sunny and cooler

Okay, I’ve rejoined the Land of the Living, pretty much.

Monday was just a rough day all the way around. A chronic condition was triggered, not just by stresses that piled up over the previous few weeks, but made worse due to the jackhammers outside the building where I stayed for hours on end. I’m hyper sensitive to sound, and there are certain repetitive machine sounds that trigger negative physical response. Jackhammers are one of them.

I also suffered an assault by the Doubt Demons on Monday. The whole, “Who do you think you are, calling yourself a writer?” and “If you were really all that, you would have moved already” and “what makes you think that production company would want YOU?” and on and on and on.

Well, I’ve seen the reels that this production company’s done. I respect their work. It’s high quality. I also think my writing could take them to another level, and that’s why I’m pitching to them. My experience in theatre and fiction is what will make their spots really shine.

Add to that someone’s trying to pick a public fight with me over a critical literary essay I was paid to write, and whose contents I stand by. When the person discussed in the essay thought I was a man, that person fell all over the self praising it. Once the person found out I was a woman, the person started criticizing me publicly and trying to draw me into a fight. Uh, no, thanks. I’m going to step back and let your metaphorical cow patties hit the ground, not me, and I’m not playing in your dirty sandbox. Not interested. I don’t care that you’re famous and I’m not. I was paid to state my opinion and back it up. That’s what I did, and I did it in a much more respectful way than a lot of other people have responded to the work. Sorry if I don’t worship the person or the person’s work, but I don’t. I’m not going to pretend I do and fawn. Hell, I don’t fawn when I LOVE somebody’s work.

The weather was disgusting on Monday, but it actually stopped raining and was sunny when I left the site to head back to the station. It was so windy that I had to stop and take refuge in a few doorways along the way because I couldn’t walk against the wind, and I’m hardly a delicate little flower.

I felt like crap when I got to the station, and I was early, so I sat in the waiting area of 30th St. Station, hoping I wouldn’t pass out. One of the lovely K-9s took it upon himself to keep me company and lick my face — he knew I wasn’t feeling well.

I went out to the MegaBus stop and — no bus. Then, we had a cloudburst and dashed to the nearest building to get out of the rain — where the security guard said we couldn’t “loiter.” The bus was 28 minutes late, and the driver comes out, shuts the door and walks past us without saying a word. So we’re standing in the pouring rain in front of an idling bus for another 15 minutes. He doesn’t put our luggage in the luggage hold, just opens the door. So I put in my suitcase my own damn self, while other people just stood on the curb looking confused.

I had a good seat, but the temperature was so cold all the way back that my hands literally turned blue. The driver ignored all requests to turn off the air conditioning. The water on the outside of my coat turned to frost by the time we got to New York.

Not to mention that we were stuck on the Jersey side of the Lincoln Tunnel for over an hour. Better in front of the tunnel than in it, but still — an extra hour in a freezing bus while I’m soaked to the skin is NOT my idea of a good time.

We finally get to the drop off point, and the SOB opens the door to the luggage compartment and steps back, chattering on his cell phone. I climb in to the luggage compartment (as everyone else stands there with their thumbs up their asses), retrieve my suitcase, and start to walk away. The SOB driver stops me and says, “Aren’t you going to tip me?”

I looked at him and said, “Do YOU see any pigs flying?” and kept walking.

Oh, yeah, the company is going to hear from me.

I grabbed a cab to Grand Central, managed to make the 7:16 train (I’d left the site in Philly at 2). The train wasn’t very full — again, unusual for rush hour. One guy on the train looked at me and said, “Did you fall into the Hudson River?”

“That just did so much for the self-esteem,” I said.

Gotta give him credit, though. He forced the conductor to get one of the first aid blankets to wrap me up in (He said if the conductor didn’t get it, he’d just yank the first aid box out and get it himself), and offered me his flask. I didn’t even fuss that it was blended whiskey instead of single malt.

