Tues. Sept. 1, 2020: Die for Tourist Dollars Day 104 – Can I Regain Any Balance?

image courtesy of pixabay.com

Tuesday, September 1, 2020
Full Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Pleasant and cool

Primary elections, here in MA. My replacement ballot (carefully coded, to prevent voter fraud) finally turned up in Friday afternoon’s mail. I filled it out immediately and ran it down to the secure ballot box on Saturday morning.

Everyone in this house has voted, and the ballots delivered.

I’m glad the situation was resolved; but so much stress would have been removed from my life if someone in the office had taken 30 seconds to shoot me an email to let me know it was being dealt with rather than ignoring my multiple contacts. This is not a major city.

Rough weekend, which is all I’m going to say about it.

Bad time with allergies, exhausted, achy, mentally exhausted, too.

I’m finding affirmations/quotes that are supposed to make me feel better are annoying me. They’re unrealistic and privileged. Some of us don’t have the luxury that fulfilling these quotes requires. We’re down here fighting for our survival and don’t want to be placated. We want tools. We want justice. We want suggestions on actions that WORK.

Pleased to see that Main St. Hyannis is enforcing and people are respecting it as a masked zone. Disheartened when I ran to Star Market early Sunday (we were low on white cranberry-peach juice). Except for the store, NOT ONE person I passed in the miles to and from the store was masked.

And our numbers are climbing.

Designing a garden for a project – yes, I eschewed the software that wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do, and I’ve been drawing it with pen and paper. Playing, too, with the idea of the idea inspired by the auction of Green Mountain College in Vermont, and having fun with that.

The series I was reading, where I was up and down with it depending on the book – down with it again. The protag has turned into a doormat, and she doesn’t grow from book to book, she gets weaker and dumber. So disappointed. But there are only three more books at this point, so I’m going to read them and learn. See how the structure of those dozen or so books did NOT satisfy me, even if they supposedly met the tropes of the genre. I read another book in a different series by the same author, and it was delightful.

So I’m learning.

Ink arrived for the big printer (I was getting low on black – this tank will give me 3K pages). Did a bunch of research. Read Louise Penny’s A FATAL GRACE, which was sadder than I remembered. The two other bread/soup cookbooks that I need for a project arrived, and they make me happy.

Reworked my article completely. Read the book for review, working on the review.

Switched out some of the summery fabric to fall tones; switched the front door décor this morning; have some transitional decorations over the fireplace. September is transition month. October is when the spiderweb curtains go up and the real decorating starts.

Wondering if we’ll have trick-or-treating this year. I figure I’ll plan as though we do – get treat bags and prepare to set up tables with bags full of treats instead of individual rummaging, and set it in the yard or at the bottom of the driveway. If it’s cancelled because of the re-emergence of the virus, then so be it, but at least I’ll be prepared.

Already deciding what changes I need to make for the winter holiday baking gifts I always do – instead of platters, have everything in tins, with each kind of cookie wrapped separately. No platters; no centerpiece cakes/cupcakes that will get bad quickly. Everything something that can survive quarantine and still be fresh. I’ll mask up when I bake.

In the next month or so, I want to experiment with a chocolate crackle cookie and a maple cookie, to see if either can replace the centerpiece cakes.

Forgot the cream for the mousses I plan to make this week when I went to the store on Sunday, so I had to get it on my way back from my client’s yesterday. Also did a curbside pickup at the library.

I was on my own in the client’s office, which is as it should be, and got a lot done. I managed to time it to miss a negative colleague, and that lightened the stress on my day.

Some slimy people are trying to DM me on Instagram. No. I don’t know you, and your profile picture indicates you’re not contacting me for anything worthwhile.

One of the curbside pickup books was the latest by Donna Andrews, THE FALCON ALWAYS WINGS TWICE. It was delightful and smart and wonderful. I laughed out loud reading page after page. The way the series—and the characters – have grown in book after book is wonderful. This is one of the best, smartest, and most fun series out there.

Compare this series to the series where I have mixed feelings about the protagonist’s growth – or lack thereof. Huge, huge, huge difference.

Had the cats out on the deck in their playpens while I read. They love watching the bunnies eat the dandelions. I haven’t seen Che Guevara Chipmunk in awhile again. I hope he’s okay.

