Thursday, November 30, 2006

Thursday, November 30, 2006
Waxing Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Cloudy and warm


Western medicine has failed me yet again, so I’m trying alternatives. And I actually feel a little better this morning.

Delighted that I finished the first draft of Assumption of Right. I’m pretty sure it’s not a “Devon Ellington” book, though – I think it’ll go out under one of the two new pseudonyms that launch next year.

Several of the characters in this book: Phineas Regan, Bonnie Chencko, Amanda – are interesting enough to wander off into their own books. Diana might even get a story of her own. Simon and Morag need some time together without writerly interference, but the others still have stories to tell.

When I start the revisions for Assumption, I think I’m going to do all the Morag chapters in a block, then all the Simon chapters, instead of doing them in the alternating chronology. I think that will keep their individual voices stronger.

Joe Konrath began an interesting conversation on his blog about whether you “tone down” your writing to reach a broader audience, or if you reach a broader audience by being more controversial. Reading some of his responses to the comments, my interpretation (and I could be mistaken, which is why I’m being specific that it’s MY interpretation of his comments) is that he doesn’t hold much truck with “being true to the story” – which, to me, is the ultimate answer.

I believe that writers should write what they want/need to write about. If the writer is true to the integrity of the story, it will shape how it best needs to be told. Granted, that shaping may happen through quite a bit of revisions and poking by an editor. But if you remain true, as Elizabeth George indicates in Write Away, to how the book feels in your body as you work, it will dictate its own tone/shape/controversy/graphic content.

And when a good writer is true to the STORY, that writer reaches the broadest audience possible for that particular story. There are plenty of writers who I recognize are technically good writers, but I do not enjoy their work, and therefore do not read them. They’re still good; they have every right to write whatever they want; I’m glad they make a living; there are plenty of people who DO respond positively to their work, and good for them. I don’t, and I don’t have to. There are enough different storytellers to please everyone, and they don’t all have to appeal to the same type.

At the same time, when I read a book and I can feel that the writer has manipulated me because the writer is “writing to market”, I feel used and also stop reading that person’s work. One can argue that all writing is manipulative, that writers choose certain details to reveal or hold back to evoke a particular response. However, I want to be a participant on that journey, a companion, not feel I’m being pushed that way for the SOLE REASON that the writer wants to make a buck. I have no problem with writers making lots of money – I think that’s a positive. But I want to be seduced, not forced, into the writer’s world.

There are definitely some writers, who sell a lot of books and make a lot of people happy – good for them -- who, in my opinion, write the same book over and over, using “global replace” for character names and place locations. Those books don’t interest me.

I’d much rather see, from a writer, what Virginia Woolf attempted – to thoroughly reinvent the wheel with each book.

I think, realistically, most writers need to balance the two – once they’re established, write “sure things”, but also stretch and experiment. Writers shouldn’t stop writing what they want because some marketing person is incapable of the creativity to sell it. Look at all the ads bombarding us all the time – a truly creative marketing person is able to initiate a lively campaign to sell ANYTHING. For crying out loud, they sell cans of air.

I also think the rapport a writer creates with the readers will set the tone for whether or not the readers will go with the writer on experimental journeys and remain loyal even when a book doesn’t work. Because a writer should have the right for something not to work once in awhile.

Since publishers have forced writers to carry, in my opinion, an unfair share of the entire business at this point, writers need to turn that into a positive through direct contact with readers, bookstore folk, libraries, et al, and build the type of personal interactive relationship and trust so that readers will go with the writer on various journeys, not just the safe ones.

November GDR Evaluation:
Assumption of Right – both Nano goal and first draft complete
Started “The Merry’s Dalliance”
Worked on Tokens and Affections
Kept up daily with my Nano adoptees
Prepared for the holidays
Came up with the 2007 GDRs

In Process:
Plum essay – which actually will be complete today, so technically it should get into the Completion category, but it’s not complete by the time I posted this.

Not done:
Work on Periwinkle or Middle Marie – which was optional anyway.

Untitled Whatever

I can write the entire first draft of a novel in a month.

The Situation: The Sequel
Unreliable people

What I learned:
Yes, I can do a complete draft of a novel in a month, but little else gets done. Why I should think this is news is beyond me, but there it is.