Got home well after 8 PM, took a hot bath, had something to eat, felt like someone took up residence in my chest and was trying to hack his way out with a machete. Prepared some disgusting herbal concoctions, but, other than feeling like I swallowed a rasp and it’s stuck in my throat, I feel much better this morning. Lungs are a little sore, but I’m dosing myself anda it’s getting better. Fever’s gone.

I’m going to start working with someone on sound therapy. Since I’m so strongly affected by certain sounds negatively (to the point where they can trigger things like a heart attack), we’re going to find positive choices to counteract them.

Because it’s not like we lived in a civilized country that actually provides health care options.

For the most part today, I’m staying in bed and writing.

eTreasures was bought by a new person, so I’ve got a new boss as far as DIXIE DUST RUMORS. I’m excited by her ideas, and signed on for some promotions and offered some ideas of my own. I’ll refresh the link once the new site is up and the book is available again.

Okay, gotta get back to bed. I think I’m done with any sort of exertion for the day.

Devon

Published in: on January 26, 2010 at 9:40 am  Comments (9)  
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Saturday, September 5, 2009

IMG_0035
A view from Eastham, MA

Saturday, September 5, 2009
Waxing Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Sunny and warm

Nine days until Prague!

Yesterday was busy — out of the house early, up to Stamford. Visited the currency exchange — got the first four days’ worth of my budget in Czech krona. So there’s a start! Also got some more British pounds sterling, since we’ve got that 4-hour layover in Heathrow.

Went to the bookstore and got my fourth plane book: Italo Calvino’s IF ON A WINTER’S NIGHT A TRAVELER. I can’t wait to read it. But I have to wait until I head for the airport! 😉

I bought some books for my mom. She loves the writing of Mary Balogh, so we’re getting all of her books.

I seem to have fixed the power cord problem with extensive jiggling.

Visited the Staples in Stamford — no luck on the memory card for the camera. I don’t want 16GB — I want 2 GB, and not the tiny card, but the one that actually fits my camera. The card will only hold the photos from this trip. I keep the memory cards — in addition to backing up the photos on them, I also work directly from the cards. I don’t erase them and re-use them. That is my choice. I shouldn’t have to change the way I work because a store doesn’t feel like carrying what I need.

Drove to Larchmont, to that Staples. It’s on the site of what used to be a VW dealership when we first moved to NY in 1968. It’s now a fantastic Staples — not only is it huge, but the employees are helpful and friendly. They had what I needed, they helped me double check the reference just to be sure, and they had most of the other stuff I needed, too (although not the pen refills I need). Most importantly, they were pleasant and helpful. So they will now be my first choice of Staples around here, instead of going up the street to the one that never has anything or all the way to CT.

There was also a fantastic organic market in the same plaza, so I stocked up on a few things!

I started reading the novel PRAGUE and put it aside. It takes place in Budapest, and while that is part of the novel’s irony, I am not in the mood for irony right now; I wanted to read something set in Prague. I found myself muttering about it on every page and not doing the novel justice, so I’ve put it aside until I get back.

I tried to fact check something for an article that needs to go out with English Heritage, who runs the property. And got an email telling me it takes 21 days to check this fact. WTF? They can’t look it up or forward the email to the site? Puh-leeze. I’m going to see if I can get better information via the Northumbrian Tourist Authority. They’ve been very helpful in the past. And the National Trust usually gets back to me within 48 hours. Update: Lindisfarne Priory got in touch with me directly to answer my question — exactly what I needed. Article will go out this morning. Phew!

The CD version of DIXIE DUST RUMORS arrived, so now I’ve got something for people to have in hand when I give readings.

I’ve got to work on the guest blog posts this weekend, write my Sole Struck article, and get out at least one more essay.

I had a great morning’s work on AMENDS today. I wrote the scene with the Alzheimer’s sufferer. It’s true to life and there’s sadness there, but it doesn’t divert the themes and intent of the book.

I hope to get more work done on it today.

I received my first royalty check from PERFECTLY PLUM!, the anthology in which my essay appeared a couple of years ago. It’s earned out its advance, and we got some royalties! Love that.

