Category Archives: Writing

Writer’s Strike

It now looks like the Writer’s Guild of America (the people who write your favorite TV shows and movies) are going on strike as tomorrow. USA Today explains:

“Hollywood writers have left their keyboards behind.

At 12:01am Tuesday, the Writers Guild of America, the union representing most of Hollywood’s scribes behind your favorite TV shows and films, went on strike. The board of directors for the WGA, which includes both a West and an East branch, voted unanimously to strike after talks between the guild and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which bargains on behalf of the nine largest studios, failed to reach a contract. Writers, they said, are facing an “existential crisis.”

If it feels like a TV repeat, that’s because it’s all happened before. For 100 days in 2007 and 2008, writers went on strike, bringing the entertainment industry to a halt. Now those behind everything from network series like CBS’s “NCIS” to Marvel movies to streaming series including Netflix’s “Stranger Things” will hit the picket lines for the first time in 15 years.”

I don’t blame the writers a single bit for this. They are regularly screwed over when it comes to payment for movie and TV work and that screwing just got harder and even more lubeless with streaming. I would also not be surprised to see studios start to approach indie authors and other non-WGA writers to see if they’re willing to cross a picket line.

Needless to say, I wouldn’t do that. And I really could use the money right now. But the only way these larger entities, be they studios or corporations or what have you, will ever start paying people what they deserve is if those people band together with all their colleagues and stand as one. So donate to the WGA members if you can spare a couple of bucks and plan on finding something else to do if your favorite show goes dark during the strike—say, read a book.

The End of the Month Is Approaching

I didn’t mention yesterday but Crystal Blade Episode 9: An Intimate Family Dinner was released yesterday on Vella. At least I finally got it into my head to call them episodes and not chapters.

I have to admit, I was really hoping to have Blade finished by now, but between various stressors and a couple of bouts of Not Feeling Well I just wasn’t able to get it done this month. Which is annoying because I would really like to publish something every month and have Amazon keep promoting me, but I’m starting to think that this may not be realistic for me.

At least, not at the moment. I’m tired. My last vacation was January 2017 and it has been go go go ever since then. I would dearly like to have one week where I didn’t have to do anything, cook or clean anything, or take care of anything. Basically, I want to go on a cruise. But to do that we not only need enough money to pay for the cruise itself but also for the week of time Ramón would need to take off from work (not having PTO really sucks). Which means I need to sell a lot of books. Which means I need to write more new books to keep myself in Amazon’s sweet spot. But I’m tired. You see my dilemma.

At least the sterling silver jewelry I’ve been making recently has been selling, which is something. Frankly, I’ve made almost as much from that as I’ve made from writing this month. Part of me thinks that’s sad, and part of me is just damned grateful that I have another income stream. And all of me knows that things could be so, so much worse so I should just shut up and be grateful for what I have.

So Much On My Plate

Lord, I’m juggling so much at the moment. Between being an indie author with all the hats I have to wear in that business, trying to crank out stories under my SF name, making jewelry (don’t judge—my sterling silver jewelry brings in decent money and crafting is part of my writing process), and managing everything in the house, it can be a challenge at times.

But I could also be stuck in an office job that I loathed and dealing with a micromanaging boss. So I’m looking on the bright side here and reminding myself to schedule a little free time in between everything else.

Speaking of the jewelry, I’ve already sold one of the pieces I made this week and now have a placeholder page here where I’ll be putting new pieces as I get them (yes, I had an Etsy store but I’m tired of dealing with their rising costs. I’d rather just pay a flat PayPal fee and keep the rest of my money). If I’m correct I can add a Buy Now button to each piece that will take people to PayPal where they can purchase the piece with their PP account or a credit card.

I think. I know a website I used to manage was able to do that, so I should be able to as well. Need to experiment over the weekend, tra la…

Not a Lot of Writing Work Today, Either

I was going to get up at 9 AM, open Crystal Blade and get cracking, I really was. But my body decided otherwise and woke me up at 10:30 AM, at which point I had to go out to Joann Fabrics while the Daffodil Dash Sale was still running to get fabric for two quilts that I’ve been commissioned to do, then I had a doctor’s appointment and I’d been fasting since dinner last night so the only thing I was capable of doing while waiting for that was cleaning because my brain would not produce complex, difficult things like words.

Went off to the physical, all was well, gave blood and pee at the lab, stopped off for a very well-deserved meal, and returned home to find that my pharmacy couldn’t refill my new scrips because there’s an issue with the medical insurance. “They probably want you to go with their mail order pharmacy,” the tech explained. We did this same dance with Aetna so I will be donning my Southern Baptist Church Lady persona while calling The New People tomorrow and telling them no, I am not relying on our dodgy mail service when I can literally walk to my pharmacy so approve the scrips, bless your heart.

