Fri., Feb. 1, 2013: Plays and Short Stories

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Friday, February 1, 2013
Waning Moon
Sunny and cold

Yes, it’s already February! Later today, I will have the January wrap-up over on the Goals, Dreams, and Resolutions site, and also my February To-Do list by Monday.

Last chance to sign up for “The Graveyard of Abandoned Projects”, which runs Feb. 4-6 online. Breathe new life into abandoned projects, or learn ways to set them to rest without draining creative energy from current work. Details here.

If you’re a Cape Cod/South Shore based actor, I hope you’ll consider auditioning for my play, MURDER “SEALS” THE DEAL, which will go up on April 7 in Buzzards Bay as a benefit for the National Marine Life Center. Details here.

Those for whom I wrote the play are pleased with the draft I sent them yesterday. I need to not look at it for a few days, and then do another draft. I want at least one more draft before we start rehearsals. The audition notice was up in the local arts newsletter, and out to the papers. Fingers crossed we get some good people in.

Worked with students. Ran some errands. It was so gorgeous out that I stopped at Craigville Beach and took a walk. The tide was high, the surf was rough, it was wild and wonderful. Loved it. The wind and water are part of the reason I live in this area, and I try to make use of it whenever possible.

I have two short stories to tackle, and the revision on the other play. I have to take my mom to the doctor today, but, other than that, I plan to focus on the writing.

Tomorrow is Imbolc — I’m looking forward to the ceremony, and to doing some indoor planting. The cats are starting to shed their heavy winter coats, and the Phoebes are outside singing, so I’m hoping we’ll have an early and long spring. We’re still supposed to get snow this weekend, but I’m hoping that February will ease out. Says I, on the day it’s barely arrived!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Devon

Tues. Jan. 29, 2013: Breaking Down and Rebuilding

Tuesday, January 28, 2013
Waning Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Snowy and cold

My guest over on A Biblio Paradise today is Margaret Fieland, talking about character development. She worked on this book and these characters in class a few years back — I’m happy it found a good home.

Brandy, to answer your question, I write in several places. I use the more ritualistic elements sometimes if I’m having trouble getting started. Most days, I just sit at the desk, power up the computer, and write. Or, if I’d rather start with a project I’m doing in longhand, I’ll write in longhand. I like my current office and my desk — in a corner, where I can look out the window at a pretty front yard. Sometimes, I write at the dining table or in a big chair in the living room. When the weather is nice, I like to write outside on the covered deck. I used to light a candle at the start of a writing session and extinguish it when I was done, but now, that I spend most of the day writing, and I’m switching between projects, that no longer serves me. I have objects around me that are meaningful and/or whimsical, so I can look up and feel good.

And, by the way, you ARE very creative. Creativity manifests in different ways. You’re creative in the way you live your life, create such a loving home for your family and the cats, the compassion you give to the world. Not a lot of people can do that.

Had to do a lot of admin work yesterday, and also do things like go grocery shopping, load in cat food, pick up books from the library. My library card always makes me feel rich — as long as I can use the library, borrow from the library, I feel an abundance in my life.

Some more good news: My play, “Seven of Swords”, has been accepted for the spring series of PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD, and will be given a staged reading on March 1. It’s much darker than the piece I’m writing for the Marine Life Center –and needs a rewrite done this week.

I’m feeling a little overwhelmed by my deadlines. I have a story that has to go out by Thursday, one that has to release on Friday (or Saturday — I just realized Imbolc is Saturday, not Friday), the Marine Life play finished today, and the other play revised by the weekend. At the same time, I’m grateful for the feast of opportunities.

Two more assignments arrived from Confidential Job #1 yesterday, and they look AWESOME. I can’t wait to dig into them. And one of my editors picked this week (of course) to send me an extra assignment that needs to be turned around in the next few days. I love that he pitches me extra work whenever he can, it’s again — part of the feast.

This is where the challenge comes in. When you’re presented with opportunities in your chosen profession, you have to step up or lose them. Those who step up advance; those who don’t — don’t. It’s not supposed to be easy.

Got the second act of MURDER SEALS THE DEAL in a much better place, which meant ripping apart the third act, and then realizing that, while I’d put in some good red herrings for the audience, I’d never given them the clue to the real murderer. That’s not fair — the audience has to have a fair shot at figuring out who did it and why. I’ve dropped enough clues about the “why”, but the who isn’t hidden in plain sight enough. No matter how witty it is, unless it’s structurally satisfying and fair to the audience, the piece will fail. So, that’s my main focus for the day.

Better get back to it.

Devon

You can still sign up for “The Graveyard of Abandoned Projects” from Feb. 4-6 here.
Bring in up to 5 projects you’ve put aside, and we’ll figure out which ones are viable, and which ones need to be laid to rest permanently in a way to let you move forward with your work. Registration closes on February 2.

Tues. Jan. 22, 2013: Shoveling Out from the White Stuff!

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Waxing Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Snowy and cold

My guest today on A Biblio Paradise is author Cynthia Woolf. Come join us, and drop a comment, entering to win a copy of her book!