The tree cutting and the chemicals neighbors use on their lawns have hurt the bee, butterfly, and hummingbird populations. They are much smaller this year.

Today, I’m going to make another attempt at an oil change. Hopefully, they are masked this time, and I can get it done. Then it’s client work and more writing. I’m trying to get an ad campaign nailed down for a client, and not happy with what I’ve come up with so far. It doesn’t sparkle in the way I want.

Had hoped to put together a proposal to join a team on an exciting project in an area that interests me; however, the person heading the project is a Republican, so it’s a no-go for me.
I like a lot of what this guy has done, but if he’s supporting the sociopath, we’re not a fit.

Let’s hope this is a fairly calm week, going into Labor Day Weekend, because I am just Not In The Mood.

Decent writing sessions yesterday and today, but they need to carry over and inspire the rest of the days’ work.

I’m hoping to take both Friday and Monday off for a long holiday weekend of reading and rest, but I have no idea what the week will bring.

Hope your week’s off to a good start.

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Fri. Nov. 22, 2019: When Everything Takes Longer Than I’d Like It To Take

Friday, November 22, 2019
Waning Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Cloudy and cold

Hop on over to the Ava Dunne blog, Affairs of the Pen, where I talk more about Twinkle, Vermont.

Yesterday was up and down. I was fairly optimistic at the top of the day, although everything took ten times longer than I wanted to. I managed to get the proofread manuscript to my editor. Did not manage much work on the “Confidence Confidant” revision or “Pier-less Crime.”

My landlord arrived at two. I showed him the two leaks we’ve sprung, and then the builder came. They walked around the house, talking about the work that needs to be done. The whole thing will be painted, The deck will be replaced. The back of the house re-shingled. The door in the garage replaced. And so on and so forth. A big magilla. My fear is that they’ll start in spring and we’ll never get to use the deck next summer. So we’ll see. Plus, they’re going to rip out the gorgeous pink azalea, the lovely forsythia, and the two boxwoods. I said the bushes should be taken out, wrapped in burlap, and re-planted, but no one seems to think that’s possible. I think they don’t want to take the time and put the care in.

The guy was really nice, though, and answered all my questions.

Then, the furnace guy showed up. He and my landlord know each other from way back, so they had a good natter. They might replace the furnace with a more energy-efficient option, which would make sense — and add air conditioning, which means they have to tear a vent into the back wall. Again, a magilla, and something that needs to be done in the next few weeks. It will take a day to a day and a half. At this time of year, a full day without heat will not be fun.

Again, he was really nice and good about answering questions. He’s also going to get someone in to fix the leaks sooner rather than later.

I keep reminding myself to be grateful that the furnace is replace BEFORE it breaks down in the middle of a snowstorm.

Charlotte was completely calm as people tromped around. Willa kept running up to check us out, and then running away.

I was wiped out by the end of it all, and feeling discouraged and disheartened. Not just by all the chaos that will be going on in the coming months, but because of all the other things I have to accomplish in and around the chaos.

Too bad for me, right? Part of being a grown-up.

Trying to catch up on a flood of emails that came through yesterday, almost a week’s worth, that were stuck somewhere in the ether. Nearly 400 of them. And here I thought it was quiet just because of the upcoming holiday! Silly me! I’m going through them as fast as I can.

Didn’t sleep well. Up early this morning. Errands, then to the library to get some work done there, then more errands. I’m hoping to get the pain patch for my back, to see if that helps at all.

Got a little bit of writing done (not enough, never enough) and a bit of work on “Confidence Confidant.” I am going to do a big push on it.

IF it stays dry, will try to get some raking done later. Then, in the afternoon, I’m going to take some galleys upstairs, open the door to the room, and give Tessa, Willa, and Charlotte some supervised time together. Willa and Charlotte have re-adjusted to each other, for the most part, so it’s time to get Tessa back into the mix. She needs to assert herself as dominant cat, and she hasn’t been dominant enough yet. We got Willa and Charlotte, after all, to keep TESSA company and be her companions.

Will probably be late at the desk tonight with “Confidence Confidant.”

The weekend will be about raking, working with the cats, working on galleys, and finishing the play and the radio play. Next week, I’m onsite early with the client on Monday and Tuesday, and then it’s all about the holidays.

Of course, I’ll be writing over the holidays.

