Tues. Aug. 13, 2019: Keep on Keeping On

Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019
Waxing Moon
Jupiter DIRECT (As of Sunday)
Pluto Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde

Busy few days.

Got some stuff done at the library Friday morning, then went to the yoga studio. Class was packed (I usually can’t take that session). In fact, there was someone I hadn’t seen in about three years there.

I was a little too relaxed when I got out of yoga class. I still had a lot to do that day, and all I wanted to do was nap!

Friday afternoon was about housework and cooking. The downstairs is quite tidy now.

Saturday, I finished up some more food. We had company in the morning, from Greenwich, and a nice catch-up. I drove them to the ferry — they’re on their way to Nantucket. After years of summer rentals, they actually hope to buy something.

Read in the afternoon and evening, and percolated a bit on some stories that want to be told.

Heard about the Jeffrey Epstein “suicide.” Yeah, right. Just way too convenient, especially for the Narcissistic Sociopath. And Barr in charge of the investigation? What a joke. The whole thing is disgusting.

Finished reading a thriller trilogy. I absolutely loved the first book. I got ahead of the story a bit on the second book. It happened even more in the third book, and I anticipated the ending I hoped wouldn’t wind up the way it did. I was disappointed. I feel the author cheated his trio of protagonists (and his readers) from the ending they earned. While the first book was fantastic, the trilogy as a whole left me depressed and unsatisfied. It was a very male ending, meaning that it was what I expected from a male writer, and disappointed when it happened. It was what all those middle-aged male writers trying to be hip do to punish their characters (especially their female characters) and act like they’re creating great fiction. Would a female writer have made the same choices with that plot? Possibly, but most of the women writers in the genre I admire would have done it differently, I believe, and in a more satisfying way.

Also read a book by an author about whose work I have mixed feelings. I’ve read several of her books, and every one leaves me with mixed feelings. They’re a little too cutesy-wootsy for my taste. Her protagonists rely on being rescued by men too much, instead of saving themselves or the partners working together to survive . She’s a writer, but with such a limited vocabulary that she misuses words like “witch” — if you use “witch” to mean a nasty woman instead of a spell-caster, you’re knocked off my reading list. It’s insulting and careless. It’s bad writing. Also, in this particular book, she had characters who were supposedly involved in theatre. She might have gone to one community theatre production in her life, but she sure as hell didn’t do any research. She knows nothing about how theatre works and nothing about actors or tech people. Her tone in writing about them was condescending — along with not having done her research. I have one more book ordered via Commonwealth Catalog that I can’t cancel. I’ll try a few pages before I send it back. But I am DONE with her.

It was bound to happen sooner or later, but Saturday night into Sunday, I had a nightmare about a mass shooting. I’m not going to detail the dream here, but it unnerved me for the rest of the weekend. in my personal journal, I wrote about it in detail, and I intend to use bits of it in a new piece I’m developing. But I would have rather never had the dream in the first place. It was too vivid. Too many sensory details.

Worked on the article for Llewellyn. That will go out in a couple of days. Worked on GRAVE REACH. Worked on ELLA. It’s slowed down, and I have to figure out a few things to make this last third of the book work. Played with some ideas for DEATH OF A BROKEN MAN, which has a very broken (female) protagonist who relates to the dead body she trips over a little too much.

Getting some good work done on GRAVE REACH. I need to get this draft done this week and off to the editor, so we can go into galleys.

Playing with the first chapter of THE BARD’S LAMENT, which has to go into the back of GRAVE REACH.

Worked on the book I’m reviewing. I’m also reading the book for the #ReaderExpansionChallenge.

Need to spend more time on Ello this week.

Working on a couple more article pitches. They’re not quite where I want them in order to go out. But I hope to get them out this week.

I can’t seem to shake this lethargy and exhaustion. All I want to do is sleep, but I don’t feel refreshed when I wake up.

I had terrible allergy problems on Sunday with the ragweed and goldenrod coming into bloom. Constant sneezing, runny eyes. I finally broke down and took a Benedryl, which knocked me out and I slept for 11 hours. Felt a little better on Monday. Even non-drowsy anti-histamines knock me out.

Monday was fine onsite with a client, and I expect today and tomorrow will be challenging.

Monday afternoon’s meditation group was much-needed.

Back to the page.

 

Tues. April 9, 2019: Catching Up on the Adventures

Tuesday, April 9, 2019
Waxing Moon

I bet you want to hear about my adventures last week, don’t you?

Which I’ll get to in a minute.

There are all kinds of games to connect writers now on Twitter. Which is great and fun and interesting. But too many of them demand information from WIPs. That does not work for me. If I talk the book, it takes away from writing the book. It dilutes the creativity. Not to mention that actually posting something from a draft blows the ability to sell first rights (and, for the series under contract, they are specific NOT to post anything from a draft, just excerpts from edited, contracted work), and early draft material splattered on the internet is more likely to turn readers off than engage them. It harms the work. It harms the quality. And talking about switching places with the MC or putting them in a different situation — no. Just no. They are part of the construct of their world. Putting them in a different world doesn’t add anything to them or the book. It hurts everything.

So I skip those questions. Because people can post whatever they want on their own timelines.

But I will not put the work at risk. The work is central. The work is what’s important. I’ll talk process until the cows come home, but I only post excerpts and lines and information from the actual work when it’s ready to go out into the world. — once it’s under contract and has been edited.

Wednesday morning, we left early for Vermont. The stretch from the Cape to Worcester is always the worst, but once we got past that, it was nice driving. We drove out of a storm and into sunshine (once we were over the bridge onto the mainland, it was already better weather).

Turned north at Springfield and went into Vermont.

It took a lot longer than I expected it to take. Vermont is interesting, because, although there’s not much traffic, the roads are long and often windy, and you have to drive around things instead of straight shots between destinations.

The quality of light is very different, and the quality of air is very different.

We ended up in a small hotel in Quichee Gorge, which was fine. Drove around to get oriented. Everything seems quite far away from everything else. Weathered and funky rather than ostentatious.

Dinner meeting, took care of some other business. Watched some TV in the room at night, but really, I so prefer watching DVDs. The sound and image got out of sync on one particular station, and it was annoying.

Up early the next morning. Stuck to my morning yoga and meditation routine (I’d brought my travel mat). It was another sunny, lovely, beautiful day.

The hotel served a hot breakfast as part of the stay, which was great. Then I headed off for a day of meetings, some with potential new clients, some with those for whom I do some remote writing. There’s a lot of solar and wind energy, people are dedicated to recycling and doing better for the planet. Fox Disinformation doesn’t play in public areas. People are committed to doing good work while maintaining a high quality of life. I met with a lot of smart people who are good at what they do, which was nice.

It was interesting, busy, creative, but I was tired by the time I was done in the mid-afternoon.

We drove back as far as Sturbridge, and checked into my favorite Publick House. We were up in the Lodge, with all its toile, which always makes me laugh. The room was great, the food in Ebenezer’s Tavern was terrific, and it was a nice way to wind down after a busy couple of days.

Friday morning, we had breakfast at the hotel, then drove home. I ran around and did some grocery shopping, and then, exhausted, just worked on contest entries and thank you notes.

Saturday morning, I was up early trying to get things done, and then on the 9:45 bus to Boston. Another gorgeous, sunny day, and much warmer than I expected. It was a lovely ride.

Amazing how much the city coping skills come back instantly. The focus, the confidant stride, the “don’t mess with me” vibe. Even though I’d never ridden the T before (imagine, I’ve lived here for nine years, and it was the first time I took the T), I got my Charlie card, found the Red Line, and off I went.

Of course, it’s public transportation, and nothing is easy. So, at Harvard Square, we had to get off the T because of construction, and were taken by shuttle bus to the next stops.

It was nice to be above ground and get a sense of Harvard and Cambridge and all that.

The theatre was only a few blocks from the Davis Square stop, in Somerville. Somerville reminds me of Queens a bit, and I mean that as a compliment. Lots of great little restaurants and shops, busy, lively, upbeat. People of all ages and diverse — very different from down here on Cape.

Everyone was very nice. They were genuinely happy to see me, which was nice. Because so often, the writer is considered an obstruction to the production instead of an asset.

They did a wonderful, wonderful job with “Confidence Confidant.” Their commitment to the piece, their talent, their excitement, their creativity — it was all great.

I met the director, assistant director, producer, house manager/board member. It was an excellent experience. It was great to meet everyone, and meet some audience members who were excited about it. It was a good-sized house, which thrilled us all, and a very responsive audience. The laughs hit where I hoped they would. I want to tighten the scene in the garden for future productions, and beef up the role of Bill. That role was woefully underwritten, and I’m grateful that the actor made it work.

