Wed. Nov. 22, 2017: In Prep for the Holiday

Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Waxing Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde

Yesterday was busy. I managed to get some writing done in the morning, then worked on-site with a client for the bulk of the day, prepping samples for her 2018 collection (she’s a designer, and I’m learning the collection so that I can write about it).

Not much writing done on either day on SERENE AND DETERMINED, although I think I’ve got the rest of it plotted out in my head. But when I put it on paper, the characters keep surprising me in the best ways possible.

A bit of work done on the aging novel.

More questions to my webhost to see if we can resolve our issues; also wrote up a list of what I want and need that I’m sending to the web hosts I’m “auditioning.”

Got some work done for another client, that was sent off in the afternoon.

No raking — now there’s a surprise! If the weather holds, I’ll have to do it over the weekend.

This morning, my mom has a doctor’s appointment, so I’m taking her over. After I bring her back, I’m working onsite with a client for a few hours, and then I’m off for the weekend.

Not that I won’t be working! In and around the holiday, I have a book to read and review, the edits on TRACKING MEDUSA to finish, work on SERENE AND DETERMINED, and some client work for a Monday afternoon meeting. Plus, the polish on “Miss Winston Apologizes.” Which also means I have to write the teaser for the next Cornelia True and Roman Gray piece. Which is as yet untitled, although I’ve got a decent idea of the plot. It will be the last story for the moment set in this era. At the end of it, they leap into the future — and miss. Roman thinks they’re going to his time period — but they don’t quite get there.

I’m hoping to get TRACKING MEDUSA to my editor by mid-week next week.

I’m keeping track of the sales that are coming in tied to the promotion for SAVASANA last week. It’s interesting. All this tracking information helps me make decisions on future promotions. By not running multiple promotions at once, I can see how each one pays off in tangible terms, and then make the choice to use or not use them again. The spin of “we can’t guarantee sales, but your name gets out there” — um, sorry, if I’m paying you, I expect you to promote to people who actually buy books. I expect that to manifest in sales. If the promotion doesn’t pay for itself and a little extra — moving on. An unpopular stance to take, but there are too many companies soaking authors without aren’t getting results.

Charles Manson is finally dead. For those of us alive during that awful era of the murders and their aftermath, it is an enormous relief. There was always the fear he’d con the parole board into getting out, and then the atrocities would start again.

I’ve heard mixed stories about David Cassidy’s death or just that he’s near it. Either one makes me sad. And makes me feel old. I was never a particular fan of his music or had posters of him up or anything, but he was a part of my growing up years. And, later on, he was active in helping a horse racing charity in which I was involved.

I’m looking forward to this holiday weekend, and then we descend into the holiday madness. I’m determined to pace myself. I want this to be a happy and peaceful holiday, because next year presents a lot of challenges and transitions for me.

Have a great weekend! I’ll catch up with you again next week.

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Fri. June 23, 2017: Spinning The Freelance Plates and the Threads of Inspiration

Friday, June 23, 2017
Waning Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Cloudy and muggy

Got a section of meadow mowed yesterday morning. It’s starting to look like actual progress. It looks like it will rain any minute this morning. I should use that as a reason to rush out there and mow, like my neighbors are; instead, I’m dragging my feet, hoping it will rain and I can’t.

I was in a lousy mood for a good part of yesterday. I tried to tease myself out of it with the “CrankyPants Song”, but it didn’t work. That’s a song I made up when I worked backstage. When a colleague or I was overtired and grumpy, I’d sing it to make fun of the grumpster (or myself), and we’d all laugh and get over ourselves. But it didn’t work yesterday.

Turned in the latest set of revisions to the new-to-me editor. Let’s hope he’s happy with this set. Also called him out on the contradictions. I hate working in their automated system that won’t let me do what supposedly needs to be done. At this point, it’s a toss-up about whether I’ll be fired or whether I’ll walk. I wonder if this is the norm, and that’s how they get out of paying writers?

Working on a pitch for a publication I hope to finish and send out tomorrow. I’ve written for them several times; it would be great to do so again. I’ve gotten decent pay and some solid clips from them in the past.

