Monday, Dec. 10, 2018: #UpbeatAuthors Holiday Decor With Personal History

Monday, Dec. 10, 2018
Waxing Moon
Uranus Retrograde

I admit it. I’m addicted to Victoria magazine, especially the holiday issue.

But when I do my own decorating, I need it to be more personal. Creating the environment I want doesn’t have to cost a lot.

But it does need patience.

I have an entire closet of Yuletide ornaments, collected over the years. Every year, I buy one or two pieces (often during the year at a thrift shop or yard sale). Or people give me ornaments as gifts. Every ornament has a story.

As we decorate each year, we tell and re-tell the stories. We relive and remember our family (meaning friends that are chosen family) history.

Nothing is there because a decorator told us to put it there. It’s there because we want it there.

When I lived in a NYC apartment, everything only fit one way. Now that I live in a house on Cape Cod, I rearrange things as I wish.

I have accumulated collections of nutcrackers, Santas, angels, snowmen, carolers, reindeer. They move around, rarely in the same place two years in a row.

Here are some other thrifty ideas that give us lots of pleasure.

background-164101_1280

Fabric
I’ve picked up an assortment of fabric in an assortment of lengths throughout the year. Novelty holiday prints; velvets; solid colors, glittery fabric. I mix and match them, and I use them to cover tables, end tables, coffee tables, and any other surface that needs brightening up. Organza or silk or glittery strips can be used to swag around curtains or the tops of windows or door. I change out the fabric for all the holidays; it’s amazing how much difference it makes.

Most fabric I’ve picked up on sale or as remnants.

christmas-2999745_1920

Ribbon
Ribbon goes on sale throughout the year, and I grab it whenever I see it. We hang lengths of red velveteen ribbon along the sides of our doors and windows, topped with ornaments or found pine cones we attach to the top with florist twine.

Along the door ribbons, we tape our cards. We can look up and enjoy the holiday cards all season.

We also put holiday ribbon on any stuffed animals that are sitting around, or any of our carved or ceramic animals.

christmas-balls-1891598_1920
Natural objects
You don’t have to go to the store to buy cones and shells. I gather cones in the card, or get shells, sand dollars, etc. on the beach. I clean everything, of course. Some of it, I keep in its natural state (or maybe spray with clear varnish). Some I spray with gold or silver or copper or bronze paint, so they sparkle.

wreath-1081973_1920
Rather than buying a wreath made by someone else, I’ll buy a plain wreath or different greens at the garden center or the library’s green sale or on the Audubon Society’s holly walk and make my own. That way, each year’s is unique and personal.

Of course, you CAN spend a lot of money on any or all of this. But the items I tend to gravitate toward are usually the vintage, the ones I find at odd little sales, or from individual crafters. Or I find bits and pieces and put it together on my own.

To me, the process of decorating is part of the magic of the season. It makes me happy. It fulfills something in my spirit.

Whether it was the year I bought a 50 cent garland of musical instruments at Woolworth’s to hang up in my college dorm room (which I still have and use every year) or the Angel Tree Advent calendar I bought at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it all has personal meaning. And that makes it magical for me.

Advertisements
Published in: on December 10, 2018 at 6:33 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , ,

Mon. Dec. 3, 2018: The Infamous Cookie Platters #Upbeatauthors

Monday, December 3, 2018
Waning Moon
Uranus Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde

#upbeatauthors — Thriftiness — The Infamous Cookie Platters

christmas-cookies-2975570_1920

Some people look at thriftiness as being cheap, or not valuing the person on the receiving end of that thrift. Far too many people believe that the value of a relationship can be measured by the financial value of gifts exchanged.

I disagree. I would rather receive a gift given from the heart with some thought to it of a lesser monetary value, but a greater “heart value” than something expensive.

As a freelancer with a budget, I have to be careful with my holiday budget. Well, with any budget, but the holidays always put a special stress on it.

I’m a big holiday card person. I believe in writing and mailing cards. I don’t do a typed letter that I print out and stuff in; I handwrite notes on each cards. I’ve had years, when I worked on numerous shows in numerous locations, where I wrote and mailed nearly 500 cards; in the last few years, it’s closer to 75.

I love receiving cards, too. Our family tradition is to hang red velveteen ribbons around the doorways and windows in our house. (To be thrifty, I buy the ribbons on sale in bulk at an art supply store when they’re on sale, cut them to fit, take them down and wind them on marked spools for “doors” and “windows” so I can re-use them for years). We then fasten the cards we receive to the ribbons around the doorways. It’s lovely to look up from wherever we sit and have a reminder of friends and loved ones.

But what I’m known for, around the holidays, are my cookie platters. Every season, I bake about 1000 cookies and several dozen small cakes or cupcakes, and put them together in large platters that I deliver to neighbors, clients, the firehouse, the library, the guys at the transfer station, the yoga studio, postal workers, etc., etc.

This is actually a thrifty way to show these individuals that they matter to me (handmade, baked from scratch goodies) while not breaking the bank.

How do I do it?

I’m organized.

I decide, over the summer, which cookies I’ll make. There are either four or five varieties, and they have to be the kind that don’t go bad after three days (although, to be fair, once the platters are delivered, they are devoured pretty quickly).

