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

Monday, June 18, 2018
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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.

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Fri. June 14, 2018: Cover Reveal & Writing Plans

 

MYTH&INTERPRETATION Cover

Myth & Interpretation

Stuck in NYC when plans for their next expedition fall through, Gwen and Justin accept teaching jobs at different local universities. Adjusting to their day-to-day  relationship, and juggling the academic and emotional demands of their students, they are embroiled in two different, disturbing, paranormal situations that have more than one unusual crossing point. Can they work together to find the answers? Or are new temptations too much to resist? For whom are they willing to put their lives on the line?

Friday, June 15, 2018
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Cloudy and cool

Above is the cover for MYTH & INTERPRETATION, the between-the-books Gwen Finnegan novella, releasing digitally on July 17, from Bluestockings and Gentlemen Press.

Hop on over to the GDR site to see the mid-month check-in. I can’t believe we’re already in June. Pretty soon, it will be time for the mid-year assessment!

Feeling a little under the weather today.

Worked on articles yesterday, got out some LOIs, on the revisions of MYTH & INTERPRETATION. I’d hoped to get it to my editor today, but it looks like I need the weekend to work out some problems. But that means going into galleys early next week, which will still be fine. I’m finally getting used to the fact that digital releases work on a faster scale than print. When we move to the print releases, we’ll be back at molasses, which is why they are staggered so differently.

I’m a little behind on RELICS & REQUIEM, and don’t want to lose momentum. RELICS will have the main drafting focus up through the end of next week; the following week, I will be in writing mode for both RELICS and DAVY JONES DHARMA.

The publisher is waiting for one more piece of information before making the Jain Lazarus announcement. The wait is to accommodate someone I want to include –who hasn’t gotten back to me yet, and the publisher is getting impatient. Now, this individual might be on vacation – it’s someone trustworthy. But, if we don’t hear back, one way or another, SOON, the publisher will need to move on.

I planned to do yard work today, but it’s not very nice out. Plus, I’m not feeling well. So we’ll see.

An organization I used to work with sent a condescending email on how I could “help” them, acting as if I’d never shared a post or posted a Tweet. It was demeaning, considering how much of my business is in social media. I need to let it go, but I’m angry.

My mom had a doctor’s appointment yesterday and all is well, at least for the moment. So all was well.

The weekend will focus on MYTH, RELICS, the play, and maybe a little work on either THREE ROADS OF STRANGERS or POWER OF WORDS.

Good times!

Monday’s post for Upbeat Authors is a very personal essay on my journey.

I hope you’ll read it.

Have a great weekend!

Mon. June 11, 2018: Don’t Dwell #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, June 11, 2018
Day before Dark Moon
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This is an important topic. We know the need for positivity. That doesn’t mean ignoring the problems in the world, ignoring them, refusing to be a part of the solution.

It means finding new and better ways to solve them.

That’s difficult to do when our own negative loops run in our head.

I caught myself doing this the other day. Something slipped my mind; I had to turn around and drive back to fix it. The entire drive back from the moment I realized for hours later was the internal monologue berating myself for making a mistake. Calling myself stupid, a failure, ridiculous.

For something small that didn’t hurt anyone. It was simply a minor inconvenience.

The current political situation, where those in power reward those for being their worst selves and for attacking everyone who disagrees with them is part of the problem. But the rest of the problem is that part of us agrees that we deserve to be treated this way.

We don’t.

There’s a saying that no one has the power to make us feel bad unless we allow it. I disagree with that. Many like the sensation of power they get from causing pain.

The comment or treatment will still cause pain. It’s how we RESPOND to it that increases or diminishes their power over us.

One way is “don’t dwell.”

We are human. We get tired, we get careless. We make mistakes.

As long as we acknowledge them, take responsibility for them, take steps to fix them, and then take steps not to repeat them, we are fulfilling our piece of the contract we must have with each other as part of a so-called civilized society.

There’s a saying that goes “it’s easier to beg forgiveness than ask permission.”

I disagree. Someone who boasts about living by this, in my opinion, is someone who believes they are so charming and talented and special that they can get away with disrespect. No.

I am more likely to give permission than forgive when I know someone has acted deliberately in bad faith.

But again, don’t dwell.

Recognize that person for what they are and move on.

Recognize that not everyone will stay in your life forever. And that is often a good thing.

