Leveling Up – What Does It Mean to You?

This week at the SFF Seven we’re talking about leveling up and what that means to us.

Actually, the topic is phrased as: People always say they want to take their writing to the next level. Well, what are the levels, as you see them?

It’s a really good question. Come on over for my answer.

 

Show Me the Money! (Or at Least Don’t Make ME Pay)

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is Lit Cons, Fan Cons, Comics Cons: What’s Best For You?

I imagine there will be a variety of replies to this topic – and maybe someone will take on defining each – but I’m taking a bit of a slant and talking about the stance I’ve taken on conventions in general. Come on over to find out more. 

 

Setting the Record Straight

A blustery, blizzardy day here in Santa Fe! My iron fairy sculpture has wind-blown rain and snow frozen to it. Springtime in the Rockies!

We had a lovely time in Tucson over the weekend, though they weren’t a whole lot farther along springwise than we are. A cold winter, with lots of precipitation. We’re hoping that bodes well for a lush and lavish summer.

I know, I know. I am an idealist at heart. 

Last week I had a conversation that really stuck with me. Well, to be honest, I was hurt, which wasn’t at all the intention of the person speaking. See, what happened is, I was talking with an aspiring author of science fiction. She’d been struggling with some structural issues and genre expectations, and she mentioned she’d re-read one of my books to study how I’d done certain things. Which is lovely and flattering! I then offered to read her book for her and see if I had any suggestions to offer. She asked if I was sure and I said, yes, I wouldn’t offer if I didn’t want to. And she said, oh, well, a mutual acquaintance of ours had warned her that I was territorial about science fiction and fantasy so not to expect help from me there.

I was frankly stunned.

You know that feeling, like you’ve been punched? That.

And my friend felt terrible. She even tried to convince me that being territorial about a genre isn’t a bad thing, that lots of people feel that way. I suppose that’s true, that territoriality and jealousy are part and parcel of our profession. But to me those are terribly negative emotions and go against everything I believe in and work toward. 

I don’t hold her to blame for telling me, but I am unhappy with the person who said this thing about me. No, I don’t know who it is. My friend wouldn’t say. It maybe doesn’t matter, except that it reflects on the mindset of that person. I don’t know where they got this idea about me, and since they haven’t said it to my face, I’ll have to speak up for myself here. 

I have to tell you all, I immediately went to Grace Draven and she said “Whaaa?” and then “Who said that and why would they say it? You’re one of the most generous people out there with your help and experience. It’s unfair, unjust, and just totally out in left field.” 

Which made me feel much better. Maybe I should just hold Grace’s purse while she beats them up for me. She’s a good friend. She’d probably help me dispose of the body, too.

As satisfying as that would be, I’d rather set the record straight. No, I’m not territorial about SFF. I’m not sure someone CAN be territorial about an entire genre. Even if I wanted to somehow keep all the SFF-writing to myself, I don’t know how I’d go about it. Decline to read and critique other’s work? Refuse to blurb books written by debut authors? Talk smack about my fellow authors in the genre instead of cheering their releases and sharing good news about them? Walk away from collaborative projects? Go all ninja on their asses and slip poison into their morning coffee?

Demonstrably, I don’t do any of those things. (Except maybe the ninja poison thing, in which case no one will ever know I was there BWA-HA-HA-HA-HA!)

I devote a lot of time to supporting my fellow authors and their books, at all levels of the game. In fact, people close to me gently suggest I spend LESS time on stuff that isn’t my own work. I am a Director at Large on the Board of Directors for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) because I want to support the genre and profession. People close to me gently suggest I spend less time on volunteering too. I ignore those gentle suggestions because I believe in giving generously of myself. That’s important to me. Probably one of my most closely held values.

So, you can see why it bothered me that someone out there talked smack about me this way. You could accuse me of many flaws. I’d most likely agree with chagrin on what they are and renew my intentions to do better. But this is not one of them. I am not a person who worries about there being only so much pie to go around. Pies are easy to make. I’m totally in favor of more pie.

I’m really enjoying my friend’s book, too. When she gets it published, I’ll be the first to cheer about it. 

Finding – and Defending – Balance

This photo is from a few weeks ago, but I think I never posted it. Ice on the rain chain and the fairy sculpture my mom gave me in the background. 

It’s been a busy week for me so far. I’m making excellent progress on THE FIERY CITADEL (sequel to THE ORCHID THRONE). I’ve also been making daily inroads on collecting my income tax information for my CPA. And there’s been a lot going on with Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) – where I serve on the Board as a Director at Large – both the peaking of some planned projects and dealing with some problems. We also have elections going on, so yesterday I took some time to answer the “Questions for Candidates” on the SFWA forums.

One person asked the candidates if we’d to prioritize our SFWA work above everything else in my life. I said no. I added that I’d never expect that of any SFWA volunteer.

Hell, I’d never expect that of anyone, for any activity in life. Not 24/7.

We talk a lot about work/life balance, or work/family balance. For me, my life runs the smoothest when I devote some time each day to my various commitments. I have my To Do List color-coded for various activities (I am the Spreadsheet Queen, after all) with time allotted to each. Getting word count happens first because I write best in the mornings and that’s how I keep the roof over our heads and food in the pantry. I also have categories for blogging or doing my podcast, for updating financials – which includes keeping track of royalties and getting money to authors who participate in anthologies with me – for exercise, for errands and household chores, and an hour a day for SFWA. 

Sometimes it’s more; sometimes it’s less.

But overall, balance for me means making every day reflect the pattern I want my overall life to have – and that means some of everything that’s important to me. 

Chatting with friends and hanging out with the hubs? Those things happen every day, too, but I don’t have to put them on a list. 🙂

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. 

 

 

The Godparents: Jeffe’s Top Five Influences as a Writer

Our topic this week at the SFF Seven is “The Godparents: Your top five influences as a writer.” Come on over to find out mine!

Also, we’re heading into the last week of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) Fantasy Storybundle. The theme is “Kickass Heroines” and this is such a kickass collection. I was one of the first to download it, even though my own book is in it, and I’ve read a couple of others. So many fantastic books for an amazing price.