Nurturing creativity with art, animals, and science fiction

Category: Workplace issues Page 1 of 7

This square image has a variegated background with a tan-edged, variegated rectangle on a layer floating above the background layer. Three square images from the blog post are arranged on the diagonal across the middle. They overlap each other – but not enough that we can’t see what they are. Design by Jan S. Gephardt.

A Mixed Bag in April

I had a mixed bag in April, when it comes to posts on The Weird Blog . . . and also when it comes to just about everything else, too. My ongoing book review work continues. However, I prefer to blog about books and share their reviews in themed groups of three to five. I didn’t have neatly themed groups of much of anything in April.

Book review topics were only one category of “hodgepodge” in April. I’m also transitioning out of the intense burst of art direction projects (see more below, for those). And because beta reader comments have now come in for Bone of Contention I made another kind of transition, back into working on the polishing round of revisions.

Transitions of that sort are a recipe for “mixed bag.” So are random variables, and we had one enormous new “random variable” in our household this month. In my last novel, A Bone to Pick, my fictional characters Charlie, Hildie, and Rex discovered that random variables can sometimes pack a nasty punch. Our new household random variable wasn’t what I’d call nasty – but he did prove to be extremely time- and energy-consuming.

New husky puppy Moon Gephardt in action: Clockwise from upper left, walking on the wall, chewing on and tossing a toy, and Moon takes a good sniff of Yoshi, while Yoshi sends an imploring look toward the camera. All photos © 2024 by Jan S. Gephardt.
See Credits below.

Meet Moon, Our Random Variable

Moon, our new dog, contributed more than his share to that mixed bag in April. Every new household member arrives bringing challenges. When my son adopted a year-old husky at the end of March, we thought we knew what we were getting into, because we’d had a lot of dogs in our lives. But I gained a whole new appreciation for the “puppy sequence” in the movie Togo after a few weeks of living with Moon. Like Togo, Moon is a Siberian husky.

In true husky fashion, he is intelligent, creative, charming, loving, persistent, and athletic. He’s a wonderful dog. And he’s been giving me an awesome experience to take notes for future books when XK9 puppies come on the scene. He’s also lighting-fast, extremely strong, bullheaded, and needs constant watching.

We have a senior cat, a middle-aged cat, and a middle-aged, somewhat smaller dog. They range from hanging out amicably when Moon’s feeling mellow, to being irritated by Moon, and sometimes to actively being in danger from him. That’s not because he’s mean. It’s simply because he’s so much bigger, stronger, and faster – and he’s a puppy, so he doesn’t know his own strength.

Even when my husband is on the scene, keeping Moon well supervised, especially around our other pets, is challenging. When my husband left for an 8-day trip to help a friend in Mississippi, the “Moon management” effort during the final week of April shifted from “challenging” to seriously exhausting. Let’s just say my productivity took a nosedive.

This montage shows the four illustrations from the blog post “A Proper Balance of Politics and Business,” published on The Weird Blog April 10, 2024. All montages by Jan S. Gephardt. See the original blog post for details from individual illustrations.
See Credits below.

Striking “A Proper Balance of Politics and Business”

As noted above, my Weird Blog post topics presented a mixed bag in April. The first post, A Proper Balance of Politics and Business, explored a question that perplexes many businesses, both large and small: just ask Nike or Bud Light about that! Even we Weird Sisters ourselves differ on what works best for our mutual corporate (as Weird Sisters Publishing) and separate professional balances.

My sister G. S. Norwood generally prefers to eschew any overt political comment. It’s a caution well-learned and deeply entrenched after a professional lifetime of interactions in the business community of Dallas, TX. Politics isn’t a major factor in her written fiction work, either, so it seems quite appropriate to walk a line of neutrality in her professional persona.

In my own work, I find it very difficult – indeed, counter-productive – to attempt to erase general political assumptions and concepts from the worldbuilding of science fiction. The artistic choices one makes in my genre are shot through with political understandings. I think politics in science fiction is kind of baked in. That holds, whether one is commenting pointedly or not. Consider the implied comment of many dystopian visions. Or the assumptions made in a post-apocalyptic setting. Or the ways that political and corporate balances of power are portrayed in any given science fictional story-universe.

This montage includes one of Chaz Kemp’s variations on the “Windhover” space ship in the center. Behind “Windy,” clockwise from upper left are Lucy A. Synk’s “Quadra,” “Thisseling and Rajor Zee,” “Mosseen,” Jose-Luis Segura’s “Mac and Yo-Yo in their workshop,” and Lucy A. Synk’s “Kril, Daytime, with Moons.” The words say, “Astronomicals © 2019-2024 by Lucy A. Synk,” “Windhover ship ©2022 by Chaz Kemp,” and “© 2021 by Jose-Luis Segura,” on the “Mac and Yo-Yo” picture. Montage by Jan S. Gephardt.
See Credits below.

The Windhover Tetralogy as Illustrated Books

From politics to the beauty and potential of illustrated books? Yes, The Weird Blog’s topics were quite the mixed bag in April! Our second post of the month explored the new way that I’m planning to present the “vintage 1980s” science fiction of my late brother-in-law, Warren C. Norwood.

My objective was to give the new reissue editions of his first, four-book series a better evocation of Warren’s wide and wildly inventive imagined worlds. To achieve that, I’ve engaged the talents of three different illustrators, Lucy A. Synk, Chaz Kemp, and Jose-Luis Segura.

We’re tackling this rather extensive, involved project in two bursts of production work. The first one, which started in December and has run through the spring, is beginning to wind down. Other production considerations kick in during the summer, specifically finishing up the Bone of Contention rollout. Then we plan to crank it back up and finish the work this fall and winter, with book release dates in 2025.

For more details, and for more looks at work we’ve finished so far, check theIllustrated Bookspostitself. And I bet by now you see my point about how all the assorted projects and random variables created such a mixed bag in April.

About the Author

Author Jan S. Gephardt Is shifting from the mixed bag in April to focus more fully once again on her own XK9 Series of science fiction novels and shorter fiction in May and through the summer. Subscribers to her monthly newsletter currently have access to more original short fiction set in the XK9s’ universe than is currently available for sale. Her newest title, Bone of Contention, is set to be published September 24, 2024. It completes the XK9 “Bones” Trilogy, although the series will continue.

IMAGE CREDITS

All photos in the “Moon Montage” are © 2024 by Jan S. Gephardt, who also designed the montage. The second montage shows the four illustrations from the blog post “A Proper Balance of Politics and Business,” published on The Weird Blog April 10, 2024. All montages were designed by Jan S. Gephardt. See the original blog post for details about sources within the individual illustrations.

The third montage includes one of Chaz Kemp’s variations on the “Windhover” space ship in the center. Behind “Windy,” clockwise from upper left are Lucy A. Synk’s “Quadra,” “Thisseling and Rajor Zee,” “Mosseen,” Jose-Luis Segura’s “Mac and Yo-Yo in their workshop,” and Lucy A. Synk’s “Kril, Daytime, with Moons.” The words say, “Astronomicals © 2019-2024 by Lucy A. Synk,” “Windhover ship ©2022 by Chaz Kemp,” and “© 2021 by Jose-Luis Segura,” on the “Mac and Yo-Yo” picture. Montage by Jan S. Gephardt.

Weird Sisters Publishing: We have tales to tell. This picture shows covers for The XK9 Series, Deep Ellum Stories, and The Windhover Tetralogy.

Artdog Adventures is Going Weird!

Artdog Adventures Blog is moving! This blog will now merge with The Weird Blog on the Weird Sisters Publishing website. Please mosey on over there, to read my (and my sister’s) latest thoughts on books, art, publishing, and more!