Have a great weekend!

Published in: on November 22, 2019 at 11:07 am  Comments Off on Fri. Nov. 22, 2019: When Everything Takes Longer Than I’d Like It To Take  
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Tues. April 9, 2019: Catching Up on the Adventures

Tuesday, April 9, 2019
Waxing Moon

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

Which I’ll get to in a minute.

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

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

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

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

Turned north at Springfield and went into Vermont.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All in all, a lovely afternoon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to the page.

Thurs. Feb. 4: Retreat Wrap

Thursday, February 04, 2016
Waning Moon
Rainy and mild

It was quite the trip to Vermont. Very interesting experience, and, overall, positive.

I’d entered a contest to win a stay at a writing retreat in Vermont. I entered with a “what the hell” attitude, never figuring I’d win.

Once I got the email stating I’d won, I researched the place. It was legitimate, although their model is to invite you to a free stay, but paying for food, in hopes you’ll come back again at full price and purchase coaching and/or editing services. I contacted them to let them know that I’m not in the market for that (my publisher assigns my editor and I’m motivated enough not to need a coach). I’m not an “aspiring” writer in the usual sense of the term. While I “aspire” that every book is better than the last, in both craft and story-telling, and that I’m always growing, I am a working, published writer. If they only wanted unpublished writers up there, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t taking someone else’s slot.

But they said I was still welcome, I paid my deposit, we confirmed dates, I paid the balance, and there we were. I’d jokingly called it “Poconos for Writers” hearkening back to the seventies and eighties when people were invited for a free stay in the Poconos in the hopes they’d buy a condo there.

I got on the road by 8 AM on Sunday. Decent driving conditions, not much traffic. I made it up to Brattleboro near noon, and had a lovely lunch with author Archer Mayor and his wife Margot. We had a good time, and talked about lots of things.

Then, I headed further up Rt. 91, took 107 across – and the weather started getting worse. 107 was slippery, and I spent most of the time hoping I wouldn’t slide off the road into a river.

I was also concerned about the dearth of gas stations.

Made it across 107, got onto 100 (which is also rather small and narrow). The gas station in Rochester was closed (it being Sunday afternoon in a small, rural town).

The directions were vague, and I don’t have GPS, but I found the turn-off – or, I should say, turn-up. I had to drive up a mountain. Without four-wheel drive. In a VW rabbit. Fortunately, it IS a VW, and the new battery put in last week served me well. I would have never made it on the old battery. The car had to work at it. Plus, the unpaved (or barely paved) road was icy.

I paused at the quarry about half way up to catch my breath. Stone soothes me, and I took full advantage of the big hunks of it to get re-situated.

I made it up the mountain, followed the signs (not easy to see in the twilight), and found the place.

I was in the Mark Twain room, which was a lovely room with plenty of light, Mark Twain memorabilia, and a wonderful antique desk. No chair except a rocking chair (too low for the desk), but a lovely antique desk. The bathroom was tiny but functional – situated in what once had been the room’s closet, and a hanging bar for clothes. It’s not like I had gowns and things that needed a lot of hanging space, so it was not an issue. There was no lock on the door – disconcerting for an ex-New Yorker, especially since the room was right off the front entrance. But it had a hook and eye.

In the Welcome Packet, it stated that beer was $4/glass and wine was $8/glass and we weren’t allowed to bring in our own liquor. Um, I’m a legal adult and mostly responsible – if you’re going to tell me I can’t have a glass of wine in my own room, I need to know that BEFORE I come up (and I probably won’t come).

I got settled in, and went for “cocktails” at 5:30 to meet the other writers. There were two other writers that first night, a father/son combination from New York (they didn’t write together, they’d traveled together). We had lovely conversation in the Library, in front of the fireplace, and then had an amazing dinner by the private chef: salad with strawberry vinaigrette, pineapple/rosemary sorbert as a palette cleanser, and a seared tuna on a bed of kale and quinoa. Wonderful dessert. Outstanding.

The owner of the establishment joined us for dinner, and told us about the place and the vision of the place. For me, it was too much of a hard sell, and it was also not what I want or need at this point in my career – especially talk about filming pitches and doing a docu-drama/reality-type show. I have a “no-photos” clause in my contracts – appearing in a reality show is simply not an option, in addition to disagreeing with the concept on many levels.

