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!

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Waning Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde
Cloudy, hot, humid

Here’s my essay, from the Anita Blake anthology.

Of course, I hope you buy the whole book and enjoy everyone’s essays, but my essay’s on offer for just a couple of days on the SmartPop web site.

I got some work done on the urban fantasy yesterday, and I also started adapting BEHIND THE MAN from a three-act interactive play to a two-act proscenium piece. I have to add a few more pages — it’s too short for traditional stage time, but it gives me a chance to add some scenes and some business that had to be cut from the original vision because of the production needs. BEHIND THE MAN, THE MATILDA MURDERS, and FEMME FATALE are all solidly constructed, fast-moving, and witty. There’s no reason they can’t have lives in traditional, small/regional venues.

So, I’m adapting it to two act format, prepping proposal packages (most theatres want a synopsis and the first ten pages), and then starting the theatre query process. I’ve researched some of my favorite small and regional theatres around the country, and found several I think would be a good match.

Speaking of the plays, the first royalty check for FEMME FATALE arrived, and I’m happy with it. I will miss those checks when the company closes up shop in the summer and moves to Florida! I hope the producer launches a company down there, but, we’ll see.

Struggled with the Derby wrap article, but got it to my editor. I’m not happy with it. It’s long on workmanship and short on sparkle.

It was so hot and sticky, I had to keep turning off the computer yesterday so it wouldn’t overheat. I put in the fans this morning. I’ve hesitated on the air conditioner, because Elsa seems to do better in humidity. Which really sucks, because the rest of us wilt in it.

Hopefully, the vet will have some information from the test results, and hopefully, it will be good.

In the meantime, back to the page. I’ve got to push through this section and get to the next bit. What i have to do is sit down and plot the whole rest of the novel. Flying blind isn’t working for me.

Must back and haul boxes to storage today, and get some groceries in.

Colin, the foiled car bomb reminded me of Glasgow, too, and the more information we get as the investigation progresses, the more disturbing it all is.

Devon

Published in: on May 4, 2010 at 6:22 am  Comments (5)  
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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday, February 28, 2010
Waxing Moon
Mars Retrograde
Gray and gloomy

Yesterday was mostly about the conference, which is as it should be. We are buckling down to work. It’s a smaller conference than the Muse, so it’s easier to give the students more individual attention. It’s easier to work in depth with a dozen students than over a hundred, which is what I’ve sometimes had.

Comcast is driving me nuts. I’m kind of shocked by how badly Comcast sucks. I’m managing to get the work done, but I’m worried about the live chat this afternoon. I’m deeply grateful I have Optimum back home.

Cooked tuna steaks for supper, which was great. Watched the Olympics for a bit. Fox’s idea of supporting HUMAN TARGET was to run a marathon of the few episodes already aired on FX — but with more commercials and cutting scenes, most of which were Jackie Earle Haley’s, which royally pissed me off, since I think they’re the best scenes in the show. People work so hard to put on a show — 18, 20+ hours a day, and, having worked on hour-long dramas, I know how hard it is. And then the network messes around and makes stupid decisions. You know the old adage, “Those who can’t do, teach?” — which isn’t true if you get a good teacher. What is true is “Those without a creative or commonsensical bone in their bodies become network executives.”

Did just over 1000 words on one of the short stories, which was good. Did notes on another piece. Worked on my next assignment for the humor workshop. My first two assignments were well-received, so hopefully, I’m on the right track. It’s a challenge, but I like it.

Word from home is I received a royalty check — always like that. I think I’m going to use it for a pottery workshop in May. I haven’t been able to afford the 14-week course, in either financial or time-related terms, but there’s a one-day introductory workshop in mid-May I’d like to get into at the professional studio next town over.

That’s pretty much it. I commented on exercises in both workshops this morning. I have a live chat on freelancing as a career not a hobby (look out, content mills, I am saying exactly what I think of you), commenting on more exercises, working on my assignment, and, hopefully, getting more writing done. The plays are percolating, so once I get home this week, I’ll put time into those. I have to get two of them out to my producer by mid-March, and well, tomorrow will be March.

Back to the page.