Thank you for being a devoted follower. I hope this change doesn’t cause you too much inconvenience, and I look forward to seeing you in the future on The Weird Blog!

Weird Sisters Publishing: We have tales to tell. This picture shows covers for The XK9 Series, Deep Ellum Stories, and The Windhover Tetralogy.
At Weird Sisters Publishing we have a growing list of tales to tell.

Changes can be Good

This move allows us to optimize our blogs for better, more seamless content delivery without sacrificing so much of my writing time! Artdog Adventures has been a project of my heart since I started it in 2009. Moving away from the name–and from my own author website is difficult.

But I’ve taken on a lot of other jobs since I started the first versions of Artdog Adventures on Blogspot. I now have an author newsletter and a growing list of published and in-progress novels.

I’m also still making fine art fantasy paper sculpture–although I must admit I’m not making as much of it as I used to! But believe it or not, I’m working on a couple of new series that I hope will see the light of day pretty soon.

So please follow the Artdog’s ongoing Adventures over to The Weird Blog! There’s plenty more to come!

This photo by Pascal Gephardt shows the Weird Sisters Publishing Dealers Table at DemiCon 34. Tyrell Gephardt stands behind the table. On the left-hand side, from top to bottom of the display, are copies of Dora Furlong’s “One of Our Own,” then Lynette M. Burrows’ “My Soul to Keep,” “If I Should Die,” and “Fellowship.” On the table level are Jan S. Gephardt’s “The Other Side of Fear,” “What’s Bred in the Bone,” and “A Bone to Pick.” In the middle of the table, we attached badge ribbons to bookmarks and business cards with information about the books the quotes come from. To get a badge ribbon, table visitors also had to take the attached information. On the right side of the table, from top to bottom, are Randal Spangler’s hardbound, fully illustrated children’s books, “D is for Draglings™” and “The Draglings™’ Bedtime Story.” On the next level are “The Draglings™ Coloring Book” and the three volumes of Karin Rita Gastreich’s “Silver Web Trilogy,” “Eolyn,” “Sword of Shadows,” and “Daughter of Aithne.” On the table level are G. S. Norwood’s “Deep Ellum Duet” and M. C. Chambers’ “Midsummer Storm” and “Shapers’ Veil.” Tablecloth design is “Nebula 2,”

My last DemiCon?

By Jan S. Gephardt

DemiCon 34 may have been my last DemiCon. I have a lot of great history with DemiCon as an institution, and as an eagerly-anticipated annual event. I’ve blogged about it in this space for the last several years, as veteran readers of this blog may recall.

It was the convention that primarily inspired my 2019 post “Why I go to SF Conventions.” For a profile of DemiCon at its recent best, take a look at my 2018 post, “My DemiCon 29 Experience.” I had a wonderful time there.

Even the Pandemic didn’t kill my love for DemiCon. Their patient, helpful Joe Struss helped me create “My First Original Video” for Virtual DemiCon in 2020. And they looked as if they were coming back strong in 2022, as reflected in my post “The Best and Worst Time.”

But DemiCon 34 may have been my last DemiCon. At least for a while.

This is a predominantly dark gray image, featuring a drawing of an astronaut with wings against a dark sky with a yellow crescent moon. The words say “Starbase DemiCon: A New World. Des Moines Holiday Inn Northwest, 4800 Merle Hay Rd.
Image courtesy of the DemiCon Facebook Page.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

I figured we were off to another great start last fall, when I received an invitation to attend with a guest as a professional guest (this means the membership fee is waived because I’ll be “paying for it” by appearing on panels. It’s a normal-enough procedure, and I’m always happy to agree). I responded quickly to say quite truthfully that I was looking forward to it.

After that, however, crickets. (Okay, it was winter. But still). Finally in March I figured I’d better find out if they’d forgotten me. As it turned out, they kind of had. There’d been a reshuffling of the con committee in some way. My invitation and acceptance had gotten lost in that shuffle. But Amanda in Programming said of course I’d be welcome, and she’d find ways to fit me onto panels. No author reading, though.

Um, okay. Well, things could still work out. It didn’t have to be my last DemiCon. But unfortunate events and disappointments gradually accumulated.

This is a montage of some of the paper sculpture that Jan would have brought to DemiCon 34 if she’d found the Art Show information. The artworks are: Top Row, L-R: “Common Cliff Dragon – Male,” “Gemflower Outburst,” and “Love in the Storm.” On the next row, L-R: “Overcoming Complications,”  pair from the “Guardians” series in yellow top mats, “Protector” and “Defender;” and “White Clematis with Dragons.” The lower pair of “Guardians,” in green top mats, are “Fierce” and “Brave.” All artwork is © Jan S. Gephardt.
Woulda, Coulda, but missed it! Here’s some of the paper sculpture I would like to have shown at DemiCon this year. All artwork is © Jan S. Gephardt.

Art Show?

I couldn’t find Art Show information online. Turns out it was on their website and they did (let the record show) have an Art Show. It was listed under “Venue” in dim type at the bottom of their index page. I found “Dealers Room” on that drop-down menu, but somehow my eyes kept skipping over “Art Show” (second down after “Anime Room”).

I guess I was always in too much of a hurry to search the fine print. And, perhaps because of the concom shakeup, I also never received a contact from the Art Show Director. Usually I get a cheery email a few months out, asking if I’ll be showing art again this year. That really would have saved me, this year.

So, I didn’t bring any art (thought, “what’s the point?” and we were tight on space). Then, to my dismay, I discovered there was an Art Show after all. I tried not to be too upset, but I never could quite bring myself to go inside and see what was there. I suppose it should be no big deal in the grand scheme. But I was crushed.

Granted, a mistake I made shouldn’t be used as a justification to make this my last DemiCon. But it was one more, particularly searing disappointment on the growing pile of them.

This photo by Pascal Gephardt shows the Weird Sisters Publishing Dealers Table at DemiCon 34. Tyrell Gephardt stands behind the table. On the left-hand side, from top to bottom of the display, are copies of Dora Furlong’s “One of Our Own,” then Lynette M. Burrows’ “My Soul to Keep,” “If I Should Die,” and “Fellowship.” On the table level are Jan S. Gephardt’s “The Other Side of Fear,” “What’s Bred in the Bone,” and “A Bone to Pick.” In the middle of the table, we attached badge ribbons to bookmarks and business cards with information about the books the quotes come from. To get a badge ribbon, table visitors also had to take the attached information. On the right side of the table, from top to bottom, are Randal Spangler’s hardbound, fully illustrated children’s books, “D is for Draglings™” and “The Draglings™’ Bedtime Story.” On the next level are “The Draglings™ Coloring Book” and the three volumes of Karin Rita Gastreich’s “Silver Web Trilogy,” “Eolyn,” “Sword of Shadows,” and “Daughter of Aithne.” On the table level are G. S. Norwood’s “Deep Ellum Duet” and M. C. Chambers’ “Midsummer Storm” and “Shapers’ Veil.” Tablecloth design is “Nebula 2,” ©2021 by Chaz Kemp.
Our son Tyrell Gephardt represents at the Weird Sisters Publishing Dealers Table on Friday 5/5/23. This shot gives a good view of about half of the Dealers Room, as well as the books we offered. Photo by Pascal Gephardt. Nebula 2 tablecloth design ©2021 by Chaz Kemp.

A Very Tight Squeeze

The Big Convention Experiment for this year is a quest to answer the question: Can Weird Sisters Publishing present a profitable Dealers Table at sf conventions? Didn’t have to be super-lucrative, but at least breaking even would be nice. We tried to vary our offerings (and increase the odds of selling things) by including the work of selected Kansas City Author Friends Dora Furlong, Lynette M. Burrows, Randal Spangler, Karin Rita Gastreich, and M. C. Chambers, as well as my books and my sister G. S. Norwood’s Deep Ellum Duet. Happily, we did sell something from almost everyone. But did we break even? No.