By the time we disbursed for the night and I was back in my room, I was having second thoughts. I woke up in the middle of the night and wondered if I should simply leave the next day.

But, I decided to give it a chance.

Stumbled out of bed Monday morning, retrieved a cup of coffee from the kitchen, and went back to my room for my yoga, meditation, shower, etc. I did some writing, but not as much as I wanted to. I’d hoped to get a full 1K done before breakfast. Didn’t work out that way. I borrowed an extra chair from the dining room, which suited the writing desk.

Breakfast was delightful: mushroom scrambled eggs with salad, berries with yogurt. But breakfast is late in the morning – after 9 AM, so it’s nearly 10 or later by the time one gets back to the room and to work. With lunch being shortly after twelve noon, that doesn’t give one much of a writing morning, unless the bulk of it is done before breakfast. Which is fine, but my strongest writing hours are between 6 and 10 AM.

Mornings are a busy time there, because the staff has to prepare rooms, clean, run the washer, prepare breakfast, clean up after breakfast, and prepare lunch. There was music playing – jazz, which didn’t bother me at all, but some of the others found it a bit distracting.

I think it’s easier when the studio space is separate from the living space, because then one can really be isolated during working hours, and then come together in a separate building for communal time. It’s harder when it’s all in one building.

I did some more work on DEATH OF A CHOLERIC, and then put it aside and concentrated on starting the play set in 17th Century Italy. Read through my notes. Started working on the play.

Lunch was lovely: soup and grilled cheese.

Back to work after lunch. Hard not to take a nap. I hadn’t slept well, so I dozed a bit, and did some background reading.

I went back to the play, decided I didn’t like anything I’d written, threw it all out and started over. This time, it worked out better, and I got a solid eight pages written. Much slower than my usual speed, even in longhand.

I looked something up on the 365 website, and saw a familiar name – an actress with whom I worked on a film in college. I checked her website – beautiful – and shot her an email to see if she was the same person and if she remembered me.

We met up for cocktails again. Two more writers had joined us – one from New Jersey and one from Maryland. We got acquainted, then moved on to a lovely dinner: a lovely appetizer, a ginger/coconut sorbet, seared steak tips on a bed of mashed potatoes and cauliflower and sautéed vegetables, and another wonderful dessert.

Dinner conversation was about out day’s work to an extent, but also other things – anecdotes of personal experiences, politics, etc. Since this was the night of the Iowa Caucus, and since this election has a lot at stake, it was nice to be able to have a lively discussion about what is going on and why certain candidates resonate with people.

After dinner, we gathered our reading materials.

I did not read from what I’d written that day. Reading a first draft is detrimental for me, not helpful. First drafts are for me to figure out WHAT I’m trying to say. After a few drafts, feedback is helpful to let me know whether or not I’m saying it successfully, and where the strengths and weaknesses are.

Reading from either DEATH OF A CHOLERIC or the new play simply was not an option.

In my manuscript bag, I discovered I’d brought the first two chapters of SONGBOUND SISTERS. I’d written and then workshopped the first chapter of it at the Cape Cod Writers Conference last August, and it’s back on the roster to be the primary focus starting in March, with a first draft by June. The feeling in August was they wanted more narrative focus and less dialogue-driven, so I read how I’d expanded the original pages. The response was supportive with insightful and useful comments from everyone. I feel I’m being heavy-handed on several points, but I guess I’m not, because they didn’t really pick up on them.

The other writers who read had very good work. We all listened to each other carefully, and the comments were specific and constructive. It was a very positive dynamic, yet still focused on making everyone’s work better.

We were up until nearly midnight. I kept checking the caucus results when I went back to my room, but they were still counting.

I heard back from the actress – she IS the person with whom I worked, and seems happy we’re back in touch. We both wrote plays for 365 Women, which I think is fun.

I didn’t sleep well, again, which was disconcerting, and then I overslept. I staggered into the kitchen for coffee in the morning, and someone tried to talk to me while I was trying to jam the filter into the Keurig. Always dangerous. So I’m trying to be friendly, while still protecting my “I don’t talk before coffee or my first 1K”.

Considered skipping yoga and meditation, but that would have been a BAD idea on oh, so many levels. Did it, showered, integrated the comments from the previous night into SONGBOUND SISTERS – moved a few things around, added a bit of detail that will make the context clearer.