They suggested I submit “Horace House Hauntings” for their October show. I don’t think it exactly fits the guidelines, since it’s not adapted from legend or folklore, but, you never know. I’ll think about it.

The other play on the bill was also fun, having to do with airships and bank robberies and mistaken identities, adapted from a silent film.

All in all, a lovely afternoon.

Headed back to the shuttle bus, which took me back to the Red Line at Harvard Square, which took me back to South Station. The subways have far fewer seats here than the ones in NYC. People expect to stand.

I tell you, though, there’s even more walking involved in this transit system than in New York. I’d be back in shape within a month if I had to do it every day.

Caught the 5:15 bus, and was back home by 7. Some traffic coming out of Boston, but I just sat on the bus and read my book. The bus was nearly full from the airport when it hit South Station, and those on the bus were disgruntled that more passengers got on, and, heaven forbid, their luggage couldn’t have its own seat. Sorry, sweetie, it’s people before purses.

But P&B has made the bus as a quiet zone — yes, you can call to tell someone which bus you’re on and what time you’ll arrive, but no ongoing conversations during the ride. Makes it much better.

Tired, but happy tired. Still re-watching WEST WING. Worked on more contest entries. Heated up leftovers for dinner. Fell into bed, exhausted.

Had trouble getting up on Sunday, but got there. I should have gone out and done yard work. Instead, I worked on contest entries, planted the rest of my tomato seeds, wrote.

I finished the first draft of the radio play “Intrigue on the Aurora Nightingale.” I need to let it sit a few days, because it needs work. Started a draft of “Organizing the Dead” which is a darker paranormal comedy that I might also submit to PMRP. I want to take the idea that derailed the original draft of “Horace House Hauntings” and took it out of farce, and see if I can develop it here. We’ll see.

I’m getting back into the rhythm of GRAVE REACH, which is pretty exciting. I’m looking forward to diving further into this book. Lesley is growing into herself, and Sam is an intriguing character.

This week will be stressful, on a lot of fronts, so I’m trying to mentally prepare.

Worked with a client yesterday, which wore me out, although we did good work. Had another appointment, and then skipped meditation, because I wasn’t feeling well. With a client today, too, and then another location after. Trying to keep all the flaming coconuts in the air and still keep my sanity.

I should go out tonight, but, honestly, I don’t feel up to it.

Back to the page.

Thurs. March 14, 2019: Pi, Coyotes, College, and Hungry Schoolkids

Thursday, March 14, 2019
Waxing Moon
Mercury Retrograde
Cloudy & chilly

Happy Pi day!

When I worked for a library, we used to serve pie on Pi day, along with a display of fun facts about it.

Yesterday was fine at the client’s. It was quiet – for most of the day, I was on site, but I was alone on site, so I could be as productive as I would in my home office. I’m working on a couple of big projects for them, so it was good to have that time.

Coyotes woke me up having a party in the yard around 5 AM. Better than 2AM. Quite the pack. I’m pretty sure one of the pups that was raised under my deck a few years ago is now Leader of the Pack. Especially since he takes such pleasure in standing on the deck to call them.

The local coyotes and I have a deal: I don’t act like a dumbass and they don’t eat me. It works for us.

Plus, they don’t use my yard as their toilet. They’re very clean and respectful that way. No coyote scat. They do that in the yards that use chemicals.

I’ve been mulling over how personally angry I feel about the college entrance  scandal. It’s not that I don’t know that the system is already rigged in favor of wealthy white students. It’s not that I don’t know that rich families have bought their kids slots in good schools since rich families and good schools exist.

It’s much more personal than that for me. Both because of my own journey, and because some of those accused are people I considered colleagues.

I was the not-rich kid in the rich town. I didn’t realize the extent of our financial struggles; we always had books and enough to eat and laughter. We didn’t buy stuff all the time, but we did stuff. Went to libraries and museums and historical sites. We often packed a picnic lunch on our trips. I was an adult before I realized it was because we couldn’t afford to go out to restaurants. I always thought the packed lunches were fun.

I did well in school. I wanted to graduate a year early. I was one-half credit short – in GYM, of all things. One HALF credit. Even though I was in the National Honor Society for academics, in advanced classes, and already going to college part time.

The high school principal refused to let me graduate early. I wasn’t allowed to take an extra gym class or to have one of the several college dance classes I took count. I had to stay an entire fall semester my senior year of high school for ONE HALF CREDIT.

While I took classes as SUNY Purchase, which was close by. I’d taken dance there since they opened; I also took literature classes.

Meanwhile, as a junior, I’d taken both the SATs and the ACTs. And I ran around visiting schools and interviewing. In the SATs, I did very well in the verbal and squeaked by in the math. In the ACTs, I got in the 98% percentile of the country, including the science section. When that was brought up in college interviews, I pointed out that to me, math made perfect sense in context with science, but when it sat there as a math problem, it had little relevance to me and I struggled with it.

I was also very active in a variety of clubs and organizations, taking college courses part-time, and writing for the local paper.

I got into EVERY school to which I applied. Including the Ivy Leagues. But I wanted to have more of a traditional college experience.

I graduated in January with no fanfare. I spent a few weeks in the UK. My first trip to Edinburgh, where I first fell in love with it. The first time Lindisfarne captivated me.

I started college in March, at Florida State University, in Tallahassee. Definitely not ivy league, but a great campus and a solid “this is college” experience.

I had tested my way out of freshman year, so I started as a sophomore. My transcripts, testing, and classes at SUNY Purchase mattered to the colleges to which I applied, even though my high school principal had forced me to stay an extra semester in high school for a gym class.

I planned to go for a journalism degree. I took a theatre lighting class as an elective. We were supposed to spend 20 hours in lab work in the theatre in the semester. I spent 20 hours my first week and never left the building for the following year.

I worked through the summer semester, always taking as full a course load as I could talk the registrars into letting me take.

I was a scholarship student and tried to find a workstudy job on campus. I wanted to work in the magnificent library, but they never hired me. They kept hiring social science majors. I wound up working theatre and music crew jobs in local clubs, which led to working rock ‘n roll gigs around the area, some with big names. My theatre teachers let me take some of the grad level classes.

I loved working in theatre, but learned pretty damn fast the rock ‘n roll life was not for me.

I also was savvy enough to know that, while I had fun at FSU and had some terrific teachers, it couldn’t give me the launching platform I wanted or needed to have the career I wanted in the business. There are plenty of hugely successful FSU Alumni, but I knew I couldn’t do what I wanted and needed there after my first year.

I transferred to the film program at NYU. I had done the spring quarter, summer quarter, and then the following full year in Tallahassee. I received my acceptance letter dated April 1 from NYU and called them to make sure it wasn’t a joke.

I started as a film student that June. And continued to work in theatre. And I had a work/study job at the Interactive Telecommunication and Alternate Media Center, where we did some of the first video conferencing that existed. And from there, built my career in local, regional, off-off, off, and up to Broadway.

What’s the point of this?

I took my own damn tests. I studied all night if I had to. I had scholarships and jobs and loans and EARNED IT ALL MY DAMN SELF. When I turned down the Big Name Schools that had accepted me, they were shocked. Because it was hard to get in. But I got in as MYSELF – not because I had connections (I didn’t). Not because I had money (I didn’t). I got in because I was smart and talented with good grades and great essays and lots of interests and experiences and completely out of the box and blew the interviewers the hell out of the water in the interview (and was told that in EVERY interview).

So when I see this entrance scandal, and see some entertainment personnel I liked, respected, and considered my COLLEAGUES involved – it’s an insult. If anyone had tried to buy me into a school, I would have been so damn mortified, I don’t know what I would have done. It was important to me to EARN IT MYSELF. With good grades, hard work, scholarships, workstudy, student loans, and finding my own gigs along the way.

Not only is it unfair to better qualified students without the financial means to allow richer parents to purchase slots, it’s a slap in the face to the students whose slots are purchased. Probably a lot of them don’t care; they know they wouldn’t get in anyway, and it’s just another entitlement with which they sail through life. But it completely negates and discards any work any of them have done or might do.

Along with denying those who would make better use of the opportunity the chance in the first place.

These parents are insulting their own kids while insulting the kids who have earned the right to those slots and are denied them because their parents can’t afford the right bribe. The parents purchasing these slots aren’t helping ANYBODY. In fact, they are hurting everyone involved, while some scumbag “recruiters” or “consultants” get rich.