Our first challenge was squeezing ourselves into the space. To say the Dealers Room was “cozy” . . . well, check out the photo above. There wasn’t room for our banner. In fact, it’s a good thing I’ve lost about 30 lbs. over the course of the past year (thank you, NOOM!), or I wouldn’t have been able to squeeze through to work the table.

Unfortunately, the aisle space was almost as constricted as the space behind the table. ADA compliance? Ouch! Not so much. The aisles were consistently congested each time I came in, but that doesn’t mean there was room for a lot of traffic. Yes, it was a small con. But as a semi-frequent visitor to the dealers rooms of many conventions, I can tell you I personally would have looked at the congestion and thought, “Nope.” Was that the experience that made me question whether this would be my last DemiCon? Well, no. Not by itself.

A helpful audience member took this photo before the “A.I. Meets SF” panel on Friday night. Left to right, panelists are Steven Southard, Jan S. Gephardt, and David Pedersen.
Taken before the “A.I. Meets SF” Panel on 5/5/23. L-R: Steven Southard, Jan S. Gephardt, and David J. Pedersen. Jan teamed up with one or the other of these men for all but one of her subsequent panels. Photo by Helpful Audience Member Number One, who remained anonymous.

The Best Bright Spot: My Panels

For me, the highlight of this convention was the panels. This is often true. For one, I love to talk about our genre(s), writing, art, and related topics. For another, I generally love working with the other panelists. Most are interesting, knowledgeable, and intelligent people, and would be so in any setting. A well-moderated, intelligent discussion with such people is a delight I relish.

Most of my panels teamed me up with either Steven Southard or David J. Pedersen. The “A.I. Meets SF” panel on Friday 5/5/23 included all three of us. I had a lovely time working with both of them. They’re bright, thoughtful men. I’d met and been on panels with David before, but a major high point of DemiCon 34 was meeting Steven. Our panel discussions were lots of fun, and we had large, intelligent, well-informed audiences. It was a mix of elements practically guaranteed to be both stimulating and fun.

I was on five panels. By the time we got to the final one on Sunday afternoon (where I joined Author Guest Rachel Aukes to discuss “Who Will We Meet in Space?”), I think everyone was exhausted. The audience barely outnumbered Rachel and me, and they seemed little disposed to talk much. But that somewhat “flat note” certainly wouldn’t have been enough, on its own, to make me ask, “Is this my last DemiCon?”

The first bedroom the “night persons” in the Gephardt contingent occupied had two inviting-looking beds with a built-in nightstand and wall sconces between them, with what looked like floor-to-ceiling glass doors and a small balcony facing west. In the photo, some of our luggage is stacked beside and between the beds.
Two queen beds and big, sunny windows provided a deceptively-inviting view. Photo by Jan S. Gephardt.

My Last DemiCon?

In my first book, What’s Bred in the Bone, there’s a chapter titled, “A Combined Weight of Awfulness.” I wouldn’t ascribe “awfulness” to my DemiCon 34 experience (with one exception). But disappointment after disappointment built up through the weekend. The convention committee seemed disorganized. There weren’t many panels that looked interesting to me, outside of the ones I was on. Readings by friends were mostly scheduled against my own panels, so I couldn’t attend them. I didn’t get many other networking opportunities.

But our discovery in one of our rooms would’ve sent us home immediately if we’d been there strictly as fans. A rash of distinctive red bumps rose on several sensitive square inches of my son’s skin. Then he found a rather distinctive little brown bug in his bed. And when you find one, you know there must be more. De-con efforts have continued since we got home, to make sure none infiltrated our luggage.

We had a dealer’s table. I’d made promises to be on panels. We’d bought a program book ad. So we accepted a change of rooms and stayed. But combined with all the other issues and disappointments, this was definitely the nadir of all my convention-going experiences in the more than three decades I’ve been going to conventions all over the country. So DemiCon 34 is likely to have been my last DemiCon. At least for a good long while.

IMAGE CREDITS

Many thanks to The DemiCon 34 Facebook Page for their Convention header. The artwork displayed in my “woulda” montage is © Jan S. Gephardt. Many thanks to Pascal for the Dealer’s Table photo and to Helpful Audience Member Number One, for the photo of the “A.I. Meets SF” panelists. I took that room pic myself.

“Stress overload makes us stupid. Solid research proves it. When we get overstressed, it creates a nasty chemical soup in our brains that makes it hard to pull out of the anxious depressive spiral.” — Gail Sheehy

Pushing The Envelope

By Jan S. Gephardt

For me, this past month has been one long (exhausting) experiment in pushing the envelope. You may know this phrase, which originated in the aeronautics field. It passed into more common usage after Tom Wolfe’s 1979 book The Right Stuff (about supersonic aeronautics and the early US space program) was made into a movie by the same name in 1983.

In aeronautics “the envelope” means the limits of an aircraft’s performance capability. Pushing past it is risky. But people (being humans) quickly generalized it to meanings beyond the aerodynamics field. So, no. I haven’t been out there test flying high-performance aircraft. The performance capability I’ve been testing is my own.

In my newsletter last month, I listed the major things I do for Weird Sisters Publishing, to help keep it moving forward and growing. “My job as Chief Cat-Herder and Manager of Weirdness for Weird Sisters Publishing boils down to Art Director, Copywriter, Production Manager, and Marketing Director,” I wrote. And as you might guess, when I try to embody all those roles I work a lot of long hours. Pushing the envelope becomes a way of life if I’m not careful!

In 1947 when this photo was taken, Chuck Yeager was a daring young test pilot. Here he stands next to the small, sleekly aerodynamic “Glamorous Glennis,” the Bell X-1 aircraft in which he broke the sound barrier – the first to do so and live to tell the tale.
In telling the story of Chuck Yeager (Pictured with his aircraft in 1947), Tom Wolfe popularized the expression, “pushing the envelope.” Photo from Bettmann/Getty Images, via WIRED Magazine.

Pushing the Envelope is Not a Good Lifestyle

Some of you will read that subhead and think “well, duh! Of course it isn’t!” Others may frown and think, “But I do that all the time!” Sad to say, “I do that all the time,” even though “Of course it isn’t!”

I suspect that working long hours and testing our performance capabilities – pushing our personal envelopes – is endemic to running a small business. I know I’m not alone when I end the day thinking, “I could have done more!” or “darn it, I didn’t finish it all!” Part of the reason I’m a “night owl” is that ever since I was a kid resisting bedtime, I’ve never wanted to stop when prudence demanded it. There’s always so much interesting stuff yet to do!

But recently I’ve rediscovered that when I’m so stressed out that my fingertips tingle, it is a very bad sign. It’s hard to see this fact in the moment, when I’m yawning my head off but still “in the flow.” But it’s actually more efficient – and I’m more effective – if I’ll stop, put it down, and go TF to bed! Or take a break. Or stop and refresh/reframe.

A little blond girl 6 to 8 years old hides under bed covers and reads a book at night by flashlight.
I didn’t only read under the covers after lights-out. More often my sister and I stayed up long after bedtime whispering to each other as we made up a collaborative story. Photo by “ocusfocus,” via 123rf.

In this Case I’m a Slow Learner

Every few years I have to re-learn this lesson. That isn’t just my guess or impression. I have hard evidence! Exhibit A? A blog post I wrote in 2020. Back then, I was juggling weekly posts on three different blogs (with different content) and trying to finish production on a publishing project.

