Tues. Sept. 8, 2020: Die For Tourist Dollars Day 111 — The National Plan is Death

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Pluto, Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune, Uranus Retrograde

Sunny, warm, pleasant

image courtesy of Skitterphoto via pixabay.com

The National Strategy is Death

We’ve been thinking that there’s no national plan to fight the virus. But there IS a plan: Let people die. They demonstrate that’s their plan every day. Let people die, and those that are left get whatever scraps the 1% feel like tossing away.

This is not acceptable.

Nor is the dismissal of the massive loss of life.

It was as busy as any Labor Day Weekend here on Cape Cod, with traffic backed up at the bridges for hours on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Monday. Usually it would be Sunday with the 6-hour delays getting off Cape, but because it was a holiday Monday, it was yesterday that the traffic was backed up at least all the way to our exit all day, and at times, even further down.

During a pandemic.

I had a few things I had to go off property over the weekend; I did them as early as possible. Except for inside the stores, NO ONE was masked or social distanced.

So all these people posting photos of themselves “on vacation” on the Cape (or anywhere else this weekend) who also claim they’re doing it safely? I don’t believe you, boo. Because what I saw all weekend was reckless endangerment and irresponsible behavior.

You’re NOT “supporting the local economy” by going out to eat in restaurants. You’re putting people’s lives at risk, especially the servers. You’re adding to the problem  by walking in your packs without masks – putting a mask on when you get within a foot of someone else is too late.

I’m sick of the hypocrites, especially the self-righteous ones, who are claiming they’re doing the right thing when they’re so obviously not.

They are just as much a reason why the virus isn’t under control – and won’t be until well into next year – as the anti-maskers.

Social Media Stuff

I definitely needed the four-day break. Not that it was all rest, but I refused to beat myself up about what I “should” be doing, and that made a huge difference.

Staying off social media more than I was on it was also a good choice. There was way too much stupid. I’m also tired of the faux engagement questions like “do you still wear a mask?” I’m actually a decent human being who is trying to protect my family and keep other people from dying – of COURSE I still wear a mask. I’m tired of the “what’s your day job?” from other so-called “writers” – that’s an insulting question, for a “writer” to assume every other writer they interact with can’t earn a living at it. I’m tired of the “wrong answers only” game (which I’ve never understood or played) and the “what’s your MC’s favorite color?” and that kind of thing.

Most of it, I just scroll past, but I’m at the point now where I’m unfollowing and/or blocking people when they really annoy me. It’s their timeline; they get to put whatever they want on it. If I don’t want it to irritate my day, it’s up to me to remove them from my feed.

The whole James Woods-Travis Tritt thing? I just shake my head. I’d liked James Woods’s acting years ago, until we both were on different shows at an off-Broadway company in NY, and I heard/witnessed the level of crazy and mean. I got over my disappointment in him as a human  and excommunicated him from my universe a long time ago (and decided I wouldn’t accept work on anything in which he was cast). That he supports the Sociopath isn’t really a surprise. I had to look up Travis Tritt, and then remember that I didn’t like his work even back when I knew who he was.

I’d rather interact with people I like, have a chance at learning something or actual conversation, and post IG photos of food, cats, and the garden (which is the only reason for my Instagram account – fun stuff as a break from everything else).

Getting Stuff Done

Got December’s surgery scheduled, early enough so that I will have enjoyed Thanksgiving and can enjoy the Winter Holidays. That’s a relief.

Had to mail something certified mail. Everyone at our little post office is so nice.

Saturday was almost a normal non-pandemic weekend day: grocery shopping (very early, masked, to avoid the Covidiot tourists), full decontamination procedure (yes, in “business” journals they’re saying it’s not necessary; they can go fuck themselves, I’m still doing it), changed the beds, did 5 loads of laundry, baked bread, made carrot-ginger soup from scratch, used up the fading vegetables in the fridge to make vegetable stock, backed a brown butter honey cake, roasted a chicken, made chicken stock, read, and wrote.

In other words, a productive day that was almost on par with my pre-pandemic productivity.

I didn’t write much, and it was only what I wanted to, not what I “had” to. I wanted to make sure I actually took a break this weekend.

Unfortunately, my mom had a bad reaction to her new medication, and my lactose intolerance seems to be rearing again, so Saturday night, we were both up most of the night feeling awful.

Sunday, we really took it easy, lots of reading, light meals. We spent a good bit of time out on the deck all weekend, in spite of the neighbors’ constant heavy machinery/power tools/mowers/leaf blowers. We had to take Saturday night’s dinner back inside because the noise and the dust from the property behind (we’re on a third of an acre) was so bad, we couldn’t sit out there.

Once in awhile yesterday, I considered hopping online to do this or that, and then reminded myself that I was Taking Time Off. Time I needed.

The hummingbird visited again, fascinating Willa and Charlotte. Bratty Bird misses Tessa and has figured out that Tessa spends most of her time in my room now. So she comes up to the bedroom window in the morning and they chatter at each other. It’s cute. The bunnies are getting pretty bold and hanging out even when we’re out there; last night, I heard the coyotes run through the yard, so I hope the bunnies were well in hiding. We have some beautiful Tiger Moths, too.

Worked with the cats a lot. Willa is a little dickens, always coming up with something new to try. Charlotte has settled down, and is happy, for the most part. She and Tessa still don’t get along too well, but Willa is really trying to make friends with Tessa. Tessa thinks she’s a loony tune most of the time (and she does often act like a cartoon character), but they are better with each other.

I had weird, disturbing dreams all weekend, but couldn’t grasp enough of any of them to figure them out when I woke up.

Lots of yoga and meditation, which is a good thing. By Sunday night, I was feeling like I’d made progress with everything, only to wake up worrying again at 3:30 on Monday morning.

I meant to clean just one thing on the kitchen counter on Monday, and wound up reorganizing and cleaning everything in the L-shaped counter between the sink and the stove. It was necessary, and now it’s much easier to get at what I need when I cook, but it took up much more time than I planned.

I also wrote some cards for people, and have a letter that needs to go out today to set up RMV appointments in October.

Reading

Lots and lots of reading. Another Gamache book – I’m getting so much more out of the series this time, reading it in order. The head-hopping bothers me, but Penny does it better than most authors, so I can live with it. It’s more like being in one character’s POV, sliding into neutral ground, and sliding into the next POV than “hopping” and is less jarring than the typical head-hopping which can leave one as nauseated as on a badly-run amusement park ride.

I’m officially done with the author whose books I liked, then disliked. I’m tired of her protagonist being a doormat, and she keeps using slurs. The same slur three times in 20 pages in the latest book I tried. I stopped, pulled the other books in that series from the library pile, and they go back today. Done. Read three books in her other series, which I liked better. She used the slur once in one of the books. But they’re a little too cutesy and there are exclamation points all over the place, which give me a headache. Between that and the commitment to white privilege and conformity in both series, her protag being afraid of characters who are smart and unusual because they’re different and that being upheld as positive, no thanks. So yeah, officially done with all of her work. She’s crossed off the list.