Valley of Silence by Nora Roberts. Interesting structurally; raised some interesting questions.
Eleven on Top by Janet Evanovich. Very good.
Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich. Very good.
Full Scoop by Janet Evanovich and Charlotte Hughes. Cute.
Full Bloom by Janet Evanovich and Charlotte Hughes. Cute.
Manhunt by Janet Evanovich. Cute.
This Must Be the Place by Jimmie Charters as told to Morrill Cody (unfinished). Very good.
Girl’s Guide to Witchcraft by Mindy Klasky. Excellent! Outstanding! Funny! Why aren’t you reading this book right now?!!!

Off to finish the Plum essay. And tonight, I have an event with PEN.


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Nov. 29 Part III


The first draft of Assumption of Right is complete. 24 chapters. 77,369 words, short of my original estimate of 85K, but that’s what I needed to tell the first version of the story.

It will now rest for two months and then go into revisions. It definitely needs a lot of work, but I’m happy with the overall structure and story.

Met both the Nano goal and the completion goal.

I now know I can write a complete novel in 30 days.

Assumption of Right – 77,369 words out of 50,000 (Nano goal)
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
77 / 50

Assumption of Right – 77,369 words out of 77,000 words – complete
Zokutou word meter
77 / 77

Here are some questions to ponder for 2007, building on the questions we answered in 2005 and 2006:

Goals, Dreams, and Resolutions 2007

1. Take a few minutes to reflect on the previous year. What are you happy with?

2. What are you unhappy with?

3. What unexpected joys did you discover during the year?

4. What were some of the unexpected obstacles that came up, and how did you deal with them? Looking back, would you have done anything differently?

5. What expectations did you find you needed to let go of?

6. Looking ahead, how do you want to structure next year to support your writing?

7. How does the rest of your life support your writing?

8. How can you change/compromise on the non-supportive elements?

9. What new aspect of the writing life do you want to try next year?

10. Where do you need to be more disciplined?

11. Where do you need to ease up on yourself?

12. List your goals for the coming year.

13. List three positive, active steps to take on each goal to get it going.

14. List your dreams for the coming year.

15. List three positive, active steps to transform each dream into a goal.

16. List your resolutions for the coming year.

17. List three positive, active steps to help you stick to them.

Assumption of Right -- 74,639 words out of 50,000 (Nano goal)
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
74 / 50

Assumption of Right -- 74,639 words out of 85,000 (completion goal)
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
74 / 85

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Waxing Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Cloudy and mild

You know it’s bad when I’m too sick to read the job boards. I had a bad reaction to the medication for the stomach problem; so I’m back to over-the-counter (thinking of buying stock in Imodium) and ginger.

Most of the morning ended up in dealing with The Situation: The Sequel. Here we go again, right? It cannot take up my whole life again.

And, no doubt, that’s part of what’s keeping me sick. The whole situation makes me sick and the emotions it triggers contributes to not being able to recover. That and the phone ringing every few minutes with yet another emergency.

And trying to keep on top of everything while feeling lousy causes depression because one can’t do it all, which in turn, makes it harder to recover. So it spirals.

Which, of course, is the hope of those who cause The Situation, because they’re hoping to sicken everyone into Giving Up.

Bite me.

Hard to tear myself away from Assumption of Right. I’m so close to the end here that I want to push through and just do it. But I’m afraid that’ll blow my deadline for the Plum essay, and I’m not sure I have enough energy to push hard on both. I’m simply not feeling well enough to get it all done simultaneously. I have to prioritize – and he who pays the most at the earliest deadline gets the most attention!

But, of course, I cheated and wrote Chapter 21 yesterday afternoon and Chapter 22 this morning. Only two more chapters and I’m done. I’m so close I can taste it.

Got a bit of work done on “The Merry”. That, too, is getting more difficult as I’m getting closer to the end. Eventually, the “Merry” will either morph into a novel or a series of connected stories –but, for the anthology, I’m focusing on one escapade which can stand alone.

Since it’s unseasonably warm and I felt unseasonably awful, I decided to drive the mile or so and take a walk on the beach. It was an interestingly hazy November afternoon – mild, but with that gray, flat quality of light that means winter’s coming. It was nice to be out and about, and I was quite cheered up – until I ran into yet another group of developers crawling around the building when I returned.

