Monday, September 7, 2009

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Garden at The Mount, Lenox, MA

Monday, September 7, 2009
Waning Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde
Cloudy and pleasant
Labor Day in the US

Batten down the hatches! Mercury’s retrograde.

Seven days to Prague departure!

I read a lot yesterday, mostly about Prague: John Banville’s PRAGUE PICTURES, Richard Burton’s PRAGUE: A CULTURAL HISTORY (finally finished it) and went back to Vaclav Havel’s TO THE CASTLE AND BACK. I’m mulling over what I read, digging up memories of my personal experience with the Iron Curtain, etc. I’m not ready to articulate much yet, but there’s a lot of percolating going on.

It will interesting to see what “My Prague” turns out to be. “My Edinburgh” is vastly different from my friend Colin’s Edinburgh or anyone else’s Edinburgh. “My New York” is different now than it was when I lived on the Deuce, and it was different then, as someone working eight shows/week on Broadway from someone else’s New York who worked on Wall Street, or someone who came into town for a week’s visit.

Costume Imp and I are travelling together, and, even with shared experiences, we will wind up with very different personal Pragues.

I’m more anxious about this trip than I usually am about travelling, and i wonder how much of that is connected to the fact I don’t speak the language (although I didn’t speak Icelandic either and was perfectly comfortable there), and how much is ingrained from my own and my family’s personal experience with the Iron Curtain and its politics? Even though it no longer exists, it leaves resonance in its wake. It’s more than just visiting a new place for me — it’s connected to the personal history of my family, even though, as far as I can tell, none of them are from the area. My mother lived outside of Prague for awhile, many years ago.

There will be more layers to this trip than I expected.

Got some good work done on AMENDS and hope to get some more good work done. I’m about a third of the way into it, it’s time to up the stakes.

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Didn’t get much sleep. Elsa was very busy all night, rummaging, getting into things she shouldn’t have, and i spent a lot of time getting her out of things she shouldn’t have been in in the first place. I got maybe an hour of sleep at a time. I might take a nap later.

Things are moving along well for The Muse Online Writers’ Conference. I’m teaching my dialogue workshop there again this year. I’ve been invited to teach again at the Catholic Online Writers’ Conference again next February — I have to see how a few things shake out in the next few weeks before I give them a definite, and if they want me to teach something other than dialogue.

I need to get out some submissions this week, and would like to finish a draft of an article and get it to my editor before I leave. I keep thinking it’s Sunday, but it’s already Monday, and not a lot will get done on Friday, because of 9/11, and I want to have my desk completely cleared off before the 12th.

Seven days until lift off.

A lot can happen in seven days.

Devon

AMENDS: First Draft: 22,250 words out of est. 75,000
29.6%
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View out of the window at The Mount, Lenox, MA

Sunday, September 6, 2009

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The garden at The Mount, Edith Wharton’s home in Lenox, MA

Sunday, September 6
Waning Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Sunny and lovely

For some reason, I thought the full moon was tomorrow, but it was on Friday. Sorry about that.

I forgot this was up: I guested on Catalyst Blogger on the 2nd. Oop. Stop by and drop a comment, okay?

I was a little annoyed at an email posted on a board about what I’m “supposed” to do on 9/11 as my “duty.” I lost a LOT of people on that day, firefighters from my neighborhood, people with whom I went to school, people I knew from work. NO ONE tells me what I HAVE to do on that day. Especially not someone who lives thousands of miles away and lost no one. I think it’s wonderful people are putting together events and using it as a day of service, but no one has the right to dictate how anyone else mourns.

Yesterday morning was very productive — I polished an article and sidebar and submitted them. I also got the guest blogs sorted and uploaded and scheduled to post — if they post properly, there will be some really great articles here while I’m gone!

I spent the afternoon relaxing, reading a mystery that was a delightful surprise. I expected something light and brain candy-ish, but it actually had some substance. The writer knew the ins and outs of her character’s profession (instead of assuming she knew it from stuff she’s seen on TV), and created good characters and plots. My only disappointment was that I pegged the murderer the minute the character made its first appearance. Even though lots of suspicion was pointed at two other characters, I knew who it really was the first time the character was introduced to the reader.

