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.

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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!

Wed. Sept. 17, 2014: Between Many Book Worlds

Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Waning Moon
Sunny and pleasant

Very intense few days on the trip. It was great, but it was all very intense.

Saturday was the first meeting of the cozy book club. Small turnout, but enthusiastic. We are moving it to a different day and time for next month, hoping it will work for more people. I was very tired – I’d been up for several days preparing the materials, washing the china, making the food, packing everything. Load in and load out weren’t bad, but it still took time.

I was exhausted by the time I got home. Read Sharon Shinn’s ROYAL AIRS on the deck. I’m a huge fan of her books anyway, and this is in the same series as TROUBLED WATERS. I read the library copy, but I’ll be buying my own.

Packed what I needed for my trip to New York. Decided I was going to try to travel as light as possible.

To bed early. Up early on Sunday. Wrote 1000 words on INITIATE. Packed the car, ate a good breakfast. Hit the road about a half hour later than I wanted – mostly because I wanted to finish the sequence I was writing on INITIATE.

Traffic wasn’t bad, and it was a beautiful day to drive. I listened to MacTalla Mor on the way down. Stopped in Niantic at the Book Barn. Sold some duplicate books I’d accumulated over the years, and some books my mom wanted to get rid of. And then bought books. And books. And books. It was wonderful. I gorged myself on various titles and authors I’d been looking for, and on some I wanted to try.

Stopped in Old Saybrook. Found some silver flatware – some in my pattern and some in a complimentary pattern – and a small painted stool I will varnish to protect the paint and use for plants.

Hit Greenwich Library around 3 PM. Because, of course, if I’m going somewhere, where is my first refuge? The library. Texted my friend to let her know I arrived. Settled in with Sarah Monette’s MELUSINE – and was captivated from the first page.

I was supposed to be writing.

My friend contacted me and wanted me to come out to the small island sanctuary where her family has had a house for generations. So I drove to Rye and parked at the dock and waited for her. Had to jump into the small boat – not sure if it’s a skiff or what. Whatever it was, it was small and low to the water. And I can’t swim. To say I was terrified is an understatement. But I kept my cool outwardly and didn’t moan.

We went out to the island, which is beautiful, and there was a lively group there of people who like to have actual conversation, not just griping or gossip. So that was fun. And one had worked for the Sound Tigers the same year I trotted around with them doing research, yet our paths hadn’t crossed. So it was fun to share stories about our favorite hockey boys. I can’t believe it’s been a dozen years since I spent time with them. They’re all men now, most of them are out of hockey and with families of their own. It feels like months, not years.

We came back later than expected ,on the tiny boat, in the dark. I was scared, but didn’t outwardly panic, even when we hit a piece of driftwood and I was sure we were going to trip over. I was actually more worried about the longhand chapter of INITIATE in my bag than anything else. But it was all good.

It was odd driving around in Rye. I felt absolutely nothing. I spent many years in the town – from first grade through high school. So many experiences that shaped me happened there. And I felt . ..nothing. Not even the basic curiosity I usually feel in a new town. Not anger or resentment or nostalgia or . . . anything. It was like entering a void. Which was weird. I felt like I should feel something, even if it was negative or uncomfortable.

Didn’t sleep well, lots of odd dreams, but was up early and on a train to the city just after 8. Rye is only 25 miles from New York, a much shorter distance than Kingston is from Boston – yet the round trip train ticket is more expensive.

Hit the city early. Walked around. Spent some time writing in Bryant Park, by the main branch of the New York Public Library (see a pattern with my first choice of refuge?). I had, after all, to write my 1K on INITIATE, or I’d be out of sorts all day.

Then, it was to the Morgan Library (patterns much?) for my 10:30 appointment. The Department Head/Curator who took time to speak with me was amazing. Again, it was invigorating to have a real conversation, and it ranged along a wide spectrum of topics. I learned A LOT, and he also gave me confidence that many of my initial instincts in dealing with what I’m dealing with are correct (even if I’m not always toeing the usual library line on some things). We’ve both done a lot of different things in life that brought us to working in libraries and we share a passion for books and learning and information and how we like to handle/acquire/live with books that is often similar. It was a wonderful experience. He’s someone with whom I want to keep in touch, and someone for whom I hope I can be a resource for the weird information I tend to accumulate. His kindness and generosity of spirit towards someone who’s basically making it up as she goes along in this whole library adventure was deeply appreciated.

It was later than I expected when I got out of there (I expected he might have 15 or 20 minutes to spare, and we talked for nearly two hours – I felt like I was a time hog). I wanted to see what had changed. New York is still vibrant, and it was nice to be around its diversity. The pace felt slower, which was odd. I felt like I was at my old NYC pace, but people around me weren’t. Maybe I was simply in areas with tourists.