Devon

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Elsa is in the doghouse, metaphorically speaking

Thursday, December 10
Waning Moon
Uranus Direct (oh, so many dates were given for this one)
Sunny and COLD!

I never got around to posting yesterday, but you had the Tuesday update, so I didn’t feel too guilty.

I’m really tired of feeling nauseous all the time. Wish the stomach bug would clear up. I still have an appetite — it’s just the consequences kind of suck. I’m a little better today, and hope that means I’m on the road to feeling like myself again.

Got the assignment for Confidential Job #1 finished and out the door. Phew! Now, I have to drive to the public library in Greenwich today so I can invoice them, since they only take invoices over IE, and I can’t run IE on this machine without major re-arranging. So I send the invoice from the library computer, which runs IE. Yippy Skippy.

Got quite a bit of writing done, although it always feels like it isn’t enough. I let the pressure build on the Apocalypse story so it would flow well this morning. There’s more of a fractured fairy tale feel to it than anything else. I suppose one could argue that the Apocalypse isn’t funny, but one has to find humor in tragedy, and sometimes, you get the point across better. That’s what I hope to pull off, anyway.

I got an idea for a thoroughbred-oriented tale for another anthology percolating, too. I was going to pass on that deadline (again, the end of the month), but this morning, the idea started going, so . . .if I can clear the Apocalypse tale off the desk by next week, I’ll go for it.

Did a lot of work on the outline I mentioned the other day. However, I don’t know how I want it to end. I may have to write my way into it in order to find out.

Had a good writing session this morning.

To answer some of the comments on the Tuesday update, no, telling the characters to shut up doesn’t work. But at least I feel like I’m being active, rather than just letting them muck around inside my head too much. I’m trying to prioritize projects for 2010,while still leaving room for the unexpected — the unexpected opportunities, for me, tend to be the ones that pay off both in financial and creative terms, so I don’t want to lock myself in to too much.

Sent out nearly two dozen pitches/queries for the plays whose rights are now coming available. They don’t do any good just sitting in the drawer — they need to get out in the world and earn their keep.

Perhaps I’ve simply gotten addicted to royalties! 😉

Longing for the days when there were so many magazines publishing fiction one could make a living at it,

Read some of the reviews for ALICE. I’m surprised that a lot of the reviewers think TIN MAN was better; I think ALICE was. It was tighter, more focused, and the chemistry between Scorsone and Potts worked really well, in my opinion. In particular, Potts is completely present and committed in every moment of every shot he’s in, whether the focus is on him or not, and that brings out more from those around him. You can tell he was trained in the theatre, and it serves him well.

Well, that’s what reviews are, aren’t they? Opinions. I’ve certainly read some reviews on my work and wondered what they hell they watched/read, because it had nothing to do with what I believe I wrote!

On the agenda for today: writing, baking, a few errands, working to get the decorations up. I feel a little better, but sill not great.

Annoyed at FedEx — they delivered a package, but not only did they contact a neighbor instead of me, they left the cardboard package out in the pouring rain. I am NOT amused, and I have let them know my lack of amusement.

Very tired. Was woken up by a disturbance at 3:30 this morning, and, after that, the cats didn’t let me go back to sleep. Ah, to live in a place where the doors actually close, and the little darlings can be locked out! All the doors in the apartment have so many coats of paint on them that only the front door actually shuts. In general, the cats were difficult anyway — running around squeaking all day, Elsa got out and had to be chased down the stairs before she could get out of the building (she was so proud of her adventure; she boasted to the others for the rest of the day); they were all rummaging all the time. It was like having a trio of two year olds in the full throes of “The Terrible Twos.”

Speaking of which, as I wrote the above, Elsa jumped on a table (where she shouldn’t) and knocked over a candleholder, breaking off the head of the figure and smashing the glass insert. That cat is in the doghouse today!

I cleaned it all up, I’m posting this, and then it’s back to the page. I put the figure’s head back on and fixed another ceramic piece Elsa knocked over and injured a few days ago. Sigh.

Devon

PS. I heard a shriek from the kitchen. Iris investigated the repaired ceramic figures. She’d someone managed to knock the head off one figure again, and it was stuck to her tail with the wet glue. I had to chase her through the apartment to get it off before the glue dried and repair the figure again and well, you can imagine . . .