Pitched for another gig that sounded like fun; we’ll see if my samples are what they’re looking for. Again, money might be an issue. They pay “per word”, but haven’t said how much per word, or talked about volume and turn-around time. Heard back from them this morning — as I suspected, the per word rate is so low, I couldn’t even fill the gas tank with an assignment. For something that requires A LOT of technical craft, is for-hire with no royalties, um, no. I will send them a refusal today.

Press releases went out for “Personal Revolution”. I finally wrestled the website so that I could add the “Personal Revolution” information into the Delectable Digital Delights, the Media Room, and the Bazaar pages of the Devon Ellington site. No thanks to the webhost, but in spite of them. That webhost is useless. Not only are they unreliable, their customer service is non-existent. I’m starting to think most hosts are. But, by poking around and swearing a lot, I managed to figure out workarounds that got up the information I needed to add. I really need to take some classes in website coding and design. But it’s the usual dilemma — when the time exists, the money doesn’t. When the money’s there, it’s there because there’s a heavy workload in, and the time doesn’t exist. And anything web-related has to be something I can handle, update, tweak, and rearrange myself, not hire in a webmaster. The amount of attention my different sites need would mean I need someone weekly, and the cost (because the webmaster DESERVES to be paid for all this, and deserves a good rate) is out of my range right now.

The press releases also have the information for upcoming projects, which means I have to get my ass in gear and meet deadlines.

I have a good idea about the next Cornelia True/Roman Gray story. I had to have the title for the press release, and came up with “Miss Winston Apologizes”. And then I figured out who Miss Winston was and why she apologized, and there was the premise for the next piece. It’s still set in Cornelia’s time period. I decided I’m going to set three stories there, then have her go with Roman when he next time travels, and they can have adventures elsewhere (that all tie in to the main arc). Now, I need to write the opening, so I can pop it in with “Ramsey Chase” and get going on the proofread. The July 10 release date will be here before I know it.

I’ve also got the opening of “Labor Intensive”, the next Twinkle Tavern mystery, set around Labor Day (which is set to release just before Labor Day weekend, so I better get on with it).

With Playing the Angles hoping to release in October, we really need to find the right cover image. And I really need to do a final proof on it, and settle on the name for the series (even though each book will have a different pair of protagonists).

Think there’s enough to do? Along with keeping up a constant stream of pitches and freelance pieces so I can keep a roof over my head.

A royalty check from the Topic Workbooks and “Plot Bunnies” cheered me up. I certainly can’t retire on it, or even pay next month’s bills, but it helps tide me over a bit, and just getting the royalties makes me feel like I’m moving in the right direction.

The last research book I need for the Lavinia Fontana play arrived, thank goodness, because I have to start writing it at the beginning of July.

Got a rejection on an article pitch for a new-to-me market. I’m going to re-slant it to send elsewhere, and then submit something new to this market. I’m determined to crack it. Some of the content puzzled me; then I got an apology from the editor, saying the email had gone off before he was done, and he hoped I’d pitch again.  I told him no worries, I had every intention of so doing, but I’d let him rest over the weekend!  😉

Heard back from another place I pitched. They loved my samples. They want to know how good my French and/or Spanish are. Um, what? Why wasn’t that in the ad? I read French reasonably well (I read Moliere in French, because it’s funnier than any English translation I’ve yet found), and I can read newspaper and magazine articles and basically figure them out. I can get by in French, and I’ve got a little German. But I’m not fluent. So that might knock me out completely, which would be a shame. I’d love to get my French back up to speed, but I doubt they want me learning on the job.

I’m playing with yet another new idea, this one with a pair of older protagonists. I think it could be interesting. I’m trying to decide if I want to set it in Cornwall or in Ayrshire. I know both, but I know Ayrshire better, and, as I’m working on the outline, it seems to naturally gravitate to Ayrshire. I’ve set several things in Ayrshire, stretching it to add additional towns and do mix-and-match with real places. I’ve even added additional Scottish National Trust properties when Culzean Castle (where I’ve rented an apartment on more than one occasion, and which I know VERY well) didn’t quite fit the plot. In this particular piece, I’m adding a street off the main road to Culzean (halfway between the Castle and Little K’s Kitchen, where I used to get my newspaper and the racing form every morning), and that’s where my protags have rented a house.