While I read, I had the iPod on, listening to waves on the beach through an application called Naturespace. Most of these “nature” sounds are usually pretty cheesy, but this one is actually good. It’s a free app I downloaded via iTunes; I figured if I hated it, I could delete it. But it’s actually good! I spent half the afternoon listening to beach waves and the other half listening to a river in the woods.

So it SOUNDED like I was on vacation, even though I was home!

Lazy evening, good morning’s yoga practice, having a hard time getting started on AMENDS. I have to go to Trader Joe’s to stock up on cat food and get in some more milk. It’s my last chance to get out that way until not only after Prague, but after the scallop festival.

Did I mention I got my hair chopped off on Friday? Over 12 inches off! I hadn’t had hair that long in 15 years. It’s short again, but a kind of a wavy, bouncy cut instead of a very short, sleek, to-the-head one. I’ll do the color either today or tomorrow, and then I’m good to go. Just about anywhere.

I did a little digging around, and Switzerland’s not going to work as a home base. First and foremost, I don’t feel the sense of belonging when I’m there and the sense of longing when I’m not, the way I do in other places. Second, it’s land-locked, and I prefer sea, not lakes. Third, the real estate negotiations are ridiculous. So, Switzerland’s a nice place to visit, but I don’t see myself living there.

I liked the idea of living someplace neutral, though, a place not caught up in other people’s arguments. Lichtenstein’s run out of land, so that’s out. Plus, I drove through it once without realizing it, which is not a good sign. Costa Rica — well, I’m not really a tropical girl. Sweden and Finland both intrigue me, though.

Heads up, Mercury goes retrograde tomorrow for three weeks: travel delays, technology problems, miscommunication, no large purchases, but great shopping for smaller stuff.

Mantra: Stay low, stay quiet, go shopping.

Enjoy!

Devon
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the Library of Congress, in Washington, DC. A place of personal pilgrimmage for me.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thursday, June 18, 2009
Waning Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Raining. Again.

Well, the sun didn’t last long enough yesterday for me to get out and enjoy it. Boo. 😦

I’m back, as Jenny, talking about writing without a contract in place, on Diane Parkin’s blog.

Pretty productive day, though. Got my assignment polished and out to Confidential Job #1. Took care of some business correspondence. Finished off a client project. Went to Trader Joe’s to restock the cat food supply.

I printed out CRAVE THE HUNT and had it stacked on the desk, waiting to go into a binder. And Iris had a temper tantrum and scattered the pages all over the living room. Sigh. Fortunately, they’re numbered.

I found that, if I use Safari, I can override the 1and1 server error. I can’t get into my sites to work on them, but at least I can access my email. Not perfect, but a stopgap until I can move things.

Trying to get back on track with the serial and CRAVE THE HUNT. There are some things looming in the near future that take a lot of energy and focus right now, and it’s negatively affecting the writing. Hopefully, once that’s sorted, I can get back in the groove.

I’m making preparations for the DC trip next week — so far I am not impressed with the organization, or lack thereof, and I’m setting a bunch of appointments on my own. I’m not going to stand around doing nothing, and it wouldn’t be right if I slipped away to a museum! So I’ll do my bit at the rally,and then I’ve got appointments with people who can actually create some positive change. I need affordable health care. This week is a good example — I don’t have insurance, and I can’t afford to spend several hundred dollars for a five minute doctor visit out of pocket (which is what it is here) unless I REALLY need it. I’m feeling off, not awful; I’ll deal. I had DECADES of pouring money into health insurance, and hardly ever needed to see a doctor. All of that should be credited, and I should be able to draw on it now Instead, I threw out money for years BECAUSE I WAS HEALTHY. How twisted is that? Plus, I’m sick and tired of the way they glance at you and order a plethora of tests, almost all unnecessary, because they can’t be bothered to spend the time to get to know you and your individual health issues. Assembly-line medicine doesn’t work. I do much better with my acupuncturist, and I’m calling her today to see if she can fit me in before she leaves for Saratoga. Whenever I leave a doctor’s office, I feel completely dehumanized. When I leave my acupunturist’s, I feel I can take on the world. The insurance companies in this country need to be gutted, and the health care industry needs to be rebuilt from the ground up so that doctors can provide individualized care and patients are treated like people, not like the plastic dummies one practices on in First Aid training sessions.

