Saturday, September 30, 2006

Saturday, September 30, 2006
Waxing Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Sunny and cold

Good riddance to bad rubbish: The Florida Republican senator or congressman or whatever who resigned after it was discovered he sent sexually explicit emails to underage pages. And supposedly he was so strong on child protection!

Looking forward to reading Bob Woodward’s new book, State of Denial. He was one of the reporters who broke Watergate – good journalist who doesn’t just talk out of his ass.

Congratulations to Caro Llewellyn, who, on Monday, takes over as the new director of the PEN World Voices: New York International Festival of Literature. She comes to PEN from the Sydney Writers Festival, where the former director of the Perth Writers Festival will take over.

Having spent a short period of time in Australia when one of my plays was produced there, I can say first hand that they love writers.

Did 6 ½ pages on Real yesterday. Passed the 100K mark. Nowhere near done. I’m going to sigh and enjoy it on the Word Meter today, and then up the count. The piece is definitely unique – I’ve never read anything like it before, and it’s something I’d want to read. But it will need a lot of work in the revisions. I have no doubt it will continue to grow like ivy until the end of the second draft. Then, in draft 3, I can bring out the Red Machete. I love the Red Machete.

Several people asked me whether or not to continue reading books they disliked. At this point, unless I’m being paid to review it, I put the books down when I hate them. The 120 page self-pity party last week was an exception, because I kept thinking it HAD to get better, and it was short.

If I’m paid, I’ll slog through it no matter what. Otherwise – forget it.

Diana over on Diaphanous turned me on to BOOKMOOCH. If you accumulate books that you don’t like, you can find them good homes and, in return, get books you want on BookMooch. Check it out.

Prep work on Assumption of Right. I got very caught up in the world of it, and it’s surprising me. In fact, a major character for whom I hadn’t planned swooped in to add additional conflict between the two protagonists. Instead of being out and out suspense, it’s veering into romantic suspense, untried territory for me. But that’s the point, right? Use Nano to stretch.

Worked on the outline for Dixie Dust Rumors. It’s been at least four years since I had to write an outline for everything – I’ve pitched sans outline thus far, using loglines, pitch paragraphs, samples, general overviews, fast talking. And I had to go to one of the writer’s group for a refresher. I felt like a moron.

Worked on November’s “Lit Athlete” column.

Heard back from the anthology editor, who wants an expanded proposal on one of the topics I sent yesterday. Will work on that today and send off tomorrow night, so it’s waiting for her first thing Monday.

I was supposed to do a kazillion errands yesterday; instead, I stayed home and wrote. I have to make up for it today.

Ink in My Kitchen:
Baked chicken done simply with olive oil, garlic and rosemary, with mashed potatoes and peas for supper. I’d been so wrapped up in my writing, I forgot to make the Viennese chocolate sponge cake I meant to bake, so I went back to basics: trusty old Devil’s Food Cake recipe, with a bit of brandy tossed in. Yum!

This morning, it’s scrambled eggs and cheese on English muffins. And, of course, my favorite Italian coffee to which I got addicted in Philadelphia. Found a place to get it here.

Maybe, just maybe, if I’m organized enough this morning, I can bake bread.

September GDR wrap-up:

Real – well, I hit 100K, the estimated endpoint, and then found out it wasn’t done. Sigh.
“Ris an Abrar” – complete, revised, out
Decisions – don’t start
4 Dog Blogs

In Process:
Real – see above. It keeps on and on and on . . .
Fix-It Girl
DE site
November’s Lit Athlete

Clear the Slot revision

Swapping stories with my crit partner
Became an associate member of PEN
Trip to Sunnyside
Wrote “The Retriever”, revised, and submitted it.
Notes on several short stories.
1200 words on I-Don’t-Know-What-This-Is-Yet
Revised “Not My Vote” and submitted
Revised “Election Exaction” and submitted
Revised “Needed” and submitted
Revised “As the Sky Lightens” and submitted
Outlined Assumption of Right
Started “Disappearing”
Revised “To Die For” and submitted
Revised “Tumble” into Tumble and submitted
Began “Bones and Books”
Revised “Blueberrying” and submitted
Anthology pitch
Revised query for Dixie Dust Rumors

Didn’t get a script-for-hire job
Other major script opportunity turned out to be more of a scam than a job
A publisher with whom I’ve worked for a dozen years not only puts the wrong byline in the catalogue, but misspells it.
A forum which used to be a haven, but is now a place where the Unpublished attack the Published as hacks.

Lit Athlete column published
“Muse” published
“Lady” published
The 2007 annuals are out!
So many stories revised and submitted!

September Reading:
A children’s Betsy Ross bio – title and author escape me. Good.
A Year at the Races by Jane Smiley. Excellent.
The Dark Queen by Susan Carroll. Very good.
The Memory of All That by Betsy Blair. Good.
The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee. Excellent.
Journals of Washington Irving, Vol. I by Washington Irving (unfinished). Very good.
Small Wonders by Barbara Kingslover (unfinished). Very good.
The Courtesan by Susan Carroll. Very good.
The Silver Rose by Susan Carroll. Very good.
The Mystery Guest by Gregoire Bouilliers. 120 page self-pity party. Men seem to love this book; I hated it.
The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox. Very good.
One for the Money by Janet Evanovich. Very good.
Hot Six by Janet Evanovich. Very good.
To the Nines by Janet Evanovich. Very good.
Eleven on Top by Janet Evanovich. Very good.
The Book of Shadows by James Reese (unfinished). Came recommended, but I didn’t like it.

I’m also working on the GDR questions for 2007. I’ll probably post them mid-month.

I also made a promise to myself that for every new big project I start, I have to do 2-4 pages per day on something that’s been hanging around unfinished.


Real – 100,125 words out of est. 100,000

Zokutou word meter
100 / 100

Friday, September 29, 2006

Friday, September 29, 2006
Waxing Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Rainy and muggy

“Vulcan’s Child” by Rachelle Arlin Credo is today’s poem on Circadian.

Will Neptune please turn direct already? This is NOT fun!!!

Worked on some admin stuff in the morning, then read the 4th book (yes, people, I read four entire books in one twenty four hour period and my eyeballs are no longer speaking to me), then worked on the proposal.

Just as I was two paragraphs from the end – CRACK!

Everything in the apartment flashed and most of the apartment went dark. A few things worked in the kitchen, but the rest of the place – including the computer – was out. With my proposal. Which I had composed on the screen, instead of what I usually do, which is longhand first and THEN type it.

Called the super. He came up and we went through the usual – breakers, felt the walls for heat, etc., etc. Checked some of the empty apartments in the section – half of each apartment was out. He went to get an electrician; I went to have a nervous breakdown. I told the super if one of the jackasses on the road crew working outside had cut the wrong wires, I would cut his wires. The jackass’s, not the super’s. The super here is great. The super called the electrician and everything was set to rights in a relatively short amount of time.

All because some idiot is careless with his jackhammer.

Take that any way you wish.

And, thanks to Colin’s tutorials, I actually took a few deep breaths and managed to recover most of the proposal, finish it, and get it out. Without having to whimper or panic and track him down, either. See, Colin? I actually pay ATTENTION when you try to teach me something. I don’t always understand it, but when I do, I can continue using what you’ve taught me. Or, even if I don’t totally understand it, I can follow your instructions and get it to work anyway.

And THEN I opened the great big bottle of wine.

Forgot to mention that, prior to the reading marathon, I finished The Meaning of Night. I enjoyed the book – without liking the protagonist. So often, when someone mentions not liking the protagonist, the author gets all huffy and says the reader is judging the stylistic choice. Well, in Cox’s book, having an unreliable and unlikeable narrator works. Two small things that bothered me: One was that, there are letters within books and letters, and I didn’t feel enough differentiation in the voices. However, that might have been a stylistic choice, since the narrator tells us the contents – I wasn’t always sure. The other was that the protagonist is easily deceived by someone and I found it hard to believe he could be so easily deceive, even though the author’s point was that he wanted to be (I think). In any case, I enjoyed the book. And I learned a lot from it.

Started reading another book, lent to me by a friend. I have to admit that I’m struggling with it. 221 pages into it, and I’m really annoyed with the writer. I’m trying to cut him slack – so far, I feel he’s fallen into every cliché of negative witchcraft stereotyping there is. I tried to cut him slack because, even though it’s technically fantasy, it’s set in an actual historical time period and those demented, paranoid, vile lies were believed. However, I also feel that the writer’s getting off on detailing torture, especially torture of women, and that pisses me off. You can paint a horrifying picture of the abuse these women suffered in a few paragraphs and have it be gripping, frightening, revolting, emotional. But to run a torture sequence for over twenty pages? That’s gratuitous, and you’re enjoying the sadism. And then maybe a page or two of story before the next torture sequence. No, thank you.

