Mon. Nov. 12, 2018: Friendliness – How Many in a Day? #UpbeatAuthors


Monday, November 12, 2018
Waxing Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Venus Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde


One of the exercises I often give my students is to track how many people they interact with in a single day.

This came out of a series of exercises supposedly set in cities that lacked any sense of the teeming life that is so much part of a city. Like the apocalypse happened, and I didn’t get the memo. If you set a scene in Times Square, I want to know, where are the people? It’s full of them, twenty-four hours a day. Even if your scene is an intimate one between two characters, someone is going to bump into them as they chat on a cell phone or laugh with their friends. Without other people, you lose the sense of place.

In the exercise, each person takes a small pad and a pen and makes a hatch mark for each person encountered in the course of the day. Whether you say anything to them or just pass them on the street.

The last time I did the exercise, I was staying in a suburb of New York, took the train in to Grand Central, attended an event at the New York Public Library, worked on a Broadway show, went out to a restaurant, and took the train home.

Interaction count for the day: 587.

Five Hundred and Eighty-Seven people in the course of a single day in New York City. And I probably missed a few.

I don’t ever want to read a scene set in that city that doesn’t have an awareness of the sheer amount of humanity in a small space again.

What does that have to do with friendliness, our topic of the month?

Try this: Pick a day this week or next week, but sometime sooner, rather than later.

Make the effort to smile at every person you pass in the course of your day. Even if you’re an introvert.

Jot down notes during the day.

What kind of difference did it make in your day?

Take a moment to think about what kind of difference it made in other people’s days.

Now, again for writers, think about how you can translate any details of any of those interactions to your writing.

How does that change the life of the piece? How does that change your characters’ experience?

How did meeting everyone you encountered with friendliness for one day change your experience?

Build on that. In fiction, and in life.

Feel free to post the results of the experiment here, or in response to any of the Ink posts.

Published in: on November 12, 2018 at 6:30 am  Comments Off on Mon. Nov. 12, 2018: Friendliness – How Many in a Day? #UpbeatAuthors  
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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

totem pole outside of the Bruce Museum, Greenwich, CT

Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Waxing Moon
Uranus Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Cloudy and mild
Autumn Equinox

Yesterday’s jaunt to the city actually went well. Train was sorta on time, I got a seat, I wandered over to my first meeting, everything went better than expected, I wandered over to my second meeting further on the West Side, that went better than expected, and I got to hang out with a friend and colleague for awhile, catching up. He was my business rep on Broadway, and now he’s shifted over to handle the film and TV contracts, and just one of my favorite people, so it was nice to sit down for an hour or so and catch up.

It was a lovely, sunny fall day and I wandered back to Grand Central. The fall B’way shows are loading in, so I got to stop and say hi to about 110 of the crew guys I’ve worked with over the years on this show and that show, and catch up. Much as I adore them all, it made me realize even more that my life is no longer here. I’ve got years of wonderful memories, I hope B’way continues to thrive, and I need to be doing other things. May we all be happy and successful!

Got on the train at Grand Central, after climbing over a film crew. I’m surprised NYPD let anything film on the East side with all the stuff going on at the UN. Of course, the train didn’t work — two working trains in one day is more than Metro North can handle — so we all had to move to another train. But at least it was before we left the station.

I got home early in the afternoon, took care of some other business. I was worried that I wasn’t as sharp as I needed because of the migraine, but I seem to have held my own pretty well. And I was actually dealing with people and organizations who work WITH me rather than against me, which is a nice change.

The ducks are lining up nicely, and pretty soon, I’ll get them to quack in formation! 😉

I got about 30 floppies transferred to flash drives. It’s slow going, because I’m at the boxes of old material that has to be converted to RTF before I can transfer it, or I can’t open it on the Mac. Just keep going, a little bit every day, because a little bit still gets us further than doing nothing.

I want to repack a little bit for the Philly trip. I’m off to acupuncture today and then dinner with a friend.

