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!

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Waning Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Sunny and cold

The water company is coming today to put in a new meter. Supposedly, it will take only 45 minutes. Supposedly.

They are taking down the old water tower down the street. I managed to snap some photos of it yesterday, before they took its little hat off. It’s one of those graceful old designs, with a top that looks like the Tin Man’s hat. The new water tower is as ugly as can be, looking like an oversized golf tee, probably designed by a golf aficionado.

Ran errands, returned books to the library, found some on local history, and a book on Louisa May Alcott and her father that’s new to me, called EDEN’S OUTCASTS. Looking forward to it.

HISTORICAL INFLUENCES is flowing along well. I’m re-writing the chapters I’ve got into the new vision, and it all works much better, thank goodness. The characters are finally free to deal with the situations true to their characters, without having to worry about age-appropriate references, or a lack thereof. I also took some notes for POWER OF WORDS. Another character who will turn out to be a major obstacle for my main ensemble has been poking at me, wanting to join the fray and play. And I’m percolating the play, so that next week, I can sit down and start it.

I’ve decided which book I want to write as part of the year long intensive and pulled those notes out and put them aside.

I’m reading the applications for the intensive. In addition to writing ability and a sense of whether or not they can commit to something as intense as this course, I also have to pick people who I think will meld well together. We’re going to be in close emotional and electronic proximity for 365 days. While I’m responsible for setting the tone, it’s also important to get a mix of people who will both work and play well together. The dynamics are important.

I worked on workshop lectures and the material for Confidential Job #1. The stuff for Job #1 is well-done, but I’m not enjoying the content, so it’s a bit of a slog. But I have to get it finished and out the door tonight.

My back was bothering me badly, but only two more days until my appointment, so I’m just gritting my teeth and hanging in there. Can’t tell you how bored with it all I am. I am looking forward to being in less pain and having my range of motion back.

I’ve got a post up on Gratitude and Growth answering Lori’s question about garden design and my irritation with the lack of envelope information from two of the seed companies.

Thoroughly enjoyed last night’s episode of NCIS:LA. I watch it because I like the character of Deeks, played by Eric Christian Olsen, although I’ve had issues in some episodes with the material he’s been given. But last night, it was a great character development arc for him, showing the character’s humor, intelligence (Olsen is often cast to play dumb, so when he plays smart, he knocks it out of the park), and courage. The balance between the whole ensemble was good, and it was directed by Kate Woods, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite directors. Whenever there’s an episode of something I particularly like (and not just this show) and I look up the director, it tends to be Kate Woods.

I’m going to try to get some writing in before the water company shoots the day’s schedule all to hell.

Devon

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Waxing Moon
Snowy and slushy

So far, it looks like we didn’t get slammed as badly as some of the other areas. We had a coating of snow and now it’s a snow/rain mix. I can still see some of my driveway and front walk. It will be a pain in the ass to shovel that wet, heavy mix (too wet for the electric shovel; I’ll have to do it by hand). I don’t want to go out in the rain, so I’m going to wait a few hours before I tackle it.

As long as the power stays on, we’re good, and the chat will go forward.

I’ve made hot water bottles and put them in the bed and will refresh them every few hours, just in case, and I’ll probably put up thermoses of hot tea and soup. Got flashlights, batteries, candles, books, writing — I can just wait it out.

Got to the dump yesterday; disposed of the garbage (only one bag) and the recycling. For some reason, the guys who work there find me highly entertaining. Glad to bring some sunshine to their day.

Wrote a bit, commented on my students’ work (this group rocks, they’re willing to take risks), but, for the most part, I lay on the couch and read Susan Cheever’s biography of Louisa May Alcott. Louisa and Harriet Beecher Stowe are two of my idols, and have been since I was about seven or eight years old. They are part of the reason I became a writer.

There’s a passage Cheever wrote on p. 107-108 of the book that I plan to print out, source to her (of course) and hang in my office: “Good writing is almost always subversive. It uses the nuts and bolts of the texture of everyday life to communicate truths that may be as disturbing as they are original.” Thank you, Susan Cheever, for reminding me of that.

Wrote a proposal for something that would be a Very Big Deal if I decide to actually pitch it. A huge commitment of time and energy for a long-term commitment-phobe like I am. The money would have to be right and my own mental preparedness in place for me to do this. But it would also be a transformative and productive experience for those taking part. I sent off the first draft to people I trust for feedback, and I’ve already thought of some other points to include overnight.

I’m worried about the commitment because I have to keep up with my other freelancing and also the novel and play contracts, AND with the garden and running the house, AND I want to go back to school at some point in the next year to get certified as an herbalist. Of course, this proposal would pay for the schooling. But could I handle them together? That’s a question I have to answer for myself before I can pitch it. I have to be really, really sure to the bottom of my soul and the tips of my toes that I can see the commitment through.

