Nano Prep: Oct. 26: Word Count

The type of book you write determines your word count. Romance novels and many mysteries often come in between 75,000 and 90,000 words, while literary fiction and fantasy hover around 100,000. Some category romances are now down to either 50,000 or 60,000. Do some research within your genre and figure out a rough number.

If this is your first novel, try to stay in the 100k ballpark. It will make it an easier sell when you get to that point.

Take your number and divide it by the number of days you plan to work. That will tell you your daily quota. Your quota is the number of words you need to hit every day in order to complete the work on time.

Carolyn See, in her wonderful book MAKING A LITERARY LIFE, states that you should write 1000 words a day, 5 days a week, for the rest of your life. That’s a good goal. It’s only four pages a day, which adds up quickly, gives you a steady writing pace, builds your stamina, and keeps you in the flow of your manuscript. It also allows you to take off two days a week (such as weekends). I prefer writing 6 days/week most days, taking at least one day off or sometimes having a “floating” day off.

If I know I need more than one day off – I adjust my daily word count to reflect that.

If you’re doing Nano, the goal is only 50,000 words in 30 days, which means you only have to write 1667 per day to meet the goal. I prefer to frontload Nano, writing 2500 words per day. That way, I complete my goal by November 20 and don’t have to stress out during times such as American Thanksgiving. Also, by getting ahead, I leave myself room in case life gets in the way.

If you’ve got a book you figure will come in at 100K, and you want to finish it in three months, figure 5 working days per week x 12 weeks, which is 60 writing days. Divide 100K by 60 and you have 1666 words/per day, which is just over 6 pages. Similar to Nano.

If you figure roughly 250 words per page, you can figure a page count along with the word count.

There will be days when you don’t want to. Show up at the page and complete your quota anyway. There will be days when the writing flows and you write more than your daily quota. Good. Bank ‘em, you’ll need them, because something will happen during your writing days to throw you off track.

Don’t stop because it’s hard. The hard days are the most important ones to get through. Those are the days you lean on your craft rather than your art. That’s why a solid foundation in craft is so important.

Every book has its own internal rhythm. However, too often, inexperienced writers confuse “resistance” with “rhythm”. Writing takes work. Books don’t write themselves; writers write them. There will be days where you flow and days were you struggle. The days you struggle and do it anyway are vital to survival as a writer.

Advertisements
Published in: on October 26, 2015 at 5:00 am  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , ,

Monday, Dec. 2, 2013: Adventures in Maine

Monday, December 2, 2013
New Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Sleety and cold

Don’t forget to sign up for the “Organize Your Life” Workshop on Sat. December 7. A few hours on Saturday afternoon, and your writing life is sorted out for 2014! The techniques will serve you well beyond the class and the year. Information here.

We haven’t had a good sit-down for quite awhile, and that’s because I haven’t been around.

Monday night, during the 11 PM news, it became clear that Wednesday was going to be a stormy, difficult travel day. So, we stayed up until 3 AM baking lemon cupcakes and preparing beef stroganoff and putting together everything else we needed to take to Maine. We caught a few hours’ of sleep, called Maine at 8 AM and asked if we could come up a day early. The answer was a resounding “yes”, so I did as much work as possible, and we were on the road by 11 AM.

The drive wasn’t bad — a little testy around Boston, but, otherwise, traffic wasn’t bad and roads smooth. We made a couple of favorite stops up in Kittery and York, but made decent time, and arrived near sunset a little after 4 PM.

We were staying at my great-uncle’s house — a place we’ve visited since the mid-1970s. Many memories tied up in that house. But my great-uncle was moved to a nursing home a few months ago, so the house is mostly empty. Before that, he wasn’t able to do much, especially not cook. In other words, in addition to bringing up all the food we expected to need for the week, we also brought up pots and pans, and, from my writing bag, I had my wooden spoons, can opener, and wine opener.

We relaxed on Tuesday night and went to bed early. I slept like someone knocked me unconscious.

Up early Wednesday — and it was a miserable, stormy day. We were so glad not to be on the road. We hunkered down in the little house. Maine can be spooky, with the dark and the fog and the silhouettes of trees. There’s a reason a lot of horror and thriller writers live in Maine! There’s no internet access there, so I got as much done as I could, then hopped over to the library in the early afternoon, set up there, did what I needed to do online, and came home.

My job on the big Thanksgiving holiday is to make Wednesday’s dinner for the family members who work all day setting up the Hall for the holiday feast. Hence the stroganoff. The stove in the house is AWFUL — a very old electric thing. I was glad I’d done the cooking ahead of time on my good gas stove. It took over 40 minutes to heat the meal up. And no, it couldn’t go in the microwave, it would have tasted disgusting. But we had the meal and the wonderful Portuguese bread and the dessert I made, so it was all good, not to mention the chance to sit around and talk at the meal.

The Big Day consisted of writing in the morning, and then going over to the Hall to set up. We have so many people for dinner that we rent the Legion Hall every year. Everyone tosses in a few bucks for the rental and the food. I help set up, and am in charge of the mashed potatoes and the sweet potatoes. We’re taking vats with 20-30 pounds of potatoes in each, mashed with a four-foot tall masher. Not for the faint of heart.