If you’re a fan of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum and haven’t yet checked it out, I hope you do.

My play, THE MATILDA MURDERS opens the day before I leave for Prague, so I won’t get to see it until I get back.

NYFA’s funding cycle covers both fiction and playwriting this year, so I will probably apply for both. I’m going through my work to decide what to submit for that, and what to submit for the residency in Maine next summer. I’m also working on another proposal for an overseas residency. I don’t think I’ve got the serious lit/academic credentials they usually go for, but I’m trying to shape the proposal to make that a strength.

A friend of mine suggested that if I’m serious about ex-patriating (which, if the US doesn’t stop its ridiculous, destructive downslide to the hard right that I hoped would cease with last year’s election but hasn’t, I certainly am), I should consider Switzerland. Honestly, I’d never even thought of Switzerland. I haven’t thought about Switzerland since I visited in the early 1970’s, except when I re-read Noel Coward’s autobiography.

The Democratic Party Platform: All have the right to equality and social justi–ooh, shiny!

The GOP Party Platform: ME, ME, ME! Die, suckers!

We need more legitimate parties than just those two. For all the chaos in the UK, at least they have a variety of valid viewpoints.

Which is why I am not affiliated with either of the above parties.

The only thing I remember about Switzerland is mountains, mountain passes, and riding a paddle boat on Lake Zurich and the paddles broke. So we waved and waved, and people waved back, thinking we were being friendly, until some Scandinavians with rope in their rucksacks figured it out, tossed us a line and towed us back in. I remember the floral clock in Geneva and the bears in Berne. And that’s about it.

I hope to get a lot of work done on AMENDS this weekend, and also learn at least a few more phrases of Czech. I’m tired of preparing — I just want to get on the plane and have the experience.

Of course, the fact that Mercury is in retrograde for the entire trip should add some, uh, interesting twists!

Devon

AMENDS: First draft: 20,937 words out of est. 75,000
27.9%
IMG_0314
Another view of Eastham, MA

Monday, July 20, 2009

IMG_0353

Monday, July 20, 2009
Dark Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Sunny and pleasant

No wonder I was so tired yesterday — the day before the dark moon is my lowest energy day of the month.

Tried to catch up on some of the stuff that piled up while I was away, tried to catch up on blogs, etc., etc. Played with the cats, who wanted a lot of attention.

Did some percolating on some projects. I’m prepared for a big bout of unpleasantness with one publisher in particular and have made plans for alternatives. This is where one wants to practice detachment — it would be very easy to spiral into a personal fracas, and I refuse so to do. This is business. I’ve cut a lot of slack over the past few months, and I am at the boundary line.

On a happier note, the Llewellyn annuals for 2010 are out. Under the Cerridwen Iris Shea moniker, I am in both the Witches’ Calendar and the Datebook. It’s my last appearance there for awhile — I wrote for them for 15 years steadily, and I’m not in any of the 2011 annuals. I need a break! I need to find something new to say! 😉

I’ve been around there longer than most of the editors at this point!

Regarding PETA and the fly thing, if the policy truly is “harm to NO living creature” that’s fine, but when you make a fly MORE important than the life of a puppy or a kitten, I have a problem with it. If you choose to make them equal, that’s your choice. But my sense was that they went after the President regarding the fly because they knew they would garner attention and ignored both the skinned puppy and the cooked kitten because the perpetrators weren’t famous. To me, that’s hypocrisy.

I went up to CT yesterday afternoon, to a site where I’ve found some interesting stuff over the years. They used to clean out estates and sell the contents; now, they actually build reproduction furniture. Some of it’s great, but most of it is not as interesting as the found stuff. There was one lamp made out of a teapot that was very unique, but more than I wanted to spend for a lamp, and an old carousel horse that was WAAAAY out of my price range, but that was it. Disappointing.

I packed a bunch of boxes for storage and will take them over later today, then pack up some more. I want to get that sorted this week and do the furniture swap next week.

