Saturday, November 27, 2004

Saturday, November 27, 2004
Waning Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Sunny and Cold

NaNoWriMo Daily Cheer: You are so, so, so close! Just keep reaching!

I planned to get online once more before we left in order to leave cheers for Wed., Thurs., and Fri. But, with the weather reports as dire as they were, we left early to outrun the storm. My apologies – but hopefully everyone was too busy juggling turkeys and writing implements to notice.

Suicides are up in this area. A man jumped off the Empire State Building yesterday. Another man jumped off a building in the Bronx. A third man threw himself in front of a subway train.

Also, four people were murdered and their bodies left outside of a church.

There was hardly any traffic driving up. It was great. We shot up to the Maine border, and then meandered the rest of the way, stopping wherever we wanted. We did a bit of shopping at the outlets, and we finally got to stop at a thrift store I’ve wanted to stop at for years. I’m not sure if it’s technically in Ogunquit or in York – but it’s great. I got a box full of glassware that I’ll paint and a few other odds and ends – some unusual items that caught my eye, like a few hand carved wooden Christmas decorations and a large pink plush stuffed bat. There is absolutely no reason I need a pink stuffed bat, but he was cute, so there. I got to stop at the Book Barn in Wells and get cookbooks by James Beard and by Alice Waters. I picked up a Vogue sewing book at a Goodwill – for $1.95 in perfect condition. This is a book that would sell for probably about $50 new now. Yeah, it’s from 1970, so the pictures are a bit out of date – but one still alters pants, tailors jackets and finishes seams the same way. It was a major find.

And, it didn’t start raining until we had the luggage out of the car and were safely tucked inside.

I wandered around taking early morning pictures in the mist on Thanksgiving Day. The reflection on the pond, the mist coming through the trees – it’s something I can use in a piece somewhere at some point in time, and I wanted to make sure I captured it on film. There’s a stillness, a mysterious and slightly ominous quality that I liked.

I even managed to get some writing done. I specifically didn’t take anything along for the serials, because I wanted a break from them. I don’t want to get stale, and sometimes a change is necessary to keep from getting bogged down. I did a few pages on “Giving and Thanks” but, even though it’s a Thanksgiving story, I found it difficult to concentrate on it. I’ve got nearly 40 pages of it now. I think I need to type it and finish it with keyboard instead of longhand. I’m starting to lose track of certain themes that I want to tie together by the end of the novella, and I’m already moving ahead to other short stories with the characters. For instance, “Driven to Change”, the piece I submitted to Emerging Women Writers last week, takes place after the events in “Giving and Thanks”, and I’m already thinking about “The Third of Advent”, “Deck the What?” and something to do with New Year’s, all set in Congress Corners.

I’d taken the YA with me, and re-read the chapters I’ve done on that. They’re better than I thought, and the piece holds. But, it’s not really a YA. It’s definitely an adult novel of magical realism that happens to have three of its main characters as teenagers. But where it’s going – and where future stories with these characters are going – are not YA. I do want to keep the YA-ish title, though: Curse of the Moon-Faced Clock, with it distinct homage towards Nancy Drew, Ruth Fielding, Beverly Gray, and all those juvenile mystery series from the turn of the century through the 1940s that I love so much. I’ll have a fight on my hands with marketing people, but tough. A retro, pulp magazine style cover would work for it. I did about four pages on Chapter 3 of Clock, and I don’t want several more months to elapse before I do more.

I will have to keep a running list of things I need to look up – since much of it is set on a fictional island off the southwest coast of Scotland, and Culzean Castle plays an important role, I can e-mail my contacts there and they’ll be able to point me in the right direction.

I’ve made extensive notes on this project – now I need to search through my Fragment Notebooks (the notebooks I always carry with me) and type up all the notes, so that I have them in one place and can refer back to them as the piece grows. The Fragment notebooks tend to fill up quickly, and since I don’t like to rip out pages, I have to keep working my way back through them to sort out the notes.

