Monday, April 20, 2009

Monday, April 20, 2009
Waning Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Rainy and cold

Oooh, Dell, Microsoft, McAfee, how do I hate thee? Let me count the ways.

The McAfee causes upwards of 5 computer crashes per day. It is out of control and it hates TweetDeck. McAfee cost me over $3K in lost work time during March. Unbelievable. And I can’t remove it from the computer. And now this piece of Dell crap – the space bar flew off the keyboard. I put it back on, but it’s wonky and I have to pound the bar to create spaces. My thumb is bruised, and I can only type for a few minutes at a time. I’m NOT buying a new keyboard when I plan to get a new computer.

It’s appalling that these companies are allowed to get away with the crap they pull.

And, I’m having flash drive problems, probably connected to the Microsoft/McAfee problems.

Before yet more computer problems, I managed to get some proofreading done on ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT, submit a short story, and get out a query on a project. So it wasn’t an entirely lost day.

Now, it looks like Iris might have to go to the vet, poor thing. Not exactly sure what’s wrong with her, but something’s not right. Will watch her closely for the next few days. She seems okay this morning – hopefully it’s all resolved.

I had a good morning’s writing session in longhand. I will try typing wearing a thimble on my thumb, because otherwise I can’t type. Middle Finger Award to Dell for both substandard merchandise and their refusal to honor the service contract.

Now, for the great news: The submission I made yesterday was accepted. BOOKS FOR MONSTERS bought “The Retriever”. Woo-hoo! Got the contract this morning; already sent it back.

Devon

Published in: on April 20, 2009 at 7:02 am  Comments (10)  
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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thursday, April 16, 2009
Waning Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Venus Retrograde
Cloudy and cold

Okay, it’s the middle of April and there’s still frost on the car windows in the mornings. That’s just wrong!

Yesterday was another odd, interesting day. On the positive side, I spent most of the day working on the play, FEMME FATALE. Act I was hard – I don’t know why, but I had a terrible time with it. I realized I had to introduce the faux villain earlier for it to make sense – the actual villain’s intro still works. I planted a few red herrings, worked in a few surprises, but it took me all morning to finish the act. I started working on Act II in the afternoon, which is much easier. I have a clearer idea of what I want, the dialogue sparkles, the layers are mostly there, it’s chugging along quite nicely.

On the negative side, in the afternoon, I started having computer problems again. I wound up with seven computer crashes. SEVEN. Some of them were caused by McAfee. Some of them were simply because Microsoft and Dell suck.

On the odd/interesting side, I’d downloaded TweetDeck the day before. There are things I like about it and things I don’t. I still need to use the old version sometimes, especially first thing in the morning, when I’ve been off the computer all night; TweetDeck only allows me to scroll down for a finite period & I can’t catch up on everything I’ve missed. But it’s easier to send a message, shorten an URL, track incoming messages, all that. So, using both works.

However, I was Tweeted approximately every 14 seconds. That gets a little distracting. I had the Deck open most of the day, and it pings when a new message comes in. I can see where that can be a time suck. I didn’t mind during Act I, because it was such a struggle, but it got annoying during Act II. Today, I’ll go back to just checking in occasionally.

And, McAfee HATES TweetDeck. The McAfee kept hijacking the Deck and the entire computer and bringing it down. For awhile there, after all the Conficker updates, McAfee was behaving itself, but this week, it’s back to the same old crap. And, of course, neither their Customer Disservice Department nor the Executive Office can be bothered to even respond to the complaints. However, the BBB has, and I appreciate it. The complaints will continue (as will the invoices for lost work time) until it is resolved to my satisfaction.

I made a pitch to an Australian magazine. I’d come across it a few days ago and sent an introductory email. They responded, so I responded back, and we’ll see from there where it goes. I really like the magazine, the pay rate’s decent, and I’d like to be involved with them. We’ll see how it goes.

The sci-fi book surprised me yesterday, in a good way. I’m getting a better idea of the overall structure and plot for this particular novel. The subplots were clear before the plot, which is weird, but hey, one of the things I’ve tried to strengthen in my work over the past few months is the use of subplot. This is where scriptwriting is useful – you need to weave in at least one “B” storyline succinctly into a finite number of pages (especially for a television script). Learning how to do that and then apply it to a novel helps.

I realized this morning that I shut off my phone a few days ago when I went to the library and left it off. Oops.

Some errands, and it looks like a nice day. I think I can walk to all of them, so I will alternate writing sessions with errands and split up my day a bit.