We had 53 people for dinner this year, of all ages. The tables are in a “U” formation, and there’s the dinner buffet set up on one side, and the dessert buffet on the other. Great food, good company, no egos or drama. The rules are, if you show up, you treat everyone with kindness and respect. Those rules are always followed.

After the dinner, the clean-up crew moves into the massive kitchen and starts washing and drying the dishes. Yes, I help with that, too. I’m on the drying team. Dishes and pans from the Hall are washed, dried, returned to their shelves; personal pans and platters are washed, dried, and set out on the counter for pick up. We all split the leftovers and then go home in a turkey coma.

Shortly after getting back to the house, my cousin (well, not sure how the permutation works, but I call her my cousin) came over and we drove into Portland to visit my great uncle. He’s in an amazing rehab/nursing facility — brightly painted walls, an outstanding, enthusiastic and very kind staff, and it smells fresh without the scent of decay or chemicals.

My great-uncle is now in a wheelchair. His memory’s fading, but he recognized us still, and lit up when he saw us. We took him down to the very cheerful dining room so he could have his dinner, and met some of the friends he’s made at the facility. It’s amazing how they all light up the minute you treat them as an individual, with kindness and dignity. Some of them are fading, mentally, but their bodies are still going strong. Many of them are still sharp as tacks, but the body hasn’t kept up. But everyone was worth spending time and few words with.

My cousin goes every day. By this point, she knows most of the staff and the other residents. She’s practically an additional staff member. She’s also an amazing human being, and I admire her enormously. A lot of it, though, is just talking to the residents like people, which is something all of us did, asking questions, listening to their stories (many of their anecdotes are hilarious — a lot of these were quite the hell-raisers, back in the day, in the best possible way).

We got my great-uncle settled for the night after dinner, and went back to the house, and packed for the trip home. My cousin feels a lot of guilt about my great-uncle being in the facility. However, it’s as good as it gets for that kind of place, and so much better than any other facility of its type I’ve ever seen. He gets excellent, round-the-clock care, which he needs. He also has interaction with other people, more so than when he was home alone, getting checked on several times a day by the family. The family simply can’t take care of him at home, because he needs round-the-clock care, and hiring three shifts/day of in-home care would still mean numerous trips to the ER whenever something went wrong — as it does, unfortunately, quite frequently at this stage in his 96 year old life. He truly has a better quality of care in the facility, and family members visit him every day. In this particular case, it was the right choice.

This is probably the last time we will be in the house. It holds many wonderful memories. There were still some things there from my grandmother (she died four years ago), which my cousin gave me — little mementoes that wouldn’t mean anything to anyone else but me, because they hold specific memories.

It’s an emotional threshhold on which to stand.

We drove back on Friday. Very smooth drive. Everyone was far too busy shopping to be on the road except around the malls. Since I don’t shop on Black Friday on principle, I was happy to have clear roads.

I don’t believe stores should open on Thanksgiving itself. I think it’s disgusting. I also believe that stores that encourage brawls — and, let’s face it, the brawls happen in the same stores every year, such as WalMart, because that’s the kind of individual those stores attract — should forfeit their right to open on both Thanksgiving and the following Black Friday, if there is an altercation in the store. The individuals involved in the altercations should be banned from the site for 18 months, so they can’t come back the following year and behave badly again.

Exhausted when we got home Friday, but got some work done Friday afternoon, and more work done on Saturday, although a lot of things went to hell without even the handbasket. I managed, however, to upload all the topics for next week’s class. All I have to do next Saturday is show up and teach. Caught up Friday night with some episodes I’d missed earlier in the week, but what is the use of On-Demand when the show is only available for three days after broadcast? WTF?

By Sunday, I felt like I’d been run over by a steamroller. I got some work done, fretted a lot, tried to rest. It was the first of advent. We managed to get the tree into the stand (the stand SUCKS and is so poorly designed, don’t even get me started). The lights are on, some ornaments are on it, the festive fabric is mostly in place, and some of the decorations are up. It will be a work-in-progress for the upcoming weeks.

I re-watched THE ITALIAN JOB last night (such fun), THE TOWN (I like it better every time I see it), and sobbed my way through ANGELS IN AMERICA. It was a brilliant piece of theatre and translated into film wonderfully.

I’m exhausted and spent, but I have work to do this morning, then I’m helping set up NMLC’s tree at the JFK Library for the Spectacle of the Trees event, and then, who knows? Maybe I’ll get to bed early.

Right now, I have to try and get some work done, and hustle more work for the coming weeks.

Devon

Mon. Nov. 28: Ewwwww! Creepy-Crawly Chaos

Monday, November 28, 2011
Waxing Moon
Uranus Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde
Cloudy and mild

It’s been quite a week!

Wednesday morning, our departure was delayed due to weather. We didn’t get on the road until nearly 10 AM. Fortunately, we missed the worst of the rain and didn’t hit snow until we were past Portland. Not a bad drive, and we managed a few stops on the way at “usual” places on our route. Eight inches of snow where we were staying. Talk about a winter wonderland!

My great uncle is very frail. He’s walking with a cane, thanks to a nasty spill a few weeks ago. He’ll be 95 next month, so, all told, he’s doing pretty well, and he was glad to see us.

The lasagna pan barely fit into the oven, but it did, and the lasagna was a bit hit, as were the salad and cake.

Up early on Thanksgiving. Managed to write 3K of a long short story that’s been percolating for nearly ten years now. It’s finally coming together, and I’m very excited about it.

