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Archive for the ‘writers life’ Tag

When Life Kind of Explodes

I became the president of my local chapter of Romance Writers of America on January 1, 2020. No big deal, right? Should be able to keep writing to provide a good role model for my chapter members, as our chapter is happy, healthy, and functioning well. Unfortunately (you may want to have a snack for this; I recommend popcorn)….

On December 23rd, the RWA national office sent out an announcement of an ethics censure of a prominent former board member and current chair of their ethics committee, including revoking her membership for a year and banning her from holding a leadership position forever. All Heck broke loose, mostly on Twitter.

It must be noted that this particular woman is an Author of Color (specifically, her mother is ethnically Chinese by way of Hawaii–I had an uncle, may he rest in peace, who was ethnically Filipino by way of Hawaii so this doesn’t sound at all odd to me) with a large Twitter following who had spoken out about what she perceived as racism. Her private account, her opinion. I’m an extremely white woman of a certain age who does not get to decide what is racist to someone else.

Then, on Christmas Eve, when the national office is supposed to be closed and after the circumstances around the original complaint came out, the national office announced the ruling was rescinded pending a review of some stuff that might not have been done according to written policy and procedure.

What the what?

The more information that came out, the more sketchy the whole thing began to appear. By December 26th, half of the board of directors had resigned, including the president, possibly in total fury at being wholesale-lied to, but I don’t actually know. Merry Christmas!

RWA members began pulling entries from their prestigious writing contest, The Ritas, and began resigning their memberships in droves.

Now the way RWA’s corporate direction works, there’s a president and a president-elect who becomes the sole candidate for president in the next election, and takes over as president if something happens to the president, such as resigning.

The new president appointed five board members to replace the eight who had resigned. Then it came out that he might not be eligible to be either president-elect or president, as he hadn’t published enough books. Who approved his nomination? The executive director is in charge of vetting election eligibility (this will become important).

Fast forward by a week. The national office hired a law firm to audit the process and procedure that had or had not been followed on the original ethics complaint. A petition to recall the new president was sent to the national office. The Ritas were cancelled. Prominent agents and large publishers pulled sponsorship and participation in the national conference.

Somewhere in the middle of this, my chapter (Coeur du Bois), held its first meeting of the new year and discussed the situation for nearly an hour. We were remarkably civilized, given that we were all appalled and furious at the same time.

The same day as our meeting, one of the people who had filed the original sketchy ethics complaint said she had been strongly encouraged by a staff member, and that some of her statements in the complaint might not be true–okay, she admitted she had lied about material harm to her business.

Dear Lord, give me strength.

By last Thursday (January 9, 2020), both the new president and the executive director had resigned.

It had turned up that the new president had convened a secret second ethics committee to take up the now-claimed-untruthful ethics complaints and presented their findings to the board without any supporting documentation. It also turned up that he hadn’t published five books in the last seven years, which is one of the basic requirements to hold the office of president-elect and president.

The executive director had passed the ethics complaints to the new president in spite of several sketchy things about them (even before one of the complainants admitted she lied). She also had deemed the new president eligible to run for president-elect when he hadn’t been.

I had already made popcorn and spiked my tea, so I laughed hysterically and revised my chapter statement to the board yet again.

This is in no way meant to be a comprehensive or detailed history of what happened over the last 3 weeks, just a brief discussion of the high points that I remember.

If you’re intrigued and want to know more, a Google search on “RWA Courtney Milan” will give you an entry into the whole thing. Yes, Courtney Milan is the pen name of the author who was originally censured. She writes very good historical romance.

Also last week, Spooky man requested I drive to his lair with a snow blower, as it was scheduled to dump 1 to 3 feet of snow over the weekend and he was already having difficulty negotiating the driveway. He drives a Hummer H3 (the smallest version, but still…). I had to be winched out of the driveway to return to the big city on Saturday as it had snowed at least 12 inches overnight and the snowblower had missing parts.

And the winching was after more than an hour of snow shoveling to be able to get into my small SUV. I did not have spiked tea for that little mishap, but the cats were more attentive than usual when I got home, after which it immediately started snowing in the big city. I think they can smell stress and realize it could mean extra treats.

Of course, they got extra treats.

And three more board members have resigned since I last checked. Lovely.

At this point, I have no idea what’s going to happen to the corporation Romance Writers of America. If it folds, I have no idea if it’s going to take our local chapter with it. We’re independently incorporated, but we’re incorporated as a chapter of RWA, Inc. We could lose everything, including every dollar in our bank account, and be forced to start over from the articles of incorporation.

And that’s why I haven’t had a blog post since well before Christmas. Non-writing life grabbed the wheel and drove the bus, possibly over a cliff.

Dammit Jim, I'm a Writer, not a Robot

I’ve been seeing a number of items on social media recently about writer burnout, caused by years on the “write faster” treadmill. One thread on, say, a writers’ Facebook group I could ignore. Two, hmm, interesting coincidence. When it topped three separate platfoms and groups of writers, it started to look like a trend.