I had a reasonably pleasant exchange with building management yesterday and the hot water was back a little before noon.

DAUGHTER OF BOSTON shipped yesterday. I can’t wait to receive it and read it!

Back to the page.

Devon

Published in: on April 16, 2009 at 6:09 am  Comments (3)  
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Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday, March 30, 2009
Waxing Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Venus Retrograde
Partly Sunny and cold

How to Deal with a Writing Saboteur:

Stranger: So, what do you do?

Me: I’m a writer.

Stranger: Oh, I love to read! I’ve always wanted to write, I have lots of great ideas, but I’ve never gotten around to it. What an easy way to make a living! All you do is sit around in your pajamas and make things up. I read all the time Would I have read anything of yours?

Me: I don’t know. What do you like to read?

Stranger: I read EVERYTHING.

Me: (reels off several of the names/titles/publications).

Stranger: You can’t be a REAL writer. I’ve never heard of any of those.

Me: Obviously, you don’t read that much or keep up with hot new releases.

There’s no need to be gracious to someone who tries to disguise jealousy with false enthusiasm.

Because if it’s someone who’s genuinely interested and excited about your work, the person will say, “Oh, I haven’t read any of that yet. Where can I find it?” THAT is an actual reader, someone worth the interaction.

Let’s face it, no matter how much any of us read, there will always be new-to-us authors. That’s part of the fun.

On to our regularly scheduled blogging:

It was really good to be offline for a couple of days. I think I’m going to have to do that more often, whether I’m working on a site or not. I checked email and visited a blog or two on Sunday after I got back, but that was it. Bliss.

I wrote an article on Friday morning before I had to leave for the job. I’ll polish it and send it off today.

The site job went well. The weather was great for the most part, so I got to spend time outside in the warm sunshine. By Sunday, instead of warm sunshine, we had cold rain, but that was fine.

Completed the assignment for Confidential Job #1, and will send it off this morning. It was fascinating. They’re giving me more challenging work lately, which I like.

Got some work done on CRAVE THE HUNT. I need to re-immerse myself in my Iceland trip to get the sensory details right for the Jain/Wyatt chapters set in Iceland – I think there will only be two, but it’s important to get them right. Coincidentally, negotiations have resumed about adapting one (or more) of the Icelandic myths for the stage, so I need to actually sit down and read that doorstop-weight of a book of the Icelandic Sagas over the next few months, taking notes – all 1800 pages of it.

Didn’t do any work on The Lucy Gothic, unfortunately. Mapped out a few other pieces. Had an idea in the car driving to the site for something – very strong opening scene, good characters, etc. The problem is that I don’t know why these characters are brought together or for what purpose. I’ve got a group of dynamic individuals in search of a plot, and, until I can figure out that plot, there’s nothing I can do, because it will just all fall apart. I jotted down some notes, and it’s put away.

Worked on a couple of outlines, which should be ready to go out the door this week. Went over a proposal I’ve got to submit today, and did the groundwork for another proposal I hope to get out this week. Worked on the newsletter — I’m combining March and April. I hope to get it out later today.

Also, once I got home, I managed to do some house-and-hearth stuff, including six loads of laundry and re-arranging some books. I’ve got some seeds to plant on Thursday, the next planting day on the lunar calendar. Someone moved in next door, into the apartment recently vacated by the Nasty Neighbor. I haven’t met the New Neighbor yet, but New Neighbor has a lot of bookcases and boxes of books, so I bet we’ll get along.

I re-read one of my favorite writing books, as fuel, one which I haven’t re-read in about two years. And was deeply disappointed. Whereas two years ago, although I didn’t find many of the techniques/exercises personally useful, I found the book detailing them fun and energetic. Now, I find it neurotic and filled with yet more ways to procrastinate. The words on the page haven’t changed, obviously, but where I am in my overall writing has changed a great deal. It’s interesting to see how much progress I’ve made on my own journey, but disheartening that I’ve “outgrown” this particular writer’s suggestions.