Thanksgiving weekend, I sit down with the recipes, paper and pen, and make a list. How many platters do I need? It’s usually between 18-24. How many batches of each type of cookie does that need? Instead of doubling or tripling the recipes themselves, I make batches — the quality is better.

I sit down with the recipes and figure out how much of each ingredient I need. I usually start stock piling staples in autumn, and purchase the eggs, milk, butter, etc., as I need it. I start stockpiling parchment paper and wax paper in autumn, too.

I set aside several days, and bake one type of cookie each day, starting with the cookie that keeps best. Over the years, I’ve accumulated a variety of excellent tins in which to store the cookies; they are cleaned and sterilized at the end of each season, and then, again, before I start baking.

Before I start each batch, I check to make sure I have all the ingredients I need. If not, I run out to the store and get them. There were too many years where I ran out of something in the middle of the recipe and had to run out, leaving partial batter in a bowl!

The last thing I make are the small cakes or cupcakes. I make them either the night before delivery, or the day of delivery.

Everything is baked, stored, marked.

Now, I create the assembly line for the platters. I usually prep 3 platters at a time, using the oval Chinet-thickness platters. I put the cakes in the middle, and arrange the different types of cookies around them.

Then, I slide the platter into a large cookie bag (or I use cellophane, the type used for florists and gift baskets). I’m in the process of designing a more eco-friendly type of bag with my own designs on it, but haven’t yet perfected it. I close it with a twist tie, then add a gift tag with a thin ribbon. The gift tag either lists the cookies, or I have a cheat sheet with photos of each type of cookie that I include. I don’t use nuts in any of the cookies I give as gifts, and I make sure to say so. Once the tag is fastened, I use a yard of organza ribbon in either red or green to tie a large, flowing bow, and add a candy cane to the bow.

I plot my route for deliveries. I usually do two or three sets of deliveries. I walk the platters over to the neighbors. My favorite thing to do is to leave it at the door, so they find a treat when they come home; however, I’ve lived here long enough that they start watching for me, so they can invite me in!

I do my deliveries, and I’m done! Time for eggnog, with a good dose of rum in it. Except for the postal carriers who come to the house. We’re a weird little set of streets, and different carriers hit us on different days. So I make small packets, tucked into holiday-themed Chinese-food style containers, and give them out from the Solstice through New Year’s, whenever we have a different one.

I make sure to have enough cookies left over in case we need to put together another platter, or we are invited to a party and bring something, and so we can enjoy some ourselves! In other words, I usually make at least one batch more than I believe I’ll need.

By October, people start asking if I’m doing the cookie platters again this year, and what will be in them. I keep several of the old favorites, like tollhouse and molasses spice, but change up the other types.

By keeping my eyes open for sales on ribbon, platters, paper, etc., all year, and then stockpiling as certain items that hold freshness go on sale, I can create the platters on a budget, and still let the recipients know they are valued.

Published in: on December 3, 2018 at 6:56 am  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , ,

Mon. Nov. 12, 2018: Friendliness – How Many in a Day? #UpbeatAuthors

clasped-hands-541849_1920

Monday, November 12, 2018
Waxing Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Venus Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde

 

One of the exercises I often give my students is to track how many people they interact with in a single day.

This came out of a series of exercises supposedly set in cities that lacked any sense of the teeming life that is so much part of a city. Like the apocalypse happened, and I didn’t get the memo. If you set a scene in Times Square, I want to know, where are the people? It’s full of them, twenty-four hours a day. Even if your scene is an intimate one between two characters, someone is going to bump into them as they chat on a cell phone or laugh with their friends. Without other people, you lose the sense of place.

In the exercise, each person takes a small pad and a pen and makes a hatch mark for each person encountered in the course of the day. Whether you say anything to them or just pass them on the street.

The last time I did the exercise, I was staying in a suburb of New York, took the train in to Grand Central, attended an event at the New York Public Library, worked on a Broadway show, went out to a restaurant, and took the train home.

Interaction count for the day: 587.

Five Hundred and Eighty-Seven people in the course of a single day in New York City. And I probably missed a few.

I don’t ever want to read a scene set in that city that doesn’t have an awareness of the sheer amount of humanity in a small space again.

What does that have to do with friendliness, our topic of the month?

Try this: Pick a day this week or next week, but sometime sooner, rather than later.

Make the effort to smile at every person you pass in the course of your day. Even if you’re an introvert.

Jot down notes during the day.

What kind of difference did it make in your day?

Take a moment to think about what kind of difference it made in other people’s days.

Now, again for writers, think about how you can translate any details of any of those interactions to your writing.

How does that change the life of the piece? How does that change your characters’ experience?

How did meeting everyone you encountered with friendliness for one day change your experience?

Build on that. In fiction, and in life.

Feel free to post the results of the experiment here, or in response to any of the Ink posts.

Published in: on November 12, 2018 at 6:30 am  Comments Off on Mon. Nov. 12, 2018: Friendliness – How Many in a Day? #UpbeatAuthors  
Tags: , , , , , ,

Mon. Nov. 5, 2018: Friendliness — Pull Up a Chair! #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, November 5, 2018
Waning Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Venus Retrograde

 

First off, let me apologize. I mis-read the list of topics, and I spent October talking about tolerance, which was September’s topic.

