Certain Social Standards and Choosing the Happy

My two boys, enjoying the new recliners and the lovely sunlight of a winter afternoon. I feel sure if Jackson could make his recline, too, he would. 

 

The recliners were a Christmas gift for David. The family all pitched in and we replaced the couch with them. There’s the Before and After. We actually ended up keeping the couch and moving it to another room, which entailed moving stuff from THAT room to an entirely different room, which meant moving the dresser into the closet, and the Big Closet Reorganization, that you may have seen me posting about the last few days. (Mostly on Facebook and Instagram, but there’s a pic here, too.) 

It’s funny because, when I saw Megan Mulry Monday night (we saw The Favourite and had dinner after – if you want to hear my thoughts on the movie, you can listen here), I showed her the pics of the rearrangement. She’s house-sat for us before, so she was familiar with the previous set up. She agreed the recliners were a great idea – so much easier to swivel to watch movies, so comfy! – and then asked what I’d do about the fact that I have two other armchairs on the other side of the room. I started laughing and said, “Nothing! I’m leaving it as is, but my mother said the SAME THING.” So Megan starts laughing, too, saying “Omigod, me and your mom.” (Who she’s met and they enjoy each other.) And I said, “Yeah, my mom said, ‘but you can’t have chair, chair, chair, chair.'” Megan is still snorting into her beer, and says, “I know – like a meeting!”

I suppose I could put a conference table in the middle… 

The thing is – and this is part of why Megan was laughing, because our mothers are very much alike, with Certain Social Standards – the reason I “can’t have chair, chair, chair, chair” because “it looks like a meeting,” is a consideration for entertaining. That’s what Certain Social Standards are all about. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I’m very glad that my mother taught me the social skills she did. I know a lot about entertaining and putting events together, skills that have come in very useful in my corporate work, my career as an author, and in my volunteer work for organizations like SFWA and RWA. Social skills are critical for careers of all kinds, even largely isolated ones like being a writer. My podcast on Friday has engendered a lot of conversation on the etiquette of thanking authors who provide blurbs. 

But in this case, I draw a line, because David and I very rarely entertain. I do not host the Junior League meetings in my house, nor the Bridge Club. We occasionally have parties, though less often than we used to, mostly because it’s so much effort, but even then we have them outside whenever possible. When we do have a dinner party, we move everything around anyway. So why would we arrange our home with an eye toward having OTHER people like it?

I work from home. David is home a great deal, as he has irregular hours. We have a very pretty house with incredible views that we worked hard and dreamed long to acquire. It’s a place of peace and delight to us – so we set up the furniture in a way that adds to our relaxation and pleasure. 

I think this speaks to a larger point of why we make the choices we do. How many of our choices are made to please other people, or to meet their expectations? How often do we make a conscious choice to go against Certain Social Standards and instead do the thing that people might laugh at, but that makes us happy?

Something to ponder. 

 

 

Begging for Blurbs

I’ve started hitting up some of my author friends for blurbs for Rogue’s Pawn. It’s really kind of an odd place to be.

To clarify right off the bat: a blurb is absolutely not objective. It’s advertising, pure and simple. I mention this because I sometimes see blurbs referred to as reviews. An example of this would be Jessica Andersen’s first book in her Final Prophecy series, which carries a blurb from J.R.Ward. If you can read that, it says: “An astounding paranormal world…I swear ancient Mayan gods and demons walk the modern earth!”

I mention this particular example because I bought this book back in 2008 when it came out, entirely because of the blurb. At the time I was completely addicted to J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series and I was willing to read anything connected to her. Turns out the two of them are good friends and critique partners, so of course J.R. did this favor for her writing friend and for a book she wanted to support.

But this is how a blurb is not a review. Blurbs are absolutely biased support and people argue all the time about whether they’re effective.

See, the other way people get blurbs is through their agents or publishers. An agent might ask one client to blurb for another. The publishers ask star authors to blurb debut authors. Theoretically the authors always read the book first. They’re allowed to decline also. There are some famous stories out there of authors who not only declined to positively blurb a book, but tried to dissuade the publisher from going ahead with publication. Neil Gaiman has a story like this. It also happened to a friend of mine recently with her debut book. Seriously, the publisher asked this big, famous author whose name you would totally recognize to blurb this book and the author wrote back this awful letter on how much she hated the book and that the publisher should cancel it.

Don’t try this at home people.

At any rate, being the requestor is a funny place to be, because you’re essentially begging your friends and acquaintances for the favor of not only reading your book, but saying something nice about it. Or at least compelling. It’s kind of a fun game to read blurbs and discern when the blurber was just trying to think of something positive and interesting to say when “I loved this book!” is simply not a possibility.

Back when Wyoming Trucks, True Love and the Weather Channel came out, I was much bolder about asking. I asked writing teachers and famous authors both. Barbara Kingsolver’s agent wrote me a really lovely message in reply. Mary Karr didn’t bother to answer.

For some reason, I’ve lost some of that brashness now. Maybe I understand better what the big authors’ lives are really like. Marcella was egging me on last night to ask Robin McKinley and I was abashed at even the thought of asking her. I’d feel like a puppy peeing on her shoes.

Actually, given how much attention she lavishes on her Hellhounds, that might be an effective approach.

So, for now I’m hitting up my friends – especially the ones who’ve already read the thing and made nice noises about it. As I screw up the chutzpah, I might see if some others want to read, with an eye towards blurbing.

Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll be good enough to ask someone like Robin.