I had to cancel tonight’s plans because I’m still sick, but I can’t get out of work today, so I’m going to force myself in and push through it. Oh, well. La la la holiday time, right?

Happy writing!


Assumption of Right -- 71,451 words out of 50,000 (Nano goal)
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
71 / 50

Assumption of Right – 71,451 words out of est. 85,000 (completion goal)
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
71 / 85

Monday, November 27, 2006

Monday, November 27, 2006
Waxing Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Cloudy and mild

I did another chapter on Assumption this morning, which gave me the opportunity to plant a red herring I didn’t think I’d get to plant, and then I uploaded the entire novel and got my certificate.

Last year, I thought we had a few days into December to complete the upload, but this morning, I noticed that the verification had to happen by Thursday night. Since that will be a crazy upload day, and I’m over 50K, I decided to do it today.

I only have about three or four more chapters, and I’m done. Will I hit the 85K in this draft? I don’t think so. But that’s okay. There are other drafts to be done.

Yesterday was a bit of a nutty day. Most of it was spent cleaning up in preparation for the night’s meeting. Okay – so most of the day was spent hiding stuff so that it looked like the place was clean. The living room looks pretty nice, especially with all the decorations, but I have to go through everything I’ve stashed and toss or file it over the coming weeks.

I love the holidays, and I love decorating for the holidays. I know people get frenzied and caught up in the “keeping up with the Joneses” aspect, and, as far as I’m concerned, that’s their problem. Except when they run over my foot with a shopping cart. Then, yeah, it’s my problem.

What I love about decorating for holidays, especially for the Yule-time holidays, is the sense of connection to the past while building future transitions. Every ornament has a story attached, a memory connected. Even the new stuff – the garland I bought and decorated this year – any time I put it up, I’ll remember sitting in the store, telling lost children stories about Max the reindeer. Every year, when I take out the ornaments, I can tell myself its story again – almost like an oral history project – that jockey ornament comes from Churchill Downs, when I went to Kentucky to watch my friend ride at Keeneland in Lexington and we got a day trip; that ornament was given to me by the hairdresser on Miss Saigon because he knew I collect ornaments; that wind-up Santa has been in the family as long as I can remember, and even though he’s threadbare, I like to have him out every year; that ornament was bought in Scotland, at the little shop in a small town whose name I can’t recall, but the owner gave us a tip on the local pub with the best food; the collection of Nutcrackers that grows every year, because people learn I collect them, and keep giving them to me – each one has his own story. I stay out of the bulk of the shopping frenzy. I get to gussy things up and cook and do all the things I like to do.

There were years, especially in my mid-twenties, where the holidays became no fun anymore, but, fortunately, I grew past it, and, for the most part, I’ve managed to find ways to take joy in the season without making myself too much crazier than I already am.

Just prior to the meeting was a glitch. The head of the TO called to bail because of a family emergency, and then told me he’d emailed a bunch of other people in the building about the meeting – without checking with me first – so I had absolutely no idea who was coming or how many. Needless to say, I was not amused. However, I always fix enough food to feed a small army (because we are an army that marches on our stomachs), so, food-wise and drink-wise, I knew I could deal. It was seating wise I’d be screwed, especially since so much space is now taken up with decorations.

Fortunately, only those who were invited by me came – and we got a lot done on The Situation: The Sequel in a positive atmosphere. I can’t go into the details here, for legal reasons, but we’ve got another fight on our hands. Both sides have learned from the previous one, so this should be interesting. And I, for one, am not going to live in type of fear that we spent months living in – jumping at every step on the stair or knock on the door.

And the timing, AGAIN before the holidays – smacks of malicious intent.

I have bills to pay and some paperwork to generate today on various items, but the bulk of the day must be spent on the Plum essay. It’s due at the end of the week, and I’m committed to a PEN event on Thursday night, so there will be no last-minute push for me!

And, one of these days, maybe I’ll start feeling better!


