I guest blogged over on Kristine Raymond's blog. You can read that here:
and, I then did a podcast with Kristine. Take a listen here: https://www.wordplaypodcast.com/2020/04/episode-156-guest-lynda-j-cox.html
The podcast was the first for me, but Kristine made it feel comfortable. Thank, Kristine, for having me as your guest.
I’m the administrator for several public pages over on Facebook. One of those pages was created for readers and fans of a series I was involved with to talk to the authors, ask questions about upcoming books in the series, and just be part of the inside group for that series. Readers were vested in us. They saw value in buying our books, because they “knew” us. The interaction between authors and readers wasn’t just about buying our books.
It was, by all accounts (including Facebook’s own analytics with the “Group Insights”) a very active group. Four authors creating content, engaging readers, letting readers have a peek into the process of writing. We had about 200 members, of which more than 150 were active on a regular basis in the group, which frankly was phenomenal. We gradually grew the group of readers. The active members stayed about the same, even when we reached 300 members.
And then someone got the idea to open the group up to other authors for posting. The idea was to bring the readers who follow those authors into the group. I was beyond hesitant. I warned that unless we set some ground rules immediately, our little group would turn into just another “buy my book” drive-by posting site on Facebook, and all the good will we had created with those 150 or so very active members would be squandered. I was told that “we would monitor the situation and if we have to, we’ll set up some rules for posting.”
Anyone care to take a bet as to what happened in that group?
As a founder of the group (not just an administrator), I admit to being protective of the relationship developed with the readers in that group. After a few months of “buy my book” drive-by postings and no other interaction with readers by these authors, group insights revealed engagement was way down. Surprise! (Yes, that is sarcasm.)
I went off on a rant in the reader group. I was told by other authors (in the author group for that page) it was unprofessional, how dare I show the warts and wrinkles of the writing life to readers, and even worse, HOW DARE YOU CRITICIZE OTHER AUTHORS? I made no apologies. I flat out refused to apologize for viewing readers as little more than a potential sale.
Two really interesting things came out of that rant. First of all, it was the most active post in the group for that whole month and readers publicly and privately thanked me for creating it. Secondly, even though at that point, the other admins realized we had a problem and set up specific days of the week for posting “buy my book” posts, group action continued to fall. The readers got it.
I’ve looked at group insights for this group again today. Even though we have garnered even more members, engagement is down. The most engaging posts are NOT the “buy my book” posts. They’re posts of interesting tidbits of history, pictures of period dresses, cute memes…that I and one other of the founding authors create. That being said, I am pulling back further and further from this group. I neither have the time nor the energy to fight what I see as an uphill battle against the drive-by posting. I’m no longer active in that group, and honestly that makes my heart hurt. Some of those readers when the page was started came into my street team. Others became “stalkers” of my author page. Because of Facebook friendships, a few other readers became people I count as friends in real life, even though I’ve never met them.
I’ll put my energy elsewhere. I wish all the authors posting in that group the best of luck. I guess, when you consider the time it takes to post a link in a space that has become little more than a free advertising site and keep on going to the next Facebook page to post the same link, the ROI might be acceptable. It isn’t to me. I NEVER want to view any reader as little more than a potential sale.
I’m a historian. Not by trade but by education and choice. When I write a romance set in a historical period, I research that period. I research where those romances are set. Even though every book I have written so far is set in the aftermath of the American Civil War, I still research before I commit to writing. Klint Caper’s backstory—the hero in Brokken Angel posed several problems for me, especially in light of the current trend to eviscerate authors for what is perceived as racism in historically accurate novels. I found myself utterly paralyzed by self-censorship. That paralysis brought all of my writing a complete and utter stand-still.
Racism in the history of the United States has always existed, in many forms—all of those forms just as ugly, just as damaging, just as deadly, and just as pervasive as it is purported to be now. Former Union general Philip Sheridan is reported to have said “The only good Indians I ever saw were dead.” Read some of the letters sent home by Union troops about what they NOT fighting for when the Emancipation Proclamation was revealed. Jim Crow laws held on in the Deep South until well into the mid-1960s. Let’s not forget the signs in New York City when a large wave of starving Irish immigrants arrived in the 1800s. “No Irish Need Apply.” Even as recently as the 1960s many stated they wouldn’t vote for John Kennedy because he was an Irish Catholic.
