Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday, February 22, 2010
Waxing Moon
Mars Retrograde
Sunny and pleasant

I’m back home, for a couple of days. Weekend gig was good, but busy. I could only get online via the very slow PC, so all I did was check messages and tweet occasionally. The essay I busted my ass so much to get in on time — still not up. Typical. Last time I take a quick turn-around demand from them seriously.

Didn’t do much work on ANGEL HUNT. I’ve gutted chapters 10 & 11. I’m going to combine them in the current draft, and I think I’ll write most of it from scratch without looking at the earlier draft, and then fold in anything that’s still relevant. Right now, by trying to revise what’s on the page, I’m getting caged by it, when what I need to do is take the literal meaning of the work and Re-Vision what purpose the chapter needs to serve and how to get there. I won’t be able to take the hard copy with me to Philly — I’m not hauling around several hundred pages of manuscript — so I won’t do much work on it while I’m there.

Besides, the conference starts on Friday — I’m teaching two workshops for an entire week AND doing a live chat on Sunday afternoon. That will take up the bulk of my time.

Made some notes on a few other pending projects, worked a bit on the short stories. I’m trying to gear up and get back into the headspace for the commissioned plays, but the light humor isn’t coming through. I need to get on the ball with those — the producer has to plan next season, and I want to be a part of it.

I did start another play, a much more serious one. that just sort of came to me out of nowhere, and wrote the first two scenes.

Reading-wise, I finished THE SWAN THIEVES. I liked it, although I felt the end was a little anti-climactic, and there were questions left unanswered (not directly related to the main plot) that I needed answered. In a way, it reminds me a little of AS Byatt’s POSSESSION, which is one of my favorite novels (never saw the movie).

After THE SWAN THIEVES, I needed something light and completely different. I read Michael Thomas Ford’s JANE BITES BACK, which is quite clever and funny, riding the Austen and the historical figure re-creationist wave while also poking fun at it.

I also picked up another book that I loathed. I won’t bash the writer here — it’s too hard to make a living doing this. Let’s just say that, after 50 pages, I was so furious, and the fury gained when I skimmed it, that I took it back to the store and swapped it out for something else. I don’t know if I’ve ever done that before. It was unrelenting, unnecessary gore, and unrelenting violence towards animals, which is one of my personal “don’t cross” boundaries. In the first 50 pages, a horse was brutally slaughtered in detail AND a supposed favorite pet dog was handed to a character to be eaten alive — no way. And that’s not even touching what was done to people.

Elegantly sparse prose can communicate horror much more effectively, in my opinion, than the verbal equivalent of a slasher film. And that’s what this was. Not for me.

I picked up something that looks far more interesting. I stuck it in my bag to serve as my travel book to Philly later this week, and, if I like it as much as I hope, I’ll write about it.

Watched the Olympics nearly non-stop. I don’t think I’ve ever had the television on so much in my life. The US Women’s Hockey Team continues to thrill me. I just can’t get enough of them. The US Men’s Hockey Team has come together nicely, as evidenced by their 5-3 win over Canada last night, which was a great game. and goalie Ryan Miller is obviously one of the unsung heros, until now, of the sport. These Olympics will change all that. Earlier in the day, I’d called the game as going 4-3 to the US, but they got that extra, empty net goal. The Russia-Czech Republic game was also great, although I expected at any minute, they’d start ignoring the puck and go after each other swinging. Yes, you can’t have physical fights in Olympic hockey, the way you can in the NHL, but you could tell they REALLY wanted to!

One of the things I like about the snowboarding is how much individuality the participants retain. Watch someone do a run once or twice and you don’t need to look at the screen anymore to know who it is — the style is that distinctive. I hope that doesn’t get sponsored out of the sport.

Watched a lot of the skiing, the aerialists, the ski cross (first year for that). I’m annoyed that the Olympic committee won’t allow women to have a ski jumping event — they do it, why not include it? Watched the speed skating and short track — so glad for Apolo Ohno. As I said before, it’s wonderful to watch him really grow into himself. Delighted that Bode Miller’s doing so well, and loved his interview about his definition of success and basically telling everyone who tries to force him to define himself in their terms to F*&k off. I totally relate, since I live by my definition of success in my field and am constantly attacked for it — especially by those who can’t earn a living at it. He articulated what I feel very well.

I love that fact that Julia Mancuso wore a tiara to the medal ceremony. She’s my favorite of the female skiers. And tiaras and cookies make everything better, in my opinion!

Good for Evan Lysacek, congrats to him. I felt Johnny Weir’s program was underscored, though, because it was gentle instead of flamboyant, and he should have gotten third or fourth.

I know I’m forgetting some of the fun moments, but I didn’t write them down, so, oh well.

Research books were waiting for me when I got home, including one on taxes (since this is the year I start the whole self-employment tax thing), the Mac, and the new WRITER’S MARKET. I started going through the WM. So far, I have 15 pages of single-spaced notes on markets to which to pitch articles. ARTICLES, not fiction or anything else. And that’s just the list that covers topics with which I’m familiar and don’t have to spend hours or days in additional research. So, when some wanna-be who defends content mills and getting paid for pennies starts up that there’s no work out there — if I can have 15 pages of notes on well-paying markets just on topics where I can pitch myself as experienced — there’s well-paid work out there.

More fuel for my live chat on Sunday on making a living as a freelancer.

I’m reworking my workshops a bit, tinkering to make them the best they can be for this group, and will post Welcome messages hopefully later today.