Next week is going to be a long day! 😉

I’m also prepping for the NHL Draft, which starts the day after the rally in DC. And, in a few weeks, I’m going to head up to Maine for a couple of days, to see my great uncle, and maybe visit some farms where they spin and die the yarn they shear from their sheep.

Hopefully the laundry room renovations are done. Six weeks ago, they told us it would take “about ten days”. Right. My friend’s out of town, so I can’t pop over to do laundry there, and the laundry bag’s about to burst at the seams. Fingers crossed.

I’ve got a fiction deadline coming up for a short story. I’ve got it percolating, and I’ve also got a couple of other short pieces percolating. Maybe, with everything going on these next couple of weeks, it makes more sense to focus on shorter pieces, pieces I can actually get done.

Now that I’ve visited The Mount in Lenox, it really makes Hermione Lee’s Edith Wharton biography come even more to life. It’s also making me itch to back to GOOD NAMES.

Back to business. There’s a lot to do. Maybe if I keep focused on work, I won’t notice that it’s raining. AGAIN. There are flood warnings, so I’ll be jumping up and down to check the brook every few hours, and see if I have to move the car. And I’m boiling and bottling water, just in case. Maybe today’s NOT a good day to do laundry!

Prepared fried cod cakes last night with home-made tartar sauce (wonderful) and roasted potato wedges (with oregano, cumin, and olive oil) dipped in lime-cilantro mayonnaise. Yum.

Back to work.

Devon

Monday, June 1, 2009

Monday, June 1, 2009
Waxing Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Sunny and cool

Only one Retrograde. Hooray!

I can’t believe it’s June already.

Guess what I’m going tonight? Taking a computer workshop! I’m very excited. I’m hauling the Macbook to White Plains and taking a class on iPhoto. I lost most of Saturday afternoon trying to work with photos (okay, so there were over 2100 photos, but still). I couldn’t articulate to AppleCare what I needed, and, bless them, they tried to help me, but I was beyond help by that point. So I looked up the local store and saw they have a workshop on iPhoto today and on iPages on Wednesday. I’m taking both. It’s going to help me enormously.

So what did I do yesterday? Glad you asked. We were on the road before 7 AM on our way to Lenox, MA. We took the Merritt Parkway to Bridgeport and then took Rt. 8 all the way up to MA, only switching over to 20W a few miles away. I was afraid it would be a tiny, annoying road. Most of it wasn’t, and the tiny road portion wasn’t annoying.

I expected it to take forever, but it took us 2 1/2 hours. We arrived in Lenox far too early — The Mount, Edith Wharton’s home, wasn’t even open yet. So we parked in front of the beautiful Lenox Library and walked around. Good thing the library was closed — had it been open, I would have parked myself in there and never left. I may have to return to Lenox just to go to the library one day.

We got coffee at an amazing bakery called Haven — if I hadn’t eaten a huge breakfast, I would have tried their Eggs Benedict (since I am an Eggs Benedict addict). As it was, we took the coffee and sat in a park filled with blooming lilac bushes for a half hour.

We headed back to The Mount, arriving shortly after opening. I wasn’t in the mood for a guided tour — I just kind of wanted to wander around. The volunteers are fabulous anyway, and they tell you all kinds of stories about the various rooms. I remember when Shakespeare & Company used to perform there — I wanted to work there one summer, but I was on Broadway, and, at that point, couldn’t ask for a leave of absence, because they’d already granted me leaves to take my shows to Edinburgh and Australia — it was time to let someone else have a turn – -which is totally fair.

The house is only partially restored — I hadn’t realized how recently they started work. The restoration that’s been done is wonderful. The atmosphere is that of light and air — colors and fabrics supporting the light streaming in from the large windows. It’s the kind of house one could really see oneself LIVING in.

