Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Waxing Moon
Mars Retrograde
Rainy and cold

I think one of the reasons we admire the Olympic athletes so much is because they don’t make excuses. They follow their passion without compromise. They don’t use families or day jobs as an excuse not to follow their dreams, and most people simply don’t have the guts to be that committed to something that’s not guaranteed to pan out. If they have family emergencies, they take time off and deal (or, as in the case of the figure skater whose mother died of a heart attack upon landing in Vancouver, work through it), and then make the decisions whether or not to come back. If they don’t feel like training, if they’re tired, they still do it, because they know anything less means failure.

Whether it’s sports or writing or acting or painting or music or whatever, if you expect to have a successful career doing something like this, and not punching someone else’s time clock for the rest of your life, you have to stop making excuses and go do it. I”m not a fan of many Nike policies, but their slogan “Just do it” is apt.

Either you do it or you don’t. There’s really no middle ground. And it takes courage to follow your dream and transform it from dream to reality. If there’s something you really want to do, you have to ask yourself, “Do I have the courage?” And if you don’t, it means you don’t want it enough.

Which is fine. Keep it as a hobby or search and find that about which you are truly passionate. But don’t whine, and don’t make excuses, because the rest of us have stuff to do. We ARE making our dreams reality, even when it’s hard and ugly and heartbreaking and means giving up things or people, because those moments when we DO it are worth everything.

And, especially if you’re a woman, you still have to vacuum, do the laundry, and the dishes. Actually, I’m a huge believer in “chop wood, carry water” because when you start having people around you take care of the daily details, you’re on your way to buying into your own press and headed for a fall. I’ve watched it happen, first hand, to dozens of actors. One foot on earth, one foot in the stars, follow your passion, and don’t let anyone else define you.

Yesterday was busy but good, with errands and practicalities. I’m mostly packed for the trip to Philly on Thursday, which looks like it will happen in vile weather. I did some writing, but not enough, and started work on some of the magazine pitches I plan to get out over the next few days. I want to make sure I have all my clips ready — some of these places don’t want email pitches, but hard copies, so those will have to wait until I get back, but at least I can prepare everything. I want to take a break from ANGEL HUNT until I return — if I get caught up in it again this week, nothing else will get done.

I spent a good portion of the afternoon tweaking the workshops. I posted the Welcome message for both workshops, and this morning, I post the first exercise for the “One Story, Many Voices” workshop, so people have a chance to think about it for a few days. This is the base story, the foundation story for the week, so I want to give the students more time to think about it. I made notes for my live chat on Sunday, and rearranged some of the points I want to hit.

I also watched the US Women’s Hockey team beat Sweden 9-1 — awesome game, and it puts them in the Gold Medal game on Thursday. And I watched last night, everything that was on. I don’t get curling — I’d like to get it, but it baffles me.

Although I’m not writing articles about the Games themselves — the coverage is so poor and fractured that I couldn’t get the right information in by deadline — I’m making notes for future articles. One of these days, I’ll get to cover the Winter Olympics on site!

More errands today, a trip to storage, and some correspondence. 1and1 has gotten so bad and so uncooperative that I can’t do anything connected to the websites. It’s out of control. I’ve got to figure out a way to pull the webmail files onto my hard drive — NONE of the ways or FTP servers so far suggested have worked. I have GOT to switch hosts — i’ve lost way too much income because I have a fraudulent web host, and believe me, I am filing the appropriate paperwork with the appropriate authorities.

Back to work — tomorrow is my last day working from home, and a lot has to get done between now and then.

Devon

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday, February 22, 2010
Waxing Moon
Mars Retrograde
Sunny and pleasant

I’m back home, for a couple of days. Weekend gig was good, but busy. I could only get online via the very slow PC, so all I did was check messages and tweet occasionally. The essay I busted my ass so much to get in on time — still not up. Typical. Last time I take a quick turn-around demand from them seriously.

Didn’t do much work on ANGEL HUNT. I’ve gutted chapters 10 & 11. I’m going to combine them in the current draft, and I think I’ll write most of it from scratch without looking at the earlier draft, and then fold in anything that’s still relevant. Right now, by trying to revise what’s on the page, I’m getting caged by it, when what I need to do is take the literal meaning of the work and Re-Vision what purpose the chapter needs to serve and how to get there. I won’t be able to take the hard copy with me to Philly — I’m not hauling around several hundred pages of manuscript — so I won’t do much work on it while I’m there.

Besides, the conference starts on Friday — I’m teaching two workshops for an entire week AND doing a live chat on Sunday afternoon. That will take up the bulk of my time.