There’s a lot in our educational system that needs to be changed and fixed, from pre-school all the way up through PhD programs. But I found this, with allegations against people in my own field who KNOW BETTER and whom I expect to BEHAVE BETTER – infuriated me on multiple levels.

Just now, as I’m writing this, they’re discussing it in the library. One man talked about how his son was accepted into Dartmouth and was so excited – he had great grades, etc. Then some man showed up at the house to tell him that his son had to give up his spot in order to make space for the son of an alumnus. The kid was heartbroken, and the man currently speaking threw the bum out of the house. The kid went elsewhere and went on to a good, successful life, but it still hurts.

The fact that it has been going on for centuries doesn’t make any of it right. It’s time to make positive changes.

Yesterday, a teacher mentioned something about kids and hunger and lunch problems on Twitter. I asked for ideas how I, a random taxpayer with no kids in my local system, could make a contribution and make sure that it went to feed the kids who needed it, and not appropriated by the school for something else.

My feed exploded with so many good ideas that I’m gathering them up and going to put together a resource sheet. I’m not sure on which of my websites I’ll put it, but I’ll put it up somewhere.

So far, there was only one mansplainer about how my taxes are paying for schools and how I need to vote and military spending is the problem. In other words, trying to hijack the thread for his own agenda. I have been politically active since I was 15. Once I was eligible to vote, I’ve voted in EVERY election at every level, especially local. I’m in almost daily contact with my reps, from local to federal, so he can stop the hell trying to lecture me about voting responsibility.  30 seconds on my timeline reflects that I take the responsibility seriously. There’s always one, isn’t there? I’m sure he will come back with something else defensive and mansplaining, and then I’ll block. I’m not arguing, and anyone who’s read my timeline knows I take my voting rights seriously. Hijacking a thread about trying to help hungry kids in school to bitch about military spending is inappropriate.

Some other trolls will probably show up, too, and they, too, will be blocked. Meanwhile, I’ll gather the positive info and put together a resource list. That way, maybe some other people who are feeling helpless can find something they can do.

Also, for me, it’s important to donate anonymously. I deeply believe that genuine philanthropy is anonymous.

Enough for one day – I need to get back to the page.

Published in: on March 14, 2019 at 9:56 am  Comments Off on Thurs. March 14, 2019: Pi, Coyotes, College, and Hungry Schoolkids  
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Mon. Jan. 7, 2019: Long Term Practice Pays Off #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, January 7, 2018
Waxing Moon
NO RETROGRADES

Can you believe it? Nothing is in retrograde right now. We get the chance to catch our collective breath!

This month’s topic is self-care, and the first topic I’m going to tackle is how commitment to a practice over a long period of time pays off.

I’m using two long-term practices from my own life — writing and my yoga/meditation practice — as examples.

I have a commitment to write 1K day on what I call my “primary project.” Of course, as a full-time writer, who writes for others as well as creating my own work, I have to write a hell of a lot more than 1K/day to keep a roof over my head.

But that 1K/day, first thing, builds up the pages and the chapters and the books. It is the foundation of my writing career.

Before you start whining, writing 1K/day doesn’t mean you never get a day off. The difference is that you CHOOSE when you take time off instead of just letting the writing slide until days and weeks of not writing accumulate.

Uh, uh! What did I say about whining? You have a full-time job, but want to be a full-time writer? How badly do you want this? Do you simply want the idea of being a full-time writer, or do you actually want to be a full-time writer?

If it’s the latter, then treat your writing as your second job until it’s your ONLY job. That doesn’t negate the passion, the fun, or the creativity. It makes you a professional.

The other thing that separates pros (especially in the arts) from the rest is that the only purpose of the day job is to support the writing. That is, if you actually WANT to be a full-time writer. It means you change day jobs whenever you need to, and whenever it gets in the way of the writing.

When I worked in theatre (and I wrote then, too), I’d take non-theatre jobs in between shows. A show closed, I’d take a job. Usually with something arts-related. Trust me, you never, EVER want me as your waitress. I waitressed for two days, swore off, and haven’t had to work that gig since. I leave that to actors, who, you know, actually like people.

Anyway, I’d take a day job, and when I landed another theatre job, either the day job would let me work a flexible schedule that didn’t interfere with rehearsals, techs, shows, matinees, put-ins, etc. — or I’d quit the day job.

Until I reached the position where there was no down time between shows. I went from show-to-show-to-show, and then, on Broadway, I was lucky enough to land slots on long-running shows, such as MISS SAIGON, where I worked the last five years of the ten year Broadway run. 8 shows/week. Nights, weekends, holidays. I took my two weeks’ vacation once a year (usually a week twice a year). A couple of times, I took a leave for a month when one of the shows I wrote was produced overseas. But I was there. 8 shows/week for five years.

Theatre (and writing) always came first. ALWAYS. The work must always be protected. ALWAYS.

“But I have a family! I have responsibilities!”

So do I. But my family and my partners needed to be fully supportive, carry their weight, too (although, most of my life, I have been the primary breadwinner in any relationship). Any partner who didn’t carry his share of the physical and emotional work? Or, more importantly, who got in the way of it? Gone.

Because the RIGHT partner doesn’t get in the way of the work.

For me, it’s lonelier to be with the wrong person than to be single.

It paid off in theatre. I worked my way up to Broadway. And it was wonderful. And when it was time to leave and do something else, I accepted it, and did so.

It is paying off in writing (which is always a journey). Writing is my business as well as my vocation and my passion. It is not my hobby.

I am not rich (working on that–sort of a joke, sort of not). I’m not famous (thank goodness, and some of that is a choice, much of that is luck, and some of my decisions that may cost me cash that fame would bring, but buy me the peace to do the work — we’ll see how they’ve turned out at the end of my life/career).

I’ve given up plenty that society considers “normal.”

I don’t regret it.

I wanted it badly enough.

I show up and do the work.

I am relentless when I have to be. Ruthless when I have to be.

Long-term practice pays off.

Moving to the yoga/meditation practice, which I’m sure is more along the lines of what you expected from a self-care post, this past year of practice has caused a huge positive shift in my life.

Every single day of 2018, I did at least a short meditation. I admit, I skipped yoga on some days (and regretted it, every time).

But every single day, and often more than once a day, I maintained my meditation practice. Even when I had a session with a meditation group on any particular day. I kept up my own practice.

It helped my focus. It increased my concentration. It lowered my stress, which improved my health.

But I didn’t realize the full impact until New Year’s Eve.

This was the first New Year’s Eve in years where I wasn’t miserable.

I talk about that misery in detail in the January 3rd, post, so I won’t go back into it here.

I didn’t have it this year. I didn’t have the misery, the desperation, or any of that. I wasn’t happy and dancing around, but I was content. For the first time in years of New Year’s Eves, I was content.

Be where you are. Start where you are. You’re fine right now.

That’s what we work on at Kripalu.

That’s what I work on in the daily yoga and meditation practice.

It doesn’t mean to stop striving to be better or do more. But it means to stop hating yourself in the moment. It doesn’t mean give up and feel like nothing can or will ever change. It means taking stock of the moment.

Accept yourself.

Take care of yourself.

You are fine where you are.

Once you hit that point, then, THEN you can build something positive for the future.

Commit to something that makes you feel happy or content or serene or fulfilled. Do it, even for a few minutes every single day this year. When you’re tired, when you’re sick, when you’re overwhelmed.

Do one good thing for yourself for a few minutes every day.

Chart the difference until next year. You’ll be surprised.

You’ll be content.

You might even be happy.

Published in: on January 7, 2019 at 6:25 am  Comments Off on Mon. Jan. 7, 2019: Long Term Practice Pays Off #UpbeatAuthors  
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Tues. Sept. 25, 2018: Awards and Concerns

Tuesday, September 25, 2018
Last Day of Full Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde

Busy few days. I did not get the amount of writing done that I wanted or needed to do.

Most of it has been caught up with the final details for the breakfast where my client gets an award this morning– an award which I will accept on her behalf and say a few words. I’ve been working on the speech — short, simple, from the heart. Focused on HER. Too much about this award has been focused on another agenda, not the awardees, in my opinion. But yesterday, we got a lot of the kinks worked out.

I did some additional research for RELICS. I read Joy Harjo’s memoir, and most of a series of letters between Leslie Marmon Silko and James Wright, which are beautiful. I polished the review that was due and sent it off. I juggled home centric tasks. I worked on what used to be POWER OF WORDS. I re-read what’s written of TIE CUTTER again, and love it more than ever. There’s a lot of heart in that book.