Worked on an outline of an action adventure, did some more work on Assumptions of Right, and started playing with a few more stories that need to get out in the next week or so. Some of it is revision on written material; some is playing with new ideas.

I’m avoiding the synopsis, and I can’t get away with that any longer, so I’ll tackle that today. I want to do some work on Real first, and then see what I can do with the synopsis. Came across a possible market for Elusive Prayers, too, so I might have to re-read that and see if I can make a go of it.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

Thursday, September 28, 2006
Waxing Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Sunny and cool

No hot water AGAIN this morning. It’s been erratic for over two months, and I’m sick of it.

Found some big errors in “Ris an Abrar” – fixed them, and got it out.

Went over “Blueberrying” again and got it out.

The Mothership was filming just around the corner from me today, so I stopped by after I mailed the stories and said hi to a few people.

Spent the rest of the day researching for the pitch. Read three books, cover to cover. One I read in the library. I took three more home and read two of them. I’m going to read the last one today, and then feel I have enough information/ideas to write the pitch.
I should be able to get it out by the end of the day today or first thing tomorrow.

Watched the television series tonight and was very pleased with it. My helicopter sequence rocked! Even though it was less than 30 seconds. That’s the way it goes. On Conviction, we spent something like seven or eight hours on a banquet scene and about 15 seconds of it ended up onscreen. That’s the way it goes. But this show is tightly written – not an extraneous word. One really has to listen, because everything a character says is relevant. I love that.

I’m going to get some writing done this morning, then read the fourth book, then write that pitch and get it out. I really want that job. I just hope I’m the right one for it!


PS Blogger refuses to publish AGAIN – it was having trouble yesterday – and they “fixed” exactly what last week? Hopefully this will get up sooner rather than late

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

"Our Marriage" by Helen Grace Bellows is finally up on Circadian Poems.

The final sensory exercise, dealing with intuition, is finally up on The Scruffy Dog Reveiw Blog.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Waxing Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Sunny and cool

Today’s Circadian Poem and a new Dog Blog exercise will be up in a few hours. Couldn’t post them, and I’m out of time right now.

I forgot to mention yesterday how terrific Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip was, yet again. Not only do they get the chaos of backstage right, they portray the high emotions, and how you can have trouble with someone personally, but still have a professional affection for them and their work and still make the show work. It’s when you don’t have respect on any level that it all falls apart.

I tried to post comments on several blogs yesterday, and Blogger wouldn’t let me – my apologies. Cheers to everyone writing their fingers off.

Work was fine. My friend A. stopped by to return some books I lent him and lend me some books he thought I’d like. Which lessened the deep disappointment I felt when I dashed into a chain store on the way to work to pick up two highly regarded, recently released books by Backspace colleagues – and the store didn’t have ithem. When I asked the clerk about it (three times in three weeks of not having the books I want pisses me off), the clerk shrugged and said, “God, why do you care? It’s not like you can’t order it online.”

One of the many reasons I prefer INDEPENDENT book stores, where they actually give a rat’s ass.

Came home to find a great opportunity for a piece of mine to be included in an major anthology – but I have to come up with a pitch right away, and I need to do some more research. I have a bunch of ideas swirling in my head, but I want to spend a few hours with the source material to coalesce them a bit.

Great invitation for a PEN event in October – definitely going. Also got my membership card and the latest issue of the journal, whose theme this time is World Voices. I look forward to reading it over the next few weeks – I’m sure it’s something I’ll want to savor. Invitation to an event at the Blue Note – haven’t been there in ages. Invitation to a cocktail party early in November, and then an alumni whoo-ha the following week, which I should go to, although I have a sneaking suspicion I’ll be bored out of my skull. I’ll take a notepad and look like I’m taking diligent notes, when in reality, I can probably knock off a draft of another story. Yes, the fall social season is starting, and after nearly a year of doing very little between taking care of my mom after her accident and fighting the Evil Developers, I’m slowly venturing out again.

Playing with some other story ideas – we’ll see what happens. More planning on Assumption of Right – part of me is worried if I over plan, I won’t feel like writing; another part wants to stay connected to it every day until Nano starts so that I’m in its world when the starting gate opens.

Lots of writing and research to be done today, so I better hop to it.

I slept badly Monday night, finally dropping off around 3:30 AM. I’d set the alarm for 6:30 – I’ve been sleeping in until 8 AM lately and it screws up my whole day – but when the alarm rang, I swatted it silent. No way could I have even pretended to function on 3 hours of sleep. It’s the only thing I miss about being eighteen.


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Waxing Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Sunny and cool

I wrote an essay on censorship in honor of Banned Books Week over on Circadian Poems.

Received a communiqué from a potential new market interested in my stories. Going over my material, I realized I don’t have any homeless story in the hopper that’s appropriate.

Guess I’ll have to write one. This week.

I can’t understand writers who, early in their careers, when presented with an opportunity, respond with, “I don’t have anything.” If you don’t have anything, create something. Don’t lose an opportunity!

Four pages on Real. They are finally off the race track. They’ve been to Hawaii. Now Callie’s on her way to Australia to shoot her next film, and Sam’s on his way back to LA to finish the film he’s in the midst of (and hates working on). Tough to get back into its groove, but nice to know I’m still working on it. The end is so close, yet so far.

Realized that I didn’t have to write 1000 more words to turn “Tumble” into the stand-alone Tumble – I only need 216. That’s not even a page. Yeah, I think I can figure that out. Of course, it was harder than I assumed (ahem, that’s why the first syllable is what it is), but I went over by a hundred words or so for safety’s sake, wrote a cover letter, a blurb, et al, sent it off and now we’ll see.

They immediately emailed me, asking me to resubmit with a synopsis. So I pounded out a synopsis, read it over a few times, tweaked it, and resent it. I couldn’t find anything in the original guidelines about wanting a synopsis, but hey . . .they asked for it, they got it by return mail, even though I had to make it up on the spot.

This was especially ironic, since the day was so much about avoiding writing the synopsis for Dixie Dust Rumors.

Found another group of stories I could fold into a longish piece (novelette?) for another market, so I’m doing that, too.

Chose a market for “Ris an Abrar” and decided to send “Blueberrying” to a market that’s a reach, but with a recent change of editor, worth a shot.

Started “Bones and Books”, the new short story for the specific market.

Received an apology from someone who I never thought would do so. Accepted it, and am willing to move on – though I’ll make sure not to put myself in a position again where I want another apology from this person! Better late than never, in this case.

Have an idea for a story that’s again, thoroughly out of my usual realm and would be a stretch. Could I enjoy writing it? I’m not sure. I need to play with the idea some more.

Did some research for Assumption of Right and will create very detailed notes and outline over the next five weeks so that, when Nano begins, I can fly with it.

Off to the theatre – just when I’ve hit a solid writing rhythm.


Real – 98,500 words out of an estimated 100,000

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
98 / 100

Monday, September 25, 2006

Monday, September 25, 2006
Waxing Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Sunny and Pleasant

“Cadence” is up on Circadian Poems today.

It’s Banned Books Week. Time to tell the Censors who are so insecure in their own beliefs that they feel the need to control what everyone else reads (because, God forbid, intelligent people might actually USE some of that intelligence and not toe the line) where they can shove it.

Speaking of books . . .

I read one of the books I was so excited to read on Saturday night going into Sunday. What a disappointment! 120 pages of self-pity! I kept hoping it would get better, that it would sparkle the way the reviewers (all of the same gender as the author, I might add) swore it did. I found it carefully artificed faux-stream-of-consciousness wallowing. I can name, off the top of my head, at least two dozen Major Junior hockey players half the author’s age with double and triple the author’s emotional intelligence. There were one or two entertainingly written passages, but my overall impression of the book – and the man – was negative.

When I had to drive around to all those stores looking for the book and couldn’t find it, I should have taken it as an omen and given up!

It’s hard enough to make a business in this line of work, and I’m glad he’s able to publish . . .but I won’t be spending my money on his next book, thank you very much.


Sunday was spent in admin work – finished going through the market listings, making detailed notes on various pieces.

Whether you’re looking for an agent or an editor, it’s vital that you do your research BEFORE you submit. I can’t tell you how sick and tired I am of hearing writers – who belong to groups that post information regularly on research – who STILL see an agent or editor somewhere and send off material without doing proper research and then cry when they get scammed.

There are several steps:

Make the initial list. From that list, check all of them on Predators and Editors, and cross several of them off. From THAT list, start researching each individual. Check the company website, and then check the internet in general. Find at least three testimonials or three complaints, and you get a good idea of the person. And several more get crossed off. Some because of complaints. Some because the tone of their site is a turn off. Some because, at a closer read, specialize differently since they filled out the form for the market listing. By the time I finish, I’ve cut 25% of my original list. Now I have a solid list, with details of who prefers email, who prefers snail mail, who wants a query, who wants a synopsis, who wants attachments, who wants it in the body, who wants mysterious scrawls on the back of the envelope . . .