I swung by Christie’s, just for the heck of it, and was lucky enough that they were having a viewing of Asian Art. I got to talk to people (more real conversations) about textiles and ceramics. They couldn’t answer all of my questions, so now I have to do some research on my own. Which is just fine, because I didn’t really have the language to ask properly what I wanted to know. But Christie’s has always treated me well and going in there is always a pleasure. I learn a lot and get visual stimulation and the impact of actual valued and valuable art works that one can’t get in many other places. The emotional impact is very different between a photograph of something from the 1700s and the actual object.

Then, of course, I was close to running late. I grabbed some watermelon for lunch on the move as I headed up through Hell’s Kitchen (name it something gentrified all you want, it will ALWAYS be Hell’s Kitchen) to Lincoln Center. Hit the Library for the Performing Arts and had my meeting with the curators from the Billy Rose Theatre Collection.

Again, very generous with time and resources and cautions. They gave me a good baseline for how things are usually done. I saw the archives – so much wonderful history is in there, some of which is history I studied that influenced me; some of which is my personal history, people who actually shaped my career and my vision of a career in theatre. I asked a lot of questions, got a lot of information.

By the time I left, I was on overload. I was going to make another stop, almost made it to the building, and just couldn’t. Spread me with butter and serve me on a plate, because I was toast. I did, however, run into a store and buy a new tote bag for all the information I’d accumulated.

I headed to Sosa Borella (a favorite hangout from my days on WICKED and where I had my first book launch party), had something to eat (because I was ready to pass out) and a glass of wine. Listened to the first world problems of some yuppies nearby, thinking, “wow, if I told you some of my stories, you’d run screaming”, but kept my mouth shut. Costume Imp was the first to join me, and then two other friends. We had a great dinner and catch up, and even caught a train back at a reasonable time.

Caught up with the friend with whom I stayed, made sure I was properly packed. Up early on Tuesday morning, wrote 1K on INITIATE. In the car a little after 8 to head for the Asian grocery store in White Plains – which didn’t open until 10 that day. The traffic was backed up, so I took backroads until I got ahead of the problem, then hit the Merritt and headed back. I was working on potential plot threads for INITIATE, following the threads, deciding which to keep, which to develop, which to toss.

Stopped in Mystic on the way home, at Mystical Elements. I needed to stock up on aquamarines and bloodstones – neither of which they had. But they had some moonstones and a Botswana Agate I needed, so I got those, and some candles. And I got some hematite rings for the thumbs. Then headed over to Silk Road, for a bagua mirror (found a GORGEOUS one), and picked up a necklace and a moonstone ring to replace a ring I’d lost when packing the car at home on Sunday morning. I’ve worn eight rings on my fingers for years – now I have the full ten. Also got a nice pendant.

Back in the car, home around 3. Unpacked, settled in, read the rest of MELUSINE. Obsessed with the book, the gorgeous writing, the world-building. Finished it (all 496 pages) and started in on VIRTU, the next book.

To bed early – exhausted – in spite of all the reading and the plotting and the this and the that.

Up early this morning – 1K on INITIATE, starting a new section, layering in some other stuff I need to put in to widen the world.

To Barnstable Law Library for a meeting of the Reference Committee. It was terrific, great resource, and I applied for a card for our library, so we can access resources. Had some terrific conversations with some of my fellow librarians.

Stopped at Nirvana to treat myself to a Café Mocha and headed to work, where things were a bit in turmoil, and my desk was stacked to the rafters – which is fine, since it’s boxes of books. A couple of things that were promised to be handled while I was gone hadn’t been, which caused a slight case of the crankies on my part, but they’re now handled and nobody died, so it’s really not that big a deal. An annoyance, not a catastrophe. We also had a meeting for a proposal for a project in conjunction with Heritage Garden that I really, really want to do, and the Youth Services Librarian created a beautiful design. I also have to write a proposal for my boss’s presentation for a small libraries’ conference in Sturbridge at the end of October. Plus unpack all the boxes, and go through the books withdrawn via weeding.

It’s almost the end of the work day, so I’ll do what I can do, then descend into VIRTU – although I do need to write more on INITIATE tonight. I didn’t have three eight hour days to devote to it this week, and my characters are annoyed with me, which causes internal stress. I ordered the other two books in the series – there are four and I’d only found two in Niantic, not knowing there were four or realizing how hard I’d fall for these two. I am going to be very protective and possessive of my copies, because I will keep going back to this series for both enjoyment and because, structurally, they are so well done.