Breakfast was good – pancakes and bacon, and I was actually coherent enough to have conversation in full sentences.

Wound up putting on my iPod and headphones to cut out morning distractions. I was having trouble with the Town Hall Meeting scene in CHOLERIC; I finally stopped struggling and went over to the rocking chair to re-read the material I’ve written on TIE-CUTTER – again, about a third of the book. That deadline’s up after CHOLERIC is done, and then SONGBOUND SISTERS comes into the rotation.

The material is much stronger than I remembered, which was a relief. I’m onto something here. Something very different from what I usually do, but I’m onto something.

All of a sudden, it was lunchtime (buffet salad). Very good, but I needed to get back to work.

I got a good chunk of work on CHOLERIC done in the afternoon. Nowhere near what I’d hoped to, but it’s solid, and will work. I realized that one of the primary antagonists (not just in this book, but in the first several books of the series) was introduced here at Town Hall, on p. 156, and that just won’t do. So I went back and inserted an encounter with him on p. 14 that foreshadows the rest, without going into a long introduction.

I realized something important: I work WELL at home. Plenty of people don’t. But I set up close to the writing room of my dreams – terrific light, my books around me. Okay, so I couldn’t decorate in complete Old English Library style – but it’s a happy, pleasant, workable room, and, in it, I’m productive. That’s a good thing.

But it also means I have to pick the whens and wheres of writing retreats very carefully, because I don’t need to go on many of them. I do well at home. My first 1K of the morning – no problem. On a day where I have additional writing time blocked out, anywhere from 3-7K is the norm. I was struggling to get 3-4K at the retreat. With two full days of writing, I should have (and expected to) get 8-14K done. I expected to get at least 6K done on CHOLERIC and finish the first draft of the play, along with writing the outline for a new idea, for which I’d brought up some background reading. I was disappointed in myself.

But it means that the home writing space I have set up works, and that’s a good thing, and also important to know, because than the grass isn’t always greener (or the ink bluer).

Cocktails (this time with wine served), good conversation, another lovely dinner of a blue cheese tart, blood orange sorbet, and Vermont chicken pot pie, and a lovely layered dessert.

So Cruz won Iowa. The fact that he’s a climate change denier should completely knock him out of eligibility for office. Trump, of course, is acting like a spoiled child and wants a “do-over”. Hillary won by 5 votes, some of them a coin toss. Good outcome for Bernie.

After dinner, more readings. This night, I read the opening of the second chapter of SONGBOUND SISTERS, one written in absolutely my style. That went over very well. VERY well. There were still comments, very useful ones (I’d missed a kind of important detail that was in my head, but hey, the audience has the page, not my brain). It gives me both the confidence and ideas to rewrite the first chapter in that style – the style that I know connects with readers and also serves character, plot, and story well. I made some notes, and I may do some work on it this weekend, and then put it aside until it comes back up on the roster in March.

Speaking of March, I figured that I won’t make the February 15 deadline I’d set for myself to finish CHOLERIC. Not without doing a minimum of 12K a day on that, and it’s not an option. February 29 is a more realistic deadline, but that also pushed back TIE-CUTTER and SONGBOUND. We’ll see. Maybe I can work CHOLERIC and TIE-CUTTER in tandem, the way I did during Nano, and not get too far off track.

The material read by the other writers was also very good. We gelled quickly into a very, very good group. They are writers whose work I want to read more of (and I’ll buy their books), and I have every intention of acknowledging their help for SONGBOUND.

In other words, I’m glad I stayed.

My contract extension’s come through for OLD-FASHIONED DETECTIVE WORK, so I’ll need to do a big PR push for them later this spring, especially with everything I have at AMBER QUILL going out of print.

Packed, slept (not well, not too badly). Overslept again, and packed the car first thing in the morning. Got 1K done on CHOLERIC before breakfast. The weather was vile, so I hit the road as soon as possible after.

Made it down the mountain (slowly, very slowly) and to the gas station. Filled up, headed south on 100, which was a nightmare, except for Killington, which is wide, even, and well-maintained to encourage people up there in bad weather. By the time I hit Rutland, I was ready to pull over and check into a motel. Rutland had lots of street flooding, and the weather got worse and worse. It lightened up a bit by Bennington, where one of my headlights conked out. Driving down through the Berkshires was okay. It had lightened up a bit by Lenox, so I decided not to stop there.