If you’re a reader, I’m about to say something blasphemous, but it’s meant with love—after ten years of being published, I’m still astonished and ecstatic that people actually read my stories. I’m not a best seller by any means, but I love all my readers and I want to give them the best experience possible.

Here’s the blasphemy: Your favorite authors don’t owe you another book. Not another book this month, nor another book this season, not yet even another book within a year. They don’t owe you another book. Period. They are people, with lives, with problems of their own, and they never have to write another word if they are not so inclined. I’m sorry, but it’s true.

Here’s another dark secret (which is not really dark or a secret): Writers want to make readers happy.

We’d love to be able to turn out great stories like a factory turns out widgets, but creative endeavors don’t quite work like that. And if writers try to force it, bad things generally happen—depression, exhaustion, complete and total burnout showing up as raging writer’s block where they have difficulty making grocery lists.

Writing—using words to create worlds and people that didn’t exist before—is freaking hard. Creating people with real problems who overcome those problems and earn their happy endings cannot be done over the weekend. Dear lord in heaven, I wish it could.

Sometimes, if one is redeeming a villain created as a foil to a previous heroine (Talyn Penthes, I’m looking at you), it takes—wait for it—nine years. Of course, there were other books written and published during that time, but they had difficulties show up, too. My subconscious mind is weird.

And finally, a piece of unsolicited advice: Be kind to your favorite authors. They are working hard to bring you the next story; sometimes, they are working too hard, driving themselves toward burnout. Try, maybe, a social media message like this, “I love your work and I can barely wait for the next book, but please take care of yourself because I also want all the books after that, too.”

May you get all the new books you want for Christmas. My break is over, time to go back to the word mine.

The Glamorous Life of a Novelist

I’m a part-time novelist. Like most writers, I have a day job, which is usually related to writing. For the past year and a half, I’ve been a localization project manager for a division of a multinational corporation that specializes in, ah, printing. Luckily, the products I work on localizing are for digital presses–the kind POD books are printed on. It’s a sweet gig.

I don’t do much promotion of my novels, because I’m trying to have a full-time job with colleagues in every timezone, a life, and a side gig—the novels are the side gig. But yesterday I had my first newsletter promotion, with Bargainbooksy. It was a nice sales bump but not Earth-shattering, but it also wasn’t the biggest thing on my radar.

The biggest thing was getting my lawn mowed, which sounds ridiculous, and almost is. My right hamstring has been acting up for about six weeks—it hurts if I stand too long, sit too long, walk too long or try to do anything “strenuous” (its definition of strenuous, not mine), so mowing has not been on its list of acceptable activities. Spooky Man’s back is even worse.

And the grass has been getting longer and longer.

I’ve been trying to entice a lawn service to mow it for about a month. After being ghosted by three of them, one finally called me back and…yesterday they mowed the grass! Just before it started raining again. And that made yesterday wonderful.

New people willing to give my first book a chance was wonderful too, but…my neighbors are much happier about the grass being a civilized length.

Ah, the glamorous life of a novelist. It’s almost as exciting as the international email argument over whether “square meter” means the same thing as “m2“, which also happened this week. My French and Spanish translators have Definite Opinions about such things. If only they were the same opinion, LOL.

Stuck But Not Blocked

Writer problems.

For the last two weeks, I’ve been stuck at about 29,000 words on Kindness of Strangers. I’m not blocked, because I know what I need to write, but I open the file, read a few pages before where I need to start writing, and then stare at the page. After a heavy sigh and a sentence or two that will probably be removed the next day, I shut the file.

Usually this means there’s something wrong with the story—wrong point of view, bad plot turn, female protagonist is too passive/reactive…something that my subconscious (that woman in the basement) hasn’t chosen to share yet. Maybe it hasn’t quite got it figured out.

A lot of the time I get just beyond the halfway mark of a story where it stalls out. After hitting my head against a metaphorical wall for a while, I realize I’m trying to write the male protagonist as the hero. In my core story, the female protagonists are the heroes. And…OMG, it just clicked. Chandra isn’t active enough—she’s taking the initiative with the colonel, but not with the [blocked due to plot spoiler].

Ha! Now I can open the file without that sinking feeling. Some days it’s good to be a writer (and some weeks, well, it’s not).

With luck, I’ll have a lot of progress to report in a few days.

Working on Dane and Aurora’s story

Dane Avondale and Aurora Ivanov Avondale are the wise mentors and parents in The Ocasek Opportunity. Some parts of their life together and their love story are mentioned in that novel, but I happen to know the whole story. I mean, how does a woman who has been in cryostasis for a century-plus end up killing the queen of an alien race in single combat? Over who has ownership of a human male, no less….

Yeah, it’s a great story. And while I’m letting “Kindness of Strangers” and “A Ruined Woman” percolate before editing, I’ll be getting words onto virtual paper for “The Briar Rose”–Dane and Aurora’s story that kind of rhymes with Sleeping Beauty. Kind of. And since it takes place a couple of decades before all the other stories in that universe (that start with The Valmont Contingency), when I get it out for sale, it will be free (or 99 cents at Amazon if they choose to be jerks about price matching).