Example: For years, I regretted the “one that got away.” A man I’d been deeply in love with. Our lives took us in different directions. We parted as friends and lost touch. But, in my mind, no one ever quite lived up to him. Every time a relationship ended, I wished I was back with him.

Well, a few months ago, we got back in touch.

And I realized NOT being together was the right choice. I could not be with someone who has made the choices he made. I still like and respect him; but I no longer have the fantasy of the road not taken – just the relief it wasn’t.

I no longer have to dwell.

Acknowledge your feelings, find the root cause, and take steps toward something more positive. Everything you experience, good and bad, contributes to the person you are. Don’t ignore it, but don’t dwell. Use it as a building block, a learning experience, and move on.

Build something better, stronger, more positive.

Even on the good things – don’t dwell. Enjoy, appreciate, and build something better.

And remember – as writers, EVERYTHING is material!

 

Mon. June 4, 2018: Tips on Handling Hard Times #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, June 4, 2018
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We all go through tough times, times that make us wonder if we can survive. Heck, the entire country is going through one of those times right now.

But our personal crises are often tougher because they’re, well, personal.

Here are some tips that have helped me:

–Take a breath; take a step back. How much has to be dealt with right now? How much time do you have to consider options?

–Look at your schedule. Which commitments can be moved or dropped WITHOUT HURTING ANYONE ELSE? What do you have to see through before you deal with the situation? Plan. Rearrange. Step up to whatever can’t be changed and finish it quickly, so you have the physical and emotional room to deal with the situation.

–Communicate. Even if you don’t want people up in your business, even if you can’t bear any advice, let people know you need to take some time. Don’t just drop off the face of the earth – unless, of course, for your own safety, you need to disappear (i.e., an abusive or dangerous situation).

–Ask for help. That’s the hardest. So often, when we hit a rough patch, we’re ashamed. We feel it’s our fault. Even if the situation is a result of our decisions, the great thing about life is that we grow and we change. We MADE a bad decision. We LEARN from the result. We make BETTER decisions moving forward.

–Build quiet time into your day, so you can think, deal, and heal. If writing helps you figure things out, write; if it’s music or yoga or art – do it. The process of creating will help create a solution WHILE making you feel better.

–Don’t hide from the pain. Acknowledge it. “Embrace it” goes a bit further than I’m comfortable with, but name it, own it, and work on it. The longer you hide, the longer it will hurt. Once you locate the source, you can find a way to heal it. But if you hide from it, you can’t find the source.

–Some things can’t be fixed the way you want them fixed. Know when to let go.

–Balance your needs with the needs of those who rely on you. If they offer a kind of help you can accept, let them help. This ties in to the above – don’t just ASK for help; ACCEPT help.

–Don’t make decisions in the heat of the moment unless it’s about immediate survival. Give yourself time to research, reflect, resolve.

–The online community is great, but sometimes, even well-meant comments can hit the raw nerve. Step back if you need to. State you’re taking some time, and then do it.

–Research your situation and possible solutions. Libraries have great resources. So do law libraries. When appropriate, contact your elected officials. They are in public service, and, despite the current situation, there are plenty of them, especially on a local level, who give a damn.

–Ask questions. LISTEN to the answers, even if they’re not what you want or expected. Don’t reflexively react. Take the time to really think.

The common thread through most of the above is to slow down. If it’s a dangerous situation, move quickly to get out of danger. But then, slow down and make the best informed choices you can.

And remember, tomorrow is a new day, a new opportunity, to make a different suggestion.

Even when you feel alone, there’s a lot of love and support, often from the most unexpected places.

Be well. Be kind whenever possible. Take time.

Best wishes.

Published in: on June 4, 2018 at 2:44 am  Comments (2)  
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Mon. May 28, 2018: #UpbeatAuthors Pleasurable Indulgences

Monday, May 28, 2018
Day Before Full Moon
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Memorial Day

It’s fitting that today’s post for #UpbeatAuthors should be about pleasurable indulgences.

In the past two weeks, I met four major deadlines. My pleasurable indulgence is doing exactly what I want this weekend! 😉

What gives me pleasure and makes me feel indulgent?

Writing always gives me pleasure. I prefer the writing to the “having written.” Of course I have difficult days, but they make the good ones even better. But an indulgence is to work on an undeadlined project. I’ll be doing that on two projects this weekend, a novel and a play.