But it took me 4 hours from Rochester to the MA Pike. Hit the Pike (luckily, it didn’t hit back). By Springfield, the fog was so bad, I could barely see anything. And how much of a dumbass does one have to be to drive in that kind of weather without any lights on, just because the clock says it’s daytime? Morons.

I’d decided to stop in Sturbridge, but things lightened up by then. I’d pulled ahead of the storm, so I kept going. Got through Worcester, down 495, and by the time I reached the Sagamore Bridge, it wasn’t even raining anymore.

Made it home a little after 4 pm, just about ready to collapse. Everyone was glad to see me, including the cats.

Unpacked, had a glass of wine, caught up, had dinner, but went to bed ridiculously early.

Slept well, but overslept.

Took the day off from writing this morning. Back to work – they were glad to see me, too. I had reports to write, PR to get out, and I have to finalize the panel so I can get the paperwork in for the ArtsWeek Boston event.

We’re supposed to get snow all day tomorrow during working hours, so we might be closed. We’ll see.

Looking forward to serious work on both CHOLERIC and the new play this weekend, along with adapting “Confidence Confidant” into radio format and “Broken Links” from US format to BBC format.

Although I feel like I could sleep for a week!


Published in: on February 4, 2016 at 12:31 pm  Comments Off on Thurs. Feb. 4: Retreat Wrap  
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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Upstate NY in Autumn

Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Waxing Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Rainy and cool

I have SUCH a headache today. Where’s the Excedrin? 😉

Monday was great fun, as I mentioned yesterday, and where I was, the foliage was at its peak.

I was out of the house yesterday by 6 AM, a little later than I wanted, because I was having trouble — again — with MobileMe. I’m really starting to think it was a huge waste of money. It does not do what it’s advertised to do. I can’t even get what I need on the iDisk, much less access it from anywhere. Unless Apple fixes it, I’m dropping it when the year is up. The computer’s working well again, but the MobileMe isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, so to hell with it.

Anyway, yesterday was kind of a gray and drizzly day. I’m curious why the NY metro area weather folk are NEVER right, when the Boston area weather folk are ALWAYS right. The NY weather folk promised it wouldn’t start to rain until late afternoon. At 6 AM, it was raining. Later in the day, as I had the Boston station on (which comes in clearly in VT, although you can’t get it in the MA Berkshires), they were spot on. Same with traffic. The NY traffic reports are always wrong, while the Boston/South Shore/Cape are always right.

We travelled up I-87. It was early enough to be fine. We hit Saratoga a little after 9 AM and, of course, headed immediately to Mrs. London’s for coffee and an almond croissant. Which was just fabulous.

And inappropriate customer requests never cease to amaze me. A woman of certain age, obviously wealthy, and her it’s-easier-for-me-if-I-never-argue-with-her husband entered. She asked if they served breakfast. The woman behind the counter said they don’t have eggs or anything like that, but there’s a variety of pastries and croissants and things that people eat for breakfast. The woman re-iterated that she wanted eggs. The woman behind the counter apologized and re-iterated that they didn’t have them. The woman said, “I don’t think you understand me. I want EGGS.” It took a minute for all of us to realize that she expected the woman behind the counter to go out to some other restaurant and bring back her order so she could eat it at one of the tables in this particular restaurant, rather than actually going to the restaurant that served what she wanted.

Uh, no.

After our snack, we walked up and down Broadway. I stopped at the Adelphi Hotel to take some photos. It’s closed for the winter, but I want to set a piece in a place inspired by the Adelphi, so I photographed some of the architectural outer detail and tried to photograph some of the interior through the glass. It looked very lonely, all closed up, and I wished I was a multi-millionaire so I could buy it, winterize it, and bring it back to its glory.

We stopped at Borders to pick up a couple of things — I love the fact that it was packed before even 10 AM on a weekday.

Back in the car, we headed up past the track (some horses are still training there, but racing’s done until next summer) and to the public gardens at Yaddo.