I miss traveling. Next year, I need to arrange my schedule so I can travel more. Not just for clients over the bridge, but for myself and my writing.

I am angered an infuriated at the way the GOP dismisses the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh, especially since more women are coming forward, and especially since they KNEW about these allegations last week, and that’s why they tried to accelerate the process. They truly believe it doesn’t matter. That men have the right to violate women. People asking, what if it was your wife or daughter are missing the point — this is how they treat the women in their own lives. And that former aide, who nearly killed his pregnant mistress by giving her an abortificant in a smoothie without her knowledge? Don’t tell me the GOP is pro-life. They want to tear away women’s rights and human rights back to before the Civil War.

There are some very interesting stories out there about how this is all tied beyond women’s rights into something much darker and religious and international — interesting theory, but I hope it’s not true.

The bottom line is that the GOP does not care about women’s rights. If the allegations are true, the Judge has proven a pattern of disregard for women’s rights that ensures he will overturn Roe vs. Wade. Which is what they want. He also says that a sitting President can’t be indicted. Which is what they want — especially since most of them are corrupt, and they count on him to protect them as well.

Kavanaugh’s behavior since Day One has shown he is not fit for the office. If he was this brilliant intellect and ethical man the GOP claims, he would have insisted that there’s no reason to rush. He would have insisted that ALL his records be released for review. He would have shaken Fred Guttenberg’s hand at the break, whether or not he knew who the man was, because as a SCOTUS, he is supposed to protect and serve ALL people in this country. He would not have lied, multiple times, under oath, or hedged on questions he didn’t like.

The whole Kennedy retirement/Deutsche Bank loans by his son to the Narcissistic Sociopath/nomination stinks.

People are saying it’s a done deal, that K is out. I think the GOP will ram him through anyway, just to prove they can and send a message that they can and will do whatever they want without consequence. I hope, in this case, I am wrong.

I participated in the Day of Solidarity yesterday, wearing black and stepping out of the office at 1 PM. I don’t post selfies, so I didn’t do that part. My client’s office is part of a large complex. I was the ONLY person who stepped out. I am disgusted. A red enclave in a blue state. I am fed up.

The level of corruption is appalling. I can’t see how it can be resolved without tragic circumstances.

As far as Yale goes, when I was applying to schools waaaaay back when, Yale was on the list. I will add that I was accepted at EVERY school to which I applied. I went in for the interview at Yale, which went really well. I spent a weekend to “get to know the campus.” By the end of the weekend, I pulled my application, because I knew I didn’t want to go to a school where the frat boy aggressive mentality toward the girls on and off campus was so vile.

I also remember, earlier in high school, as part of the Model U.N., we did a conference at Yale. We hung out and partied and were less than model citizens after hours. I don’t know how our chaperones coped with us. We were awful. But I remember the frat boys hanging around and trying to get high school girls to come out with them. (Being in a fraternity was a selling point, as far as they were concerned). Later, at NYU, I was talking to a student who’d also been involved in Model U.N. (from a different high school). She said her older brother, who went to Yale, wouldn’t let her go to the conference there because the frat boys were notorious for picking up high school girls, getting them drunk, having sex with them, and boasting about it. (Her brother was not in a fraternity).

I went to a few frat parties early on in college, but they weren’t fun. I didn’t like the people, and I didn’t like the aggression. I never went through rush week or tried to pledge to a sorority, because I didn’t like the mentality or the exclusiveness. I didn’t like the girls I met who were recruiting, or the girls back at the various houses. Plus, the time factor — when I wasn’t in class or doing homework or at a work study job, I was in the theatre or on the film set WORKING. I was earning my way in the arts since age 18. I wasn’t going to give up a show or a film gig for a party house. It had no place in what I wanted in my present or my future.

Back to my own daily life, this will post before the breakfast happens today. I’ll write about it all in my post tomorrow. Fingers crossed it all goes smoothly and my speech goes well. I want it to be a good moment honoring my client.

Namaste.

 

Published in: on September 25, 2018 at 1:11 am  Comments Off on Tues. Sept. 25, 2018: Awards and Concerns  
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Mon. July 9, 2018: Say “Yes” — #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, July 9, 2018
Waning Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Mars Retrograde

 

There’s a saying I’ve heard about both opportunity and the Muse: that when it knocks, you better answer or it will move on to someone else.

I believe that.

Of course, there are those who will insist they are “offering” you an “opportunity” to try to get them to work for free while they do nothing. Laugh and walk away. That is not something you to which you want to say “yes.”

But say “yes” to new experiences that are out of your comfort zone, but that you might enjoy. I did that with Argentine Tango – I said “yes” to taking classes for a few months. Not only did I have the chance to do something I hadn’t done in years – dance – I met new people, learned about a world-wide community, and gathered material for at least three new books. I even put a tango scene into my radio play “Light Behind the Eyes” which was produced this past March.

I said “yes” to attending my very first Bouchercon way back in the mid-1990s, and that was the catalyst to writing novels again. I said “yes” to my very first Edinburgh Festival Fringe, which led me to an invitation to participate in the Adelaide Festival Fringe, which meant I got to go to Australia, something I’d always wanted to do. And I got to go there as a working artist.

In Australia, I said “yes” to a local networking meeting someone I’d met in passing invited me to, which led me to saying “yes” to a curator for the library, who invited me to see an illuminated manuscript, one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever seen in my life. I said “yes” to doing a promo on a local radio show – which got such a positive response that I wound up co-hosting the show while we were at festival. I said “yes” to an invitation to an art gallery opening, where I was exposed to stunning work by Aboriginal artists depicting the sections in Australia where the ozone layers are burned all the way through. I said “yes” to an invitation to join a group of Aborginal women artists for their morning coffee – a rare honor, since they didn’t mingle with the other festival participants often – and learned a whole new way of communicating and relating.

I said “yes” the first time I was invited, in my first theatre lighting class in college, to working on the crew of a show – and that, eventually, led me to my career on Broadway.

I said “yes” in high school, when I was starting to learn cello, but they needed more viola players and asked me to switch. And I learned the viola (not that I remember it after all these years, but still . . .)

I said “yes” when I was just getting back into thoroughbred racing to work on a benefit to help racetrack workers have access to childcare and ended up with lifelong friends among trainers, jockeys, backstretch workers, which led me to pitch (and accept) a job covering the Triple Crown for thirteen years, and go to races in England and Scotland.

I said “yes” when given the opportunity to write about ice hockey and spent months with a minor league time; I said “yes” when given the opportunity to cover America’s Cup and learned about sailing and those beautiful old Newport yachts (even though I can’t swim). I said “yes” to covering Highland Games and local sports and lighthouses and restaurants and anything else that sounded interesting.

I can’t even count the times I’ve said “yes” – because I say “yes” more than I say “no” – especially if it means a new experience. I trust my gut – if something seems off about the offer, or I figure it’s dangerous in the wrong way, I decline.

But I trust my gut, and saying “yes” means I had opportunities and experiences many others around me haven’t. I ask questions. I’m interested in the world. So when someone offers me a chance to do something unique, especially by someone who is passionate about their interests, I try to say “yes” and then enjoy it!

 

Mon. June 18, 2018: Follow Your Dreams — A Personal Story #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, June 18, 2018
Waxing Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde

I’ve lived my life by that motto.

I knew I wanted to be a writer by the time I was six years old. I published in school magazines and newspapers. As a teen, I wrote plays, and I did press releases and other articles for local and regional newspapers about the high school music groups with which I was associated.

In college, I got away from the writing (although I wrote plenty of awful poetry) when I committed to theatre. I graduated high school early, tested my way out of freshman year, and entered Florida State University in Tallahassee mid-year. I took a stage lighting class. I was supposed to put in 20 hours of lab work in the theatre during the semester. I put 20 hours in my first week and never left the building until I transferred to NYU’s film and television program a year later. I got terrific experience at FSU, and even picked up a few side rock and roll gigs.

I transferred to NYU and got into the film department. My first day in film school, I met the guy who still, all these decades later, is one of my closest friends. But, because I was practical and a problem-solver, I wound up more on the production management level than the writing level. I had two brilliant professors, who encouraged me, and with whom I’m still in contact. One was my screenwriting professor, and I wish I’d studied more with him. I still use what I learned from him, in screenwriting, playwrighting, radio writing, and novels.

I picked up theatre jobs here and there. In other words, I started earning my living in the arts when I was 18. Any non-arts job I ever had was only temporary, and in between shows, for the cash. I knew I wasn’t suited to an office job or anything the fearful call “a real job.” Honey — working in the arts is about giving EVERYTHING and leaving it out there. It’s far more real than ANY office job. So shut the eff up.