The landlords sent me a threat via email right before the close of the business day yesterday. They always do that, so one can’t contact the appropriate agencies, hoping it will ruin one’s day. Um, no. All it did was piss me off. I responded with a very pointed letter cc’d to the appropriate agency individuals that will go out via certified mail. They don’t get to ignore the parts of the law they don’t like and make stuff up when they misinterpret what they do.

Watched some TV last night, hoping my migraine would go away. Excedrin Migraine no longer works, and none of the prescription stuff does, either. Interested to see where WAREHOUSE 13 goes next season. They set up some interesting possibilities. Glad to see that Eric Christian Olsen is now a regular on NCIS:LOS ANGELES. I like his work, and think he adds an interesting dynamic to the group. He makes some interesting, detailed choices in scenes that are so different from the other actors in the show, and they work so beautifully, both as an individual performance and in the larger, ensemble context. It’s sometimes tough to put that kind of detail in a procedural show and have it work.

Decent morning’s writing. Not brilliant, but decent. The piece is taking an interesting turn. It will be hell to revise due to the twists and turns it’s taking, and it will be an interesting challenge to make it all logical within the context of the fictional world, which is modern contemporary, a fictional town stuffed into a real region (me stretching geography again), but with its own odd personality.

Didn’t sleep well last night — odd dreams that might turn into a new script, and also the migraine pain. Thank goodness I’m going for acupuncture today.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thursday, April 29, 2010
Last Day of Full Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde (say what)

I was up for 22 hours yesterday, from 3:30 in the morning until nearly 1:30 this morning. Feel like a truck rolled over me. I’m not used to that kind of schedule anymore, especially when I’m not paid television rate!

So it seems Mercury went retrograde over a week ago — why wasn’t it in my calendar? That calendar’s starting to get sloppy. It also explains oh, so much.

I struggled with the writing yesterday. I don’t know how I’m going to get this done. I’m happy with the bones of it, the first few chapters thrum along well, but I’ve lost the rhythm of it, and trying to force it back isn’t working. I’m considering doing an all-nighter to finish, but it still wouldn’t be polished. My time should have been planned better, I should have front-loaded it more rather than getting derailed by events I couldn’t forsee, but that’s not what happened.

I also have serious reservations about the place that put out the call for submissions. They haven’t liked my work before, and, frankly, when I’ve read anthologies of theirs from which I’ve been rejected, I’ve felt relieved not to be included, because I thought the stuff chosen was AWFUL. Not just, “oh, it’s to someone else’s taste”, but downright poor writing, storytelling, and cliched characters. If that’s their “house style” — I don’t want to write to that style, so why am I even submitting?

The call to submission sounded unique and fun, and as soon as I read it, I had ideas, that’s why. But it’s silly to think “this time will be different, this time we’ll be a good match.” We’re not. It’s been proven. Either I change to their “house style” — which goes against what I like to read and write — or I don’t submit. I’m not “their” type of writer. And, other than a few pieces written by a friend of mine, which contain good characters and storytelling, everything I’ve read from their house has been a disappointment.

The characters and situations I’ve set up here are really fun and lively and different from anything I’ve ever seen before. I don’t want to give them the short shrift for an on spec deadline. I’ve already changed storylines simply on the basis of word count, rather than what serves the story best. I think part of the reason I’m struggling is that I know this is not a good match for me. Sort of like when I struggled to meet the deadline for OLD FASHIONED DETECTIVE WORK, knowing I needed to pull the Jain Lazarus series from its original publisher. So I don’t know what I’m going to do yet. If, suddenly, it catches fire later today, hooray for me, and I might get it out the door tomorrow with notes for changes should it come back. Otherwise, I’ll just plug along, and, when it’s really ready, send it to a different publisher.

It would be horribly ironic, though, if I sent out something I felt was weak, and that’s the piece they liked, rather than polished pieces I sent previously!

I have to see how today goes — I’ve got to take my mom on an appointment and do battle – I am sick and tired of corporations who hire individuals taking delight in hurting Senior Citizens, thinking they can take advantage of them because they’re old. Today is a day when it’s a damned good thing I don’t own a gun or have a carry permit, because today I’d use it inappropriately and without remorse.

