Monday, December 21, 2009


Detail of living room garland

Monday, December 21, 2009
Waxing Moon
Mars Retrograde
Yule — The Winter Solstice
Sunny and cold

I have to take a minute to rant about yet again about how much 1and1 WebHosting sucks. They forced a mail upgrade RIGHT BEFORE THE HOLIDAYS, a busy, stressful enough time as it is, with no instructions, and I can’t do anything. I had the newsletter all set to go == finally — and can’t add in any of the addresses. I am sick and tired of them taking my money and NOT GIVING ME SERVICE.

I wound up hand-entering every address for the newsletter. Of course, the site boots me off it every 3 minutes, so I couldn’t even get a decent amount of addresses in at any given time — because it won’t let me copy and paste or click and add or anything that it is supposed to do. Tech support’s instructions have nothing to do with what is actually on the screen.

I have GOT to take another iWeb design class as soon as possible to answer my last few questions, get the sites redesigned, and then get them the hell off that host. Right now, FAT COW and GREEN GEEKS are my top contenders.

It also means sorting through all the mail and pulling the files, which is a huge job( since I have to get and file approximately 500 emails per day pertaining to various projects), and something I haven’t had the time to complete, which is why it’s taken me so long to dump this awful web host.

Other than that, it was a decent day. I dug out the car — the snow was light and powdery, so it was no big deal. I took it easy, because I’m tired — a little writing, a little reading.

I must be dreaming about Christmas at night, because for the past three mornings, I woke up thinking it was Christmas Day. And, on Sunday morning, I woke up at 2 AM, absolutely convinced I forgot to put the turkey into the oven. I dashed into the kitchen with Elsa faithfully following behind me (Violet glanced up and said, “You’re kidding, right? I’m not getting up at 2 AM”). When I saw there was no turkey in the fridge to go into the oven, I realized I must have been dreaming!

I have a contract to sign and get back in the mail. The rights on the PERFECTLY PLUM anthology are expanding to include digital, so they sent me an addendum — seems perfectly fair, and, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a go.

I’ve got to run to the store today to get some more heavy cream for the trifle, and a few other things, but, for the most part, I want to concentrate on getting back into the writing groove today and work on the stories due in (gulp) less than two weeks.

As I look over the projects and deadlines and ideas for 2010, I realize that, not only do I have to up my quality, I have to seriously up my quantity. That’s always a tricky tightrope — the bulk of the writers who swear they can write four articles in an hour for mill content sites (thereby selling work for $15/article, (when if they put in a few more minutes, they could sell it for 10X that much in legitimate publications AND retain reprint rights) focus on quantity. They have to — they can’t earn anything if they’re not turning out bulk content. And they’ll burn out pretty damn fast — no one can retain that kind of pace for long and keep up a high quality. In fact, of the writing I’ve read by some of the loudest defenders of the content mills — bluntly, their quality is non-existent, and there’s a reason they’re not hired by higher paying publications. I see why some of my clients have come to me begging me to clean up mess created by mill content writers. I do it, but the price is high. By “clean up”, I don’t mean revise — I mean I throw it all out, start from scratch, and create a piece of solid writing that draws in customers for my clients. The “clean up” part comes because the previous writer not only turned in poor quality, but turned it in late, which means I’m working on a truncated deadline. And there’s a price on that.

Quality is always the most important, but, in order to both achieve what I want to achieve and earn the money I need to earn to make a living at this, I have to up the ante in every possible way. I have to find a way to up the quantity, retain (and improve) the quality (because if you don’t at least strive to make every piece you do better than the last, you are doing a disservice to yourself AND the writing), and not burn out. I have to be much more focused and disciplined with my time than I’ve been the past couple of months. This year, in general, I’ve gotten way behind on a couple of things, and there is simply no excuse. Either I want it enough to do what needs to be done, or I shouldn’t be in the business. Period. We all have twenty four hours in every day. It’s how we choose to use them that defines us. Since I choose to define myself as “writer”, I damn well have to make some changes in how I structure my day.

I leave for a site job the day after Christmas Day, so I have to be packed and organized for that, too, by Christmas. AND friends are coming into town just for a few hours that day, so I’m trying to coordinate at quick visit. I’ve also got to get New Year’s sorted — New Year’s Eve will be stressful because I have to be on the road at night (hopefully I can get going early enough to avoid the bulk of the drunks), but New Year’s Day should be a pretty wonderful start to the year.

I’m ready to start a new decade. This one’s certainly been a challenge! Lots of wonderful things in it, too, but I’m ready to attack the next decade with vigor!

Back to the page.

Devon

Saturday, September 5, 2009

IMG_0035
A view from Eastham, MA

Saturday, September 5, 2009
Waxing Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Sunny and warm

Nine days until Prague!

