Fri. July 6, 2018: Ongoing Artists Retreat

Friday, July 06, 2018
Waning Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Mars Retrograde
Cloudy, hot, humid

I wish this darned storm would just break so we’d get some relief.

Impromptu artists’ colony continues. It’s great, I’m getting so much inspiration and things worked out on different projects. But I am behind on word count for both RELICS and DHARMA. I’m hoping that all this brainstorming and refilling the creative well will then catapult me ahead so it goes more smoothly.

Some guests were supposed to leave this afternoon, but if the weather is bad, they might leave tomorrow. The rest will leave tomorrow, heading up to their rental in Maine.

It’s one of those situations where so much is percolating that I have to figure it out for myself, before I can talk about it publicly. Some wonderful new ideas and possibilities and solutions are opening. I need to mull them over for myself first, before any sort of public brainstorming.

Next week will be stressful on site with clients, and, hopefully, I’ll catch up with the wordcount on the two books.

I needed this creative interlude, even though it puts me behind on word count. It’s also nice to talk to artists working in different disciplines,  to see new ways to looking at the world. A sculptor sees things differently than a writer than an actor than a filmmaker. There are points of intersection, but the individual lens is different. It’s so interesting!

In breaks between creating and discussion creating, I’ve been reading. I’m reading Donna Andrews’s series featuring her protagonist Meg Langslow, which are fun. There are some things that hit me the wrong way, when the author has her characters patronize the theatre profession, but, for the most part, I enjoy them.

Tried to read another book that came highly recommended, but . . .it was in present tense. I find novels written in present tense unreadable. I don’t care how famous or revered the author. I can’t stand them. I was so frustrated by page three that I stopped. Read half of another book by an author whose name I’d heard, but whose work I hadn’t read – put that down, too. The author and her protagonist were parading as “quirky” and “liberal” –while in reality, promoting racist, misogynistic views pretending to be wrapped in tolerance. Her protagonist was a nasty piece of work and not very nice – not someone I want to spend a mystery series with. Tried to read a book by a very well-known author who tried something in a new direction. Some of her other books have worked for me, some have not, as happens with a prolific author who tries new things. This didn’t do it for me – I read about three chapters, and that was it. At the same time, I applaud her for not allowing herself to be boxed in by what she’s done before.

So I haven’t had much luck on the reading front. But I just got my hands on two novels by a novelist whose newest book blew me away, so here’s hoping.

Back to my guests, to creating, to the page. I’m hoping the storm will be gone by the time I’m supposed to go to a friend’s art gallery reception tonight.

 

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Published in: on July 6, 2018 at 8:48 am  Leave a Comment  
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Thurs. June 28, 2018: Creativity Must Win

Thursday, June 28, 2018
Full Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Mars Retrograde
Rainy and humid

I went to the savasana/sukasana/reiki session Tuesday night, and it removed my migraine. First time it’s happened that way. We used the chakras to drain the pain. Interesting technique. Hard to verbalize, because it was so experiential. But it worked, and that’s what matters.

Worried that putting a between-the-books novella in the Gwen Finnegan series between BALTHAZAAR and SANDOVAHL will dilute the power of what’s happened between those two books and take away from the opening of SANDOVAHL. Is it more interesting to have them working on separate teams toward the same goal when they are tight as a couple, or when they are having problems? Each introduces a different dynamic. I don’t know which is more effective. A friend who’s a fan of the series says she would like to see one of each, to see the contrast in how they deal with each other.

This is where discussions with one’s editor are so important. There are always editors who shrug and say, “whatever you think is best” and then there are those who point out how the different dynamics affect the overall series.

MYTH & INTERPRETATION is up for pre-order on several channels. The link is here. It won’t be available on Amazon until several days after its release, because that’s what they do with some distribution. Since Amazon is not the publisher, but the distributor, they can make certain arbitrary decisions on how they will distribute from particular publishers. I don’t really care — the universal buy link gives the reader the choice of channel, and waiting a few days is no big deal. Yes, it affects pre-sales (because Amazon won’t allow them via this publisher), but I would rather be with my publisher and distributed via Amazon than be published by Amazon. I don’t like Amazon’s author contract. I’m fine with this compromise.

Pushing through a tough part of RELICS. Mentally, I’m several chapters ahead, but I have to get there. I also have to make some decisions on timeline. because arbitrary days of the week are not working for this.

Working on calendar articles. It’s slower than I expected, because I’m testing what I write about, to make sure it works. But the testing process is fun. Kind of like recipe development.

On Wednesday, one of my clients treated us all to lunch at the local Beach Club, an old-fashioned establishment on the water, which was nice, and then took us to her house to walk around the garden and show us her unique house, that was a labor of love. It’s a gorgeous place, curated with well-loved objects from a lifetime of travel. It was lovely, and very kind of her to share it with us.

I came home and worked on the front beds. They’d gotten kind of wild, and I had to weed and cut back a lot of invasives. An ongoing process.

I will be offline most of tomorrow (no blog post). I’m having adventures. Saturday are the protests against the government’s human rights violations. Sunday, I’ve got a couple of other things to do (including write and work in the garden).

Needless to say, I’m furious that Justice Kennedy is retiring. Another instance of a Republican putting party over country. In the interim, he is determined to do as much damage as possible. Traitor.

Next week is Independence Day. I’ll be offline that day, taking a break (and, of course, writing). Ink-Dipped Advice will also take a break. I considered scheduling an informational post, but taking breaks is just as important as getting people in the habit of a weekly visit. So it is a celebration post.

The June wrap-up with go live on Goals, Dreams, and Resolutions tomorrow, and the July To Do List will go live on the same site on Monday.

Have a great weekend.!

Mon. June 18, 2018: Follow Your Dreams — A Personal Story #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, June 18, 2018
Waxing Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde

I’ve lived my life by that motto.