Thanksgiving Dinner was great — good food, good company. Only 42 people this year, a little smaller than some of the previous years. But good fun. Lots of interesting social dynamics, in spite of everyone sticking to the “leave your egos and arguments at the door” rule. Came away with a stuffed belly and a head equally stuffed with ideas.

Quiet evening, with some visiting, and some packing. Up early on Friday, back on the road by 8. Stopped in Ongonquit for breakfast at Bessie’s. I’ve wanted to eat there for years, but this was the first time I figured out where to park. It was excellent.

Also stopped at a great thrift store at the York/Kittery line and got some wonderful deals, including a pair of metal deer that were obviously hand-crafted and bolted in a unique manner — I’ll have to photograph them at some point.

Home in the afternoon, unpacking, sorting out the cats. Exhausted.

Saturday, worked on the short story, ran around and did some errands. Started cleaning and straightening the place for the holidays. Wondered why the six-foot eggplant in the living rooms was so dusty — and realized it was MOVING! BUGS! The entire plant was infested. The other plants nearby were infested. The curtains were infested. Things were crawling up the walls.

Took the plant out, disposed of it responsibly and sterilized the pot. Washed the other plants to try to save them. Stripped the room and scrubbed it, sterilized it top to toe, vacuumed and laundered the curtains, washed the walls, vacuumed everything remotely vacuum-able, scrubbed everything scrubbable. Stripped down and scrubbed myself in the shower with castile soap (ow) and immediately washed all my clothes in hot water. It took hours. Sprinkled mint everywhere.

Tessa and the twins brawled. There was literally fur flying, but the twins have stopped picking on her.

The next morning, the mint worked and overcame anything left in the windows, but I found some other plants infested in two other rooms. We’ve lost all the eggplants (which were still giving us eggplants) and the green peppers. One of the strawberries was infested, and all the foxgloves.

Headed to Country Gardens. They told me it was spider mites, and what I thought were bites all over my hands, arms, and torso was an allergic reaction to their sticky secretions. Ginger (an anti-inflammatory) offset that. Anyway, they gave me a spray for the plants. I soaked whatever was salvageable, wiped off the dead things once the leaves were dry, and have those plants in quarantine. And scrubbed everything again.

The spray worked. And now I know how to deal with it the next time it happens.

Fourteen hours on it yesterday. The house looks like a tornado hit it. But it’s clean enough to use as an operating room.

I’m sure spider mites exist in NYC, but they tend to choke on the bus fumes, like the rest of us. I never had them in the apartment. I’d never seen the larvae, and didn’t know what it was. It looked like dust. Until it hatched and started moving. Ewwww. And they had to work fast, because we checked all the plants on Wednesday morning and they were fine.

Also managed to put together the Christmas tree and put up the Advent Table (it was the First of Advent yesterday). Deocration boxes are now also all over the place.

If I’m lucky, I’ll get it cleaned up by Christmas. 😦

Good morning writing session. Headed off-Cape for a meeting this morning, then back to try to get some yard work done (the neighbors spent all weekend making their lawns pristine and have ALL their decorations up — I feel so disorganized) and comment on the short story assignment for my class.

I’d love to have a mini-melt-down, but, honesty, there’s just no time.

Devon
Today’s word count: 1357
Total word count: 92,360

Published in: on November 28, 2011 at 9:45 am  Comments (4)  
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Friday, November 26, 2010


I have a lot of leaves to rake

Friday, November 26, 2010
Waning Moon
Uranus Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Rainy and cold

I could not get my act together and get out of the house on Wednesday. I was stumbling around totally incoherently. But we finally got on the road and headed for Maine. Not a bad ride, although going through the “Big Dig” tunnels under Boston was a little scary. But we did it, and hit the portions of road that were familiar.

We made many of our usual stops — a few places in Kittery, Stonewall Kitchen to stock up on jams and sauces (and their Coastal Morning Coffee is really good), a thrift shop in York (where I found some unique, hand-made bud vases and a fish-shaped copper mold. We wanted to have lunch at the Stolen Menu Cafe in York, one of our favorite places, but it’s only serving breakfast this week, and we missed out. I did A LOT of shopping in NH at the liquor store (no taxes on liquor), and, in the attached gift shop, found a lovely rosemary and mint soap. I’m extremely partial to rosemary soap and it’s hard to find. In addition to loving the smell, it’s a wonderful antiseptic, so if you have a cut, it helps fight/heal infection.

We wound up in Ongonquit, at the Bread and Roses Cafe — although it’s closed for the season, it’s open this week. I got a phenomenal apple turnover, and my mom had the best elephant ear she’s ever had. The coffee was from CarpeDiem, and is some of the best coffee I ever had. What a treat! Again, here are examples of independent artisans doing something better than any mass-produced place could come up with, and at fair prices. I also bought eclairs to take home. Have you ever seen anything like these?

We got to Maine as late as we usually do when we leave from New York! But the family was glad to see us. We unpacked, distributed the little gifties, and I started heating up the dinner. The stove is a very old electric burner one, so it took for damn ever, but, eventually, we got it warm. The beef stroganoff was a hit, as was the lemon cake.