Last night was wonderful. The trip into the city wasn’t particularly torturous, for once. Read my book, had my music on. Caught the shuttle from Grand Central to Times Square, walked over to the 1,2,3 line. The 2 & 3 Express trains were jam packed and I didn’t want to be squished, so I took the local 1 instead. Much roomier. And I got out a stop early, walking the last 10 blocks up Broadway. I haven’t been in that neighborhood for years. It’s been gentrified, and, on one hand, it’s cleaner, but they’ve taken down quite a few graceful old buildings and replaced them with ugly ones, and the neighborhood’s character isn’t as much fun.

Symphony Space itself is beautiful. My friend was the very first in line, and we had our pick of seats. We sat about 8 rows back, in the middle. The celebration was the 50th Anniversary of Harper Lee’s TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD — held on her 84th birthday. The panel consisted of Kurt Anderson, Libba Bray, Stephen Colbert, Oskar Eustis, Mary McDonagh Murphy, Jayne Anne Phillips, and Isiah Sheffer. Excerpts of the book were read, and themes and meanings — both personal and universal, were discussed, along with some audience discussion. Unfortunately, several of the audience members had a different agenda — not discussing the book, but trying to get Colbert’s attention. He was very skillful and graceful in diffusing such greed and awkwardness and getting the discussion back on track. Everyone on the panel was interesting and engaging and the opinions and discussion were fascinating.

I’d crossed paths with Oskar Eustis back in San Francisco, when he was running the Eureka Theatre. I’d moved to SF to work at the Eureka, which had burned down when I got there. I got a job, instead, at the One Act, where I remained for the duration of my life in SF. But the community at that time was fairly small, and Oskar and I crossed paths a few times. I thought the world of him then, and I was thrilled when he took over the Public Theatre here. He was wonderful last night — I didn’t talk to him after, it was inappropriate with so many people in the building — but I’m going to drop him a note. He’s one of those intelligent, funny, warm, incredibly perceptive people, and the Public’s lucky to have him.

My friend and I went to a local bar for a glass of expensive but mediocre wine and to listen to some mediocre music. The musicians in the jazz trio were good, but the first singer couldn’t discern that “loud” does not equate with “good” and had no finesse in handling the microphone. The second singer, “in from Vegas” — was just that — a third rate lounge singer. My friend and I got the giggles. There was a production meeting from a small theatre production across the bar from us — people who’d once had their shot, but couldn’t quite make it, but still love the theatre. They have day jobs and do small theatre at night, and, as much as they love what they do at night, there’s still a little voice inside that tells them they failed. They didn’t fail — they’re still doing theatre — but the fear rolls off them like a pungent sweat.

Beside us at the bar were a man and woman. He was in his 50’s — an actor whose name I can’t remember, but who I recognize from small supporting roles on TV shows that shoot in NY. I think he was in some of the stuff I worked on a few years back. I was kind of shocked — he looks good, he’s aging well, except he had Botox only in his forehead, so the rest of his face looks normal, while his forehead looks like a shiny baby’s bottom. The woman with him was in her 40’s, and he obviously Had Plans for Her that night. But she was more interested in the conversation my friend and I were having.

Caught the #1 back downtown. The Shuttle didn’t show up and didn’t show up and didn’t show up at Times Square, because, really, to have it work would mean there was some level of competence on the part of the MTA and there is none. So I popped up and walked back to Grand Central, across 42nd St. Caught the 11:10. got home by 12, was in bed around 1:30.

Elsa was relentless, starting at about 4 AM. I finally couldn’t take it anymore, fed them at 6, and went back to bed, but, by 7:30, it was no use. I had to get up. I have a terrible headache, probably from the bad wine (even one glass?).

I’ve got to help my mom today and then run some MORE money up to the vet. I’m getting a little tired of the constant demands for money. They want a credit card number, but the way they’re constantly adding charges, I don’t want to open my bill one day and suddenly see a few thousand dollars’ worth of charges they “put through” without a thorough discussion.

Will try to get some writing done, too, but the leafblowers are on. Ick.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The park by City Hall, NYC

Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Waxing Moon
Sunny and pleasant

I did some research yesterday morning on options for holistic/integrative care, then packed up and headed for the train station. I panicked when I realized I’d left the iPod at home, but, hey, deal, right?

