Category: personal

Office politics from the seclusion of my desk chair

angst, HWA, personal, publishing, World Horror, writing life April 19, 2016

Who knew that one would have to deal with office politics even when one works alone?

I didn’t.

Okay, I mean, I know I don’t live in a vacuum, and do still deal with people, so it couldn’t go away completely, but I did hope that the DRAAAAAHMA would be minimal. It trickles in. Last week was more of a deluge. And it was a thousand times worse for some of my friends and fellow writers.

Once I started seriously writing, it didn’t take long for me to realize what a huge place the writing world really is. I decided to join a couple writers’ organizations. At the time, the Mystery Writers’ of America and the Romance Writers’ of America were my two choices (my graduate thesis was a mystery with a bit of romance). I ended up writing horror and mystery, so here I am now… a member of MWA since 2010, Horror Writers’ Association since 2011 (I still have my welcome email from then-president Rocky Wood), and International Thriller Writers since 2014.

I consider the HWA my “home” organization.

I am not going to pretend that I have been around in these organizations as long as many other writers. I started writing later(ish) in life than many writers. There are folks who have been involved for a lot of years. I tip the hat of respect to those who have weathered some of what has come before me.

I’m not sure what I expected when I joined the HWA. There have been some really wonderful opportunities– pitch sessions at HWA-sponsored events, panels and seminars, classes, other programs I have not taken advantage of. However, I see a few things that make me go hmmm.

Two of these hmmmm things share space: exclusivity/non-transparency and conflict of interest. To a lesser degree, availability and dissemination of information is another problem, mostly because the website is such a pain to navigate.

Please don’t accuse me of being merely a hanger-on. I volunteered during one of our conferences. It was not a good experience, which speaks to the exclusivity problem the HWA is facing. I was not made to feel as if I was a part of the organization. I didn’t go into volunteering even expecting a pat on the back (from other volunteering I do, I know that doesn’t happen), but it would have been nice to have questions answered when I asked them.

Before I go any further, I would like to recognize and show appreciation for current HWA president, Lisa Morton. She removed her work from Stoker consideration while she serves. Given the rumors that abound (and as far as I personally know, JUST rumors) regarding nominees and winners relationship with the board, she did the right, if painful, thing.

Many of the processes the HWA uses are not transparent. There was recently a problem with a juror for the Stoker awards. Chaos ensued after this juror himself made public his position. If the jurors were listed on the website, those concerned enough with who makes up those juries could check and then communicate with the board directly and potentially avoid the public flap we just saw. We (“we” in the grand sense of “we”) would have nothing to complain about if we don’t catch it. I understand that the identities of the jurors are kept on the down low¬† in order to help prevent people from harassing them, but I don’t think it’s in the best interest of the organization.

I’m also talking about people in positions of power who could possibly damage, or at least put up some roadblocks to, careers. Being put in infuriating situations that I can do absolutely nothing about without potentially being blacklisted. In the last week, I’ve watched that happen and I’ve watched some of the fallout. It’s not easy being a writer not firmly established in a genre. There’s no room for mistakes or perceived insults. It’s terrifying. And when someone in that position of power takes advantage of their clout… well, it’s a game changer.

More transparency and fewer influential people at levels of authority would go a long way in making the HWA more useful to authors in general.

I know these things are very difficult, given the scarcity of volunteers. Finding new ways to attract volunteers is another issue. I’m not talking about money-oriented things. Something like a pre-registration gathering for volunteers interested in one would be great. It would be a way to get questions answered and familiarize everyone with faces. When I volunteered, I didn’t even know who I could turn to with questions.

HWA is an organization poised to be able to do a lot of good for writers. I think the org needs to decide what the top priority really is and make that clear.

Because I, for one, really hate the office politics.

 

 

People watching

character creation, genre fiction, personal, voices in my head, writing life March 11, 2016

I am currently sitting in Dallas International Airport, waiting for a connection to Austin, Texas. My entire family is headed to Austin for the weekend to attend the wedding of my BFF. The wedding is at a Renaissance Festival and all the groomsmen will wear kilts. I love men in kilts.

I also love people watching, and there is no better place than an airport. So many different kinds of people use airports. I’m looking around here, and I see the typical business type, with his laptop (looks like a MacBook Air) open, headphones in, file folder at his side, stuffing his face with a slightly nasty looking deli sandwich all the while yammering on the phone. Multi-tasking at its best. Or worst. I’m not sure.

In the same row where I’m sitting are two grandmother-types, one working on crossword puzzle and the other knitting. No joke. It’s like a cliche was born.

On the other side of me is another business kind of guy. He’s got his laptop open on his lap, but he’s also wearing sunglasses, and since I’m sitting next to him, I can see that he’s actually dozing. Not quite as dedicated as Business Dude A.