Fast-forward to now. I’m trying to pre-schedule social media posts on four different outlets each week. Produce a bi-weekly blog. Consistently publish a monthly author newsletter. And also finish production on FIVE publishing projects. Oh, yes – and simultaneously write a new novel. On a deadline. Well, actually, they’re all on deadlines, aren’t they?

Sure. No pressure. Piece of cake, right?

“Stress overload makes us stupid. Solid research proves it. When we get overstressed, it creates a nasty chemical soup in our brains that makes it hard to pull out of the anxious depressive spiral.” — Gail Sheehy
Many thanks to More Famous Quotes for this observation from Gail Sheehy. It’s just as true now as it was when I first used it in 2020.

Continuous Improvement vs. Pushing the Envelope

I’ve gotten more efficient over time. I’ve developed much slicker systems for drafting and organizing each of those aforementioned functions. Each is a far smoother process than when I first started doing them. That’s because I frequently take time to reflect on what I’m doing, how I’m doing it, and why I’m doing it. Basically, it’s my take on the business concept of continuous improvement. And it works pretty well for me.

But nothing can be improved forever. Eventually we hit the ceiling, the apex of what’s possible, working with the given limitations. We can expand our envelope, our capacity, our limit, only so far. Pushing the envelope beyond that carries guaranteed problems, plus ever-greater risks of disaster.

But unlike with Chuck Yeager’s “Glamorous Glennis,” the risks to a person running a small creative business don’t include physically exploding, breaking up, or falling out of the sky. Our risks from pushing the envelope of stress lie more in the realms of disaster to our health and relationships.

This rather complex stress-cycle illustration, like most, has no definite beginning or end. It models a process for a work project that already has begun and is now perceived to be in trouble. Stakeholders understandably express a need for more control. This places added pressure (stress) on the team and sends them into fight/flight defensive behaviors. Trust diminishes, relationships and communications suffer, and there’s less collaboration. This leads to less creativity and an ever-lower likelihood of a successful outcome for the project. Which makes the stakeholders feel a greater need for control, and a new cycle begins.
None of the stress-cycle graphics I could find online exactly mirrors what’s going on in my case, but I liked this one for the way it included “less time/inclination for ‘new’ relational activities.” I’ve needed to force myself to stop and relax for family Movie Nights and conversations with friends. Many thanks to Visible Dynamics for the chart.

What’s the Answer? Or is that “What are the Answers”?

I certainly don’t want to bring on disaster to my health and relationships. And thank God I’m not forced to make a toxic choice. If I can just pull my head up out of the cycle and get a broader perspective, I can find a better way forward.

The first step is realizing, “oops, I did it again.” What’s needed after that is (1) getting perspective and (2) yet more “continuous improvement” – but of a different sort. Instead of optimizing my systems for doing specific tasks, I need to re-center on my ultimate goals. Are all of the things I’m doing still central to my primary objectives?

I often find that some of them don’t yield the same benefits they once did. I can stop doing them, or maybe adjust their requirements and do them less often. Is filling out a checklist that I’ve consistently neglected for a while still helpful? Or was it once a learning scaffold that I no longer need? Maybe it’s now busywork. Have I found that a certain measurement gives no helpful information, so I can stop measuring that thing/aspect?

Business needs – like life itself – are always changing. Pushing the envelope can create a powerful momentum if it’s well-targeted. But every once in a while all of us have to stop, back up, and review what we’re doing.

It’s not pushing the envelope alone that yields success. It’s (briefly, and only when needed) pushing the right ones.

IMAGE CREDITS

Many thanks to my image sources for this post, as noted in the cutlines above. They are WIRED Magazine, ocusfocus,” via 123rf, More Famous Quotes, and Visible Dynamics. Y’all helped me make my point, and I appreciate it! 😊

L-R: Aaron Hollingsworth at a recent book-signing; the Weird Sisters Publishing banner for the dealers room table, and Jan with Weird Sisters books at Archon 44.

Packing up for Archon

By Jan S. Gephardt

This week I’m packing up for Archon 45. I’m set to depart on Thursday, and I have a very full weekend planned. If this blog post is a little shorter than some, it’s because this week, of all weeks, time is of the essence. In addition to all of the “necessary maintenance” stuff there is to do on any given week, packing up for Archon tops the priorities!

It’s a broad-spectrum effort. If you’ve followed this blog for the last several months you’ve been a secondary witness to a recent change in my approach to conventions. In May, for ConQuesT 53, I decided to Try Something New. I dipped my toe into the idea of spending part of my time at a dealers table, and it worked out better than I expected.

L-R: Karin R. Gastreich at her end of our table; M. C. Chambers and Jan S. Gephardt, also at our table.
We weren’t far from the Art Show – you can see it behind Karin R. Gastreich (L). At another time, M. C. Chambers and I posed for a photo. (See credits below).

Testing My Hypothesis

When it came time for the next convention, SoonerCon (#30 this year, in Oklahoma City, OK), I decided to test that hypothesis some more. Had my initial experience been a fluke? I had A Very Busy SoonerCon, and discovered that, no – it wasn’t just a one-off. That was a good experience, too. Nothing of that sort worked out for me with Chicon 8, the Worldcon in Chicago. Indeed, I actually ended up not going (“too expensive” headed a list of reasons), more focused more on Using My Time Well in other pursuits. Thus, I couldn’t test it further.

Until now.

I am packing up for Archon with some new equipment: A custom-made table cover (its design is based on a nebula image I licensed from Chaz Kemp, and I think it looks wonderful) and a 71-inch-tall banner to back up my end of yet another dealers table. This time we’re calling it Hollingsworth & Weird – once again, I’m depending on a trusted partner (who’s also a “morning person”) to make sure the table is staffed as much of the time as possible.

L-R: Aaron Hollingsworth at a recent book-signing; the Weird Sisters Publishing banner for the dealers room table, and Jan with Weird Sisters books at Archon 44.
As I’m packing up for Archon 45, I have lots of plans for this convention! (See credits below).

Introducing the Hollingsworth Part of Hollingsworth & Weird

In this case my intrepid partner is a Kansas City-area science fantasy writer, Aaron Hollingsworth. He’s worked with me before, and I know him as a trustworthy go-getter with a strong work ethic. He normally stakes out a place in the dealers room at the conventions he attends. He tells me he prefers to interact with readers individually, face-to-face, rather than participate in panels.

You might enjoy his literarily-witty novels and novellas, such as The Broken Bards of Paris, The Broken Brides of Europe, and The Apothecary of Mantua. He’s also the author of numerous role-playing game supplements for D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder, most under the series names Shattered Skies and Porphyria.

Aaron Hollingsworth’s author-bio illustration, with 6 of his titles: the books “The Apothecary of Mantua” and “The Broken Brides of Europe,” and four of the RPG guides he has written.
Aaron Hollingsworth and some of the books he has written. (See credits below).

Let us not Forget the Weird Part

I’ll be there to represent Weird Sisters Publishing. We’re in the process of preparing my late brother-in-law Warren C. Norwood’s  vintage series, The Windhover Tetralogy for re-issue in new e- and paperback editions. But they won’t be ready till this winter. My sister G. S. Norwood has a couple of wonderful novelettes available as the Deep Ellum Stories – but they’re short works currently in e-editions only.

Thus, when I’m packing up for Archon this year, the only physical books I’ll have available to sell are still my three XK9 stories: the prequel novella The Other Side of Fear and XK9 “Bones” Trilogy Books One and Two, What’s Bred in the Bone and A Bone to Pick. This is the same lineup I’ve successfully taken to the other conventions this season.