When I graduated from NYU, I moved to the west coast for three years to work in regional theatre. I knew I needed experiences outside of New York. I loved it, but I also knew that if I was going to realize my dream of working on Broadway, I had to be in New York. While I was west, I spent some time in LA and knew it wasn’t for me.

I came back east, initially to help with a family issue, for two months. I immediately landed a stage management job and worked my way up in the off-off-off-off Broadway community. (I had worked as a stage manager and production manager in San Francisco, and as a props person in Seattle). I switched to wardrobe (as a stage manager in small SF companies, I’d often both stage managed and handled quick changes). I worked my way from off-off-off Broadway to off-off Broadway and then to off-Broadway. I did some work in New York as a stage manager and an associate production manager, for the Pearl Theatre and for Manhattan Class Company. I did wardrobe for the Vineyard, and then spent several seasons at Manhattan Theatre Club, which led to open-ended runs rather than repertory.

While I was still working off-off Broadway, I spent three years working during the day for an art book publisher. I learned an enormous amount that has served my writing career well, working both sides of the table. I worked in the development offices of the Neuberger Museum and the Guggenheim Museum. At the latter, I spent my lunch hour walking the museum, immersing myself in the art. I worked part-time for five years for the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation, when it was so small the staff consisted of the Executive Director and me, putting on seminars and support groups and roundtables and award shows. I learned so much.

It was at Manhattan Theatre Club where I had the honor of working with Arthur Miller and Athol Fugard within the same six months. I’d started writing again. Even though I was the wardrobe girl, Athol respected that I wrote, that I was starting to define myself as a writer. He invited me to sit in on rehearsals any time I wanted, to ask any questions I wanted. I did, and I learned an amazing amount from him. He directed what he wrote, but he kept his writing self and his directing self separate.

On the first day of rehearsal, in his opening remarks, he said, “I have good news and bad news. The good news is that the writer is dead in this process. There will be no revisions during rehearsal. The bad news is that I promised him you chaps would speak every line exactly as written.”

I loved it. He demanded respect for the words. No paraphrasing (which American actors tend to do more than any other actors, claiming to be “in the moment” when, in reality, most of them simply haven’t bothered to take the time to memorize).

I worked with Arthur Miller within the same six months (their plays were produced one after the other in the season). I adored him. He was one of the most vibrant, vital, intelligent people I ever met. He used to hang out in the wardrobe room during the show sometimes.

At the time, I was getting back into writing. Monologues for actresses with whom I worked, who couldn’t find good monologues for auditions. Who landed the job every time they used something I wrote for them. I was also working on a short story, for a themed competition.

I wrote the first draft on butcher paper in between cues in the wardrobe room. I typed it up and worked on revisions between cues (there were long periods where I didn’t have any quick changes with my actors). I hid the pages in the room, but Arthur found them one evening when I was on the deck doing quick changes.

I was mortified when I returned to the room and found him reading the pages. He was Arthur Miller! I was, well, me.

He looked up and said, “This is good. What are you doing working backstage?”

“I like it. Plus, you know, I like to do things like eat. I have to pay the rent.”

“You need to write full time. You’ll never be the writer you can be, find your full potential, until you rely on it to pay the bills.”

David Mamet told me something very similar when we worked together.

Arthur gave me some suggestions on the text. He never treated me like “less than” because he was Arthur Miller and I was a wardrobe girl scribbling in a corner. He always treated me like a colleague. We kept in touch until his death, and he always pushed me to do better, be more — and only write.

It was quite a few years before I had the courage to only write — and it was AFTER I’d accomplished my dream of working on Broadway.

The monologues I wrote expanded to plays, the plays that would take me to fringe festivals in both Edinburgh and Australia. I found my work got a much stronger reception in Europe than in the US. It wasn’t angsty enough for the American audiences at the time; there was too much sharp humor.

I landed at the Public Theatre and worked with one of my idols, Hal Prince. Another person at the top of his craft who liked and respected everyone with whom he worked. The assistant designers at the Public were working on Broadway and took me with them when the show at the Public closed.

I found myself learning how to be a swing dresser on Broadway, on the production of MISS SAIGON, and in the union. Each series of cues a dresser performs during the course of the show is called a “track.” If you read my novel PLAYING THE ANGLES, set backstage on a Broadway show, my protagonist Morag is a Broadway dresser.

MISS SAIGON had 13 tracks. I learned them in 26 performances. You follow the dresser once to learn it; the dresser follows you as you do it. Within three months, after swinging every track on the show multiple times, the lead actresses who played Kim requested me when their regular dresser took another job. I stayed with the show for five years, until it closed.

It was an amazing, creative group. We wrote plays, songs, other performances, and all went to each others’ shows. Which took place at midnight, in various venues around the city. We put on our own shows, and hung out with the cast & crew of other shows like SNL at KGB. We did The Easter Bonnet Competition and Gypsy of the Year and Broadway Bares to raise money for AIDs and breast cancer. I worked the Tony Awards once and attended it twice over my years on Broadway.

I think I had four shows I wrote produced during that time, in small venues. Dozens of monologues and short pieces. A few short stories published. MISS SAIGON closed and I worked on other shows at other theatres: RENT, GYPSY (the Bernadette Peters version), FOLLIES, 42ND ST, SIX DANCE LESSONS IN SIX WEEKS (with Mark Hamill, who became one of my favorite people ever), URINETOWN, and then as a swing on the first 3 1/2 years of WICKED.

I loved it, but I knew I was aging out. Physically, it was getting tougher and tougher. Mentally, I was struggling to get the writing done and work full time on Broadway. They’re not kidding when they say, “The theatre is a jealous mistress.”

By this point, I was also day-playing on television shows shooting in New York. For the money. I could earn in one day on set when I earned in a week on Broadway. I liked it. I learned so, so much. But I didn’t love it the way I loved Broadway. I’m better suited to theatre production than television production. Which is a shame, from a financial standpoint.

I was also writing about sports for various publications. I covered horse racing and ice hockey. Thirteen years’ worth of Triple Crown races; traveled with a minor league hockey team for eight months as background for a book. Covered America’s Cup races and learned about sailing, although I can’t even swim.

By this point, the first Jain Lazarus Adventures were out, ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT, DIXIE DUST RUMORS, and a bunch of short stories and anthologies. I was writing for calendars and almanacs. I was doing marketing writing for companies. I was writing and teaching and working on novels and trying to build a writing career as the publishing world changed. I hit a point where I had to make a decision. I had to decide if I would stop writing or if I would give up Broadway.

I knew I couldn’t continue physically on Broadway much longer — heavy costumes, raked stages, blowing out my knees running up and down concrete steps carrying stacks of clothes.

I chose writing.

SPRING AWAKENING was my last show as a swing on Broadway. The last event I worked was a staged reading of ALL ABOUT EVE, which had a plethora of people I loved working with involved, AND I got to bow out by working with Jennifer Tilly, Keri Russell, Peter Gallagher, Annette Bening, Angela Lansbury, Zoe Caldwell, and more. It was a great way to leave the business. I’d heard so many stories about how wonderful Peter Gallagher is, and thought, “No one can be that great” — he IS that great, and even better. I’ve never laughed as much with anyone as I did with Jennifer Tilly, and I loved working with Keri Russell (we had five quick changes in a staged reading, which means walking around holding scripts).

I moved away from New York to write. There are challenges. I live in a place that is a prime example of how trickle-down economy does not work. I live in place that, if you’re a working artist who visits, they fall all over you, but if you chose to LIVE here, you’re considered a failure and should get a “real” job. Honey, this is a real job. Granted, most of the clients who pay me well are remote, but I’m working a real job. I’m writing material that helps businesses grow and spread their message. I’m writing books that I love. I’m writing plays and radio plays that invigorate people.

I have always made the choices to do what I love. To fight for what I want, to refuse to compromise and be forced into work I hate. I have made plenty of personal compromises along the way.

Every single one of them has been worth it.

Just because I love what I do does not mean I don’t deserve to be paid for it. Loving my work does not mean I don’t deserve to earn a living at it. I do. And nothing less is acceptable.

Those who don’t have the courage to follow their dreams often try to punish those of us who do.

They are not worth our time or our energy.

Do what you love. Follow your dreams. Make them your reality.

Monday, May 14, 2018: #UpbeatAuthors The Next Step on the Ladder

black-and-white-construction-ladder-54335

Photo courtesy Khimish Sharma, via Pexels.com

Monday, May 14, 2018
Dark of the Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde

 

My first response to that is, “Which ladder?” I have various limbs on various ladders. I write in different genres, under different names, in a variety of formats: prose, theatre, television, film, radio. Journalism. Essays. Marketing writing. Reviewing.

