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!

Thurs. June 15, 2017: Tightening Deadlines and Ridiculous Request of the Day (RRD)

Personal Revolution Cover

Thursday, June 15, 2017
Waning Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Sunny and cool

Promotion starts today for “Personal Revolution”, a short mystery set in a town near Concord, MA, that takes place around Independence Day. It’s only 99 cents, available on Smashwords, Kobo, Nook, and more.

Blurb:
When a man is hanged from the oak tree in a Redcoat uniform at an historic house just before the Independence Day program, Glenda is determined to both solve the murder and protect the newly-opened museum. What she finds is much darker — and more personal — than she bargained.
(End blurb)

I hope you enjoy it. I’m playing with the idea of doing more with these characters.

Yesterday seems very far away, somehow. Maybe it was all those mass shootings, and the ridiculous and irresponsible way they were covered by the press.

What did I do yesterday? Sent out some pitches. Worked on the 30 second script. Did more research for the article that I hope to finish, polish, and get out the door today. Checked email incessantly to see if another pitch was accepted (haven’t heard back yet). Looked at a website that’s been fallow for the past few years, with an eye to starting up that platform again.

The Ridiculous Request of the Day was from an “author” who “generously offered” (his words) to pay me $350 to do a line edit on his “blockbuster” novel — that runs 120,000 words. Um, no. 120,000 words breaks down to 480 pages in Standard Manuscript Format, and I bet his wasn’t. Bet it’s single-spaced. Sweetie, $350 gets you to page 70, and I’m on the low end of the editing price range. It’s not “generous”. It’s not even a professional rate. Plus, I’m taking on very few of that type of editing client — more for scripts than for novels at this point, unless it’s at the top of my rate. Now, I am sympathetic to someone’s tight budget. But don’t boast it’s a “blockbuster” (because if it was, you’d be under contract to an agent and one of the Big 5). Look for an editor where appropriate to your budget, such as a grad student in English, who can both use the cash AND potentially use it for credit in an independent study.

On a happier note, “The Ramsey Chase”, the first Cornelia True/Roman Gray adventure, will be ready for re-release sooner than I expected. The cover design will be done soon, and I should have the galleys shortly for a final proof read.

However, that means that I have to have the opening of the second Cornelia True/Roman Gray adventure ready to pop into the back of it, have the darned thing outlined, and meet a deadline for its release!

Considering that I also have to get moving on the next Twinkle Tavern comic mystery, which needs to be ready to release by Labor Day, that’s a new (but positive) pressure. That will feature the characters from “Plot Bunnies” and release under the Ava Dunne name.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Cornelia and Roman. It’s a satirical fantasy/adventure series, involving time travel and an alternate universe that’s somewhat familiar and somewhat not. There’s a wry, arch tone to it that’s a blast to write. I have a lot of fun turning genre formula inside out with it, and making pointed social commentary. When first released, in 2008, it was kind of relevant; it’s even more relevant now.

We’re also in talks to set the re-release date for Playing the Angles (which used to be Assumption of Right, or, as I joked, When Bad Titles Attack). Early October is looking good, with The Spirit Repository then releasing in May of 2018. This means we have to make sure the cover is ready sometime in July. Since we’ve been having difficulty finding the right cover image, that worries me.

I should have mowed yesterday, but didn’t. So guess what I had to do first thing today? Yup, side yard needs it.

So, there were two mass shootings yesterday in the country, one on the East Coast, one on the West. The UPS shooting is hardly getting any coverage, because only ordinary people were hurt and/or killed. The one involving a Congressman, a lobbyist, and other political types is getting attention, because of the GOP’s propaganda machine. The two Capitol police personnel who put themselves in the line of fire are being mostly ignored, while politicians who weren’t even there are tearful about their own “narrow escape.” The press is covering it irresponsibly, as usual. The GOP is blaming the left, because the shooter volunteered on the Sanders campaign. Of course, the fact that the Narcissistic Sociopath repeatedly incited and encouraged violence during his campaign and actually called for Hillary Clinton’s assassination is being ignored. As is the fact that the GOP is the party who votes to allow the mentally ill access to guns (because they expect shooting victims to be outside their own party — yesterday shocked them because they think only unarmed liberals will be shot). Paul Ryan is being lauded for the speech he gave on the floor; people are saying it was wonderful. I disagree. For the man who is determined to make inhuman cuts to healthcare, Social Security, Medicare and food stamps to declare “We don’t shed our humanity when we enter the Chamber” is hypocrisy. It’s typical of Lyin’ Ryan, but it is still hypocrisy.

They all make me sick.

On that not-so-happy note, I need to go and mow, and then it’s back to the page, because, no matter what the external stresses, I have to keep showing up at the page and getting it done.

Don’t forget to hop over to the GDR site, where I have the mid-month check-in posted. I can’t believe we’re half way through June!