Read Colleen Gleason’s WHEN TWILIGHT BURNS, one of her Gardella Vampire Chronicles. I’d never read any of her books before. I enjoyed it – the contrast between Regency lifestyle and vampire hunting is strong. I like the characters a lot. I kind of felt like I was dumped in the middle of the wilderness without a map at times because it’s several books into the series. There were hints of what happened in previous books, so I think I’ve figured the overall series arc to this point, at least the basics; when I read the other books, I’ll find out whether or not I’m right. I liked the choice of not putting too much information about the previous books in it, and the way tidbits were woven in organically — I just felt I missed a lot. Part of it was reading when tired, but that’s the way it was. Characters are great, it’s well-plotted, the pace is good, the storylines are well-woven. All in all, I enjoyed it a lot, and I look forward to reading the other books in the series. The only thing that irked me was it’s yet another depiction of Lilith in a particular way. I’ve got a very different view of the Lilith myth, so every time I see this choice, especially in a book written by a woman, it puts me off a bit. But that’s a personal interpretation choice, which has nothing to do with the high quality of the writing. She’s got the right to create any mythology she wants (and she does it well), and it’s up to me how I respond.

I booked another job for next weekend, which will be tons of fun. Plus, the place I stay when I’m on that particular site has a fabulous kitchen, so I get to do some serious cooking along with everything else – there’s a great grocery store nearby, so I can stock up on my way in.

I have to be focused and productive this week, juggling my deadlines with client projects, but I’m looking forward to a productive week without too much paperwork B.S. I do have to have an unpleasant conversation with one of my editors at some point, but I’m being jerked around and I don’t cave to emotional blackmail; I’d rather get this sorted out sooner rather than later. I fulfill my contracts to the letter, and I expect the same from the other side of the table.

I also have to take my car in at some point for the state inspection. March is nearly over!

I will be offline on Wednesday, April 1. Not only do I loathe April Fool’s Day (the majority of so-called “jokes” usually have an undercurrent of cruelty to them, which I find inexcusable), that’s the day the Conficker worm is rumored to unleash, infecting millions of computers. And, since we know I can’t trust McAfee to do what I pay them to do and actually protect me, and since I tend to have computer problems anyway, I’m staying offline. This morning, McAfee is, of course, totally out of control. Again. And heaven forbid customer service or even the executive office can bother with the basic courtesy of a response to my numerous complaints.

When I return to the online world (hopefully, if the computer doesn’t self-destruct the following day as soon as I try to connect to the internet, which is a possibility), it will be the Sixth Anniversary of Ink in My Coffee. I can hardly believe it.

I expect to be online tomorrow.

Devon

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Waxing Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Very cold

Yesterday, while writing about researching the history of the ice cube, I wrote “mush as I love” – sounded like I’d had a glass of ice cubes with a tad too much martini in it! Sheesh!

Finished and polished The Literary Athlete column yesterday, and got it out to my editor, finally on time for once, rather than just under the wire. I think the to-do lists are helping.

I toted up how much lost work time, how many lost billable hours the Demon McAfee cost me in January and February. Are you ready for this? $1589 in lost billable hours, and that’s not even at my full rate. Yeah, they’re hearing about it.

I have to comment on the current frenzy about newspapers and magazines folding. As I see it, there are several reasons for this. One is that too many papers have been taken over by conglomerates and aren’t balancing unique local news with far-reaching stories. But the two biggest reasons I believe newspapers are failing are price and content. The NEW YORK TIMES is $1.50 PER DAY. In this economy, people can’t afford it. Yeah, the NEWS and the POST are only 50 cents, but their content’s not worth even those two bits most of the time. Newspapers are so frantic to get content out fast that they don’t care any more if it’s correct or good. Of course that’s always been the case in some newspapers, and it cycles through time periods. But I miss some of the outstanding journalism of the 1960’s and 1970’s (sure, there was crap journalism then, too, but there was also a lot of great stuff). The quality of writing has gone down, you can’t find two sides of an issue in an article any more, and there are typos and grammatical mistakes all over the place. You need to have copy editors, not just run it through spell check, which is wrong most of the time anyway. Plus, so many of the same stories are placed in different newspapers, you no longer get a sense of place when you’re in a new city and you’re reading the paper. You could be anywhere. And, despite the wails going up that ad revenue goes down, there are certain newspapers in which you need to use a magnifying glass to FIND news stories in between the ads.

As far as magazines go, I’ve dumped the bulk of my subscriptions because the content on any given month over the range of magazines is identical. Because they’re not paying writers well anymore, it reflects in the quality of the writing. And they’re edited so there are no unique voices. Every article in a given magazine sounds the same, and place four or five mags in the same genre beside each other and the content is, well, generic. On top of that, too many of these magazines are running ads by companies I find skeezy. If you’re a supposedly health-oriented magazine, I believe it’s hypocritical to run ads by companies promoting unhealthy products, and I’m not going to give you my hard-earned money.