I knew I wanted to be a writer by the time I was six years old. I published in school magazines and newspapers. As a teen, I wrote plays, and I did press releases and other articles for local and regional newspapers about the high school music groups with which I was associated.

In college, I got away from the writing (although I wrote plenty of awful poetry) when I committed to theatre. I graduated high school early, tested my way out of freshman year, and entered Florida State University in Tallahassee mid-year. I took a stage lighting class. I was supposed to put in 20 hours of lab work in the theatre during the semester. I put 20 hours in my first week and never left the building until I transferred to NYU’s film and television program a year later. I got terrific experience at FSU, and even picked up a few side rock and roll gigs.

I transferred to NYU and got into the film department. My first day in film school, I met the guy who still, all these decades later, is one of my closest friends. But, because I was practical and a problem-solver, I wound up more on the production management level than the writing level. I had two brilliant professors, who encouraged me, and with whom I’m still in contact. One was my screenwriting professor, and I wish I’d studied more with him. I still use what I learned from him, in screenwriting, playwrighting, radio writing, and novels.

I picked up theatre jobs here and there. In other words, I started earning my living in the arts when I was 18. Any non-arts job I ever had was only temporary, and in between shows, for the cash. I knew I wasn’t suited to an office job or anything the fearful call “a real job.” Honey — working in the arts is about giving EVERYTHING and leaving it out there. It’s far more real than ANY office job. So shut the eff up.

When I graduated from NYU, I moved to the west coast for three years to work in regional theatre. I knew I needed experiences outside of New York. I loved it, but I also knew that if I was going to realize my dream of working on Broadway, I had to be in New York. While I was west, I spent some time in LA and knew it wasn’t for me.

I came back east, initially to help with a family issue, for two months. I immediately landed a stage management job and worked my way up in the off-off-off-off Broadway community. (I had worked as a stage manager and production manager in San Francisco, and as a props person in Seattle). I switched to wardrobe (as a stage manager in small SF companies, I’d often both stage managed and handled quick changes). I worked my way from off-off-off Broadway to off-off Broadway and then to off-Broadway. I did some work in New York as a stage manager and an associate production manager, for the Pearl Theatre and for Manhattan Class Company. I did wardrobe for the Vineyard, and then spent several seasons at Manhattan Theatre Club, which led to open-ended runs rather than repertory.

While I was still working off-off Broadway, I spent three years working during the day for an art book publisher. I learned an enormous amount that has served my writing career well, working both sides of the table. I worked in the development offices of the Neuberger Museum and the Guggenheim Museum. At the latter, I spent my lunch hour walking the museum, immersing myself in the art. I worked part-time for five years for the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation, when it was so small the staff consisted of the Executive Director and me, putting on seminars and support groups and roundtables and award shows. I learned so much.

It was at Manhattan Theatre Club where I had the honor of working with Arthur Miller and Athol Fugard within the same six months. I’d started writing again. Even though I was the wardrobe girl, Athol respected that I wrote, that I was starting to define myself as a writer. He invited me to sit in on rehearsals any time I wanted, to ask any questions I wanted. I did, and I learned an amazing amount from him. He directed what he wrote, but he kept his writing self and his directing self separate.

On the first day of rehearsal, in his opening remarks, he said, “I have good news and bad news. The good news is that the writer is dead in this process. There will be no revisions during rehearsal. The bad news is that I promised him you chaps would speak every line exactly as written.”

I loved it. He demanded respect for the words. No paraphrasing (which American actors tend to do more than any other actors, claiming to be “in the moment” when, in reality, most of them simply haven’t bothered to take the time to memorize).

I worked with Arthur Miller within the same six months (their plays were produced one after the other in the season). I adored him. He was one of the most vibrant, vital, intelligent people I ever met. He used to hang out in the wardrobe room during the show sometimes.

At the time, I was getting back into writing. Monologues for actresses with whom I worked, who couldn’t find good monologues for auditions. Who landed the job every time they used something I wrote for them. I was also working on a short story, for a themed competition.

I wrote the first draft on butcher paper in between cues in the wardrobe room. I typed it up and worked on revisions between cues (there were long periods where I didn’t have any quick changes with my actors). I hid the pages in the room, but Arthur found them one evening when I was on the deck doing quick changes.

I was mortified when I returned to the room and found him reading the pages. He was Arthur Miller! I was, well, me.

He looked up and said, “This is good. What are you doing working backstage?”

“I like it. Plus, you know, I like to do things like eat. I have to pay the rent.”

“You need to write full time. You’ll never be the writer you can be, find your full potential, until you rely on it to pay the bills.”

David Mamet told me something very similar when we worked together.

Arthur gave me some suggestions on the text. He never treated me like “less than” because he was Arthur Miller and I was a wardrobe girl scribbling in a corner. He always treated me like a colleague. We kept in touch until his death, and he always pushed me to do better, be more — and only write.

It was quite a few years before I had the courage to only write — and it was AFTER I’d accomplished my dream of working on Broadway.

The monologues I wrote expanded to plays, the plays that would take me to fringe festivals in both Edinburgh and Australia. I found my work got a much stronger reception in Europe than in the US. It wasn’t angsty enough for the American audiences at the time; there was too much sharp humor.

I landed at the Public Theatre and worked with one of my idols, Hal Prince. Another person at the top of his craft who liked and respected everyone with whom he worked. The assistant designers at the Public were working on Broadway and took me with them when the show at the Public closed.

I found myself learning how to be a swing dresser on Broadway, on the production of MISS SAIGON, and in the union. Each series of cues a dresser performs during the course of the show is called a “track.” If you read my novel PLAYING THE ANGLES, set backstage on a Broadway show, my protagonist Morag is a Broadway dresser.