Let’s just say I’ve had a challenging couple of months!

I’m back on track for November, and the topic is “friendliness.” My first week on that topic will deal with friendliness at conferences.

I’ve attended plenty of conferences where I didn’t know anyone. Sometimes they were international; sometimes they were in my home country.

I’m a writer and an introvert. I need a lot of time on my own (which is why I don’t book with a roommate for conferences — I need to retreat, and I need to be able to maintain my writing rhythm).

But I still want to interact.

I’ve usually been able to meet at least a few people and be friendly enough with them for the duration of the conference so that I don’t feel like a wallflower. I’ve met people at conference who wound up being good friends for the long haul.

It was actually easier to make friends and hang out at conferences before social media. I don’t do selfies; I don’t post photos at events of myself with people; I don’t even use author photos (that’s in my contract). I publish under multiple names. What I look like has nothing, NOTHING to do with my ability to write.

I’m not an actor.

In my opinion, the writing should NEVER have anything to do with my appearance.

It’s about the work. Not about me.

It used to be that a conference was where you could attend, interact, and blow off some steam. It was kind of like Vegas — what happened at the conference, stayed at the conference.

Not anymore.

So, in my opinion, a lot of them just aren’t as much fun.

You don’t get to relax anymore. You have to be “on” all the time. Performing all the time. I wasn’t particularly wild, but I also didn’t have to worry that anything I said with irreverence or did might be taken out of context and posted for the world to see.

There used to be at least a bit of private space at conferences, where people could interact and not be on guard all the time. Vent, laugh, get to know each other as individuals, not as representatives of a brand or a company.

That doesn’t mean I advocate people being horrible to each other, treating each other badly, unwelcome harassment, and saying awful things. People did that, and do that. Sometimes it’s a moment of anger or misunderstanding; sometimes they reveal who they really are. There are plenty of talented individuals, in all the arts, who aren’t particularly stellar human beings. I’ve had my share of disappointments, meeting someone whose worked I liked, and finding I didn’t like them as a human being. I’d prefer them across the room to across the table. And yes, sometimes I’ve discovered something that is so averse to my sense of integrity that it destroyed my ability to enjoy their work.

I do believe that we should meet people on a platform of basic human dignity and work from there. But the fact that we have to be “on” all the time means that it’s harder to really get to know people. It creates more tension. Instead of a conference being a place to have some fun and a little freedom amongst one’s people, it’s one big long marketing adventure.

I was on the board of directors for a local writers’ organization for a few years. Their central event was a rather wonderful conference. Instead of panels, where attendees went to listen to other people talk process, there were workshops where they learned process and had the chance to apply it. There were evening speakers or lunchtime speakers and all kinds of great events.

Part of my job was to make sure the presenters felt welcomed and taken care of; make sure they had everything they needed for their workshops; make sure they had someone to share the meal with, and weren’t sitting off in a corner alone (unless they wanted/needed to in order to decompress).

I also felt it was my job to make participants feel more included. For me, it meant being more pro-active than I’d been as a participant. How many times did I go into the bar at the end of a conference day, not know anyone, and not feel comfortable enough to grab a seat alone?

In this case, I felt that part of my job as a trustee of this organization was to play hostess.

I’d gather up a few people, starting at the welcome cocktail party, and every evening at the bar after the day’s events ended. We’d settle in a place clearly visible from the door, and put together a bunch of tables.

As someone came in through the door, stopped, and looked around, with that deer-in-the-headlights look, I’d wave and say, “Hi! Come join us! Pull up a chair!”

The relief was palpable.

Most of the time, they did. If someone arrived and someone at the table knew them, they waved them over, too.

By the peak of the night, we had an enormous table of people getting to know each other. Often, it organically wound up being a mix of writers, agents, and editors. People moved around, switched seats, talked to a variety of people.

I also took the time to talk to every individual who joined us, find out what was working for them and what wasn’t, as part of their experience, which helped us build a better conference the following years.

By starting it at the first cocktail reception, I set a tone of friendliness. People started meeting each other. They had someone to attend talks with, or go to meals with, or even explore the area with.

No one felt left out.

Basically, I created what I always wished for at other conferences.

That also changed my behavior when I attended conferences. Instead of sidling in to the bar and taking up as little space as possible, I take a table that I like. When I see a face of someone I might have passed earlier in the day, or spoken to at some point, I invite them to join me.

As an introvert, it takes a huge effort to make that first move. But I know what it feels like to be unsure of one’s welcome. So I do it anyway. Even though I’m as exhausted mentally as physically by the end of the evening. But it’s worth it.

That doesn’t mean I wind up adoring everyone I meet. There have been times when I haven’t particularly liked some of those at the table. But I could still be cordial to them, and we could each find people at the table with whom we better connected.

Be the welcoming person you always hoped to find at a conference. It will make the experience better for everyone concerned.

So next time you’re feeling unsure at an event, smile at someone else and say, “Pull up a chair!”

 

Published in: on November 5, 2018 at 6:58 am  Comments Off on Mon. Nov. 5, 2018: Friendliness — Pull Up a Chair! #UpbeatAuthors  
Tags: , , , , ,

Mon. Oct. 15, 2018: When Tolerance Is Used as a Weapon #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, October 15, 2018
Waxing Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Venus Retrograde

I could go on at length about this topic. There are plenty of facets to it.