As a writer of historical romance (hint—it’s fiction), I still attempt to be as historically accurate as possible. That means revealing the prevailing public sentiment of the time, the mores of the period—warts and all. History is not and never has been clean or pretty or even just—but it is history. Were there those who defied the dominant public sentiment, bucked the mores? Of course. History is rife with those who refused to believe that “this is as good as it gets” or would not accept “this is how it’s always been done.” Our own national history is founded in the hope that there was a better way and the belief that tradition wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. We fought a Civil War and almost destroyed this beautiful experiment because of “tradition” and the hope that there was a better way.
I believe there is a better way, that the best is still to come, and only by viewing history through a dual lens that looks back and forward—NOT the mono vision of today’s standards—can we move forward. History is unchanging. Only the interpretation of it changes, much to the detriment of those who fail to understand attempting to define history by modern standards is a dangerous trap.
As an author who does her homework and fully researches a time period, the lives of those who lived in that period, who attempts to understand the prevailing social and political thought of the time (without bringing my own modern judgements to those thoughts), I would hope that I can write a character unlike me—a character who isn’t a white, middle-class, straight female—and do those characters justice.
Keep your web page evergreen. Keep updating, keep changing stuff, keep blogging to keep the page higher in SEOs. Yeah, okay...
To keep blogging (and writing) means I have to force myself through the wall of self-imposed silence due to self-censorship. I apparently do a lot of damage to myself by constantly second-guessing and doubting myself. You know, the more that I think about it, the more I realize this writing gig isn't for the faint of heart.
Self-censorship...thanks to the utter implosion of the RWA and a group on Twitter that I refer to as the "torches and pitchforks crowd" I've found I've been self-censoring more and more and second-guessing every single word I write. The latest target of the woke, virtue-signaling T & P crowd is Georgette Heyer (the woman has been dead since 1974) because she was allegedly anti-Semitic. Honey, by just about any definition, I'm Jewish. My grandfather took me to synagogue every Saturday morning and I'm not offended by a single word Heyer wrote. I'd deeply appreciate it if y'all would stop being offended for me. In the meantime, my own second-guessing and self-censorship has become a full-on, impenetrable force-field. Right now, I haven't found a scruffy-looking Nerf herder to help me destroy that force-field.
Instead, I'm trying to blog about the massive destruction the "scorched earth" policy of the T & P crowd seems to create. It is truly, from my view point, a take no prisoners, silence the voices of those authors who the T & P crowd believe to be racist, homophobic, xenophobic (pick a phobic), and destroy the voices of those who don't agree with them. Even as I write those words, I realize I may be making myself a target for them because I don't agree with the mob--on just about everything.
Early on in this debacle with the RWA I realized this was political. This wasn't about creating a more inclusive place for ALL authors at RWA, which--for the record--still needs to happen. This was about destroying and silencing the voices of all those who don't think like the TP crowd, will not virtue signal like the TP crowd. The greatest sin of one of those the TP crowd seeks to destroy and silence--she's alleged to be conservative. And, in the worldview of the TP crowd, that automatically makes her racist, homophobic, xenophobic (again, pick your phobic). In the worldview of the TP crowd, any woman who writes romance for a culture of which she isn't a member and isn't an author of color must be racist. Isn't that assumption racist in itself?
A writer friend of mine who is also a person of color had this to say about the latest tempest over a new book and it is so fitting for this whole debacle: When someone tears another down, it’s speaks volumes about that person’s character, but it also usually shows their woundedness. My friend says the book world has become ugly and she is struggling with the decision to continue writing--and we write in the same genre: romance. We write romance--a genre that is about inclusion, acceptance, happily ever after, finding that one person who makes life complete.
My son has a meme posted as his profile picture that says "Until you heal what's wounded you, you'll continue to bleed onto those around you." I have a suggestion to the members of the TP crowd. Figure out what has wounded you and heal that. In the meantime, tell the rest of us--calmly and rationally and logically--what we can do to help you heal. Because your scorched earth policy really doesn't do much of anything other than starve us all.
Why? Why is this decision so damn hard to make? Why does my heart feel like it’s being torn in two in this tug of war between what my heart sees and what my head knows?