MISS SAIGON had 13 tracks. I learned them in 26 performances. You follow the dresser once to learn it; the dresser follows you as you do it. Within three months, after swinging every track on the show multiple times, the lead actresses who played Kim requested me when their regular dresser took another job. I stayed with the show for five years, until it closed.

It was an amazing, creative group. We wrote plays, songs, other performances, and all went to each others’ shows. Which took place at midnight, in various venues around the city. We put on our own shows, and hung out with the cast & crew of other shows like SNL at KGB. We did The Easter Bonnet Competition and Gypsy of the Year and Broadway Bares to raise money for AIDs and breast cancer. I worked the Tony Awards once and attended it twice over my years on Broadway.

I think I had four shows I wrote produced during that time, in small venues. Dozens of monologues and short pieces. A few short stories published. MISS SAIGON closed and I worked on other shows at other theatres: RENT, GYPSY (the Bernadette Peters version), FOLLIES, 42ND ST, SIX DANCE LESSONS IN SIX WEEKS (with Mark Hamill, who became one of my favorite people ever), URINETOWN, and then as a swing on the first 3 1/2 years of WICKED.

I loved it, but I knew I was aging out. Physically, it was getting tougher and tougher. Mentally, I was struggling to get the writing done and work full time on Broadway. They’re not kidding when they say, “The theatre is a jealous mistress.”

By this point, I was also day-playing on television shows shooting in New York. For the money. I could earn in one day on set when I earned in a week on Broadway. I liked it. I learned so, so much. But I didn’t love it the way I loved Broadway. I’m better suited to theatre production than television production. Which is a shame, from a financial standpoint.

I was also writing about sports for various publications. I covered horse racing and ice hockey. Thirteen years’ worth of Triple Crown races; traveled with a minor league hockey team for eight months as background for a book. Covered America’s Cup races and learned about sailing, although I can’t even swim.

By this point, the first Jain Lazarus Adventures were out, ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT, DIXIE DUST RUMORS, and a bunch of short stories and anthologies. I was writing for calendars and almanacs. I was doing marketing writing for companies. I was writing and teaching and working on novels and trying to build a writing career as the publishing world changed. I hit a point where I had to make a decision. I had to decide if I would stop writing or if I would give up Broadway.

I knew I couldn’t continue physically on Broadway much longer — heavy costumes, raked stages, blowing out my knees running up and down concrete steps carrying stacks of clothes.

I chose writing.

SPRING AWAKENING was my last show as a swing on Broadway. The last event I worked was a staged reading of ALL ABOUT EVE, which had a plethora of people I loved working with involved, AND I got to bow out by working with Jennifer Tilly, Keri Russell, Peter Gallagher, Annette Bening, Angela Lansbury, Zoe Caldwell, and more. It was a great way to leave the business. I’d heard so many stories about how wonderful Peter Gallagher is, and thought, “No one can be that great” — he IS that great, and even better. I’ve never laughed as much with anyone as I did with Jennifer Tilly, and I loved working with Keri Russell (we had five quick changes in a staged reading, which means walking around holding scripts).

I moved away from New York to write. There are challenges. I live in a place that is a prime example of how trickle-down economy does not work. I live in place that, if you’re a working artist who visits, they fall all over you, but if you chose to LIVE here, you’re considered a failure and should get a “real” job. Honey, this is a real job. Granted, most of the clients who pay me well are remote, but I’m working a real job. I’m writing material that helps businesses grow and spread their message. I’m writing books that I love. I’m writing plays and radio plays that invigorate people.

I have always made the choices to do what I love. To fight for what I want, to refuse to compromise and be forced into work I hate. I have made plenty of personal compromises along the way.

Every single one of them has been worth it.

Just because I love what I do does not mean I don’t deserve to be paid for it. Loving my work does not mean I don’t deserve to earn a living at it. I do. And nothing less is acceptable.

Those who don’t have the courage to follow their dreams often try to punish those of us who do.

They are not worth our time or our energy.

Do what you love. Follow your dreams. Make them your reality.

Thurs. June 14, 2018: Exciting Times (in a Good Way)

Thursday, June 14, 2018
Waxing Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Sunny and pleasant

Tuesday night, I went to a Social Entrepreneurs Networking Event at the Blue Rock Golf Course in South Yarmouth. Once I found the place, the event was great. There were about 40 people there –a good turnout for the Cape. The two people who convinced me to go, however, didn’t show up! Again, pretty typical of the Cape.

But the people I met were great. Lively, funny, interesting, passionate about what they do, and interested in what everyone else did. I exchanged many cards, and came home with a stack of cards — ALL for people with whom I’ll follow up.

I think I even found a person to fix an IT issue for one of my clients.

Not ONCE did anyone deride the fact that I’m a writer. In fact, it was celebrated. NOT ONCE did anyone try to demean that I publish under multiple names. They thought it was interesting. NOT ONCE, when I said, “I don’t do photos on social media; it’s part of writing under multiple names” was it met with bullying (the way it regularly is at other events, where people try to FORCE me to be in photos on social media). The response was, “I totally get that.”

What a difference, from events that are supposedly all about supporting WRITERS, where I am regularly accused of “hiding” or “What? You’re under the witness protection program? Ha, ha, ha.” Or like the exchange I had, when I went to a talk last year, at a supposedly writer-centric event:

Old White Guy: What do you do for a living?

Me: Write.

Old White Guy: No, I mean, what do you do to make money?”

Me: Write.

Old White Guy: No, I mean how to you earn your living? What’s your job?

Me: Write.

Old White Guy: No one does that.

Me: I do. (walks away).

It disturbs me that these organizations who are supposed to support writers and artists in their careers and help them find their way through the maze of professionalism allow this kind of behavior.

Which is why I stopped attending so many of these events.

And why Tuesday night was so refreshing.