Then, go over the manuscript yet again, to see if there are any more tweaks to make, and then write the synopsis (my least favorite part of the process, but necessary).

Because everything has to be ready COMPLETELY before you send out the queries: finished manuscript, strong query letter, logline, paragraph summary, synopsis, outline. Otherwise you’re simply wasting their time. And that is not a good first impression to make, even if you are not a good match. It’s disrespectful.

It’s time consuming. But the more time you take at the beginning to do you research and set up your system, the less time it will take down the road, as you have to fill requests.

And I’ve said it a million times: Finding the right match for your manuscript is like finding a soul mate. You have to date around a bit, and it’s rare you’ll find it the first time out.

About a dozen years ago, I had five agents within a space of 18 months. Fired them all, because I could negotiate a better contract (no I'm not bragging -- I worked in the contracts department of a publisher, asked a lot of questions, and learned where the potholes are -- and have since become a union negotiator), and, basically, they all wanted me to write either formula regency romance, or formula character-free cozy mystery (you know the kind – give the MC a neurosis and call it a “fresh take” – blech), neither of which had anything to do with the material that supposedly originally interested them – and did not interest me. There was nothing wrong with them as people or as business professionals. We were simply not a good match. And, I recently noticed, none of them are in the business any longer! But they were more interested in making me over into what they knew they could sell instead of getting excited about my actual work. So I’m not really sure why they wanted me in their stable in the first place.

I have several agents with whom I keep in touch on a regular basis. If I come up with something I think they’d like, sure, I’d pitch. But I’m not stressing about the agent hunt. I worked in publishing. I know quite well that, if the door isn’t open, you simply climb through the window.

I have a lot of writing to get done today, and yet more admin work.

I’m reading Michael Cox’s novel The Meaning of Night and enjoying it thoroughly.


Sunday, September 24, 2006

Sunday, September 24, 2006
Waxing Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Rainy and warm

I hope you all had a productive second harvest yesterday. I find I’m clearing more debris this year than harvesting.

If you’re not dealing with other people’s stupidity, you’re dealing with your own carelessness.

I’m sick and tired of unpublished wanna-bes flapping their gums about how if you earn a living at your craft, you’re a hack and making broad statements like “nobody in this room makes a living at it”, blah, blah, blah. Shut up and stop making pronouncements about which you know nothing in order to validate your own cowardice and lack of commitment.

There’s a difference between someone with credentials and experience formulating an argument about art vs. craft and someone with no credentials who pontificates that anyone who earns a living from his art must be a hack. That’s merely sour grapes and trying to lash out at someone for having the guts to do what you can’t. It’s the typical b.s. spouted by an unpublished writer to justify why he can’t cut it in the literary community.

Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie, Terry Brooks, Terry Pratchett, Jodi Picoult, Elizabeth Berg, and scores of others make a living at their craft and they’re certainly not hacks.

If these yappy non-professionals were actually publishing and getting paid for their work, they’d sing a different tune. It’s evidence for what I discussed on this blog on Friday.

And if the people at PEN feel I’m qualified enough to work on material that could prevent writers all over the world from being executed, that carries a lot more weight than witless accusations from an unpublished nobody.

My own carelessness is even more annoying, however. You can keep cutting the deadwood wanna-bes out of your life on a regular basis (sort of like spring and fall cleaning – clean out the people who weigh you down/hold you back at least twice a year, too). But then there are the times you screw up and there’s no one else to blame, and you have to figure out how to fix your own damn life.

Case in point: I finally have a draft of “Ris an Abrar” (the short story version) with which I’m happy. I could tweak if for fifteen years and never be done, but the practical side of me knows it’s complete.

I go over the guidelines again to see what silly weirdness they want on the manuscript (I’m absolutely convinced that these companies change one slight detail outside of standard manuscript format to test contributors on guideline-reading). Technically, everything’s fine. I need to change where I put the page numbers and the word count – no big deal.

Content-wise is where I hit the roadblock. Although it’s supposed to be for adult audiences, they want the content suitable for between “PG-13 and R” ratings.

So I’m screwed. Because there is no way I can stay true to a story about Sacred Consorts and have it be less than an R. And one of the major themes is the conflict between what constitutes positive sexuality/love-making and prostitution.

It’s something I would discuss with one of my thirteen year old godchildren if the topic came up; I don’t know if I’d be comfortable with a random thirteen year old picking it up in a bookstore. Even though plenty of thirteen year olds openly discuss things I’d never have admitted knowing when I was thirteen.

I checked the guidelines currently up with the ones I originally printed out – and they’re different (including the deadline). So I’m not as careless as I originally thought, but still . . .I hate it when they change guidelines mid-submission period, and this particular publication has done so more than once.

Back to the Writers’ Market, to find a more appropriate market for “Ris an Abrar.” With much swearing and muttering on my part.

Changed my mind on a couple of markets, shuffling where I want to send what. I have to sit down and do cover letters, print clean copies, etc., and get out a slew of submissions this week.

Tried to focus on Real, since I’m so close to the end, but it’s difficult. I’m sure part of it is because I’m reluctant to leave the world in which I’ve spent so much time over the past few months, and Sam, Callie, and Crispin are some of my favorite characters.

Figured out a huge problem in Fix-It Girl, and, pardon the expression, fixed it, which clears the way to finish the draft. That’s a huge relief. Because I need to get a bunch of stuff finished and cleared away. Time to send the “children” out into the world.

I was pleased to see the final draft of the PEN petition I signed last week, which will be presented to Congress this week. The argument is intelligently and articulately presented, and I agree with it wholeheartedly, and am happy I signed. Hopefully it will make a difference.

Sat down with a pad of paper, pen, and the market listings to make detailed notes for several of the novels I’m prepping. The ones that are within striking distance of being ready to shop. This way, as the polished drafts are ready, and the logline, one paragraph summary, outline, synopsis and cover letters are done, out they go. Boom, boom, boom. No excuses and fussing around. Research’s done. Got about half way through the alphabet.

Rewrote the query letter for Dixie Dust Rumors and it’s much stronger. I need to get that circulating.

Now that I’ve retired Tapestry, I found a good market for it. Sigh. So I’ll take another look at it. If I think there’s even a change of salvage, I’ll do a revision and query it. Especially as I have three other books dealing with Nina’s adventures roughed out, too. If I add less than a thousand words to “Tumble”, I can submit it as a stand-alone novelette to the same publisher. Which makes sense, since the short story market for a piece of just over 11K is limited.

The dinner party went well, thank you. I’m so used to creating dinners for twenty that a dinner for eight is a vacation. The Elitist turned up, muttering about joining us in this pagan ritual. He’s such a proper Anglican that I was forced to remind him his church was created so Henry VIII could shed Catharine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn. Who’s talking heathen? But he brought a good bottle of wine, so all was forgiven. And I was even more surprised to find him in the kitchen helping with the dishes (it’s became an unwritten law at my dinner parties that since I do all the cooking, the guests take over the dishes – that’s gone on since the salon days in San Francisco in the mid-80s). The Elitist said he figured if he didn’t help in the kitchen, I’d call him a sexist and bash him upside the head with a frying pan. I pointed out that I often want to bash him upside the head with a frying pan, but so far, I’ve refrained.

The Mystery Guest, The Meaning of Night, and The Thirteenth Tale all arrived yesterday and I can’t wait to dive into them!


Saturday, September 23, 2006

Saturday, September 23, 2006
Waxing Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Fall Equinox/Mabon

Traced back and found out what triggered the migraine earlier this week (in addition to stress): An expensive bottle of red wine with more sulfites in it than I’m usually exposed to. So the bottle went to a neighbor who doesn’t get a bad reaction to sulfites.

Two rewrites on “Ris an Abrar” yesterday (the short story). I like it when a piece leaps from draft to draft instead of small adjustments. I finally “get” the piece now. About damn time – it was originally conceived in December of 2005.

Also outlined the long version in more detail. It’s much more complex than the original concept, but it feels right. This world and its politics interest me. If I can pull it off, it will be a good read.

Considered creating a new pseudonym for the byline, because it’s so far removed from my other work, but decided I didn’t want to fracture any farther. It’ll go out under the Cerridwen Iris Shea name.

Rewrote “To Die For” (a story of which I’ve always been very fond), and sent it off. I have two other stories that I think would be a good fit for the same market, but I have to stagger the submissions. I also want to get “Dialogue with the Devil” out soon and figure out where “Tumble” should go to next.

Worked on the website, but didn’t get very far.