I also figured out what I need to shift in another piece I’ve been noodling with, to get the opening different from yet another piece, whose opening I like, but was too similar to this one. The settings are similar — one at an artists’ colony, one at a meditation retreat. But the characters and situations and what I want to explore are very different. Interestingly enough, though, the protagonists for both pieces share some of the same titles on their bookshelves! Such as the Complete Works Of Shakespeare and Louisa May Alcott’s diaries.

Speaking of Louisa, a tweet from the lovely folks at Orchard House got me re-reading her. They were talking about Rose in Bloom, so I ordered that and Eight Cousins (which happens before RiB) from the library and read them this past week. From a critical, feminist perspective, there are plenty of problems. Yet it was still, in some ways, ahead of its time (although highly romanticized). It got me thinking of Fruitlands, which is where I always imagine those two books set, rather than Concord. In fact, I had an exchange with another Orchard House follower about that, when she was puzzled about “rolling hills” she didn’t remember around Concord, and now she’s going to visit Fruitlands!

It got me thinking that I would like to set something in a family compound in that area (Harvard, MA, which is different than where Harvard U. is in Boston). Somehow, I came up with a set of sisters (inspired by the great aunts in Maine), and their patriarch/matriarch based in the compound, but set in the early 1900s, and somehow, from there, I leapt to the opening taking place in San Francisco in 1904, pre-Earthquake, but just at the end of the “Barbary Plague” where so many of the Chinese immigrants died in SF from bubonic plague from 1900-1904, and that led to a stack of research books about that time period, so who knows how the piece will end up? Right now, I see it starting in SF, moving by train eastwards, with a stop in Chicago, but I have to figure out why, beyond simply changing trains.

1904 Newspaper archives, here I come. I think I can read some at local libraries, and probably access some via Boston Public Library’s digital files (I have an e-card from them); when in doubt, I can always contact my stalwart NYPL and Library of Congress.

But it’s amazing how re-reading a childhood book can set off a new train of thought.

I’ve just received Under the Lilacs and An Old-Fashioned Girl from the library to re-read. I remember reading both at my grandmother’s house in Foxboro, under an actual lilac hedge, when I was little.

Who knows what they will inspire?

This weekend, I have to dig in to FIX IT GIRL, because all those books on Hearst Castle have to go back to the library next week. They can’t be extended any more!
Besides, I want to get this draft done and the submission packets ready. I want to start querying after 4th of July, but have to get everything out before mid-August, or I might as well wait until mid-September, because few places actively read by mid-August, and right back from Labor Day, they need a couple of weeks to catch up.

I think I’ve got a handle on how I want the First Big Love Scene to go. Since this isn’t erotica, but historical fiction, the style is gentler, and I have to get it just right. Things were often down and dirty in 1930s Hollywood (as they often are everywhere in every time period), but my protag is neither a goody two-shoes nor a nymphomaniac. Nor is this a category romance where she’s only allowed to be attracted to one man. She’s an intelligent modern woman of her time, and slightly ahead of it, breaking new ground, fighting sexism, but also following her heart (and her passions). I’ve got that balance right in most of her scenes; now I have to get it right in the love scenes, too.

In general, I want this to be a fiction weekend. I’ve spent so much time on articles in order to pay the bills that the fiction has suffered, so it’s time to give it some more attention.

This is a great June for the roses — they’re blooming like crazy. And the petunias in the barrel out front have grown enough so they’re sticking their heads over the rim and peeking out. It’s very cute.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, January 15, 2010


I wish I was on Cape Cod

Friday, January 15, 2010
New Moon
Mars Retrograde
Mercury DIRECT (thank goodness)
Stormy and milder

If you want to donate to Haitian Relief, make sure it’s via a reputable organization. Your State Attorney General’s website should have information on all organizations registered in the state, and crosscheck with the BBB, and with CharityWatch.org. The ones I feel will be most useful in this case are The Red Cross (although I’m still mad at them in this area for ignoring the law allowing pets into shelters after the floods here in 2007), UNICEF, and Doctors Without Borders. When the initial relief effort eases and rebuilding begins, I’m sure Habitat for Humanity will get involved.

