Solar Return

Today is my Solar Return, which is like a birthday except you base it on when the Sun returns to the same place in the sky it was in when you were born. Which means it may happen on your actual birthday, or sometime near it. For me, it usually happens on December 16, even though my birthday is tomorrow, the 17th.

Today is also the first day in a long time I was able to get a walk in. At least the hills are now green from all the rain.

1. “Bullet From a Gun” by The Script
2. “Hey Jude” by The Beatles
3. “Goin’ Home” by Pure Prairie League
4. “Shades of Gray” by Billy Joel
5. “Playing with Fire” by Richard Marx
6. “Best I Ever Had” by Gavin DeGraw
7. “Early Morning Riser” by Pure Prairie League
8. “All Your Reasons” by Matchbox Twenty
9. “You Make Me Smile” by Dave Koz
10. “Warmer Place to Sleep” by John Cougar Mellencamp
11. “Keep Me Dreaming” by The Blue Pages

And as a bonus, these are the songs that played in my car, picking up where my walk left off:

1. “Should’ve Known Better” by Richard Marx
2. “Little Rock” by Reba McEntire
3. “Exit Wounds” by The Script
4. “Never Gonna Leave This Bed” by Maroon 5

(It was a short trip, just to the store and back.)

I was thinking about the song “Goin’ Home,” which I hadn’t listened to in a long time, and I have to say . . . I don’t have a place to “go home” to. I like where I live, and at the moment I have no urge to move, but there is something nomadic in me, I guess, that prevents me from saying, “This is home.” Because it doesn’t feel so permanent as that. I may be here a long time, but it won’t be forever.

It wasn’t always that way. “Home” used to be the house I grew up in. But my parents have moved around a lot and now live in a place I have no connection to, and I don’t have any desire to, I don’t know, go backward and live in places I’ve already lived. It wouldn’t feel like progress to me.

If “home” is where a person feels most comfortable and relaxed and happy, then for me that is still London. Even though I’ve never actually lived there.

They say you should keep a diary of everything that happens and all you do on your Solar Return because it projects into your coming year. My Return isn’t until 7:23 this evening, but I’ll be making notes anyway. I’ve already had some good news this morning, too—an agent who’d had partial pages of Peter asked for the full manuscript. And I have a beauty evening scheduled for tonight, so . . . Just trying to keep this day happy and upbeat. Maybe it’s superstitious, but whatever. It makes me feel good.

Though, when I consider I’ll be sleeping through a big chunk of the Return, does that mean those months of my year will be “dormant”? I hope not! I have high expectations for 2015. My Rising Sign this year is Leo (well, okay, it’s the 29th degree of Cancer, which might as well be Leo), and you’re going to hear me roar!

Summer Travels

It appears I’ll be doing a fair share of traveling this summer. Since I love to travel, this makes me pretty happy.

First off, in a couple weeks we fly down to Houston to see my parents. One day will be spent in Austin to visit friends. Then there will be a drive out to the New Orleans area for a family reunion. I haven’t seen some of these people in 10–15 years.

Then, the second weekend in August is Santa Cruz. I’ve always wanted to visit a boardwalk but never have.

And later in August (22–24) a writing retreat! With two dear friends down at Bianchi Winery in Paso Robles. Not sure if I’ll do more writing or tasting, but either way it will be a blast.

Anyone else have fun stuff planned for summer?

The Monuments of Highgate

I’ve always taken pleasure in cemeteries.

That seems like an odd way to start, but I come from a place where “cities of the dead” are a source of pride, respect, fear, and tourist income. And I grew up in a small town where the cemetery was the one place you could take your telescope at night and get a really good look at the Milky Way.

So when I visit London, I generally try to swing by Highgate. I like walking around in there. And I like seeing each time how far the Friends of Highgate have come along on fixing things up.

My kids have a certain amount of interest in hearing about Highgate and seeing the pictures. Recently, my 4-year-old son Robert has been especially interested. He’s made me tell him all about the East and West sides and he’s looked at all the photos. And when I’d run out of stories about and pictures of Highgate as I’ve actually experienced it, his continued to demands forced me into fiction.

So I told him that at night, all the statues on the monuments in Highgate come to life. That Marx’s giant head talks (but can’t move), that the angels fly free, that Nero (the lion) stalks the overgrown graves. It’s been such a hit with him—he asks to hear about it again and again—that I think I should make a children’s book. I could throw in some of my photos and send the proceeds to Friends of Highgate. Yes?