I do very little editing for private clients now, because the time/money ratio doesn’t work for me, too many would-be writers default on payments (when they’re not trying to lowball me down to a fraction of my rate), and I need the primary focus to be on my own work. When I edit, I am generally hired by the publishing house to work for something under contract that has passed particular gate-keeping standards.

I am with more than one publisher. One of them, who has signed several projects, is small, just starting out. We are taking a risk on each other. Among the reasons I was excited to work with them was that they pay small advances, don’t demand their writers acquiesce to a boiler-plate contract AND, instead of POD, they do small print runs. The print runs are after a certain digital threshhold is reached, but the POD model was not working for me, so I wanted to try this. I am still with another publisher who is doing the POD model, and I have submissions out to several other publishers, who work on a mix of models, so we’ll see what happens. I also liked them because the editor with whom I’m working constantly pushes me to be better. And that is my goal — that every book I write is better, in both craft and art, than the previous books.

About a year ago, I sat down with a lawyer, an agent, an editor, and a marketing advisor, and we came up with a plan. I was unhappy and frustrated with the way things were going in my career. I knew I wasn’t writing what the Big Five wanted; I wanted to explore some things that they are currently giving lip service to, but not following through on, and I wanted to do it in my way. We were not a good fit at the time. I knew I was going to part from an agent I’d been working with for several months, because we were not a good fit. When we got together, she was excited by my work and my voice; but the more we worked together, the more she wanted to dilute it and take out what made it unique. She kept telling me my themes and issues were “too hard for the typical reader.” In other words, she wanted me to dumb things down, and I didn’t want to do that. Also, she only wanted to commit to a book at a time, and I need an agent who is interested in long-term career planning. She has since signed a friend of mine, and they’re doing great together. I’m happy for both of them; they are the right fit. We were not.

As far as the marketing writing went, I wanted to have the confidence to say “No” to the lowballers locally and reach farther afield. The interesting thing is that as soon as I did that, I landed two clients locally with whom I work well, WHILE also reaching beyond the bridge for clients who pay better.

We took four or five days together, and I took about twenty pages of notes. We crafted a plan. Some of that we followed; some of that has fallen by the wayside for various reasons.

I re-stated my commitment not to “niche” — to me, that’s a death toll for a creative life. Far too many people who “advise” freelancers sneer and call what I do a “generalist.” I prefer to call it being a “Renaissance Writer” and I’ve written on this topic for both WOW-Women on Writing and Write Naked!

I wanted to get back into article writing, which fell by the wayside for a bit. I started pitching again, and I did pretty well, but that seems to be one of the things that falls away first. Since I enjoy articles — every part from the pitch through the research through the writing and the polish, especially working with a good editor — I need to get back on track with that.

One of the big changes I made was in the way I do pitch letters. Instead of trying to frame what I do to sound like what they want, I’m more specific in the elements I think will appeal and more specific in where our paths diverge. I’m more myself in the cover letter — while still structuring it the way I find works — hook, one paragraph summary, technical info, bio, why this market. And the results are good.

This year and next, I’m on a brutal contract schedule. I’d spent a couple of years working on different types of material, on working on craft. Now, with a commitment to more than one series, I am sitting down and writing the books.

Last year, PLAYING THE ANGLES was re-released, as the first of the Coventina Circle paranormal romantic suspense novels (in its original incarnation, it was a stand-alone). The second book in the series, THE SPIRIT REPOSITORY, just released, and the third, RELICS & REQUIEM, will come out in October of this year, with the fourth, GRAVE REACH, coming out in May of 2019. So that’s a tight schedule.

Last year, the first Nautical Namaste mystery, SAVASANA AT SEA (as Ava Dunne) released. It’s a not-quite-cozy mystery series, whose protagonist is a yoga instructor on a cruise ship. Only one of those books comes out a year! But the next one, DAVY JONES DHARMA, is due in early December this year.

TRACKING MEDUSA, the first Gwen Finnegan mystery, re-released this past January. As I worked on the second book, THE BALTHAZAAR TREASURE, I realized that there was a chunk of it that slowed down the plot. Yet the information was necessary to where my characters were in their emotional lives and how they’d built their day-to-day relationships. Flashbacks and info-dump conversations wouldn’t work; so my editor and I decided to pull out those chapters, flesh them out into a “between-the-books” novella, now called MYTH & INTERPRETATION, and put that out this summer. BALTHAZAAR is still scheduled to come out in January of 2019, and that is now back on track, the pace and content correct.

In the meantime, I had three terrific opportunities. One was to pitch a serial. Those of you who’ve known me for several years know that I used to write four serials in four genres under two names for 18 months a few years back. A total of 8000 words a month. I love writing serials, and I miss it. I had the chance to pitch to a company that specializes in serials.

I pitched a fantasy/adventure novel. I’d written the first four chapters a couple of years ago and put it aside for scheduling reasons. But, when I had this opportunity, I wrote a few more chapters, and outlined what would be the book-length arc of this serial. I fell in love with it all over again. If it’s picked up, it goes back in the schedule; if not, it will be back-burnered again.

I also had two other ideas, stand-alones, that I played with, on and off for a couple of years, writing my way in the first few chapters, then making notes for my Writers’ Rough. On impulse, I polished pitches and tossed them into a Twitter pitch day for a specific company. Editors liked both; so I’m working on some additional chapters, polishing them, and sending them out by deadline this month. Again, if the editors want the full manuscript, they go back into the schedule sooner rather than later; if not, they are back-burnered until next year, when my contract schedule isn’t quite as demanding.

As I said above, I have a couple of other pieces out on submission; if they are contracted, they will be worked in. I also have a serial novel — which is different than a novel broken down as a serial. This is a set of novels that are all of a piece. It follows the filming of a television series over several seasons. Not a series, in the sense that each stands alone and progresses. These novels all fit together like puzzle pieces. One of my publishers has expressed interest in looking at it when the first five or so puzzle pieces are ready. When will that be? I don’t know.

I also made a commitment to do more script work again. I’m taking this year off from stage plays (I wrote four in three years for 365 Women). But one of my radio plays will be produced later this month, and I want to submit some screenplays I’ve polished.

Along with all this, I will pitch to higher-paying clients and higher-paying article markets. Gotta keep a roof over my head, and if I don’t keep up the writing pace I can’t. This is my profession, not my hobby. I am paid to write. That IS my day job. While my book sales have jumped considerably since I moved webhosts and redesigned my websites, I still need the marketing writing and article writing for income. Plus, I enjoy it.

So, my “next step” is building on the foundation of the series on which I currently write; continuing to expand the publication contracts with other publishers at higher-paying tiers, and book higher-paid marketing and article gigs.

I’ve found a process that works for me as far as the new ideas — because, as we all know, new ideas come in batches. I write my way in for a few chapters, then sit down and do a Writer’s Rough Outline. That way, whenever I can actually sit down and WRITE the book, I can drop into its world. The Writer’s Rough outline captures the initial energy of the idea, and then, as I work, I can develop the structure and the craft.

In the coming weeks, we will sit down again and assess how this last year played out. What worked, what didn’t. Where I lost focus, and what I dropped because it didn’t work. And we will craft a plan for the coming year that will guide me toward the “next step on the ladder.”

I don’t want fame. I worked in theatre and film for too many years and see how it can hurt creativity and general life; that is not what I want. I do want financial stability, and to be paid fairly for my work. There is no reason not to be paid well doing work I love. My profession is writing. I will not let ANYONE decide that it’s a cute lil hobby and I don’t deserve to be paid a living wage. I will dig in and do it, and earn my living. It will be a mix and match of projects and styles and tangents, but writing is my profession. When I decided I wanted to work on Broadway, I didn’t let anything or anyone stand in the way of achieving that goal. Now that I’m writing full-time, I feel the same way.

My next step is increased earnings and visibility for my work. It is also participating in the community of writers who love what they do and are committed to a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work across the board, no matter what the profession. It is refusing to “dumb it down” or change what I write because people I don’t respect threaten not to buy what I write. The great thing about writing is that there are plenty of authors writing in plenty of styles and genres, so there’s something for everyone. It’s fine if someone doesn’t connect with my work — there are wonderful authors out there with whom they WILL connect. But threatening me and demanding I change what I write is not going to work.