We got about mid-range of the predicted snow overnight, about 4”. Not looking forward to shoveling later! I’m going to try using the “electric snow shovel” — something that’s halfway between a snowblower and a shovel, and usually just tosses it all into my face. Glad the morning’s meeting was canceled. The snow’s really pretty, though.

Didn’t get as much done as I would have liked yesterday. Not happy with the play — have to rip it apart and do some restructuring. Worked with students.

Most of the day was caught up in the Inauguration. I thought things ran smoothly, although it must have been a tough day for the Secret Service. The President’s speech was the one I wanted for the first term — so let’s see how much we can get done this term.

I need to disengage from someone who’s trying to be a creative energy vampire. I can’t have my creative energy siphoned off via frustration to fuel someone else’s work. Not acceptable.

Read the material for Confidential Job #1 yesterday — loved it. Will write it up and send it to my editor today. Most of my meetings were canceled, but I have one later tonight, and I have to prepare for that.

Only four more days left to book a reduced-rate editing slot — first 30 pages (Standard Manuscript Format ONLY) edited for $75. Go here for more information — offer ends on the 25th of January.

Don’t forget The Graveyard of Abandoned Projects Workshop from Feb. 4-6 and the Journal into Fiction Workshop from Feb. 11-14. Information on both here.

Happy Snow Day!

Devon

Mon. Jan. 21, 2013: Strong Opening Chapters; Presentation Dilemma

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Violet wraps up against the cold

Monday, January 21, 2013
Waxing Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Sunny and cold
Inauguration Day
Martin Luther King Day

Only 5 more days to sign up for a reduced-rate editing slot for your first 30 pages– ends January 25! Go here to get the details.

Don’t forget “The Graveyard of Abandoned Projects” from Feb. 4-6, and “Journal into Fiction” from Feb. 11-14. Both are great sources of both practicality and inspiration. Information and registration here.

Slots for A Biblio Paradise are booked through the end of April, so you all have some exciting reading coming up! A really interesting mix of writers.

Friday had its share of frustrations, especially with the Canon printer. An empty ink tank shouldn’t keep it from scanning something to go to the computer and/or reading a memory card, as long as I’m not asking it to print. Yet, it balked. This MX-860 worked beautifully the first day I got it, and has been trouble ever since. The shoddy plastic paper tray at the bottom causes all kinds of problems and the feeder rolls don’t work properly. The camera I bought a year or so ago to replace the the one that broke is a piece of crap. Auto-focus that doesn’t focus. Canon used to have top-of-the-line products, and now they’re just shoddy. Even worse, their customer service, which used to be great, is practically non-existent, and they don’t give a damn about their long-term customers. I’ve been rabidly pro-Canon for over twenty years. No more. I’m not interested in disposable products. I want something that WORKS, and works for more than a day or a week. I need value for money, reliability, and customer service. If Canon is no longer able to meet that need, I will find someone else who does. It won’t be HP, with whom I’ve also had frequent issues.

Finished the media kit for OLD-FASHIONED DETECTIVE WORK and also did one for the Jain Lazarus series as a whole. Some of the material overlaps, but now I can choose which one to send where. I need to do an overall Devon Ellington kit, too. Media kits are crucial to landing good exposure. Mine are simple, but effective, and I’m learning how to get faster at developing them!

Worked on the play, but it needs more work — not satisfied with what I have. That will be my primary focus today.

However, I finished the sample chapters for the proposal and they sing! They are exactly what I was going for. You know how I unlocked it? I changed my protag’s last name. Who would have thought something so simple had so much impact? The original name I gave her made me feel like I was trying to hard, and the first few pages reflected that. I changed the name and everything else fell into place. I wrote and edited over 3K in two sittings. I sent the chapters off to Trusted Readers and they were over the moon about them. What a great response to early-draft chapters. Now, I’m worried that the market I’m aiming for in the proposal will want to dilute the verve in them. I’m going to run the whole thing past my agent and see what she says — she’s got the business acumen and understands the creative position, and, best of all, she tells me the truth.

I’ve got business/admin stuff to do today, more LOIs, work with students, work with an editing client, and my own school work.

I’m going to pause in whatever I’m doing to watch the inauguration — the poet, Richard Blanco, is someone I met at PEN events in New York several years ago. I’m a big fan of his work!

Devon

Wed. Jan. 16, 2013: Rain and webinars and work

Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Waxing Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Rainy and cold

Yes, Jupiter’s been retrograde for a good, long while now, but I’d hoped if I ignored it . . .didn’t work! 😉

I like the rain, though — I like being all warm and cozy inside and hearing it patter out there. I LIKE variations in weather! 😉

Got some decent work done yesterday, got out a few pitches, worked with students, got out the next of the Topic Workbooks up on Smashwords:

The Series Bible: Creation and Maintenance

It’s a great little book with ways to set up a series bible to track details, arcs, setting, clothing, furniture, quirks in the series, so that if there’s a deviation, it’s a choice rather than a mistake. I hope you enjoy it!