My great-uncle has lost most of his hearing, so you have to pretend you’re standing on an Elizabethan stage projecting to the rafters to have a conversation. But then, he will be 94 this year, and is still living on his own and getting around pretty well, so I’d say he’s doing all right.

I was supposed to go over to visit my cousins, hang out, and help with the onions, but I was so tired I was afraid I’d pass out face down in the bowl. I was in bed by 8 PM. And I slept straight through until 6.

I still felt a little wonky in the morning, despite all the sleep, but had a good breakfast. I spent the morning polishing my lectures for next week’s SECONDHAND SPIRITS workshop — I hope some of you will join me. I’m getting really excited about it.

We headed over to the hall around noon. I jumped into the kitchen, as I usually do, to help with the mashed potatoes, the sweet potatoes, and whatever I could to set up. The potato masher is four feet long, so that should give you an idea of how many potatoes we cook!

Dinner was great — somewhere between 50 and 60 people for dinner, everyone in a good mood and happy to see each other. Most of us only get to see each other once a year, although now that I’m closer, I hope I can get up more often. And I invited everyone to visit. They were joking that they’d charter a bus and all come down — only maybe they weren’t joking! 😉 Hey, as long as I have enough advance notice to stock the cupboards, I’m used to feeding actors, I can feed them, and we can all hang out on the deck.

I didn’t stay until the bitter end of clean-up, which I usually do, because we needed to get back on the road. We left around 2:30. It was a surprisingly smooth ride, with the Big Dig a little scary again, but from Boston down to the Cape, I was surprised by the depth of traffic. It all moved well, so it wasn’t a problem; there was just a lot of it.

Got back around 6:30, unloaded the car. The cats were exactly where we left them — I don’t know if they moved in the whole 48 hours, poor things. They were very upset. We spent the evening trying to calm them down. I think I have to take Iris to the vet next week, poor little thing.

Watched a public television special on European Christmas traditions, which was lovely. Had a nice glass of wine, ate those enormous eclairs (and got whipped cream all over everything). Went to bed at a reasonable hour.

Up early this morning, at my usual time (at least it wasn’t 4 AM, finally) — yoga, meditation, fed the cats, made the coffee, to my desk. Tried to write a bit on the Willowspring Grove novel, but I’m feeling very disconnected from it. I think I’ll have to type in some of what I’ve handwritten to get back into its flow.

On today’s agenda is more work on the lectures for next week, blog posts I owe Savvy Authors, and getting started on an article I landed to write for WOMEN ON WRITING that’s due in less than a month. Since I have to interview experts for it, I have to get those questions out ASAP to give them adequate time. I also need to unpack a lot more, especially in the kitchen, run a few loads of dishes through the dishwasher and laundry through the washer/dryer. I’d like to vaccum and scrub the bathrooms down, too.

I need to call the Natural History Museum to confirm Saturday and call Mattress World to order my split box.

It’s raw and rainy, so I can’t do any yard work (but I like the sound of the rain against the house, and feeling all cozy inside). I don’t shop on Black Friday — I’m not that nuts and I don’t wait in line and scramble to pay people for merchandise. You really want my business? Serve me champagne and h’ors d’oeuvres! Don’t think I’ll stand in line all night to dash in and save a few bucks. Just not worth it. I can find individual artisans who create unique gifts at fair prices and don’t make me jump through hoops to part me from my money.

I notice on my bills that, although MA’s nickname is “Taxachussetts”, the taxes are less than in NY. On my cell phone bill alone, I’m saving $4/month in taxes, which will add up to $48 over the course of a year.

That’s a lot of cat treats.

The Hounds of the Baskervilles were very busy baying at something early this morning. The cats were not amused. And the Westie across the street is sitting in the window, waiting patiently all day for his person to come home.

Onward.

Devon

Published in: on November 26, 2010 at 8:11 am  Comments (4)  
Tags: ,

Monday, November 30, 2009

Monday, November 30, 2009
Waxing Moon
Uranus Retrograde
Rainy and cold

I haven’t opened the computer or typed for days. It feels weird to be back. It felt good to be unplugged.

I hope everyone had a great holiday.

Wednesday, we were on the road before 6 AM. We kept hearing how it would be such a heavy travel day — but there was NO traffic all the way through CT, MA, NH, until we crossed into Maine. It was a nice, smooth ride.

I stopped in Portsmouth at Riverrun Books — what a nice store! I bought a biography of Emily Post I’d wanted for awhile, and the time period covers some of my current research. We made our usual slew of stops heading up in Maine in Kittery and York and Wells and even Windham. We had lunch in York, at the Stolen Menu Cafe, which has become one of my favorite restaurants anywhere. The food is outstanding, the service is friendly, and it’s reasonably priced. I really like the Yorks anyway — I could live there, should I choose to go to Maine. It’s a friendly, year-round, arts-oriented community and I really like it. I picked up a few things I needed, stocked up at Stonewall Kitchen, found some decorations I thought were cute, and found my writing bag!

It’s made by Sharper Image, and has compartments for computer, folders, books, everything. I have room for my travel yoga mat, my research materials, everything. It’s on wheels, so I can walk it rather than carrying it. It’s small enough to be a carry-on, but large enough to hold everything I need. It was on sale for about 1/5th of what I’ve seen it at regular retail. So I grabbed it.

Found a skirt — a long, black velvet one that drapes beautifully. Good for formal occasions. Still need some more casual types, but I have a feeling I’ll just sew them in the New Year.