The bottom line is simple: You are not required to tolerate someone who wants to harm you.

background-beautiful-blossom-268533 (1)

On a side note, for those of you who are enraged by the current situation and want to channel that rage into developing art (in any discipline), I’ve started an invitation-only group for progressive artists identifying as female called Women Write Change. I created the sanctuary I need right now. The guidelines are here. If you want to participate, the email to send a request is at the bottom of the guidelines.

Take care of yourself.

Published in: on October 15, 2018 at 4:18 am  Comments Off on Mon. Oct. 15, 2018: When Tolerance Is Used as a Weapon #UpbeatAuthors  
Tags: ,

Mon. Oct. 8, 2018: Persistence & Definitions of Success — #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, October 8, 2018
New Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Venus Retrograde

There are a slew of misconceptions about working in the arts as a profession rather than a hobby. Among them that it’s easy, that we’re automatically rich, that we don’t “deserve” to be paid, that we’re all promiscuous drug addicts, and that it’s not “real work.”

All of them are false.

One of the most frequent questions I get from people who are doing their art on the side is the question of what did I do, working my up from off-off-off Broadway to Broadway, when the day job/temp job interfered with the show?

Very easy solution: I quit the day job.

Any “day job” I took served a temporary purpose to pay the bills until I landed my next paid theatre gig. I was upfront when I was hired – theatre comes first. Always. You get my full attention while I’m here, but when I land my next show, I’m gone.

Because unless my art was my priority, I would NEVER have been in a position to earn a living at it. And before those who don’t have the guts to make the leap start screaming that they have responsibilities and “can’t” – I have ALWAYS been the primary breadwinner in my family, since I came of age. I have a whole host of responsibilities. So don’t tell me that yours are better/harder/more important than mine.

But am I/was I successful?

When I was a teenager, I had dreams of fame and fortune. Once I started earning my living in theatre and saw what fame did to people, how it interfered with their lives and their art (and no, being a performer doesn’t mean you’re “asking for it”. Reality show celebutards are a different story – they seek the attention). But serious performers? Recognition is necessary, to keep landing quality work. But few of them “enjoy” fame. Too many are destroyed by it.

So I made a conscious decision, quite far back, that I did not want fame.

Which meant adjusting several other things.

Which meant redefining what I considered success.

If I was not willing to make the fame compromise, it meant forgoing certain elements by which OTHER PEOPLE define “success.”

Sometimes, that affected how much I was offered for a gig, or other circumstances. Or even IF I was offered a gig. I learned to live with that. It meant I didn’t land certain gigs I wanted; however, looking back, it worked out.

I decided to define success for myself as earning my living doing work I love.

That simple.

Knowing that definition means I can set boundaries when others try to get away with not paying me for my skills because “we don’t pay for that” or “it’s not real work.” Then, hon, I’m not working for you. It’s NOT a loss for me. A loss, especially in terms of self-respect, is accepting or seeking work and approval from those who don’t value my skills and my talent.

Those individuals are not worth my time.

The carrots they dangle to manipulate me into doing what’s good for them (but not for me) with the promise of better down the road? That “better” will never materialize.

MY success means walking away from them, and connecting with people who respect my talent and skills, or creating situations that draw those to me.

It means trusting my gut and a clear vision of what I want and who I am – and knowing that will evolve over time. It doesn’t mean being inflexible. But it means knowing when a situation isn’t going to offer me anything except grief. And being willing to walk away.

Not just walk away, but move on to a better situation.

That kind of persistence builds a positive career.

It’s not easy. People don’t like it when they can’t manipulate you, or if you don’t acquiesce to their agendas.

Too bad for them.

I persist in making decisions that build on what I’ve done, stretch me in interesting ways, and pay me a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work.

Earning my living doing work I love – persistence allows me to do that.

 

Published in: on October 8, 2018 at 4:14 am  Comments Off on Mon. Oct. 8, 2018: Persistence & Definitions of Success — #UpbeatAuthors  
Tags: , , ,

Fri. Oct. 3, 2018: Digging In

Friday, October 5, 2018
Waning Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Venus Retrograde
Cloudy and cool

Yesterday was busy, but I didn’t get as much done as I needed to (that seems to be a theme lately).

The writing was unproductive, I had some errands.

On the up side, I got some good work done on the proposal, and got some LOIs out. I made myself take the time for my yoga class, and definitely needed it, then finally made it to the gas station to get gas in the car.

I’m still waiting on an estimate from my mechanic, so I can get some necessary repairs on the car.

Today will be an infuriating day for anyone who actually values Justice and the Constitution.

I’m doing a lot of writing in my head. That’s great for when I finally sit down and write, but now I have to sit down and DO IT.

This weekend, I need to dig in and get a lot of writing done. After tomorrow’s vote, I will probably stay offline through the holiday.

I doubt I’ll have a chance to blog on Tuesday, so I’ll be back up on Wednesday. I do have an #upbeatauthors post scheduled for Monday.

Have a great autumnal weekend!

