Mon. Feb. 10, 2014: Nouns, Adjectives, and THE MAGICIAN’S BOOK

Monday, February 10, 2014
Waxing Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde
Sunny and cold

Challenging weekend. I’ll be posting some material on the gardening blog, the cooking blog, and the wine blog soon. Lots going on — trying to save my citrus plants from some icky bug.

Friday afternoon, a friend was kind enough to spend time brainstorming titles for the sci-fi horror western with me. We have a good list.

Friday evening, I slipped on the ice at the meeting, and injured my knee, the bad “Broadway knee” I messed up pounding up and down the stairs all those years. Couldn’t decide if I was glad it was that knee and I still have one good knee, or if I wished it was evened out a bit.

By the time I got home, it was swollen to the size of a grapefruit. I treated it with ice, ibuprofen, and arnica, and more arnica and a malachite stone the next day. Saturday, I was pretty immobile — my back was tweaked, too. I could stand up or lie down, but not sit for more than a few minutes at a time. I did, however, ever hour or so, get up and gently move it around, to keep it from stiffening.

Basically, Saturday and Sunday, I was an invalid. Amazing how, when you change the inflection from the noun, INvalid and make it an adjective, it becomes inVALid. That pretty much sums up what I felt like all weekend. But I behaved. I could have acted like a Victorian consumptive and moaned on the settee; I could have been cranky and ignored the injury and hurt myself worse. Instead, I settled in with books and notebooks, and took care of myself, and let my body concentrate on healing, which it’s done pretty well, all things considered.

I read a brain candy book (I’m working my way through this author’s bestsellers to figure out WHY she is a bestseller, since there’s a lot of sloppy writing in the books). I also read a wonderful non-fiction book, THE MAGICIAN’S BOOK: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia by Laura Miller. It’s really wonderful. Miller explores her conflicted feelings between her enjoyment of the Narnia books and the often heavy-handed religious message. Having felt the same way about the books, it was interesting to read her explorations and interviews about the topic. It’s an extremely intelligent, well-written, thoughtful book. I hadn’t realized Lewis and Tolkien were friends, despite their religious differences. It also made me wonder where the reasoned, ethical religious arguments are in modern day. In the past, there were intelligent, educated, ethical people who could fashion intriguing and solid arguments about their differing beliefs. One reads these treatises, and, while not always agreeing, one can still respect that. Where are such minds now? I don’t know that we have them. Making up “facts” and deciding that whatever comes out of one’s mouth is a fact just because one says it doesn’t cut it. I’ve read some interesting spiritual essays by Buddhist practitioners, especially some of the female monks, but that’s about it. Of course, the right wing extremists are anti-education (because if people are educated, they might actually think for THEMSELVES instead of drinking Special Interest potions and doing what they’re told without question). But it’s a shame that there isn’t significant intelligent discourse happening in either religion or politics (certainly not in the latter), when you look back and see the history of such important discourse in various arenas.

In other words, the issues brought up by the book go beyond just Narnia and are relevant to various areas of life right now. And it makes me want to re-read all the books again. THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE was my favorite, in spite of the heavy-handed religious symbolism. I disliked THE LAST BATTLE intensely. And Lewis lost me when he punished Susan for growing up. Even the first time I read the books, that infuriated me. Honestly, I don’t remember much about the other books.

Started reading the next book for review — I like it a lot.

Did some work on TRUE HOME, on the untitled novella, and on the edits for the other novella. Had a big “aha!” moment on the play, and I think I can fix what’s bothering me about it.

Loved watching the Olympics all weekend. I prefer winter to summer games anyway. The Women’s Ice Hockey Team is amazing this year — love them! I also enjoy the skiing and snowboarding events a lot. Everyone loves the figure skating, and it’s interesting, but because it gets so much attention, I tend to gravitate to some of the other sports that get less attention. I like that they’re showing more of the international athletes again — in Vancouver, they hardly even mentioned anyone who wasn’t American, and that was frustrating. I like watching people I’d never get to see otherwise.

