Fri. June 23, 2017: Spinning The Freelance Plates and the Threads of Inspiration

Friday, June 23, 2017
Waning Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Cloudy and muggy

Got a section of meadow mowed yesterday morning. It’s starting to look like actual progress. It looks like it will rain any minute this morning. I should use that as a reason to rush out there and mow, like my neighbors are; instead, I’m dragging my feet, hoping it will rain and I can’t.

I was in a lousy mood for a good part of yesterday. I tried to tease myself out of it with the “CrankyPants Song”, but it didn’t work. That’s a song I made up when I worked backstage. When a colleague or I was overtired and grumpy, I’d sing it to make fun of the grumpster (or myself), and we’d all laugh and get over ourselves. But it didn’t work yesterday.

Turned in the latest set of revisions to the new-to-me editor. Let’s hope he’s happy with this set. Also called him out on the contradictions. I hate working in their automated system that won’t let me do what supposedly needs to be done. At this point, it’s a toss-up about whether I’ll be fired or whether I’ll walk. I wonder if this is the norm, and that’s how they get out of paying writers?

Working on a pitch for a publication I hope to finish and send out tomorrow. I’ve written for them several times; it would be great to do so again. I’ve gotten decent pay and some solid clips from them in the past.

Pitched for another gig that sounded like fun; we’ll see if my samples are what they’re looking for. Again, money might be an issue. They pay “per word”, but haven’t said how much per word, or talked about volume and turn-around time. Heard back from them this morning — as I suspected, the per word rate is so low, I couldn’t even fill the gas tank with an assignment. For something that requires A LOT of technical craft, is for-hire with no royalties, um, no. I will send them a refusal today.

Press releases went out for “Personal Revolution”. I finally wrestled the website so that I could add the “Personal Revolution” information into the Delectable Digital Delights, the Media Room, and the Bazaar pages of the Devon Ellington site. No thanks to the webhost, but in spite of them. That webhost is useless. Not only are they unreliable, their customer service is non-existent. I’m starting to think most hosts are. But, by poking around and swearing a lot, I managed to figure out workarounds that got up the information I needed to add. I really need to take some classes in website coding and design. But it’s the usual dilemma — when the time exists, the money doesn’t. When the money’s there, it’s there because there’s a heavy workload in, and the time doesn’t exist. And anything web-related has to be something I can handle, update, tweak, and rearrange myself, not hire in a webmaster. The amount of attention my different sites need would mean I need someone weekly, and the cost (because the webmaster DESERVES to be paid for all this, and deserves a good rate) is out of my range right now.

The press releases also have the information for upcoming projects, which means I have to get my ass in gear and meet deadlines.

I have a good idea about the next Cornelia True/Roman Gray story. I had to have the title for the press release, and came up with “Miss Winston Apologizes”. And then I figured out who Miss Winston was and why she apologized, and there was the premise for the next piece. It’s still set in Cornelia’s time period. I decided I’m going to set three stories there, then have her go with Roman when he next time travels, and they can have adventures elsewhere (that all tie in to the main arc). Now, I need to write the opening, so I can pop it in with “Ramsey Chase” and get going on the proofread. The July 10 release date will be here before I know it.

I’ve also got the opening of “Labor Intensive”, the next Twinkle Tavern mystery, set around Labor Day (which is set to release just before Labor Day weekend, so I better get on with it).

With Playing the Angles hoping to release in October, we really need to find the right cover image. And I really need to do a final proof on it, and settle on the name for the series (even though each book will have a different pair of protagonists).

Think there’s enough to do? Along with keeping up a constant stream of pitches and freelance pieces so I can keep a roof over my head.

A royalty check from the Topic Workbooks and “Plot Bunnies” cheered me up. I certainly can’t retire on it, or even pay next month’s bills, but it helps tide me over a bit, and just getting the royalties makes me feel like I’m moving in the right direction.

The last research book I need for the Lavinia Fontana play arrived, thank goodness, because I have to start writing it at the beginning of July.

Got a rejection on an article pitch for a new-to-me market. I’m going to re-slant it to send elsewhere, and then submit something new to this market. I’m determined to crack it. Some of the content puzzled me; then I got an apology from the editor, saying the email had gone off before he was done, and he hoped I’d pitch again.  I told him no worries, I had every intention of so doing, but I’d let him rest over the weekend!  😉

Heard back from another place I pitched. They loved my samples. They want to know how good my French and/or Spanish are. Um, what? Why wasn’t that in the ad? I read French reasonably well (I read Moliere in French, because it’s funnier than any English translation I’ve yet found), and I can read newspaper and magazine articles and basically figure them out. I can get by in French, and I’ve got a little German. But I’m not fluent. So that might knock me out completely, which would be a shame. I’d love to get my French back up to speed, but I doubt they want me learning on the job.