Wed. May 24, 2017: Trying to Keep Going On

Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Waning Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Rainy and cold

Struggled a lot with the sample pages for the play proposal. They’re speaking the subtext, and I need to cover it with text that’s clever enough to communicate the subtext, but not be as ham-handed as it currently is.

Got a new cover for “Creative Stimulus”, so it now matches the other Topic Workbooks. I want to go over the text again, maybe do some updates.

Looked at some images for the new Fearless Ink logo, but didn’t find what I wanted. I may have to shoot it myself and then layer in the text. I’m looking into rights for a Charles Dana Gibson image that I like for something else. It’s supposedly in public domain, but I want to be sure.

Talked to a designer about a new cover for the re-release of PLAYING THE ANGLES. I need to do another copy editing pass on it, and then also put in the first chapter of SPIRIT REPOSITORY, and then make sure I can get SPIRIT out on time. We need to talk release dates soon.

More mower issues — turns out I have to buy special tools in addition to the special parts. Take it from me — don’t buy a Poulan Pro. They run poorly and the company has no interest in honoring warranties. Really, really not okay.

I have a meeting next week north of Boston for a project I’d really like to do. The logistics would be a nightmare, but first we have to see if we’re compatible.

Struggling to show up at the page every day and get anything done. Feeling sick and exhausted all the time doesn’t help. But any time I put off the work on the page, I feel worse.

Managed to create a pitch on the fly for an opportunity that landed unexpectedly. Fingers crossed.

Just have to keep going on, don’t I. That’s the only option.

Published in: on May 24, 2017 at 9:34 am  Comments Off on Wed. May 24, 2017: Trying to Keep Going On  
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Mon. Nov. 21, 2016: Writing Retreat

Monday, November 21, 2016
Waning Moon
Cloudy and cold

They say we’ll have some snow flurries today. So much for yard work! The weather was so damp and windy the past few days I didn’t get much done.

This will probably be the only time I blog this week, except for a holiday greeting on Thursday. This week is about the writing. I want to dive into it, and stay off most media for the bulk of the week. Check in just enough to make sure the Apocalypse hasn’t started early.

On top of everything else, I broke some bones in my foot on Saturday. The poor toe that keeps getting broken got it again; and also a bone lower down on the side of my foot. I didn’t even break it doing anything interesting. I was merely careless. Can’t even get a good story out of it!

Most of the weekend was spent working on the play about the 14th century female pirate. That’s been pulling at me harder than the 17th century poisoning ring in Italy. So I’m focusing on this one first, then going back to JUST A DROP. I hate the working title I have for this play, and have to come up with a better one. But I’m having fun with the characters, and letting them lead me, in the context, into some interesting places.

This will be only the fifth time in 44 years we have not gone to Maine for Thanksgiving: three years when I lived on the west coast, one year when I was working on Broadway and couldn’t get coverage (I usually had Thanksgiving off and worked Christmas), and this year. We’ve been too sick for too long to feel up to the trip, and with a broken right foot, I can’t go anyway.

Relieved that both DEATH OF A CHOLERIC and PLAYING THE ANGLES are out. I’m prepping TRACKING MEDUSA for resubmission.

I also want to get back to work on THE FIX-IT GIRL, finish the draft, then start revisions. I think it might need less work than some of my other pieces, although I have to decide how explicit I want the love scenes to be.

Mark December 17th on your calendar. I’m doing a holiday jingle party on Facebook with Angela Aarons and Tracy Kincaid. My slot is from 1 to 1:30 PM, EST. There will be giveaways and games, and all kinds of fun stuff.

Don’t worry, I’ll remind you!

Have a lovely holiday week, and I’ll check back in next week!

Devon

Published in: on November 21, 2016 at 9:30 am  Comments Off on Mon. Nov. 21, 2016: Writing Retreat  
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Tues. Oct. 11, 2106: The Satisfaction of A Solid Writing Weekend

Tuesday, October 11, 2016
Waxing Moon
Sunny and cool

Busy weekend, even though it was a holiday weekend. The traffic was insane.

I managed to get a lot of writing done, on the two projects on which I’m switching off. Since I started them last Thursday (this is Day 6), I’ve written just over 10K on one of them, and I’ll pass 10K today on the other. My goal is to write a minimum of 1K on each of them every day. So far, I’ve managed to go beyond that on both, although yesterday, it wasn’t much beyond both, because I wasn’t in the mood to write.

But I showed up at the page, and did it anyway, because that is what writers do. Once I got started, it was okay, although it didn’t flow as well as it had the previous days. Today, I felt like I was back in the groove.

I also worked on the revisions of DEATH OF A CHOLERIC. I have to put some changes into chapters, and rewrite the next batch of chapters. I also managed to come up with the logline and paragraph description, although I will have to make some tweaks. But I want it to be ready to go out after one more pass.

I’ve also been tweaking PLAYING THE ANGLES, which is the new title of what was once ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT. I’m also thinking about putting it out under the Devon Ellington name instead of the Annabel Aidan name. When I’m done with this revision, I’ll have to see which voice resonates, and then I’ll know which name to use as the byline.