Lots of catching up to do today, since I was out of commission all weekend. Hopefully, this will be a creative, productive, and lucrative week.

Devon

Fri. Feb. 7, 2014: The Project Juggle Dance (the 2200th Post)

Friday, February 7, 2014
Waxing Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde
Sunny and cold

Do I get a prize for posting 2200 times? 😉

Thanks to all of you for stopping by and reading! I do this to have a conversation with you, and you inspire me.

I’ll have a post up, at some point today, on Adventures in Vineland, talking about an Argentinean Malbec I like.

Wrote nine pages on the untitled novella yesterday, which I suspect is turning into a novel. Pitched some jobs, worked with students, worked on the play, did some research.

Baked cupcakes for the helpful neighbors — lemon ones and spice ones. Frosted and delivered them.

Finished Stephen Dobyns’s novel THE BURN PALACE. Very unique and well-done. I love the different chances he’s taken over the years.

Feeling very tired and run down, but have to get it together and get a lot of work done today, and finish the draft of the play this weekend. It’s taking longer than I wanted, but it’s not sparkling the way I need it to.

Worked on some notes for a couple of other projects. May have to do a few pages.

Spun some ideas for the BALTHAZAAR TREASURE, rewriting the outline to make it make more sense. Pulled some of the research material to re-read over the next few weeks, as I get back into writing the book.

I don’t like that Olympic Events start before the Opening Ceremonies. If events start on Thursday, have the Opening Ceremonies on Wednesday. If you need more time and want the Friday night TV audience, then tack more days onto the back. This “slipping a few things in” before the games officially starts feels wrong, on so many levels. I feel it’s disrespectful to both the athletes and the audience.

Watching and taking a lot of notes during the games, both for ongoing commentary and as research for some upcoming projects.

I prefer the Winter Games to the Summer Games, mostly because I prefer winter sports and winter, in general (although I’m kind of over winter this year). Everyone fusses about figure skating, but I like ice hockey, ski jumps, snowboarding, speed skating, etc. I love how the sport of snowboarding is growing and changing, and how the participants are coming up with new tricks and new challenges.

Back to the page — lots to do, and not much time. I have a meeting tonight. Have a great weekend!

Devon

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thursday, February 18, 2010
Waxing Moon
Mars Retrograde
Sunny and milder

Just a quick check-in, I’m headed out the door to work a job in CT all weekend. Yesterday was mostly spent on ANGEL HUNT — made more cuts to the first third of the book, got rid of a lot of dialogue that went around in circles, dumped unnecessary adverbs, made the description active instead of passive. I’ve cut nearly 4K out of that section, which is close to what I needed. The initial scene, which used to run just over 4 pages, is not 2 1/2. Yes, I lost some of the verbal sparring between Lianna and Lucius DeWitt, but the scene is tighter and has more resonance with the rest of the piece. Zeke’s first mention is now on p. 8 and his first appearance is on p. 11. I’m thinking of having another short scene with him somewhere in the first nine chapters. He’s not named yet, but his presence is both felt and foreshadowed. Whereas in the serial, I had to draw everything out as long as possible, now I’m cutting and reshaping to make the story move and make every element that appears matter in the overall story. Do I lose some fun and interesting interactions? Yes, of course. But, overall, it makes for a stronger book. I even managed internal cuts the fight scene with the Witch Hunter, and yet get everything done in it that I needed to get done.

Printed it all out — a total of 22 pages cut from this section, it’s shorter and tighter, which is a good thing. Will take the chapters with me.

Since I have to gut Chapters 10 and 11 and restructure them completely to make a bridge into the next section of the book, I might combine those two chapters. I can probably make a few internal cuts with the sphinx — although it’s one of my favorite sequences — and tighten the other two challenges that gain her entrance into the Library. Also, more has to actually happen within the library; the reason for the attack has to be clear, and she has to leave the library with tangible facts that help her in the hunt, not just personal insight.