I also have to prepare for tomorrow morning’s Marine Life Center Board Meeting and set up for Short Story Group here before I go, since I will be late coming in.

It will take a few days to settle in again. I kind of feel like I’m floating between worlds right now. I’m surprised how easily I slipped back into New York mode, and I’m glad I could genuinely enjoy New York City, without feeling like I was missing anything, and still being convinced that leaving when I did was the right thing to do.

I am, however, being faced with other decisions and more change in the coming months. I’d like to sit and plan, but every time I do that, it backfires, so I will just have to trust my instincts.

Devon

Mon. Dec. 30, 2013: How I Develop Material & Juggle Projects

Monday, December 30, 2013
Day before Dark Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Cloudy and cold

Friday was busy, busy, busy. Took the leaves and the recycling to the dump. The place was so busy! But it’s heartwarming to see how dedicated people are to recycling in this area.

Picked up a few groceries, ran some books back to Wheldon Library (and, of course, got out some more), picked up something waiting for me at Sturgis Library, and then headed back. Got out some job pitches, worked with students.

Set up the development notebook for the Stowe-Eliot-Bronte project, even though I’m not really sure what it is yet. Ordered some books for it via the library network. Wrote up the passage that got the wheels turning in the first place, sourced it, and copied out the bibliographic notes.

Dug out the Hedrick biography of Harriet Beecher Stowe. Using the index, I tried to cross-check the info from the Eliot bio, and didn’t find confirmation. So I’ll be re-reading the entire biography — which will give me plenty of background for the piece in general. Asked a friend who knows a lot about the Brontes if she’d ever heard the reference. Found the Rugoff biography of the Beecher clan, and there’s a reference to the same incident, but not enough to hang my hat on. I hope getting my hands on the volumes of letters will give me what I need!

My friend and colleague Nancy Rubin Stuart’s wonderful book DEFIANT BRIDES was named a Best Book of 2013! I’m so thrilled for her. It’s an amazing book, and well-deserved recognition.

Saturday, I finished and printed out the pilot episode of a one-hour drama. It’s in the editing queue. I started the third teleplay for this packet, an adaptation of one of my novels. Got some good work done on it and fell in love with my characters all over again.

Unfortunately, I was also under the weather, sneezing and coughing, although I didn’t feel that bad. I felt much worse by Sunday, where I ended up fighting some sort of stomach upset. Don’t know why — I’ve been the least self-indulgent during this holiday season that I’ve been in years. Irritating.

Read Donna Leon’s THE GOLDEN EGG, one of her Venetian mysteries, which I love. Also started Kim Edwards’s THE LAKE OF DREAMS, which is quite good, and got some reading done on the Stowe bio. Treated myself to a chapter in an excellent art history tome as background for a different project.

Got some good work done on TRUE HOME, the initial novel in the Sparkle & Tarnish series. I love the way it’s developing. I’m working very differently with this project — developing a section, writing a few chapters, typing them, adapting them to script. The amount of research is enormous, and I’m looking forward to layering in a lot more detail.

I spent hours with Gilded Age Mansion house plans over the weekend, and am about to design their NYC mansion, remembering that they’ve taken over a mansion that was originally built several years earlier by an eccentric, and then having their architect modify it for the Gilded Age. As always the librarians at the New York Historical Society, the New York Public Library, and the JP Morgan Library have gone out of their way to be helpful, and will all be thanked in the Acknowledgements.

Speaking of Acknowledgements, I start keeping a list as soon as I need to ask someone for something when I’m researching a book. Every time someone is helpful, I add that individual to the list, so by the time the book is ready to go through the production process, it’s all there, and I don’t have to worry about forgetting anyone. Again, something I learned the hard way by not keeping track during the writing and then screwing up and forgetting people when the manuscript went to press.

Hey, if you can learn from my mistakes, they’ll have been worth it!

Still a little queasy this morning, but have a lot to do. I have an editing intensive workshop starting on the 6th, and I need to polish up the exercises. Those students are getting a lot for their money, but they’ll also have to put in a lot of work!

I want to wait and run my errands tomorrow, but I will have to run down to Centerville Library later today to drop off/pick up some books. Yes, I go to one of the local libraries ALMOST every day.

I want to get some work done on the novellas, the teleplay, and the airship steampunk piece. I need to get back into the latter — I’ve lost my momentum in it, and that’s a shame. I need to find those threads again and get back on track.

Day before the dark moon is always my lowest-energy day of the month. I’d like to crawl back into bed, but that is not an option.

I can’t believe 2013 is nearly over. It’s been challenging, and I’m ready for a better year next go-round!

Devon