It was also nice to talk to people from all different types of businesses. That’s one of the positives about this area. Because it’s a smaller community, it’s not as insulated. It’s far too easy to only interact with your own circle and then narrow your world. We all need new people and fresh experiences to keep growing. Fresh perspectives.

It was tough to haul myself out of the house (It had been a particularly discouraging day with a client who refuses to accept that the world won’t change to meet the way this client thinks it SHOULD be, and deal with how it is, and find interesting ways to work around it). Plus, the directions weren’t correct. I got frustrated, but I found the place by accident. Now, I’m glad I did.

It was really pretty, and the site suggested I could use it to meet with clients, which is also nice. Gives me a mid-Cape option other than just Cape Space or a bar or a coffee shop. Now that I actually know where the darn place is!

Picked up Chinese food on the way home (because I sure as hell wasn’t going to cook). Decompressed.

Up early on Wednesday to write. Focused primarily on the MYTH AND INTERPRETATION revisions (cover reveal will be in the next couple of days). I have a couple of things to still work out in the middle — a scene or two to add, and I made some cuts, and massaged a timeline that was off. It was fixed with a phrase that referred to the time lapse instead of a scene, so that’s a relief.

Waiting to hear back from someone about another piece of the Jain Lazarus Adventures puzzle before making that big announcement.

Chasing down a late payment from a client from whom I will part shortly. Again, what’s going on is legal. But I question the ethics, and can’t be a part of it. I want my last payment, and then we’re done. Also didn’t like that the person I dealt with about the missing payment lied, I knew she lied, and she knew I knew she lied.

The individual I met at the networking event was able to fit my client in to his schedule yesterday and start solving the IT issues. That made yesterday a bit less stressful.

Came home, made a very dry vodka martini, read a bit. Worked on some more MYTH revisions. Had more discussions about the future of Jain Lazarus. We have a couple of contract things to work out.

We also are discussing a kind of odd promotional item for the books. I’m not sure we’d be allowed to offer it on a large platform — it may have to go directly from the publisher’s website and my websites. We have to check with our distributor. The possibilities intrigue me. It would take some work to pull off, but if it sells more books in the long run, it would be worth it. We had originally talked about it being a print giveaway, but the thought grew to why not make it available digitially as well?

I received my contract from Llewellyn. I will be in the 2020 Spell-A-Day Calendar, under the Cerridwen Iris Shea name. I’m looking forward to it. I wrote for them for 16 years, and then felt I didn’t have anything left to say, so I took a break. And now I have something to say again, and they’re interested. That makes me happy. I’m sending off the signed contract today, and getting to work on the pieces this week. They are due in October.

More yard work today. Steady, solid work on RELICS & REQUIEM, steady work on the revisions for  MYTH, which I think can go out to the editor tomorrow. And the cover reveal for MYTH will also be tomorrow.

The good busy.

 

Published in: on June 14, 2018 at 8:47 am  Comments Off on Thurs. June 14, 2018: Exciting Times (in a Good Way)  
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Wed. June 13, 2018: Creative Changes and Challenges

Wednesday, June 13, 2018
New Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde

Busy times. Revisions are going more slowly than I’d like for MYTH & INTERPRETATION, but I like how the book is taking shape.

RELICS & REQUIEM is moving forward very well. I’m happy with the pace and the way the book is taking shape.

There are negotiations about how the Jain Lazarus Adventures will move forward, and I will make the announcement as soon as that’s finalized. But it had me re-reading what I’ve written on CRAVE THE HUNT. There are definitely things I want to change/improve, but the bones are solid.

Some dumbass drove into the Centerville Library parking lot the wrong way up the one way exit and slammed into the building. I have never lived any place in the world where people are so stupid they regularly drive into buildings. I’m over it.

Weed whacked the back terraced area on Monday. I still have to mow, but it looks better. Slowly but surely, we are getting there.

Bought a plant to cheer up my elderly neighbors.

Client work yesterday and today (today will be challenging). It’s hard to switch away from my fictional worlds at the moment. Necessary, but difficult.

But it keeps my brain flexible and my thoughts fresh.

Published in: on June 13, 2018 at 4:21 am  Comments Off on Wed. June 13, 2018: Creative Changes and Challenges  
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Mon. May 28, 2018: #UpbeatAuthors Pleasurable Indulgences

Monday, May 28, 2018
Day Before Full Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Memorial Day

It’s fitting that today’s post for #UpbeatAuthors should be about pleasurable indulgences.

In the past two weeks, I met four major deadlines. My pleasurable indulgence is doing exactly what I want this weekend! 😉

What gives me pleasure and makes me feel indulgent?

Writing always gives me pleasure. I prefer the writing to the “having written.” Of course I have difficult days, but they make the good ones even better. But an indulgence is to work on an undeadlined project. I’ll be doing that on two projects this weekend, a novel and a play.

Reading gives me pleasure. I read widely, both for research and for pleasure. I have a stack of books in my TBR pile, including Amanda Quick’s newest, and one from Marshall Ryan Maresca.

Gardening — there’s a case where the “having gardened” gives me more pleasure than the actual gardening. I especially hate to mow. But I will garden and then indulge in the pleasure of a beautiful space.

Cooking — I love to cook.

Yoga and meditation — although those are not indulgences for me, but necessities.

Unstructured time is my favorite indulgence. I need it in order to create. I seek some of it every day.

I hope you’re having a lovely weekend!

 

Published in: on May 28, 2018 at 5:50 am  Comments Off on Mon. May 28, 2018: #UpbeatAuthors Pleasurable Indulgences  
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Fri. May 25, 2018: Respite & New Creative Challenges

Friday, May 25, 2018
Waxing Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Sunny and pleasant

Sorry this is up late; I had errands to run this morning before the tourons descend on Cape Cod and make our lives hell for the next three months.