Ride in was fine. I took a few photos of Grand Central station — I’ve walked through it thousands of times over the years, but never photographed it. Got a metro card, played with one of the bomb-sniffing dogs, got on the subway.

It’s been so long since I spent any time in the city that I got all confused about the subways. I took the #6 to Brooklyn Bridge, City Hall, which was fine. Realized that I got One Centre Street confused with the Old Customs House — the building I wanted. Took some photos around the courthouses, the old locations where we shot the LAW & ORDER spin-off CONVICTION. Walked down Broadway, a few blocks east of Ground Zero, to Bowling Green and the old Customs House, which is now the Native American Museum.

Graveyard at Trinity Church

Passed St. Paul’s, where they did a lot of the ministry, took the bodies, and fed the workers right after 9/11. By the way, they’ve recently reopened the search for remains AND ARE FINDING THEM in the debris stacked in Fresh Kills from 9/1l. Also passed Trinity Church, in whose graveyard I did camerawork for a fellow student’s project while in film school.

I love how they give directions to the museum: “It’s behind the bull.”

And so it is.

Some writer I admired once worked here, when it was really a customs house, but damned if I can remember which one.

I LOVE being a member of the Smithsonian. This museum is one of their museums, and the quality of curation and the quality of personnel at the Smithsonians are always fantastic.

The building is beautiful. The exhibit about the Horse in Native American culture was wonderful. Of course, as a wardrobe person, I was especially fascinated by the beadwork on leggings, dresses, saddles, and saddle blankets.

There was a very disturbing art exhibit called “Skin as Metaphor” — hadn’t heard about it. It’s certainly disturbing and controversial — using hides and skin for art, whether it’s something like tattooing — or other things. It was so disturbing I didn’t spend much time in it, but I wonder why it hasn’t gotten more coverage in the media — it’s certainly provocative in the RIGHT way — not provocation just to create controversy, but it has something to say and makes you think and reconsider perspectives — which is what good art should do.

Picked up a Dakota-English dictionary that was 75% off, and about $7 — I have a weakness for dictionaries — I use them in world-building. So I bought that, although I knew it would be a pain to cart a dictionary around all day. Also bought a magnet of a turtle sand painting that spoke to me. I picked up another book I really wanted — and then remembered picking it up in the museum in DC, but couldn’t remember whether or not I bought it. I felt like a moron. So I put it back. They said I could call them and they’d ship it to me. Which is exactly what I have to do, since it turns out that I picked it up and put it back in DC instead of buying it!

Headed back up Broadway. Was thirsty, but didn’t want Starbucks, because, well, it’s Starbucks. Found Bean on Bean, a small, organic cafe, and got an iced coffee — fantastic. Walked north, skirting LIttle Italy and Chinatown, walking figure eights through Tribeca and Soho.

I’m glad I walked this area for the urban fantasy. It looks really close on the maps, but when you walk it, it’s much more complex getting from Point A to Point B in that area. And, since most of the streets are one-way — I would have made some awful mistakes if I hadn’t walked it — the kind of mistakes that cause me to stop reading/buying an author’s work.

I passed the location trucks of whatever shooting’s near Federal Plaza — probably one of the current LAW & ORDERS — in the spot we always parked the vans for our location shoots, and where I’ve set the fictional location shoot in the urban fantasy.

I was looking for an alley where I could set the bar for the urban fantasy. Problem is, New York City doesn’t have many alleys anymore — as stuff’s been pulled down and built back up, the alleys have been destroyed. I think there are some on the Lower East Side, around the Tenement Museum, but that location doesn’t work for me. It has to be in walking distance of the courts/federal buildings. I found one — and I think I’ll expand on it somehow. Otherwise, there are hints of a couple of them along the Soho/Little Italy fringes. I’m going to have to do some vamping, stretch a little geography, rework those chapters in a way that makes them believable. I think I’ll have the alleys be a labyrinth in the dreams, with specific architectural landmarks that show up in the truncated alley that is believable and more similar to the ones I really found.