The next few days are filled with practicalities, admin, pitches, errands. I leave later in the week for Philly, and every duck has to be in a row before that. But it’s a good busy, so I’m going to enjoy it.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thursday, February 18, 2010
Waxing Moon
Mars Retrograde
Sunny and milder

Just a quick check-in, I’m headed out the door to work a job in CT all weekend. Yesterday was mostly spent on ANGEL HUNT — made more cuts to the first third of the book, got rid of a lot of dialogue that went around in circles, dumped unnecessary adverbs, made the description active instead of passive. I’ve cut nearly 4K out of that section, which is close to what I needed. The initial scene, which used to run just over 4 pages, is not 2 1/2. Yes, I lost some of the verbal sparring between Lianna and Lucius DeWitt, but the scene is tighter and has more resonance with the rest of the piece. Zeke’s first mention is now on p. 8 and his first appearance is on p. 11. I’m thinking of having another short scene with him somewhere in the first nine chapters. He’s not named yet, but his presence is both felt and foreshadowed. Whereas in the serial, I had to draw everything out as long as possible, now I’m cutting and reshaping to make the story move and make every element that appears matter in the overall story. Do I lose some fun and interesting interactions? Yes, of course. But, overall, it makes for a stronger book. I even managed internal cuts the fight scene with the Witch Hunter, and yet get everything done in it that I needed to get done.

Printed it all out — a total of 22 pages cut from this section, it’s shorter and tighter, which is a good thing. Will take the chapters with me.

Since I have to gut Chapters 10 and 11 and restructure them completely to make a bridge into the next section of the book, I might combine those two chapters. I can probably make a few internal cuts with the sphinx — although it’s one of my favorite sequences — and tighten the other two challenges that gain her entrance into the Library. Also, more has to actually happen within the library; the reason for the attack has to be clear, and she has to leave the library with tangible facts that help her in the hunt, not just personal insight.

I’ve got my work cut out for me.

Did some outlining on a project and some work on one of the short stories.

Spent most of the afternoon and evening watching the Olympics – watched the Men’s Hockey, Finland vs. Belarus (Finland won, 5-1). The Finnish team looked good,a nd it was a good game. Lindsey Vonn got the gold, good for her, although all the crashes on the course were disturbing. I felt the cameras were far too intrusive after her win, but she’s done so much press leading up to the event that it wasn’t a surprise. I much prefer Shawni Davis’s tack of giving minimal time to the press before he competes, and talking when he’s done. A similar rule should be enforced for athletes as we enforce for the actors backstage — no guests after half hour, giving actors time to get into make-up, costume, and headspace for the performance. And believe me, I am the ultimate Dragon at the Gate when someone wants to mess with my actors!

My favorite, last night, was, of course, the snowboarders. One can’t help but admire what they do out there, and how could anyone not love what Shaun White brings? People tend to forget just how smart he is, in addition to his athleticism. He’s built himself a business empire in a really smart way. He gave an interview when he was about 14 saying it sucked that he got kicked out of school for lack of attendance, because he was getting A’s, and that if he was a figure skater or a horseback rider, they’d have taken his sport more seriously. He’s being taken seriously now, and he deserves it. I also like and respect the fact that he does a lot for other people and causes that interest him without manipulating everything he does into photo opportunities. He’s public when he’s performing, and he delivers. And then he goes off and lives his life and does what he believes in. He knows when to have fun and when to be serious, and he’s smart enough not to buy into his own press. For a 24 year old, he’s got his head screwed on pretty straight. And one of the things i really enjoy about the sport as a whole is that the joy is still in it, the excitement. I think a lot of the joy has gone out of sports like figure skating and swimming and some of the rest, because they’ve been over-corporate-tized. Yes, snowboarding’s gaining a lot of corporate sponsorship, but they don’t seem to have the minute-to-minute control over the athletes that a lot of other corporate sponsors do, and I hope snowboarders in general retain their free spirit, let’s-push-it-further quality.

I still think this is the worst-handled coverage of any Olympics I’ve ever seen. There’s no artistry — and, if you’ve seen well-covered sports, camerawork for sports is a special skill. AND good reporting is an art. The fact that the TODAY show has the unskilled, unqualified, unprepared Jenna Bush Hager running around asking lame questions rather than hiring qualified sports reporters who cover the various sports year-round shows how far the coverage has fallen.

I did sneak away from Olympic coverage here and there to watch most of HUMAN TARGET. The episode was a good, one-hour action movie. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the lack of development in the antagonists still bugs me, I still enjoy the scenes with the three leads, and can’t wait to see what Jackie Earle Haley brings to any scene he’s in. His choices are detailed and clear without being self-indulgent. So, even when I know where a scene’s going (and I’ve fallen into the rhythm of the show, so there are very few structural or plot surprises for me at this point), I look forward to what he’s going to do next. I had problems with the camera work in the last scene — it felt as though the camera’d slipped down a few inches instead of set where it needed to be set for the scene, and the framing annoyed me. Fox is not showing another episode for three weeks — the ratings are decent, although they’ll probably drop off during the Olympics, but they’re not giving the audience a chance to grow by shifting around time slots and then not showing it for a few weeks. Very frustrating.

But what I’m learning from the show I’m applying to my own work, when appropriate, as far as structure — and I’m more conscious of making my antagonists more dimensional!

I meant to stay up and watch the Czech vs. Slovakia hockey game at midnight last night, but I was too darned tired. I had weird dreams all night, so don’t feel well-rested.

I need to grab some breakfast, finish packing the writing bag and head out. Will try to post from the site — at the very least tomorrow, I’ll post the link to the essay.