Arrived at my great uncle’s around 3:30. Unloaded, heated up the food, got it dished out to various and sundry. My great uncle wasn’t feeling well, but he seemed to perk up while we were there. My cousin called a few hours later and invited me up to the blueberry farm up the street — I hadn’t been up there since he and his wife worked on the house. I went up and saw the house — it’s an 1850’s farmhouse that’s been lovingly renovated so it’s comfortable and modern, and yet respects the history and architecture of the house. They’ve done a fabulous job. We sat around drinking wine and peeling the onions for the dinner. I’m always just dashing up and back and taking care of the older relatives that I rarely get to hang out with my contemporaries and catch up. So, that was fun.

I’d been up since 4:30, so I was pretty tired. Went to bed early, woke up early, got breakfast sorted. Managed to get in a few hours of writing. We went to the hall around 12:30 and they handed me the potato masher (which, by the way, is 4 feet long because of the vats of potatoes to mash) the minute I walked in the door! We got everything finished and dished out and sat down by 1 — 52 people for dinner. My great uncle (who’s in his 90s) was feeling much better and had a good time. The food was great, as always, and so was the company. Most of these people I only get to see once a year, so it’s kind of a quick catch-up, but it’s good. We’ve been doing this for over 30 years, and everyone gets along, at least for the day! Any arguments are left outside, and everyone respects that rule.

And it’s definitely an example of “many hands make light work” — people pitch in and everything gets done. We all washed up, left the hall better than we found it.

By the time we got home, another branch of the family who doesn’t come to hall came by to visit — one of the cousins I hadn’t seen for about 15 years! We were really close when we were kids and teens. So that was a nice catch up.

Another pretty early night for me. I was too tired to even read.

Friday morning, we were up early and out of the house by seven. Although I rarely shop on Black Friday (and I’m not a mall shopper anyway), we drove up to Freeport, to the flagship LL Bean store. I needed a sleeping bag for various and sundry travels coming up in the next year and change, and they’ve got good ones. We had a quick breakfast in the cafe — really good, the coffee (Coffee by Design is the fair-trade company) was outstanding. We picked up a few additional things, got some ideas for when we have the house, and were back on the road in about an hour.

The drive back was not fun. The weather was dreadful — heavy rain. Of course, the forecast was for “light showers”. Right. And the temperature was dropping, so it was pretty clear it would soon be snow. We managed to outrun most of the storm, although it was still sprinkling by the time we hit Sturbridge.

Earth Spirit Herbals, one of my favorite stores, closed at the end of July, but supposedly a garden center down the street carried their oils and herbs. However, we couldn’t find the garden center, so maybe that’s not open anymore, either. We backtracked and had lunch at Admiral O’Brien’s, which is right next door to where Earth Spirits used to be. The food is great, and, again, the prices are good and service friendly. So, we had a good hot lunch and were back on the road.

We managed to get home by about 3:30, which was pretty good. It took a few trips to haul everything upstairs, and there were packages waiting for us, including my next assignment from Confidential Job #1.

Saturday, I was up early and writing. Hit Costco to stock up on things like butter and eggs, stocked up on some other stuff at various stores. Did the test runs of the cookies all afternoon. My mixer was useless and caused a major setback. And the recipes for rolled sugar cookies and butter cookies don’t hold together and the dough doesn’t work as well as the recipes I usually use, which are from the 60’s and 70’s, so, next year, I go back to them. I thought both the sugar cookies and the butter cookies tasted a little bland. And the dough was hard to work with.

I made a rolled cookie that I cut out into angel shapes — it’s a kind of a sugar cookie, but with eggnog. That turned out pretty well, and the eggnog icing should bump it up. I did a lime-flavored cookie that’s really good, but it doesn’t pack well, so I can’t use it for the cookie plates.

I made a lemon shortbread that’s really good, but my idea of cutting it into Lighthouse shapes and frosting it — again, I can’t make the volume I need, and it’s not very packable and stackable.

Frustrating day.

Sunday, up early, writing. Looked at Bed, Bath & Beyond for a new mixer. The prices were ridiculous, and if I can bend the paddles with my bare hands, it’s not going to work. I don’t have the money or the room for the standing Kitchen Aid Mixer, although that’s what I want. But I can’t justify spending over $300 for one. Headed to White Plains to Trader Joe’s for a few things, and then to the Chef Central where I found the decor sugar I needed AND a Kitchen Aid hand mixer that does everything the standing mixer does — for $40. Grabbed it.

Not only does it work beautifully (and it has dough hooks for the next time I make bread), but, because it works properly, it took me three hours less to make the same amount of cookies.

I made a rolled chocolate cookie. I wanted to cut them into moose shapes (“chocolate moose”), but the design of the cutter and again, the dough’s lack of ease in working made it impossible. Also, the moose cookies are so big that I couldn’t get the volume I need to make for the plates. I tried making reindeer, but they didn’t hold their shape while baking, so I tried a different cutter and ended up with chocolate BOOTS. They’re okay, but, again, I don’t think I can make the volume I need.

I need at least 100 of each cookie to have enough for the 30 or so platters I’m doing. So I need a cookie that’s sturdy and that I can do in volume.