Pitched for a couple of new writing jobs, and heard about an anthology looking for writers, so asked to toss my hat into that ring.

Worked on the outline for Assumption of Right. I have to do some research for it, and I have a feeling by the time Nano comes rolling around, I’ll have as many pages of notes as I’ll finally have for the book.

Worked on the Sean/Elle stories.

Agreed to critique a colleague’s manuscript before he sends it off. His premise sounds terrific, and I’m happy to help out.

Spent too much time online, but I needed the break in between the intense rewrites.

It was cold last night, so I made a meatloaf. Tonight, I’m having over a few people to join me at a roast chicken supper to celebrate Mabon.

And I want to get in a productive day of writing before dinner. I spent far too much time online yesterday. Even though I got a lot done, I should have used my time more wisely.


Friday, September 22, 2006

Friday, September 22, 2006
New Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Sunny and cool

I kept yesterday a fairly quiet day. I figured it started pretty well – after all, I wasn’t the one not breathing in the twisted heap of metal outside, right?

Grocery shopping with a few indulgences (Italian coffee, Scottish smoked salmon pate).

Talked to another friend well established in both theatre and film. We discussed how so many people romanticize our industry (because of the way it’s marketed) and how little it has to do with the reality. Hundreds of thousands of people fantasize about making a life in the arts. A very small fraction actually has the guts to give it a shot. An even smaller fraction has the work ethic to remain. Out of those who do, about 13% make a living at it, and only 1% could be considered successful. Yet, it is a calling, a need deep within the soul. There’s a difference between the human need to create and experience art – everyone has that – and choosing to make it your life’s work. It’s the commitment to the calling that makes a difference. It’s like entering the religious life – you’ve made a decision to leave behind what most people consider a “normal” life – even though “normal” lives are one of the biggest fantasies and fallacies there are. You have to make sacrifices. You can’t have it all. It’s about being part of something bigger than yourself, and also holding strong boundaries with non-artists who want you to bend to their agendas, in all walks of life. They can love you like crazy and still sabotage you. Do you have the courage and the commitment? And no one can answer that question for anyone else.

Theatre people (and, in modern life I also include film people, writers, artists, etc) have always been shunned by the general public. Even when they’re adored, there are many malicious souls to want them to fail. And those outside the art-centric life can’t understand why you can’t drop everything and go out to dinner, be interrupted for a “simple question”, why you miss holidays, can’t call in sick, etc., etc., to suit them. Centuries ago, Players were treated horribly. Why? Because, in a way, they’re “touched by the gods” which allows them to create and they have the courage to dedicate their lives to it. However, they are still human, and, because they’re so capable of understanding, exposing, and performing the flaws inherent in human nature, they often personify them. And people hate their gods to be flawed, much as they dance with glee at every failing. The most vindictive are those who have the fantasy of creation but not the courage to pursue it. They see someone else has conquered the fear and taken the consequences and therefore, the courageous artist must be punished. Because the punisher is, at heart, a true coward.

Unfortunately, most people who choose to live in a non-art-centric, nine to five soul sucking existence do so simply because they think they “should” and they are too afraid to risk going after their dreams and desires. And they resent those who do, and perform acts of violence on them, be they physical or psychological, to justify their own failures.

Actors can sometimes meld into the regular world for short periods of time. Writers, however, are always slightly “other”, slightly “otherworldly” because they’re living and observing simultaneously.

Which scares non-writers even more.

And quite a few writers stop writing because this “otherness” is scary and uncomfortable, and the reactions of those around them are even more so. Some can adapt. Others always feel alien in their own skin. And a few take the risk, face down their own fears and those around them, and commit to their creative selves.

Scientists, computer professionals, mechanics, bakers, pilots – anyone who is passionate about their craft is, in their own way, an artist. And faces some of the same dilemmas and obstacles. Especially if they put their callings above the selfish demands of “normal” society. But the artists tend to draw the most fire.

Not only do artists have to deal with their personal fears and insecurities, the rest of the world tries to foist of their own fears on artists and then blame them for the fears and their (the foisters’) cowardice.

Art requires the commitment of heart, soul, and craft.

Finished the next draft of “Ris An Abrar” at 6,512 words. This section can stand alone as a short story, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. It is strong enough (once it goes through the revision process) to submit, and then, beyond that, I can continue with the piece and expand it to novel or novella length, whatever is required to serve the story. It’s taken some interesting twists and I’m pleased with it. Bits of it will make people a bit uncomfortable and disturbed, yet part of that is the point of the story.

Plotting out the next several Elle/Sean stories. These could get interesting, especially as they navigate finding out about each other along with their adventures.

Did some work on the outline for the suspense, battling with a series of truly lousy names. The least offensive seems like Assumptions of Right, which works on several levels of entendre, but that doesn’t sound like a very suspenseful title now, does it?


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Thursday, September 21, 2006
Dark Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Temperature’s dropping

Sometimes, it all just really sucks.

Just wish it didn’t have to suck all at once.

The Tower card, in the Tarot. And the Eight of Cups. I pulled them the other day, and assumed they referred to more tumult approaching in the home and hearth situation. Little did I know it was everything else.

I was ready to spend most of yesterday curled into a fetal position, whimpering.

I felt fragile enough to start with, knowing I have to leave a publisher with whom I’ve worked for several years because the situation simply doesn’t work for me any longer. It was one of my first paying gigs, and I hate to leave the safety of it. But it’s necessary.

Then, I was offered a film opportunity night before last. Sounds great, right? Except it would mean ditching the writing completely for the next few months, and I don’t really want to do that. Plus, it was for a position with much more responsibility than I’ve had before or than I really want. But the money and the challenge were alluring. However, it would lead to more work and more work and less writing and less writing and . . .basically, to take this job in the capacity offered would mean I made the decision to stay in tech and leave writing. I couldn’t do both. It wouldn’t just mean slowing down the transition to full-time writing. It would mean not writing. It’s a crossroads I hoped to put off for at least another year, but it was thrown at me yesterday. And I had to make the decision. That day.

The Tower. Structures you count on rapidly blown apart.

The Eight of Cups. Something needs to be left behind.

On top of that, last week, I heard back from one of the writing jobs to which I’d pitched, that sounded good and would carry me through the end of the year. Something about their response put up red flags for me – the fact that they ignored all my questions and asked ME to call THEM (on my dime) to “discuss the direction of your writing and then we’ll go from there.” So I emailed back saying I’d like to talk to them, but I had several offers on the table (which is true) and I needed the initial questions answered before the phone conversation so we could make the most of that conversation. The response, yesterday morning, “I don’t have time for this.” Well, guess what, bubba? You can’t answer simple questions regarding the scope of the project, the timeframe and the money because “you don’t have time” – well, I “don’t have time” to be part of the project.

And “The Retriever” had to go out yesterday, to a major market. I love the story, and my cover letter sounds strong and confident, but if it gets rejected, I’m going to wonder if yesterday I made all the wrong decisions.

I also realized, after talking about the situation with a few people, that no one in my life really knows both worlds – the industry and the writing. Even my lovely full time freelancer friends. They’re in one or the other. So, I decided to discuss it with well established people in both – one a well-known writer (WKW) and one a well-known actor (WKA).

The Elitist chastised me for the choice of WKW, telling me I was a fool to “show the vulnerable belly” to a competitive person who “wants me out of his playground” and is jealous because I take risks (in life) and WKW does not. Other than the fact we both put pen to paper, WKW and I aren’t in the same playground at all. I don’t see any competition between us. And WKW has nothing of which to be jealous – he’s the famous writer; I’m not. The Elitist, of course, feels that I’m being a trusting idiot, and that WKW will see a chance to rip whatever remaining confidence I have in my writing ability to shreds.

As far as the Elitist is concerned, of course, there’s no question except: “Are you a Writer or are you one of the Unwashed?”

Because for him, there’s no middle ground. No compromise. Which is why he’s got a solid career in writing and I’m still working on it.

Considering how competitive he is, I’m surprised he didn’t try to talk me “out of the playground” and then fortify the gate so I wouldn’t try to get back in.

I had a good, long (rather weepy on my part) talk with WKA. WKA played a defining role early in his career, so he understands all about choices, pigeonholing, and the rest of it. He’s also always seen me as a complete person, not just as “the wardrobe girl”. And people don’t give him enough credit for his talent, intelligence, and perception. Anyway, we broke down all the factors involved: practical, ego, fear, desire, financial, short-term, long-term, gains and losses in physical and emotional terms.

It’s interesting, because if WKA had called me with the exact same opportunity, I would have said yes without hesitation. I wouldn’t have felt it was an either/or question, because of the way we regard each other and our history.

