Dragonverse Origins is moving along at a good pace (76,217 words if you're a numbers person). I know what needs to be written and the words are running together in their excitement to get out into the open. As soon as the last one is digitized, the book will be sent to my content-editor so he can rip it apart and help make it better. In the meantime, I’ll be starting work on Peacekeeper 3. I’m not sure if I’m going to keep that as the title or not – suggestions?

Yesterday, I was honored to present a talk at the monthly NorthEast Ohio Romance Writers of America (NEORWA) meeting. I say ‘honored’ because these people have their act together! Seriously – the SFWA can learn a lot from how the romance writers have organized themselves.

To be totally honest, I was expecting to present a talk to a group of women authors of which the majority knew little to nothing about self-publishing. Boy was I wrong! It didn’t take long before I realized I was addressing a very different group of people. These were seasoned authors, some of whom have won several major romance awards (none of which I’ve ever heard of). About half have published novels (traditional as well as self-published).

The room was filled with around 30 women. Male romance writers do exist, but they make up a very small percentage of the existing writers. During my talk and subsequent question and answer session as well as during the lunch afterward, I learned that writing romance is not as easy as one might assume. I’ve heard some people describe romance as “your typical boy meets girl, they fall in love, something tragic happens that tears them apart, they make up and get back together and live happily-ever-after.” If that’s what you think, you would be dead wrong. While some major plot-lines might follow this track, that's not always the case.

Just as in other genres, romance has its sub-categories: Historical, paranormal, erotic, contemporary, etc. The story can take place anywhere and at any time. Sound familiar? As a science fiction author, I can easily imagine a romance story set on a different planet complete with all the science and other trimmings that make science fiction what it is. The over-arching theme of a romance novel is a central love story with an emotionally satisfying ending. The rest is as diverse as any you will find in science fiction or fantasy. Based on what I've learned, writing historical romance is particularly difficult because, like getting the science right in science fiction, you must get your history right or your reviews will suffer.

Unlike SFWA where you must make a certain amount of money selling your books, membership in the RWA requires an author to only have written a book and made it publicly available. Another unique aspect of the organization is that to retain your higher-level membership, you must continue to write and publish. For a full set of rules, click here. During the lunch after the meeting, I learned that RWA authors, no matter how well-known they become, tend to always have the desire to help foster other RWA authors. While this same attitude exists in other genres, it seems to be more prevalent among romance writers. Their use of local chapters that meet monthly and engage in group activities is another strong factor in bringing writers in contact with one another. It’s a model SFWA should look into emulating.

I’ve been an active member of SFWA for nearly a year. The organization’s website is full of useful information. But, other than being able to visit the SFWA suite while at WorldCon, and running into a few members at other events, I haven’t interacted with any other members. Having local chapters that meet once a month is a great idea. The monthly meeting begins with the business of doing business as an RWA chapter. Later on, they discuss upcoming events sponsored by the chapter such as a trip to a fashion museum. These events, as well as the meetings, allow members to interact with each other, exchange ideas, and learn from each other. There’s a lot to be said about face-to-face interaction with other writers.

There are other benefits to having local chapters. Guest speakers (such as myself) can be invited to present to the assembled group. This is a learning opportunity for the members that is very difficult or impossible to obtain without the existence of the local chapter. Experts from the community can be invited to share their knowledge in a wide variety of topics. Granted, much of the same information might be available on the internet, but being able to interact with a live person, ask them questions, and get instant feedback from them as well as the other members of the group is a much better way to learn. Writer groups are a popular alternative but they tend to focus on reading and commenting on what the members are currently working on. They have their place in a writer's life, but attending a chapter meeting dedicated to your chosen genre can provide additional benefits.

I learned a lot by accepting the invitation and I’m very glad I was invited. I came away with a whole different view of what it means to be a romance writer. They are hard-working, authors dedicated to producing a professional product for their readers. If you are a writer of science fiction, fantasy, romance, or any other specific genre, you should seriously consider making a visit to a meeting of another genre’s writers – if you can find one. You will walk away a better person. 

There is one more thing I learned the other day I would like to share with you. I have always viewed indie-publishers and self-publishers as one and the same. One of the authors pointed out that being an indie-publisher means you are an “independent-publisher”. This means you go through all the same steps as a traditional publisher but you are responsible for the cost of these steps (editing, proofing, cover development, marketing, etc.). A self-published person, on the other hand, is someone who simply self-publishes a book. They tend to skip the other steps that turn a good book into a professional product. Although I’m not sure I agree with this definition, I found it interesting that this particular author made the distinction. It’s the difference between being or not being a professional. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this.

Perhaps I should begin identifying myself as a professionally self-published author, but that sounds like too much of a mouthful!

Time to get back to finishing Dragonverse Origins.