I made the molasses spice cookie — it’s one of my favorite recipes ever. Fantastic, easy to work with, makes a lot. That’s a definite for the platter, along with the Toll House. I can make more sugar cookies if I need to – and I think I will.

I also made a cranberry “sandie” — one of those melt-in-your-mouth cookies. I love them, but again, not a lot of volume, and I don’t think it’s sturdy enough for the platter. I also made an almond-hazelnut crescent, grinding the nuts to an almost flour-like consistency. Unfortunately, the cookies disintegrate if you pick them up or even try to move them. They taste good, but, again, not something packable and stackable.

What I’m going to have to do with the almond crescents is make a trifle with them by doing a layer of sponge cake, a layer of chocolate mousse, and then a layer of the crumbled cookies, another set of layers, topped with some raspberries and whipped cream. It’ll be fine, but it still doesn’t make a cookie for the platter.

So, the center of the platter will have a small gingerbread cake. I’ll surround it with Toll House, sugar, and the molasses spice cookies. I’m on the fence about the eggnog cookies. If I roll them and cut them thicker than the recipe says, I think they’ll be packable and stackable. A peanut cookie might be good, but so many people are now allergic to peanuts that I worry.

I do a cheat sheet with a photo of each cookie and ingredients so if there’s anything someone can’t have, they can avoid it.

Also spent a good part of the weekend packing and stacking the stuff I need to move for the furniture swap. Thursday comes up quickly.

I haven’t started decorating for the holidays yet. It doesn’t make sense to do it and then have to move everything for the furniture swap. Once the furniture is swapped out and I can put stuff back and rearrange and get some breathing room, I’ll decorate.

Haven’t started the cards yet, either, and the overseas need to go out by the end of the week.

I’m still working on the Christmas story, but I’ve got enough done so it’s in design. I also have to start another story due at the end of the month for an anthology and the steampunk TODAY. Even though I’m behind, I have to keep stacking things up or I get even more behind.

I’m headed to Long Island later this morning to acupuncture. I definitely need it. The next two weeks are going to be insane, but that’s the way it is. Time Management. NONE of these balls can drop, so if it means longer hours and harder work, that’s the way it is. It’ll be fine, just a lot for the next two weeks, and it all has to get done. No excuses, no room for letting anything slide. Once the furniture swap is done on Thursday, it will be much better. Even though next week will be busy, there will be more physical room in the place, which will allow for more psychological room.

I’d love to just take a nap and wake up on Christmas Eve with everything done, but that’s just not going to happen! So I’m gearing up for a busy couple of weeks.

Devon

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Saturday, November 29, 2008
Waxing moon
Cloudy and cold

I’m exhausted, both physically and mentally. It was a busy, bittersweet roller coaster of a couple of days, and I feel like I could sleep for about a week.

The trip up on Wednesday was as smooth as could be – no traffic until we hit the Maine border. Couldn’t believe it. In fact, we got to Maine so early we couldn’t stop and eat lunch at our chosen spot in York because it was too early!

We ran some errands, did a bit of grocery shopping, grabbed a snack, and arrived at my great-uncles’s (my grandmother’s brother, don’t know the correct term, so I call him my great-uncle) early. We had a good visit, with them and with some other family.

I’d packed the dinner I cooked, heated it up, we set the table nicely, and planned a festive dinner. Unfortunately, my great-uncle wasn’t feeling well. We were pretty worried about him.

Yoga the next morning – I brought my mat, and, throughout the few days, I was grateful I’d done so. I kept going back to the mat time and time again to stay centered and focused.

My great-uncle was too ill to eat breakfast, so we tucked him in on the sofa so he could rest.

I got some writing done – a bit of work done on the first Mick Feeney story, and about a thousand words on something else, that, if it works, will be something people enjoy. I’d plotted it out in my head in the car, made some notes, and got going. I’m going to set it in a fictional town in Maine, stretching geography to stuff it in around York.

My great-uncle was too ill to attend the dinner, and we were worried about leaving him home alone, but he insisted we go on.

As usual, the dinner was wonderful. Sixty-three people attended this year. A big hall is rented, with long tables decorated and set up. Down one side of the room, the food tables are set up, buffet-style. Along the other side of the room, this year, there were two tables of desserts. And I’m talking the long trestle-tables, not some dainty end table! The kitchen is enormous (I often joke that’s the size kitchen I want), with a huge stove and plenty of counter space to prepare big meals. My job is always to mash the potatoes. Which means standing on a step stool and wielding a four foot long potato masher because the pots are so big!

Almost everyone pitches in to do something, and everyone brings food, so it’s a case of what needs to be prepared at the hall (the potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, gravy, etc.) and what comes in ready and needs to be set out (the turkey, the creamed onions, etc.). We catch up as we do it. I really need to sit down and make up a map (family tree) because I can never figure out who’s related to whom and how, and, especially with the kids, they change so much from year to year that some of them seem like complete strangers every year. Also, I’m kind of shy and sometimes being around so many people is overwhelming, so staying busy in the kitchen is a good way for me to get talking to people and also contribute something to the overall dinner.

We had a real Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon moment (if you don’t know what that means – look it up). One of the family members, now going to college at NYU (my alma mater), was in class with someone from the Broadway show on which I work occasionally. Too funny! The guy in the show was part of the original Broadway company, and had left before I arrived, but I know OF him, and it’s one of those random events that shows just how small the world really is.