Reading gives me pleasure. I read widely, both for research and for pleasure. I have a stack of books in my TBR pile, including Amanda Quick’s newest, and one from Marshall Ryan Maresca.

Gardening — there’s a case where the “having gardened” gives me more pleasure than the actual gardening. I especially hate to mow. But I will garden and then indulge in the pleasure of a beautiful space.

Cooking — I love to cook.

Yoga and meditation — although those are not indulgences for me, but necessities.

Unstructured time is my favorite indulgence. I need it in order to create. I seek some of it every day.

I hope you’re having a lovely weekend!

 

Published in: on May 28, 2018 at 5:50 am  Leave a Comment  
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Monday, May 21, 2018: #UpbeatAuthors, Favorite Self-Help Site

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Monday, May 21, 2018
Waxing Moon
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The best self-help site?

If you’re a writer, it’s Lori Widmer’s Words on the Page.

Talented, savvy, supportive, Lori’s built a community where we shore each other up, fight for each other, teach each other, laugh together.

You’re a writer? Lori’s site will give you something to sustain and inspire with every post.

May is especially exciting because it’s Writers Worth Month, to help teach us to value our work.

Published in: on May 21, 2018 at 2:23 am  Comments (2)  
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Monday, May 14, 2018: #UpbeatAuthors The Next Step on the Ladder

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Photo courtesy Khimish Sharma, via Pexels.com

Monday, May 14, 2018
Dark of the Moon
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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 30, 2018: Overcoming Fear #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, April 30, 2018
Waning Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde

Today’s Upbeat Authors topic is “overcoming fear.” The timing is funny – I recently wrote a post for Lori Widmer’s Words on the Page for the upcoming Writer’s Worth month on just that topic.

The first thing to understand about fear is the difference between fear as a valid warning and fear as an excuse. The first will save your life; the latter will make it a misery.

Since this group focuses about authors, I will focus on those elements, rather than life or death situations where your gut is telling you to be afraid of a person or situation and get the hell out.

I believe that art has a responsibility to make people see differently than they’re used to. That doesn’t mean it isn’t or can’t be entertaining. But it needs to open up the human experience, so the reader enlarges personal experience through the power of story.

I believe art serves a dual purpose: to both bear witness to the flaws in a society AND to find a better way. In other words, to write one’s way to a better society.

Creating a better world is a scary job. Especially since we live in a society that encourages people to be their worst selves and rewards those who cause harm.

I believe we can write our way to a better society.

Not by ignoring this one because we don’t like it or it makes us uncomfortable. We face it and offer potential solutions that make the whole better by supporting the sum of its parts.

That’s scary.

As writers, we always fear our work isn’t “good enough” or that readers won’t like it. For the former – we can work on our art and our craft. We can strive to make each thing we write better and richer than the last. We can work with editors and copyeditors and designers to make the best “whole” we can.

And we’re not going to please all our readers. We can’t.

We shouldn’t.

Some will dislike us because we’re different. Some will dislike us because they see, in our work, characters and situations that hit too close to the bone, and they don’t want to face it. Some just like other writing better. That’s out of our control.

People won’t respond the way you want them to respond; they do the best they can in their situation.

Work on what excites you, challenges you. Do the best work you can. Create a call and response with the world, and never stop learning, reaching, growing.

You forget the fear when you remember it’s not all about YOU, and that the world is a vibrant, vital, complex, interesting place.

 

Published in: on April 30, 2018 at 3:47 am  Comments Off on Mon. April 30, 2018: Overcoming Fear #UpbeatAuthors  
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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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Mon. April 16, 2018: Letting Go #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, April 16, 2018
Waxing Moon
Mercury DIRECT (as of yesterday, thank goodness)
Jupiter Retrograde
Patriots’ Day

Today is that weird day known as Patriots’ Day here in MA, about the official start of the American Revolution. However, I’m not taking the holiday this year; I’m on site with a client.

The Upbeat Authors theme today is “letting go.” The timing is interesting, because I’m in the process of doing that on many levels.