The relief I feel at getting out both requested partials to the interested editors ahead of deadline leaves me exhausted. HEART THEFT went out nine days before deadline; NOT BY THE BOOK went out four days before deadline. Neither one were dumped on the editor during a holiday weekend (although I cut it close with NBTB). I lived up to my own expectations for myself AND I’m happy with the quality of work I turned in.

I tried mowing yesterday. The reel mower doesn’t really mow much. It massages, and the grass snaps right back up. I bought a rolling blade. It should damn well cut whatever vegetation over which I roll it. Not happy AT ALL. When it cuts, it does a decent job of it, but there’s too much it’s not cutting.

I’m getting annoyed by the part-time writers who have non-writing day jobs to pay the bills attacking full-time writers who earn our living at it for “writing every day.” This is my profession, not my hobby. If I don’t show up and do the work every day, I can’t pay the bills. Getting paid for my writing doesn’t make me love it any less or make me any less of a writer. Stop attacking people who achieve what you can’t.

And, you know what? Go ahead and DON’T write regularly. Only write “when the muse strikes.” You’ll still be a cubicle slave. I’ll still be earning my living doing what I love — because I show up and do the work.

Spent some time outside, both reading and working on the maps for THREE ROADS OF STRANGERS. I’m moving forward as though my first choice market passed, and not writing it with an eye to their parameters. I’m back to writing it because I really love the piece and want to create this world. It will have to be done in and around other projects, but not having a deadline means less pressure. I’m getting more and more ideas about the world, and making more and more notes. The chapters I’ve written so far have a strong energy and drive, and I like the sprawl. I like weaving the characters, situations, and storylines together, to see where they converge and where they part.

This morning, I worked out a plot and character arc involving one of my five central protagonists with one of the minor characters who’s more complex than I expected. In my first putterings with this arc, it would have derailed the main drive of the piece. But now, I’ve figured out a way to adjust it so it supports the central plot instead of serving as a tangent. It will drive plot, illuminate character, enrich the world. In other words, serve its purpose.

However, this morning, I’m going back to work on MYTH & INTERPRETATION, whose deadline is coming up quickly. I’ll be looking at cover choices next week from my publisher and cover designer — hopefully, there will be a cover reveal soon.

I’d also like to sit down with the market list this weekend and come up with some more article pitches to go out next week.

I finished reading Marshall Ryan Maresca’s AN IMPORT OF INTRIGUE. I like this series a lot. A MURDER OF MAGES remains as one of my Top Twelve Books across genre. The choices made as the series develops surprise me. I often think, “I wouldn’t do it that way — but I’m really glad HE did!” I enjoy his world building, and I enjoy the way he breaks genre clichés.

There’s such a big difference between turning a trope (I hate that word) inside out and ignoring it. Tropes set up expectations. A talented writer (like Maresca) knows them intimately and knows how to use them beyond the expectations and take the reader somewhere new and exciting. A careless writer would toss it in and not follow through or defy it without providing expansion and payoff.

I admit it, I read Maresca as much for craft as for story and character. I learn a lot about the way he structures his books, about the paths his characters take. There’s always the sense of discovery there, but he’s got such good craft, I’m willing to leap with him wherever he goes, because I know it will be a satisfying, exciting experience. He was also kind enough to point me in the right direction when I had questions about mapping that have been useful.

I heard the radio play went well earlier this week. The cast, crew, and audience had fun with it — that’s music to a playwright’s ears! I’m looking forward to hearing it.

I’m playing with ideas for the new gun violence play that came out of the conversation I had with an actress friend. I’d set out a cast of characters, but they started feeling too much like representations than individuals. So I stripped it back and narrowed the focus. Now, I have something to work with, something to develop. I usually don’t mention the physical characteristics or race of characters in a cast breakdown. With my work, I find that when the actor who connects best with the work is cast, we have an array of physical types, races, ethnicities.

However, in this case, race is part of what the play deals with. Which means I need to specify which characters are black, white, etc. We’re dealing with things people don’t want to talk about or acknowledge, but which have to be acknowledged. This will be a challenging piece to work on, and I’m pulling in advice from all kinds of actors and creatives with whom I’ve worked on Broadway, to make sure it’s not just a banal “I’m presenting a message” piece, but a piece that digs deep in search of the cause of the problem, and also offers more than one solution. The development process will take a looong time. But it will be worth it, if something valuable comes out of it, for those of us in the creation and the experience of the final piece. Flippant responses out of emotion, fear, anger, aren’t necessarily ones that will help. Yet they will also need to be a part of this, as they are a step on the journey to a solution, and sometimes a tangent.

I hope I’m up to the challenge.

In the meantime, I have to tackle the challenge of the Lawn that Refused to Bow to the Mower.

Have a great weekend!

 

Published in: on May 25, 2018 at 9:58 am  Comments Off on Fri. May 25, 2018: Respite & New Creative Challenges  
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Wed. May 16, 2018: When It Works Out Anyway

Wednesday, May 16, 2018
Waxing Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Cloudy and humid

Hop on over to Ink-Dipped Advice for some ideas on “The Social Media Conversation.”

I am exhausted, and I have to reconcile myself to being so until at least the end of the month.

Monday was busy — I went in early to work with my client, who was leaving for an international trip later that day. I had company when I came home — a writer with whom I’m acquainted who happened to be in Boston and came down to visit.

We were having a good visit when an email came through — the person who was scheduled to post on one of my sites the next day (which was uploaded and ready to go) wanted to postpone because one of the links wouldn’t be live. ONE of the links. The others were fine.