I also added one more workshop for February, again a short one, running Feb. 11-14: “Journal into Fiction”. It deals with different types of journals, and how to transform entries into viable fiction. It also has tips on keeping a travel diary with an eye to mining it for stories, articles, and essays in the future. Details and registration here, under the information for the Graveyard of Abandoned Projects.

Both February workshops are at the beginning of the month, because I’m going into rehearsal for the new play and that will be my life for most of February and into March. I’m waiting to find out the date the venue is booked, because that’s what I will work backwards from.

Dropped off some books at the Centerville Library, and picked up some books at the Osterville Library. Read Sheila Bender’s KEEPING A JOURNAL YOU LOVE, which was interesting, and some of the writers quoted make me want to read them! Now reading Nancy Slonim Aronie’s WRITING FROM THE HEART — good info and encouragement for those in the early stages of their creative exploration, although she advocates writing in the present tense, and there’s nothing that gets me to put down a book faster than an author using the present tense. To me, it’s not a sign of immediacy in the work — it’s the author calling attention to himself, a twee “look at ME!” rather than letting me enter the character’s skin. I can take it in non-fiction and essay, but in fiction — just makes me want to throw the book across the room. I agree with a lot of Aronie’s suggestions, but this is one where I respectfully disagree!

I’m always reading new-to-me books about writing, to see what’s useful to add to the list for students.

I’ve got to get some work done on the play this morning, and work with students this afternoon. At 11 AM, I’m attending a webinar that sounds pretty interesting, about marketing strategies. So I need to clear everything possible off my desk before that.

Spent some time with both my Cosmology and Astronomy homework — amazing how much the greenhouse effect comes up in Astronomy class!

I’m coughing and have a scratchy throat — will use one of my herbal remedies, but I’ve been feeling so run down the last couple of weeks, I hope I’m not tipping into full sick.

Devon

Fri. Jan. 11, 2013: Murder Mystery Play a Go!

Friday, January 11, 2013
New Moon
Cloudy and cold

Yesterday was busy, but in a good way. Except Verizon is being a pain in the butt, as usual, but that will be handled, never fear!

Christian, to answer your questions — I’ve accumulated a lot of decorations through the years — frequently at thrift shops and yard sales, vintage stuff, interesting stuff, etc. When I worked on Broadway, I always decorated my actor’s dressing room, and my area, so I had boxes of that stuff that stayed either at the theatre or in storage. I decorated my apartment a lot, too (in fact, my tree was so big I had to move it every time I wanted to sit down on my couch). Add that to all the decorations accumulated while growing up, and the ones I add every year, and now that there’s a house and outdoor space and — I have a Christmas closet.

The space over the garage is a storage area with four closets and the rest bookshelves. I keep the Christmas decorations in one closet, the Halloween decorations in another closet, the rest-of-year decorations in the third closet, and the fourth is kind of a catch all. The bookcases have books (of course) and my yarn and fabric stashes.

I started taking courses via Coursera last fall, because I wanted a chance to catch up on things that interest me, but that I haven’t formally studied, especially in connection to the different types of writing I do. I was certified in Sustainability (which will make me more valuable as a local hire) and in Greek/Roman Mythology (so much of my writing is myth-based that, if I hadn’t earned the certificate, I would have been embarrassed). I successfully completed the World History Since 1300 course, but that wasn’t for certification, and I’m currently auditing Intro to Astronomy and Galaxies & Cosmology. It adds quite a few hours to the work week, but it’s worth it. The classes are taught by top professors at top universities from all over the world.

Yesterday, I struggled with the proposal for my agent. The proposal itself is solid, but the writing sample doesn’t yet sing. It feels a little “falsely cheerful” to me — I haven’t found the key to the protagonist yet. I’ll get there. I kind of have to — by today.

I also have to get another proposal out for an appearance in early June.

I’m all locked in for NERWA’s April conference, “Let Your Imagination Take Flight”. The conference is April 26-27 in Burlington, MA. I’m teaching my “Setting as Character” workshop on the 27th, but I plan to be there both days.

Most of yesterday, for me, was about prepping my idea packets for the National Marine Life Center meeting and then attending the meeting. It was a great, lively meeting with lots of great ideas and interesting discussions. There are some new-to-me people getting involved, with great ideas and enthusiasm.

The mystery play is a go — we brainstormed ideas, and I started writing the opening scene and fleshing out the plot and some of the tech stuff in my head driving home. I’m going to send out another brainstorming email in a few hours, when I’ve written my way into it a bit and figured out a few more things, and I got another performance piece idea (that’s less involved) for later in the year this morning while I made coffee.

I have to work fast, because it goes up mid-March!

Most of the snow melted, and now I can see how badly the plow guy hurt my lawn. Not happy about it. Will contact the landlord and then the town.

One of our seals is well enough to be released on Sunday — how exciting!

Busy day starts a busy weekend, so I better get moving.

I’ll have information on February’s workshop, The Graveyard of Abandoned Projects, up either later today or on Monday.

Have an awesome weekend, everybody!

Devon