Unfortunately, it’s a fairly small pile of books. In my opinion, it’s still too small to justify taking up a whole table, plus covering the membership and time of a dedicated “morning person” to run it. I’m eager to fill out the Trilogy next year with Bone of Contention, and to start offering Warren’s books. But I’m also very pleased that in the meantime I could find a tablemate who’s as reliable and proactive as Aaron!

Weird Sisters Publishing: We have tales to tell. This picture shows covers for The XK9 Series, Deep Ellum Stories, and The Windhover Tetralogy.
We have a growing list of tales to tell . . . but not all are in print yet! (The Other Side of Fear cover is © 2020 by Lucy A. Synk. The other two XK9 covers are ©2019 and 2020 by Jody A. Lee. The background nebula (also used for the dealers table cover) and all the rest of the covers are ©2019-2021 by Chaz Kemp).

And Speaking of Bone of Contention . . . My Reading!

I normally request to have my reading scheduled later in the day on Saturday, or even on Sunday of the convention. That gives me a good part of the weekend to promote it. But that doesn’t always happen. At Archon 45 it’s scheduled at 7 p.m. on Friday night. That makes it my first scheduled Programming item. No chances to promote it on panels before that! So I’ll have to rely on social media to alert people to it, and hope enough notice it to bring some listeners in!

Depending on who shows up and what they prefer, I have a number of options. There are a couple of scenes from Bone of Contention that I could share (I read an early version of Chapter One last time). I also have fun scenes from a couple of short stories I wrote as exclusives for my Newsletter subscribers (each month I offer them a free downloadable story or XK9-related project).

Which Shall I Choose?

Which story would you choose, if you attended my reading? Use the Comments section of this post if you’d like to weigh in with opinions. Can’t attend the reading, but you’re interested in one or more of these? Subscribe to my Newsletter!

The banner shows a 3D mockup of the story’s cover on an e-reader, an empty park bench, and the words, “Shady couldn’t see the entity on the bench in Glen Haven Park, but she could clearly smell it.”
Design and e-book text © 2021-22 Jan S. Gephardt (with help from 123rf and BookBrush). Shady portrait ©2020 by Lucy A. Synk.
Alongside a visualization of the story as an ebook, the words say: Happy New Year! In a “target-rich environment” of marks and johns, Charlie’s after grifters, pimps . . . and his crooked partner. Can he survive to greet the New Year?
Jan created this banner with a little help from her friends at BookBrush and 123rf. Story © 2021 by Jan S. Gephardt.
The banner shows a 3D mockup of the story’s cover on an e-reader, plus the headline, “What else could possibly go wrong?” Under that, it says, “Left to sift through a jumble of reeking, noisome trash for possible evidence, Officer Pamela Gómez and rookie Detective Balchu Nowicki strive to stay professional. They do their work well, despite the stench and the complexity of the site. But then their day gets worse . . . “ There’s also the credit line: “Cover artwork ©2022 by Chaz Kemp.”
Anywhere but Sixth Level Artwork ©2022 by Chaz Kemp. Story is ©2022 by Jan S. Gephardt.

Packing up for Archon, I Added Another Idea to Test: QR Codes!

As partial compensation for fact that the early reading has truncated some of my publicity efforts, I’m also trying a different “test project.” We’ll see if it turns out to be a good idea or not. You may have noticed that QR codes, those funny-looking splotchy square or circular patches, have started turning up in more and more locations. Some people find them irritating or inscrutable, but more and more of us have started using our smartphones to scan them for a fast link to a web page or other online material.

Earlier this year, Weird Sisters Publishing created downloadable versions of Chapter One for each of my XK9 “Bones” Trilogy novels that’s available so far. But it only just recently dawned on me as I started packing up for Archon that I could create QR codes to take people to those “free samples” even more quickly and easily (I know: Well, duh! Right??). So I generated a QR code for the downloadable first chapter of What’s Bred in the Bone and added it to the label on my postcards that I give out at the convention.

It says “Choose Your Next Great Read,” and shows e-reader visualizations of “Sample Chapter One of What’s Bred in the Bone,” and “Sample Chapter One of A Bone to Pick.” The left-hand QR code takes readers to the free download for Chapter One of “What’s Bred in the Bone,” while the QR code on the right leads to the free download for Chapter One of “A Bone to Pick.”
The cover art for What’s Bred in the Bone and A Bone to Pick is ©2019-2020 by Jody A. Lee. Scan the QR codes to go to the sample chapters, or click on the links in the titles. QR codes were generated via QR Code Generator.

But Wait! There’s Also Art!

Yes, I’m also bringing my paper sculpture to Archon 45. Lucy A. Synk will be there too, with most of her “Welcome to Rana Station” display from Worldcon (other than the artwork she sold there). You’ll probably see lots more about the Archon 45 Art Show in one or more future posts on this blog.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to see highlights from past Archon Art Shows, you might enjoy my blog posts Artwork at Archon 43 and Artists at Archon 44.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to finish packing for Archon 45!

IMAGE CREDITS

Unless otherwise stated, all of the photography and graphic design in this blog post was created by Jan S. Gephardt. In the first picture, Deb Branson, my intrepid proofreader, took the photo of M. C. Chambers and Jan at their ConQuesT 53 table.

In the second picture, that’s Aaron Hollingsworth at a book-signing. It was held at Readers World in Sedalia, MO on August 13, 2022. Jan accessed it via Aaron’s public Facebook page. The photo of Jan with Weird Sisters books at Archon 44 by Tyrell E. Gephardt.

In the third montage, Jan got Aaron’s Author photo from his website, and acquired his book covers for The Apothecary of Mantua and The Broken Brides of Europe from Amazon. She represented his RPG titles with a screen-capture of four listings on that page of his website.

The fourth montage is lifted from the Weird Sisters website. It features the work of Lucy A. Synk, Jody A. Lee, and Chaz Kemp. The rest are graphics originally designed for Jan’s Newsletter (Sign up for it here!). See the credits in their cutlines with copyright notices and links to the sources’ websites.

It is not enough to be busy . . . The question is: what are we busy about? – Henry David Thoreau

Using My Time Well

By Jan S. Gephardt

Am I using my time well? It’s been my most persistent self-question this summer. I “wear a lot of hats” these days, which means I’m busier all the time. I’m quite possibly doing more things and being more productive than at any other point in my life.

But am I using my time well?

I’m the Chief Cat-Herder and Manager of Weirdness for Weird Sisters Publishing, which means I’m not only an author, I’m also involved in editorial oversight, I’m the Art Director, and I’m also the Director of Marketing. That’s a fair number of “hats.” As more projects come together, it’s on me to package and market them. As well as (in many cases) to create them in the first place.

Thus, if I’m using my time efficiently to accomplish a defined set of goals, I can hope I’m using my time well.

Weird Sisters Publishing: We have tales to tell. This picture shows covers for The XK9 Series, Deep Ellum Stories, and The Windhover Tetralogy.
We have a growing list of tales to tell. (See credits below).

Am I Busy with the Right Things?

I’m busy for sure. But am I busy with the right things? We never get it “all the way right,” I think. I remember sometime back in the 1980s or ‘90s sometime the business concept of “kaizen” or “continuous” improvement” was the buzzword of the moment in American business. I guess it had jumped the Pacific at some point not long after WWII, but somehow it took a while to be the Next Big Thing. We didn’t hear so much about it here on the Plains after the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997.

But the underlying concept is the basically-sound principle that you try something and learn from it. Did it work? Okay, do it again. Did it flop bigtime? Why was it such a failure? Where was the flaw in our thinking? Did it semi-flop, and there are things we can salvage? “Learning by doing” is what teachers and parents would call it, and it works in all kinds of concepts.

That does mean I have to continually interrogate my practices. Am I busy with the right things? Am I using my time well?