But I decided to turn down the film, although I said I‘d be willing to come in occasionally to do additional work, if needed, and to please keep me on the list. They sounded completely surprised and pleased with that, so we’ll see if anything comes of it. If it doesn’t, oh well.

The Tower.

The Eight of Cups.

Neptune is in retrograde. With my ruling planet in retrograde when I’m faced with major decisions – it sucks.

Excedrin Migraine took the edge of the migraine enough so I wasn’t completely immobilized, but dealing with everything while migrainated was not fun.

At least I got over 1900 words of “Ris an Abrar” (the short version) revised.

And started “Disappearing”, the next Sean/Elle story.

The pilot episode of the series aired. I didn’t work on that episode, so I was interested to see how it all started. I was pleased with the overall look and feel of the piece. I felt that the pace was slightly slower than the upcoming scripts – possibly to make sure the set-up for the rest of the season is really solid. And I was unhappy with the montage towards the end – that would not have been my creative choice for that point in the story, but hey, it’s not up to me. I was excited to see scenes I worked on in the previews for next week.

Someone who behaved disrespectfully towards me a couple of months ago now blogs about the importance of courtesy and graciousness. I had to laugh. The irony is not lost on me.

As I sat down to dinner, I heard that horrible sound: the screech of brakes, the thud and crunch of steel meeting steel at high speed, the shattering of glass. I couldn’t see from my window, so I got up to see if I could help. Even running down the stairs, I could hear the sirens. And sirens. And sirens.

A neighbor intercepted me in the courtyard. “Don’t hon,” he said. “There’s nothing to be done.”

Makes everything else seem a lot less important, somehow.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Waning Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Sunny and mild


“The Voice on the Phone” is up on Circadian Poems.

The newest sensory exercise will be up on the Dog Blog later.

The pilot of the show I’ve been working on airs tonight. I’m both excited and nervous. Plus, I got a call to work a film – I need to call them back and see what that’s about.

And I have to get “The Retriever” out today.

And type the first section of “Ris an Abrar” to work on it. Time’s running out for that one.

Outlined a suspense novel yesterday, which might become my Nano. It was inspired by all the commotion around the UN – the extra police, the Secret Service, etc. Because I’ve worked in the business long enough, Presidents and dignitaries attend shows on which I work. So I’ve dealt with the Secret Service. I’ve always had positive dealings with them: They’re pleasant, professional, and very, very good at what they do. When they’re backstage, I found that telling them what to expect and walking them through the chaos of the show (and making sure they don’t get run over by two tons of scenery) makes it work better for all of us. They tell me what they need to do their job, I tell them what I need to do my job, and we work it out.

Put it all together, and there are grounds for a suspense novel.

I wanted to do the novel-length version of “Ris an Abrar”, but Nano rules state you can have notes, but not use previously written material. Even with all the changes, a big chunk of it would count as “previously written” so I can’t do it. I know, I know, who would know? I would know, and I would know that I cheated, and it would bother me. I wouldn’t be living up to my own standards.

So, if I can come up with a title that doesn’t sound as crappy as the dozen or so I’ve toyed with so far, I might keep working on the notes and go with it. It would be a genre stretch for me, and that might be a good thing.

Also worked out most of the next Sean/Elle story in my head coming home.



Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Waning Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde

I hate dithering, and that’s what I’m doing. Trying to make decisions in several areas of my life. Decisions that need to be made, and I don’t want to make them. Even though they probably will lead to something better in the long run.

I’m trying to put off the short run.

Plus, because I’ve been writing so intensely, I feel much more fragile and exposed than usual – as though the skin is peeled off, exposing the nerves. This is the time I want someone to act as a buffer between me and the world. Do I need someone to do that? Or course not. But I still want it.

I’m dealing with the “Ris an Abrar” crisis. I don’t want to mess up the opportunity, but I also have to keep the integrity of the story. Or I mess up the opportunity worse than missing the deadline.

Revised “Not My Vote”, “Election Exaction”, “Needed”, “As the Sky Lightens” and “The Retriever.” “Not My Vote”, “Election Exaction” and “Needed” were submitted. “The Retriever” goes out Wednesday morning, latest, and “As the Sky Lightens” goes out October 1.

I’m reading Barbara Kingslover’s book of essays, Small Wonders, her response to 9/11. It’s a beautifully written book, but not an easy one. I can only read it in small spurts.

Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip is brilliant. It’s an anthem for any intelligent person who cares about art, responsibility, and the rights protected by the Constitution. If only there were those in power in television who genuinely believed in promoting intelligence the way these characters do! The cast is fantastic, the writing’s great – of course. They’re a little inhibited by form – it was just really getting rolling when they ran out of time for the first episode – but that will smooth out. In Bradley Whitford, Sorkin’s got the actor every writer dreams of – someone who perfectly understands the nuances of the work and takes it to the next level. You can tell which actors worked with Sorkin before – they can get all that dialogue in without losing their breath! And Matthew Perry was a delightful revelation. He’s damn good in the show. I did not like Friends at all – faking New York City doesn’t work, and those were six lucky actors with good writing. I am pleasantly surprised and impressed with Perry’s work here. Plus, they’ve got the backstage stuff right. And none of the characters are ciphers – even the characters you don’t want to like are understandable because they’re three dimensional. And you end up seeing their points of view, even if you still disagree. That is the sign of great writing. Not pushing propaganda, but creating a fully realize world and counting on the intelligence of the audience to draw their own conclusions.

Off to the theatre, a place I really can’t deal with today.


Monday, September 18, 2006

September 18 Part II

I’m being such an effing Pisces today that I can’t stand myself. Mooning about a dilemma which has a very practical solution. And wrestling with “Ris an Abrar.”

There is no way I can do justice to the story and keep it at 10,000 words. I’ve already skipped a huge chunk of journeying and reacquaintance and other development because I’m running out of room. And using the Red Machete on too much of the previous words (I can probably cut 1500 without too much damage) will destroy the sense of place and time in the piece.

I don’t have 2500 more words to write on this. More like 25,000.

I’ve already given short shrift to the character of Talen, who’s both wonderful and important, and it’s not fair to him. Plus, the god and goddess characters who need to be front and center right now are throwing off the balance of the piece in trying to keep it under 10K.

I can either blow the deadline completely and give up.

Or I can go back and take the first 31 pages (approximately 7700 words) and fashion the first section of whatever this will grow into as a stand-alone. Iola’s realization that she has a different calling than what she’s pledged, and how she gets back to her true path. That might work. Emphasis on might.

It’s also the only possible way I can salvage this opportunity. If I continue to keep writing, cutting as many story scenes as possible before they’re even written because I conform to a word count, I disjoint the story. Iola and Neil, the focus of the piece in the first 31 pages, have said exactly two words in the past ten, and that throws the story out of balance. But to change that in order to keep them the focus for this particular section disrupts the story even more. The ending won’t make sense without this section, and a changed ending perverts the purpose of the piece. Even if I manage to only write 5K more, that will bring me to 13K and I’ll have to cut 3K. If I’m pre-cutting, then where can I cut? It will read like a badly put together piece, with characters and scenes robbed of necessary parts to make it whole.

Okay, so my definition of “epic story” doesn’t fit into 10K. Good to know.

Even though the first 31 pages set up the rest of the piece, the focus is tight enough on Iola’s internal and external dilemmas so that I might be able to fashion it into a stand-alone.

Damn it.

Monday, September 18, 2006
Waning Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Sunny and warm

Intense few days, writing-wise, but that’s the way it should be.

Rachelle Arlin Credo’s poem “Homeward“ is up on Circadian today.

“Ris an Abrar” is going to come in at over 10,000 words, which means I’ll have to cut quite a bit. I’m at 8000 now and have about another third of the story to write. I wanted it to be 9K, my upper limit is 10K, and I think I’ll come in at 12K and have to cut. It’s a tough piece for me to write – lots of resistance because it’s so different and such a stretch, but I’m doing it. Whatever happens with it, it has taught me a great deal. And I want to get it DONE. And out on deadline, because this deadline won’t be extended.

And then I have to start “The Merry’s Dalliance” because that’s due Jan. 1. And that has a limit of 10K, too.

My crit partner sent me great feedback on the stories. I’ll put the fixes in the three short stories today and off they go. He also loved “The Retriever” and had a suggestion that gave me a whole new way to think about a section. It gives Sean more to work with and shows his intelligence a bit earlier. I have a few more changes to make in that – and I’m waiting for feedback from one more reader – but that piece needs to go out no later than Wednesday if I want it to go to my first choice market.

I read another batch of his stories, which are also great. He’s got a terrific character threaded through two of them – I hope I see more of this guy. The character is dedicated, humorous, world weary, intelligent – a great character. The writer’s taken a real leap forward. He was always good, but he’s raised the bar for himself.