Because why not?

Wish me luck; it should be a fun ride to write this.

 

 

Quick Check-In: I have won NaNoWriMo, now to finish the book

On November 19, I crossed the 50,000-word threshold for winning National Novel Writing Month. Why so early? Because my plan is for this to be a 75,000-word first draft finished before December 1.

It’s going to be a first draft with issues, as some plot points have changed along the way, but it will be a first draft completed in a calendar month, writing approximately 2,500 words per day (this takes me a little over two hours when working steadily, but only if I know exactly what scene(s) I’m going to work on).

So…back to the keyboard for me.

National Novel Writing Month – one week in

After sort of finishing Kindness of Strangers (all of the words are written, but it’s currently in three files and a mess), I started a new work in progress for National Novel Writing Month.

This is the book told my RWA chapter I was going to finish this year, so I have this month to get the first draft done. The working title is A Ruined Woman (there are also characters for A Married Woman and A Suitable Woman poking at my brain, so it’s beginning to look a lot like a series…), and it’s about a duke who isn’t quite a duke and a ruined woman who isn’t ruined, somewhere between the Regency and the reign of George IV.

I know, I can never do anything straightforward. This probably says something about how deeply my subconscious is twisted and in what direction, but I don’t want to know exactly what because it’s working.

So far, I’m on track; in seven days, I have written over 18000 words. Go, me!

I’ll let you know how next week goes.

 

Progress Report – Kindness of Strangers

Kindness of Strangers is the working title of the third book in the first Strike Force trilogy. It’s the story of the colonel, Rahmsin Singh, and Chandra Ramasamy, and how she solves the mystery of what was the inciting incident that ended with the friendly-fire shelling of the Charlie Company electronic warfare unit (along with most of their behind-the-sharp-end field facilities), while he saves her, the miners who tried to save her, and starts the ball rolling to save the human race. Of course, because I always have people tripping over true love at the most inconvenient times, LOL.

It’s a tricky story, since both of them are, um, well, physically dead for most of it. She’s actually physically dead due to kludged cryogenic freezing (but getting better because Singh gets her into a regen unit where she regains consciousness and can move from her auxiliary brain chips into the Strike Force network), he’s in a hasty version of real cryostasis after the miners hit him on the top of his head and dump him into a cryostasis unit while he’s rebooting.

So it’s almost all inside “The Matrix” (so to speak). And it happens simultaneously with Getting Lucky, which made the timing tricky. And it’s also the climax of the political/industrial intrigue. And it introduces the bridge between this series of stories and the world of the human diaspora books (which start with The Valmont Contingency). It has a lot to do for a 35,000-word novella. Yeah, it might bulge out to 40K. I guess we’ll see.

Back to the progress report — it was supposed to be finished by the end of August, but that didn’t happen.  Then it was supposed to be finished by the end of September, and that didn’t happen either. While I was in Seaside, I stopped in at a palm reader (as one does on vacation), who figured out I’m a writer by looking at my non-writing hand (spooky!), then told me I wouldn’t finish my work in progress by the end of September, and I should forgive myself for it, LOL.

I made progress, I really did. I fixed plot problems, I created 12,000 words of new content that works with the existing content. I straightened out the bits that didn’t mesh with Getting Lucky. If I hadn’t had to fix the gigantic plot hole (which required cutting…a lot of cutting), I would have been finished by the end of September.

But I’m going to get it done this month, because I have a different project lined up for NANO in November. NANO is short for NaNoWriMo, which is short for national novel writing month. It’s an international organization all for the purpose of writing a book in November. That is, writing, from start to finish, a 50,000-word (minimum) story in 30 days. Which means Kindness of Strangers draft 1 has to be finished in October, by Grapthar’s hammer!

 

 

Grumpiness

Cutting 10,000 words of a work in progress designed to be 35,000 words long — because you noticed a plot hole the size of…a very large plot hole — is extremely annoying. Plus, the predicted high for today is 104F (40C) and 107F (damn near 42C–42C!) tomorrow.

To quote my cat: Do. Not. Want.

That is all.

Okay, okay, I’ve got one more thing: Kindness of Strangers (see paragraph one, above) might not get finished this month, but it will get close.

That is all.

Want to find out when the next book is out?

You can sign up for the new releases mailing list in the upper-right corner of my home page (http://www.valrobertsauthor.com if you’re reading on Twitter or FB).

I don’t spam or send giant newsletters full of “extra content” (good lord, who has the time?) or sell your personal information (squicky).

When I have a new book out, I send you an email with links to purchase, should you be so inclined, No muss, no fuss, and easy to delete if you’re not so inclined.

Okay, my crass commercial message is over, you can go back to your regularly scheduled activity (or, you know, sign up for the new release notices). Should you be so inclined. 🙂

Thanks,
Val

 

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