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Nero

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Robert tells me he very much wants to visit Highgate. But not at night.

TBT: 2 Years

I’m going short and sweet for TBT. Today marks two years in the current abode. Love it here; will love it even more after the pool is installed next year.

And yet . . . Even after two years Little London (my home office) is not entirely done . . . Ah, like any city, it’s ever changing . . .

Places to Write

I have a home office. It’s really quite nice and works well for my needs, at least most of the time. But not always. Sometimes there are people in the house, and I have trouble writing when people are around (yes, even family, even when they’re in other rooms; I’m sensitive to my environment that way). Sometimes I just need a change of scene, a fresh perspective. On those occasions, I go somewhere else.

I’ve tried cafés, which are known to be J.K. Rowling’s preferred writing spots. Indeed, isn’t that the old joke, the cliché? Writers with laptops in Starbucks? I’ll admit I do enjoy a nice chai, but I still have trouble writing in most cafés because they tend to be very busy around here. The constant in and out of people is not conducive to my work.

The library, too, I’ve discovered has drawbacks. Again, people wandering by, and not always quiet despite the fact it’s a library. There is a café in our library that is sometimes empty and quiet enough, though.

But sometimes I really just need to get away to write. I like to go to London, but that’s not always something I have the time and money for. I’ve been known to take long weekends in hotels with nice views. Places I can go out and walk for a bit between writing. Because although I need to be alone, and I need the quiet, I also don’t like being so far away from everything and everyone. I need to places to wander . . . and also eat.

Where else have I gone to write? New York, naturally, which was okay. The Mount Washington Resort up in New Hampshire was pretty great for my muse, too. Alas, I found Half Moon Bay lacking; even though it was nice there, I just didn’t feel it. Whatever “it” is.

So. A place I can stay on my own but where I’m not wholly isolated. Someplace picturesque. Walkable. And close to food sources. Which is why London works so fabulously well for me (also because I write a lot of British characters and enjoy soaking up that vibe). But I was thinking I might try someplace like Savannah or Key West next. I’ve been to both on vacations and like them each immensely, can picture writing in either place.

Anyone else have favorite places to write? Suggestions? Are you as picky as I am, or is it just me? I’d love to hear.

Busy

We’re in the last month of 2013, awash in the holiday furor, and already my 2014 looks to be just as busy. Or it looks to start off that way at least:

2–5 January: Half Moon Bay
31 January–2 February: Las Vegas
14–16 February: San Francisco Writers Conference

I continue to work on this thriller script as well as on St. Peter Ascends and I’m mentally hashing out the K-Pro sequel which I think will be titled Ms. Fortune. I also have the pilot of Hunting Victor Frankenstein to script. These will be my key projects for 2014.

I can’t say I achieved all my goals for 2013, but other opportunities came my way, so I can’t be sorry either. Flexibility is needed when one is given chances and choices. And not everything has panned out the way I might have hoped, but . . . Am I further along than I was a year ago? Yes, I suppose I am. Let’s hope the trend continues.

Retreat!

Though I have the luxury of a home office, I do sometimes feel the need to go elsewhere to write. The distractions of daily life can get to be too much, plus the change of scenery and of atmosphere often kickstarts my creativity. London is, of course, my favorite place to go, but I can’t always get away for long enough to make that feasible.

When we lived in Boston, I would sometimes go to NYC to write, or (and this was my favorite) the Mount Washington Resort. Since moving to California, I haven’t yet tried a local getaway, but at the start of January I’ll be heading over to Half Moon Bay for a few days. I’ve never been, so I’m very much looking forward to it. The hotel looks quite lovely, plus I’ve opted for a room with an ocean view to help inspire me.

I am of the belief that experiences in life are worth so much more than possessions. And so I try to go out and experience things as often as possible. These writing retreats, for me, are just more adventures to add to my collection—and the more of them I have, the more I’ll have to write about.

Longing for London

I’m really missing London today. I have the sudden, bittersweet and acute desire to be either walking through Hyde Park in the slanting afternoon sun, all wrapped in my overcoat, or else sitting in the Savoy dining room overlooking the Embankment. Of course, it’s not afternoon there now. But this longing welled up in me early this morning as, in attempt to maximize my “sun time,” I sat beside my office window. Funny to want to be somewhere the days are so much shorter.