Read more in the other series by a different author, where I liked the fourth book, but was upset at the slur used in the first book. I read the other books I’d ordered (it ended up being the first five books in the series) and she didn’t use it again, so I am cautiously optimistic.

I’m curious to see how cozy mysteries will deal or not deal with the pandemic in upcoming years.  I think there will be strong definition between the books that continue to uphold white privilege and conformity and support the anti-maskers, the ones who try to walk the line not to offend anyone on either side of the masking or vaccination spectrum, and those authors who will actually deal with it in a realistic and responsible fashion. There might even be authors who have contemporary series who choose to ignore it.

But then, I’ve become even more aware of the restrictions and fear and white privilege in the genre, especially since I was told to whiten up the characters and their names in the Nautical Namaste series because “white readers won’t understand these people.” Then they can skip the books. I can’t believe editors and agents are still spouting that crap — some of the same ones who claim they want more diverse characters in books. But they get them and try to whiten them up. Too many cozy mysteries have devolved into white people upholding their privilege and not having sex. I just don’t see how this is interesting or comforting. The genre used to be my comfort/brain candy books, but many of them just annoy me now. Yes, they’re fantasy, but they’re not fantasies that satisfy me. There are series that don’t do this, that are trying to be more diverse, inclusive, and intelligent, but there are plenty of series who aren’t.

Continuing to read Volume IV of the Paris Review Interviews. There are so many things I dislike about Philip Roth’s work, but when he talks craft, I always learn something. Maya Angelou’s interview was beautiful, and her quote “creativity is greater than the sum of its parts” resonated with me.

I finally got to see BIRDS OF PREY (yeah, not reading, but it fits in here). Mostly, I liked it. There are some clever bits like “how she’d have time for a shoe change?” and giving Black Canary the scrunchy in the middle of the fight – details that were terrific. The scene where she goes in and shoots all the cops felt off-tone, because it was such casual violence. The other violence was rooted in character or situation, but this felt off to me and bothered me.

Few of the comic book movies really satisfy me – probably because I haven’t invested in the characters before they transferred to film. But I thought there were lots of clever bits in it. I thought the chemistry between the five women was great. The whole roller skating angle was fun, too.

Looking Ahead

Trying to knock out some writing this morning. I’m going onsite for a few hours (I should be on my own, thank goodness) for a client to take care of some things, then home and do more client work remotely.

I need to focus on a lot of writing this week, while also getting some things organized and dealing with purging stuff from the basement. That needs to get back on track.

I should get assigned the next book for review, which is good, and get out a bunch of LOIs. Someone gave me a good lead on a gig that I want to follow up on today or tomorrow.

I have to prep a play to send off to a company and finish another short play to send to Trusted Readers before submitting it.

I should have the final notes on BARD’S LAMENT this week, and then can start turning that around again.

I have to work on the Topic Workbooks, and also do more PR for Grief to Art. Please share the site’s details with those who might find it a comfort.

A networking group whose events I’ve occasionally attended is starting their monthly meetings live in-person indoors at a restaurant again. Are they out of their freaking minds? Totally irresponsible. No, thanks. Bye. Not joining your organization when you’d rather put your members’ lives in danger than, you know, support them and help them through this.

Hope you had a great weekend.

I need to focus and clear off a few things before Mars goes retrograde tomorrow. Really? Now? Jupiter and Saturn are getting ready to go direct. I don’t need Mars getting in my way right now.

But all I can do is the best I can do. I have a feeling I’ll be cutting a lot of deadwood from my life in the next few weeks.

Fri. Aug. 7: Die for Tourist Dollars Day 79 — Of Notebooks and New Ideas

writing-1209121_1920
image courtesy of FreePhotos via pixabay.com

Friday, August 7, 2020
Waning Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Cloudy and cooler

Yesterday seems like a long time ago, somehow.

It was a quiet day. I did the grocery run to Trader Joe’s in the morning. Everyone masked, but too many people allowed in the store, which meant distancing was a challenge. But people tried, and worked together.

Home, full disinfectant protocols, exhausted.

Some client work, an LOI. Freelance chat was fun. I didn’t realize I had so much to say about virtual networking, but I guess I did.

I’d love to find affordable VR software to set up a virtual writers’ café where people could send little icons in that write and read in the virtual space while they’re doing sprints on their actual screen.

But Grief to Art has to be finished first. I hope to get some good work done on that today and over the weekend, and get the article for Llewellyn done, and the book read for review.

Working on the play, tentatively called “Rest Not in Peace” and having fun with it.

Finished my coursework on the introduction to educational neuroscience online with Central Queensland University. Passed the exam (with flying colors, if I might be so self-congratulatory) and received my certification. I definitely want to study more about neuroplasticity. What we discussed about how fear and stress impair learning and shrink the brain is relevant both to me personally during the pandemic, and on a larger scale for schools and the educational system, both in terms of the pandemic and in terms of active shooter drills.

Thinking about years of frustration with cozy mysteries, spurred on again after the stack I got sick of and dumped back into the library’s book deposit. How, in the 90’s, as more women were recognized in the field, they took this wonderful leap into strength and adventure, and how, after 9/11, so many became more and more narrow-minded and about protecting white privilege. It used to be that the protagonist was a misfit who found community with people accepting her for who she was; more and more, the protagonist started conforming to be accepted by the community, and I don’t like that.

Not to mention all these celibate relationships between supposedly healthy adults that are both boring and don’t make any sense.

Partially, I wrote SAVASANA AT SEA, the first Nautical Namaste mystery, as a response to the way yoga instructors were far too often treated as freaks and flakes, the locked-room aspect a cruise ship has, and the fact that I wanted to see characters in a mystery with healthy sex lives, even if every detail wasn’t on the page. Which is why they are marked as “not quite cozy” – because they don’t fit all the restrictions of the cozy. I went with a small publisher for the series because the bigger publishers wanted to edit out all the things that made me write it in the first place.

I will have to deal with the issues the pandemic bring up at some point in the series, and my editor and I are talking about how to handle it and when to handle it. Right now, I have to make the second book in the series work, and that’s a struggle. Although class structure and white privilege are coming more to the forefront with it.

I’ve been thinking about what I’m looking for in a mystery series with an amateur sleuth protagonist, one who is closer to me in age than a younger one. I’ve played with some ideas over the past few months, and some of them are coming together as being possible in the same series, rather than everything being so separate. While there’s definitely a need for simple stories that offer structure and comfort, I want something else.

I found a central point around which I want to start building (it’s at too delicate a stage to write about publicly). So, I’m percolating.

Then, of course, the dilemma was what kind of notebook do I use for the draft and development? Because this is not something I want to type directly into the computer, at least not initially. I need to play with it, to draw it, to sketch it, to write bits and put them aside, to create building blocks. It won’t work to create it on the computer.

I haven’t gone out and bought the “back to school” notebooks I usually get at this point in the year because I still have notebooks left over from last year.

Only none of them are right for this project.

I thought about buying a set of journal books specific to the project, but that’s expensive and feels too formal.