I’m playing with yet another new idea, this one with a pair of older protagonists. I think it could be interesting. I’m trying to decide if I want to set it in Cornwall or in Ayrshire. I know both, but I know Ayrshire better, and, as I’m working on the outline, it seems to naturally gravitate to Ayrshire. I’ve set several things in Ayrshire, stretching it to add additional towns and do mix-and-match with real places. I’ve even added additional Scottish National Trust properties when Culzean Castle (where I’ve rented an apartment on more than one occasion, and which I know VERY well) didn’t quite fit the plot. In this particular piece, I’m adding a street off the main road to Culzean (halfway between the Castle and Little K’s Kitchen, where I used to get my newspaper and the racing form every morning), and that’s where my protags have rented a house.

I also figured out what I need to shift in another piece I’ve been noodling with, to get the opening different from yet another piece, whose opening I like, but was too similar to this one. The settings are similar — one at an artists’ colony, one at a meditation retreat. But the characters and situations and what I want to explore are very different. Interestingly enough, though, the protagonists for both pieces share some of the same titles on their bookshelves! Such as the Complete Works Of Shakespeare and Louisa May Alcott’s diaries.

Speaking of Louisa, a tweet from the lovely folks at Orchard House got me re-reading her. They were talking about Rose in Bloom, so I ordered that and Eight Cousins (which happens before RiB) from the library and read them this past week. From a critical, feminist perspective, there are plenty of problems. Yet it was still, in some ways, ahead of its time (although highly romanticized). It got me thinking of Fruitlands, which is where I always imagine those two books set, rather than Concord. In fact, I had an exchange with another Orchard House follower about that, when she was puzzled about “rolling hills” she didn’t remember around Concord, and now she’s going to visit Fruitlands!

It got me thinking that I would like to set something in a family compound in that area (Harvard, MA, which is different than where Harvard U. is in Boston). Somehow, I came up with a set of sisters (inspired by the great aunts in Maine), and their patriarch/matriarch based in the compound, but set in the early 1900s, and somehow, from there, I leapt to the opening taking place in San Francisco in 1904, pre-Earthquake, but just at the end of the “Barbary Plague” where so many of the Chinese immigrants died in SF from bubonic plague from 1900-1904, and that led to a stack of research books about that time period, so who knows how the piece will end up? Right now, I see it starting in SF, moving by train eastwards, with a stop in Chicago, but I have to figure out why, beyond simply changing trains.

1904 Newspaper archives, here I come. I think I can read some at local libraries, and probably access some via Boston Public Library’s digital files (I have an e-card from them); when in doubt, I can always contact my stalwart NYPL and Library of Congress.

But it’s amazing how re-reading a childhood book can set off a new train of thought.

I’ve just received Under the Lilacs and An Old-Fashioned Girl from the library to re-read. I remember reading both at my grandmother’s house in Foxboro, under an actual lilac hedge, when I was little.

Who knows what they will inspire?

This weekend, I have to dig in to FIX IT GIRL, because all those books on Hearst Castle have to go back to the library next week. They can’t be extended any more!
Besides, I want to get this draft done and the submission packets ready. I want to start querying after 4th of July, but have to get everything out before mid-August, or I might as well wait until mid-September, because few places actively read by mid-August, and right back from Labor Day, they need a couple of weeks to catch up.

I think I’ve got a handle on how I want the First Big Love Scene to go. Since this isn’t erotica, but historical fiction, the style is gentler, and I have to get it just right. Things were often down and dirty in 1930s Hollywood (as they often are everywhere in every time period), but my protag is neither a goody two-shoes nor a nymphomaniac. Nor is this a category romance where she’s only allowed to be attracted to one man. She’s an intelligent modern woman of her time, and slightly ahead of it, breaking new ground, fighting sexism, but also following her heart (and her passions). I’ve got that balance right in most of her scenes; now I have to get it right in the love scenes, too.

In general, I want this to be a fiction weekend. I’ve spent so much time on articles in order to pay the bills that the fiction has suffered, so it’s time to give it some more attention.

