Wednesday, December 31, 2014

And the Award Goes To...

Y'know, one of the nice things about getting older is that you get a lot more leeway with your holidays.  Sushi on Thanksgiving?  It's all good.  Christmas in October?  Smoke if you got 'em.  Sleeping right through V-Day?  It's YOU-Day, baby.

So since I'm a big grown-up lady who can do what I feel like, I'm ditching all that 'goals' and 'resolutions' New Year's stuff and throwing a big 2014 awards party right here on my couch.  (Spoiler alert: all the winners are me.)

That's not creepy in the slightest - don't you agree, Madame Le Flour?

So without further ado, here are the 2014 Texies.  And the nominees are...

Best Thing, Personal: My sister's wedding, hands-down. Well, more like hands up, turn down for what?  I can still remember when she moved out in high school, and I was so sure that that was it - nuclear family over, happy days done. But she stuck around, and her adventures have brought so many fabulous people into our lives that we would never have known otherwise (including one especially dapper dan!), and every time I think the family can't get any bigger, cooler, or funner, it mutates again.  This year, it blew right the hell up - and I blame her for that.

Best Thing, Professional: The big book launch, of course!  Not just cuz it happened (book published, in stores, real deal, yay) but because it was nothing less than a giant literary barn-raising, with more terrific people than I ever imagined.  It's a weird feeling, signing a book for somebody you are almost positive won't actually like the story, but that just makes the moment its own kind of wonderful.  It's kinda reassuring, knowing that this person can be thrilled and proud of you for doing the thing, no matter what they think of the thing itself.  An author can have a million fans of their actual work, but there is a hard cap on the number of people who can love you like that - and I'm pretty sure I'm already pushing the limit.

Worst Thing: Well, my father in law died unexpectedly earlier this year.  It was kind of a first-time experience for me and the Dude, though obviously way harder on him than me. He is terribly missed. 

Hardest Thing, Professional: There's a feeling that's hard to nail down, which I talked some about last week. And I think what it boils down to is this: putting your first book out is kind of like getting out into the world after high school or college. As long as you're in development, you get all those soaring speeches about your limitless potential, bright future, etc. etc. etc. - but the fact is, as soon as you get out there and choose something, do something (however awesome it is!) you are no longer the great exciting wild card.  You are officially a Known Quantity.  And I don't think there's any way to avoid being a little bit sad about that.

Though cake usually helps.

Hardest Thing, Personal: Being married. And before anybody's monocle drops in the champagne, no, we're good. Nobody is sleeping in the car or shacking up at the Val-U Lodge. But this year really whacked us upside the head with the realization that you seriously do have to keep working at this marriage thing all the time, because the two of you are changing all the time. Sometimes it's just really fuckin' hard. And if that seems like a weird thing to admit on a public blog in front of God and everybody, you might check out a great article about this very phenomenon - it's called Facebook's Last Taboo.  (I kinda think we might do better if we DID talk about this stuff more, to be honest. Moving our collective business online is great and all, but it makes it deathly easy to start believing that you are sailing your lonely failboat through a sea of unbroken perfection, and that's true whether we're talking about mommy-crafts on Pinterest, author news on Twitter, or relationship issues anywhere.)

Luckiest Thing: Being married. Yep. There's a million decent guys in the world, but to date, only one who's saved me from total enchilada meltdown, makes me laugh 'til I cry, and chivalrously cleans the cat's eye-boogers on the regular.  It's a hell of a job, and I'm so lucky he keeps turning up to do it!

Dumbest Thing: Staying up all night trying to beat a deadline... twice.  Truly, mine is the dumbest of asses.

Most Epic Thing: Going to WorldCon.  Seriously, y'all: I was not prepared for that level of fun.  I had a three-day endorphin hangover after the fact.  Maybe it just felt way more intense because it was the capstone for a whole summer of wild extremes, but it was such a feeling, to start some relationships and Pokevolve others, and to spend a long weekend in a seething mass of people who were all there to enjoy something.  It was every con I've ever been to, dialed up to 19, and I can't WAIT to do it again.

And that's our show! I'd like to congratulate all the winners, and tell myself how much I earned all of these wonderful accolades.  Thank you, me: you are truly the light of our times.

Oh, but in seriousness: I do want to finish by taking a moment to remember some of the people who aren't making the trip into 2015.  This has been a big year for hashtag tragedies - you know, for the people who should still be here right now, and whose stories I hope you've already heard and acted on. But I also want to remember the people who didn't make the news - ones we tried our hardest to keep with us, and couldn't hang on to. Join me, if you would, in pouring a digital libation for Jay Lake, Eugie Foster, CJ Henderson, and Spider Robinson's daughter, Terri Da Silva.  Better yet, read their books and their blogs, so that we can keep their words and ideas with us.

And actually, if you have somebody you'd like to add to that list, please feel free to include them in the comments here. The way I see it, we've got an exciting new year right around the corner, and more than enough headspace to bring our dearly remembered along for the ride.