I finally realized (because I AM that bad at math) that it probably makes more sense to buy two five-subject notebooks for the project than six or seven single-subject notebooks. Duh.

I want to keep a diary of the process as I develop it. Eventually, it might be rather Steinbeck-esque, writing the diary on one side of the page and the novel on the other. But I think I’ll do the diary part in green ink, and the novel in black ink.

All of this means I have to actually leave the house and get the supplies. If I order online, it will take about 3 weeks to get here. So I guess I’m going out today, masked up, and trying to avoid the Covidiot tourists, who aren’t paying any attention to travel or quarantine restrictions.

If I can time it properly, I’ll minimize the risk.

I’m also about to finish the latest volume of my personal diary – I have one more matching volume, which I doubt will get me through the year, but I’ll worry about that when I’m closer to the end of the new volume, which I’ll start tomorrow.

My office has gotten cluttered again, so I’ll need to spend some time this weekend tidying it up, so that I can metaphorically tidy my brain. Hopefully, that will give me physical and mental space to work on the book for review, the article, “Rest Not in Peace”, BARD’S LAMENT, Grief to Art site, and any noodling I decide to do on this project development.

I haven’t decided if it will be literary fiction with mystery elements, or a mystery novel that expands genre restrictions.

I’ll develop it for a bit first, spin the ideas out like spun sugar to see what happens. Maybe I’ll find it doesn’t work, and it will be relegated to the Graveyard of Abandoned Projects (the updated Topic Workbook will be released soon). Or maybe it will become a viable project.

Have a great weekend, my friends. I wish you peace and health.
abstract-3092201_1920
image courtesy of igorovsyannykov via pixabay.com

Fri. Nov. 15, 2019: Trying to Balance the Demands

Friday, November 15, 2019
Waning Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde
Cloudy and warmer

Hop on over to Affairs of the Pen. Instead of talking about the Nautical Namaste Mysteries, this week, I’m talking about the Twinkle Tavern Mysteries, which are part of Delectable Digital Delights.

Took down the contact form on the Fearless Ink site, because it just won’t work. I have no idea why. Whatever they did to make the recaptcha work in the comments on Ink-Dipped Advice screwed up the contact form. It should work on both, but doesn’t, and not even the contact form works any more. So people just have to contact me directly. I typed out the email address, hopefully in a way the bots can’t get it.

Spent the afternoon clearing out a section of the basement. Water had leaked in under the door to the bulkhead in one of the storm. I lost several boxes of books to that, including the books written by my ex. I had mixed feelings about that — talk about a way to let go completely. I’m sad that I also lost a box of books on Cape Cod history, some books on France, and the Norse sagas I brought back form Iceland in 2007.

I also sorted and tossed a lot of old papers. I found some important stuff, such as old contact sheets and an article I’d forgotten I wrote — which is pretty darn good, and will go up on my Clients & Publications page.

My back was killing me by the end of it. But if I keep at it, the basement will be purged over the winter. In the spring, I’ll call one of the junk removal companies to make a dump run with all the stuff I don’t put into household garbage, recycling, or give away.

I still have to do a lot of pruning this weekend.

My back hurt so badly that I broke down and took a Tylenol PM. It kept me awake until after midnight. I finally dropped off and felt dopey when I woke up after oversleeping.

Frustrating early editing session, mostly because I overslept and felt time pressure. Errands, dropped off stuff at the dump and at the post office.

I’m moving Tessa up to my room and keeping her there, away from Willa and Charlotte for a couple of weeks, and then working on socializing them together upstairs, under supervision. It’s not happening organically, so I have to make it work otherwise. The diffuser has not helped at all, and was a waste of money.

Some time at the library. This afternoon, I’m back in the basement, cleaning and purging. There’s a clear path now, when they have to put in the new furnace whenever that is. They’re coming to “talk about it” and take a look next Thursday. The construction guy is coming to “take a look” at what the landlord wants done to the deck. Which means a bunch of old white men will stand around moaning and shaking their heads and wasting my time.

At least they’re not trying to replace it while Mercury is still retrograde.

I’m having a cranky start to the weekend, but I hope it will get better.

Have a great one!

 

Published in: on November 15, 2019 at 11:18 am  Comments Off on Fri. Nov. 15, 2019: Trying to Balance the Demands  
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Fri. Sept. 13, 2019: A Pretty Day

Friday, September 13, 2019
Full Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Sunny and lovely

Today is a lovely autumn day, and I’m trying to get myself steady.

Hop on over to Affairs of the Pen, where I talk about how I built Sophie’s shipboard friends and foes.

Yesterday, I got a lot of work done on LOIs, posts, and I’m working on a free promotional download packet of my series. The formatting is a bit of a slog, but it matters. When I pick up a book, be it print or ebook, and the formatting is amateur hour, I cross the author off my list.

Got some work done on ELLA. The work is slow, but steady. This first draft is kind of a mess because I’m blank paging instead of using an outline, but I’m learning a lot. I think I’m going to outline the next two books in the trilogy. It’s easier to have at least a loose idea of where I’m going.

Didn’t get enough work done on GRAVE REACH or “Pier-less Crime” but I hope to fix that today.

I did some more research and am working out the plot of the play on Canaletto’s sisters. I still need a good title. But the characters are coming together, and I have at least one of the conflicts, with two of the smaller conflicts figured out. So that’s a help. I may have to cut some characters.

I cancelled this morning’s phone meeting. The deeper I dug into their work and values, the more uncomfortable I was with how they work. I have other opportunities that are more suited to the way I work.

I have a lot to do this weekend, writing and review-wise, but I’m actually looking forward to it.

We are still grieving Lucy’s loss, though, and will for a long, long time.

Published in: on September 13, 2019 at 8:54 am  Comments Off on Fri. Sept. 13, 2019: A Pretty Day  
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Fri. Sept. 6, 2019: Battening Down the Hatches for a Dorian Slap

Friday, September 6, 2019
Waxing Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Rainy and mild

For some reason, yesterday seems far away.

Got some work done at the library in the morning, including sending out a bunch of LOIs. Did the big grocery shop before the incoming storm. Couldn’t find everything I wanted. How could the store be out of flour? So I guess I’m not baking this weekend, once the storm passes, unless I go shopping again.

Hop on over to Affairs of the Pen, the blog under the Ava Dunne name, where I talk about how I’m building the ensemble for the Nautical Namaste Mysteries. This week’s post talks about how I developed Sophie’s friends on land: her housemates Fawn and Bianca, her friend Freddie the painter, her family, the supporting characters that help set up and support certain aspects of her character.

Participated in the Freelance Chat on Twitter yesterday, which was a ton of fun.

Worked on “Pier-less Crime” in the afternoon. It’s going more slowly than I’d like, but okay. Crafted a pitch for a magazine for which I’ve wanted to write for years, and I finally came up with something I think is suited to them. That goes out today.

Meeting this morning, which I was not looking forward to (and why this post is going up late).

I’ve set up a separate Twitter account for Fearless Ink. I still will talk about anything on the @DevonEllington account, but @ink_fearless will be focused just on business writing and freelancing. I hope you will follow me on both.