In August of 2010, I saw a picture a collie breeder posted of a recent litter. The puppies in the picture were three days old and there was a face in there (the third one on the left, for anyone who has ever slightly followed this tale) that took my breath away. Three days old…and I told the breeder I wanted that puppy. Nine weeks later, after multiple reasons why I couldn’t/shouldn’t/didn’t need that puppy, he came home with me. I said the first time he reached top ten ranking status, the day I took him home, we never looked back.
I’m looking back now. I watched that beautiful, tri smooth male puppy grow into a precocious, head-strong, beautiful juvenile male. I didn’t think we would survive his puppyhood. If he could pull it into his kennel run or his crate, he destroyed it. The coup de grâce was at the Tulsa national when he ate four feet of the power cord for the high-powered dryer. I still don’t know how he managed to pull the cord into his crate as he was specifically put into an airline crate to avoid such destruction. And, then he left puppyhood behind him. And that precocious puppy turned into a beautiful, well-balanced teenager. His head lengthened one last time during this stage and that teenager became a stunning, impressive, beautiful adult.
For nine years, we’ve been in the show ring together. I can count on one hand the people I’ve trusted to take him in the ring for me. I cannot even begin to recount the judges who have given him wins and group placements at all-breed shows. Nor can I recount the specialty judges who have rewarded his virtues. If I tried, I would forget someone, and I don’t want to forget any of the judges who have given him the nod. To the judges who have rewarded his virtues, I simply offer a heartfelt and humble “Thank you.”
He’ll still travel with me, because…well, because he can. He has one last show circuit rapidly approaching. Win or lose, the Royal Canin show in December in Orlando will be his last time in the ring as a champion being campaigned for a coveted top ten ranking placement.
I’m looking back through a haze of tears. To his breeders, Bertha Garrison and Sarah Kelley, thank you for letting me have another tri smooth male that I truly didn’t need. To every judge who ever rewarded his virtues, thank you. To his ringside fans and cheering section, thank you. To his co-owner, Jacque Bailey, who said probably the hardest words she’s ever said to anyone when she said, “I don’t want to see you showing him if he isn’t going to be competitive”—thank you for loving him as much as I do and providing that extra little nudge my heart needed to make this decision. And to Vander—GCHP2 Bandor’s The Wyching Hour—it has been my honor and my privilege to be the person holding your lead and knowing no matter the outcome of a subjective process, I will always be taking the best dog home.
I’m not happy. No, this isn’t a post about the things in my life I’m not satisfied with. Rather, it’s a post about something that set my teeth on edge. An author I know recently released a self-published book about a character who falls in love with another character. Yeah, it’s a romance, or it’s supposed to be. What I’m not happy about is this—this book is less than one hundred pages and yet it deals with how a woman overcomes the mental and physical torment brought about by rape and falls in love with her rescuer.
Less than one hundred pages and you’re going to cover a topic that sensitive, that fraught with pitfalls, that…I can’t. I just can’t. Excuse me while I slap the back of my head to dislodge my eyeballs. They got stuck staring at my brain in an epic eyeroll.
As a survivor of sexual assault, to think that anyone can cover the lifelong repercussions of such a traumatic event in less than one hundred pages…eyeroll again. To be that flippant with such an event…Again, words utterly fail me.
To this author, though, I do have some words. Survivors of sexual assault, and especially the type of assault you write of, don’t ever recover. We learn to cope. Because this is written as an historical, your character’s coping skills would be even more hard fought and even harder won. Even today, survivors of sexual assault are shamed and blamed. In the 1800s, the terribly sad fact is while rape occurred, the survivor was doubly victimized in the blame and shame game. The destruction of trust a survivor of rape experiences isn’t overcome with a gentle kiss. I don’t care how virile, how handsome, how thoughtful, how caring you try to portray your hero. That lack of trust in all of humanity takes years to overcome, if it ever can be.
My suggestion to this author is this—the next time you decide to write a story where the main character has survived sexual assault and rape, try talking to a few survivors. You might be surprised at how little you really know about it.
Yeah, I’m not happy. I’m actually angry at how cavalierly this author treated that character and in effect, treated every single survivor. We deserve better than you wrote us.
Every year, I promise myself I won’t let the emotions in. Every year, I promise myself I will ground myself and shield myself. And every year, I can’t. Those strong emotions get past my defenses. Being an empath is never easy. It’s much harder this time of year.
