What we say, what we don’t say

When I edit, I have to block out the world around me, ignoring the news, fun events, and generally forcing myself to focus on word choice, grammar, and mechanics. This year, that editing cave saved me from becoming embroiled in a couple of controversial situations. Now that I’ve mailed my copy edits to my editor, I’m reading over scores of emails (literally several hundred of them) and trying to figure out how to respond.

First there’s DragonCon, an event I’ve loved attending over the last thirteen years. The largest fan-run convention in the southeast, folks affectionately call D*C “nerd mardi gras.” This year some 84,000 people came to geek out. Unfortunately, there were a myriad of small-scale assaults, like the guy going around ripping off costumes glued onto delicate body parts, and one serious incident were two chairs were thrown from a tenth-floor balcony into the crowd below, causing two women to go to the emergency room with head wounds.

I enjoyed parts of DragonCon: the Georgia Philharmonic Symphony playing sci-fi and fantasy themes, the random moments of joy when I discovered new music by seeing bands play live in the halls, the atmosphere, the shopping. But I don’t feel safe anymore. A woman in front of me was grabbed by a stranger intent on pulling off her clothes despite her protests. There was no security and nothing to be done about it. That’s not a party I want to support.

But should I say something? Should I wipe my blog free of references to DragonCon from years past when things were reasonable? I’m not naïve enough to believe there was never a problem at any of the previous Cons I attended, but the silence from DragonCon staff seems deafening. Do I say my relationship with them ends as of this year, or do I volunteer and work from the inside to make things better?

Meanwhile the Romance Writers’ of America, a group I recently rejoined, struggled with questions of racism and privilege. The published authors network (PAN) forum included a note from a longtime volunteer who felt outreach efforts were misplaced. It stated that rather than recruiting and working to include marginalized groups, RWA should only focus on writing. Almost immediately, authors big and small stepped in to say that’s not okay.

RWA has a history of being a group for heterosexual, cisgender white women, but that’s changing. Most of the authors who spoke want it to keep changing. Some of them felt passionately enough to copy quotes and comments from the private forum group onto social media, much in the way I’m posting this to my blog. That’s where the problems started. Until the information was shared outside of the group, the conversation focused on the problem. Once it became a public issue, people wanted to talk about privacy and witch-hunts. It was no longer about discrimination or diversity, but about victims and rule breakers.

The two situations are very different, but coming late to the debates thanks to editing, there’s a common question of what do I say? And where do I say it? Does it make a difference if I speak out on the internet or in person? Is saying something on my blog enough or do I need to plaster the same message on all my social media outlets?

One of my favorite philosophers is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He’s the one who said “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

I wish I had a better idea of what being silent means for me, in this moment. I won’t deny this year has been hard – disasters, human rights issues, and violence have dominated the news. I see protesters speaking out, spreading hope, and people working hard to find solutions. For me I think the solution is not to name people or harp on controversy. There are plenty of people doing that. Instead I’m going to write the stories I want to see in the world, and hope their visions turn into reality.

No cats here….

I’m a member of two writing organizations, Romance Writers of America (RWA), and Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). I’ve never questioned the value of SFWA. I do wonder about RWA though, mostly because I’m not sure my books are romances. Do people fall in love and have great sex? Sure. But that’s not the point of the story. The point is solving a mystery or catching a killer, and in general I spend more time on the supernatural than the sweet and sappy. Still, every once in a while RWA provides me with a gem like this one about social media for writers:

“Post pictures of your cats. Readers love cats. If you don’t have one, borrow one and take its picture.” (Teresa Medeiros quoted in ‘The Virtual Living Room’ by Shana Galen, Romance Writers Report, Sept. 2013)

I don’t have a cat. I have a house rabbit. House rabbits are a much different pet from cats. Cats may be funny, silly, or cute. Rabbits disapprove. A cat might cuddle at your feet while you write, purring his encouragement. My Rabbit Editor sits beside me and glares his disapproval. The list of things he dislikes is long: ‘be’ verbs, telling not showing, saying ‘I’ too much. Don’t worry, he doesn’t confine himself to disapproving about writing topics.

I have long hair, careful-you-don’t-shut-it-in-the-car-door, pull-it-out-of-the-way-so-you-don’t-sit-on-it long. Thus my house is littered with hair ties. Before I go running I put my hair into a braid, which requires two hair ties. If I’m about to cook it goes into a pony-tail, one hair tie. The Rabbit Editor prefers it when I cook. Something about the produce scraps he enjoys, I suppose. Thus you get a scene like this one:

death to hair ties cropped

I am prone to anthropomorphizing him. I admit this. It’s entirely possible he just happened to nibble one of the ties into uselessness. But with that expression I could just hear him saying,  “How sad that you can’t run today. Why don’t you go make me a nice apple pie instead?” Tragically for my angriest editor, I didn’t drop all my hair ties on the floor that morning. Rest assured, he got his nibble of apple pie and apple peels not too long after I got back.

Playing with Web page design

Forgive my self-aggrandizing but I’ve recently received word that my proposal for the Romance Writers of America Conference was accepted. I’ll be teaching a one hour session entitled “Develop a Free Author Website in 60 Minutes (or Less!).” Along with Jami Gold, a social media maven, I’ll cover creating a free website, setting up a blog, and various hosting options.

I started writing in HTML back in 1997. I worked for a defense firm, taking care of passel of wonderfully geeky mechanical and software engineers. They wanted a website. I had the most free time. The solution was obvious to them: I would learn HTML. I surprised myself by doing just that. Back then the language was rather intuitive, paragraphs were indicated with a p, if you wanted to make something bold, you labeled it ‘bold’, italics were indicated with an I, underline with a u and so on.
The W3C (World Wide Web Consortium, the Powers That Be when it comes to the web) ushered in a new changes and rules. HTML expanded to include XML and XHTML. It spun off the sections about format (fonts, color, text size) to a separate language called CSS. Databases driven websites came along, and ASP made them work. But the basic 10 pieces of my HTML vocabulary from that first website still work and I remain convinced that HTML is the simplest language in the world to learn. I’m a bit of an HTML zealot. I firmly believe that just about anyone can create & maintain a website. I’ve taught 63 year old Grandmothers and 40 year old technophobes.


I still design web pages in my day job, in fact, it’s the best part of my day. Web design is dependable like math, two plus two always equals four. I like the clean lines of code and how I can know that it will work. I love the intellectual puzzle of making the code do what I want. I can’t wait to introduce a roomful of writers to that fun. Until then, if anyone needs help with a tricky webpage drop me a note. I’m happy to play with it.