I found a couple of possible contenders for the building Louis lives in. I prefer the location of the first building, but I like the arched windows of the second. I found them in Tribeca, the neighborhood in which I want him to live. He’s a television actor — he’d live in an expensive place in Tribeca.

Headed back east, and then north over Houston, into my old stomping grounds on the eastern fringes of NYU. Sometimes I’m embarrassed to be an NYU alum, because they are such poor caretakers of Greenwich Village, tearing down gorgeous buildings to put up chunky, ugly behemoths reminiscent of the bad 1960’s and 1970’s architecture. Anyway, headed across E. 9th Street to Whiskers, one of the premiere holistic pet stores in the country.

Talked to one of the owners about Elsa. He gave me a referral to an integrated care center that specializes in cancer treatment with holistic options. He also said anything I needed as far as diets and supplements that I couldn’t get near me, they’d ship, no problem. Whiskers has never steered me wrong, and any time I didn’t take their advice, I regretted it. He agreed that multiple procedures under anesthesia culminating in radiation may not be the best choice, and is certainly not the only choice.

I felt much better after talking to them.

Considered eating a Cloisters Cafe, one of my former hangouts (I’ve got a scene from the TAPESTRY serial set there). Was in the mood for a burger, but they don’t come with fries, and the fries cost nearly as much as the burger. Uh, no. Plus, they’re now also a hookah bar, and I just wasn’t in the mood to be around that.

Crossed back to the West Village. Some dumb-ass tried to sell me a nickel bag of heroin on Waverly Place (hey, I paid attention all those weeks on Grand Jury listening to narcotics cases). I said to the guy, “Don’t you know how bad that shit is for you?” and kept walking. Cut through Washington Square Park. No easy feat, with all the construction. Headed across W. 4th, then down Cornelia Street, over to Aphrodesia to stock up on herbs.

Aphrodesia is gone.

I was in shock. The store, at which I’ve shopped for over 20 years, is gone. All my sources for loose herbs are now closed.

Headed back to Cornelia Street and had lunch at the Cornelia Street Cafe, another one of my old favorites. Had their Eggs Benedict and a glass of Pinot Grigio. Decided that Edwina, in the urban fantasy, will live on this tiny street, instead of putting her in the building on Grove Street. I have so many of my characters living in the same building on Grove Street, it’s amazing they don’t trip over each other.

Headed over to 6th Avenue, took the subway back uptown. My knee was hurting pretty badly by then, from all the miles walked today. Worse, I took THE WRONG SUBWAY — the A/C/E line when the 1/2/3 line would have made more sense. But I got off at 42nd, walked the block underground, popped up like a prairie dog in Times Square, and walked east to Grand Central. Caught the train home.

Tired, but I got a lot done.

And I came home to find a beautiful floral arrangement from Lara, Michelle, Brenda, and Colin. Thanks so much for your love and support, this quartet and all the rest of you. It means a lot to me. I tried to get Elsa to pose with the flowers, but she wanted her supper.

Over the past few days, I’ve read Ann Aguirre’s BLUE DIABLO. Absolutely loved it. Great paranormal. Eager to read more of her work.

Researched the recommended vet center. Called them up. They were absolutely lovely on the phone, sent me the paperwork, and we set up an appointment for Friday morning. The initial consult is an hour long. On their web page alone, they have almost a half a dozen possible courses of treatment for cancer that are NOT radiation or require multiple anethesias.

Also, I’m wondering how the vet could have diagnosed cancer without running tests? How can you look at an animal who has no exterior growths of anything and say, “cancer”? It just doesn’t feel right.

Elsa took her medicine without complaint. The vets said it would cause nausea and appetite loss. Instead, she’s eating more than ever. Which is good, since she lost so much weight lately.

She had a rough night, which meant I had a rough night. She took her medicine this morning and is now sleeping peacefully.

The alarm went off at 5:30. She’s just settled down, so I was going to ignore it, but she heard it and poked me with her paw until I got up. My knee was too sore to run, so I limped around my double circuit. Lots of people running with their dogs, now that it’s light by 6 AM.

