Resignation and, well, resignation

I made a tough decision last week, but one that had been a long time coming, to be honest. After 16 years of membership, including two years serving on the board of my local chapter, I resigned my membership in both RWA and that chapter. This will not surprise those who have been following this debacle since the events that came to light on December 23. Those who don’t care and have not been following along . . . well, you won’t care about my reasons and, frankly, you’re better for not knowing.

But just in case there is some third group of people who do care and don’t know what I’m talking about, or in case you just want to see what I sound like when I’m being all stern and serious, here’s a link to the twitter thread where I posted a portion of my resignation letter.

I normally wouldn’t share something like that publicly, even though many other writers have done so. But part of the problem with RWA is the dearth of communication and lack of transparency about process and decisions. So it felt important to be clear and open about my decision and the reasons behind it. After 16 years, I figure I’ve earned the right to Say Some Things.

As I mentioned, this has been a long time coming, a response to deep-seated bigotry and discrimination in RWA that might never be resolved. I expected to feel some degree of loss or remorse or maybe have second thoughts. Interestingly, I don’t. It’s more a feeling of immense relief. RWA is not my problem anymore.

It’s a heavy toxic weight off my shoulders, a clearing of brain space, a freeing up of energy. Much needed.

*   *   *

And then there’s the other definition of resignation, which I also dealt with around the same time:

“2. the acceptance of something undesirable but inevitable.” – Dictionary online

I refer, of course, to my trees. Specifically, to my trees, and parts thereof, falling.

OK, here’s something you might not know about me: I have fears.

Everyone: We knew that.

Me: FEARS, I tell you.

Everyone: Yes, we’re aware.

Me: Good. Glad we cleared that up.

Mostly these fears involve storms, especially storms with high winds. I refuse to qualify these fears as phobias — which I also have, thanks brain — because they aren’t irrational. And they’re different from general anxiety — which I also have, thanks again brain — because they’re specific.

I’m trying to be less fearful and more resigned to the fact that if you have tall pines and massive oak trees in your yard, and I do, and you also live in an area where occasionally there are storms with strong winds, and I do, eventually those trees are going to fall. And they do.

Obviously, it just serves to reinforce my fears, rather than alleviate them, when this happens.

It’s always disorienting to look out the window and see a large piece of tree or a root ball in a place where it doesn’t belong. My poor flowering cherry tree, getting crushed like that. There’s a fraction of a second when your brain refuses to accept what it’s seeing. “How can that possibly be there?”

Followed swiftly by, “How much is it going to cost and how quickly can I get that mess cut up and hauled away before the city gives me a citation for blocking sidewalk traffic?”

Partial answer: Before noon the next day, for the cutting up part. Impressive response time, yard guys. And see how neatly they piled it up?

Still waiting for them to find time in their schedule to come back and haul it away. And send me the bill.

Luckily, as you can see if you look waaaaay up (I’m guessing that’s about 80 feet up, on a 110-foot-tall tree), losing a limb of that size didn’t damage or weaken the pine tree AT ALL.

Probably the rest of it won’t come crashing down with the next strong wind. Or heavy heaping of snow.

Did I mention tomorrow’s forecast is for some unknown description and quantity of wintry precipitation? It might be anything from some light cold rain to perhaps several inches of snow. Or maybe just sleet. Or freezing rain that clings to branches and weighs them down and . . .

*twitch*

So far, I’m one-for-two on achieving various definitions of resignation this month. Fingers crossed I don’t get the opportunity for more practice any time soon.

 

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IN WHICH: I get overly personal in an attempt to find catharsis

So. *clears throat* Hello again. It’s been a while, hasn’t it.

I decided back in November (I think?) that I was going to resume blogging sometime in January. And here it is, already the 30th, and I’m wondering what happened to the rest of the month. Or most of last year, for that matter.

I didn’t deliberately stop posting over here. It’s just that the last half of 2019 was really tough for me, with one damn thing after another.

I think it started with the air conditioning not doing a super great job of cooling. But outdoor temps hadn’t been too terribly hot and I had my fingers crossed for a cooler than usual summer. I was miserable — I HATE being hot — and every passing day brought a sense of surly dread. Because there’s no such thing as a cool summer in the South.