Artists have a responsibility. I believe that responsibility is to bear witness to the world, to expand people’s vision of the world, but also to create better worlds and help us find ways to reach those better worlds inclusively and fairly. A better world needs social and economic justice. By respecting our own value, our own worth, we set the tone.

For more inspiration on valuing your work, please visit Lori Widmer’s Words on the Page blog. It’s great all the time, but May is Writers Worth Month. It’s especially great now.

 

Mon. April 23, 2018: Listen To Your Heart #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, April 23, 2018
Waxing Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde

If  you’re looking for a hearts-and-flowers inspiration post on this topic, move along. This post is about determination, focus, will power, and passion.

If I didn’t listen to my heart, I wouldn’t have had the career in theatre that made me so happy, and I wouldn’t be a writer.

I started writing at age 6. I knew I loved theatre not much after that.

Of course, people told me it would be a “nice hobby” but I needed to get “a real job.”

What did I do?

I started landing paying gigs in theatre and rock ‘n roll when I was 18. I worked my way through college, between work-study and gigs. My college degree is in film and television production, from NYU, but I worked in theatre. I moved to the west coast for a few years to work regionals. I came back, and worked my way up from off-off-off-church-basement theatre to Broadway.

Because NO ONE was going to tell me that what I did was not “a real job.”

Anyone who doesn’t think working in the arts isn’t “a real job” has never worked in the arts. Cubicle dwellers wouldn’t last a week. You have to be fit physically, mentally, and emotionally. You have to be smart, able to think on your feet, a problem solver, have a quick learning curve, and able to work with all kinds of people. You learn that the nastiest people in the business are usually the most mediocre talents, and if you remain cordial and professional, they’ll nasty themselves out of a job and you’ll go on to work with better.

You have to love the work beyond measure. You have to be willing to give up nights, weekends, holidays, because your work is what others want when they play. You have to be ruthless. You have to be kind.

You have to love it.

Writing is much the same way. I wrote as much as I could through the theatre and film work. Production is all-consuming, but so is writing. When I had time to write, I sat down and I damn well WROTE.

If my show call at the theatre was 6:30, and I didn’t have day work or a special event with one of the actors, or spend my dark day from theatre on a television production, I was at my desk by 8 AM and I wrote until 4:30. A switch went off in my head at 4:30, and then I went into “show head” where, until I walked out of the theatre, the show was the only thing that occupied my world. Now that I’ve aged out of working in production and am writing full-time, I keep a similar schedule, although I’m usually at my desk by 7 AM. But 4:30 is no longer “show head.” Now, it’s cocktail hour! 😉

Focus, skills, learning curve, passion.

I can’t tell you how often over the years people told me I’d never “make it.” Of course, their version of “making it” had to do with fame and magazine covers and reality television.

My version of “making it” is to do good work with people I respect that expands people’s understanding of the world through the arts.

I worked hard, I continually learned, I loved what I did. I grew personally and professionally. Most important, by listening to my heart, I didn’t let the bitter, angry people who didn’t have the guts to go for it derail me from my dreams.

Listen to your heart.

Go for it.

 

Published in: on April 23, 2018 at 5:44 am  Comments Off on Mon. April 23, 2018: Listen To Your Heart #UpbeatAuthors  
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Tues. Jan. 17, 2017: Reading, Figuring, Negotiation

Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Waning Moon
Cloudy and cold

Hop on over to A Biblio Paradise and take a look at “The Joy of Re-Reading.” Maybe it will inspire you to re-read some of your favorites.

Well, the weekend wasn’t as relaxing or productive as I hoped.

There was news happening, such as Swamp Thing Elect’s attack on John Lewis — right before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Typical of a self-centered Swamp Thing to attack someone vital to this country’s civil rights.

Not to mention that Biloxi, MS is now calling it “Great Americans Day”. That is not the name of the holiday, and you don’t get to change its name just because you’re a racist representing other racists.

Ringling Brothers’ Circus is closing after 146 years. Feld blames animal rights activists, and I call bullslhit on that. There are circuses without animal acts (such as Big Apple) who are doing fine without them. As someone who pitched to them several years ago to be part of their marketing department, I had a plan that would have brought them into the 21st Century while still paying tribute to their history and the history of “circus.” (Regular readers know I have several circus-themed projects in development — I have a good handle on the history). They weren’t interested. To their credit, they also didn’t start hiring third-rate reality celebutards to get them more attention. Am I saying that if they’d hired me they’d still be viable? No, because I’m sure other people pitched even better plans. But they weren’t willing to take big enough risks.

Sent off some material to a theatre that seems interested in working with me. We’ll see.

Did some more research for a pitch to a different theatre. I’d like to do the particular project I’ve been researching, so I sent off the pitch. Fingers crossed. It would mean six months of immersion in a period of time I’m interested in, but don’t know much about except peripherally. It would mean six months of immersion in beauty (as well as drama), which I could use right now.

I also re-thought another long-term project, which means one of my deadlines that was at the end of this month is now at the beginning of March, and then the next at the beginning of June, and so forth, every 12 weeks for the next two years, instead of every 6 weeks for a year. That will allow each of those pieces to be more in depth and more polished.

Because the point of honing one’s craft is that every piece one writes is better than the earlier ones.

Read Gail Godwin’s PUBLISHING: A MEMOIR, and recommended it to a friend who’s been going through a rough time. I didn’t realize how many publishers and editors she had — although she found the right agent early on and they stuck by each other. The right agent is so important. And difficult to find.

I used to read a lot of Godwin’s work, and really liked it. Until the religion overshadowed things like plot, character, and story, and then she lost me. I haven’t read the last few books, but I think I will try them. I also want to find the early ones, the ones I liked so much, that are packed away somewhere downstairs, and re-read them.

I don’t trust people who say they never re-read. A good book gives you fresh gifts every time you enter it. The “don’t have time” argument is just another bullshit excuse. There’s no such thing as “having” time for anything. You make the time for things that matter, and you ignore the rest.

Playing with a few things writing-wise, but it wasn’t anywhere near the productive writing weekend I needed it to be. I’m way, way behind where I need to be and frustrated.

I managed to write 14 pages on a piece on Saturday, but it wasn’t one of the pieces I should be working on. However, it was important in its own way, and I learned from it.

Read Miles Morland’s MILES AWAY: A WALK ACROSS FRANCE, which was fun.

There was an absolutely amazing event on Sunday at the New York Public Library, hosted by PEN America. It was the Louder Together Event, for writers to express the importance of protecting and fighting for free speech. There were people I knew there; people I didn’t know before but admired; new-to-me people who I now know. Writers of all kinds: novelists, poets, short story writers, essayists, translators, journalists (I’m talking REAL journalists who work stories, not news readers), and, most importantly to me, perhaps: playwrights. Because live theatre is a huge arena of change, because it is experiential rather than theoretical. Heroines of mine such as Anna Devere Smith and Eve Ensler spoke. I have always felt a great honor and a great responsibility as a member of PEN — it was strengthened on Sunday.

I was disappointed not to see any familiar faces from where I now live — Cape Cod. I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt and think they went to the sister rally held in Boston. However, I seriously doubt it. May I be proven wrong!

Monday was Martin Luther King, Jr., day, and a holiday. I took it as such. A contract offer came through — why it was sent to me instead of to my agent puzzles me. Negotiations will start this week, and it will be settled one way or the other.

I have a lot of lost ground to make up on both NOT BY THE BOOK and SONGBOUND SISTERS, although I’m feeling more confident in SONGBOUND SISTERS. Its natural rhythm is a bit slower than I’m used to; since it is yet to be contracted, I have the luxury of working with the book’s natural rhythm.

I started reading ITALIAN WAYS: On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo by Tim Parks. He says something that resonates even more strongly in 2017 than in 2013, when the book was written: “In America the lack of investment in train travel speaks eloquently of a country always ready to appear righteous but pathologically averse to surrendering car and plane for a more eco-friendly, community-conscious form of mobility.” (p. viii, Preface).

Today, in addition to catching up on writing, I have a Very Long List of administrative tasks. Gotta keep up with them or they become overwhelming.

If the contract negotiations end positively later this week or early next week, there will be press releases to get out. Ditto if the play set in the Renaissance I pitched is commissioned. So, I have to be ready to jump on either of those instantly, should they come to pass.

I’m also working on a new marketing plan for the Topic Workbooks.

It’s always feast or famine; if even a handful of the opportunism work out, I’m entering a feast cycle, which will be good. I’ll need to step up to the plate and deliver. And adjust the uncontracted work so it still moves forward (because today’s uncontracted work is tomorrow’s contracted work) without sabotaging the contracted work.