And then, in strange cosmic coincidence, as I was tidying I came across my old key card from my stay at the Savoy last July. Sigh. I’d like to think this is the universe giving me a nudge, permission to just pack my bags and go. If only it were that easy . . .

Blame It on the Moon

I am homesick for London today, if it is possible to be homesick for a place one has only “lived” intermittently and for two weeks at a time at most. Still, there are moments when the wish to be there comes on me so acutely, so piercingly . . . Ah, well, for today I will blame it on the sensitive Pisces moon and leave it at that. I don’t know when I’ll be in London again, except in my heart.

2012 in Review

I always thought 2012 might be a big year for me, and it was in many ways, though somehow it feels less significant than I hoped it would be. I realize this sounds foolish, ridiculous even, given the huge life changes this year brought, but . . . I don’t know. Maybe because I expected the year to be important, the fact these big things happened seem small because I was waiting for them all along. Almost as if taking them for granted even before they occurred.

Here are the major milestones of my 2012:

The Move

This past March saw me moving from Massachusetts to California. I’d lived in Massachusetts for more than twelve years, but it had never felt like home to me. Meanwhile, I had been supposed to move to California back in 2001, so here I am, a bit tardy, but better late and all that. And I love it here. I now live someplace I’m glad to return to after traveling.

Which brings me to

Travel

Besides the move, which was travel in one direction, I did take a couple round trips this year. I went back to London over Easter, spent ten lovely days there to write and see a couple shows and an old friend from uni. And I visited family in Houston before attending the Austin Film Festival, where I also took the opportunity to see old friends from that area. Really good trips.

There was also a weekend away in the Pacific Heights area of San Francisco.

I love to travel, am already planning a return to London in summer 2013.

“Warm Bodies”

My first play, only ten minutes long, but a success on various fronts. It premiered in February in Enfield, Connecticut, as part of the annual Lab Works, where it was a finalist. Then it got picked up for the Source Festival in Washington D.C. It would have had a showing in Texas, too, except my Source contract eliminated the possibility (because the Texas show would have been in May, and I agreed to not have it produced again until after Source, which was in June). Still, on top of all this, “Warm Bodies” was selected for publication in an anthology, which is supposed to come out some time next year.

I’m excited by this modicum of success, though I’m hoping it wasn’t just a fluke. I don’t want to be a one-woman show one-show woman.

E-Books

I put out five e-books this year, starting in late June, and they’ve done moderately well. I’ve had close to 13,000 sales and downloads in the six months since my work has been available, and my Sherlock Holmes stories have been particularly popular, were even the #1 & #2 Sherlock Holmes stories, respectively, on Amazon for a while.

Truly, I resisted self-publishing for a while, but though I was getting encouraging feedback from places that liked my style of writing, no one was taking that step to publish me. (Though, as an aside I will say that I did have four flash fiction pieces accepted to an anthology.) And it seems that these days the publishing industry is somewhat backward, where the agents and publishers want to see whether you can sell before signing you. They only publish two kinds of writers now anyway: big names and lowest common denominator trash—the stuff that sells to the masses regardless of how badly written it is. The “middle class” of writers has fallen through the cracks, and self-publishing seems to be the net that has caught a good many of them.

In any case, I’ve been pleased to get my work out there and have it find an audience. And I’ve enjoyed the occasional fan e-mail, too.

Scripts

I was prepared to write off 2012 as a bad year for my screenwriting. Though I’d had a couple agency nibbles for my Sherlock spec, they came to nothing. And I spent the entire summer fielding rejections from various screenwriting competitions. Then, in October I got one really positive read for my short film script St. Peter in Chains (based on one of my novellas), and just a few days ago it made semi-finals in the Table Read My Screenplay competition. I have not been able to get anyone interested in actually making the film yet, but I’m still hoping it might happen. In any event, the year in screenwriting ended better than it began. Perhaps my strength is in prose, and maybe a little bit too in playwriting, but I’ve wanted to work in film and television since I was a child, so it’s tough to let go of those dreams.

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. . . And those have been the major features of 2012. I’m not sure what to think about 2013; I’ve had 2012 in the back of my mind for so long, always knowing it would have some weight, I haven’t thought ahead to anything else. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe going in with no expectations is better than being disappointed in the long run.