Decent but not brilliant writing session this morning. I need to get back into the groove of it all. I decided that I’m going to do a writing retreat this weekend, and possibly next weekend. Stay away from outside interference and just write.

Some client projects came in while I was gone, so I’ll get going on them this afternoon, and maybe even get some more stuff pulled off the PC. I really want to get that behemoth out of here and get my desk back. I also want to get to work on the prospect list I created while I was away, and get that mailing going, and I need to do another round of DIXIE DUST PR.

Off to work.

Devon

Published in: on July 20, 2009 at 7:48 am  Comments (6)  
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Friday, June 26, 2009

I am on the road, but in the meantime, hop on over to Lara’s blog, Ramblings of a Suburban Soccer Mom where she hosts a stop on the DIXIE DUST RUMORS blog tour!

Published in: on June 26, 2009 at 8:03 am  Comments (1)  
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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Waning Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Dreary and cool

Stop by Diane Parkin’s blog today and read her interview with me (“The Evolution of Dixie and Jenny”), and visit Hywela Lyn’s blog for another stop on the DIXIE DUST tour!

Thanks to both of you for being such lovely and gracious hosts.

There was so much hail in New Jersey yesterday that people were out (in their shorts) with snow shovels!

For some reason, I couldn’t shake off my fatigue and lethargy yesterday. I scanned the job boards. There was some good material, but it was site work, and too far away for me. Still, it was nice to see a better quality of work up there.

Worked on the DIXIE DUST postcard mailing. The first list is almost complete and ready. As soon as I’ve got the second wave compiled, that should go out in a week or so.

Designed the postcard for Fearless Ink. It’s a first wave post-card, going out as part of a mass-mailing, different than the targeted list with the brochure. I also have to design a second card, that’s the follow-up card to the targeted mailing. I need to find scored, colored postcard stock. Any ideas? All the colored stock I’ve found is unscored. Me with a paper cutter and three curious cats? Now that’s an accident waiting to happen. I’d rather used scored cards.

Struggled with the write up for Confidential Job #1. I know what I want to say, but I’m not saying it well.

Worked on client projects, but it was slower going than I expected, and not because of the projects, but because my brain felt unfocused, so eventually I put it aside. My clients deserve SHARP focus.

I’m getting caught up on my filing and excavating my desk. Once the PC is done, I’ll have a desk back so I can work — right now, I use the Macbok on the part of the desk that used to house the PC keyboard, while the old monitor dominates the desk. I think I’ll put the monitor up on Freecycle eventually, with a bunch of other things, remove the hard drive, and then take the tower to the next county electronics recycling day. My old PC in storage also needs to go. Now that I know HOW to remove a hard drive, it’s not such a big deal. Plus, since I won’t need the damned thing once the transfer is complete, I don’t have to stress about screwing something up.

Pulled off a bunch more stuff from the PC, converted short stories from floppies, etc. The PC crashed every 6 or 7 minutes and took approx. 18-22 minutes to reboot. I HATE it. I can’t wait to be done with Dell for good. What a piece of crap. Not to mention that the older Microsoft programs can’t even be read by the newer ones. If I thought about all the lost time and productivity over the past years, because I never bit the bullet and got a Mac before this year, I could just kill myself. It’s amazing I ever managed to get ANYTHING out to a publisher or an editor.

By 3:30, I was feeling pretty lousy, and cancelled out of that evening’s workshop. It’ll come around again in a month or so, so I haven’t lost my opportunity forever. I had a quiet night, eating lots of vegetables, drinking juice, going to bed early. I feel a little better this morning, but still not all that sharp. I figure if I don’t push too hard for the next few days, I should get my feet back under me and be fine. Everything really starts to accelerate next week, so slowing down a bit this week and building up my reserves makes sense.

I have a big grocery shopping trip today (possibly to Trader Joe’s as well as to the usual store. I’m trying some great recipes this week, and I’m very excited.

I plan to clear some client projects off my desk this afternoon, and then spend a few days this week focused primarily on my fiction.