This is a great June for the roses — they’re blooming like crazy. And the petunias in the barrel out front have grown enough so they’re sticking their heads over the rim and peeking out. It’s very cute.

Have a great weekend!

Mon. May 7, 2012: Intense Family Weekend


Mist over the dunes at the Province Lands Center, Provincetown

Monday, May 7, 2012
Waning Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Sunny and cool

Intense few days. Went to yoga on Thursday morning, came back, packed the car, and we were on the road a little after 11. Trip to Maine wasn’t bad, not much traffic, we made good time. We settled in, spent some time with my great uncle, I cooked dinner.

We were up early the next day, breakfast, picked up one cousin who lives down the street and one in Portland, and hit the road. The drive down wasn’t bad, either — we timed it well.

We hit Foxboro around 10:30 in the morning. I was born in Norwood, and Foxboro is where my grandmother lived for many years. I haven’t been back since the mid-90s.

We found the cemetery without any problem, and found my grandparent’s grave. The cemetery is beautiful — extremely well-cared for, and people are allowed to individually landscape each of the graves, which is great (unlike so many cemeteries, now, where everything is supposed to be identical and plain, and everyone is a number, not a memory of an individual). We also visited the nearby grave of another family friend. We spoke a few words by the site, and handed over the ashes to the caretaker, who will bury them today.

We drove past the house where my grandparents used to live, and where I have many happy memories. It looks lovely — the current owners take loving care of it, have landscaped it nicely, put on a new roof, etc. And the property next door (formerly belonging to the person whose other grave we visited) is also lovely. She had magnificent formal gardens, and the current owners have kept them up.

It was strange to see those childhood places through adult eyes.

Something is starting to tickle in the back of my head, an idea; I’m not sure where it

We continued around to the Cape and home. After getting the cousins settled in, we headed up to Cobb Hill — the cemetery where the first arrivals are buried. They came over from Kent, England, and one branch of the family went up to Maine. It was cold and rainy, so we didn’t spend as much time in the cemetery as we might have otherwise.

We went over to Sturgis Library and spent a few hours in their genealogy collection. They have a lot of information on the family — the branch that started here and wound up to Maine, another branch that wound up in West Virginia. It was fascinating.

I cooked dinner, and we all visited and played with the cats. I spent a bit of time with students.

To bed early, but also up early on Saturday. I baked apple spice bread for breakfast. Then, we headed out to Provincetown. Unfortunately, it was another cold, drizzly day. But we got to walk around town a bit (already quite busy) and had a nice lunch. We went up to the Province Lands Observation near Race Point, always one of my favorite places, and I got some interesting misty pictures.

We came home, and someone from Sturgis called — I’d left something important at the library the day before! Someone from the library was coming to my library for an event; I met her there, feeling both stupid and grateful. She is definitely getting a thank you note.

Cooked dinner, uploaded photos, made prints for them, copied the information from the library — by the time I tried to get online to deal with students, it was 9:30 at night and I was incoherent.

Up early on Sunday, made eggs benedict, and we were on the road a little after 9. Not a bad ride up to Maine, in spite of an accident on 93 and one inside the Big Dig tunnel. Dropped off the cousins and turned right around to go back.

I admit, I was getting a little tired.

But it was great to have the family from Maine here, to have them see where we live, and that this move was the right choice for us. They also have been working very hard, and I wanted to give them a happy, relaxing time.

We meant to stop for lunch, but didn’t find what we wanted, so wound up driving all the way back. Instead of going back through the Big Dig, we hooked around again on 128 so we could take the Bourne Bridge. The Sagamore had a two hour delay getting off-Cape, and that usually causes a tangle getting on the Cape, too. We shot over the Bourne Bridge and found off-Cape traffic backed up all the way to our little town, too. But we got home in a reasonable amount of time.

Heated up some dinner and went to bed. That was all I could take.

A LOT to do today, both online and off. The rain last week stimulated the grass — I’ve got to mow. And hit the bank. And put gas in the car. And do some work with my students. And help out a pro bono client. And polish my lectures for Saturday’s workshop.

Billy Root’s blog will go up later today.

Better get to it! I’m tired, but more optimistic this week. I’ve still got some stuff to figure out, but I’m getting there.

Devon

Don’t forget the Amazing Antagonists workshop on Saturday, May 12! You can turn your antagonists from ciphers to complex, fascinating individuals with these tips. More info and registration here.