Unfortunately, by the time it was time to leave for the dinner, I was just about ready to get into the car and go home. The previous evening and much of the morning I was subjected to yet more unrelenting criticism from my grandmother. It wasn’t entirely what was said over those ten, twelve hours – it was the accumulation of the unstopping reproof that’s been going on for decades since I was a small child. I’m not who she wants me to be: I’m not a corporate secretary married to some corporate guy living in a big house with a passel of babies. Therefore, I’m not anything to be proud of. It doesn’t matter that I write more in a week than many people do in a month. It doesn’t matter that I publish regularly, and, in the case of the work I do for the calendars and almanacs, I’m one of the company’s most popular authors. It doesn’t matter that, if her pressure cooker stops working, I hunt another one down on the Internet and send it to her – she spends hours and hours complaining that it isn’t EXACTLY like her old one – which is no longer made. It doesn’t matter that I spend hours doing detailed research on a variety of subjects – if I disagree with her, “you think you know everything. You DON’T.” Then match me, source for source with your information. Don’t just berate me because I can back up my arguments and you can’t.

It doesn’t matter that I have built a life of my own choosing and my own work, that I value my family and friends and fight to protect them. That I stand up for what I believe in. Or that I’m happy with the life I’ve built and am continuing to build. I’m not what she considers a success and she never lets me forget it. Well, what a shame. I chose not to live the same life she led. I chose not to submerge my creative talent because of a relationship because it’s my “duty”. Heck, if my S.O. expects me to stop writing, he’s gone. I’m certainly glad I didn’t bring my S.O. up for the holiday – not only is he not in a line of work she’d understand either, I wouldn’t want to have to put him through having to deal with me while I was trying to regain my footing with all of this. (And, in case regular readers wonder why I don’t discuss him in the blog, it is at his request, which I respect. He says it would make him feel like a “science experiment.”). But it still hurt me deeply made me heart sore.

But, the dinner is not about me – there were 43 other people there. So I pulled it together and got to work as soon as we hit the hall. Fortunately, one of my jobs is mashing the vats of potatoes and sweet potatoes – great way to work out any possible tensions. And it seems like everybody else was genuinely glad to see me.

They’re a good bunch. I don’t get to see them very often, and I think next year I’ll have to ask for a chart so I know who’s related to whom and how. But they’re intelligent and friendly and fun. And I love working in the enormous kitchen, helping to get things ready. I’d worked on shows on Thanksgiving the previous two years and hadn’t had a chance to go up, so I had to make up for lost work! I was asked to say the Grace, which I did off the top of my head – hopefully it was appropriate – I remembered to include the troops fighting overseas.

The dinner itself was wonderful, as always. Everyone pitches in, whether it’s cooking a turkey or a side dish or a dessert – and everything is absolutely, stunningly delicious. This group should put together its own Thanksgiving cookbook – there’s something for everyone! And the conversation is good, the company is lovely – it’s the ideal way to spend Thanksgiving.

And then comes the clean-up. People pitch in to clear the tables, do the dishes, dry and put things away, divide up the leftovers, pack the decorations, and clean up the hall. Did I mention that the family rents the Legion Hall for the dinner? I want a similar stove in my house – I need all those burners and those ovens! The cleaning up is as much fun as the set up and the actual eating. Because we all get to be together and to catch up on the previous year. It’s the only time I get to see everyone. I wish I had more contact throughout the year. I should make more of an effort to keep track of everybody.

I had a genuinely good time, and I think I managed to get through it with enough manners so no one knew anything was wrong. Getting into a discussion of the situation wouldn’t do any good for anyone. She considers everyone else in the family perfect. Oh, well, everyone’s gotta have a black sheep in their family, and I guess I’m it.

Started my research on the times of Henry VIII. I’ve been playing with an idea of a story or a series of stories set in and around that era. I know my two main characters – the woman will be a lady in waiting and her husband will be in the King’s Inner Circle, but not one of those jockeying for power. Actually, originally, I wanted him to be more political, but he has other ideas and is very strong-minded. So the politico will be a brother of one of the two main characters. One of both of them will be from Northumbria and have some connection to the Percys. Love those Percys – they were passionate in everything they did, even when it cost them their lives. But at least they looked after the people of Northumberland, in and around anything else they were up to, which is why they’re still so adored today.