Published in: on October 5, 2018 at 10:12 am  Comments Off on Fri. Oct. 3, 2018: Digging In  
Tags: , , , ,

Mon. Oct. 1, 2018: Persistence — How Badly Do You Want It? #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, October 1, 2018
Waning Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde

There are five Mondays in October, which means I have to sort my thoughts on persistence into FIVE posts. Yes, that will take persistence!

When I teach, one of the first questions I ask is, “How badly do you want this?”

The students who will gain the most out of my classes are not those who prefer “having written” to writing. I am strict, and demand a high level of productivity and commitment.

Because that is what you need if you plan to have a career in the arts.

High productivity.

Ever-increasing skills.

Commitment.

Persistence.

I spent most of my professional life earning my living in the theatre. I worked my way up to Broadway, production managed some indie films, and day-played on network television shows.

I made the decision that was what I wanted to do quite young, and started working professionally when I was 18, and still in college.

Did I ever do other things? Of course. I temped all over the country. I worked at nearly 200 different companies. I worked at many non-profits. Some of them were great experiences, like the Guggenheim Museum and the Neuberger Museum. I did a three-year stint for an art book publisher during the day while working off-off Broadway at night. I did five years working for the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation part-time, as I worked shows at night, moving from off-off Broadway to off-Broadway. Eventually, I worked enough off-Broadway to just work theatre, and write, and pick up some extra cash between gigs playing the horses at Aqueduct and Belmont and as a tarot reader.

Then, I worked at the Public Theatre for some people well-established in the field, who recommended me up the ladder to Broadway because they liked my work.

I made the leap.

At the same time I transitioned to Broadway, shows I wrote were produced in London, Edinburgh, and Australia, so I took time off from the transition in order to be with those shows in those locations.

When I worked on Broadway, I wrote. I had shows produced in small theatres. I collaborated with fellow artists.

I started getting back into writing not just plays, but short stories and novels again. I took workshops. I learned how to pitch. I learned more about effective pitching from working with film acquisitions people at conferences than anywhere else, and it is what I learned from those film people that honed my skills so that my novel pitches started to hit.

I made a tough decision that much as I loved writing scripts, I did not want to relocate to LA and start at the bottom of the ladder again. I didn’t want to do what was necessary to achieve a spot in a writer’s room. I respect writer’s rooms enormously, and the collaboration that goes on there. It is not an environment where I would thrive. Do I still write and pitch scripts? Yes. But I’m not going to earn a spot in a writer’s room of a television drama in LA. My career trajectory isn’t going to go there. I’m at peace with it. Most of the time. 😉

When it was time for me to leave Broadway, because the physical demands of the backstage work were too much, and mentally, I needed to stop splitting my focus between working on other people’s shows and my own, I left New York — and moved far enough away so that I wouldn’t be tempted back.

I dug in, and through a mix and match, and a lot of pain and frustration, made it work. I shifted and expanded what I write and how I handle my business in order to make a living. Unfortunately, I live in an area that talks big about celebrating artists, but doesn’t actually support working artists. Are you a visiting artist who likes the beauty and history of the area? They’ll fall all over you. Have a summer house? They grovel. But move here, live here year round and try to work? The attitude is that you must have failed elsewhere, so the expectation is for you to work three part-time jobs at minimum wage without benefits and do your art for “fun” because “we don’t pay for that.”

So I don’t work for them. I have some local clients I enjoy and value, who value me in return. I expanded my client base beyond the bridge, and reconnected with international contacts. I network here, sure, but have redrawn my boundaries, and when the demand is made to work for free, I say no. Because this is my business, not my hobby. I’m not living off a trust fund. I’m not writing for pin money. I am not supported by a corporate husband paying the bills.

This is my profession.

I talked in earlier posts about how if you don’t respect your own work, no one else will, either.

Saying “no” has done more to expand my business than saying “yes” to the wrong situations ever did.

Is my life perfect and without struggle? Of course not. I am still building the life I’ve always wanted. I will always be building the life I want, because life changes, breath to breath. You can either insulate yourself and pretend it doesn’t, or rage that the world refuses to change to suit you. or think on your feet and make the decisions that support your choices.

I knew, when I was six years old, that I wanted to be a writer. Once I fell in love with theatre, I wanted to do that, too. I had a dual career as long as it worked. While I have a multi-pronged writing career, it is also what I want. I like doing different things, having different facets and challenges.

Years ago, I thought I wanted an ivory tower existence. I imagined something quite different from what it is.

But what “is” is better, in many ways, than the roads not taken.

And the road I hope to build in the coming years will continue to improve. Not without obstacles, pain, and tangents — but if I persist, I can build something good.

I got here because when I asked myself, “How badly do you want this?” — my answer was, “Badly enough to do what it takes.”

 

Published in: on October 1, 2018 at 3:55 am  Comments Off on Mon. Oct. 1, 2018: Persistence — How Badly Do You Want It? #UpbeatAuthors  
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Mon. Sept. 17, 2018: #UpbeatAuthors The Small Pleasures Enjoyed By Others

Monday, September 17, 2018
Waxing Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde

In this month about the Tolerance Topic on Upbeat Authors, let’s take a minute to think about what makes other people happy.