I was angry. You don’t pull out the day before guesting. Not unless you’re offering other content for the slot. Plus, as a guest, YOU don’t tell ME when to post your piece. You’re a GUEST. You can request a preferred date and I’ll do what I can. But you don’t make the decision when it runs. My house, my rules. Not to mention that I was off the clock for the day, had company, and wasn’t near a computer. There’s a reason I schedule posts ahead of time. I run multiple sites. I have X amount of time. I plan ahead, schedule ahead, and that’s that.

I said no and vented to my guest and to another friend.

On the other hand, I had some empathy. I had a book where I’d spent months lining up release-day promo for its release. Many of the sites were reluctant to include me, because they had trouble with that particular publisher before and considered the publisher unreliable. The caveat was that they would run my posts provided I could guarantee the links would be live on release day. I discussed it with my publisher, and was promised everything would be on time. I even turned in final galleys early to make sure everything on my end was done.

Book release day came. My posts were up on multiple sites. As soon as I woke up, I received a barrage of angry messages from the site masters — the book had not released. I had not been warned by my publisher that there would be a delay. If I had, I could have let the site masters know in time and offered other content. I contacted my publisher, who got back to me hours later with a shrug that “it happens” and “they didn’t have time” to get it up when they said they would. And that “that’s the way it is with digital releases; you better get used to it.”

Meanwhile, my posts had been pulled down by the site masters and they’ll never trust me again. I lost all the publicity I’d set up, I lost future publicity. I never got as much as an apology from my publisher. The book went up nearly a week later, and they refused to give me any marketing support. As far as they were concerned, I should have “known better” than to expect the book to be ready on release day. This is the same publisher who felt I wasn’t spending enough money to promote my books, and didn’t spend a dime.

Yeah, not a publisher I want to keep working with.

I remember how upsetting that was. I’d never told this particular guest that all the links had to be live, just that I needed links.

So, I’m sitting outside the restaurant, on my phone. I managed to get into my site on my phone and reschedule the post. Fortunately, I was still deciding which post would go up on the next requested day. I sure as heck wasn’t going to bump someone else.

THEN I had to take down all the scheduled promotional posts/tweets/et al I’d put up to promote it.

THEN, I had to figure out how to get substitute content for the next day.

But I told my guest I’d moved it, and that I needed the new links by Thursday noon. I’m on a brutal deadline right now. From Thursday noon through next Monday, I’m on a writing retreat/no or limited internet. I’m not blowing my deadline because someone else’s publisher didn’t come through for them.

No response. Not a thank you. Not a sorry. Nothing.

I was angry at myself for not just saying “no” and sticking with it.

I still needed content for the day, even though it would go up late.

I invited my in-person guest to write something.

She was terrified. She’s early in her writing career, no website, no blog, no contract. But she’s a good writer and she does the work. She came up with a post, I made a few suggestions, and yesterday it went up.

She’s already received an invitation to guest on another blog from it, so everything worked out.

And I got an idea for Ink-Dipped Advice on “Guest Post Etiquette.”

Between us all, we made it work. Was it a hassle? Yes. Was I frustrated and angry? Yes. But it worked out. I learned from it and moving on.
So that was Monday into Tuesday. The rest of Tuesday was busy at my client’s site. Even with her out of the office, there’s plenty to do. It’s interesting, but exhausting.

And, I’m working steadily on HEART THEFT, because I need to get out what I have this weekend. I like the work, I’m enjoying it, but I’m pushing. Especially because the characters in the serial won’t shut the heck up, and the other deadlines are looming as well.

Did a grocery run, trying to get home before the storm and forgot half of what I needed. As one does.

The storm wasn’t anywhere near as bad here as it was in New York. Some hail during the day, thunder, lightning, and rain at night. Power flickered, so I couldn’t write on the computer, and we didn’t watch anything.

Today, I’m with the client again, then picking up the missed groceries. Then, it’s back to HEART THEFT. Big push today, tomorrow, and Friday for that. I doubt I will post on Friday here, or if I do, it will be a post saying I’m not posting! 😉

HEART THEFT needs to go out this weekend, and then it’s NOT BY THE BOOK, which needs to go out by the end of next week.

And then, the editors either want them or they don’t. And my focus goes back to juggling MYTH & INTERPRETATION and RELICS & REQUIEM.

And preparing for another career evaluation/assessment over the Memorial Day weekend, where we will meet, talk, discuss, plan, and relax, while plotting out my next moves.

Have a great day!

Published in: on May 16, 2018 at 9:06 am  Comments Off on Wed. May 16, 2018: When It Works Out Anyway  
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Monday, May 14, 2018: #UpbeatAuthors The Next Step on the Ladder

black-and-white-construction-ladder-54335

Photo courtesy Khimish Sharma, via Pexels.com

Monday, May 14, 2018
Dark of the Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde

 

My first response to that is, “Which ladder?” I have various limbs on various ladders. I write in different genres, under different names, in a variety of formats: prose, theatre, television, film, radio. Journalism. Essays. Marketing writing. Reviewing.

I do very little editing for private clients now, because the time/money ratio doesn’t work for me, too many would-be writers default on payments (when they’re not trying to lowball me down to a fraction of my rate), and I need the primary focus to be on my own work. When I edit, I am generally hired by the publishing house to work for something under contract that has passed particular gate-keeping standards.

I am with more than one publisher. One of them, who has signed several projects, is small, just starting out. We are taking a risk on each other. Among the reasons I was excited to work with them was that they pay small advances, don’t demand their writers acquiesce to a boiler-plate contract AND, instead of POD, they do small print runs. The print runs are after a certain digital threshhold is reached, but the POD model was not working for me, so I wanted to try this. I am still with another publisher who is doing the POD model, and I have submissions out to several other publishers, who work on a mix of models, so we’ll see what happens. I also liked them because the editor with whom I’m working constantly pushes me to be better. And that is my goal — that every book I write is better, in both craft and art, than the previous books.