I always think of Henry as a wife-killer and someone who simply partied to excess. I didn’t realize how much he did for the country as a young king, how much he studied and played sports and patronized the arts or how much of his reign he spent with his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.

It will take at least two years of research before I can put pen to paper on this project. I think I have to go back, possibly as far as Henry V and re-read the history between V and VIII. I’m solid in my history from Richard II to Henry V, but from there through Henry VIII, I’m a little shaky, so getting up to speed on that will make it easier to understand what’s going on in VIII’s time. I need to re-read the material on the War of the Roses. Also, sometimes the nobles are referred to by their given names and sometimes by their titles, and that gets confusing. It will mean lots of charts, timelines, etc. I also want to find books on Margaret Beaufort, Wolsey, More, et al.

The research will lead into and overlap the research on Shakespeare, Marlowe, Kydd and Jonson that I’ve done on and off for years for another project, so it can be one long process. If the notes are organized well enough, I can use them for more than one piece.

I also got an idea for a new short story (either under the Christy Miller name or the Ava Dunne name, I’m not yet sure) that I hope to start this weekend.

Up early Friday morning and packed. I received somewhat of a backhanded apology for what was said, followed by a diatribe about my father. I appreciate the words, but I’d appreciate a change of behavior to back them up even more. If you do something you know hurts someone, stop doing it. “That’s just the way I am” is not an excuse. There is no excuse. Stop inflicting harm.

The temperature dropped to 24 degrees over night. Since it rained the day before, the trunk and the doors of the car were frozen shut, and it was a battle to get them open. We didn’t have to go as far as pouring boiling water over it (which I’ve done in the past), but it was a struggle.

Stopped at the thrift shop to pick up something I regretted not buying on Wed. – but it was closed. Oh, well. Stopped at the NH liquor store – prices are better down here.

The movers were still finishing up in my friend’s apartment when we got back. They were very nice and quite thorough. I heard them running the vacuum before they left. I will check everything out today and see if there’s anything else to clean up before turning in the key.

I played a wonderful CD while I cooked dinner – Lammas Ladymass, a collection of chants and liturgical music from the 13th and 14th centuries. Very soothing.

Back to the serials – I want to finish the issues for the month for Tapestry and get some more work done on The Widow’s Chamber. Monday is the start of an Angel Hunt week.

The place I had the odd feeling about never answered my questions – which were legitimate, professional questions that any above-board place would find normal. So I guess I’m not sending a package there. Heard that another package had its first reading – only they’ve split up the parts of the package to different readers, which is just ridiculous.

And I’ve got to get the overseas holiday cards done this weekend and start the decorating. Sunday is the First of Advent.

I printed out return address labels for the card and labels with the website address that I’ll put on the business postcards. The template Paper Direct sent to go with the postcards is useless – it has nothing to do with the design of the card, and it’s sized for the jumbo card, not the regular card. I had to pay for the template, which is downloadable – and there’s a “legal agreement” you have to click – you can’t ask for a refund once you download, yet there’s no way of knowing the template is useless until it’s downloaded.

Can you imagine the e-mail I sent to customer service about that one?

I photocopied the cards and made my own template, which took some time and lots of swearing. But it’s done, and I can run the cards and get everything out on time.

And a letter’s going out to the BBB today. Along with an invoice to Paper Direct. That’s right. An invoice. I can’t ask for a refund. Fine. But I had to redo work for which I paid them. So I’m charging them, at my regular hourly rate. It ends up being three times the cost of the cards and template.

For those of you following the dreams that started nearly a month ago, they’re still prevalent, but nothing so unusual that it’s worth writing about.



At 8:06 PM, Blogger Norma said...

You are a busy writer! My goodness. Don't know how you keep track of all that. Sounds like a really good family time--grandma being just a little blip in an otherwise happy time. You are certainly blessed.


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