Why would these publishers think they COULD survive?

Pay good writes what they’re worth, encourage unique voices and well-rounded content, and your sales will pick up. DUH!

I’m keeping YOGA JOURNAL and NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC because they retain unique voices and have unusual, inventive features.

On the freelance front, I feel lucky because I’ve got clients on my roster who are a joy with whom to work, and whose projects I genuinely enjoy. For each of those, I’m approached about a dozen times a day by would-be clients who don’t respect my time and my work and want a lot for nothing because “it’s not hard”, “it doesn’t take so much time”, “you’re a professional, how about giving back”. I’m seriously thinking of starting a column called “Tales of the Clue-Free.” Freelancers all over the world can relate.

Gotta love Mayor Bloomberg – in yesterday’s news conference, he suggested everyone bundle up and go to the parks for sledding and free hot chocolate. Schools closed for the first time in five years.

Got some work done on the revisions of ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT. The changes that need to happen are starting to make sense. I’m also writing the chapter-by-chapter outline as I revise the chapters; then I’ll pull the synopsis out of that, and develop the one paragraph summary and the logline.

Got work done on several client projects in the afternoon, worked on some corporate proposals and some business correspondence. I’m also checking on a neighbor’s cat – poor baby is very lonely, so I’m spending a couple of hours with him, playing and sometimes just sitting in a chair reading a book with him on my lap (he weights more than all three of mine put together). Of course, before I go over there, it’s like surgical scrub time – different clothes, totally disinfecting myself, so I don’t bring over any germs, and then washing up again when I get back. Considering how I’m sterilizing all the cat bowls over here all the time, too, I may be a little over-cautious, but better safe than more sick kitties. I don’t always stay ahead of clutter, but I can’t stand dirt.. Right now – seriously, you COULD perform surgery in the kitchen or the bathroom. I’m cleaner than most hospitals. Yeah, I realize that’s not saying much in this day and age, but you get the idea . . .

And the cats are starting to lose their winter coats, so we’re back to daily vacuuming. Maybe most people vacuum every day, but in normal circumstances, I only vacuum once or twice a week. Not during spring and fall shedding seasons, though!

Good morning’s work on the Billy Root story. I’m getting back into the rhythm of it.

Back to the page. Plenty to do.

Elsa is a little better, which takes off some of the pressure. She’s still sneezing, but her breathing’s not as wet and steadier. It took about five days, but I think the antibiotics are finally kicking in.

Devon

Billy Root story – 25,373 words out of est. 60,000

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
25 / 60
(41.7%)

ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT revision – 6,581words out of est. 80,000

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
6 / 80
(7.5%)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Monday, March 2, 2009
Waxing Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Snowing!

Believe it or not, I’m doing research on the history of the ice cube. Because, mush as I love the title “Death By Ice Cube”, it might not make sense in 1933, in the grandstand area of the track, that they used ice cubes in drinks. I also contacted the Queens Historical Society to find out if they have archival material on Jamaica Racetrack, or know who does.

And here I thought this would be a quick, easy story! No such luck!

If you haven’t seen my post on “Time Management” over at the Scruffy Dog Review blog, check it out.

My computer crashed five times yesterday, all directly related to my Demon McAfee. So, if you emailed me and haven’t heard back, I’ll make sure to catch up today.

I wrote a guest blog for a friend, did some research, and turned around the assignment for my client. It was a pleasure. Always nice to get one of those.

I gave the cats a lot of attention. Elsa seems a little better. She usually seems better during the day, and then gets worse again at night.

I’m reading a book on meditation, because that practice has, unfortunately, suffered in the stress of the past few months. Actually, I think I need to change my morning yoga sequences, because I’m having trouble focusing on them, too. The evening yoga practice is working well, but the morning one, the one I need to really get me going, needs some adjustments.

We have about six inches of snow on the ground. Supposedly, Long Island has 10 inches so far, and, instead of snowing only until noon, it’s going to snow all day all the way around. All the schools are closed, etc. I think we all deserve a snow day, don’t you?

I’ll work on March’s To-Do list for the GDR, and post it later today, get out the newsletter, catch up on email, and, hopefully, get some work done on the Billy Root story, Bedtime Louie, one of the plays, and some revision work on ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT.

Provided I can coax the computer through.

Have a great start to the week, everyone!

Devon