Working on stuff for the webhost move. Moving three domains and numerous subdomains and all the various “stuff” is a pain and it’s lower than my neck. It will be worth it once it’s done, but a hassle to get there.

Once I figure out how to get my damned mail off the webmail onto my hard drive, Fearless Ink is ready to move. Much as I hate to lose the design for Cerridwen’s Cottage, that will be an easy one to move, so that may go next, with the main Devon site and its subdomains going last.

The vet is pleased with Elsa’s progress, and she got all her shots updated. The LIE and the Cross Island Expressway were nightmares in both directions, but the Hutchinson Parkway was okay, so it worked out. There were lots of small, yappy dogs in the waiting room. Elsa likes dogs (after all, she wants a dachshund AND a mastiff), but when four of them tried to make friends at the same time, pawing at her carrier, it was a bit much. She gave a growl, and they were so shocked, they all sat down. And then she settled back and started purring.

However, somehow, when we put the carrier together in the examining room after her visit, something went wrong. When I took the carrier out of the car in the building parking lot, it fell apart. Bits snapped off, the door came off, it was a mess. Fortunately, it was Elsa and not one of the twins, or they’d have run into the street and been killed. As the carrier disintegrated around her, she jumped onto my chest and hung on. I was wearing the big LL Bean coat I bought back when I was doing TV location shoots a few years ago, so there was plenty to hang on to. I gathered the scraps of the carrier in one hand, supported her with the other arm, and we got back inside, all intact except for the carrier. I don’t quite understand — it’s a fairly new carrier, but it’s like the plastic got brittle and it’s falling apart.

Sigh. Guess I’m headed out to get new carriers.

Thank goodness Elsa’s instinct was to grab onto me instead of running. Iris and Violet would have bolted, and I’d never have found them.

Elsa’s got all her shots and certificates and tags. She could travel to Canada or France. Of course, I have to get my passport renewed first! I’m a big believer in always having a valid passport handy, and mine expires in August. Since they now hassle you if it expires within six months of a trip, and I may be going to Canada a few times this year, I have to mail in my renewal in the next couple of weeks.

Packed up some more decorations, percolated the next chapter of the steampunk, sent out a query for a project, and a few follow-ups on other stuff. There are two publications I may query in the next couple of days — they pay decently, and I’ve got some article ideas.

I read Nicole Peeler’s TEMPEST RISING and liked it. It’s a fresh take on the genre, I love that some of it’s set in Maine and some just outside Quebec (both areas of which I’m rather fond). I like the characters, the story, the new take on old myths. It stays out of cliche, and when it refers to a cliche, it turns it inside out. Wonderful contrast to the previous book I read.

And now I’m reading Deanna Raybourn’s SILENT IN THE GRAVE, which I just love. The writing’s gorgeous, the characters are great, I like the plot and the setting, and enjoy the fact that the protag comes from a large, unconventional but ultimately loving family. It was hard to put it aside once I’d started,but there was stuff that had to get done. So I used chapters as carrots — if I completed X task, I could read one chapter (of course, I always read at least two, but you get the picture).

Today, I’m carting more stuff to storage, checking on my mom (the acupuncture helped her A LOT –as in, she can move around again and walk). In fact, I’m taking her shoe shopping so she can use the gift card I gave her. And I just might treat myself to something, too. Although I still haven’t had a chance to wear the gray Liz Claiborne boots I bought the last time I went there — to buy the gift card!

As the saying goes — how many pairs of shoes should a woman own? One more than she already has!

So, I got a rejection from a query I sent out — but it’s NOT FOR MY BOOK. No, I’m not going to correct them. I’m crossing them off the list for any further submissions. That kind of carelessness is not acceptable. We would not be a good fit. I’m tempted to send them a snarky response pointing it out, but it’s not worth it.

Had a great first morning’s writing session on the steampunk. THAT’s the way it’s supposed to go! 😉

Back to the page for a few hours before I head out.

Devon