I’ve got my work cut out for me.

Did some outlining on a project and some work on one of the short stories.

Spent most of the afternoon and evening watching the Olympics – watched the Men’s Hockey, Finland vs. Belarus (Finland won, 5-1). The Finnish team looked good,a nd it was a good game. Lindsey Vonn got the gold, good for her, although all the crashes on the course were disturbing. I felt the cameras were far too intrusive after her win, but she’s done so much press leading up to the event that it wasn’t a surprise. I much prefer Shawni Davis’s tack of giving minimal time to the press before he competes, and talking when he’s done. A similar rule should be enforced for athletes as we enforce for the actors backstage — no guests after half hour, giving actors time to get into make-up, costume, and headspace for the performance. And believe me, I am the ultimate Dragon at the Gate when someone wants to mess with my actors!

My favorite, last night, was, of course, the snowboarders. One can’t help but admire what they do out there, and how could anyone not love what Shaun White brings? People tend to forget just how smart he is, in addition to his athleticism. He’s built himself a business empire in a really smart way. He gave an interview when he was about 14 saying it sucked that he got kicked out of school for lack of attendance, because he was getting A’s, and that if he was a figure skater or a horseback rider, they’d have taken his sport more seriously. He’s being taken seriously now, and he deserves it. I also like and respect the fact that he does a lot for other people and causes that interest him without manipulating everything he does into photo opportunities. He’s public when he’s performing, and he delivers. And then he goes off and lives his life and does what he believes in. He knows when to have fun and when to be serious, and he’s smart enough not to buy into his own press. For a 24 year old, he’s got his head screwed on pretty straight. And one of the things i really enjoy about the sport as a whole is that the joy is still in it, the excitement. I think a lot of the joy has gone out of sports like figure skating and swimming and some of the rest, because they’ve been over-corporate-tized. Yes, snowboarding’s gaining a lot of corporate sponsorship, but they don’t seem to have the minute-to-minute control over the athletes that a lot of other corporate sponsors do, and I hope snowboarders in general retain their free spirit, let’s-push-it-further quality.

I still think this is the worst-handled coverage of any Olympics I’ve ever seen. There’s no artistry — and, if you’ve seen well-covered sports, camerawork for sports is a special skill. AND good reporting is an art. The fact that the TODAY show has the unskilled, unqualified, unprepared Jenna Bush Hager running around asking lame questions rather than hiring qualified sports reporters who cover the various sports year-round shows how far the coverage has fallen.

I did sneak away from Olympic coverage here and there to watch most of HUMAN TARGET. The episode was a good, one-hour action movie. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the lack of development in the antagonists still bugs me, I still enjoy the scenes with the three leads, and can’t wait to see what Jackie Earle Haley brings to any scene he’s in. His choices are detailed and clear without being self-indulgent. So, even when I know where a scene’s going (and I’ve fallen into the rhythm of the show, so there are very few structural or plot surprises for me at this point), I look forward to what he’s going to do next. I had problems with the camera work in the last scene — it felt as though the camera’d slipped down a few inches instead of set where it needed to be set for the scene, and the framing annoyed me. Fox is not showing another episode for three weeks — the ratings are decent, although they’ll probably drop off during the Olympics, but they’re not giving the audience a chance to grow by shifting around time slots and then not showing it for a few weeks. Very frustrating.

But what I’m learning from the show I’m applying to my own work, when appropriate, as far as structure — and I’m more conscious of making my antagonists more dimensional!

I meant to stay up and watch the Czech vs. Slovakia hockey game at midnight last night, but I was too darned tired. I had weird dreams all night, so don’t feel well-rested.

I need to grab some breakfast, finish packing the writing bag and head out. Will try to post from the site — at the very least tomorrow, I’ll post the link to the essay.

Enjoy!

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