About a year ago, I sat down with a lawyer, an agent, an editor, and a marketing advisor, and we came up with a plan. I was unhappy and frustrated with the way things were going in my career. I knew I wasn’t writing what the Big Five wanted; I wanted to explore some things that they are currently giving lip service to, but not following through on, and I wanted to do it in my way. We were not a good fit at the time. I knew I was going to part from an agent I’d been working with for several months, because we were not a good fit. When we got together, she was excited by my work and my voice; but the more we worked together, the more she wanted to dilute it and take out what made it unique. She kept telling me my themes and issues were “too hard for the typical reader.” In other words, she wanted me to dumb things down, and I didn’t want to do that. Also, she only wanted to commit to a book at a time, and I need an agent who is interested in long-term career planning. She has since signed a friend of mine, and they’re doing great together. I’m happy for both of them; they are the right fit. We were not.

As far as the marketing writing went, I wanted to have the confidence to say “No” to the lowballers locally and reach farther afield. The interesting thing is that as soon as I did that, I landed two clients locally with whom I work well, WHILE also reaching beyond the bridge for clients who pay better.

We took four or five days together, and I took about twenty pages of notes. We crafted a plan. Some of that we followed; some of that has fallen by the wayside for various reasons.

I re-stated my commitment not to “niche” — to me, that’s a death toll for a creative life. Far too many people who “advise” freelancers sneer and call what I do a “generalist.” I prefer to call it being a “Renaissance Writer” and I’ve written on this topic for both WOW-Women on Writing and Write Naked!

I wanted to get back into article writing, which fell by the wayside for a bit. I started pitching again, and I did pretty well, but that seems to be one of the things that falls away first. Since I enjoy articles — every part from the pitch through the research through the writing and the polish, especially working with a good editor — I need to get back on track with that.

One of the big changes I made was in the way I do pitch letters. Instead of trying to frame what I do to sound like what they want, I’m more specific in the elements I think will appeal and more specific in where our paths diverge. I’m more myself in the cover letter — while still structuring it the way I find works — hook, one paragraph summary, technical info, bio, why this market. And the results are good.

This year and next, I’m on a brutal contract schedule. I’d spent a couple of years working on different types of material, on working on craft. Now, with a commitment to more than one series, I am sitting down and writing the books.

Last year, PLAYING THE ANGLES was re-released, as the first of the Coventina Circle paranormal romantic suspense novels (in its original incarnation, it was a stand-alone). The second book in the series, THE SPIRIT REPOSITORY, just released, and the third, RELICS & REQUIEM, will come out in October of this year, with the fourth, GRAVE REACH, coming out in May of 2019. So that’s a tight schedule.

Last year, the first Nautical Namaste mystery, SAVASANA AT SEA (as Ava Dunne) released. It’s a not-quite-cozy mystery series, whose protagonist is a yoga instructor on a cruise ship. Only one of those books comes out a year! But the next one, DAVY JONES DHARMA, is due in early December this year.

TRACKING MEDUSA, the first Gwen Finnegan mystery, re-released this past January. As I worked on the second book, THE BALTHAZAAR TREASURE, I realized that there was a chunk of it that slowed down the plot. Yet the information was necessary to where my characters were in their emotional lives and how they’d built their day-to-day relationships. Flashbacks and info-dump conversations wouldn’t work; so my editor and I decided to pull out those chapters, flesh them out into a “between-the-books” novella, now called MYTH & INTERPRETATION, and put that out this summer. BALTHAZAAR is still scheduled to come out in January of 2019, and that is now back on track, the pace and content correct.

In the meantime, I had three terrific opportunities. One was to pitch a serial. Those of you who’ve known me for several years know that I used to write four serials in four genres under two names for 18 months a few years back. A total of 8000 words a month. I love writing serials, and I miss it. I had the chance to pitch to a company that specializes in serials.

I pitched a fantasy/adventure novel. I’d written the first four chapters a couple of years ago and put it aside for scheduling reasons. But, when I had this opportunity, I wrote a few more chapters, and outlined what would be the book-length arc of this serial. I fell in love with it all over again. If it’s picked up, it goes back in the schedule; if not, it will be back-burnered again.

I also had two other ideas, stand-alones, that I played with, on and off for a couple of years, writing my way in the first few chapters, then making notes for my Writers’ Rough. On impulse, I polished pitches and tossed them into a Twitter pitch day for a specific company. Editors liked both; so I’m working on some additional chapters, polishing them, and sending them out by deadline this month. Again, if the editors want the full manuscript, they go back into the schedule sooner rather than later; if not, they are back-burnered until next year, when my contract schedule isn’t quite as demanding.

As I said above, I have a couple of other pieces out on submission; if they are contracted, they will be worked in. I also have a serial novel — which is different than a novel broken down as a serial. This is a set of novels that are all of a piece. It follows the filming of a television series over several seasons. Not a series, in the sense that each stands alone and progresses. These novels all fit together like puzzle pieces. One of my publishers has expressed interest in looking at it when the first five or so puzzle pieces are ready. When will that be? I don’t know.

I also made a commitment to do more script work again. I’m taking this year off from stage plays (I wrote four in three years for 365 Women). But one of my radio plays will be produced later this month, and I want to submit some screenplays I’ve polished.

Along with all this, I will pitch to higher-paying clients and higher-paying article markets. Gotta keep a roof over my head, and if I don’t keep up the writing pace I can’t. This is my profession, not my hobby. I am paid to write. That IS my day job. While my book sales have jumped considerably since I moved webhosts and redesigned my websites, I still need the marketing writing and article writing for income. Plus, I enjoy it.

So, my “next step” is building on the foundation of the series on which I currently write; continuing to expand the publication contracts with other publishers at higher-paying tiers, and book higher-paid marketing and article gigs.