Assumption of Right -- 64,923 words out of 50,000 (Nano goal)
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
64 / 50

Assumption of Right – 64,923 words out of 85,000 (completion goal)
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
64 / 85

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Sunday, November 26, 2006
Waxing Moon
First of Advent
Neptune Retrograde
Cloudy and mild

So yesterday was an, ahem, interesting day.

I would have enjoyed it more had I not felt like crap, but it was still pretty funny.

It started with the need to run errands, once I’d done my quota on Assumption. I started at a craft store, one town over. It was absolutely overwhelming – ten foot tall displays of every possible type of decoration for what seemed like miles. Most at 60% off. So I wandered around, avoiding the frenzied shoppers mowing people down with their carts, and picked up what I need for this year’s decorating.

I also ending up accumulating a bunch of toddlers. Not permanently, thank goodness, but there were all these small children wandering around, lost, crying, frightened, and many of them got tangled in the lengths of garland that hung from various displays, which scared them even more. They’re lost and crying for their parents, and not an adult in sight.

It was like something out of Little Shop of Horrors, only with faux pine garlands instead of Venus flytraps.

I kept untangling small children, and pretty soon there were too many of them to keep track of, so I finally just sat down in the middle of the aisle, gathered them around and began telling them a story about Max the Reindeer (Rudolph’s second cousin on his mother’s side – work with me here).

Several rabid shoppers zooming down the aisle screamed and swore at us. I flipped them off, hoping that most of the toddlers don’t know what that means, where they would know what the words mean.

Finally, this boy of about ten saunters by and says, “You look like you need help.”

“No kidding, Sherlock.”

“I’ll get my dad.”

So when “Dad” stopped laughing, he got the store manager, who got on the PA and started rounding up parents. The most disgusting thing of all was that so many of these parents were so busy chatting on their damn cell phones they “hadn’t noticed” that their kids were missing.

Now, I was with these kids for probably close to a half hour. How could you misplace your kid for that long and “not notice”? I’m beginning to think licensing parents is not such a bad idea.

I finally made it out of there, with my bags of stuff, and then headed over to the pharmacy to pick up my mom’s prescription, where I was assaulted by dancing mechanical penguins who felt like they chased me up and down the aisles, accompanied by a dancing mechanical Santa doing an Elvis impersonation. And this is a good idea because . . .?

I popped into a grocery store beside the pharmacy to pick up some wonderfully scented candles only carried by that one particular place and managed to get in and out unscathed.

I meant to go to another grocery store, but took one turn too soon and found myself at Home Depot, so I picked up the wreath for the front door –and ran into the kid and his Dad. We ended up going to a nearby place for Chinese food. Turns out he grew up in this town – but went to private school, not public, which is why our paths never crossed. He’s recently divorced and came back with his son to spend the holidays at his mom’s. The kid is pretty funny – very smart with a very dry sense of humor.

Then I braved the other grocery store, which wasn’t that full, but those that were in there were lethal – especially an elderly woman who just got a new motorized chair and didn’t know how to use it yet. She knocked over a display of toy cars, and she passed me going through the meat aisle yelling, “You better get out of the way, because I don’t know how to stop this thing!” It was pretty funny. She seemed to enjoy herself, and I don’t think anyone got hurt.

To the wine shop next to pick up a few things for today’s meeting, and then, finally, back home.

And then the decorating began. Until nearly ten o’clock at night. It’s still a work in progress, but the bulk of it is done, including the tree up, all the fabric on the different surfaces that are “fabricked” the Advent table done, etc., etc. Technically, I should have waited until today, the first of Advent, but I was afraid to get called in to work today and then it would be chaos when everyone arrived for tonight’s meeting.

However, I realized by mid-evening that there was no way I could work because I felt too lousy, so I let work know I wasn’t able to come in today.

Of course, in addition to being sick, everything also hurts from hauling boxes and ironing and doing all the rest.

I’m doing the food prep for tonight’s meeting (not that I’ll get to eat any of it, but hey, they will, and that’s what counts) and try to get the rest of the place in good enough order so I won’t be completely embarrassed to have people in.

Because, of course, all the stuff that was on the tables that now hold holiday festivities has to go somewhere. And I haven’t figured out where yet.