Then I made some TikTok and IG promo videos and posted those before going out and getting the makings for dinner (taco salad—still couldn’t deal with anything more complicated than that). Made it, ate it, then went upstairs and sewed another row of quilt blocks because this quilt has a hard deadline and I need to get it done ASAP. And now it is 11:01 PM CDT and tomorrow I have to pay bills, call three different businesses to get various things sorted, and mail a quilt to my SIL in England. And exercise. And get something for dinner. And sew another row of quilt blocks. And maybe, please God, get some writing squeezed in there somewhere.

I need a margarita, stat.

I’m Definitely Getting My Steps In

This is now my average day:

  • Wake up, get cleaned up and dressed
  • Come downstairs and feed the cats
  • Change J.J.’s bedding, give him a sponge bath, and make sure that he eats and drinks
  • Get him settled and comfortable, then get laundry started
  • Grab breakfast
  • Head upstairs for an hour to do some work
  • Come back downstairs to check on JJ and see if he wants to eat or drink
  • Switch the laundry from washer to dryer, start another load
  • Go back upstairs and continue to work
  • Continue to check on J.J. and the laundry every hour, taking time off at noon to eat lunch
  • Mid-afternoon, come down and give J.J. his sub-q fluids
  • Finish off the work day
  • Go out and do the food shopping
  • Make dinner
  • Clean/fix anything that needs to be cleaned/fixed (today I relubed the deck for the treadmill)
  • Cuddle J.J., tell him that he’s an awesome boy as he wobbles around the living room and kitchen, and get him situated on clean bedding
  • Go upstairs, take a shower, and crash hard

Mind you, things will ease up once J.J. feels better and everything settles down again (or, to be honest, he dies). But for now I’m splitting my time between taking care of him and writing/editing, with as much housework as I can fit in around the edges. Think good thoughts for me, please.

The AI As Writer

I had my writing group Zoom meeting Tuesday night and since the bulk of them are SF or fantasy writers we were discussing the closure of Clarkesworld to submissions because they’ve gotten absolutely hosed with AI-written subs in the last two months. Apparently other magazines are following suit until they can figure out how to handle this sudden surge of stories, or whether they should go invitation-only (which is problematic because slush, while a pain in the ass to go through, is also the best way to discover amazing new writers).

Me being me, I couldn’t understand why someone would go to these lengths because it seems obvious that swamping a magazine with AI-written stories of dubious worth would just backfire on them. J explained that a lot of these “writers” think that the only important part of a story is the idea, and the actual creation on the story was scutwork that can be turned over to an AI.

Yeah, no. Ideas are a dime a dozen. Any writer gets tons of ideas during the day. The real job is figuring out which ideas would actually support a plot, and then creating a gripping, well-written story based on that plot. And so far, that can’t be done by AIs.

J went on to say that apparently some of these “writers” are using ChatGPT and other AI language engines to create a side hustle; one even told an editor, “I’m doing this because I need money.” That hollow laughter you hear is from all the writers throughout history who know that selling your work in trad publishing, even if it’s the best damn story or novel of the year, is a crapshoot, and even if you do sell it you won’t make a lot of money off it unless you’re a big name. But there’s still this popular concept that all writers make tons of cash so they’re probably thinking, “I came up with a great idea—I’ll have ChatGPT write a bunch of different stories for me based on that idea, send all of them off, and the money will come rolling in.”

Once again, yeah, no. The only way I can see that as maybe working is if these “writers” put their AI-created works into KU with the hope that enough people will be intrigued to at least read a few pages. But that also assumes that the work has a genre-appropriate cover and attention-getting blurb, and even then it might not get them a lot of traction because KU was bursting at the seams with titles even before these yahoos thought they could game the system and build publishing empires for themselves based on AI writing.

Now, is there a place for AI in writing? Sure—my friend Jerry uses image AI to come up with inspiration for locations and characters, and he’s been very happy with using some AI text engines to do research. But he doesn’t use the AI images on his cover, and he still has to sit down and do the actual writing himself.

Another actual, award-winning writer suggested that some of these people may be the type who simply want to watch the world burn. They cant believe that any creative work is good, so they churn out this machine-assisted drivel to prove it and smile as it causes magazines to close submissions and editors to scramble for a way to handle the avalanche. And I do suspect that those people’s work are included in said avalanche, but I think the bulk of AI-written works are just someone trying to game the system and make a quick buck.

This will shake out over time and hopefully magazines and other publishers will develop a way to shunt the mechanical dross off to one side before their slush readers are driven to despair and tequila. But in the meantime it’s going to cause a lot of issues on both sides of the publishing divide so trad publisher writers had better buckle up, because this is going to be one bumpy ride.

No Writing Over the Weekend

Instead, I tweaked my Amazon ads and got rid of the non-performers, then pulled on my big girl panties to start learning how to use Vellum because I’d like to use it in compiling the wide versions of To My Muse and the Esposito County Shifters omnibus.