Then it was the moths. Pantry moths, aka cereal moths. They come home from the grocery store in a box or bag of something-or-other: cereal, rice, dried beans, pasta, whatever. I had them in my pantry once way back when we lived in Atlanta and THEY ARE NOT FUN. Did I mention my A/C was not working properly? This made things even less fun.

I had to throw away almost everything in my pantry. Five garbage bags worth. Then scrub every single surface of the pantry with vinegar water (I had help, thank all the gods). I added several drops of peppermint extract to the solution, as moths reportedly don’t like that. My kitchen smelled like candy canes for a week. Christmas in July.

Upside? My pantry was, and still is, remarkably clean and no longer contains any expired items.

And then both A/C units died for real. Like, not even making an effort any more. I tried to hold onto hope they could be repaired, but they were simply too old and had already been repaired more times than was wise. And, BONUS, upon closer inspection it turned out both 40-year-old furnaces had cracked heat exchangers, a dangerous carbon monoxide risk. So, that was a fun expense, replacing both upstairs and downstairs HVAC systems. It resulted in a more than 50% reduction of my electric bill, which was a nice surprise. I did the math and, at that rate of savings, the new systems will pay for themselves in roughly 102 years. So there’s that.

Temps were in the upper-90s when these guys showed up for an entire day of heavy lifting:

They were very conscientious about not messing up my already stained carpet:

And then my sluggish kitchen sink drain line stopped draining altogether. Again. And an upstairs toilet had developed a tendency to “run” unless you jiggled the handle just right. So yeah, got both of those fixed, after vowing to never again use the plumbing company that promised the drain was clear less than 12 months prior. [Note: I stopped putting food waste in the garbage disposal years ago; this was not user error.] Sorry, no pics of that mess.

So far, all of this non-stop calamity involved phoning and speaking to and meeting in real life with people. A lot of people. Customer service people, scheduling people, repair people, sales people, patronizing people, people making excuses, people giving estimates, genuinely helpful people, people who told me their entire life story and medical history, more customer service people, installation people, people checking up on the other people. ALL THE DAMN PEOPLE.

Look, I’m an introvert. Making phone calls is torture. It’s not that I dislike people, exactly. They’re fine in limited quantities, for a limited time. None of this was limited and my eyelid was starting to twitch.

At one point there was the combined electric/internet/TV/cell phone service outage, for no good reason whatsoever. No bad weather, no accidents nearby, no alien invasion. Couldn’t even contact anyone to ask for a status update. It lasted for hours and hours. At least I didn’t have to interact with any people during that time, but I was starting to feel cursed.

By now, it was sometime in September. I think? None of this seemed worth writing about over here. It would’ve been just a lot of whining.

Oh, but we’re not done. Because then there was the Epic Ant Invasion. To be honest, this is a not entirely uncommon thing here in the South. You spill one drop of juice or leave one piece of a chip sitting out and suddenly you have 30 to 50 THOUSAND feral ants on the kitchen counter. Tiny little ants you mostly don’t even notice until they swarm. Luckily, I have discovered a really effective ant deterrent [poison, ok? it’s poison] and that problem cleared up after enough of them ate it. A full week later. In the meantime I didn’t, couldn’t stand to, use my kitchen to prepare food.

The aggravated whining had now reached Olympic competition levels.

The fall months held the usual threats from hurricanes, which seemed a lot more potentially dangerous than usual. Not going to complain, as we got off easy in this part of the state, but the prolonged worry provoked by large, powerful, slow-moving storms is a real and stressful thing. My heart breaks for Puerto Rico, especially, and for the Outer Banks.

Somewhere in the timeline was being the recipient of the anger and disappointment of someone I respect, caused by a major misunderstanding on my part, with resultant shame and regret. And the devastating terminal cancer diagnosis of someone I like even though she’s not a friend, but who is important in my children’s lives. Even the very welcome decision to move to a new place in 2020 has been stressful. Downsizing, UGH.

Mixed in with all this short-term drama is the ongoing heartbreak and grief of my mom slowly dying from non-Alzheimer’s dementia (frontal lobe dementia, or FTD, if anyone wants to look it up; I find I can’t write about it). And of course the interesting family decision-making dynamics of that, when you have three sisters and you all were raised to be strong-willed, opinionated people (not going to write about that either). Mom was officially diagnosed in November 2016, after displaying symptoms for a couple years, to give you an idea of what I mean when I say slowly. This is not a thing that gets easier, or will ever get better, with time.