As I usually do as September 11th approaches, I find myself reflecting on how much our world changed on that day in 2001. There is anger in that reflection. Anger toward those who twisted a purported religion of peace into an instrument of hatred. Anger that as a nation we said we would never forget, and yet, we are forgetting. Anger that we are foolishly allowing those who swore to destroy us from within a foothold. This day of remembrance isn’t about “some people” who did “something” as one of those who has gained a foothold by being elected to Congress has said.
That Congresswoman is correct in that “some people did something.” “Some people” allowed their hearts to fill with hatred, allowed their minds to be twisted by a cult of death. “Some people” became murderers, not martyrs. “Some people” became a morality lesson of the worst kind. “Some people,” when apprehended by a nation filled with righteous anger for what was perpetrated on her people, squealed like snared pigs in sharing information. And one, though it took ten years to apprehend, revealed what an absolute and utter coward he was. What sort of “honorable” man uses his own wife and child as a shield? Hey, bartender--in honor of May 2, 2011, I will have two shots and a splash.
And, yet…my reflection for this day of remembrance encompasses “some people” – the almost three thousand people who went to bed on September 10th, never knowing they wouldn’t see another sunset; “some people” in New York City and at the Pentagon rushed into danger to save the lives of others; “some people” called their loved ones from airplanes, from the stairwells of the World Trade Center Towers, just to say one last time, “I love you.”; “some people” onboard United Flight 93 looked death in the eye and with the words of “We’re going to do something” and “Let’s roll” made the conscious choice to die on their terms; “some people” filled New York’s harbor and the East River with private boats to help their fellow Americans get off the island of Manhattan; “some people” stood in line for hours to donate blood, that sadly was not needed on that day; “some people” in a little Canadian town in Nova Scotia saw their population temporarily swell by nearly triple when all domestic flights to the US were grounded at the nearest airport, and graciously opened their homes and their hearts to the stranded travelers.
These are the “some people who did something” I reflect on. These everyday people, who became heroes are the ones I chose to remember. There is a very old proverb, which actually comes from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, that says as long as someone's name is said and remembered, they are not ever gone. My prayer is these "some people" are never forgotten, that we never stop reading their names as etched into metal and stone in the memorials at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon, in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. As long as they are remembered, as long as their names are spoken, they will not die. And my fervent hope is that the names of those who became murderers on September 11th are completely forgotten, wiped from memory, and never spoke again.
Originally posted: 12 June 2012
I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a let-down after sending that last round of edits to an editor. There is still one more round of editing to go, but that’s mainly for typos, missing punctuation, and formatting. That’s not changing words, tightening story lines, or filling in plot holes.
And, I’m not even sure if it’s a let-down or if it’s the realization that I’ve finally let my baby go into the world, where it will sink or swim on its own merit. Any author will tell you, there comes a time when as a writer, you have to stop tinkering, stop puttering around with the words, and let that writing go out into the world. The other night, I was re-reading the critical introduction to my master’s creative thesis, and while I thought, “Dang! That’s good!” there were still places where I wanted to change things. And, I’ve had my master’s for almost three years now. If I was honest with myself, I could have written more in that critical introduction, could have changed a lot of things—but there came a point in time when I had to let it go and give it to my master’s committee.
The same with any novel. There is a point when as an author, I have to say to myself, “Stop!” If I don’t say that, I would never stop writing and rewriting a manuscript. I have to admit to myself that it’s not perfect, it never will be, but the manuscript is as good as I can make it and live with.
For a while, I was hung up on making the first draft PERFECT. Needless to say, I never got past the first couple of pages, because I was so concerned with making it perfect that I couldn’t keep writing. One of my friends, who wrote for a while, never got past that “It has to be perfect!” in the first draft stage. And, I think the world lost a wonderful fantasy writer because she couldn’t make that internal editor shut up. I read some of her early stuff and was blown away with the detail, the richness, and the depth that she wrote. It’s a real pity that she could never get past the first ten or fifteen pages because her internal editor wouldn’t let her go on until those first pages were perfect. And, because she couldn’t make that internal editor happy, those first pages never were perfect.