Social media has intensified the contempt people feel the need to show for those who enjoy things that they don’t. If we are going to practice tolerance, and walk our talk, then we need to stop making fun of people for liking what they like (provided their “like” is not actively causing harm).

If someone posts something about being so happy that it’s pumpkin spice season, take pleasure in their enjoyment!

Okay, I admit, I’m not a fan of pumpkin-flavored stuff. But I like that it stands for the change of season, into my favorite season. And people get so excited when pumpkin spice season comes around. Their posts make me smile. I enjoy their enjoyment, and it brightens my day. I don’t have to be enamored of the actual flavor in order to enjoy their happiness.

If you really can’t stand what they enjoy – scroll past WITHOUT MAKING A DETRIMENTAL COMMENT. Save those comments for something that actually matters, where there’s harm being caused, such as on the political spectrum, or if someone is abusing someone else.

If someone takes joy out of strangling puppies or drowning kittens, or trophy hunting endangered species, yes, absolutely call them out and report them to the appropriate authorities. If someone threatens physical harm or performs verbal abuse as their preferred pleasure, yes, do something.

But simple pleasures, the small daily joys in people’s lives that don’t cause harm? Either enjoy the enjoyment or keep going!

I’m paraphrasing an old saying that works along the line of a trouble that’s shared is a trouble halved, but a joy that’s shared is a joy that’s doubled.

Double your joy by sharing what makes you happy, and participate in doubling the joy of those who share what matters to them.

Published in: on September 17, 2018 at 5:13 am  Comments Off on Mon. Sept. 17, 2018: #UpbeatAuthors The Small Pleasures Enjoyed By Others  
Tags: , , , , ,

Mon. Sept. 10, 2018: Tolerance & Reciprocity

Monday, September 10, 2018
Waxing Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde

September’s theme for Upbeat Authors is “tolerance.”

There are different types of tolerance, and different meanings of tolerance.

To me, “tolerance” means giving those around me enough room to be individuals, providing they aren’t hurting me or anyone else. It also means they give me the same room.

Tolerance, like respect, is a two-way street.

Often, though, I find those who scream the loudest about intolerance are the ones who want to be allowed to do and say anything and everything they want without consequence, but that no one else is allowed to do or say anything they don’t like.

These are the same who whine and rage about respect and civility – as in demanding it without giving it in return.

But all three concepts need to be reciprocal in order to have a functioning society. When they are non-reciprocal, when “power over” becomes more important, or one faction making decisions that cause harm to those they deem “different”, we run into trouble.

All of these are part of a social contract that we, as human beings, need to negotiate. Since none of us, at this point in time, is the only human on the planet, we must live in reciprocity. We want respect? We want civility? We want tolerance? Then we must also give it.

If we give it and the other party believes that makes us weak or a doormat, then yes, absolutely, we have the right to set boundaries and refuse to be mistreated.

We also are not required to tolerate that which harms us or others. Going along to get along ends up in genocide. Those who stand aside and allow it are as culpable as those who commit the acts of atrocity.

So give those around you room to be individuals, to make their unique contributions to the world. And make sure you get the same in return.

Published in: on September 9, 2018 at 11:06 pm  Comments Off on Mon. Sept. 10, 2018: Tolerance & Reciprocity  
Tags: ,

Thurs. Aug. 30, 2018: Dissecting Creativity & Poor Business Choices

Thursday, August 30, 2018
Waning Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Hot, humid, cloudy

Long day yesterday, although I got good work done on RELICS. The heat and humidity are supposed to break a bit later today, thank goodness. I am not productive in this weather, and I need to be productive. This morning, the RELICS worked rocked! We are at the first of the double climactic sequence and barreling to the end of this draft!

Lots of work with the client yesterday, and next week will be long days of extra hours. But it’s all good. The work is interesting, and that helps.

Finished re-reading TENDER IS THE NIGHT (F. Scott Fitzgerald). Although there is a lot of beautiful language, it’s also a cruel book. It also keeps the reader at a distance, which I hadn’t noticed the first time I read it. I never felt that the POVs were close enough. It wasn’t quite third omniscient, but not really close third, either. That got frustrating after awhile.

It’s also interesting to speculate on how he used material and transformed it into fiction. I always wonder how much of that transformation is using a real-life inspiration as a jumping off point, and how much is exploring one’s feelings toward that inspiration? In my case, when I do my job properly, the inspiration evolves into a fully-formed individual/character very separate from the original inspiration. I know where they diverge. But I always wonder if and where it happens for other authors.

Nicole Diver reminded me, in some ways, of Sara Murphy. So many of her characteristics are similar to Sara’s. But her mental health issues reminded me of Zelda Fitzgerald. In the same way, Dick Diver seemed a combination of Gerald Murphy and Fitzgerald himself. Although the McKiscos also reminded me of the Fitzgeralds. The racism in the book also struck me. I think it was deliberate on Fitzgerald’s part, him pointing it out and depicting it, I mean. I don’t think it was thoughtless. I think he wanted a spotlight on how black individuals were treated in that time and place. There were many people in the novel where one could speculate the inspirations — especially because I’m re-reading the book about Sara and Gerald Murphy, EVERYONE WAS SO VERY YOUNG, at the same time. The first time I read it, I didn’t know any of the context. It was less distracting in some ways, but I was also less discerning.