I can see why a lot of people like Vellum so much—it’s definitely easy and puts together great-looking ebooks. But I’m a little annoyed that I’m going to have to do the same thing I did with Calibre and create three different book files for Amazon (because I need Amazon-specific links in the back matter), Smashwords (because I need a Smashword-specific language on the copyright page along with the Smashwords ISBN, as well as back matter links that go to my website), and Google Play (with the Amazon copyright page and the Smashwords back matter links).

If there’s a way to keep all of those in Vellum and generate book types with selected pages can someone please tell me how to do that because I have combed through the Help pages and there doesn’t seem to be a way to select which pages should be included in a compile (that part I did like about Scrivener).

Kinda Hard to Write When You’re a Popsicle

Winter Storm Mara has well and truly hit our neck of the woods, and unfortunately my office window has the insulation qualities of a piece of Kleenex so it’s fricking freezing in here if I close the office door. And yes, I know I supposedly have heat in here, but for reasons we don’t understand because the baffles were supposedly reset to fix this, the bulk of the heat upstairs winds up in the craft room, which is great for Ramón when he’s resuscitating an ancient computer but not so great for me, or his office or our bedroom to be honest.

On the other hand if I open the office door to get some heat in here, at least two cats decide to join me, and at least one of them wants to be petted. Or sit on the back of my chair. Or stretch out on my desktop and rest his head on my hand while I’m trying to write. So I’m kinda screwed no matter what I do, unless I decided to pop for a space heater which I may well do (looking at Walmart’s website and apparently I can get the kind we have in our bedroom for $56. I know what I’m picking up come payday).

So I haven’t exactly gotten a lot done today, but to be honest it’s 25°F out there and I’m just glad that our power and heat are still on. I may put everything on my laptop and write in bed at this point, I don’t know.

Son of a…

There I was, innocently moving some music that I’d burned from CDs years ago onto my desktop and adding covers when I accidentally clicked on “Smooth Operator” by Sade.

By now everyone should know what this song is about, but years ago it prompted an idea for a contemporary romance where a newly elected female CEO of an up-and-coming tech company gets talked into attending a high-class kinky auction and wins the services of a handsome older gigolo, only to find out to her shock that she already knows him (and had a crush on him in her teenage years). She doesn’t want to be CEO—she’s on the spectrum and served as the company’s CTO while her older brother was the CEO until his suspicious death. She hires the gigolo to act as her platonic companion and social interface while she sets out to find who killed her brother, which boggles him but he’s aging out of the job and is happy to have one last gig to finish off his nest egg. And then hijinks occur, as they do.

It was a cool plot and I had a lot of it worked out in my head, but it was a contemporary romance and I didn’t really have time to do a Natasha M. Stark story so into the mental story trunk it went.  And then I played “Smooth Operator” a few minutes ago and the story came roaring back, only this time it’s a near-future SF romance. Goddamnit.

Thing is, the MMC isn’t a cyborg or an alien. He comes from a rich family that owns mines out in the asteroid belt but loses all his money when his father dies and it turns out dear old Dad was broke, which is why the MMC chose to go into high-class prostitution (and has some enhancements that allow him to act as deadly bodyguard as well as lover). And SF romance these days needs the MMC to be some big, hulking male who is somehow “other,” otherwise it doesn’t sell. And I don’t have time to do another book right now.

Grah. Why you do this to me, brain?

Music vs. Silence

I was reading a post in FB today where someone who is sound sensitive was raving about the noise-canceling Bose headphones they got and how much writing they were able to get done with them on as opposed to dealing with all the noise around them. Which I find interesting because I’m also sound sensitive and have misophonia (poor Ramón has problems chewing with his mouth closed due to a broken nose and I have to leave the room if he’s eating by himself because any sort of wet/mushy noise like that kicks in my fight or flight reflex), and yet I cannot listen to silence when I’m writing. I need something to listen to, preferably a soundtrack for the story that gets me into the mood for a specific scene (remember, frustrated screenwriter here).

Granted, when I’m listening to music I usually prefer instrumental stuff because I can’t listen to lyrics and write at the same time (I have actually been writing dialogue where the main character suddenly broke into the chorus of “Celebrity Skin”). I do have book soundtracks that include sung music, but when I listen to those I have the volume cranked down so low that I can barely hear the lyrics.

When pedal has to hit metal and I need to crank out serious wordage, however, I usually resort to instrumental soundtracks. Some of my favorites are the soundtracks for Salt (there is nothing better for writing fight scenes, I swear), Stage Beauty, Sherlock Holmes (the RDJ movie), The Crown, Interstellar, the Cirque du Soleil show O, and Naqoyqatsi, with a little bit of Westworld, Game of Thrones, and Iron Man thrown in there (I do love Ramin Djawadi’s work). I suppose I can always try Ramón’s noise-cancelling headphones and see what they’re like, but I’m pretty sure they’re not going to work for me when it comes to writing.