One of the hardest things I had to let go was my career working backstage on Broadway, when I moved from New York to Cape Cod. I was aging out of the work, slowing down, and didn’t have the physically or the mental stamina to keep doing what I did best. I knew I wanted to leave while I still loved it, not wait until I was in pain all the time and bitter. I also knew if I was going to make the commitment to my writing, it needed to be full-time. There’s a saying “the theatre is a jealous mistress.” That is not a myth. It is a reality. I had to choose between working backstage on Broadway and writing while exhausted, or writing (and yet, I’m still often exhausted).

I chose writing.

I let go of tech work backstage on Broadway.

Letting go of that career, writing full time, and moving to a completely different region was a lot. The stress and frustration increased when I arrived here and the expectation was that I would continue to work in technical theatre around here — for free. “For fun.”

And the attitude of “oh, we don’t pay for writers,” yet the constant stream of demands from local strangers that I should write for them without pay and be grateful for the opportunity.

And, how, exactly, am I supposed to earn a living? Oh, yeah, at a minimum wage or less job that has nothing to do with my career, because my career was never a “real job” in the first place., according to the locals.

Uh, no.

I had to let go of the fantasy that I moved to a place full of vibrant, working artists. That was the hardest, more wrenching, and most disappointing part of the move. There are plenty of vibrant, working, WONDERFUL artists here — but they’re not getting paid what they’re worth. Too few of them make their living at it, because the community does not support them as working artists. The community — and the artists — consider the art something to do ” on the side” which has never been my take on being a working artist.

I do not work in the local theatres for free, and the handful of local writing clients I have pay me. The rest of my clients are based at a distance, and we work remotely, or with infrequent in-person meetings (I do not work by phone).

I’ve “let go” of the idea that I’ll convince these entrenched individuals with their mis-spelled materials (which means they’ve lost my business) to pay writers. I’m not even talking about paying me, just, for the love all that is Oxford comma, pay SOMEONE fairly to come up with decent materials.

I get my work elsewhere.

I don’t argue with them. I say “no” and move on. When they try to argue, I add, “This is my business, not my hobby. You get paid to work. So do I.” That’s that.

I’m in the process of “letting go” of a lot of stuff I’ve accumulated over the years. When I moved up from New York, it took two moving trucks to get it all here. I still have a basement full of stuff that I haven’t gone through. I’m in the process of doing it. I’m “letting go” of what no longer works for my life.

I do NOT believe in the “if you haven’t used/worn it for a year, throw it out” or “for everything you bring into the house, throw something out.” During lean times, digging into stuff I’ve kept has sustained me through them, and given me the security to work out of them. As I’m letting go of stuff now, I trust my gut to its meaning, and whether or not I see it in the future I’m building. To me, the above “rules” are a way to get people to throw things out so they buy more things.

I’m even giving away books. I still have 250 boxes of books in my basement. I’m giving way mostly fiction, books I either don’t remember or know I won’t re-read. I’ve built my non-fiction library over the years, and I’m keeping that. With the way libraries weed out books nowadays, I often can’t find the books I need for research. So, when I buy them, I keep them. I end up using them for multiple projects.

“Letting go” of what no longer serves your life allows you time and space on both physical and emotional levels. I like to use the past to build the future, not just eradicate it to start fresh.

You have to do what works best for YOUR life. The best we can do is listen, offer our personal stories, and try to help each other navigate these choices.

 

Published in: on April 16, 2018 at 6:48 am  Comments Off on Mon. April 16, 2018: Letting Go #UpbeatAuthors  
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Mon. April 9, 2018: Positive Response to Rejection #UpbeatAuthors

Today’s #UpbeatAuthors topic is “how to deal with rejection in a positive way.”

Since the group consists of authors, and many of our supporters are fellow authors and artists, we deal with rejection often.

It doesn’t do any good to hear “it’s not personal.” Our art requires us to reveal our depths, our souls, so yes, it is personal. I have a theory on the whole myth of “it’s not personal, it’s business” is one of the reasons we’re in such a big cultural and political mess — because we’ve allowed that myth to dehumanize us.

But that’s a post for another day.

When we send in a submission and it’s rejected, it hurts. In that moment, we are not able to see that it is a blessing in disguise. It feels awful.

We’re afraid to feel bad. The moment we feel bad or uncomfortable, we hide from it, we swallow something or smoke something or do whatever we can to avoid it.

What we need to do is to face it down.

After we have our pity party, of course. I have timed pity parties, where I’m allowed to wallow. For a manuscript rejection or something like that, I give myself fifteen minutes. That doesn’t mean I won’t have twinges beyond that, but I give myself a good fifteen minute wallow.