Got a little bit of work done on ELLA. But, because I’m blank paging most of it instead of following a detailed outline, this last third of the book is a mess and difficult to sort out. I feel like I have to type up everything I’ve written so far, so that I can effectively write the last third. This process has been fun and I’ve learned a lot; however, it reminds me why I prefer to work from detailed outlines.

The plan this afternoon and for most of the weekend is to work on GRAVE REACH and finish “Pier-less Crime.” I need both to go out next week. I also have to revise the first chapter of THE BARD’S LAMENT, so it’s in good enough shape to be part of the back matter for GRAVE REACH.

There are personal stresses with which I’m dealing with and can’t yet discuss. They are wearing on me, and I hit patches in the day where I feel like I am flat out of coping skills.

Of course, in times of stress, I always want to work on GAMBIT COLONY, because it soothes me. But I can’t do that during this deadline period. I need to focus on what’s on deadline.

But all I can do is the best I can do. And I have to get back to the page.

Have a great weekend. Monday’s post will be a full one, about challenging yourself, for Upbeat Authors.

 

Published in: on September 6, 2019 at 9:57 am  Comments Off on Fri. Sept. 6, 2019: Battening Down the Hatches for a Dorian Slap  
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Fri. Aug. 30, 2019: Here Comes the Holiday!

wine-1761613_1920
Image courtesy of PhotoMIX Company via pixabay

Friday, August 30, 2019
New Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Sunny and pleasant

Got some work done yesterday. Told the “potential” client that was trying to get me to jump through a bunch of hoops before I actually talked to anyone involved in the project that wasn’t the environment for me. I’m glad I did. I was polite, firm, and direct.

Got ahead on some blog posts. I’m starting Kemmyrk again, now that the 2020 Almanacs are out, and I just submitted my article for the 2021 piece. Here’s an article yesterday on the Dark Moon. And today, there’s an article on the New Moon. The blog won’t have a designated day, but it will go by the phases of the moon, and talk about tarot, etc. I hope you enjoy it.

Gratitude and Growth and Ink-Dipped Advice will both be back next week.

I’m going to start up the blog under the Ava Dunne name, too, where I talk about the Nautical Namaste Mysteries. It’s called Affairs of the Pen, and the first post, on how I decided to write SAVASANA AT SEA is here.

I got some good work done on ELLA BY THE BAY. I got an idea for another stand-alone suspense novel, and did a rough outline. I’m behind where I want to be on GRAVE REACH, but I’m doing a big push this weekend, no matter how much I want time off. I can see the end of this draft, I can almost taste it. And I’m running out of time.

Participated in a fun freelance chat yesterday, which reminded me it’s time to prep my autumn postcard mailing. I land more work from the postcard mailing than any other form of marketing.

I also need to finish “Pier-less Crime” and draft the first scene of the Canaletto Sisters play. Coming up with a title for the latter would be great.

Have a lovely Labor Day Weekend, and we’ll check back in on Tuesday, although the blog might go up late.

Take some time to enjoy!

Published in: on August 30, 2019 at 8:54 am  Comments Off on Fri. Aug. 30, 2019: Here Comes the Holiday!  
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Mon. March 18, 2018: Kindness is not Weakness #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, March 18, 2019
Waxing Moon
Mercury Retrograde

 

In light of the New Zealand terrorist attack, I thought it was important to talk about how kindness is not weakness.

Often, when someone is kind, it is misinterpreted as weak. Part of the premise of my not-quite-cozy Nautical Namaste mystery series (under the Ava Dunne name) hinges on the fact that my protagonist, Sophie, is mistaken for weak when in reality she is kind. She walks her talk. She does her best to live the yogic path she teaches. Part of that path is meeting the world with kindness.

That does not mean she doesn’t fight back when someone tries to hurt her or hurt someone about whom she cares. Quite the contrary. She’s strong. She can be tough without being hard.

But she is also kind. She does her best to make everyone in class feel good about where they are at that moment. It’s one of the tenets practiced at Kripalu that I admire most, and I wanted to fold that in as part of the series.

You are fine where you are. From where you are, you work for positive change to change what you know needs to change.

Offering a helping hand instead of a striking blow is not weakness.

It is something we must start practicing as individuals. If the current poison of hatred can spread the way it has, it can and must be countered with an antidote of kindness in strength.

Take a look at the Strength card in your favorite tarot deck. (If you don’t have a favorite tarot deck yet, I recommend the Robin Wood Deck or the Everyday Witch Tarot or the Steampunk Tarot). Look at the image on the Strength card. There is strength, integrity, purpose. And kindness.

We can’t change the greater world until we change our own part of it. By practicing kindness in strength, we can create a ripple effect that counters the wave of hatred that’s been the long game since the Reagan years, which is now coming into full flower.

We can stop this. We can change this. But only if we don’t turn away, pretend it doesn’t exist, and pretend that our daily interactions either enable it or counter it.

Be strong. Be kind. Make the world a better place.

 

Published in: on March 18, 2019 at 5:18 am  Comments Off on Mon. March 18, 2018: Kindness is not Weakness #UpbeatAuthors  
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, January 2, 2019: Hit The Ground Running and Hitting Back at Those Who Denigrate Artists

Wednesday, January 2, 2019
Waning Moon
Uranus Retrograde

Time to hit the ground running. I have a few thoughts on that, over on Ink-Dipped Advice.

Friday wore me out. I had to take the car in (which wasn’t as bad as I feared). I spent time with a client, then had some running around to do.

I was also still spinning ideas for the online brainstorming session I had with Jackie Kessler, Deanna Rayburn, and Erin Cronican on new material for WOMEN WITH AN EDGE RESIST.

WOMEN WITH AN EDGE is a show with legs. Some of the material is evergreen; some is dated. It’s time for another show along the same lines that deal with topics relevant now. I have a few places I can test material, although there’s not a theatre on Cape who’d have the guts to produce the piece. Too right-wing around here.

But we brainstormed pages of notes, and I’ve taken it further. I threw some ideas into the Women Write Change forum as well on Monday, so I’m sure that will generate more ideas.

I want to write the first couple of monologues this week.

Saturday was unseasonably warm. I had another run to the store (because there’s always one more thing). We got the garbage to the dump (and the guys got their cookies).

I started playing with some more ideas. Because ideas come in batches. So it’s important to take notes, date the notes, and then figure what’s pulling hardest and where to put what.

Sunday I managed fourteen pages on an idea with which I’m playing — I think it will work. My two main protagonists are deliciously more complicated and manipulative than I originally envisioned. It will be interesting to see how they play off each other. A missing music composition is a big part of the story, too.

Worked on the proposal for the play set in Renaissance Venice. With that, and the anti-gun violence play, and the two women authors play, and WOMEN WITH AN EDGE RESIST, that’s four stage plays and three novels releasing this year. Minimum.

We’re pushing the Jain Lazarus re-release back to 2020. It doesn’t make sense to do it this year. That way, in 2020, the third Gwen-Justin book releases, the third Nautical Namaste releases, the fifth Coventina Circle releases — along with the first three Jain Lazarus. Those are all outlined — it’s a case of writing/revising.