Did another chapter on Assumption this morning. A Morag chapter, overlapping a good bit of the previous chapter. I realized, structurally, the book shaped itself by alternating POV chapters that did not overlap initially, but grew more and more so as the story progressed. It’s interesting how that happened organically.

Again, proof that it pays to trust the story.

Off to get things done for tonight and then get back to work on the Plum essay. December 1 is coming up fast.


Assumption of Right -- 62,428 words out of 50,000 (Nano goal)
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
62 / 50

Assumption of Right -- 62,428 words out of 85,000 (completion goal)
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
62 / 85

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Saturday, November 25, 2006
Waxing Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Sunny and mild

Back from a really good trip, unfortunately sandwiched on both ends by illness.

Tuesday work was not fun – not feeling at all well, stomach problems, short of breath, etc., etc. But I got through it and got home. I figured it was triggered by the fear/reluctance of facing Metro North and their problems yet again, and the fear of being stuck on the train for countless hours and then bashed by another train. But, although the train was typically its forty minutes late (which, in my opinion, is still too late), I got home relatively in one piece, although I still felt like crap.

I came home to find that I’ve entered the 21st century, music-wise. An early Christmas present arrived – a Creative Zen V Plus MP3 player. Very exciting. Too bad the CD was faulty and wouldn’t install. I finally (after over three hours) got enough installed so that I could figure out how to take music I copied from CD to computer and then download it to the Zen, and then play it. I put a bit of a charge into it, but not the full six hours – there weren’t six hours left before I had to leave.

On top of that, I can’t get into the instructions on the CD. The so-called ‘instruction book” simply says to look it up on the CD – but, since the CD is faulty, I can’t. Now, the point of an instruction manual is to teach me how to do things – not tell me to look somewhere else that’s inaccessible.

I had a few choice words for Zen’s customer service.

Didn’t feel much better the next day. Up at 5 AM to get on the road early, before all the crazy holiday traffic. Nothing like a long drive in the car with a dodgy stomach. Other than being uncomfortable, it wasn’t all that bad – it’s not like we had to stop every 15 miles or whatever. In fact, by the time we hit Massachusetts, I started to feel better.

Two hours into the trip, we realized we’d forgotten the cake we bought to bring up as our offering. There was no way we were going to turn around and go back for it.

We stopped in Newburyport, a lovely town in Mass. Tess Gerritsen recommended the Jabberwocky Bookshop to me there – told me if I was ever in the area, I should check it out. So I did. Of course, I hadn’t been to Newburyport in years, so I parked at the wrong end of town to reach the bookshop – but it’s a lovely town with a great vibe, and it was nice to take a walk.

The bookshop itself is wonderful – enormous, with a wide range of material, a terrific children’s and YA section (Heather, add it to you list of shops you MUST visit when your book comes out), and a wonderful staff. Basically, everything a good bookshop should be.

I bought myself a lovely book on herbs.

Next door, there just happened to be another lovely shop, the Nutcracker Bakery and Creperie. We went in, and I told them that I’d been stupid and left the cake in the fridge, and was there anything left that was unspoken for that we could buy? They had several things, one of which was an enormous banana cream pie. So that’s what we bought. They were so nice.

Newburyport is such a lovely town, with a great vibe, everything I need – and lots of real estate available. We took a flying look at a few places, and it’s one the list of top choices for towns to which to relocate, along with those on the South Shore below Boston and Shelburne, VT.

We headed on up, making our usual stops in Kittery (who can drive by the Lindt outlet without making a stop?) , and then on to York, for another stop at the Stonewall Kitchens. Again, everyone is so lovely, and the quality of their products is outstanding. We picked up a few things, and headed on further. We stopped at the Maine diner for lunch (lobster club – delicious). Perfect service, very busy, friendly staff. I love the place because it’s busy all the time, with a solid mix of people passing through and locals. The staff knows about 60% of the people who eat there by name. That’s always a good sign.

The Book Barn in Wells was closed, so we didn’t stop there, but hopped back on to the Maine Turnpike at Kennebunk and completed the drive to my Grandmother’s. We got there much earlier than we expected, which was a good thing.

