26 July 2013

Go Ahead -- Call Me Selfish


*gasp* Oh, the horror!

What a terrible thing for someone to call you, right? There are times when I feel I care a little too much about other people, so for someone to accuse me of the exact opposite would hurt, for sure.

Have you noticed how selfish has become a really vile insult to toss at people? Or is that just my own perception of the word clouding my judgment? As a childfree woman, I've read plenty of articles about how women who choose not to procreate are obviously selfish (and maybe a bit immature). But that's a whole 'nother post. I've also noticed that selfish is an accusation lobbed at my generation quite often, especially when it comes to the workplace. Matt Bors summed it up brilliantly in this comic strip.

As much as I try not to worry about how others perceive me, I often do, and the selfish stigma is something I've worried about on more than one occasion. Most often regarding my career path(s). First, a little background.

I've been in retail since I graduated college. I've worked at several different places, in a wide variety of positions. A few of my job changes have come about as a result of relocation and company closures. One (soon to be two) came about because I became terribly unhappy with where I was and what I was doing, even though I loved the people I worked with. I even loved certain aspects of those jobs, at certain times. Yet with every job so far, I keep growing discouraged after a while. My husband has been working for the same company since we moved after college, and he sees himself there indefinitely. Why hadn't I found the same satisfaction?  Am I selfish? Am I lazy? I know it's called "work" for a reason, but is this all there is? What's wrong with me?

Well, screw that. It's time to set the record straight:

Selfish ≠ narcissistic.
Selfish ≠ entitled.

Can we stop using selfish as a vile insult, meant to shame and bully others into conforming to our preferred life script? I'm not saying all-selfish, all the time is anything we should aspire to. But let's face it - we make decisions every day, every month, every year that are inherently self-serving. Splurging on those new shoes or a new car, deciding to have a baby, deciding not to have a baby, moving across the country for a job opportunity, taking a vacation overseas. None of these things hurt anyone else, but we also don't choose to do them solely for anyone else's benefit, for the most part. There are, in fact, times when we should be making decisions based on how the outcome will affect us, and only us. No one will fault us for that.

Until it runs contrary to what they think we ought to be doing.

In just a few days, I'll be quitting my job. My full-time job that I'm good at, where people like me, and that I was crazy excited to start only a year ago. I don't have anything 100% solid lined up for after I leave, and we really can't afford for me to make much less than I do right now, but I know I have to get out. NOW. I'm underpaid and overworked, and the advancement opportunities at my company don't thrill me. I know this is where quite a few people older than me might be tempted to throw out the dreaded s-word. Selfish because they don't think I'm willing to "pay my dues." Selfish because the consequences could be pretty bad for my husband and I if I don't find something else that pays enough to help cover our bills, and I'm quitting my job anyway. Selfish because I have the gall to say "I'm worth more than this."

Maybe I am selfish, but I have to be right now. My mental health and happiness is my responsibility, and I can't keep putting those things on the back burner in favor of being a "real" adult following someone else's life script.

Yes, I am worth so much more than I'm getting from my company. That's not entitlement or narcissism speaking, that's experience. I have paid my dues over and over again being corporate retail's bitch for the past eight years. I know when I'm underpaid. I've long been a fan of creating change from within, playing by the rules you dislike until you're in a position to advocate for change and win. Sometimes it works brilliantly. Sometimes, though, you have to be a little selfish and make your own damn rules.

I'm thrilled to be leaving the retail world behind. It may sink its teeth into me and pull me back in temporarily in the future, but I'm determined to stay away. I still love clothes, and I love merchandising and making things look fabulous, so I'll be looking into other creative career options that let me use those skills. Until I find it, I'll be calling on my other creative skills to work on my next book(s), provide freelance transcription and copyediting services, and any other odd writing jobs that come my way. The financial uncertainty is scary as hell, don't get me wrong. But I know I will ultimately be happier and healthier.

I've lost too many people in my life in the past few years, met too many people who hate their jobs well into their 50s and beyond, and watched too many other people find their own bliss to let the fear of being called selfish stop me any more. Work doesn't have to be something you hate. Life is too damn short to be miserable.

So go ahead - call me selfish. Why aren't you being selfish, too?

15 July 2013

NAmazing Adventure!