And now I think of my life as vintage wine from fine older kegs
From the brim to the dregs - it poured sweet and clear
It was a very good year

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Biggest Deal Ever

Y'know, when you're a kid, everything is THE BIGGEST DEAL EVER.

Not getting a cookie = biggest deal ever.

Christmas when you're four = biggest deal ever.

Middle school crush = biggest deal ever.

High school breakup = the catastrophic, world-ending bigness of this deal cannot be overstated.

And part of that's because your brain hasn't pupated yet, and you're still working on things like impulse control and executive function.  But I think a lot of it's because everything just feels SO MUCH MORE EPIC when you're experiencing it for the first time - you know, there's no precedent to fall back on, no "well, this is like that other thing that happened that other time" to help you put things in perspective.  (This must also be why we unabashedly LOVE the stuff we read/watched/listened to when we were kids, back when everything was brand-new and there was no such thing as a cliché.  I love many things, but nothing will ever match the savage virginal ferocity with which my 15-year-old self loved Sailor Moon.)

Except maybe for Youkai Yume's Sailor Ponies.  Be still, my throbbing ovaries.

I kinda feel like we don't make enough allowances for that in adulthood.  There's this prevailing opinion that by the time your prefrontal cortex is fully up and running (when you're about 25), you should pretty much have all the emotional training you need to deal with your life.

The thing is, though, the first-time stuff keeps rolling off the line.  First marriage.  First real job.  First kid.  First major illness in the family.  First death in the family.  First kid leaving home.  And even though you're trying so hard to do a good job piloting your grown-up mecha, it all still feels like the biggest deal ever - because it's all still totally new.

All of which is to say, I'm sorry for falling off the planet over these last couple months.  No, no dire secret tragedies here - I just got into this weird, nasty funk, and it's taken me awhile to discover the source of the River Angst.

See, when we were launching Sixes this summer, I tried REALLY hard to get it all right.  Guest blogs, con appearances, Twitter things, Facebook things, launch party, the whole nine yards.  It went great - better than I could have ever expected.  I didn't manage to do everything, but I had a fantastic time. 

Things got kind of backed up in fall.  Commitments and deadlines piled up, and I fell off the promotional wagon altogether.  Sales and mentions nose-dived.  By winter, I was totally wiped out - and then the "best of 2014" lists started rolling out, and I came down with this awful cocktail of bitterness and exhaustion and guilt.  Bitterness because my book had disappeared without a trace, exhaustion because I was too dang tired to contemplate another round of the "look at me, aren't I wonderful?" schtick, and guilt because A) I knew I hadn't done everything I could to help myself, and B) it is incredibly stupid and petty to get bent out of shape about stuff like this.  (I have a book that is published and in the actual bookstores, and another one on the way.  I AM the 0.00001%.)

The funny thing about these biggest-deals-ever is that you can KNOW that they are really the smallest of the small stuff - lepton-like in their #firstworldproblems insignificance - and still not be able to get past it.  The best you can do is keep your mouth shut and try really REALLY hard not to channel your inner Dudley Dursley, throwing a fit because you only got 36 presents this year. 

But then a happy thing happened last week.  Sixes got a great mention on SFsignal's latest Mind Meld (thanks, J! You are the queen!) Then a couple of days later, 4 out of 5 stars from the San Francisco Book Review.  And yesterday - this one's totally lighting up my life right now - a place of pride on a book blogger's Best of 2014 list.

And that just, like... I don't know, totally parted the clouds.  I realized that it was never really about wanting the big prizes or winning All of the Buzz.  Almost without exception, the people in the running for those are people who've invested years - decades - in the craft and the community. I might still throw my name in the ring, but I have not put in NEARLY enough hours to be a serious contender.  That's all right.  That's really as it should be.  I think more than anything, I just wanted assurance that I don't have to keep pushing every single second in order to keep my name out there, that I wrote something that can stand on its own - you know, that people who don't know me at all can still pick up my strange, dense, offbeat little book and find good things in it.

And I almost didn't post this, because for all that we praise the inner child, you're really not supposed to show the world your inner two-year-old... but I've talked to several other writers lately who are all in different stages of the process, and all going their own special kind of crazy.  It's a wonderful, peculiar business that we're all lucky to be a part of, but the thing people don't talk about much is that there really is only one way to stress-test a submarine... and you don't know where your weak spots are until you go deep enough for something to spring a leak.  That's normal - all part of growing into a big strong grown-up author - but you can't fix it until you figure out where the water's coming in.  I expect that's true for other things, too.

So all of this is to say that you, upstanding sophont that you are, are almost-certainly doing a great job of adulting - but if you ever do catch yourself feeling massively, disproportionately irrational about something, and can't implicate any of your usual suspects, it might be worth checking to see if maybe you aren't having a first-time-induced biggest-deal-ever.  They sneak up on you long after you've taken charge of your own juice and naptimes.

--"I don't mind dragons THIS size," said Mother.  "Why did it have to grow to be so BIG?"
--"I'm not sure," said Billy, "but I think it just wanted to be noticed."