Of course, there’s that other event from November 2016 with a result that just keeps getting impossibly worse, a manic hellscape of cruelty and indifference and greed and corruption, one that can’t and shouldn’t be ignored (no intention of writing about that either).

It all adds up. There were many times last year when it felt like the combined weight was simply too much. Too much to bear, too much to process, too much to write about or through or around.

It’s hard to write this now, even when I can make light of some of the small stuff that has been resolved. But it feels necessary.

Yes, the year had bright moments too. Of course it did. My children are a constant source of love and laughter and hope. They also don’t really want me to write about them here (are you noticing a trend?). “Mom, don’t be weird,” is an oft-heard phrase. But I have managed to obtain their permission to post a few uplifting pics.

My son and his wife recently added a second puppy to their family:

She has the softest fur I have ever sunk my fingers into. And is really sweet when she’s not being encouraged into mischief:

My granddaughter continues to be an absolute joy. My daughter is fiercely protective (takes after her mother) and adamant about not posting identifiable pics, but she approved these:

This girl loves outdoor adventures:

So no, life over the past months has not been all doom and gloom. Not even close. But there has been an unusual amount of stress and worry. And whining.

It’s complicated by the ever-present elephant in the room: the ongoing struggle to write fiction, to be creative, under stress. The guilt and self-disgust of failing at that, or not making sufficient progress, over long periods of time. The pressure to “at least” write a blog post or five, to be entertaining in short bursts even if I can’t yet manage to finish an entire book. The feeling that everyone is watching and judging, disappointed and losing faith.

When the truth is that most likely no one cares or has even noticed. I don’t mean that to sound like self-pity. It’s not. It’s simple reality that people are busy with their own lives, of course they won’t notice when someone is NOT doing something.

But that perception has definitely had an effect when it comes to writing posts over here. I recently read back over a bunch of my old posts and I distinctly recall the feeling, early on, of not giving two fucks about what anyone thought. Whether I wrote something funny or serious or ridiculous or even just plain stupidly trivial. I didn’t care. It was freeing. Not sure when that changed, or why, but it did. I increasingly began to feel that I had to write something, I don’t know, important. Or meaningful. Something “worth” reading.

Yeah, I know, what a self-important twit. Yes, I’m rolling my eyes at myself.

Do you want to know which post is my “most viewed” since I wrote it in August 2016? I mean, by far, it’s not even close. This one [CW: profanity and frogs]: “Yet another incident of critters in the fireplace, dammit

I want to recapture that care-free feeling, if I can. Get back to writing whatever strikes my fancy, whether funny or serious, without any imagined expectations. Maybe it’ll spark confidence that will carry over into my other writing as well.

No promises, no resolutions. No pressure. But I’m going to give it a try in coming months. Expect some randomly worthless nonsense, I guess, while I sort myself out. I appreciate those of you who might still be along for the ride.

 

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Filed under deep thoughts, health and well-being, writing

Between Seasons

We had severe storms here yesterday, as predicted, with heavy rain and strong wind gusts and multiple tornado warnings in areas all around me that lasted for hours. It’s unsettling how quickly tornados pop up and how fast they move, unlike a hurricane that you can see coming for days.

Graphic credit: WRAL.com

Today is sunny and cool and breezy, a storm-washed crispness in the air usually only felt in the fall. I’m fortunate that debris cleanup in my yard will be minimal. A few small branches, several downed clumps of fragile new leaves, a scattering of maple “helicopters” and oak tassels carpeting the deck.

The blossoms from the flowering cherry tree are blown or washed away from where they adorned the sidewalk just last week.

A small child (I assume; perhaps a playful adult) helped with the first pile of petals, an unexpected bit of “artful destruction” that made me smile.

A few weeks earlier, the dark bark and purple blossoms of a redbud stood out against a thick morning fog. So hard to capture a good picture of elusive fog (especially with my amateur photography “skills”).

The dogwoods are mostly done blooming and in full leaf now, the azaleas and camellias hanging on to a few stubborn displays of red and coral and white among new growth.