I felt better, but not great, but now I had the primary care of three senior citizens, two over the age of 90, not just one. Part of my “job” when I go up there is to take some of the daily details off the rest of the family and pull my weight, which I’m happy to do, but it’s always more difficult when you’re under the weather. And I didn’t want to say anything, because I didn’t want anyone to worry. So I shut up and dealt.

But I was ready for bed by about 8:30.

Up early the next day, to get the morning started. Helped get the breakfast done; after breakfast, helped get everyone ready for the meal. I tried to get some work done on the “Merry” – I think I got about three pages or so. It was hard. Even using the Zen (which is a big help – how cool to only have songs in that you want to hear and be able to rearrange them however you want? I know, I know, I’m so behind the times), it was distracting.

And then, it was time to leave for the hall with Aiorig about to be burned at the stake, Luthias tied up to be forced to watch, and Kit Erskine waiting for the distraction to happen so she can make her move.

The dinner itself was great. I only get to see these people once a year, at Thanksgiving, and there’s much catching up to do, meeting the new people brought in, trying to recognize everyone’s kids who change so much, year to year (friends who are writing YA – your numbers will be up in Maine, just from my family). Everyone pitches in to set up and cook, and everyone pitches in to clean up. The meal was fantastic, as always, and it was nice to catch up with people. I was rushing around I forgot to take pictures of the hall – sorry – but I think we had a shade under 60 people there this year, although I’m pretty sure it was more than 50.

My mom drove my grandmother and great-uncle back to the house pretty soon after the meal, because they were exhausted, and I stayed to help finish the clean-up. Another well-loved family member drove me back after, and it was nice to get some one-on-one time.

They’re all very eager for me to leave New York and move closer.

We got home just in time to meet friends of my Grandmother’s who stopped by. Her friend of many, many years is 98 this year – and determined, in true New England fashion, to make it to 100. One of his daughters and her husband were also there. We’d never met, but we’ve all heard about each other for years, so it was nice to finally have people to match to names. And it turns out that the daughter’s husband grew up in this town – a few houses up the street from where my mother currently lives!

Talk about synchronicity – because I don’t believe in coincidence.

We had a good long discussion about the town, about The Situation and The Situation: The Sequel, and about the need to move to “The Commonwealth.”

A long day, but a good one.

Headed back on Friday, because of The Situation: The Sequel, which made me uncomfortable being away too long. We stopped again in Newburyport, at the Nutcracker. The woman who runs the place/bakes remembered us, and we assured her that the banana cream pie was a hit. We stopped and had a snack – she makes the best turnovers I’ve ever had in my life – and then headed on.

Stopped in Sturbridge, MA, at one of my favorite stores, Earth Spirits, to stock up on herbs, oils, and incenses for the holidays. And there’s a great restaurant just around back of it, where we had a nice lunch.

The drive from Sturbridge back on down to New York was awful. The traffic was a nightmare, and we were driving into a sun that looked like it would set, then bob back up again like a yo-yo. We were glad to get back home.

We took a slight detour to Old Saybrook to a favorite store and found some old-fashioned wooden Christmas ornaments. Some of them need a bit of TLC, but it shouldn’t be too hard to restore them and put them on the tree.

The cats were furious with us – although they’d been well-cared for in our absence.

And, by the time we got back home, I was feeling absolutely awful again. I’m going to make a doctor’s appointment. I’ve felt off for weeks now, and it’s gone to downright terrible most of the time.

Managed to write Chapter 18 of Assumption this morning. I realized I’m almost at the end of the piece – don’t think this first draft will hit 85K, which is fine. The story is what it is. Chapter 18 is from Simon’s point of view, ending with Morag’s stabbing. Chapter 19 will backtrack a bit, being from Morag’s point of view to get us to the same place, and then we can move on.

I have a ton of things that must be done TODAY, no matter how I feel, because I might have to go in to work tomorrow, and then there’s a TO meeting here tomorrow night, so that has to be set up before I go to work. The work has to get done, no matter what.

And that December 1 deadline looms over me – if I don’t have to go in to the show tomorrow, the bulk of the day needs to be spent reworking that.

Trip photos posted soon.


Assumption of Right -- 59,122 words out of 50,000 (Nano goal)
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
59 / 50

Assumption of Right – 59,122 words out of 85,000 (completion goal)
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
59 / 85