As long as the power stays on, the live chat for tonight at 8 PM is on, over at Savvy Authors. I don’t know if it’s open to the public or just for members — I’m just showing up and saying a few things, and then taking questions. Let’s face it, people don’t want to be talked at for an hour — they want interaction. So I’ll “talk” (type) for ten minutes or so and then take questions for the other fifty.

On the agenda today — writing as much as possible. I’ve set today aside to be primarily a writing day, in and around the shoveling!

Hop on over to Gratitude and Growth to read about my seed-ordering dilemmas!

Back to the page.

Devon

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Waning Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde
Sunny and cold

Hop on over to Gratitude and Growth to see my post about the work I have ahead of me in the garden.

Got some work done in the morning, including correspondence and getting out the material for Confidential Job #1. Then, it was de-icing the driveway a bit, and going out on errands — picking up a few things at Christmas Tree shops, going to Staples, the bank, K-Mart — where I bought some metal shelving for the basement. I had some sort of points, and basically wound up getting one unit for free. As I unpack, I’m setting up shelving to store what I don’t need every day in bins, boxes, etc., so I can get at it when I need to without having to move stacks of boxes. Buying a couple of shelving units at a time won’t break my budget and will allow me to unpack slowly without boxing myself in, so to speak.

Headed to the bookstore, where I used up my gift card getting two new books on Louisa May Alcott and a book on container gardening. When I hit the Book Barn next week with Costume Imp, I’ll scoop up as many good gardening books as I can!

Off to Pet Smart to stock up on cat food and treats, and then to Home Goods, where I picked up a few containers and a set of Calvin Klein towels for Costume Imp’s visit. This way, whenever he comes up, he’s got his own set of stuff.

Did some unpacking and rearranging in the writing room — still too many unpacked boxes, but at least the armchair has its corner and its lamp.

My back is really bothering me, but there’s not a whole lot I can do about it.

In a big fight with Metro North and Verizon. Metro North is texting me 20-30 times per day, at all hours, with service updates. I don’t live there anymore. I’ve taken myself “off the list” on their site now a half a dozen times and it never takes. I’m emailing then and emailing them and emailing them telling me to stop, and, of course, they ignore it. After all, it took them THREE YEARS to start texting me after I requested it. Anyway, they are using up my message allotment. I shouldn’t have to pay for text messages I don’t want. There’s no way to block the number on my phone. I tried to do it on the Verizon Wireless site, and kept getting the screen telling me that, in order to block calls or messages, I have to add a special program for another $5/month. I shouldn’t have to do that. I sent them some strongly worded messages. Then, I found a site that tells you how to get around it, so I did. But I only have a 5 digit number for the message, and it won’t block without a 10 digit number. I extracted the email address and tried blocking it with that. According to the site, it’s blocked — but the messages keep coming through. Not only is the usage and money a problem, being woken up at all hours of the night is also a problem. If I turn my phone off, I don’t have it for an emergency, and when I turn it on, the mailbox is completely full of messages. And they are duplicates. It’s not like they send a message and the next one is different. They send 15-20, one minute after another, that are identical.

And Verizon, of course, has no interest in helping unless I pay them. Last time I checked, that was called “extortion.”

I hear New York is still in a terrible muddle with unplowed streets and people dying because ambulances can’t get through. Glad to be out of that mess. My drive and walk are still a bit icy, but I’m using ice melt and, as soon as it gets mushy enough to move, I’ll use my regular shovel and clear it. I went to the edge of the drive to meet the mailman yesterday so he wouldn’t risk slipping and HE was worried about ME. They’re so nice here.

According to the mail carriers, I get the most mail of anyone on this route, which I think is pretty funny.

Iris and Violet spent most of yesterday chasing each other around the house, which was pretty funny. They play tag. One chases the other, swats her bottom, then turns and runs away as the other wheels around, chases her, swats her bottom, and they reverse.

At night now, we do “bedtime snacks” (because I got tired of them waking me at 2 AM because they were hungry). I say, “Who wants a bed time snack?” and they sit down in front of me like a pair of puppies (Felicia would be horrified). And I give them some snacks, and up we go to bed. It’s pretty funny.

I think I’m going to make a run to Target today to pick up a few things. I don’t know if I’ll make it to Chatham for that lecture, but I’m not booked and promised, so if I don’t, I don’t. I might just try to get some more unpacking done, polish the lectures, and polish the post that’s due tomorrow.

Devon

PS At the bank, the cashier asked me what my New Year’s Resolution was and I said, “Have more fun.”

And I mean it! 😉

Published in: on December 29, 2010 at 8:36 am  Comments (6)  
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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

IMG_0474

Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Waning Moon
Uranus Retrograde
Cloudy and cold
Veterans’ Day

We had a few mild days of Indian-summer like weather, and now it’s back to being cold.