Signs of spring in the process of giving way to eventual summer.

I’m sitting here with the back door open, listening to birds and the lull of distant traffic. Too wet still for the intrusive drone of leaf blowers or lawn mowers, an occasional gust brings the rustle of young leaves and, no doubt, our persistent spring pollen through the screen.

The breeze is cool enough that the cat is curled up in a chair, burrowed into a carelessly thrown blanket, snoring softly.

It’s a quiet afternoon.

I’m feeling the kind of melancholy that is more pensive or nostalgic than true sadness. Memories are there along the edges my mind, as are plans and anticipation, the past and the future, pushing gently or pulling insistently as is their wont. I acknowledge both, allow neither, pausing for a moment in the now. Between seasons, as it were.

 

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Merry Christmas!

All my attention is focused on family just now, so I decided to be a minimalist with words and share a couple of my favourite pics taken at this time of year:

 

Wherever you are, however you celebrate (or don’t), I hope this day is exactly what you want it to be.

 

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Tuxedos don’t have belts, and other petty complaints

So, I’ve been doing a lot of reading during my extended hiatus. A LOT OF READING. I’m sort of embarrassed to admit how many books I’ve read (just shy of triple digits) in the four months since I decided to take a break not just from social media but from writing as well.

Oh. Hadn’t I mentioned that last part?

Right. Well, sometime around the beginning of August, I also gave myself permission not to write. At all. Because life has been . . . hmmm, let’s just say this hiatus was a much-needed respite from the fire hose of guilt and pressure that is “I should be writing.” While not actually getting any worthwhile writing done.

My creative well was so depleted that if you threw a stone into the maw, two and a half days later you’d hear a faint echoing “plink” as it hit bedrock.

So I quit. Temporarily.

Instead, I’ve been devouring books, mostly romances, like they’re chips — if I liked chips, which I don’t particularly, so maybe more like they’re cheese (mmm, lovely melty cheese) — and as soon as I finish one I dig into another. Immediately. Pausing only to give it a rating and quick note in my “have read” spreadsheet. And while they’ve all sort of run together, which was my intent with this approach, I can’t help but have noticed a few things. A few oh-so-very-petty, yet irritating, things.

Mind you, there are major, significant world event type things irritating me too [understatement]. But since I don’t want this to become a political blog, I am instead going to vent about trivial, insignificant, petty things. In books.

All this steam has got to go somewhere. Think of it as an Airing of Grievances a few weeks early. Festivus!

I feel the need to pause here to say I LOVE the romance genre, completely and unapologetically, in all its permutations. I love writing it and I love reading it. The romance genre has saved my sanity, or at least my emotional wellbeing, more than a few times over the years. Especially the past two years. Do not make the mistake of thinking this post is dissing the genre. I will fight you.

That said, onward to the petty complaints referenced in the post title.

Like tuxedos. Specifically in romance. You know that scene, where the woman is all eager to undress her suave and ridiculously wealthy tuxedo-wearing date and in her excitement her fingers fumble with his belt. Or maybe he deftly unbuckles his own belt.

*SCREEEECH*

That’s the sound of me getting thrown out of the story. Because tuxedo pants don’t have a belt. They just don’t. They don’t even have belt loops. If the handsome sexy competent man in your story is wearing a belt with his tuxedo, and roughly half of them are lately, I’m sitting here wondering whether he got it on clearance at Skeeter’s Suit-Mart. It sure as hell isn’t Armani or Tom Ford, and certainly not Kiton or Brioni.

Writers, please stop doing this. It’s embarrassing.

Does Idris wear a belt with his tuxedo? No. No, he does not.

Speaking of clothing and removing it, what is the deal with all the wrap dresses? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a wrap dress for sale in a store, let alone actually seen anyone wearing one. This has become so inexplicably prevalent, I asked my adult daughter, since she and her friends DO all wear dresses, whether any of them actually wore that style. She said no, not that she’s noticed. She doesn’t like them, herself. And then she said, “Can she really be a heroine if she’s going about in wrap dresses?” Exactly. Who the hell wears clothes that are likely to fall off with the next deep breath?