Made some notes on a few other pending projects, worked a bit on the short stories. I’m trying to gear up and get back into the headspace for the commissioned plays, but the light humor isn’t coming through. I need to get on the ball with those — the producer has to plan next season, and I want to be a part of it.

I did start another play, a much more serious one. that just sort of came to me out of nowhere, and wrote the first two scenes.

Reading-wise, I finished THE SWAN THIEVES. I liked it, although I felt the end was a little anti-climactic, and there were questions left unanswered (not directly related to the main plot) that I needed answered. In a way, it reminds me a little of AS Byatt’s POSSESSION, which is one of my favorite novels (never saw the movie).

After THE SWAN THIEVES, I needed something light and completely different. I read Michael Thomas Ford’s JANE BITES BACK, which is quite clever and funny, riding the Austen and the historical figure re-creationist wave while also poking fun at it.

I also picked up another book that I loathed. I won’t bash the writer here — it’s too hard to make a living doing this. Let’s just say that, after 50 pages, I was so furious, and the fury gained when I skimmed it, that I took it back to the store and swapped it out for something else. I don’t know if I’ve ever done that before. It was unrelenting, unnecessary gore, and unrelenting violence towards animals, which is one of my personal “don’t cross” boundaries. In the first 50 pages, a horse was brutally slaughtered in detail AND a supposed favorite pet dog was handed to a character to be eaten alive — no way. And that’s not even touching what was done to people.

Elegantly sparse prose can communicate horror much more effectively, in my opinion, than the verbal equivalent of a slasher film. And that’s what this was. Not for me.

I picked up something that looks far more interesting. I stuck it in my bag to serve as my travel book to Philly later this week, and, if I like it as much as I hope, I’ll write about it.

Watched the Olympics nearly non-stop. I don’t think I’ve ever had the television on so much in my life. The US Women’s Hockey Team continues to thrill me. I just can’t get enough of them. The US Men’s Hockey Team has come together nicely, as evidenced by their 5-3 win over Canada last night, which was a great game. and goalie Ryan Miller is obviously one of the unsung heros, until now, of the sport. These Olympics will change all that. Earlier in the day, I’d called the game as going 4-3 to the US, but they got that extra, empty net goal. The Russia-Czech Republic game was also great, although I expected at any minute, they’d start ignoring the puck and go after each other swinging. Yes, you can’t have physical fights in Olympic hockey, the way you can in the NHL, but you could tell they REALLY wanted to!

One of the things I like about the snowboarding is how much individuality the participants retain. Watch someone do a run once or twice and you don’t need to look at the screen anymore to know who it is — the style is that distinctive. I hope that doesn’t get sponsored out of the sport.

Watched a lot of the skiing, the aerialists, the ski cross (first year for that). I’m annoyed that the Olympic committee won’t allow women to have a ski jumping event — they do it, why not include it? Watched the speed skating and short track — so glad for Apolo Ohno. As I said before, it’s wonderful to watch him really grow into himself. Delighted that Bode Miller’s doing so well, and loved his interview about his definition of success and basically telling everyone who tries to force him to define himself in their terms to F*&k off. I totally relate, since I live by my definition of success in my field and am constantly attacked for it — especially by those who can’t earn a living at it. He articulated what I feel very well.

I love that fact that Julia Mancuso wore a tiara to the medal ceremony. She’s my favorite of the female skiers. And tiaras and cookies make everything better, in my opinion!

Good for Evan Lysacek, congrats to him. I felt Johnny Weir’s program was underscored, though, because it was gentle instead of flamboyant, and he should have gotten third or fourth.

I know I’m forgetting some of the fun moments, but I didn’t write them down, so, oh well.

Research books were waiting for me when I got home, including one on taxes (since this is the year I start the whole self-employment tax thing), the Mac, and the new WRITER’S MARKET. I started going through the WM. So far, I have 15 pages of single-spaced notes on markets to which to pitch articles. ARTICLES, not fiction or anything else. And that’s just the list that covers topics with which I’m familiar and don’t have to spend hours or days in additional research. So, when some wanna-be who defends content mills and getting paid for pennies starts up that there’s no work out there — if I can have 15 pages of notes on well-paying markets just on topics where I can pitch myself as experienced — there’s well-paid work out there.

More fuel for my live chat on Sunday on making a living as a freelancer.

I’m reworking my workshops a bit, tinkering to make them the best they can be for this group, and will post Welcome messages hopefully later today.