It’s been an interesting experience.

I was absolutely shocked when I opened my email yesterday and there was an email from a startup wellness company attacking me for not buying their product. I’m not even sure how I got on their list in the first place. They asked if I wanted an invitation to subscribe to their monthly yoga box. I accepted the invitation for an invitation. That’s not a commitment. That’s saying I’m interested in hearing about it. When I received the invitation, it was for a limited time, and I was dealing with two deaths that happened in close proximity. I glanced at the invitation, I had questions about pricing — things were unclear and it looked like the pricing would fluctuate every month, which meant it wasn’t an option for me. And, frankly, their stuff was fine but it didn’t excite me. I put it aside. I CHOSE not to purchase it at this time. That is my right as a potential customer. To CHOOSE whether or not I buy a product.

Yesterday I got an email, berating me for not purchasing the product. Basically calling me too stupid to understand their offer.

I sent a strongly-worded email saying that I was dealing with two deaths at the time and not everything was about THEM, and sending an email attacking potential customers is not the way to grow one’s business. I then unsubscribed from the email list, too.

Of course, there was no apology. I felt like I’d been blindsided with a gut punch, and I wanted one. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it didn’t matter. Yeah, my ego wanted the apology. But there is no way I’d become a customer. There is NOTHING they could do or say — not an apology, not an offer of free or discounted anything — that would make me trust them enough to give them money. I’m done.

And this is supposed to be a company promoting the yoga lifestyle. Hypocrites.

I’m still hurt and angry, but I’ll get over it, I’ll move on, and I want nothing to do with them. I realize it’s hard to be a start-up, but walk your talk. And you’re NOT going to succeed if you abuse potential customers.

Roughed out the next month’s worth of Ink-Dipped Advice pieces. Uploading next week’s today; will write the next over the weekend and upload them next week. Also want to get ahead on the September postings for Upbeat Authors.

Working on calendar articles.

Have to get the balance back between working on RELICS and DHARMA. This draft of RELICS will head off to the editor as soon as I can finish it (hopefully this weekend).

Working on the piece about Donna Andrews’s Meg Langslow mysteries, which should go up on A Biblio Paradise next week.

I have errands this morning, and writing, and web stuff (have to get the new website offline properly so we can work on it). Because it takes place behind-the-scenes on a television series, my editor and I are also discussing how the #MeToo movement will affect the plot. When I started writing it, we dealt with the issues differently than we are trying to deal with them now. So, as we work through this next draft preparing for galleys, we have to figure out how to acknowledge how things have changed and figure out where and if they affect the plot.

I’m hoping the weekend will be a combination writing retreat/meditation/purge-the-basement/yardwork event.

I’m not going anywhere. The Labor Day Tourist Insanity was already in full swing yesterday. I’ll do some grocery shopping tomorrow, and some errands, and then I’m in for the weekend.

Back to the page.

Mon. Aug. 20, 2018: Using Respect to Write a Better World #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, August 20, 2018
Waxing Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Mars Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Mercury DIRECT (as of yesterday)

Thank goodness Mercury is finally direct! With all these other retrogrades, especially Mars and Uranus (and Saturn, life lessons), it’s been tough.

Last week, on Upbeat Authors, we talked about the need to respect our work (and ourselves) if we want anyone else to respect it.

This week, we talk about respecting others.

Not the faux “civility” that’s being batted about so often lately. Have you noticed that the ones screaming the loudest about the need for civility are those least likely to practice it toward others?

We live amongst other people (unless we are recluses). There are certain social constructs that allow that to happen, and some of those constructs have to be turned into laws, because too many human beings refuse to treat others well.

We now respect ourselves and our work (or, at least, we’re working on it).

The next step is to respect others. How far to take that has to be an earned quality, but when we meet people, it’s important to meet them on a level ground of basic human respect and dignity.

We are all flawed human beings, and most of us are doing the best we can to get through the day. We will all have bad days. We will all go through patches when it’s more than a day.

We have to monitor our own behavior so that we don’t inflict our bad days on others. We have to LISTEN (a lost art) to those around us – if something is important or hurtful to those around us, it IS our responsibility to remember and speak or act within consideration.

That’s different from “political correctness” – again a term that is too often used to oppress under the guise of being progressive.

What I am talking about is being a decent human being.

If someone tweets or posts or talks about something that makes that individual happy, don’t deride or condescend or criticize (unless it is something that causes harm – if beating someone makes the person happy – yeah, that’s something to criticize).

You might not like what that person likes. You might shudder at what makes that person happy. That does not give you the right to make fun of them or demean them or try to make them feel bad for enjoying it.

That’s not “being honest.” It’s being an asshole.

And when called out, a sincere apology is needed. Not an “if I said something hurtful, I’m sorry.” Just plain, “I’m sorry.”

We all are thoughtless or flippant when it’s not appropriate or say or do something inappropriate at times. But owning it and, when and where appropriate, apologizing, is also important.

That doesn’t mean you need to apologize for holding your boundaries when someone tries to demean you and then make you feel guilty for standing up for yourself. Those are two different issues.

You need common sense and sensitivity.

But then, as writers, that’s what we do. We are able to dissect complex issues and emotions and communicate them in our work to show a broader view of the world, both good and bad.