There are, of course, bigger life issues that get more time, such as the break-up of a long-term relationship, but a manuscript gets a 15-minute wallow.

Then, I go off and do something I enjoy, something that gives me pleasure. I do not believe in “guilty pleasures.” I do not feel guilt for what gives me pleasure.

The pleasure helps even out the pain of the rejection, and then I move on from there.

When it comes to agents, editors, and publishers, I remind myself and my colleagues that it’s not finding ANY match; it’s finding the RIGHT match. You want a team who is genuinely excited by and supportive of your work. You want a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work — yes, authors and artists DESERVE to earn a living, once they’ve mastered the craft and layered on the art and the energy.

It’s kind of like dating. You don’t expect to find your soul mate the first time out. Some do, and good for them. But usually, you have to date around a bit until you find the right match.

You learn something from every rejection, once you get past that icky feeling and the blow to your self-esteem. Are there specifics? In the case of a manuscript, did you get notes that make sense on the why?

I’ve had manuscripts rejected and received notes that, at first, I, in turn, rejected. But when I got back on an even keel again, and really looked at them, I realized they were correct. I might not have followed them exactly, but they helped me build a better book.

I’ve had manuscripts rejected because I refused to make certain changes. Often, I tried to make the changes, and I knew, deep down, that it hurt the book and took the life out of it. That’s okay. The editor was right to reject it, because it didn’t fit the company’s vision. I was right not to change the book in way that I knew did not serve the work. They will contract work better suited to them; I found a publisher who loved what I was trying to do and made it better.

The important thing to remember in rejection is not to lash out immediately. Be cordial. That’s different from polite. I always warn people that when I turn “cordial” they should back away slowly and then run. Because when I’m “cordial” I am angry.

You feel what you feel. Anger, hurt, confusion. Your feelings are legitimate. It’s how you CHOOSE to ACT on them that makes a difference.

Once you’ve gotten past the first anger and hurt, dissect the rejection. Is it a situation where you can learn something and improve on it? Be it a manuscript or a behavior pattern. Sometimes, people are right to call us out on bad behavior. If we have acted in a way that causes harm to someone else, they have the right to refuse to be harmed. They have the right to reject us.

We have the right to reject someone who causes us harm, too. I often joke about “excommunicating X from my universe” — only it’s not a joke. If someone is toxic, and refuses to respect my needs, my boundaries, they are gone. If someone undermines my writing, they are gone. Doesn’t matter if they’re related to me or not. They are gone.

If I refuse to respect someone else’s boundaries and needs, they have the right to remove me from their universe, too.

If someone has wronged you or you wronged someone else, genuinely listen to what caused the pain. If it’s something you are willing to change, to make right, do so. If you’re at an impasse, be honest, part with as much dignity and kindness as you can, and move on.

For example, if someone feels “wronged” or “pained” by the amount of time I spend on my writing, that is not someone who can stay closely involved in my life. My commitment to my work, the time and passion I spend on it, is not going to change. I make time for people in my life; but I will not give up writing because someone in my life needs proof they are more important than the writing. The people who are more important know it and don’t need the proof. Therefore, they don’t try to sabotage the writing.

One-to-one scorekeeping rarely ends well for anyone, but every relationship has to have a modicum of reciprocity.

Positive response to rejection? Be cordial; be kind if possible; remove yourself from the situation until you can have a clearer, more objective perspective.

It will improve the quality of your life on many levels.

Published in: on April 9, 2018 at 5:50 am  Comments Off on Mon. April 9, 2018: Positive Response to Rejection #UpbeatAuthors  
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Thurs. April 4, 2018: Brief Sun Before More Snow

Thursday, April 5, 2018
Waning Moon
Mercury Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Sunny and cold

They’re predicting another snow storm this weekend. Enough!

Tired, on many levels right now. I’m struggling.

Onsite work with one client was quiet, but busy this week. I’m behind where I want to be on SPIRIT REPOSITORY, but that seems to be a theme for the book. I’m working on the outline for the serial, and need some more time for it. I’d like to get it out at some point next week.

Hop on over to Gratitude and Growth for the latest.

Working on next week’s post for Ink-Dipped Advice, next Monday’s #Upbeat Authors post, and for a guest post over for Writer’s Worth month on Words on the Page.