I worry that I’m spending so much time on re-organization and admin and workshops and all that, but, if I do it now, and reconfigure my workspace and my files and everything, it will streamline the rest of the year and help me be more productive.

Oh, and Chase Bank gets yet another Middle Finger Award. Yeah, like that’s a surprise.

Anyway, I better get going. I want to get a lot done early in the day and then rest. in spite of feeling under the weather last night, I pushed through my workout, and, once I was done, I was glad I did. During it, I wasn’t so sure, but it was the right choice.

Before I go to DC next week, I’m going to upload all the photos on the camera so far to the computer, just in case something goes wonky through one of the security areas. i fI lose the photos from the day, I’ll be sad, but I’ll deal. But if I lose everything I’ve put on the card so far, I’ll be very upset. So I’ll back it up first.

I’m going to Target in the next week or so. I need more bins, and, as I finish with the boxes of floppies, I’ll stash them in a bin and take them to storage. More room for the stuff I actually use! There’s going to be a lot of cleaning out of things over the next few months!

The fix Canon sent me for the little printer worked, and I printed out what I have of CRAVE THE HUNT, the Billy Root piece, so I can get back to it this week. I hadn’t realized how much I’d written. This will be the biggest book of the series so far. It’s kind of a turning point for several characters, so it makes sense.

Back to the page.

Devon

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Wednesday, June 10. 2009
Waning Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Rainy and cool

I wrote this last night and scheduled it to post because I signed up to take a Mac workshop in Stamford, CT that starts at 8:30 in the morning. Am I nuts? Rhetorical question. But it’s a Mobile Me workshop, and i just look at the program and go WTF? so It’s necessary. And I didn’t see it scheduled in White Plains. So I’m driving to another damned state to take it.

I finally finished the Belmont article and sent it off. I had facts to check and vet research to perform before I could send it off with a clear conscience.

Spent way too much time on Twitter, caught up on email, worked on client projects, worked on interview stuff, and, most importantly, printed postcards. The HEX BREAKER postcard didn’t print the way I wanted, so I had to adjust the design. I also had to figure out how to feed the paper. Then, the Canon Pixma 860,which is supposed to be this kickass printer, went rogue — it stared printing documents that weren’t in the cue — ON the postcard paper,wasting both paper and ink. Then it started eating the paper. Then it lied to me about the ink levels. I was a fit to be tied and sent QUITE the email to Canon. They’ve always been awesome, and the print quality on this printer is outstanding, but it doesn’t do as it’s told.

It can bite me, okay? Well, it sort of did

We finally reached a truce.

The postcards, both for HEX BREAKER and DIXIE DUST look fantastic. But I have to go buy more ink, like, today.

But I can send the HEX BREAKER postcards out and stat the DIXIE DUST mailing.

That was basically my day.

Hopefully, I had a good morning on the Matty book, even though I had to get up earlier than the cats to get it done before I left for class.

When I get back, I have to go the post office, the bank, and get back to the page. I have to finish a client project, too. I have no idea when I’ll get online today.

Enjoy your day. And hop over to A Biblio Paradise to read the review of Kim Smith’s mystery, AVENGING ANGEL.

Devon

Friday, June 5, 2009

Friday, June 5, 2009
Waxing Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Rainy and warm

Yesterday was mostly about design. I did some promo work, but the bulk of the day was spent applying what I learned in the iPhoto and iPages workshops this week. I did a lot of work on the new Fearless Ink brochure. I need to hone the text, but it’s designed and the graphics are there. I managed to pull the old graphics I used in Windows, scan them, have the Canon printer send them to my email as a jpg and download them into iPhoto, so I can use them in design. I’m going to see if I can somehow do that with the moonlight-over-water graphic I use for my main business card (which is in a very old PrintMaster Gold program) and do the same thing. I COULD get BootCamp and run Windows simultaneously, but I really want to get away from Windows, except for using Word For Mac when I have to. The Mac system integrates much better and is more useful for my needs.

I also worked on the Jain Lazarus brochure — again, I need to hone text. I know I wrote text for all these — I bet it’s still on the old PC.