To me, this has become shorthand for lazy writing. I get it, you want your hero to be able to give one little tug of a belt (again with the belts) and have the woman’s dress suddenly fall to the floor, so you put her in a wrap dress. Come on. Might as well put her in a bathrobe. If your guy is half the man you’ve written him to be, he can handle some buttons or a zipper. Perhaps even a cowl-neck.

Why do so many writers use the word ground when they mean floor? If someone removes an article of clothing and tosses/drops/throws it on the ground, I’m wondering when exactly they left the building. Or if someone slides their back down the wall, usually in despair, and hits the ground instead of the floor . . . wait, was that an outside wall? Are we now dealing with skin abrasions from brick or stucco?

I mean, really. Descriptive words matter.

But dialog and actions matter more. You can’t just tell the reader that a character is smart or funny or controlling . . . and then never have them say or do anything remotely smart or funny or controlling. Suspension of disbelief isn’t an absolute, no matter how much we wish it were.

For instance, if your character is super-intelligent, I don’t expect them to do stupid knee-jerk stuff that most people outgrow in middle school. I also expect your thirty-something character to have a level of emotional maturity beyond that of a teenager. Like using common sense instead of making highly unlikely assumptions. And maybe once in a while, when it really matters, asking the obvious questions and waiting for an answer.

Likewise, if your character is an alpha control freak running a multi-billion-dollar company, I expect them to spend at least some time, y’know, running that company. Having meetings, evaluating reports, taking phone calls, sending texts or emails. Managing even a small company is a ton of work. At a minimum, your alpha control freak should occasionally spend a few minutes at least thinking about it.

Side note: It’s perfectly fine to write a billionaire character who is laid back and content to have someone else run their empire while they jet off somewhere with their new love interest. Just don’t tell me that character is an alpha control freak.

Side, side note: If your billionaire does jet off to somewhere in a private plane, and it’s a plane big enough to travel vast distances without re-fueling, it probably has two pilots, not one. And if you opt to describe logistics (maybe don’t?), that big old plane can’t land just anywhere, definitely not on some tiny private island that doesn’t have a decent sized airport/runway and some way to re-fuel.

Hey, I did warn you this was going to be petty. Petty, petty, petty.

As for being funny . . . sigh. Look, humour is hard. It’s subjective, yes, but it’s also extremely difficult to pull off in writing, especially in a novel-length work. It’s painfully obvious when you try to be funny and it falls flat. The best comedic writers I know are also more intelligent than most. Not everyone can do it. I sure as hell couldn’t.

But it seems everyone is trying these days, as apparently “romantic comedy” is the hot new trend. Well, one of them. It’s not enough to write a few jokes as part of a meet cute in the first chapter and then have the rest of your RomCom be nothing but soul-destroying angst. Not that there’s anything wrong with soul-destroying angst. But it’s not comedy. Defining it as such just makes you look bad.

This trend has gotten so out of control that, after reading way too many RomComs that simply aren’t, I don’t even want to risk anything with that label. It’s cringe-worthy.

Speaking of false advertising . . . DUETS. Fucking cliffhanger duets. For those unaware, a duet is one story, split in half at a cliffhanger moment, and then sold as two books. For basically twice the price. It’s not a continuing series with the same characters. It’s not connected stories with different characters set in the same world. Both of those are fine. A duet is ONE STORY split into TWO BOOKS.

This is such a rage-inducingly-bad idea, I’m not even sure I can write about it without losing my temper. Suffice to say, there are some very talented writers doing this and I really wish they’d knock it the fuck off. Because I’d love to read their work but refuse to support this trend.

Whoops. That last complaint wasn’t quite as petty as the others, was it? Maybe I should stop before I come up with other not-so-petty writerly complaints. Or before I work my way up to world events.

In other news, I’ve slowed down the mad reading dash through my electronic TBR pile (only 12 books in November!) and am gradually, somewhat tentatively, getting back into writing my own fiction. After all, a hiatus eventually needs to come to an end or it is not, by definition, a hiatus.

I’ll be trying not to make any of the extremely petty mistakes listed in this post. I’m quite confident I’ll make others — just as petty, if not more so — and that one day someone will tell me all about them. As they should.

Anyone else have grievances they’d like to air? We’re celebrating Festivus all month over here.

 

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Filed under health and well-being, just for fun, writing