This year, I’m scrambling to get BALTHAZAAR and DHARMA out on schedule — last year was just too much. GRAVE REACH will be in good shape in a few months, and ready for edits. And we’re still trying to figure out if the Justice by Harpy trilogy can come out this year.

Plus, I want to make room to have at least one stand-alone a year.

I’m posting this on Monday, so I have no idea what my Eve and Day will be. I’m determined to make them good. I’m determined not to teeter at the edge of the abyss I usually find myself on every New Year’s Eve.

I have worlds to build.

Social media has just been depressing lately. I know I need it for the books and the writing. I enjoy genuine interaction, and I’ve met some great people.

But there’s too much viciousness. And too much whining.

You want to be a full time artist? Then you have to rearrange your life and put the work first. You can’t do it all and have it all. If you want to be a part-time artist in order to have a more balanced life, fine, go ahead. But don’t whine at those of us who made the choices and put in the work about “not having time to write.” You are CHOOSING not to write. You are CHOOSING other elements in your life over the writing. And they are your choices. So own them.

I’m also tired of being attacked for earning money from my work. Loving my work does not forfeit my right to earn a living at it — provided I’m willing to put in the work. I am. I do.

Those who aren’t willing to put in the work or believe getting paid for art and craft is “selling out” can go to hell. Because I have stuff to do and can’t be bothered.

And all these attacks on artists as not being smart or who shouldn’t have opinions or participate in political activism? Those who make their living in the arts tend to be smarter and more committed than those around them, or they couldn’t do it.

If you think artists are stupid, if you attack them for being intelligent, articulate, and committed to building a better world, yeah, you can go to hell, too.

I have no time for these jealous, petty morons. People who attack artists generally do so out of spite, because they hate that artists have the talent and the skills and the work ethic, and, most importantly, the COURAGE to put it all on the line.

I’m not arguing with them. I’m not “debating” with them. Let those who are only in it to cause trouble and spread spite twist in the wind.

I have art to create. I have work to do. I have a world to change, one story at a time.

 

Published in: on January 2, 2019 at 6:15 am  Comments Off on Wednesday, January 2, 2019: Hit The Ground Running and Hitting Back at Those Who Denigrate Artists  
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, May 14, 2018: #UpbeatAuthors The Next Step on the Ladder

black-and-white-construction-ladder-54335

Photo courtesy Khimish Sharma, via Pexels.com

Monday, May 14, 2018
Dark of the Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde

 

My first response to that is, “Which ladder?” I have various limbs on various ladders. I write in different genres, under different names, in a variety of formats: prose, theatre, television, film, radio. Journalism. Essays. Marketing writing. Reviewing.

I do very little editing for private clients now, because the time/money ratio doesn’t work for me, too many would-be writers default on payments (when they’re not trying to lowball me down to a fraction of my rate), and I need the primary focus to be on my own work. When I edit, I am generally hired by the publishing house to work for something under contract that has passed particular gate-keeping standards.

I am with more than one publisher. One of them, who has signed several projects, is small, just starting out. We are taking a risk on each other. Among the reasons I was excited to work with them was that they pay small advances, don’t demand their writers acquiesce to a boiler-plate contract AND, instead of POD, they do small print runs. The print runs are after a certain digital threshhold is reached, but the POD model was not working for me, so I wanted to try this. I am still with another publisher who is doing the POD model, and I have submissions out to several other publishers, who work on a mix of models, so we’ll see what happens. I also liked them because the editor with whom I’m working constantly pushes me to be better. And that is my goal — that every book I write is better, in both craft and art, than the previous books.

About a year ago, I sat down with a lawyer, an agent, an editor, and a marketing advisor, and we came up with a plan. I was unhappy and frustrated with the way things were going in my career. I knew I wasn’t writing what the Big Five wanted; I wanted to explore some things that they are currently giving lip service to, but not following through on, and I wanted to do it in my way. We were not a good fit at the time. I knew I was going to part from an agent I’d been working with for several months, because we were not a good fit. When we got together, she was excited by my work and my voice; but the more we worked together, the more she wanted to dilute it and take out what made it unique. She kept telling me my themes and issues were “too hard for the typical reader.” In other words, she wanted me to dumb things down, and I didn’t want to do that. Also, she only wanted to commit to a book at a time, and I need an agent who is interested in long-term career planning. She has since signed a friend of mine, and they’re doing great together. I’m happy for both of them; they are the right fit. We were not.

As far as the marketing writing went, I wanted to have the confidence to say “No” to the lowballers locally and reach farther afield. The interesting thing is that as soon as I did that, I landed two clients locally with whom I work well, WHILE also reaching beyond the bridge for clients who pay better.

We took four or five days together, and I took about twenty pages of notes. We crafted a plan. Some of that we followed; some of that has fallen by the wayside for various reasons.

I re-stated my commitment not to “niche” — to me, that’s a death toll for a creative life. Far too many people who “advise” freelancers sneer and call what I do a “generalist.” I prefer to call it being a “Renaissance Writer” and I’ve written on this topic for both WOW-Women on Writing and Write Naked!

I wanted to get back into article writing, which fell by the wayside for a bit. I started pitching again, and I did pretty well, but that seems to be one of the things that falls away first. Since I enjoy articles — every part from the pitch through the research through the writing and the polish, especially working with a good editor — I need to get back on track with that.

One of the big changes I made was in the way I do pitch letters. Instead of trying to frame what I do to sound like what they want, I’m more specific in the elements I think will appeal and more specific in where our paths diverge. I’m more myself in the cover letter — while still structuring it the way I find works — hook, one paragraph summary, technical info, bio, why this market. And the results are good.

This year and next, I’m on a brutal contract schedule. I’d spent a couple of years working on different types of material, on working on craft. Now, with a commitment to more than one series, I am sitting down and writing the books.

Last year, PLAYING THE ANGLES was re-released, as the first of the Coventina Circle paranormal romantic suspense novels (in its original incarnation, it was a stand-alone). The second book in the series, THE SPIRIT REPOSITORY, just released, and the third, RELICS & REQUIEM, will come out in October of this year, with the fourth, GRAVE REACH, coming out in May of 2019. So that’s a tight schedule.

Last year, the first Nautical Namaste mystery, SAVASANA AT SEA (as Ava Dunne) released. It’s a not-quite-cozy mystery series, whose protagonist is a yoga instructor on a cruise ship. Only one of those books comes out a year! But the next one, DAVY JONES DHARMA, is due in early December this year.

TRACKING MEDUSA, the first Gwen Finnegan mystery, re-released this past January. As I worked on the second book, THE BALTHAZAAR TREASURE, I realized that there was a chunk of it that slowed down the plot. Yet the information was necessary to where my characters were in their emotional lives and how they’d built their day-to-day relationships. Flashbacks and info-dump conversations wouldn’t work; so my editor and I decided to pull out those chapters, flesh them out into a “between-the-books” novella, now called MYTH & INTERPRETATION, and put that out this summer. BALTHAZAAR is still scheduled to come out in January of 2019, and that is now back on track, the pace and content correct.