I started redesigning the ebooks. I’m trying two different methods, and whichever one is more efficient will be my first choice moving forward. I can design fun and eye-catching covers, create good-looking page designs, and set up the booklets so that they look better and read better. I’m going to redesign all of them, and then upload them at once.

And then, all of a sudden, it was dinnertime! I was tired, but not frustrated — even though there are some things that worked in the workshops that I couldn’t duplicate. Most of it has to do with transferring material that was in Word, rather than creating it in iPages. Although Word for Mac runs better than Word ran on the PC, it’s still Microsoft, and still doesn’t really want to integrate with anything else and has to be coaxed. I get there eventually, and, once I’m creating everything in Pages, it will be better. I figure it will take about six months to really transition things and feel comfortable moving between the older work in Word and the new material.

I can save into word and convert into PDF without using programs like the nightmare Nitro PDF — which didn’t even let me convert photos and covers.

For me, this system works much better.

Now, my big question for the DIXIE DUST RUMORS postcards is — glossy or matte? What do YOU think? Leave a comment below!

Confidential Job #1 has honored me enormously. The next assignment deals with the work of an iconic figure who was very central during the time I grew up. And they chose ME. Because of the confidentiality agreement, I can’t go into details, but I’m thrilled.

Got a little reading done, but not enough. I’ve got several books stacked up to read over the weekend and into next week, so I can send out interview questions for A BIBLIO PARADISE. And Colin’s book comes out on Sunday — I can’t wait to buy it, read him, and host him on his blog tour!

Lots of admin work to do today, along with some writing and some redesign work. I need to get follow-up done on the March pitches. I’ve got at least one pitch to get out, and start a proposal for a residency I’d like to land.

I’d like to get more writing done over the next few days, but I’ve also got to get out the DIXIE DUST mailing and another round of press materials. All good, just very busy.

Great morning’s work on the Matty book. The serial suffered the past week, and I need to get back to it.

The weekend will be busy — The Belmont Stakes are tomorrow, and I’m going to a Tony Awards party on Sunday.

My picks for Belmont will be up on RACING INK here later this morning.

Back to the page.

Devon

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Thursday, May 28, 2009
Waxing Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde
Rainy and cold

Hop on over to Lori Widmer’s Words on the Page. She’s hosting the latest stop on the Jenny Storm DIXIE DUST RUMORS blog tour. I talk about the process of writing this book, and how it was a little different than my usual process — but not because it’s middle grade instead of adult! The comments are open for questions all day, and I’ll be hopping on an off, so I hope you stop by.

Got another project out the door yesterday, and onto the submission go-round. Gotta get them out there or they can’t get contracted, right? Spent time marketing DIXIE DUST (hey, at $3.95, it’s a good buy, if I say so myself).

Converted some more floppies. Only spent about an hour and a half on it, but found some interesting stuff. I think I actually have a completed novel that I finished and forgot. I may have to take a look at it and see if there’s anything worth salvaging (and get another project out the door in the next few weeks). I’ve got another project that needs another draft, and then I’m re-thinking how I want to market it. If I could get two more novels out the door this summer, while still juggling those in process, I’ll be content. Sooner or later, the short stories need some attention. I’m writing them and they’re stacked up, but I’m not doing anything with them, which doesn’t serve any of us.

Of course, some of the short stories are in limbo because they really need to be novels or novellas. So, this summer is about a lot of literary housekeeping on my part. Which is a good thing. And some need to be “retired” and not go out. They were exercises, not pieces of marketable writing.

UHaul pulled another crap move. I’m livid, and at the end of my rope with them.

Finished reading my friend’s manuscript, and sent her the notes. I enjoyed it a lot — can’t wait until it finds its perfect home!

Good morning’s work on the Matty book this morning, and a GREAT session on the serial.

Lots to do today. Back to the page.

Devon

Serial: 4,052 words out of 50,000

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Waxing Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde
Rainy and COLD!

First of all, Happy Birthday to my friend Michelle Miles! Woo-hoo!