What got me over needing to make the first draft perfect were a couple of things. The first was I learned how to turn off the internal editor. Even when the editor was screaming things weren’t perfect, I forced myself to keep writing. I told the editor that I could go back and fix what wasn’t perfect. And, to reinforce that resolve to keep writing, I made a sign to hang over my desk that was a quote of Ernest Hemingway. That quote reads, “The first draft is always SHIT.”
I’m not a huge fan of Hemingway, but seeing those words allowed me to turn off the editor.
I could also mention the other quote I have hanging over my desk, but then I’d also have to try to explain Derrida and his literary theory and I don’t think there’s enough time left in the universe to explain deconstructionist theory. (Even though I admit, when it came time to write critical literary papers during my master’s program, that was my favorite form of literary criticism to use, because all of life is about assumed and imposed binaries.)
The second thing that got me over needing to make that first draft perfect was my friend. It was so frustrating to hear the excitement in her voice when she got an idea for a new book, and she’d start writing, and a few weeks later, to hear the absolute dejection in her voice because she couldn’t make it perfect. And, for her, it had to be perfect before she could continue. I refused to allow the characters who spoke so strongly to me—strongly enough that I had to sit down and write their story—die a quiet death because I couldn’t get past the needing to make it perfect. So many wonderful characters that my friend created died, their voices never heard, their worlds never explored—all because she couldn’t make her internal editor shut up. I wasn’t going to do that to my characters, and I wasn’t going to be that author. If my characters die, it’s because I wrote their deaths—crying (or in some cases, feeling a grim sense of satisfaction) the whole time.
Every year, this week is incredibly difficult for me. I am sharing a blog post I wrote on 16 December, 2014.
Destroyer of the World:
It’s been a while since I’ve posted. There’s been a lot going on in my life—trying to find the funds to go play in New York City in February at Westminster Kennel Club, sending my third book to my editor, working on another book, training puppies to be show dogs. Usually I take this time to reflect on the year and look ahead to the next, but I’m not doing this for this post. Maybe before the end of the year, I will do that.
Rather, I cannot remain silent any longer. I watched with horror as a religious extremist took hostages in a mall in Sydney, Australia. My heart broke when I read the news that religious extremists within the same purported “religion of peace” invaded a school in Pakistan and killed more than 130 children. My heart aches for the families who have lost so very much. The Quran states that when you kill someone, you have destroyed the world. The world has been destroyed for so many families.
I do not claim—nor do I believe I can attempt—to understand the reasoning behind violence in the name of any god, whether that god is the god of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. When you use religion and drape your violence and brutality and bloodshed within the precepts of ANY religion, you have destroyed any credibility for that religion you wish to force upon others. Conversion by sword point is not conversion; it is coercion and it is not a manner to gain followers to a “peaceful” religion.
When you chose to target those who cannot fight back, when you chose to target the weakest, the most defenseless, the most innocent among us—you have made the conscious choice to be nothing. YOU ARE NOT A WARRIOR. YOU ARE NOT A MARTYR. YOU ARE NOT AN EXAMPLE TO FOLLOW. You are no longer anything other than a coward, a murderer, and a heretic to what you claim to believe.
You are a coward because you fear what you do not understand and you fear to learn understanding. So, you attempt to destroy that which does not fit into your narrow-minded, frightened little world view. The thing any religious extremist fears is an educated mind. You are not enlightened in any manner what so ever. The most terrifying thing to you is not an army but rather a child with a book.
You are a murderer of the lowest form. You seek out those who are innocent, those who are the weakest, those who cannot fight back. You throw around terms like “honor” as if you understand its meaning. You have no honor. The mangiest mongrel cur in the streets has more honor that you have ever had or ever will have. There is no room in Paradise for spineless, cowardly, honor less murderers of children. I would call you a son of a bitch, which I know is the worst insult I can offer to one of your religious persuasion, but I WILL NOT dishonor my dogs.
You are a heretic to the precepts of the religion you have chosen to drape your cowardice and dishonor in. Children are to be treasured. They are a gift and you have chosen to reject that gift. You have chosen to destroy the world.
My blog is where I do most of my venting about all sorts of things--book scammers, book stuffers, book thieves (I refuse to call them 'pirates' because I won't insult pirates), stupid crap that happens at dog shows. You never know what you'll read in this blog because I don't ever know what I'm going to write until I start writing.