In the meantime, I had three terrific opportunities. One was to pitch a serial. Those of you who’ve known me for several years know that I used to write four serials in four genres under two names for 18 months a few years back. A total of 8000 words a month. I love writing serials, and I miss it. I had the chance to pitch to a company that specializes in serials.

I pitched a fantasy/adventure novel. I’d written the first four chapters a couple of years ago and put it aside for scheduling reasons. But, when I had this opportunity, I wrote a few more chapters, and outlined what would be the book-length arc of this serial. I fell in love with it all over again. If it’s picked up, it goes back in the schedule; if not, it will be back-burnered again.

I also had two other ideas, stand-alones, that I played with, on and off for a couple of years, writing my way in the first few chapters, then making notes for my Writers’ Rough. On impulse, I polished pitches and tossed them into a Twitter pitch day for a specific company. Editors liked both; so I’m working on some additional chapters, polishing them, and sending them out by deadline this month. Again, if the editors want the full manuscript, they go back into the schedule sooner rather than later; if not, they are back-burnered until next year, when my contract schedule isn’t quite as demanding.

As I said above, I have a couple of other pieces out on submission; if they are contracted, they will be worked in. I also have a serial novel — which is different than a novel broken down as a serial. This is a set of novels that are all of a piece. It follows the filming of a television series over several seasons. Not a series, in the sense that each stands alone and progresses. These novels all fit together like puzzle pieces. One of my publishers has expressed interest in looking at it when the first five or so puzzle pieces are ready. When will that be? I don’t know.

I also made a commitment to do more script work again. I’m taking this year off from stage plays (I wrote four in three years for 365 Women). But one of my radio plays will be produced later this month, and I want to submit some screenplays I’ve polished.

Along with all this, I will pitch to higher-paying clients and higher-paying article markets. Gotta keep a roof over my head, and if I don’t keep up the writing pace I can’t. This is my profession, not my hobby. I am paid to write. That IS my day job. While my book sales have jumped considerably since I moved webhosts and redesigned my websites, I still need the marketing writing and article writing for income. Plus, I enjoy it.

So, my “next step” is building on the foundation of the series on which I currently write; continuing to expand the publication contracts with other publishers at higher-paying tiers, and book higher-paid marketing and article gigs.

I’ve found a process that works for me as far as the new ideas — because, as we all know, new ideas come in batches. I write my way in for a few chapters, then sit down and do a Writer’s Rough Outline. That way, whenever I can actually sit down and WRITE the book, I can drop into its world. The Writer’s Rough outline captures the initial energy of the idea, and then, as I work, I can develop the structure and the craft.

In the coming weeks, we will sit down again and assess how this last year played out. What worked, what didn’t. Where I lost focus, and what I dropped because it didn’t work. And we will craft a plan for the coming year that will guide me toward the “next step on the ladder.”

I don’t want fame. I worked in theatre and film for too many years and see how it can hurt creativity and general life; that is not what I want. I do want financial stability, and to be paid fairly for my work. There is no reason not to be paid well doing work I love. My profession is writing. I will not let ANYONE decide that it’s a cute lil hobby and I don’t deserve to be paid a living wage. I will dig in and do it, and earn my living. It will be a mix and match of projects and styles and tangents, but writing is my profession. When I decided I wanted to work on Broadway, I didn’t let anything or anyone stand in the way of achieving that goal. Now that I’m writing full-time, I feel the same way.

My next step is increased earnings and visibility for my work. It is also participating in the community of writers who love what they do and are committed to a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work across the board, no matter what the profession. It is refusing to “dumb it down” or change what I write because people I don’t respect threaten not to buy what I write. The great thing about writing is that there are plenty of authors writing in plenty of styles and genres, so there’s something for everyone. It’s fine if someone doesn’t connect with my work — there are wonderful authors out there with whom they WILL connect. But threatening me and demanding I change what I write is not going to work.

Artists have a responsibility. I believe that responsibility is to bear witness to the world, to expand people’s vision of the world, but also to create better worlds and help us find ways to reach those better worlds inclusively and fairly. A better world needs social and economic justice. By respecting our own value, our own worth, we set the tone.

For more inspiration on valuing your work, please visit Lori Widmer’s Words on the Page blog. It’s great all the time, but May is Writers Worth Month. It’s especially great now.

 

Fri. Feb. 16, 2018: More Website Building Adventures & Digging in To Write

Friday, February 16, 2018
Waxing Moon
Rainy and mild

Busy day yesterday. Not enough writing done, but when is there?

The mid-month check-in is up on the Goals, Dreams, and Resolutions site.

The Devon Ellington website is ready to move. There are tweaks I’ll have to do as soon as the site goes live, especially when it comes to creating custom perma-links. But the text and the look work for me. I mean, I kind of wish I could do a slight parchment color on the background, so the text isn’t against something so white, but I’m not quite savvy enough or confident enough to change the CSS script to do it. Not yet, anyway!

So now, I go into my pHp admin, change the links from the temporary building URL, and then dig in to my old webhost to try and point the site to the new address.

It’s also a case of creating the email addresses on the new site, and then setting up the subdomains for each series. I already put the pinned posts up on the various Facebook pages for each series to let them know that the old sites will be dark while the new sites are built.

I rebuilt the Devon Ellington Work site on a temporary URL, so I could test and tweak as I built and gain confidence. The subdomains, one for each series, will be built live. Yes, that’s a risk, but it’s easier (I think) than creating a temporary URL for each of them and then moving it. We’ll see, right?

I hope the site move will happen over the weekend, so I can start building the subdomains next week. I’d like to get them all up in about a week or so.

And then I’ll set up a temporary URL for Fearless Ink and work on that build, and, finally, the Cerridwen’s Cottage site. I’m looking forward to being done!

But I’ve learned a lot. And I have a stack of books to teach me more! 😉

So, I spent yesterday morning building and editing the Devon Ellington site. I still have to come up with logos for the Gwen Finnegan Mysteries and the Jain Lazarus Adventures, but I can always create those and add them in.

Then, I took a much-needed break for yoga class. Boy, did I need it. The stress from the past few weeks took a toll on my body.

After that, I spent the afternoon on site working with a client.

Today, early morning grocery shopping, then time on the site move, and then, for the weekend, I’m digging into SPIRIT REPOSITORY. The original due date was yesterday; thank goodness it was moved. But I want to get some serious work done on it.

And I have to find a new drum for my laser printer.

Have a great weekend!

 

Published in: on February 16, 2018 at 10:48 am  Comments Off on Fri. Feb. 16, 2018: More Website Building Adventures & Digging in To Write  
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Thurs. Oct. 26, 2017: Savasana Pre-Sale and My Mother’s Surgery

Savasana at Sea Cover Choice 1

Savasana at Sea is available for pre-orders. Links here and here.

Yoga Instructor Sophie Batchelder’s wonderful life gets turned upside down when she’s fired from her job and dumped by her fiancé in the same day. Grabbing the opportunity to assist the yoga instructor on a cruise ship headed for the Bahamas for ten days, she discovers her predecessor’s body, and the rumors that she’s taking over in that predecessor’s blackmail operation put her own life in danger. She must use intelligence, humor, and intuition to clear her name and save her own life.