I’ve already started notes for the next two adventures for Sean and Elle. I have to flip them, because I’m stymied in some of my research – I don’t have enough sense of place for it and the one person who could feed it to me is feeding me geography instead of emotional landscape. So I have to wait until I get there myself. In the meantime, what would have been story #3 will become story #2.

And a book I really, really, really NEED for my research is out of print. It was $12.95 when it came out in 1989 and now sells for nearly $100. It’s going to piss me off to pay that much for a second hand paperback, so I’m trying to track down a cheaper copy elsewhere.

Or talk the publisher into reissuing it.

I wrote out notes for several short stories this weekend. I really need to stop writing in my head while I’m driving, because it splits my attention and when I’m driving – especially with all these morons in their SUVs talking on cell phones – I have to pay attention. Because writing in my head takes even more attention away from the road than their cell phone stupidity and I can’t risk it.

Also wrote 1200 words on a new piece that’s – I don’t know what it is or where it’s going. It came to me in dream images the other night, and I meant to make just a few notes, but I now have 6 pages. The main characters should triangle, but I have a feeling they will quadrangle instead. It’s sort of a magical realism adventure – like I said, I don’t know what it is. Or where it’s going. I have certain points I want to hit, but there’s still a major bit of plot that remains a mystery to me.

Washington Irving’s journals arrived – three volumes, beautifully bound, with a lovely bookplate from its previous SCOTTISH owner. Now I want to find out who this previous owner was and why he gave up these beautiful books.

As for the journals themselves – Washington Irving, from his journals, seems like someone whose company I would greatly enjoy. (A little difficult, seeing as we lived nearly 200 years apart). Here he lived so close and I barely know anything about him except Rip Van Winkle and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. That must be remedied.

Okay, the next time a publisher whines about people not buying books, I’m going to bitch slap him. I rarely buy a book because of its review. But I read a review for Grégoire Bouillier’s book The Mystery Guest (because let me tell you, the cover would make me pass it right over) and decided that I wanted it. Right now. I went to THREE BOOKSTORES, two of them major chains (because my preferred independents were closed) and no one had it or had ever heard of it. Any bookstore can ORDER it for me. The only use a chain is is to have a book when I want it RIGHT NOW.

It is the publisher’s job to get the books into the hands of the readers. Yeah, yeah, yeah, authors this and authors that – anything to keep an author from actually sitting down to write a damn book. But it’s the publisher who gets the piece off the presses and into stores. I don’t want to hear excuses about book buyers or distributors or UPS. If the book is coming out and getting a major review prominently placed, get the fucking book into the fucking stores on time. And stop whining that people don’t buy books when you don’t place them where they can get at them. Work more, whine less.

So I damn well ordered it from one of my reliable sources at a deep discount, AND I found a copy of the other book whose review intrigued me, The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox at a good price, so I ordered it, too. Because God forbid that one was in any of the stores, either.

If bookstores and publishers want people to come in and buy the books, the books have to BE there.

Then there’s the clerk in one store who said, “I don’t know. It might be in a box somewhere in the back. Then it would be out on the floor in a few days.”

Guess what, bubba? I won’t be in this store in a few days. Because you’re not one of my preferred stores and nothing you’re doing is bumping your place of employment up on my list.

Absolutely inexcusable.

Plus, I lost two hours of writing time, which pissed me off even more.

I wanted brain dead time this evening. I click around the channels, rest on a mediocre film which could have been good with a bit more imagination. It had great locations and I kept script doctoring it in my head as I watched. There was one actor in it whose work I really liked – he wasn’t given much to work with – a concept more than a character really – and managed to infuse it with intensity and an occasional flash of humor. I did a bit of research on him, to figure out our Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, ignoring the fact that unless he’s planning to do a lot of plays in the UK where my plays tend to be well-received, we probably won’t work together since I’m edging my way out of the business. And I find out that he’s engaged to one of the few people I absolutely loathe, on both professional and personal levels. So this actor, who brought a unique and creative perspective to a mediocre film is hooked up with one of the most talent-free, phony, manipulative people I’ve ever had the displeasure to meet.

Nothing like a shot of irony, right?

The pilot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was re-aired tonight, since the network’s changing names and who knows what else. I had to laugh there, too – one of the guest spots was filled by an actor with whom I worked on the cancelled series. I am SO going to bust his chops about being turned into a vampire next time I see him. And one of the other guys on the same cancelled series was a regular on Angel. Lots of fun.

Back to “Ris an Abrar”, putting in the fixes to the stories, hopefully a few pages on Real. Time’s ticking away over here, and there’s a great deal to be done.

I absolutely cannot get the video for ME Ellis’s QUITS to work. And she’s donating all profits to charity. So would you please do me a favor and hop on over to her blog and take a look at it there? It’s down near the end of the September 14 post. A “You Tube” thing that I can’t make work properly here.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Am writing as fast as I can, since my head got crowded with too many stories and characters AND I have to finish the first draft of "Ris an Abrar" or else.

Will blog again about the writing when enough has been written so there's peace and quiet between my ears.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Saturday, September 16, 2006
Waning Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Sunny and warm

My head is full of stories, I couldn’t sleep, and I have nothing to say here.

Back to the page.


Friday, September 15, 2006

September 15, Part II

I finished the first draft of “The Retriever” this morning – approximately 5800 words.

I’m taking a quick break to post this before returning to “Ris an Abrar”:

Siobahn tagged me for three things a few days ago. Here they are:

3 Things That Scare me:
Losing someone I love
Global warming

3 People Who Make Me Laugh:
Jon Stewart
Billy Connolly
Terry Pratchett

3 Things I Hate Most:
Religious Fundamentalism
People driving while talking on their cell phones (they’re dangerous)
The obscene profits made by oil companies

3 Things I Can’t Understand:
How any thinking person who’s not rich could vote for Bush
Why cruelty makes certain people feel happy and powerful
The obsession with celebrity

3 Things I’m Doing Right Now:
I do one thing at a time. If it’s not worth doing mindfully, it’s not worth doing. I’m writing this.

3 Things I Want to Do Before I Die:
Travel to Vietnam
Own a house
Own racehorses

3 Things I Can Do:
Successfully work in theatre, television and film
Do almost anything I set my mind to except for what’s listed below

3 Ways To Describe My Personality:

3 Things I Can’t Do:
Do math out of context (put it into a chemistry or physics problem and I’m fine)
Stand by and let everything to hell without the handbasket

3 Things I Think You Should Listen To (because you might enjoy it):

3 Things You Should Never Listen To:
You should listen to everything and use your intelligence to make decisions.

3 Things I’d Like to Learn:
How to fly a plane

3 Favorite Foods:

3 Beverages I Drink Regularly:
Red wine
Cranberry juice

3 Shows I Watched as a Kid:
High Chapparel
Red Skelton

3 People I’m Tagging:


Friday, September 15, 2006
Waning Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Rainy, hot, humid

Lydia Yorke’s poem “Manhattan Morning” is up on Circadian.

I’ll post at length about the trip to Maine in the future. It gave me lots to think about.

Two positive experiences:

I stopped at a store in Maine to pick up a jar of specialty mustard. I walk into the store, and there, in the central display, sits SIMPLE PLEASURES OF THE KITCHEN, the anthology to which I contributed four essays (as Christiane Van de Velde). I was delighted – after all, it was released in January of 2005, and still sells well. I wandered the store, trying this and that. One of the staff came over to answer a question, we got to talking, and I said how pleased I was to see the book there, because I had contributed to it. She said it’s a solid seller, and then dashed off to read some of the essays. She then brought over several of the other clerks, and some of the patrons standing around got involved – I ended up signing copies and they sold more copies and it was a lot of fun. One of those unexpected pleasures in the business.

And, I wrote 11 pages of a new story – inspired by the SDR blog exercise “the taste of single malt whisky) – the one I started writing in my head on the way to the train on Tuesday.

This post is short because I need to get back to that while it’s still sizzling and do some solid work on “Ris an Abrar.” My goal is to finish the first draft of the piece this weekend, so I can revise and get it off by deadline.

Sean and Elle, the two main characters in the whisky story, are already chattering about further adventures . . .

The Doubt Demons are nibbling at my heels again, and I have to beat them down with a stick, because I have a phone interview this afternoon for a writing job I really, really want . . .


PS I’ll be posting a video link for ME Ellis’s piece QUITS. All royalties go to charity. Once I can get it on the blog, please check it out. . .

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Waning Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Who knows? It’s still dark – it’s just after 4 in the morning!

What have you, personally, done to change the world (or, at least, your corner of it) since 9/11?