Yesterday was busy — out of the house early, up to Stamford. Visited the currency exchange — got the first four days’ worth of my budget in Czech krona. So there’s a start! Also got some more British pounds sterling, since we’ve got that 4-hour layover in Heathrow.

Went to the bookstore and got my fourth plane book: Italo Calvino’s IF ON A WINTER’S NIGHT A TRAVELER. I can’t wait to read it. But I have to wait until I head for the airport! 😉

I bought some books for my mom. She loves the writing of Mary Balogh, so we’re getting all of her books.

I seem to have fixed the power cord problem with extensive jiggling.

Visited the Staples in Stamford — no luck on the memory card for the camera. I don’t want 16GB — I want 2 GB, and not the tiny card, but the one that actually fits my camera. The card will only hold the photos from this trip. I keep the memory cards — in addition to backing up the photos on them, I also work directly from the cards. I don’t erase them and re-use them. That is my choice. I shouldn’t have to change the way I work because a store doesn’t feel like carrying what I need.

Drove to Larchmont, to that Staples. It’s on the site of what used to be a VW dealership when we first moved to NY in 1968. It’s now a fantastic Staples — not only is it huge, but the employees are helpful and friendly. They had what I needed, they helped me double check the reference just to be sure, and they had most of the other stuff I needed, too (although not the pen refills I need). Most importantly, they were pleasant and helpful. So they will now be my first choice of Staples around here, instead of going up the street to the one that never has anything or all the way to CT.

There was also a fantastic organic market in the same plaza, so I stocked up on a few things!

I started reading the novel PRAGUE and put it aside. It takes place in Budapest, and while that is part of the novel’s irony, I am not in the mood for irony right now; I wanted to read something set in Prague. I found myself muttering about it on every page and not doing the novel justice, so I’ve put it aside until I get back.

I tried to fact check something for an article that needs to go out with English Heritage, who runs the property. And got an email telling me it takes 21 days to check this fact. WTF? They can’t look it up or forward the email to the site? Puh-leeze. I’m going to see if I can get better information via the Northumbrian Tourist Authority. They’ve been very helpful in the past. And the National Trust usually gets back to me within 48 hours. Update: Lindisfarne Priory got in touch with me directly to answer my question — exactly what I needed. Article will go out this morning. Phew!

The CD version of DIXIE DUST RUMORS arrived, so now I’ve got something for people to have in hand when I give readings.

I’ve got to work on the guest blog posts this weekend, write my Sole Struck article, and get out at least one more essay.

I had a great morning’s work on AMENDS today. I wrote the scene with the Alzheimer’s sufferer. It’s true to life and there’s sadness there, but it doesn’t divert the themes and intent of the book.

I hope to get more work done on it today.

I received my first royalty check from PERFECTLY PLUM!, the anthology in which my essay appeared a couple of years ago. It’s earned out its advance, and we got some royalties! Love that.

If you’re a fan of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum and haven’t yet checked it out, I hope you do.

My play, THE MATILDA MURDERS opens the day before I leave for Prague, so I won’t get to see it until I get back.

NYFA’s funding cycle covers both fiction and playwriting this year, so I will probably apply for both. I’m going through my work to decide what to submit for that, and what to submit for the residency in Maine next summer. I’m also working on another proposal for an overseas residency. I don’t think I’ve got the serious lit/academic credentials they usually go for, but I’m trying to shape the proposal to make that a strength.

A friend of mine suggested that if I’m serious about ex-patriating (which, if the US doesn’t stop its ridiculous, destructive downslide to the hard right that I hoped would cease with last year’s election but hasn’t, I certainly am), I should consider Switzerland. Honestly, I’d never even thought of Switzerland. I haven’t thought about Switzerland since I visited in the early 1970’s, except when I re-read Noel Coward’s autobiography.

The Democratic Party Platform: All have the right to equality and social justi–ooh, shiny!

The GOP Party Platform: ME, ME, ME! Die, suckers!

We need more legitimate parties than just those two. For all the chaos in the UK, at least they have a variety of valid viewpoints.

Which is why I am not affiliated with either of the above parties.

The only thing I remember about Switzerland is mountains, mountain passes, and riding a paddle boat on Lake Zurich and the paddles broke. So we waved and waved, and people waved back, thinking we were being friendly, until some Scandinavians with rope in their rucksacks figured it out, tossed us a line and towed us back in. I remember the floral clock in Geneva and the bears in Berne. And that’s about it.

I hope to get a lot of work done on AMENDS this weekend, and also learn at least a few more phrases of Czech. I’m tired of preparing — I just want to get on the plane and have the experience.

Of course, the fact that Mercury is in retrograde for the entire trip should add some, uh, interesting twists!

Devon

AMENDS: First draft: 20,937 words out of est. 75,000
27.9%
IMG_0314
Another view of Eastham, MA