The food was great, the company was great, everyone’s considerate enough to keep the drama out of it and get along. Clean-up was quick, because there are so many people to help, and you just sort of catch up on a year’s worth of life.

What surprised and touched both my mother and I was that they are all adamant we keep joining them for Thanksgiving (we’ve gone up every year since 1972, when my father died). The family up there is my grandmother’s extended family, and she included us after my father died, so it wouldn’t just be my mother and I on Thanksgiving. I missed three years in the mid-1980’s when I lived on the West Coast, and two years in the early 2000’s, when I had shows, but, other than that, we’ve got every year since the 1970s. And we did wonder if this would be our last Thanksgiving together. But, over and over again, various members came and asked us to promise to keep coming up. I’d really like to.

I’m sure they wonder why I never bring up a boyfriend, but Maine is really my sanctuary, and I’d have to be pretty convinced that anyone I brought up there was going to stick around for awhile. Also, with the men currently in my life, they were all working this year, plus, from the outside, I’m sure the relationships seem far more complex than they actually are. Too much explaining involved.

Part of the loss of my grandmother equates to feeling like my safety net is gone.

My great-uncle was a little better when we got home, but still couldn’t eat or drink anything, which concerned us. He was livelier than he’d been earlier, though, and we sat up and all had a good visit, swapping travel stories and trying to figure out how some people were related to each other. I’m telling you, I need a map!

We picked out the artwork created by my grandmother for the next day’s memorial breakfast, and I cleaned it so we could set it up in the restaurant. Went to bed pretty early, because I was tired; had hoped to get both more reading and writing done, but was just too worn out. We also figured out which of her friends still needed to be notified of the death, and we’ll help with some of that this weekend.

Up early the next morning. My great-uncle still didn’t feel well, but wanted to come to the breakfast in memory of his sister, so another relative drove him over closer to the start time, while my mom and I packed the car with our stuff and the artwork and headed over early to help set up. A cousin of my grandmother’s also came with more artwork. It turns out that many people attending didn’t even know my grandmother was an artist.

She was very talented. She could paint, draw, work in pastel, pencil, pen and ink, charcoal, etching, silkscreen, and even do some metal art. She was a wonderful portraitist She was of the age where, as a woman, family and duty were always put before pursuing dreams, and that was always a bone of contention between us, because I’ve refused to get married and take care of a man rather than create a life in the arts. I’ve been lucky to have some great men in my life; I’ve also had some not-so-great men in my life; none of them have been worth giving up the writing. Writing is breathing to me, and I’ve been ruthless in not letting anyone keep me from the page. I also take care of an elderly mother, have taken care of several friends during terminal illness, and, when my grandmother was so sick in the last years, driven back and forth as often as possible to do whatever I could do help (although it never felt like enough, especially in these last years when she needed constant care). I haven’t met someone that I felt was an equal partner on this journey on a daily basis, and I’m not willing to settle for less. I’m willing to compromise, but not capitulate. I see far too much capitulation in far too many relationships around me, and, for the most part, it’s still the woman who’s expected to give everything up to “support” the man, instead of each supporting the other. It created huge tensions between us at times, but I made the right decision for me. I believe she could have been a working artist – she was a working art teacher for years – but there was always the excuse of needing to “do” for someone else. That was her choice, and I hope it was the right one for her, although one can’t help but wonder about her untapped potential.

In any case, the breakfast was lovely. It was good to see people again and chat a bit without waving a four-foot potato masher! People got up and shared stories, and letters from others who couldn’t be there were read. So it was a happy, joyful gathering, the kind that would have made her happy. She made everything fun, like baking and gardening and canning. She taught me how to ride a bicycle. She tried to teach me how to swim, but I still can’t swim – that’s my fault, not hers. She was interested in everything.

Driving away from Maine this time, the reality that she’s no longer with us really started to hit home.

The first half of the drive was in vile weather, pouring rain. The second half of the drive was in vile traffic, especially around the malls.

We called to check on my great-uncle when we got home, and he’s feeling much better. He’s still going to the doctor this week, but at least he didn’t have to be rushed to the ER.

So: at three Wal-Marts in the area, people were seriously injured. At one Wal-Mart, an employee was trampled to death. As most of you know, I loathe Wal-Mart, and I’ll drive 150 miles out of my way rather than shop at one, because their policies disgust me so much. The disgusting type of customer they attract, the type that would trample an employee to death, is a prime example of why I loathe the store and have such a low opinion of those who shop there. I don’t care how low their prices are – where you shop, where you spend your hard-earned cash, indicates what your morals and values are – whether it’s there or anywhere else. The type of shopper Wal-Mart attracts is the type of person who tramples an employee to death and shoves rescue workers out of the way when they try to resuscitate him. In my opinion, the cops need to take the time to dissect the surveillance video, identify these bastards (run it on television if need be, someone will recognize these people), and put them away because they are a danger to society. They are murderers, and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I bet the majority of these murderers go to church every Sunday, too, and consider themselves “good Christians.” Religious hypocrisy at work, yet again.

A weak economy is not a viable excuse to murder a store employee by trampling him to death. This cannot be shrugged off.

Yet it will be, because that’s how the Bush administration’s policies have filtered down over the past eight years and all we’ve seen from the top down is that it’s okay behave with greed and avarice, no matter who gets hurt. The Bush administration led by example, encouraging people to be their worst selves.