I’m not expecting responses or justifications in the comment section. I need to ask myself that question, too, reflect on the answers, and make some decisions based on them. I think it’s a question we each have to ask ourselves and work towards answers that may take the rest of our lives. We don’t have to market ourselves to the world as movers and shakers (those who talk loudest usually do the least), but we have to take quiet (or not-so-quiet) action in our own corner of it. We can be as moved or frightened or saddened or whatever from the events, but unless EACH of us takes action, nothing will change and it will only get worse. Saying you’re “too busy” or “don’t get involved with politics” doesn’t cut it any more.

It is each individual citizen’s responsibility to make sure nothing like this ever happens again. Part of that is voting for the person you believe will best support your views. Another part is riding that politician in office to make sure he or she keeps the promises that got him/her elected. Part of this is helping people view different individuals in the world in different lights, which is what artists do, and why, in every other country in the world, the pen is feared.

There’s no such thing anymore as “not having time”. And if you don’t care, well, then, you get the government you deserve. It is not “their” responsibility to do something – it is YOUR responsibility to MAKE it happen.

“Footsteps” by Adele Swift is up on Circadian Poems.

The next sensory exercise is up on The Scruffy Dog Review Blog.

Finished reading The Dark Queen by Susan Carroll. Interesting. I have to read the entire trilogy before I can comment effectively.

Wrote a story in my head walking from the theatre back to the train, and now I have to get it down on paper. Longish short story, based on one of the sensory exercises, set in London. It started as something light and fun, but wasn’t right, so I went back to the first image, the two main characters and the bartender in the pub, light coming through the window in the afternoon, and boom! There it was. A completely different story. And this one works.

I’m offline for a few days. Will catch up when I get back.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Waning Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Sunny and cool

Check out the interview with Wanda Campbell on Circadian Poems. She was our very first Circadian Poet when we started over a year ago.

September 11 is always tough to get through, and, literally, my heart is sore for several days after.

It doesn’t help either that last night, The Pretender was on television, insulting the intelligence of the American public. He couldn’t even keep a straight face through his lies – smirked his way through the whole speech. Truly a disgusting display.

His own Republican Intelligence Investigators confirmed that what he said to the American public to get us involved in the Iraq War was not true. And he just keeps spewing his lies. He’s like a wind-up toy on acid – he can’t stop.

I wish they’d keep the Towers of Light up all the time, though. They are beautiful, and, to me, the best way to honor the lost.

The out of town plans changed at the last minute when my fellow traveler cancelled. I was in “road trip head” so I collected someone else and we headed to Washington Irving’s home, Sunnyside, in Tarrytown. I posted some pictures last evening, below. It was a beautiful day to walk around, sit on his porch and watch the river. The trains went by every 3 ½ minutes, making it perhaps a tad less serene than when Irving wrote there in the mid-1800s. But still beautiful. The Coast Guard was busy patrolling, especially around the Tappan Zee Bridge, but other than that, the Hudson River was pretty quiet.

Again, I was a bit disturbed that there was no biography of him in the museum shop. There were plenty of books BY him and all kinds of clever stuff. But nothing ABOUT him.

So I ordered three volumes of his journals when I got home.

We meandered up through Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow (yes, it truly does exist). The town officially changed its name back to Sleepy Hollow in 1996. It USED to be Sleepy Hollow (in Irving’s time and before), at some point became North Tarrytown, then voted itself back as Sleepy Hollow in the mid-90s. There was a lot of hollering during the voting process, I remember.

One of the reasons I always loved the Trixie Belden series is that it’s set in a Hudson River valley town, Sleepyside-on-Hudson, which could be any one of a handful of towns along there. Julie Campbell Tatham, who originated the series, was born in Flushing, NY and lived near Ossining (one of those towns on the Hudson) when she wrote the first six books. She captured the character of the place so well -- I bought the books as a kid originally because I gorged myself on the juvenile mystery fiction. I kept reading them because of the location.

We cut over towards Pleasantville. I was in search of the Dragonfly Café – without the address – and never found it – but we found a road that, literally, leads right back home. Grabbed a late lunch from a great local restaurant called The Town Dock, and it was a quiet day, much needed amid the stress and grief.

Finished reading Betsy Blair’s memoir The Memory of All That. She was Gene Kelly’s first wife, but was blacklisted because of her left-wing activism during the McCarthy era. After she divorced Kelly, she lived and worked in Europe. I hadn’t realized how many of the Hollywood Ten had gone to live and work in Paris. She paints a fascinating word portrait of what life was like at that time under that cloud. While some of the Hollywood stuff is so light and pratty I don’t buy it, when she discusses the effects of the blacklist, she does it in such a simple and straight forward way that it’s much more powerful than many of the other tomes that have come out touting McCarthy’s evil. For he truly was evil – again, in the name of “patriotism”.

Also started reading a truly delightful book called The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee, which is both history of bookselling and memoir.

And, information in his book proves that evil fundamentalism never changes. In 642 CE, the contents of the magnificent library at Alexandria were ordered to be burned as fuel for the bathhouses by fundamentalist caliph Omar, who believed that the Koran was the only book necessary.

So, once again, great treasures of the world are destroyed by a religious fanatic.

That anecdote infuriated me, but the rest of the book (so far) is quite charming.

Off to the theatre. No hot water AGAIN this morning – starting the day cold and then having to take a cold shower is NOT my idea of a good way to start the day.


Monday, September 11, 2006

Views of writer Washington Irving's home, Sunnyside, in Tarrytown, NY.

Views of the Hudson River and the train tracks from the porch of Sunnyside.

I'm trying to post the rest of the photos, but between the incompetence of Blogger and the stupidity of Microsoft, it's not easy.

The ice house.

Isn't this the perfect inspiration for a mystery?

Effing Blogger won't post photos this afternoon.

And I'm with them because . . .?

September 11 Part II

I am touched and deeply moved by the many beautiful tributes I read as I go through my daily blog reads for this sad, sad day.

What a contrast to just a year ago, when so many people posted "Just get over it" all over the place. Needless to say not only were those not New Yorkers, DCers or Pennsylvanians, but people who hadn't lost anyone that day.

Hmmm, maybe I'm just hanging out with more like-minded people! ;)

I remember the days after 9/11 -- at Grand Central Station, people putting up photos and notes begging for information on their loved ones. And then, each day, as the newspapers began listing the names of the dead. I remember the way it felt, to read the name of someone I knew. And then another. And another.

Thank you to the many people all over the world who actually are touched by this and understand.

Monday, September 11, 2006
Waning Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Sunny and cool

September 11.

Brenda Braene’s poem “Elegy” on Circadian Poems commemorates the day.

If you are a citizen of the US, please do your civic duty – as important as voting or serving jury duty – and read the 9/11 Commission Report. If you expect to stay alive in the coming years, it is vital. If you really don’t give a crap about your future or your family’s, go ahead and skip it; keep your head in the sand. It is THAT important a document. Believe me, I didn’t want to read it; but it made a big difference.

September 11.

I realize that life goes on, but I can’t help but feel slapped in the face when someone throws a party or toddles off on vacation today. My reaction is unfair, but there it is – yet another major flaw in my character. But then, no matter how much people were affected in the moment, those who didn’t live through it directly – people in New York or PA or DC or those who lost loved ones that day -- will be affected differently. And I am not able to hold holy every day that something horrible happened somewhere – no one could, or we’d be in a constant state of – “dismemberment” emotionally. I suppose we each have to choose our own days of commemoration. The world is going to continue to spin, for the moment, anyway, until it destroys itself, no matter how many horrible things happen or how many people are murdered. Thousands are murdered every minute. And yet we keep trying to cope, moment by moment.

A word on that poorly made piece of fiction called The Path to 9/11: It is a piece of partisan, right-wing crap (in addition to lousy writing and acting). I know several people involved with it (having worked with them in the past). Believe me, they didn’t do this out of a feeling of social justice or art – they were well paid to put this on.

However, I still could NOT, in good conscience, sign the petition asking that it not be shown. If I have a right to create a piece of art that others disagree with, I must also support the right of those with whom I disagree to present their views. It has to work both ways, or it’s not democracy and free speech. Free speech means many different points of view, without censorship. Do I think the piece is crap and hope that people aren’t dumb enough to think it’s fact? Of course. But the people who created it had the right to do so and have the right to present it. To me, the petition was a call for censorship. How could anyone who promotes free speech sign it? For these organizations who cry “Freedom of Speech” all the time to condone censorship of the piece because they disagree with it is simply hypocritical. Censorship is still censorship, no matter which side demands it. And neither side has the right to demand it. If you’re going to squeak about the Bill of Rights, know what it says in the document. If you’re going to talk the talk, walk the walk. Don’t expect it to work one way for you and differently for everyone else. I was absolutely insulted that organizations claiming to defend free speech even asked me to sign something like that petition.