In our writing, we can explore characters who are nasty, who are mean, who deliberately cause harm. We can take our bad experiences, raise the fictional stakes, and make things right in our work. Without preaching, without screaming, we can create a picture of the world we want, a world in which people learn how to respect each other and work together, even when they come at it from different viewpoints, or don’t always agree.

As writers, we have the ability to take that respect for ourselves and our work, meld it with respect for others, and write a better world.

 

Published in: on August 20, 2018 at 5:02 am  Comments Off on Mon. Aug. 20, 2018: Using Respect to Write a Better World #UpbeatAuthors  
Tags: , , ,

Monday, Aug. 13, 2018: Respect, as in Self-Respect #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, August 13, 2018
Waxing Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Mars Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde

Let’s talk about respect when it comes to ourselves and our work.

If you don’t respect your writing, no one else has any reason to, either.

Don’t demean your work. Don’t make excuses around it. If you talk about your writing, and call yourself a writer, CALL YOURSELF A WRITER.

If someone tries to demean you, give them “The Look” and move on.

You do not owe it to anyone to discuss how much you earn, how much your advance is, how much your royalties are, or any other terms of your contract. When someone who has no business asking these questions tries to pry the information out of you, simply smile and say, “I’m happy with the terms of my contract.” And don’t engage.

If they persist, go ahead and say, “That’s none of your business.”

If someone tries to get you to work for them for free, whether it’s the insulting “You should write . . .” or the even more insulting, “Oh, but it’ll be so EASY to write this and we’ll make a lot of money out of it” – no.

For “You should write” smile and say, “I’m already contracted out on at least three years’ worth of ideas. But thanks for thinking of me.”

For the trying to get you to team up – which ALWAYS means you do the work while they bask in the money they think they’re going to rake in, again, smile and say, “My agent (or lawyer) handles that. Here’s the number. By the way, negotiations for ghost writing or co-writing start at 30K. And there has to be a publisher in place.”

Don’t engage with people who try to sabotage you. There’s nothing wrong with being cordial and walking away. If they continue to behave badly, there’s nothing wrong with being RUDE and walking away.

But the walking away is important.

Also, don’t denigrate your own work. You don’t “just” write marketing material or romance or genre. There’s not “just” in it. You DO.

Marketing writing is every bit as legitimate as novel writing as play writing as short story as anything else.

Don’t make self-deprecating comments about your work. There’s a difference between keeping your ego in check by being low-key and actively encouraging people not to respect your work. The choice of words you use to describe your work, even jokingly, will set the tone for the way strangers will regard you and your work. There’s a difference between an arrogant hard-sell (which is a turn-off), and a pleasant one-sentence summary (your log-line, your hook that you used in your pitch) that gives potential readers and conversationalists a taste of it.

Women have a tendency to self-deprecate more than men do. In the 1980s, we were supposed to wear the oversized shoulder pads that made us look like line-backers so we could tackle “a man’s world” (in stilettos, no less). Then, in the 90s, we were expected to self-deprecate, especially when we had major achievements.

Don’t.

Use positive language that shows self-respect without arrogance. There’s a difference between arrogance and assertion, and yes, it is about more than gender. Plenty of people will call you “arrogant” or “aggressive” if you are an assertive woman, especially an assertive author who’s a woman. That’s their problem, not yours.

Changing your negative self-talk takes time, but it is well worth it. When you start watching what you say out loud, it will also adjust in the voice that’s your saboteur, that often comes out as the “internal editor” (the negative kind) that gets in the way when we create.

That’s like when someone feigns interest in what you write, asks you about it, you tell them, and they say, “Oh! I never would read THAT!”

They aren’t “being honest.” They’re intentionally trying to make you feel like “less than” and that what you do is “less than.” If they were actually being productive members of society, they would smile and say, “How interesting! How wonderful that you wrote/published that!”

There are plenty of books that I won’t read – but I won’t spit in an author’s face by saying so when they’ve taken the time to tell me about the book, ESPECIALLY when I’ve asked about it.

There’s no reason you can’t be supportive and gracious, even when you don’t plan to read the book.

Smile and move to a different conversational group. I no longer grope for another topic. I’ve learned that this individual does not have the most basic social etiquette, and I’m not going to waste time. I smile and move on.

In this divisive time, I get plenty of “I bet you write feminist libtard crap.” To which I smile and say, “No, you wouldn’t like it. My work deals with concepts of humanity, justice, equality, which don’t interest you. Plus, I use words of more than one syllable.”

And I walk away.

Never forget how much non-artists HATE the fact that artists create. They will pretend they “don’t mean anything” by their remarks. But they do. The purpose is to undermine your self-esteem, your self-confidence, to make you feel bad, to “cut you down a peg” or to “put you in your place.”

My place is wherever I CHOOSE it to be.

Smile, be gracious, disengage.

Hold on to the core of your self-respect.

Don’t let anyone treat you with less than respect.

When you respect yourself and disengage from those who treat you without it, you’ll be surprised how their behavior changes, how positively your self-respect affects your life (and your work), and it begins an upward spiral.

Published in: on August 13, 2018 at 4:14 am  Comments (4)  
Tags: , , , ,