Along the way, she’s swept up in the frenetic, stressful, life that happens beyond the “employees only” door of a cruise ship, and finds romantic possibilities and disappointments. Can she live a yogic path and survive cruise ship life? A Not-Quite-Cozy Mystery.

Thursday, October 26, 2017
Waxing Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Rainy and warm

Savasana at Sea is available for pre-order. The easiest place to find the ever-increasing buy links is to visit the Pronoun page or the Savasana at Sea page on the Nautical Namaste website.

Today is my mother’s surgery. I dropped her off; it will take 3-6 hours. I’m going to do some work, and then go back and pick her up. Fingers crossed that it all goes well. I think I’m more nervous about it than she is.

Yesterday was my first day with a new client. I’ll be spending several days a week on site with the company, doing some co-writing, ghost-writing, deepening content, expanding their audience. It’s a small office, and I really like the two other people with whom I’m working.  I also learned how they price their merchandise, background on the company, and co-wrote/shaped the answers to interview questions with the designer. That all worked well.

Still no check from the other freelance gig. This is the latest they’ve ever been, and it’s annoying.

Only about 500 words on MARRIAGE GARDEN, but some words are better than no words.

Tuesday, I took my mom for her final pre-op appointment. It went well. While she was in her appointment, I worked on a survey for working writers that I will do on Survey Monkey. I’ll post the link all over the place, because I want the largest possible number of working writers possible to answer the questions. I will do an article about the findings at the very least; I also want to find out if there are other writers who feel that the current writing publications are geared too much to beginners. There are several options if that’s the case; none of which I can publicly discuss right now.

Taking another look at the galleys of SAVASANA, to see if we have to make any changes before the Nov. 15 release. Also finishing up the media kit so that I can get that up, and starting the marketing push. Trying to maintain/accelerate the marketing for PLAYING THE ANGLES at the same time.

Have a few things to send off to a different client today, ahead of Monday’s meeting.

But most of my focus is on hoping things go well with my mother’s surgery.

Onward.

Playing The Angles Cover Sm

Playing the Angles, the first Coventina Circle Paranormal Romantic Suspense Novel, is available here and here.

Mon. Sept. 25, 2017: Writing Weekend

Playing The Angles Cover Sm

Monday, September 25, 2017
Waxing Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Sunny and cool

After a week, the sun finally peeked out yesterday afternoon. Eight gloomy days — it was nice to have a little light.

Urgent meeting this morning, so I’m late getting on line today. Apologies. In general, I’m still difficult to reach.

Don’t forget — PLAYING THE ANGLES releases NEXT MONDAY! I can’t believe it. I’m excited and nervous. You can find all sorts of buy links here.

Busy weekend, mostly writing. I worked and re-worked the first chapter of DAVY JONES DHARMA, the second Nautical Namaste Mystery, until I was happy and excited with it. Worked on front and back matter for the book — almost done. A bit more research, a few more links, and I can add it in.

Doing another proofread of the SAVASANA AT SEA manuscript, and then I’ll put in all the extras, and of it goes to the editor and publisher for its final tweaks. I had hoped to get the entire manuscript re-proofed, along with doing the front matter and the website matter and the series bible information, but it’s slow going when it’s all in tandem. Still, it’s easier and more efficient than doing multiple passes.

I’m also irritated because changes I’ve made multiple times in the manuscript didn’t save properly, and I keep having to go back and put them in again.

Now, while I’m in the throes of DHARMA, I want to outline the whole book, so when it comes back up in the writing queue, I haven’t lost the energy and momentum I’ve built doing the first chapter.

Worked on material for the Nautical Namaste website, too. I still have a couple of pieces for PLAYING THE ANGLES to add over the next couple of weeks on the Coventina Circle website, but I also wanted to get the Nautical Namaste website up to speed.

Also got a bit over 3K written on THE MARRIAGE GARDEN. Pretty soon, I have to stop and type up what I have, or I’ll never catch up. I like working in longhand for this particular book.

Reading Steinbeck’s journal, I got irritated that the person he wrote the journal TO — I don’t remember if it was his agent or editor — Steinbeck expected this individual to provide him with boxes of pencils and the notebooks to write the book! That struck me as typically entitled male — a woman would just go out and buy the supplies her own damn self. It’s not like he couldn’t afford it at the time. It irked me.

Read Claire Tomalin’s biography of Katherine Mansfield. I admire some of her writing, but everything I learn about her makes me glad I never knew her. (Not that I was even alive when she was). Nasty piece of work.

I believe in putting one’s art first, but I don’t believe in being horrible to other people, on the pretext of being an “artist”. Most of the best at their art and craft I’ve known over the years are also decent human beings.

It begs the interesting question of where does one draw the line between protecting oneself to do one’s art and engaging with the world? Because there are always parasites who prey on artists, and it’s important not to let them feed off one. At the same time, when people are kind to one and help one, showing basic human courtesy in return isn’t too much to ask.

So, out of the nasty human beings who created beautiful art/music/literature, whose work would we have been better without?

I don’t have the answers, but when I have a few extra minutes not on deadline and am reading biographies of other artists, I sometimes like to ponder the question.

Sunday was also spent getting the plants we’d sheltered against the house back out, and putting out the tomatoes, etc. that we’d taken inside back out. The geraniums got infested with something nasty, so we’re trying to save them. Have to wash and disinfect a few things.

Some of what we took in will stay in; some we will slowly wash over the next few weeks and put away. The tomatoes still need sun so they can ripen.

I have to oil the teak furniture before it comes in. That always takes a few days, and it’s better to do when it’s drier, not so humid.

Lots to do today, catching up on the time lost in this meeting. Long list. Then, back to the manuscript to finish the proofread. I’ve got some articles and essays to work on this week, and some pitches to get out.

Let’s hope this is a great and productive week for all of us!

Published in: on September 25, 2017 at 10:09 am  Comments Off on Mon. Sept. 25, 2017: Writing Weekend  
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Inspiration from Place #UpbeatAuthors

Note: This was a previously-committed to post for the #upbeatauthors group. If you want to read about my response to Hurricane Harvey, it is the post above this one. I am not ignoring the suffering.

Trish Milburn‘s topic for the day is “Places that Inspire”. That covers a lot of ground. I can find ANY place I visit inspiring. I keep detailed travel journals when I go anywhere, and write up the details, especially sensory details. I collect maps and historical information. I collect contact information for chambers of commerce and tourism boards, so when I write about a place, I can go back and get the emotional geography correct.

Because setting is a character in my work (and I teach courses on it), it’s important to me to get the physical and emotional geography of a place correct. I’m pretty good at discerning when an author hasn’t visited a place and hasn’t done enough research to understand its unique feel/personality. Yes, it’s fiction, and it’s important to use imagination. But, if you are going to use a real place, or do what I call “stretching geography”, where you add the fictional places that support your story into a real environment, you need to get the physical and the sensory details right.