My only surprise was how small the library was. It’s beautifully designed, and the bookshelves are amazing, but I expected it to be bigger. Since Wharton did most of her writing in bed, I guess it didn’t need to be!

The gardens are amazing, and I spent most of my time there — combination of French and Italian design, with the Italian influence dominant. Just beautiful – the way they descend from the house, and the view of the lake.

I could imagine working in many of the rooms in the house, and then taking the Macbook out to work on the terrace, which folds around the back and sides of the house, or in the gardens, especially the walled gardens. It’s an easy place in which to be creative, and I found myself scribbling a lot of notes!

The bookstore is great, but, much to my surprise, I discovered that I own about 2/3 of the books they carry! And not just the novels of Edith Wharton and Henry James, but the gardening book, too (although most of those are in storage).

I started Hermione Lee’s biography of Wharton when it first came out — now I’m going to go back and read it all through.

I wound up buying a book called BERKSHIRE READER, filled with stories, essays, and journal entires about the area from the late 1600s all the way to the 1990s — I’m looking forward to that. And I bought a program/catalog from an event used to raise money for the property. I also bought soap, handmade by a local woman — it smelled so good, I had to have some. She uses only essential oils, etc., and you can tell. I bought on bar of rose geranium and one of rosemary. Rosemary soap is my favorite, so I always buy that when I see it. I paid far too much for both, but it was one of those instances where I don’t think I’ll feel that way when I use it!

Back into Lenox for lunch. I’d researched several restaurants. One, Church Street Cafe, turns out to be closed on Sundays, which took it immediately off the list. We ended up at Bistro Zinc. I’d heard good things about it. I was a little worried, when we walked in, that it was trying to be too trendy, and the staff was in black — people, we area not in the East Village, you don’t have to dress as though we are. But once we were settled in the bar (the dining room was full), it was actually quite comfortable. The staff was REALLY nice, and not fake-nice, either. There was even a couple at the bar reading the Sunday NEW YORK TIMES and drinking champagne cocktails, which I thought was fun.

It was a nice mixed crowd — locals, even with their kids, and those on their way to a matinee at the theatre. The place was crowded, but we never felt like we were being rushed. The food was exquisite — I had trout with rice and green beans, and a glass of chardonnay I actually liked (I’m not big on chardonnay). My travelling companion had a burger with bacon and cheese and terrific fries (of which I ate half). There were at least six or seven things on the menu that sounded fabulous, out of about twelve. And the other five were knocked out of contention only because they were things I could cook at home, and one of the things I do at restaurants is order stuff I don’t make at home.

Then, we visited The Bookstore, the town’s independent bookstore, run by a guy who used to work at my beloved Gotham Bookmart here in NY. It’s a fabulous bookstore, and again, the staff was really nice. Everyone we met was really nice in Lenox, friendly, unhurried without being lethargic, and interested in conversation. There’s a big arts community up there — Tanglewood, Shakespeare & Company, Jacob’s Pillow — lots of writers and literary events, and a big holistic community. Really great.

I found the YA book I’d wanted to buy down here but couldn’t remember the title or author, just the cover. Turns out it’s called THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY. I started it last night and it’s fun, which is nice, because the book I’d started the night before, after finishing the enjoyable DEATH BY CHICKLIT, was just plain annoying.

We got back by about five, so the cats weren’t too furious with us — well, Violet was, but she thinks I should never leave the house. I had a nice quiet evening watching hockey and went to bed early.

The cats got me up ridiculously early this morning, and I’m having a slow start. A bunch of stories are whirling around my head, some of them inspired by yesterday’s trip. I have to sort things out today, catch up on everything I missed yesterday (since I didn’t even turn on the computer), and get some client work done before this afternoon’s class. I also need to get to Trader Joe’s this morning, because there’s only one can of cat food left, and they are not amused to see the cupboard so bare.

Good morning’s work on the Matty book. The serial was harder; I only got about half of what I wanted to get done written, but it’s better than nothing.

I probably won’t get the May wrap and the June to-do list up on the GDR site until tomorrow.

Devon

Serial, 1st draft: 6,945 words out of 50,000