Welcome to my stop on the NAmazing Adventure, a blog hop featuring over 60 New Adult authors, and prize packs that include ARCs, signed books, gift cards, swag, and more! If you're not sure what the NAmazing Adventure is, please click the banner below to start from the beginning and read the complete rules on the NA Alley website.

If you have no idea what New Adult is (whaaaaa? have you been living under a rock?) check out my post about it at From the Write Angle. Got it? Good. Now let's get this journey on the road!

(50% off at Smashwords during the month of July with coupon code SSW50)

SORRY'S NOT ENOUGH is a Contemporary New Adult novel that explores one young woman's struggle with love, family, and forgivness.

Charlotte learned at an early age that people – including family – are capable of hurting you so bad "sorry” will never be enough. The obvious solution is not to let anyone close enough to do any damage, and she's doing just fine with that until a summer writing workshop brings Steven into her life. Seemingly immune to Charlotte's Stay the Hell Away from Me pheromones, he uses his wit and good looks – or what Charlotte would call his obnoxious ego and his stupid good looks – to win her over. The unexpected summer romance screeches to a halt when Steven's job creates an ethical dilemma for the couple. Sorry doesn't begin to cover the hurt feelings.

Despite the secrets Charlotte's keeping and the renewed passion with which she pushes him away, Steven can't let her go. And so the cycle of their relationship begins. Over the course of four years they share moments as passionate lovers, periods of warm friendship, as well as months of barely-civil tension.

When no amount of time or distance, and no number of men, can make her forget the comfort of Steven's arms, Charlotte must dig into her painful past and face the man whose betrayal destroyed her capacity for trust to begin with. And by the time she finds the courage to do so, will “sorry” be enough to get Steven back?

Got the cover and description committed to memory yet? You'll need it for the quiz at the end of this quest. No, really, there's a quiz! You must complete ALL SIX quest quizzes to be eligible for a prize pack.

Thanks for stopping by! Ready for the next stop on your NAmazing Adventure? Just click HERE.

12 July 2013

Q&A With Elephant's Bookshelf Press

I'm super excited to have a Q&A session with Matt Sinclair, founder of Elephant's Bookshelf Press. EBP published the anthologies Spring Fevers and The Fall: Tales from the Apocalypse, both of which I am proud to have short stories in. EBP's newest anthologies, Summer's Edge and Summer's Double Edge are due out July 15, 2013.

Jello World: Tell us a little bit about the theme for this anthology.

Elephant's Bookshelf Press: In a sense, the summer anthology is a thematic mix of the two previous anthologies, Spring Fevers and The Fall. We have relationships that are facing doom of sorts. I call them relationships at a turning point. It could mean death, divorce, disruption. But it also could mean new discoveries and new directions.

Jello: You decided to split this into two separate books. Why is that? Did you just have an overwhelming number of excellent entries, or was there something else that factored into your decision? 

EBP: Honestly, that was exactly what it was about. When we launched The Fall, there was a moment when I feared we wouldn’t have enough submissions that warranted publication. That never happened with the summer anthologies. In fact, it was so overwhelming that before we knew it we’d fallen in love too many times! Plus, we received a lot of strong stories that were on the long side. I’d actually reduced the word

count limit to 7500 and still we found many that exceeded 5000.

Jello: EBP has released two anthologies already. Are there a lot of repeat authors in this collection, or a lot of new blood? Or a good mix?

EBP: There’s both new blood and old favorites (though I know of one of our favorites who seemed to be too busy working on her own collection and wasn’t able to send a submission ;-) Although there’s still a steady stream of writers we’ve gotten to know from AgentQuery Connect, I’m happy to say we’ve attracted a lot more writers who have found out about us by other means. Among the new writers are a young woman from India and a Canadian – neither of whom were familiar to me before their submissions. I was really impressed by some of the new writers who submitted this time.

Jello: What's your favorite part about compiling anthologies like this and your previous ones? Least favorite or most difficult thing?

EBP: I’d say my favorite part is discovering great new voices and the clever minds behind them. I love seeing what a storyteller sees. The least favorite probably is having to tell people their stories were not accepted. There can be all sorts of reasons why. Sometimes it’s because the writing wasn’t strong enough, sometimes it’s because the story sounds too much like something we already approved, sometimes it’s because the characters simply weren’t believable. Sometimes it’s because the story will just need too much work in the short amount of time we have before production begins.