I should be doing promotion for “The Possession of Nattie Filmore”, but with all this political chaos, I feel it’s shallow to go around hawking my writing. Yet that’s how I pay the bills and keep a roof over my head. So it’s a dilemma — how to do it in a way where I don’t go against what I feel is right and important. If I don’t walk my talk, I’m just as bad as the politicians.

Did some work on the Victorian mystery as well. The first draft is slow, because I’m researching as I write. I’m wondering if I should just blurt out the first draft, focusing on plot and character, and then go back and add in the period detail. Yet, so far, I’ve found the detail affects both plot and character a good deal, which is why I’m researching and writing simultaneously.

I’m behind on the plays, of course, which is worrisome, since I’m running out of time on those. Somehow, I’ll have to get them in.

I need more hours in the day, more hours where I can focus. There’s a certain point where my brain just gets tired, and I’m written out.

I’m also under pressure from this other annoying situation. Nothing like people actively working to sabotage you because they are both incompetent and nasty. It will get resolved; it’s just a shame that it has to be such an unpleasant process. But I am not going to back down and give up what I earned.

I’m also under pressure because a family friend is trying to manipulate me into taking on a job for someone who already stiffed me once, and with whom I said I wouldn’t work again. I told this family friend I would not put myself in that position again, yet he told the person I was waiting to hear from them. Then I get an incoherent email full of demands, but no actual proposal or payment offer. That would be a no, on many levels. I’m angry at this so-called “friend” for putting me in this position when I was very clear I wouldn’t do it.

So the writing is going well, but there are other pressures. Aren’t there always?

I have a lot of work ahead of me to put the garden to bed, and I’m tackling it a bit at a time.

Have a great week!

Devon

Sat. May 21, 2106: Release, Revision, Writing. Repeat.

Saturday, May 21, 2016
Full Moon
Mercury Retrograde
Mars Retrograde
Sunny and pleasant

Yesterday was a busy day. Lots to do, and I had a migraine by the end of it.

On the upside: “Severance”, the sci-fi/horror/western short, has re-released through Smashwords. You can buy it for 99 cents here. It’s been accepted as a “Premium” listing, which means it ships out to other retailers like Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Amazon, et al.

I also got back the galleys for “Plot Bunnies”, which is the next to release (although we’re still working on the cover), and the cover for “Personal Revolution”, which will release just before the Fourth of July weekend, since that’s when it’s set.

“Broken Links” is in rehearsal in Virginia. I’m looking forward to hearing it when it broadcasts in June.

ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT will be renamed PLAYING THE ANGLES. I need to do another pass on that, and then it goes out on submission again – there have been a few indications of interest, and I look forward to the possibility of its re-release.

I’m also in talks about reviving Nina Bell – in other words, rewriting TAPESTRY, although keeping it set in the 1990s, and having the series progress through the turn into the 21st century. Most likely, those books would go out via Smashwords. It breaks too many genre rules for it to make good business sense for a traditional publisher.

I’m looking forward to digging back in to DEATH OF A CHOLERIC this weekend. I’m hoping I can finish this round of revisions within a week. Then I can get going on the submission materials while it marinates – the logline, the one paragraph blurb, the query letter template, the beginning of the outline and synopsis. Those will change, and, obviously, I can’t finalize those materials or my first 3 chapter, first 10 pages, et al files until I have a submission-ready draft.

I admit, it’s hard not to get caught up in starting to query while I’m prepping what I consider is the “submission-ready draft”, but the Universe just likes to bite you in the butt when you try that. If you are sending out queries, the manuscript has to be ready to submit. When you get a “yes, I’d like to see it”, you send it within 48 hours. You don’t tell an agent or an editor that you need X more months to finish. Until you’re established and on contract cycles, you need a polished draft ready before you start querying.

“Just a Drop” also needs serious attention. And I have to find my notes for SONGBOUND SISTERS to get back on track for that. HEART SNATCHER and INITIATE will just have to sneak in when there’s room.

I’m going to have to mow the lawn when I get home. I stopped at Auberchon’s for some more starter fluid from the mower, and they tried to sell me fluid for a grill. I told them no, it’s for the mower. They argued. I pointed out that grill fluid on the lawn mower would make it blow up, and just because I’m female doesn’t mean I’m an idiot when it comes to machines. Geez, Louise.

Looking forward to getting some mowing done so I can settle on the deck with a glass of wine and a manuscript. Looking forward to a writing weekend.

Oh, and I got an idea overnight for a short story, and got going on that this morning.  I was asked to submit to an anthology — but it has to be this coming week.  I’m having fun playing with these characters in this situation, but I need to research sailboats.

Enjoy!

Devon

Published in: on May 21, 2016 at 9:57 am  Comments Off on Sat. May 21, 2106: Release, Revision, Writing. Repeat.  
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