It is not enough to be busy . . . The question is: what are we busy about? – Henry David Thoreau
That really is the question, H.D.! (Rescue Time).

What you Need to Do Depends on Where you want to Go

The Big Question all self-employed people must answer each day is: how shall I structure my time? How do I figure out what’s the best thing to be “busy about”?

My son and I have been freelancers for years, so we’ve been refining the way we use time for a while. On the other hand, my Beloved just recently retired. People and events have been filling his time ever since, and I have a sense that he’s been feeling “drowned in stuff to do.”

Ty and I have tried to offer suggestions, and I think he’s beginning to get the hang of this self-time-management thing. But his struggles have given me a new chance to re-evaluate my own time-use habits and practices.

“Stop setting goals. Goals are pure fantasy unless you have a specific plan to achieve them.” — Stephen R. Covey
Confusing, after what I just wrote? Yes. But it’s the latter half of that quote we truly need to heed. (Quotefancy).

Establishing Goals

When I ask, “Am I using my time well?” what I’m really asking is whether the things I’m doing are helping me achieve my goals. As my Beloved has begun to learn, to achieve them, first you must envision them. After that, it’s easier to set priorities to reach them.

A good, achievable goal is both a vision and a commitment to act. “I want to be rich and famous” is just a pie-in-the-sky dream without a plan full of specific steps and a willingness to work one’s butt off. Also: fair warning from people who’ve been there. Being both rich and famous is a hazardous quest that may or may not be worth the prize at the end.

Am I using my time well? I believe that yes, you really can be “too rich and too thin.” You also can be too famous – certainly, it’s possible to be too famous to keep (or even legally expect to keep) your personal privacy. So, ditch the clichés. They’re not helpful. Each of us must decide for ourselves – specifically – what “success” looks like for us.

“Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you’re proud to live.” — Anne Sweeney
Sounds simple, but it’s actually a call for soul-searching. And being specific. (Quotefancy).

Charting a Course Based on Goals isn’t Straightforward.

Setting priorities helps answer the question of “am I using my time well?” However, they’re not the whole answer. I still have to get from “here’s my vision of what I want to accomplish,” to “I’ll get there by doing these specific things.” And now I’d like to add one more, very important note. What you want, and how you think you’ll get there, will change.

My sister wrote a great blog post on how she found that out the “long and interesting way” in the course of her career. I won’t call it “the hard way.” That puts a needlessly negative spin on the journey of discovery that is everyone’s life. It can be hard. But it can also be joyous and rewarding (pro tip: how you look at it determines what it will be for you).

So, like everyone, I must define my goals. Use them to refine and hone my priorities. Then prepare to be flexible. G.’s vision of “what she wanted to be when she grew up” evolved over time, and so will anyone’s. The more we explore and learn, the more we’ll be able to judge whether we’re still on a good course for our personal lives.

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” — Stephen R. Covey
In other words, make sure you visualize where you want to go before you try to figure out what to do today! (Quotefancy).

It Still Gets Messy

Even then, it can get messy. It’s possible to pull up short at any moment in the journey and realize, “Oh, rats! I made a mistake! That’s not using my time well at all!” A process I envisioned as easy or productive turns into a logistical nightmare. Or maybe it takes, like, ten times longer than I expected – and unfortunately the learning curve wasn’t the only reason it took that long!

No one is immune – certainly not me! Anyone who thinks they have all the answers is fooling themselves. I try to remind myself: Kaizen, Jan, and hold fast to the reminder that no, “kaizen” is not the giant kaiju rising up out of the Pacific to destroy my schedule and spoil all my dreams.

This is a montage of two cartoons. In the first a knight is confronted by a fire-breathing dragon, and thinks, “DARN! There goes my To-Do list for today!” In the second cartoon, the first panel is marked “Your ‘Plans’.” In it, a person rides their bicycle up a straight, slight incline to a checkered flag. The second panel is marked, “The Universe’s Plans for you.” In it, our bicyclist confronts: 1. a much steeper incline. 2. a pit full of rocks. 3. a rope bridge over another pit. 4. a choice between a lake full of water with a boat and a steep climb to get out or a zipline. 5. More hills. 6. A steep canyon with a ladder to climb up the other side, but it’s raining on it. 7. Another steep incline – but there’s a sun shining from above. The checkered flag is not visible.
Time for a few more “learning takes”! (See credits below).

Instead of despair, what’s needed is what my son’s kindergarten teacher called a “learning take.” Oh, yes, and patience. Lots of patience. Maybe also some humility. We must be willing to admit we called it wrong and try again. Take a run at problems from another direction, and it might just unlock new insights.

And really, isn’t gaining a new understanding that unlocks a better way of doing something valuable in its own right? Yes, learning from a failed plan or a bad idea is frustrating. But gaining new insights and improving how I do things most definitely qualifies as using my time well!

IMAGE CREDITS

Once again, Quotefancy made it much easier to develop this post than it might otherwise have been. Many thanks to them for the two illustrated quotes from Stephen R. Covey, as well as the one from Anne Sweeney (see individual URLs in the cutlines). The Henry David Thoreau quote came courtesy of Rescue Time. Many thanks to both!

The Weird Sisters Publishing array of “Tales to tell” incorporates cover artwork © 2019-2022 by Jody A. Lee, Lucy A. Synk, and Chaz Kemp. That header image and the cartoon montage at the end of this post were designed and built by Jan S. Gephardt.

We owe particular thanks to two different sources for the cartoon montage. First, many thanks to cartoonist and “Psychotactics Blog” author, the talented Sean D’Souza. He created the “To-Do List”-busting dragon cartoon (read the blog post, while you’re at it!). Second, we really appreciate Doghouse Diaries, the original source of the much-reposted-but-seldom acknowledged cartoon about how one’s plans too often stack up against “The Universe’s Plans for You.” Thanks, Will, Ray, and Raf! We at Weird Sisters and Artdog Adventures appreciate you!

A Clean Home Never Goes Out of Style

A Spotlessly Beautiful Home

By G. S. Norwood

The other day I happened across a list of suggestions from Good Housekeeping magazine on how to maintain a spotlessly beautiful home. The list outlines all the things I should clean every day, once a week, once a month, or a few times a year, so the house stays lovely, with only a little effort on my part. It read like one of those hopelessly outdated articles from the 1950s on how to make your husband happy, or how teachers should manage their classrooms. Clearly the list’s author was delusional.

Still, I thought I’d put the list to the test, to see how it would work into my daily routine. Just for fun, I added in some of the other helpful suggestions experts in the fields of health, nutrition, beauty, and fitness offer up to make every day my Best Day Ever. Spoiler alert: it’s not going to be pretty.

Just A Simple Morning Routine

A Clean Home Never Goes Out of Style
Somehow, even Spotlessly Beautiful can look dated, however. (Imgflip).

This is how the suggestions shaped up. The time estimates are my own.

6:00 am Wake up—instantly. Bound out of bed with lots of energy. (Which I don’t do.) Make the bed because, c’mon, it’s right there and you’re not getting back in. 10 minutes.

6:10 am Pee/Dress for dog walk: The experts don’t actually include this in the things I must do but, trust me, I must do this. 5 minutes.

6:15 am Take dogs for 1 mile walk. Do this twice, so all four dogs get a walk. 45 minutes.

7:00 am Sweep kitchen floor. Ten minutes. Okay, eight minutes because it’s a small kitchen, but I also have to feed the cats.

I Really Wanna Leave My Bed and Start the Day – Said No One Ever
Sure, she wakes up instantly. Who doesn’t? (LiveAbout).

Don’t Forget Your Health . . .