Ran around looking for a simple, black, mid-calf skirt. 5 stores, no luck. Either they’re micro minis (not happening), or pencil skirts (need one, but not in black) or disgustingly cheap ass material that doesn’t drape well. I have a feeling I’ll wind up making some skirts — not happy with colors, styles, patterns currently available. Did find a coat and some boots I might order. I have my big LL Bean coat for the winter, which is great for casual work/driving/set work – but I need a dressy coat. Also looking for my ultimate writing bag — know what I want, haven’t found it yet in my price range.

Went grocery shopping to pick up a few things to get us through the next few days until I leave for the site job and then DC. Have to go in the other direction to Trader Joe’s today to stock up on cat food.

Decent but not brilliant day on ‘Digging” and Blair Holland. Slow start to the Christmas story, but it’s getting there. I want to get a draft done before I leave for DC, so I can edit it and get it to the printer before Thanksgiving. Hoping I’ll have a more focused and productive writing day today.

Finished Louisa May Alcott’s journals. I’d forgotten how frustrated she often grew in Concord — the museum at Orchard House (which she called “Apple Slump”) idealizes the time spent there. Started re-reading Madelon Bedell’s terrific book THE ALCOTTS.

The newest A.S. Byatt novel, THE CHILDREN’S BOOK, arrived yesterday. Can’t wait to read it. Her novel POSSESSION remains one of my all-time favorites. I’ve got NEVER AFTER, with stories by Laurell K. Hamilton, Yasmine Galenorn, Marjorie M. Liu, and Sharon Shinn’s pieces in it for the trip to DC. I’m tempted to start it earlier, but it’s a paperback and the Byatt book is a hardcover, so the paperback is easier to maneuver while travelling.

My bags for the site job and DC are packed. I’ll have to add a few bits (like the computer and some files) to the writing bag for the site, and then switch it to the writing bag I’m taking to DC, but, for the most part, I’m set, so I can just focus on the writing and not have to worry about packing.

Mixed up a batch of spiced apple bread for breakfast. It smells good as it’s baking, and gives me inspiration as I write.

Remember the Veterans today, from all the wars, and salute them.

Devon

Published in: on November 11, 2009 at 7:33 am  Comments (3)  
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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

IMG_0438
Violet

Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Yesterday was the full moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
No idea re: weather — I’m scheduling this to post the night before

Yeah, I never managed to blog yesterday. Oops.

And I’m headed off at the crack of — to get my car serviced, so I actually scheduled this to post on Monday night.

I’m trying to remember if I have a good book depicting Edward Hopper’s paintings in storage, or if I need to go and buy one. I know I have a big biography and books ABOUT him, but I don’t think I’ve got a book of plates of the paintings. And I need it for a project. Guess I’ll be haunting the Bargain Books section of the major bookstores soon (like I don’t anyway?).

Re-reading THE JOURNALS OF LOUISA MAY ALCOTT. Louisa May Alcott and Harriet Beecher Stowe are still my heroes, and they’ve been that since I was about eight.

Gave myself Sunday off from writing because my brain was exhausted. Two proposals, a 5K story and a 9K story all out within 48 hours was a bit much, even though I’d been working on everything over a period of time. I’ve got a 2500 word story that needs to be done in the next couple of days, the Christmas story, and another anthology story that need to happen in the next couple of weeks.

I had a BLAAAAST talking to those middle schoolers yesterday. I brought in my wardrobe kit and showed them how a bunch of stuff worked, talked about quick changes, talked about the differences in wardrobe needs between theatre and film, and how that feeds into the writing. They asked very insightful questions. They seemed interested and engaged. Almost all of them had seen WICKED, and, since I swung on that show for 3 1/2 years (gee, I bet you had NO IDEA that’s where I worked with all the flying monkey talk, huh? 😉 ) I used a lot of examples and anecdotes from that show. It was a lot of fun, the time flew, and the seemed pretty engaged. I was totally honest with them, especially about where I’m a royal pain in the ass and where I break the rules, why, and both how I’ve made it work and where it’s made things harder.

Came home and was pretty much a waste of food all afternoon. I booked the tickets for DC and am having hotel trauma. I thought I’d found this GREAT hotel at a GREAT price, but it turns out the neighborhood is too skeevy even for someone who used to live a block off Times Square, so I’m looking for something else that’s not totally out of my price range, but close to where I need to be. Not fun.

Anyway, I’m off getting the car serviced for its regular check up. Then, I have to go vote for friends who are running for re-election locally (and doing a damned good job). More errands after that AND some writing AND finishing up Confidential Job #1.

Then, it’s off to the meditation group, taking a change of clothes with me so I can hit the election party on the way back.

It would be really, really, really a good idea to get some writing done today, too.

Since, well, tomorrow’s another adventure!

Devon