Yaddo is one of the premier artist colonies in the world. I hadn’t realized it backed up to the racetrack on one side — and I-87 on another. Several people whose work I respect swear by them with an almost obsessive fealty. I’d had a couple of negative experiences with their administrative staff about a dozen years ago, and scratched them off my list, but I’d always been curious about the facility. I hadn’t realized that the gardens were open to the public until recently, so I figured, why not take a look?

The gardens were being put to bed for the winter, and those working there were quite lovely and welcoming. I bet the gardens are stunning in the summer. And there are some lovely places tucked away that seem quite inspirational.


The main house, as you can see by the photo, is rather imposing. Lovely, but imposing. And there are signs and gates everywhere to keep the public away from the artists. Or is it the other way around? 😉 On the one hand, I appreciate that — you don’t want people tromping around peering in your windows or knocking in your door while you’re working. That’s not the point of a residency there. On the other hand, all those signs gave off a rather zoo-like vibe: “Don’t feed the artists. They’re more dangerous than they look.”

So that was really, really interesting. And the grounds are great. I took a lot of photos I can use in my work — there’s stagnant water with stuff sticking through it and downed trees and rushing streams and cairn-like creations — really fascinating. I’m glad I was there. I’ve never heard anyone complain about the noise from the track or the highway, so I guess the studios are well-insulated. Seeing the property, I understand the place in a different way. Funnily enough, it makes me not want to apply there. I think I have too much of a life, in a way, built on my time with various projects over the years, and it would be hard to stay in my studio and work — I’d feel like I wanted to go here and there doing all the things I usually do in Saratoga that make the place so special to me. There would be just as many distractions for me as I have at home, which cancels out the purpose of having a residency. I think it’s a great place for artists to work if they’re from somewhere else — it would not necessarily be the right place for me to work, because I’d be so tempted to be out and about instead of inside working.

I had hoped to see a friend’s exhibit that was outside of Saratoga — and I couldn’t find the turnoff. I felt like a total moron. I had the directions — I just couldn’t find the place. Fortunately, because I had no idea if I was actually coming up until that day, I hadn’t promised to get up there at any particular time. Maybe I can make another trip up just to see it.

We stopped at Lowe’s because they have one in Saratoga and we don’t, picked up some stuff, and headed to Vermont. The drive was very pretty, the rain held off, and the temperature dropped. There are many things I would have liked to photograph, but didn’t get the chance. Oh, well.

We drove across what’s basically a pass in the Green Mountains, past Bromley Ski Area and with the turn off to Stratton — and it smelled like snow. Technically, it was too warm to snow, but it still smelled like it.

We arrived in Weston later than we planned because we’d lost so much time looking for the exhibit we never found and were starving. We ate at a place called Bryant’s House Restaurant — I’m assuming a guy named Bryant owned it at some point. It’s an old farmhouse converted into a restaurant. The food was excellent – really good chicken pie with excellent biscuits.

We meandered through the Vermont Country Store after lunch. The store was the reason we’d factored in the side trip to Vermont today — we’d seen a few things in the catalog that looked interesting, but the shipping is so exorbitant it was actually cheaper to drive to Vermont and pick it up in person.

The store was really disappointing. To me, it came across more as a mass-produced version of a cliche of an image of Vermont lifestyle, rather than actual Vermont-based arts, crafts, and foodstuffs. When you look around at the overhead for the place, you realize why things are so expensive. We decided to try one of their stollen — stollen is a “must have” in our holiday season. But, other than that, there was nothing we really wanted.

Very disappointing.

But I got some ideas for AMENDS, of all things, while driving through the Green Mountains.

Maple tree in Lenox

Back in the car, back across the mountains, down Rt. 7 through Vermont and down through Massachusetts. By the time we hit Lenox, it was starting to get dark, The Haven had closed (so no curried chicken sandwich for me) and we were tired. If it had been an option, I would have booked into a motel right then and there. But we needed to get home.

So we did. It was raining by now, and dark, and the new headlamps in cars are angled so they hit oncoming drivers (me) right in the eyes. It was not a fun trip.

We stopped to pick up a pizza on the way home, and were back after being on the road for 13 hours.

Ate, watched stupid TV, and went to bed early, after playing with the cats.

I’ve got a headache this morning and am weary, but I have to pull it together to finish the NYFA applications and one short story. I also have to go out and pick up a cake — tomorrow is my mom’s birthday.

Hopefully, I can squeeze in a nap sometime this afternoon. I’m beat.