7:10 am Cook a healthy breakfast—oatmeal and such. Allow 20 minutes, because it’s steel cut oatmeal, plus we have to have fruit, which may mean washing each grape individually if we’re to get off all pesticide residue as the food purity experts recommend.

7:30 am Eat said healthy breakfast while reading the paper—20 minutes, particularly if you get your morning caffeine hot, since it has to cool down to drinking temp. (NOTE: You won’t finish the paper in this time, let alone work the puzzles.)

7:50 am Wipe down the electric kettle, put dishes in dishwasher, wipe down kitchen counters, sanitize kitchen sink. 10 minutes

Two memes give a tiny glimpse of the morning routine with kids: (1) Night Mom: “Tomorrow I am gonna wake up before all the kids & clean house & go for a run & cook healthy food & spend time alone drinking coffee!” Morning Mom: “Hahahaha Nope.” (2) “I just dry shampoo’d & febreeze’d my kids on the way out the door, so no, I’m not really interested in your family’s morning chore chart, Debbie.”
The author doesn’t have kids, but they make mornings even more of a riot. Spotlessly Beautiful need not apply. (See credits below).

. . . Or Beauty!

8:00 am Shower (because dog-walking is sweaty business) 20 minutes, including hair wash and shaving. We’ll credit the health and beauty experts for this next part.

8:20 am Blow dry/style your hair—10 minutes

8:30 am Wash face/Put on makeup—15 minutes

8:45 am Wipe down bathroom surfaces, squeegee shower, sanitize bathroom sink—15 minutes

9:00 am Dress—15 minutes

A woman frowns out through a small patch of scraped-away frost on her windshield. Overlay type reads, “Defrosting? Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That!”
Even Texans have to deal with this sometimes. The more northern of us? Heck, yeah! (Know Your Meme).

Heigh-Ho!

And then it’s off to work I go. I live in an area that is home to about eight million people. That’s roughly the total population of Missouri and Kansas. Some days I think they all want to drive down US Highway 75, the same time I do.

9: 15 am Morning commute—45 minutes

10:00-6:00 Work 8 hours

6:00-7:00 pm Evening commute—60 minutes (assuming there are no backups)

While my drive into work happens just slightly after the morning rush hour, my drive home hits the rush right in the fat part. I am continually astonished by the number of people who crash into each other during this sacred hour. And the number of people who slow down to look at the roadside carnage. They might call it rush hour, but trust me, nobody is rushing anywhere. Sometimes I bail, just to run a few errands and—okay, mostly I shop for books.

7:00 pm Stop for groceries/drug store stuff—20 minutes

The photo shows an absolutely jam-packed (photoshopped for emphasis, we hope!) freeway full of cars, trucks, buses, and motorcycles, in which traffic lanes appear to be more of a guideline than a rule, and nobody is getting anywhere soon. The caption reads, “Why do they call it ‘Rush Hour’ … when nothing moves?” – Robin Williams.
Good question, Robin. (MEME).

Home Again, Home Again

When I hit the door at home, a lot of things happen at once.

7:20 pm Potty break/change into home clothes—15 minutes

7:35 pm Take dogs out for a second walk—45 minutes

8:10 pm Dinner prep—25 minutes

8:35 pm Feed animals—15 minutes

8:40 pm Throw in load of laundry—5 minutes

8:50 pm Take load out of dryer/fold—10 minutes

8:55 pm Put laundry away—5 minutes

Two memes by the incomparable Anne Taintor: (1) in a classic 1950s-era illustration a well-dressed woman has wiped her cloth down a wall and left a visibly-cleaner, lighter streak. The caption reads, “See? Cleaning one thing just makes everything else look dirtier.” (2) A well-dressed woman in heels and an apron that matches her tasteful gray dress stands by an open oven. It reveals two racks full of complicated-to-cook foods. The caption says, “Honey? Can you get the food out of the oven so I can stick my head into it?”
When living Spotlessly Beautiful lives of quiet desperation, dark humor often works best. (See credits below).

9:00 pm Serve/eat dinner—30 minutes This is the first time I’ve sat down (not counting the potty break) since I got home from work.

9:30 pm Wipe down kitchen surfaces, put dishes in dishwasher—10 minutes

9:40 pm Clean the cat box—5 minutes (Again, not on the expert list, but trust me.)

9:45 pm Take dogs out again—45 minutes

10:30 pm Pay bills—30 minutes

11:00 pm Bedtime prep—30 minutes

11:30 pm Fall asleep instantly, suffer no insomnia, and sleep 8 restful, peaceful hours.

7:30 am Awaken in a panic after that 8-hour sleep, knowing I’m already 1 hour and 30 minutes behind schedule

Two memes: (1) in classic “SomEEcards” style, a woman frowns at the notebook on which she’s writing. The caption reads, “My to-do list from today seems to consist of everything from my to-do list yesterday.” (2) A woman clutches the lapels of the blond man standing in front of her and screams, “THERE’S NO TIME THERE’S NEVER ANY TIME!!!!!”
We’ve done both of those things. How about you? (See credits below).

A Spotlessly Beautiful Home?

I couldn’t help but notice that the schedule laid out by Good Housekeeping’s cleaning expert made no allowances for drinking those eight glasses of water a day recommended by the health experts, or the potty stops which come with all that fluid intake.

Nor was that the only obvious flaw in this neat outline for keeping my home spotlessly beautiful. The schedule I outlined above is for a single woman, living alone. In making it, I gave no consideration to married women, who might have multiple children on different day care/band/sports/school/after school schedules. And forget about taking time to have sex with that brilliant and talented life partner some of you might be fortunate enough to have around the house. No time for so much as a 2-minute quickie there.

Two memes: (1) in another Anne Taintor classic, a young woman in a baking apron stops to look up and put a finger to her lips. She’s holding the iconic 1935 edition of “My Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.” She stands behind an island counter filled with a vintage mixer, bowls, pans, and baking ingredients. The caption reads, “Time to myself? HUSH! THAT’s the DEVIL’s Talk!” (2) A woman puts her hand to her head, as a tear streaks down her face. The caption reads, “8 glasses of water per day? Impossible. But I can drink 8 glasses of wine at one meal.”
The Spotlessly Beautiful conundrums continue to confound. (See credits below).

Life Happens

Nor do you get a break on the weekend. That’s when you’re supposed to be mopping your kitchen and bathroom floors, scrubbing all bathroom surfaces, and cleaning the mirrors. Because you really, really want to see the haggard wreck you quickly become on this schedule. Don’t forget to dust your furniture, vacuum your floors and furniture, change the bed, clean out the fridge, wipe down all your kitchen appliances, clean the microwave and sanitize the sponges (whatever the hell that is).

Visiting with friends? Not gonna happen.

Plus, when are you going to go to the farmer’s market to buy the fresh, delicious, locally grown produce? Don’t you want to feed your family the healthy, home-cooked meals the nutritionists recommend?

Take out the trash? Work in the yard? Garden? Obedience-train your dogs? Pursue any kind of hobby? Attend a play or concert? Or even a football game? Call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline? Because your life has become a meaningless horror show as you sacrifice all your time and energy on the altar of having the spotlessly beautiful home.

Two memes: (1) another classic from Anne Taintor. Two women, dressed as if for church, stand in front of an open refrigerator. One holds a full meat drawer open for the other. The caption reads, “I did all the laundry and cleaned the house, and then I felt like killing someone.” (2) An young woman dressed in a housekeeping apron languishes in an armchair. One hand clutches her head, while another hangs listlessly over the chair-arm, still holding a cleaning rag. The room around her is a disordered tangle of upended ladders, brooms, mops, and assorted clutter. The caption reads, “My housekeeping style is best described as ‘There appears to have been a struggle.”
It can be a daily struggle. (See credits below).