Do I disagree with the piece’s point of view? Absolutely. (Not to mention the creative critique I have of material poorly executed on oh, so many levels, which to me is even worse than presenting a point of view with which I disagree). Do I believe they had the right to make it/air it? Under our Constitution, which we’re all supposed to be defending, for which all those soldiers are dying every day, absolutely.

Give the people their right to be stupid (i.e., thinking this is fact instead of fiction). Many of them are going to surprise you. The audience isn’t as dumb as the suits think they are.

I performed my own ceremony this morning. The rest of the day, I am going out of town to dis-engage myself from the public grieving. It is helpful to many, but not to me. Plus, no matter how hard (most) of the media tries to be respectful, there’s always going to be sensationalizing and going for the shock value and grief value. I think the majority of the world has seen the planes hit the towers so often that its impact is softening. And that’s dangerous.

The New York Times had an interesting article yesterday, publishing excerpts from Susan Sontag’s journals and notebooks. I loathed her work and her image. I didn’t think she was as brilliant and intellectual as the publicity made out; in fact I thought her work and her interview persona were narcissistic and self-serving. I never met her, so I have no idea what she was like as a person. Interestingly enough, in the notebooks and diaries, she addresses the very things about herself I found so vile. In other words, I like the flawed woman in the journals much more than the persona and the work I previously saw and read.

Made two involved pitches for freelance jobs that would be great if they came through and complex enough to carry me through the rest of the year. I feel good about the pitches. Now it’s up to the people paying to see if they think we’d be a good match. If either one or both come through, I’ll be thrilled. If they don’t, it’s fine and I’ll figure out something else. But the ads and the pitches felt right, so I went for it. I’m debating about another one – the fact I’m even on the fence about it makes me think I should pass.

Tweaked this week’s Circadian entries and wrote Wednesday’s Dog blog. The pitches took up most of the day, because I had to recreate my professional samples that were lost in the computer “fix”. But, if I get the jobs, it’ll be worth it, and at least they’re back in the computer portfolio for the next pitch I send.


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Sunday, September 10, 2006
Waning Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Sunny and cooler

Elizabeth Berg often quilts as she writes, and I can see how one fuels the other. Of course, I mean that she writes awhile, she quilts awhile, she writes awhile – although she’s thinking about the novel as she quilts, I’m sure. I have to say, though, the finish line comes faster in a garment than a novel. I wonder how many clothes I could make during the course of a novel, start to finish?

The fabric store in Hartsdale was complete chaos. In a good way – busy, classes starting, people confused. The staff kept apologizing, and I said, “You know what? I’ll just browse fabric. You get all the classes settled and I’ll still be here. I’m not on a schedule today. It’s no big deal.”

They were surprised and made an extra effort to help me when things calmed down. The instruction manual’s been ordered and should arrive in about a week. The zipper foot question was answered – but I’m still confused, because I thought of another question once I got home.

I found a luscious soft brown micro-suede and bought enough to make a skirt and maybe a vest or jacket. But I had the yardage for a skirt, to that’s the priority – tea length, with a bit of fullness at the bottom. The fabric drapes well on me (best fabric tip I ever learned was you never buy fabric for clothes unless you drape it over your body and look at it in the mirror. It can be the best fabric in the world and still not look good on you) and is self-lined, so I don’t have to worry about lining.

Worked on the blouse. It was not sitting correctly on my body. The problem was the facing. Even without the interfacing, it was pulling and causing problems. So I trimmed it WAAAAAY back and cut the neck facing from the armhole facing (it was all one piece, which made no sense) and now the garment sits properly. I also had to take two darts (one in each panel to the side of the zipper) in the center back – although the rest of the fit is very good, my upper back isn’t as broad as most people’s who wear the size, and I had to adjust. The fabric is a blend I wouldn’t choose to work with again, although this particular print is great. Working with a full silk would have been much easier. But this print only came in this particular blend. I bought a lower quality fabric because I liked the print (and happened to find it in the remainder bin) and I paid the difference in difficulty.

I’m detailing my steps here to show you how important it really is to do the muslin in a pattern you’ve never worked with before. Of course, I’m still too damned lazy to do a muslin first, unless it’s an evening gown and I’ve paid $50/yard for the fabric. So I muddle along.

Do as I say, not as I do.

I could have saved myself a lot of grief by working it all out in muslin first. I think I’ll do a muslin when I get to the pants.

Call me semi-reformed.

Oh, a couple of people thought I meant, a few posts back, that I don’t like Jo-Ann’s. I LOVE Jo-Ann’s and bless them for keeping their prices down. But they are a store to make quilts(they have the best quilting fabric selection of anyone, IMO), your kids’ Halloween costumes, drapes, and cute little sundresses. If you’re going to do serious sewing for evening clothes or business dress clothes, they’re not going to be able to meet your needs. When I went to do my fall fabric shopping a few months back, their selection and quality was not what I was looking for in relation to the pieces I need to make. And the interfacing they sold me – insisting, in spite of my protests that I didn’t think it was right for what I was doing – not only is the wrong weight, but doesn’t fuse.

I don’t get my patterns there – I buy directly from Vogue Patterns with the discount they give me – for whatever reason it is that they give it to me. Because I’m in wardrobe or something.

I can get material for sundresses or basic shirts or whatever at Jo-Ann. But I get my silks at Paron West Annex here in the garment district because they have the best quality at the best price point. I get quite a few of the wools and wool blends there or at other stores in the district because they have what I need – the particular weight of wool or the particular size of a texture pattern in a tweed. Jo-Ann’s couldn’t be that specific and keep their price points where they do. I’m hardly a brilliant seamstress (I cut every corner – it’s amazing some of the garments don’t fall off me as I walk down the street), but I’m a bit fussier than the casual home sewer (as opposed to a home seamstress or the women who are able to sew couture at home).

In other words, when I relocate, I still have to come to NYC garment district twice a year for fabric. Paron’s agreed to swatch me and then I can order online or over the phone. Of course, I’ve been a regular customer there for nearly a dozen years now.

Note to self: Katrina anniversary + 9/11 anniversary + PMS is not a good mix.

Hand me the Godiva, NOW, dammit!

Another pet peeve: those silly couples on design shows who prattle about how they want their bedrooms to look like a “resort”. Why the eff do you want YOUR HOME to look like a HOTEL? I’ve yet to see a hotel, even an extremely expensive one, that I’d rather have instead of my HOME.

I wrote the next section of “Ris An Abrar” in my head and now have to get it down on paper. Kinnur was supposed to be a throw-away character; instead, he pivots a major plot point. Interesting.


Saturday, September 09, 2006

The uncut fabric.

Violet and, especially Elsa, help.

The almost-finished garment.

Saturday, September 9, 2006
Waning Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Sunny, hot, and humid

“Lady” (written as Christy Miller) is up here.

I’m starting to wonder if I’m ever going to get them out of the Santa Anita Racetrack in Real. Jeez – it was supposed to be three or four pages, and it’s become its own section. I’m going to have to cut SO much from this piece.

And, obviously I’m frittering around too much time, because I’m wondering if I should let my word meter hit the 100K/100% mark for my ego, or keep pushing it back as the word count grows. Maybe I’ll give myself the momentary pleasure of hitting the mark, and then see about pushing it back.

Maybe I’m the one who needs Time Management for Dummies.

Broke through the resistance on “Ris an Abrar” and wrote six pages. I’m pushing my boundaries here, and I’m glad. It’s a little unnerving at times, but I’m glad.

I worked on the blouse, but I followed the directions instead of paying attention, and had to take out one part and do it over. So, although I SHOULD be finished, I’m not. I need to change the curve slightly in the side seam to skim my body better when I finish fixing this other bit, then hem it and I’m done.

By taking so much extra time on this go-round with the pattern, I hope the next few times I use it (I’m doing the same blouse in several fabrics and textures) will be easier. I’ll have it down to a system. I made notes on what I needed to change, so hopefully I won’t need to stop and reinvent the wheel (or, in this case, the seam) each time.

Off to Hartsdale to the place where I bought my machine for a new manual and to ask a question about the zipper foot. I’m not used to using one – in fact, I just switched back to the regular foot and sewed in the zipper the way I have for over thirty years, and it’s fine. But I HAVE the darned thing, so I might as well use it.

And then some laundry, back to writing, and editing an article for Tuesday’s Circadian.


Real – 97,333 words out of estimated 100,000

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
97 / 100

“Ris an Abrar” – 5,000 words out of estimated 9,000

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
5 / 9

Friday, September 08, 2006

The ultimate Holiday gift for whiners:

Read these posts:

Two terrific blogs:

Over on Ovations, Carolyn talks about allowing her daughter to grow into herself.

On Working Stiffs, Rebecca talks about removing distractions and getting down to the work (that's why she IS a full time writer -- she does that and gets her butt in the chair).