Cats weren’t too destructive while we were gone, although a few things were knocked over, and they were happy we were back, behaving like Velcro kitties.

I got a shock when I opened the extremely late check from one of my editors – it’s unsigned. Which means I can’t deposit it. To say I am livid is an understatement. I don’t believe for one second that it was a mistake. It was a complete “fuck you” from this place. I sent a polite (barely) but terse email to her. I do not want to have to wait another two weeks for this check. I want it replaced on Monday and sent overnight. It won’t be, but hey, this will be the last time I work for them anyway. A bridge worth burning, in my opinion, especially since, financially, I am now totally screwed for the coming week. What a different experience from the last anthology on which I worked with them, where they paid promptly and pleasantly. If they’re in financial difficulty, they need to be upfront with us. Screwing us in this way is simply not acceptable.

I have to have a discussion with another editor on Monday. I’m supposed to receive royalty statements and royalties by the 20th of every month. The last royalty statement I received was in September and I’ve yet to see a penny of royalties. I know the book is selling, and I want the monies due.

I’m tired of these people jerking around writers. This is why all writers and all writing should be unionized – so payments must be made on time or else there are strong consequences.

Nothing like coming back from a few difficult emotional days to complete and utter unprofessional bullshit, right?

Busy day today. I haven’t worked on the mystery; too much on my mind. I need to get a lot done in order to hit the ground running this week and figure out a way to make up instantly the shortfall from the unsigned check.

Mark your calendar – I’m on the radio show hosted by the League of Extraordinary Paranormal Women on December 11 at 8 PM EST. It’s on blogtalk radio, so I’ll post the link, and if you can’t listen to it live, you can listen to it some other time.

Back to dealing with life.

Devon

Devon’s Bookstore:

NEW! Too Much Mistletoe A Nina Bell Holiday Mystery by Devon Ellington. Nina Bell is back! Still trying to make a living in the New York theatre world of the 1990s, she’s trying to figure out which is the bigger mystery – a college friend’s disappearance, or her ever-complicated love life, as every man she meets wants to hang mistletoe over her head. Read an excerpt here and purchase the story for only $2.99 USD here .

NEW! “The Ramsey Chase” A Remarkable Adventure of Cornelia True and Roman Gray By Devon Ellington
Meet the adventurous Cornelia True of Bodwin’s Ferry, whose life changes forever when “fixer” Roman Gray lands naked in her petunias, and they combine forces to track down a serial killer determined to murder thirteen women in thirteen months for their blood, with his latest victim right there in Bodwin’s Ferry!
Only $1.49 USD for this 10K adventure, the very first Penny’s Dreadfuls release! Read an excerpt of the adventure here.
Purchase the story here.

THE JAIN LAZARUS ADVENTURES
Free limited download
“The Possession of Nattie Filmore: A Jain Lazarus Adventure” by Devon Ellington. If you loved HEX BREAKER, you’ll love spending time with Jain and Wyatt as they try to solve a haunted house mystery. Read an excerpt of the story and download it free here


Hex Breaker
by Devon Ellington. A Jain Lazarus Adventure. Hex Breaker Jain Lazarus joins the crew of a cursed film, hoping to put to rest what was stirred up before more people die and the film is lost. Tough, practical Detective Wyatt East becomes her unlikely ally and lover on an adventure fighting zombies, ceremonial magicians, the town wife-beater, the messenger of the gods, and their own pasts.
$4.00 ebook/ $6.00 on CD from Firedrakes Weyr Publishing.
Visit the site for the Jain Lazarus adventures.

BOOKS FOR WRITERS
Back By Popular Demand! 30 Tips for 30 Days: Kick Start Your Novel and Get Out of Your Own Way. A Nano Handbook by Devon Ellington. FREE!
If you’ve ever wondered whether or not you could survive National Novel Writing Month, this is the handbook for you! Ideas on preparations, setting goals, overcoming blocks, pushing yourself, tips for each day of the process, and ideas for going beyond, this handbook by veteran Nano-er Devon Ellington will help you survive. Best of all, it’s free! Download it here.
Limited time offer
Sensory Perceptions: Techniques to Improve Your Writing Through the Six Senses by Devon Ellington. Use the six senses to take your writing to the next level via a series of sense-specific exercises. By the end of seven weeks, you complete seven short stories!. $1.29 USD. Here.


5 in 10: Create 5 Short Stories in Ten Weeks
by Devon Ellington. This ebooklet takes you from inspiration to writing to revision to marketing. By the end of ten weeks, you will have either 5 short stories or a good chunk of a novella complete. And it’s only 50 cents, USD. Here.

Writing Rituals: Ideas to Support Creativity by Cerridwen Iris Shea. This ebooklet contains several rituals to help you start writing, get you through writer’s block, and help send your work on its way. It’s only 39 cents USD. (Note: Cerridwen Iris Shea is one of the six names under which I publish). Here.


Full Circle: An Ars Concordia Anthology
. Edited by Colin Galbraith. This is a collection of short stories, poems, and other pieces by a writers’ group of which I am a member. My story is “Pauvre Bob”, set at Arlington Race Track in Illinois. You can download it free here:

Published in: on November 29, 2008 at 8:09 am  Comments (4)  
Tags: , , , , , , , ,