It’s all about protecting the work while keeping one’s commitments, and knowing how to shift. And being able to work on more than one thing. Very few writers have the luxury any more, of being able to work on one project at a time. They should honor their agents and editors when they do.

Have a great week!

Tues. Sept. 6, 2016: On to New Adventures

Tuesday, September 6, 2016
Waxing Moon
Mercury Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Rainy and mild

Dealing with Tropical Storm Hermine. Not too bad, considering, at least so far. We desperately need the rain.

The season ended on Saturday night with a nice, big house. Cleaned up, turned in my keys, drove away without looking back. I’ve come down with a cold now, which is a little annoying, but that’s life. It figures, goes along with the release of the stress.

Spent most of Sunday sleeping, with a little reading involved, and a lot of yesterday reading.

As usual, I’m juggling multiple writing projects. I’m bogged down in INITIATE, with the logic of the upcoming sequence, but I hope to break through that in the next few days.

The Victorian mystery is coming along, although I have to enrich it with period detail. Plot and character are humming along, but I have to add the atmosphere. I’m looking forward to an upcoming trip to Newport for research.

I also had an idea for another piece, a fantasy novel with strong political overtones. On Friday, I wrote thirty pages on it, and I’ve been reworking it ever since. The characters, theme, and the start of the plot work, but I need to go deeper into motivations. And I have some other characters yapping at me for attention, so I’ll write myself in a few pages, and then see where I am with it. I need to get the characters down; the plot is loosely based on historical events in Northumberland, but I’m putting it into a fantasy setting.

Of course, I still have two plays to finish and the next round of edits on DEATH OF A CHOLERIC to get done. I hope to sit down and start reading that later this afternoon. And, I need to get back into SONGBOUND SISTERS. I’m behind where I want to be on that.

I’ve run into more people than I imagined from That Other Place. While I’ve been pleasant and polite, I’m still very angry about the whole situation. However, it’s not worth the energy. I landed in another job, in my field, and did it well, even if it was seasonal/temporary. Why people who knew me from Before are surprised that I can thrive in my native environment, a situation that’s far more positive than the one in which I was in for two years, is beyond me. And that fact that none of my former colleagues ever contacted me to see how I was doing . . .says more about them than about me.

My time is better spent on new projects. Those people and that place no longer exist in my universe. I have a life to lead, books to write, plays to create, projects to work on. The decisions I make moving forward are to support my creative work, not to fit anyone else’s convenience or agenda. There are far too many people around here who don’t have the talent or the skill, but have a misplaced sense of entitlement that others should do their work for them, clean up their mess, or a combination. I don’t intend to be that person, the janitor to their messes. I have my own work to do. Not only do I intend to do it, I intend to do it well.

I’m excited by the new projects. My agent has submitted the new mystery series. We’ll see what happens. I don’t expect to hear anything until October or November. By then, I hope to have DEATH OF A CHOLERIC out on submission, and a few other pieces close to ready to go.

I need to do an inventory of short stories to see what needs to go where. I don’t intend anything to sit around gathering dust!

I love September, and I love autumn. I intend to make this a good one!

Devon

Published in: on September 6, 2016 at 9:02 am  Comments Off on Tues. Sept. 6, 2016: On to New Adventures  
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Fri. March 27, 2015: Inspiration and World Theatre Day

Friday, March 27, 2015
Waxing Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Rainy and cold
WORLD THEATRE DAY

Busy day yesterday, with PubServe meeting in the morning. Everyone liked the baked goods, which is always satisfying!

Busy afternoon at the library, trying to catch up on everything on the desk that didn’t get done in the morning! Also, prepping for World Theatre Day – getting posters made, doing a display, etc. Interacting with international theatres – who seem more involved than US theatres. Good thing I can get by even in my ill-used, high school French! 😉 Seriously, it’s been a joy to interact with other theatres all over the world, who have a passion through creating positive change in performance. Theatre is given a much higher purpose of place in other countries.

Why do we need theatre? Why is it so different from prose or film? Because nothing can replace the live experience, the exchange of energy between performer and audience. You can do a show eight times a week for years, but every single performance is different and can never be exactly replicated because it is LIVE. There is a deep satisfaction, from the soul, in a good piece of theatre, both on a performance and an audience level. Nothing else comes close. I

Ran home, ate too much, and then headed back for Tango. I had fun, but I also had trouble catching on during the lesson. I don’t know why I was having trouble – I overcomplicated things, and I was fighting years of dance training. Instead of a simple pivot, my legs wanted to go into fourth position. It was hard to listen to the leader’s body, rather than relying on a count. I have to think of this as a different style rather than thinking of it as “unlearning” and relearning”.

Came home, and had an idea, inspired by World Theatre Day, to rewrite one of the Prague chapters in COLLABORATIVE BIRTH. Up too late, but it was worth it.

Dreamed additional rewrites (hopefully, I won’t lose the thread). Overslept, and had to scramble to get ready for work.

Today will be busy at the library. I’m going to write tonight. Tomorrow’s my day “on”, so I’ll be working in the mid-day.

The rest of the days will be tied up in writing, doing the last pass on the radio play (which goes out next week), and do the microfilm research. I also have to do some basic things, like laundry and getting in cat food and cat litter.

Today, during World Theatre Day, we’ve got radio plays running all day (I brought in my CDs). Hoping that having the radio play rhythms running in the background will keep me on track for the next radio plays coming up.

Have a great weekend.

Devon

Published in: on March 27, 2015 at 9:22 am  Comments Off on Fri. March 27, 2015: Inspiration and World Theatre Day  
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Mon. April 23, 2012: Energizing Writing Weekend

Monday, April 23, 2012
Waxing Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Rainy and cool

A terrific writing weekend — now, if it can only spill over into the week!

First of all, I’ve got an essay up on Cape Cod Women Online, “The Leap Over the Canal” about moving to the Cape. It’s got both book covers in it, and I’m thrilled with the way it turned out. The two book covers look really nice together — I may do that for a mailing.

Second, Billy Root blogs about what it feels like to be an actor — a nice little behind-the-scenes taste. I hope you’ll stop by — and maybe even drop a comment. I’m very happy with the way this piece turned out.

I can’t remember all the way back to Friday, but I know it was busy. I know that I did about 1700 words in the sprint with the students, and I picked up violets and holly cuttings from a friend (we couldn’t dig up the whole tree–the root system’s too deep). It was a gorgeous day, and we drove around for a bit, exploring new-to-us back roads that will make life easier when the tourists clutter the main roads in the summer.

Got the proposal that was due out on time; now the waiting begins. Set up a meeting for tomorrow on the theatre projects.

Worked with my students in the evening.

Saturday, I rewrote a half a dozen short stories (some of them massively) and sent them out. Slowly, but surely, I’m catching up on the backlog. I worked with my students.

Sunday, I decided to leisurely start something I thought was due mid-May (a first chapter and an outline), so I wouldn’t have to rush. I re-read the submission materials request and realized — it’s due TODAY. Mid-May is if you make it past the initial round.

Okaaay. Butt in chair, kick the brain into gear. I’d played with the idea, so I had a good sense of where I wanted to go with it. As I worked it, however, I realized that I’d focused on the wrong character as the primary male protagonist. So I tweaked it, and suddenly the whole book opened out. The chapter worked better than it had initially (I’d worked on it a few weeks ago, before I even got the request). The synopsis, which I’d loosely sorted in my head, came together beautifully. I’ve got a solid piece now, and I’m happy with it. Revised the chapter a few times, tightened the synopsis, and out it went. I feel good about it. Even if this particular place decides not to take it, I’ve got something solid I can work on and sell elsewhere.

Started percolating on some non-fiction proposals I want to get out in the next few weeks. I re-read Michael Larsen’s book on proposals. I kind of do most of that anyway when I put together a proposal package, but re-reading it made me more aware of the steps, and the order.

I skipped the Green Drinks event — the weather was vile, and I was in that fragile state of percolation/creation that can be derailed at the slightest wrong prod. So I stayed home and worked. And seeded the lawn right before the rain.

Read Sonia Singh’s novel GHOST, INTERRUPTED, which was really fun, and started Jane Haddam’s WANTING SHEILA DEAD, which I’m thoroughly enjoying.

Long day ahead of me at the desk. I hope I can use some of that positive momentum I achieved this weekend to propel me through the week. It was heaven to spend the bulk of the day on my own writing.

However, I’ve also got some business and PR stuff to attend to today.

Better hop to it!

Devon

Don’t forget the next two one-day seminars! Amazing Antagonists on May 12 and Setting Up Your Submission System on June 2.