Need to get back on track with MYTH AND INTERPRETATION, too, although we’ve come up with a potential cover image to start building its cover. We also found some great stuff for the cover of RELICS & REQUIEM, and possibly even GRAVE REACH. SPIRIT REPOSITORY will have its cover reveal tomorrow. My newsletter subscribers got it first!

Working on the updated media kit for TRACKING MEDUSA (since the one I’d worked on dumped last week, and I’ve had to start from scratch). I still have a good deal of work to do on the Jain Lazarus site.

The main focus right now is finishing SPIRIT REPOSITORY so it can release on schedule, and get back in gear with both MYTH and RELICS & REQUIEM. I have to get started on DAVY JONES DHARMA pretty soon, too, to keep that on track.

I read Alice Hoffman’s THE RULES OF MAGIC. It’s about the early life of the aunts in PRACTICAL MAGIC, which is one of my favorite books. I loved a lot of this book, but I got frustrated with the characters sometimes, their refusal to learn more about what they are, the lack of curiosity. It also made me think about the thread throughout many books, of the healers in a community who are shunned by day, but people creep to the door for their help at night. Not just in this book, but in literature in general, across genre. It makes me wonder why characters and authors allow characters this type of hypocrisy without consequence. Yes, it happens in life. But I would also like to see some characters, sometime, somewhere, refuse to condone and enable it. It’s gotten me thinking, in a good way. Which means the book touched on something deep in me, even if every reaction to it wasn’t positive, and the book did its job of getting me to think, to feel, and to ask questions. So my final response is positive.

Today, I have to run some errands and go grocery shopping, do some more research on ANCESTRY, do some yard work (if the weather holds), and, most importantly, WRITE.

I feel like I’m juggling two-ton dictionaries right now.

Back to the page.

Mon. April 2, 2018: Relaxation #UpbeatAuthors

Mon. April 2, 2018
Waning Moon
Mercury Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde

Relaxation is important for us to keep healthy, both mentally and physically, especially during retrogrades. Mercury Retrograde is always a mess, with communication, travel, and electronics going wonky, Jupiter is a heavy planet, and planet of expansion, so when it goes retrograde, everything is harder. Plus, we have a Pluto retrograde coming up.

I find the most important part of relaxation is disconnecting. Turn the damn phone off. This idea that we have to be reachable 24/7 is ridiculous. There is always a way you can be reached in an emergency, even if your phone is off. Cell phones are a fairly recent invention.

I try to have one day a week that’s a “day of disconnect.” No internet, no phone, no social media. I loathe the phone anyway. I find it an intrusive device that destroys my creativity. In the days pre-cell phone, I had an answering machine and screened my calls. There were plenty of time, during my writing times, when I unplugged the phone.

When I am writing, as far as I’m concerned, the only acceptable excuse for interruption is a major emergency such as death or hospitalized illness. Anything other than that, wait until I’m done.

Where I live now, on Cape Cod, is a beautiful place. But, in summer, when so many other people come here to enjoy the beauty, it’s stressful. I’m lucky to have a big backyard (currently in need to post-storm cleanup) and a covered deck with beautiful skylights. Every spring, we build an enchanted garden on the deck, full of our container plants, and we have lilacs and beds of beautiful plants throughout. We eat as many meals as possible out there, and I do a great deal of writing.

If I’m working in my home office, I stop and have a glass of wine before dinner, out on the deck. Or a cocktail, in summer (we’ve reinstated cocktail hour here). I do the same when I get home from working on-site with a client. I even did it last week, after an afternoon of yard work! I poured myself a glass of wine and sat on the steps (since the furniture isn’t out yet; it’s still too cold).

For me, a glass of wine in my garden is one of the most relaxing and restorative things I can do.

I have a daily yoga and meditation practice, and that’s the other way I relax. Savasana is important. When you practice yoga, don’t skip Savasana!

In my yoga/cruise ship mystery, SAVASANA AT SEA, Sophie, my protagonist, doesn’t let her students leave class early to skip the pose! It’s a wonderful way to release and restore.

Relaxation allows you to appreciate the good things in your life, and paves the way for happiness.

So take some time for yourself, and relax!

Published in: on April 2, 2018 at 5:02 am  Comments Off on Mon. April 2, 2018: Relaxation #UpbeatAuthors  
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