The next few days are filled with practicalities, admin, pitches, errands. I leave later in the week for Philly, and every duck has to be in a row before that. But it’s a good busy, so I’m going to enjoy it.

Devon

Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday, February 15, 2010
Waxing Moon
Mars Retrograde
Sunny and COLD

Happy Chinese New Year (yesterday). We are now in the Year of the Tiger, and I am a tiger, so watch out!

Got out my deadlined piece by 3:30 on Friday afternoon. I was at a location with a great wireless connection. Even managed to pitch two jobs. Got a response from one almost immediately, and it’s a case where I tripped over my naivete and stubbed my soul. The fact that this ad circulates regularly should have tipped me off. When I got more details — let’s just say it would blow the credibility I’ve built in my review work, and I’ve refused it. I was very diplomatic (hey, I’ve got a learning curve), but firm in the refusal.

Got settled in to the site job, where I don’t have a wireless connection, and have to use their PC — which is fine, it’s just I’m totally spoiled now by the versatility of Mac. So I only use the PC if I have to go online,and I limit my online time — hop on to check messages and that’s about it. The PC is just very unwieldy and difficult for me compared to my Mac. How did I ever get anything done before the switch?

Technically, I had the Olympics on, but I couldn’t tell you a thing about the opening ceremonies. I was putting in the changes to the early chapters of ANGEL HUNT, comparing draft lengths and contents. It was technical work — I’d done the creative work — so I could have the TV on, but I might as well not have. I think I looked up once in four hours. In spite of all the major cuts I’ve made, I also wrote new chunks for the direction the piece took away from its serial plotlines. So I haven’t really cut that much. Re-reading some of the edits, I feel that I take awhile to get to the meat of the scene in some respect, and, in the next pass, I’ll have to strip each scene to its essence. As I worked on the climactic sequence (my first draft of that section), I realized that there’s a huge throughline I’ve ignored and will have to weave in — which means I’ll have to go back and create new sections — which also means cutting even more.

I want the book textured. I do not want it unwieldy.

I spent Saturday working on ANGEL HUNT. The first third of the book is in good shape now, although, in the next draft, I’m still going to go back and make cuts. They will be mostly internal cuts within the scenes — I think there are still a few places where they take too long to get to the point. While, in the original vision, one of the themes was Lianna taking awhile to catch on to certain things and wrestling with her values, there’s way to much going on now for us to see every moment of that struggle. We only need the highlights and lowlights, so to speak,and then we need to keep driving forward. There are sections where it bogs down, and I need to express the same information and emotion, but more succinctly.

I gutted most of Chapters Ten and Eleven, which bridge the first section into the second section, but I think they need more work. In the serial, the scenes in that section raised more questions. In the book, they need to provide revelations. Different formats, which is why adaptation is a challenge.

The second section of the book is pretty tight, and there was only room for some internal cuts. I need to make a few more, but it holds together pretty well. Gaston takes his place of importance, the relationship with Lachlan takes the unexpected turn, Zeke becomes both antagonist and addiction. I remember when I first wrote that pivotal Lianna-Lachlan scene — I was so surprised. I never saw it coming before the scene rolled onto the page, and there are editors who will have fits about it. But it’s integral to the characters and story. And the scenes between them are damned good, if I say so myself! 😉 (My crit partner agrees, although the big scene with Zeke in the climactic sequence is the favorite — my partner said it took a good 30 minutes to recover from that one, in the best possible way, so I figure I’m doing something right).

I also discovered why I’ve struggled with the climactic sequence moving forward. I was untrue to one of the antagonists — my choices for his choices in these scenes made him weak and cliched. I figured out how to fix it, which means pushing back the Lianna-Zeke scene by about ten or fifteen pages, but the payoff is worth it.

It also means I’ll have to find material to cut earlier in the book to make room for this sequence. But every other possibility I’ve explored for this antagonist winds up unfulfilling and leaving too many loose ends. I have to stay true to ALL the characters, not just my main and/or favorite ones!

I’m also frustrated because the rights reversion for the first two Jain Lazarus books are taking longer than they should, because the former publisher can’t be bothered to supply the correct legal paperwork. It makes the whole situation uglier, and necessitates me filing breach of contract documentation (I think, at last count, my lawyer and I counted 18 actual breaches), but I can’t offer the books to anyone for reprint rights without proper reversion documentation. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth and makes it harder to move forward with the series. And it hurts the momentum for CRAVE THE HUNT, although I have a publisher who’s interested in taking a look at it, once the damn thing is finished.