Families have come in to watch the planes at the window, since I’m sitting near a very large one. The kids are all properly awed by the big flying machines. I like watching kids. They’re unabashedly excited about this travel thing and I’m so disillusioned by it. It’s refreshing and helps me remember not to take everything for granted. Most of the time.

There are couples and individuals. One woman looks to be studying– she’s got a workbook with post-it notes and a highlighter. Most of the carry-on baggage around me is black or gray, but the studying lady has a loud, leopard-print bag. I think I’d like her.

I could take any one of these people and drop them into a story. I look at mannerisms and memorize new things, like the guy eating a soft pretzel by biting all the crust off first and then eating the softer inside (equal parts fascinating and repulsive).

Honestly, some people are so cliche I couldn’t use them without being accused of creating a stereotyped character, typed as I stare at the woman with perfectly coiffed hair and Manolo Blahnik stilettos paired with skinny gold pants (on a plane??).

Business Dude B’s chin just hit his chest.

I’m definitely using the guy who just ate an apple, core and all.

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Derailment and getting personal

angst, avoidance, intellectual property, personal, publishing, writing life, writing peeves, writing process February 17, 2016
train derailment

Oh no!

This is a tough blog post to write. There’s nothing inherently negative… nothing catastrophic has happened in my life to change things irrevocably… but I’m not good at personal. I tend to be fairly private, especially where emotions are concerned. They make me… uncomfortable. But no anxiety, friends, I have no terrible, life-altering news.

This is also tough to write because I have so much to say and so many ways I could approach it. And some things that are at the heart of my problems I can’t say much about. I’m surprised and grateful that I’ve had a few people approach me about resuming blogging (mostly the reviews… who knew?), some of whom I don’t know at all.

The third reason it’s so painful is that I feel like I’ve failed. I’m not good at admitting this. I’m also not good at compartmentalizing. When I feel anxiety, it bleeds into much of the rest of my life. The recent stressors in my life made feeling joy in creating a little difficult.

But I have to start somewhere, right?

Here’s my biggest problem: I haven’t been writing as much as I need to. I am still working on Theo’s next story, and I have had a few new ideas pop up, but I’ve allowed discouragement and distraction to really get in the way. It’s not exactly writers’ block, I don’t think, it’s more like writers’ avoidance. And using the excuse of being incredibly busy and not commanding my writing time.

Busy-ness first. Two years ago my husband and I started talking about making Pittsburgh our permanent home. We’d always imagined living somewhere on the coast after the sprogs leave home, but the longer we stay here, the more we love it. If we were going to commit to da ‘Burgh, we needed different living arrangements. And if we were going to commit to new living arrangements, we wanted to move closer to the sprogs’ school and build a house. We bought 30 acres north of Pittsburgh and began the process of designing our house. After working with our first builder for almost a year, we fired them. This summer we found a new architect and builder. The new builder folded in December. So we’re on our third build team and still barely have a foundation for our beautiful home. This is a full-time job. I have never experienced anything so frustrating. I don’t know if it’s just that I’ve finally given up on trying to control the build process or somehow I sense that the third time is a charm, but I feel like I can allow this build team to take some of this off my hands. It’s still a lot of work, and a HUGE source of stress, but I can’t go on as preoccupied as I was with the project. Building a house is a temporary endeavor… writing is for the rest of my life.

And the icing on this shit cake… is something I can’t really discuss. Let me just paint this picture… Imagine you’ve created something you are very attached to. You kind of love this thing you created and you are a smidge protective of it. Then someone comes along, changes one tiny detail of this thing you love, claims to base it on something it really has nothing in common with, slaps a different name on it, and sells it. Somethingsomething intellectual property. I believe this is the biggest source of my avoidance. Why create when it can be taken from you?

There are some colleagues who know the details of this situation. The hardest thing to hear was that I have to get over it, stop being so sensitive, suck it up, etc. That stung (partially correct, yes, but not helpful in the least). A bit of my support system shattered that day and I’ve struggled to rebuild it. It became abundantly clear to me that although writing is my dearest love, the business of publishing and protecting one’s property is something I despise with the ferocity of a thousand thousand suns.

Let me be very clear on something: this is in NO WAY reflective of Blood Bound Books. They have been supportive throughout, and I am still grateful to work with them. (Hi, Marc and Joe!)

So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m aiming at updating this blog twice a week. One review, and one update on what I’m doing or writing-related discussion. I’m also reinstating my daily word count goal on any project. My priority is Theo, but if I can’t summon him, I’ll work on anything.

If you have advice for me, leave it in the comments. I welcome it. If you’ve gotten this far, you have my gratitude.