I’ve found a process that works for me as far as the new ideas — because, as we all know, new ideas come in batches. I write my way in for a few chapters, then sit down and do a Writer’s Rough Outline. That way, whenever I can actually sit down and WRITE the book, I can drop into its world. The Writer’s Rough outline captures the initial energy of the idea, and then, as I work, I can develop the structure and the craft.

In the coming weeks, we will sit down again and assess how this last year played out. What worked, what didn’t. Where I lost focus, and what I dropped because it didn’t work. And we will craft a plan for the coming year that will guide me toward the “next step on the ladder.”

I don’t want fame. I worked in theatre and film for too many years and see how it can hurt creativity and general life; that is not what I want. I do want financial stability, and to be paid fairly for my work. There is no reason not to be paid well doing work I love. My profession is writing. I will not let ANYONE decide that it’s a cute lil hobby and I don’t deserve to be paid a living wage. I will dig in and do it, and earn my living. It will be a mix and match of projects and styles and tangents, but writing is my profession. When I decided I wanted to work on Broadway, I didn’t let anything or anyone stand in the way of achieving that goal. Now that I’m writing full-time, I feel the same way.

My next step is increased earnings and visibility for my work. It is also participating in the community of writers who love what they do and are committed to a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work across the board, no matter what the profession. It is refusing to “dumb it down” or change what I write because people I don’t respect threaten not to buy what I write. The great thing about writing is that there are plenty of authors writing in plenty of styles and genres, so there’s something for everyone. It’s fine if someone doesn’t connect with my work — there are wonderful authors out there with whom they WILL connect. But threatening me and demanding I change what I write is not going to work.

Artists have a responsibility. I believe that responsibility is to bear witness to the world, to expand people’s vision of the world, but also to create better worlds and help us find ways to reach those better worlds inclusively and fairly. A better world needs social and economic justice. By respecting our own value, our own worth, we set the tone.

For more inspiration on valuing your work, please visit Lori Widmer’s Words on the Page blog. It’s great all the time, but May is Writers Worth Month. It’s especially great now.

 

Thurs. May 10, 2018: Head Down, Working

Thursday, May 10, 2018
Waning Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Sunny and pleasant

Head down, working hard. I’ve been helping one client with her new collection for Spring 2019, while working on marketing materials for 2018. I’m making the final decisions for the contest I’m judging – sometimes, the winner is chosen by a few punctuation marks, or whether or not a word was mis-used, when the rest of the quality is high.

Working on HEART THEFT and NOT BY THE BOOK. HEART THEFT has the bulk of the focus right now, and I’ll switch that out next week.

I was frustrated on HEART THEFT yesterday, because it read like I was trying too hard. I’m tired, I’m not at my best, but I can’t drop the ball on this deadline, nor can I get an extension. I either step up to the opportunity, or it’s gone.

I’m excited that my radio play LIGHT BEHIND THE EYES, will be performed on May 21 in Florida. I look forward to hearing it.

Back to the page – my own and those I’m judging. Finishing up the last few entries today and tomorrow.

Published in: on May 10, 2018 at 10:32 am  Comments Off on Thurs. May 10, 2018: Head Down, Working  
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Tues. May 8, 2018: Release Day for SPIRIT REPOSITORY!

The Spirit Repository.6

Tuesday, May 8, 2018
Waning Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde

Today is the release day for THE SPIRIT REPOSTIORY!

The book is $3.99 available on digital channels here.

There’s a post about the book and an excerpt over on A Biblio Paradise.

If you’d like to read excerpts and have more information, visit THE SPIRIT REPSOITORY page and the Media Page on the Coventina Circle website. Articles tied to the book will go up soon.

The blurb is also up for RELICS & REQUEIM, the third Coventina Circle novel, which will release in October of this year.

It was a busy weekend. We had guests. Friday night, we had a good dinner and catch up. Saturday was spent on Martha’s Vineyard, with dinner ready in the slow cooker when we got home. Sunday, we slept in, then trundled around the Cape doing fun staff, and had a nice dinner, and then started binge-watching VICTORIA. Yesterday morning, I took them to the airport bus on the way to work. It was nice to spend time together.

I was delighted that Justify won the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, and that my longshot pick, Good Magic, came in second.

I was also thrilled, on Saturday, to find out that the Radio Theatre Players in St. Petersburg, Florida, will produce my comic noir mystery LIGHT BEHIND THE EYES later this month. I’m very excited.

Yesterday, I was pretty tired. I dug back in to working on HEART THEFT and on the contest entries. They are due next week. There are some terrific books in contention, and all the categories are very competitive.

I know I’m behind on the GDR stuff of the end of April and early May, but I’ll catch up, I promise!

I hope you enjoy SPIRIT REPOSITORY, and I’m digging in for the rest of the things on deadline.

Published in: on May 8, 2018 at 1:26 am  Comments Off on Tues. May 8, 2018: Release Day for SPIRIT REPOSITORY!  
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Wed. May 2, 2018: Stuck Between Exhaustion and Deadlines

Wednesday, May 2, 2018
Waning Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde

By late afternoon yesterday, I was so tired, all I could do was cry.

I’m still fighting with the galleys on SPIRIT REPOSITORY. I’m doing client work and contest work and the work for the interested editors. I’m preparing for company. And I’m exhausted.

There will be no break for me until the end of May. That’s just the way it is.

I’m frustrated, because I no longer have the stamina to just stay up as long as it takes to get things done. By midnight, I’m cooked. When I get up at 5:30 in the morning, I have to finish what wasn’t finished by midnight, and then get behind on the morning’s work. I feel like I’m never going to catch up. I can’t move any of the deadlines. I have to MEET THEM or else.

So I’ll just have to push harder and get it done.

But right now, I’m in despair.

Published in: on May 2, 2018 at 3:02 am  Comments (1)  
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