That’s a lecture for another day. 😉

For today, I am going to share with you some of the places that have inspired specific pieces of work. I’m having trouble posting photographs, but clicking through the links will get you all kinds of great images and information.

New York City
I grew up in a suburb of New York City, and spent plenty of time there. After a year of college elsewhere, I transferred back to NYU for film and television production, and then, after two years in San Francisco and a miserable year in Seattle, I moved back and worked my way up in theatre until I worked on Broadway. I loved the city, especially Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Natural History, the various New York Public Libraries, NYU itself, and all the neighborhoods. I lived through 9/11, in which 42 people I knew (firefighters, mostly, and cops, and people I’d gone to school with who worked in the towers). New York is an important part of my work.

It’s the primary setting for the Nina Bell Mysteries, which are in the 1990s, following a college graduate trying to build her life in the arts. She lives on E. 6th Street, and is an NYU alum, and works at theatres similar to the Public. I use my diaries from those years to make sure I have the geography right, and the events and how they affected those of us trying to ignore said events.

It’s where TRACKING MEDUSA, the first Gwen Finnegan mystery starts and ends. The book starts in the Gramercy Park area, and has major events at the main New York Public Library and a chase scene inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
(The book re-releases in January 2018. Visit http://gwenfinneganmysteries.devonellingtonwork.com for more information).

PLAYING THE ANGLES, the first Coventina Circle mystery, releasing on October 2, takes places in various NYC locations, most of it in the Broadway neighborhood, since much of the action takes place backstage on a Broadway show. So that’s midtown. I used to live in the area, on the corner of 42nd St. and 8th Avenue, over a strip club which is now a comedy club, across from the Port Authority bus terminal, and a short walk to the Broadway theatres at which I worked. I’d regularly walk back from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, so I could spend time in Central Park. ANGLES also has scenes in Greenwich Village and Morag’s Upper West Side apartment. The second book in the series, THE SPIRIT REPOSITORY is mostly set in Greenwich village, around the publisher for whom Bonnie works, and the bookshop that Rupert owns, with forays to the Upper West Side and down to the Bowery. Most of the books in the series will have NYC locations, although I plan to get them out of the city at times! (http://www.coventinacircle.devonellingtonwork.com)

SAVASANA AT SEA, the first Nautical Namaste Mystery that releases in November, starts in New York City, at Union Square, where yoga studios have bloomed in the last few years. It also has locations at the cruise ship piers, and Sophie shares a brownstone in Brooklyn, inspired by one owned by a friend of mine.

I love the city deeply; I just don’t want to live there any more!

SCOTLAND
I have a deep love of Scotland. Two of my shows have been produced at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and I lived in Edinburgh for a month at a time with each. I’ve visited the city frequently, and travelled a good deal throughout the country: St. Andrews, Skye, the borders, but especially Ayrshire, where I’ve rented an apartment in Culzean Castle through the Scottish National Trust a couple of times.

The area is amazing — friendly people, beautiful scenery, great food. A basic conversation in passing can be the seed of a story.

A big chunk of TRACKING MEDUSA is set in a fictional town in Ayrshire, not far from Culzean, where Gwen and Justin confront Gwen’s past and discover the secrets of the Medusa statue.

Eastern and Western Scotland are very different from each other, in atmosphere, in geography, in sensory detail. The jet stream allows Culzean to grow tropical plants. The coast around St. Andrews can’t mistaken for the isle of Arran in the west. And the Highlands are a world unto themselves (not to mention that the signs are in Scots Gaelic first and sometimes English underneath). Someone from Glasgow speaks differently than someone from Edinburgh than someone from Skye. The cadence is difference, the timbre is different. Yes, there’s a “Scottish” accent different from English or Welsh or Irish, but there are also regional differences within it. Each one is delightful in its own way, but easy to pick up a false ring in a piece.

It’s very obvious when a writer sets something in Scotland and has never visited — it comes across more like a Rennfaire in upstate New York than genuinely in Scotland.

Northumbria
This is Hotspur Percy country, which is why I originally visited when I first graduated high school, and I keep coming back. The border shifted — it’s England, it’s Scotland, it’s England, it’s Scot– you get the idea.

Northumbrians have a thick north England accent, thicker than Yorkshire, but different from Scotland. They are very proud of their area.

My favorite places are Alnwick (now famous because the castle is used for Hogwarts) and Alnmouth. But my ultimate favorite is Lindisfarne, Holy Island, still cut off by the tide twice a day.

Lindisfarne has the ruins of a Priory, where illuminated manuscripts were created, and a castle. Two hotels, several pubs and shops, holiday cottages, a few people, a lot of sheep. When the tourists leave and the tide comes in, and it’s cut off, it’s magic.

I first learned about Lindisfarne when I was a kid, reading HIGHLIGHTS FOR CHILDREN magazine, when they had a story about monks saving the illuminated manuscripts. I vowed to visit, and did, right after high school. I can’t stay away. I have photographs that show the erosion of the ruins over the years.

A section of TRACKING MEDUSA is set there, at some of my favorite places, including the Abbey, the beach, and the kilns.

I’ve also visited the battle site of Otterburn. It was autumn when I was there; no one else around. I walked through the darkening woods, it got quieter and the birds stopped chirping. You could feel the weight of the dead. I had similar sensations when visiting Glencoe and Culloden in Scotland, but because Otterburn is smaller, more isolated, and more overgrown, it stayed with me more strongly.

Prague
Prague is an amazing city, centuries of history handled like they happened last week.

Locals sigh and talk about how nothing has been the same since The Battle of the White Mountain. I thought that was in WWII, and understood how it could still have an impact. Then I looked it up at it was in 1620! That gives you a good sense of the emotional geography of the place.

One also always has the sense of being watched. It’s not “Big Brother” or left over from Soviet occupation. It’s all the statues on the roofline that stare down at you.

I plan to use Prague as a setting for several pieces, but it’s in an upcoming serial novel about filming a television show, and part of the pilot is shot in Prague. There’s a lovely sequence on the Charles Bridge between Old Town and Mala Strana, because it’s so different on either side of the bridge.

Cape Cod
One of the reasons I moved here is because the place inspired me so much. My family’s visited since 1968. The National Seashore at Eastham and Race Point Beach in Provincetown are two big favorites, as is the Aschumet Sanctuary with all its holly trees, closer to where I actually live.

I’ve set a lot of pieces on Cape Cod. Morag’s family has a house here in PLAYING THE ANGLES. I’ve used it in quite a few short stories, and in an upcoming novel called THE TIE-CUTTER (Ayrshire, Scotland, is also heavily involved, as is Iceland).

Living here and visiting are very different, so I encourage any author who writes about the place to do more than a flying visit, if you expect me to believe your characters are more than summer people! No matter how many years I live here, I will always be a washashore, which is fine with me. It’s also a term I’d never heard in all the years I visited, but everyone made it clear to me once I moved in!

Any place can provide inspiration, if you look for it. Take time and get to know your home region. When you travel, don’t just post on social media and take video with your phone — experience the place directly, and then it will resonate in your writing.