On the Olympic front, I was saddened by the death of Nodar Kumaritashvili, the luge athlete, and angered by the way the Olympic Committee was quick to blame the athlete and act like it was more of an inconvenience than anything else. It could have been handled with much more class. I thought Sven Kramer, from the Netherlands, was poetry in motion in long-track speed skating, and was delighted by Apolo Anton Ohno’s silver in the 1500m short track speed skating — I’ve been watching his work since his first Olympics. It’s been wonderful to watch him grow into himself as a person and an athlete. JR Celski’s bronze was pretty great, too. I’m disappointed that they didn’t show the Canadian women’s hockey, which started on Saturday night. Had it worked out for me to attend the games (as in the publications with whom I’d negotiated not gone under), I’d have covered Women’s Hockey and Men’s Hockey, with forays when I could over to snowboarding (which may have been too far away) and speed skating. I enjoy the alpine ski events, too, but they were too far from the rest of the events for me to cover; at least I can watch some of it on TV. The lack of coverage of women’s hockey, in general, frustrates me, which is why I’d so hoped to get to attend and cover these games with a lot of focus on women’s hockey.

At least they showed the USA Women’s Hockey on Sunday afternoon, in their 12-1 victory over China. I felt sorry for the Chinese goalie — she was out there without help, and she did a damn good job.

I also got to see Nordic Combined, one of my favorite events — and kudos to Johnny Spillane for making that beautiful move near the end to get silver.

I wish they’d cover more of the international athletes. I’d like to see an interview with someone like the Italian Nordic Combined athlete Guiseppe Michelli. They mention the names, but, I remember when I watched the Olympics growing up, the broadcasters actually covered the games, not just the US athletes. And would the commentators shut up and let us enjoy the sport, already? The way they drone on about nothing all the time gets really annoying. I want to see the beauty of each sport and get to know the individuals behind them.

By Sunday afternoon, I was really tired and needed a break from Lianna, Zeke, Lachlan, et al. I considered going back to Eddie, but he’s sulking because I’m not giving in and making things easy for him, and I don’t have the patience to deal with him right now.

I was edgy and restless, lots of wandering and muttering. I worked on the essay that’s due today. I want to keep it around 800 words, but I’ve had to write about 3500 to find the right 800. I’ll finish, polish, and send that out today.

It kind of felt like I was waking up after an illness, with the past couple of — I don’t even know if it’s been days or weeks — focused on ANGEL HUNT and REDEMPTION KILL.

Then, there was the Cat Sitter Trauma. I went back home unexpectedly on Saturday to drop off some stuff I finished and didn’t want to have to haul back with me on Sunday. It was obvious the cat sitter hadn’t been there — the apartment was trashed, the food bowls empty, and the litter boxes hadn’t been cleaned. There were no calls from her, and she didn’t answer her cell. I was worried –at first. I fed them, cleaned up, left extra dry food in the self-feeder just in case. When I got back Sunday, it was still obvious she had never been there. Finally, I get a message on Sunday night, “Oh, I’m sorry I wasn’t there this weekend. My boyfriend and I are going through a rough patch; he surprised me with a trip for Valentine’s day to work things out and I went. I hope it wasn’t a problem.”

Um, YES, it was a problem, especially since she didn’t call. I understand that stuff comes up and sometimes one has to cancel, although, in my Lexicon of Responsibility, her excuse doesn’t cut it. A fight with the boyfriend doesn’t constitute “family emergency.” But whether I agree with the why or not, at least call and tell me, so I can make other arrangements. Not showing up is unacceptable — both for the worry caused and for the fact that there were three little beings who needed care. Fortunately, they were cats, not dogs, and have litter boxes and have self-feeders and waterers. But it’s still not acceptable.

I just called back and left a message on her cell saying,” Yes, it is a problem” and cancelling her for the next two weekends. I’ve already made other arrangements.

I was fortunate enough to wind up the gig mid-afternoon on Sunday, which meant I could go back early enough to put the apartment back to rights and also enjoy a nice, romantic Valentine’s evening. All good.

Eddie and I made up this morning, and I’m spending some time in his world today, and finishing the essay for my publisher. It will go up on that site on Thursday — I’ll make sure to post the link before I take off again. I’m unpacked and repacked for this coming weekend’s gig, and I have to go to Costco to pick up some stuff before the next snowstorm hits tonight.

Then, it’s back to the page, the essay and Eddie’s world. I’ll give myself a break on ANGEL HUNT until tomorrow or Wednesday, and then tackle the climactic sequence of the book.

Devon