Today, I’ve got writing and business to deal with, and must pack some boxes for storage. I am exhausted, but I feel better that I’m getting a second opinion at a place recommended by someone I trust.

Onward. All you can do, right? Again, thanks for all the support.


Published in: on April 21, 2010 at 7:01 am  Comments (8)  
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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Waxing Moon
Uranus Retrograde
Partly sunny and mild

I’m up early because I went to bed early. I’m trying to find info on how to get the DC metro to actually give you a Day Pass — what it does is eat your money and then spit out a card that’s NOT a day pass. Most logical cities have you choose your option and THEN put in the money, but not DC — they’re going to take your cash and give you whatever. If that’s not a complete analogy of government, I don’t know what is.

The trip down was quite pleasant. No problems getting the train into NYC, got in so early (we took an “earlier” train that was late rather than waiting for a later train that would probably be later), that we walked leisurely, dragging our little suitcases down 5th Avenue and over to Penn. We realized that we packed less for a four day trip than most poor commuters cart in on a daily basis.

Grabbed sandwiches to take on the bus and newspapers. We had a double-decker bus, and I was every bit as excited as any five year old. Yes, we rode on the top level.

For the most part, it was great ride. Across the aisle where an annoying young 20’s couple who alternated between making out, spilling orange juice everywhere, and taling really loudy about how ecologically responsible they are — of course, spouting misinformation and dropping contents out of at least half a dozen plastic grocery bags instead of canvas bags! You know, in the slice-and-dice movies, the arrogant couple that are amongst the first to get chopped up? These two were THAT much of a cliche. It was pretty funny.

Once we hit DC, it was only two blocks to our Metro, and, once the fare card kerflamma was dealt with (for at least yesterday), it was a quick 5-or-so stop ride up the red line to Van Ness. Our hotel is only about 4 blocks from the stop. The neighborhood is really great — UDC Van Ness campus, lots of little stores and restaurants, and, if you head towards downtown, the embassy residences. Quiet, green, feels safe.

The hotel: mixed feelings about it so far. The positive side: Enormous, comfortable beds, Wi-fi. Good desk, good desk chair. Nice shower. Lots of natural light. Heat that works and that I can control (which is more than can be said for home). The towels are decoratively folded (yeah, i know, silly, but a nice touch). The downside: They made us line up in the lobby before “official check in time” started. WTF? The “coffee maker” makes one cup at at time, they only give you the ability to make ONE cup of coffee, and there’s no creamer, which I didn’t know until I tried to make a cup of really bad coffee early this morning. Can you say “cranky”? There are no drapes or blinds — just sheers. There’s heavy fabric along the edges of the window, but it’s for show and doesn’t pull across the window. On top of that, the lights for the well-lit parking lot shine into the room so I can read without putting lights on. Not all the lights in the room have light bulbs in them.

Let’s say I’m having a chat with the desk when I go down. I’ve stayed at this chain a lot, although never at this hotel, and this hotel does not meet the chain’s usual standards.

We walked around late in the afternoon, enjoying the embassy residences — somehow I ended up over by the Czech Republic residence — CZK turns up everywhere in my life lately. There’s some lovely architecture in the neighborhood, and you get the sense that people really live here.

And everybody runs. That’s the big thing here — running. I guess they spend so much of their day sitting that, the minute they get out, they run. I’ve never seen so many runners in the early evening in my life outside of marathon training sessions.

There’s a little cafe down the street, so we’re going there for breakfast, and then heading first to Arlington National Cemetery,then to the monuments on the National Mall, and then to the various Smithsonians. Tomorrow is Library of Congress and Folger, and maybe sticking my head in at Capitol Hill to say “hey”. We left timing loose. (And yes, I have solid enough relationships with those I’d see at the Captiol that they said, “Just stop in whenever you have a minute; we’re always glad to see you.”) I’ve also got a couple of work appointments for Confidential Job #3 that are scattered across the days, but everything’s pretty close together.

I’m going to try to get a little writing done in the next hour or so before we leave.



Published in: on November 17, 2009 at 6:25 am  Comments (3)  
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