Jello: I imagine it's quite a lot of work to do what you do. I also know you have some trusted helpers who've been invaluable in getting these books together, from cover designers to copy editors and more. Give them a shout out and tell us about them.

EBP: Well, I try to keep our reviewers’ names confidential, though I’m sure some people know who they are. But I will shout out the names of my chief partners – my brain trust, if you will – who are Mindy McGinnis and Cat Woods. For those who don’t know them, they’re very talented writers – Mindy’s debut novel, Not a Drop to Drink, is coming out on September 24 from Katherine Tegen/ Harper Collins -- but also totally in tune with what I’m hoping to accomplish with EBP. They’re part of my editorial advisory board as are Calista Taylor, who also writes as Cali MacKay, and R.C. Lewis -- they’re our cover and book designers, respectively – and Robb Grindstaff and Jean Oram, who served as copy editors of the earlier anthologies. They help with editorial questions as well as marketing questions that cross our paths. For the summer anthologies, we had a new copy editor, Laura Carlson, who edits for a living. Her firm is American Editing Services and she’s based in California. She’s done a tremendous job and I’m so thankful for all the work she’s put in. It was a bigger project than either of us anticipated.

Jello: EBP's first anthology last year was Spring Fevers, followed by The Fall. This year we have Summer’s Edge and Summer’s Double Edge. One can only expect that the next one will be winter-themed. Any hints you can give us just yet?

EBP: Well, we haven’t finalized the theme for the winter anthology yet. One of my ideas is to explore vulnerability. Necessity might be the mother of invention, but I’d twist that around and say vulnerability is the mother of creativity. When we’re vulnerable, we must discover ways to become safe – or at least safer. But that’s not a definite theme, so I’ll leave it at that.

Jello: Do you plan to continue seasonally themed anthologies next year?

EBP: The winter anthology will be released in early 2014, so in that respect, yes. But either in late 2014 or more likely early 2015 we’ll begin publishing a new series of anthologies. I’ll save a more formal announcement for the future, but the goal is to have genre-based anthologies. One will be for science fiction, for example. At the moment, my plan is to expand the number of people I have involved in running anthology projects, because I’ll never get a chance to work on my novels if I don’t delegate. And I’m a writer first.

Jello: It wouldn't be a publishing conversation between the two of us if I didn't ask my favorite question: when does the Elephant get a little sexy? Any erotica or romance anthology plans in the near future?

EBP: Ah yes, our discussions about Elephants After Dark! Possibly. If we go that direction, it’s more likely romance than erotica, I suspect. In fact, it’s one idea for the genre-specific anthologies we’ll do in the next series. Mind you, I don’t have anything against erotica per se, and Lord knows the market exists. I don’t know if I can handle a wave of twelve to fifteen erotic stories in stunning succession. I’d need a little cuddle time in between to let me recuperate.

Jello: Have you been surprised by anything you've learned about or experienced in the publishing process since you founded EBP?

EBP: I think what has surprised me most is how much I’m enjoying it. Put it this way: I’ve barely worked on a novel for more than a year and while I’m a little disheartened about that, I have these wonderful books to show for what I’ve been doing in the meantime! Plus, I’ve developed and improved relationships with wonderful writers, editors, and artists.

Jello: Other than anthologies, what's next for EBP?

EBP: Interesting how you put that, because even with regard to the anthologies, there’s a lot “new” happening with EBP. In the fall, we’re going to launch our first novel, Whispering Minds, by A.T. O’Connor. There’s a preview of it in the summer anthologies. It’s a huge thrill to me, because I always envisioned EBP as a publisher of novels. Eventually nonfiction books, too, though that’s probably at least two years off. I need to get moving on the winter anthology almost as soon as the summer books are out. It might seem far away, but with a January or early February publication date, there’s really not much time. Then in the early spring, we’re going to publish our next novel, which will be a YA baseball book by Steven Carman called Battery Brothers. We intend to publish that around spring training or opening day of the 2014 baseball season. We also have a third novel in the offing, probably for May or June of 2014. Plus, we have that new anthology series I mentioned earlier. So, we’re really busy, and it’s a major thrill to me.