Second, hop over onto her blog, Ye Olde Inkwell, and see the interview with Jenny Storm there!

Those darn cats! I woke up this morning, shivering, it was in the 40’s (Farenheit) here. The feather bed was pulled off and wadded into a ball at the bottom of the bed, with three little, furry faces peering out of it. Stinkers!

Yesterday was just a Murphy’s Law day. Went to the bank, went to the post office, did a big shop at Costco. They don’t carry Izze water anymore, which makes me sad, but I got to enjoy two cases of it after not having it for several years, so that’s the way it goes.

The afternoon was spent on client projects, following up on previous pitches, and sending out some new ones. The scam artists are writing better ads to draw you in, and then doing bait and switch. I usually just shrug it off, but one response in particular so enraged me yesterday that I engaged in debate. But, to counter-balance that, one of the follow-ups got an enthusiastic response and the possibility of future legitimate– and legitimately paying work – I’ll keep in touch with that one!

Had to go on the old PC to get on IE in order to invoice Confidential Job #1 — their invoicing system ONLY works on IE, which is a pain, and means once the PC is removed from the house, I have to drive to a library every time I want to invoice this job. Urgh. It took 65 minutes to do something that should have taken 3. Thank goodness I no longer have to rely on that computer.

Read a nice big chunk of my friend’s manuscript last night — finally. I’m behind. And I’m really enjoying it.

Good morning’s work on the Matty book and good morning’s work on the new serial. I’m hoping for a productive day. I have a lot of correspondence to write, I need to get some stuff over to an eBay service that will list/ship/deal with it for me, and got to get back to work pulling stuff off the PC. More client work this afternoon, and the back to my friend’s manuscript. I also have a manuscript of my own to get out the door today.

Better get back to work.

Devon

1st draft new serial: 3,087 words out of 50,000

Published in: on May 27, 2009 at 8:03 am  Comments (5)  
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Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday, May 22, 2009
Waning Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde
Sunny and warm

I hope you’re feeling active today, because I’ve got some links for you to visit.

First, Colin Galbraith’s hosting my very first stop on the DIXIE DUST RUMORS tour (as Jenny Storm) on Freedom From the Mundane. I hope you stop by!

My guest blog “Moving Out of Your Writing Comfort Zone” was posted on May 13, but I didn’t know about it; if you get a chance, please stop by here and drop a comment.

Honestly, I don’t remember what I did yesterday. I remember that I was on the computer a lot, doing a lot of business/admin/PR stuff and the day went by really, really fast. I packed for the weekend gig — I’m looking forward to it. I managed to get a bunch of stuff off to the post office, and hope to get another stack out either later today or tomorrow morning, on my way to the gig. I completed a bunch of interview questions for various blog tour things, and talked to a couple of people about booking additional stops. I got some work done on the assignment for Confidential Job #1, but it’s not finished. It’s due tomorrow, which kind of doesn’t make any sense due to the long holiday weekend, so I’ll try to get it off at some point tonight. Got some client work done, too, and any client work that comes in today won’t be dealt with until Tuesday. The “out of office” notation will go up around noon, although I’ll probably Twitter into the afternoon.

Last night, I watched LIVE FROM LINCOLN CENTER’S presentation of the New York City Ballet, Peter Martins-choreographed ROMEO AND JULIET, on which Costume Imp was working. It was gorgeous — dancing, sets, costumes, lighting, everything. Truly beautiful. I’m not a big fan of the play — there’s too much miscommunication and too many people acting like idiots for my taste — but the ballet was gorgeous. The dancers in the roles of Romeo, Juliet, and Mercutio were especially wonderful.

I got an idea tickling at the back of my brain with Tybalt, Mercutio. Hostpur, and Laertes, but it’s too early to see where that will go.

I had a fantastic morning on the Matty book and didn’t want to stop. May go back to it this afternoon.

Got to wrap things up before I leave for the weekend gig tomorrow morning. I should have internet access, but one never knows.

I should be a guest on The Book Blues in the near future — will let you know.

Devon