Let’s Get Real

Clearly the problem here is not that you and I don’t adopt these simple methods to mix light housekeeping into our normal daily routines. The problem is unrealistic expectations. I’m no expert, but I’m willing to bet the list was originally written sometime in the 1950s by a man with a degree in engineering. He probably specialized in workplace efficiency. If he had children, I expect he greeted them each evening as he sipped his after-work cocktail, then waved them off to bed. Back in those days, guys like that often felt it was their duty to help women become more organized when it came to those all-important household chores.

Oddly, women were not grateful.

The truth is, to this day, women still shoulder the responsibility for twice as many household chores as men do. Even in homes where the male partners consider themselves to be feminists. This doesn’t begin to account for the tremendous amount of mental labor” women undertake to keep the family schedules straight and address the social and emotional needs of all family members. And then there’s the guilt women feel when they think that somehow they don’t measure up.

Four memes by Anne Taintor: (1) A woman serves bacon and eggs onto a plate. She looks over her shoulder at the viewer with a smile. The caption reads, “Personally, I wouldn’t mind being replaced by a robot.” (2) A beautifully-dressed young woman in vintage clothing strikes a sophisticated pose and offers a pensive, unsmiling face to the viewer. The caption reads, “I’m not laughing on the inside, either.” (3) A wholesome-looking young woman in an apron stands by a stove. She holds a wooden spoon in one hand and touches a control on the cooktop with the other. The caption says, “Why, I’d be delighted to put my needs last again.” (4) A young woman dressed for entertaining holds up a bottle of wine. The caption says, “This one pairs well with screaming at people in your head.”
An Anne Taintor quartet offers more masterpieces of sarcasm. (Bored Panda).

Call It What It Is

Which is why I call bullshit on lists like the one from Good Housekeeping. I not only suspect it was originally formulated by a man, I’ll bet he doesn’t know how to sanitize sponges either.

So the next time you are seized by the urge to make yours a spotlessly beautiful home, I suggest you pour yourself a cold glass of something besides water. Stretch out on your freshly vacuumed couch. Read one of those books you picked up on the way home from work. Something that will take you far away from the stress of maintaining a perfect house. I have some ideas:

Weird Sisters Publishing: We have tales to tell. The XK9 Series. Deep Ellum Stories. The Windhover Tetralogy. All artwork © 2019-2022 by Jody A. Lee, Lucy A. Synk, and most of all Chaz Kemp. Wow. When we spread them all out, they really do look like a LOT of tales to tell!
Weird Sisters Publishing has an expanding catalog. (Weird Sisters Publishing).

IMAGE CREDITS

Wow, do we have a lot of people to thank for the pictures in this Spotlessly Beautiful post! Primary among them is the talented and subversive Anne Taintor, whose wicked vintage-illustrated memes are sharp enough to draw blood. All montages are the work of Jan S. Gephardt, who also chose the pictures and assembled them.

“A Clean Home” came from Imgflip, as did the “8 glasses of water” meme below, and it appears to have been the original source of “There appears to have been a struggle,” although we found it on “Life After the Morning Flush.”

“I Really Wanna Leave my Bed” came courtesy of LiveAbout. The two “Morning Kids” images came from Pinterest: “Night/Morning Mom” is from Debbie Beidelman’s pinboard, while “Just dry shampoo’d & febreeze’d my kids” is from the Digital Mom Blog via Meadoria’s pinboard.

Many thanks to Know Your Meme, for “Defrosting,” and to MEME for the Robin Williams quote. The SomEEcards “To-Do List” image comes via Janileth Slattery’s Pinterest pinboard, while the “Never enough time” meme came to us via the “724 South House” Blog.

Yet More Anne Taintor, plus Tales to Tell

The Anne Taintor’s “Cleaning One Thing” image came from Bored Panda, in the same article that brought us the collection of four others near the end. Many thanks to QuotesGram for the “Take the food out of the oven” meme, as well as “Time to myself?” below.

Might note that the young lady in “Time to myself?” clutches a copy of the 1935 My Better Homes and Gardens cookbook featured in G.’s earlier blog post, “Cooking? O Joy!” Both of these articles feature more sarcasm of this type if you’re enjoying it. The Bored Panda piece focuses specifically on the work of Anne Taintor. “Did all the laundry and cleaned the house” (another by Anne Taintor) came via Mrs. Domestic Goddess in Progress’s blog via their Pinterest pinboard. Our deepest gratitude to all!

And we hope you really will take a look at our “Tales to Tell,” via the Weird Sisters Publishing’s “Our Books” page. Current releases (as of this post) include Jan S. Gephardt’s XK9 Series and G. S. Norwood’s Deep Ellum Stories. But the list is steadily expanding. We plan to add the “Windhover” Tetralogy (by “third Weird Sister,” the late Warren C. Norwood) this winter.

ConQuesT 53, Memorial Day Weekend 2022, Sheraton Crown Center, Kansas City, MO.

Pack Up and Do It Again

By Jan S. Gephardt

It’s time to pack up and do it again. When we have two sf conventions in one month, it’s something of an endurance run. My son Tyrell Gephardt and I just start getting sorted out and rested up (in my case this month also healed up), and it’s time to do it again.

As I noted last week, Demicon 33 was a good convention for me – but it also took a toll. Now it’s time to prepare for ConQuesT 53, my home “con.” I would hate to miss it, even though they expect it to be a low-turnout year.

Attending ConQuesT means I need to pack up and do it again, after it feels as if I just got home. But there’s a new wrinkle this time around. I’m doing the usual things – art show and some programming. But I’m also launching into (for me) an uncharted new adventure: a dealer’s table.

ConQuesT 53, Memorial Day Weekend 2022, Sheraton Crown Center, Kansas City, MO.
(Header Image courtesy of ConQuesT).

A Dealers Table? ME?

Yes, I recognize that many Indie authors make much or most of their income from dealers’ tables at conventions. It’s a marketing choice that can, and sometimes does, keep the con-going trip in profit-making territory. I respect that. But personally, I’ve always had several problems with this approach.

Most dealers rooms open by 9 or 10 a.m. But my circadian cycle is firmly skewed to the “Graveyard Shift.” Wrenching myself out of bed to be on time to open would mess up my sleep cycle and leave me a “sleep zombie” for at least a week afterward. I know this because I’ve tried it. It’s not pretty.

If you’re running a table, it’s important to always be there (as much as possible!) while the dealers room is open. This means if you’re going to connect with colleagues, network, be on panels, or visit other people’s panels or readings, you either do it at your table, arrange for someone to cover for you, do it after the dealers room closes, or you don’t do it. Your table is both your base, and your anchor.

And there is a lot of stuff to haul. I’m an older lady who walks with a cane for stability. There was a day when I could bend, lift, and haul stuff pretty well – but that was several decades ago. Nowadays, I have to be strategic about how I haul boxes of books. Hand trucks and my athletic son are my friends, but I can’t always assume they’ll be available.

Tables of displays from artists, crafters, Indie authors, and gaming suppliers in the DemiCon33 Dealers Room.
The Dealers Room at DemiCon 33. (Photo by Tyrell E. Gephardt).

A Little Help From Friends

When I first started bringing my book (singular) to sf cons back in 2019, I often could find a general bookseller in the dealers room who’d work out a consignment deal with me. But since the pandemic’s ebb (let’s hope it’s actually waning!), it’s hard to find general booksellers running dealers’ tables at sf cons.

Ty observed at DemiCon 33 that most of the folks in the Dealers Room were Indie authors selling their own books, artists, jewelers, artisans, or other craftsfolk with a specific line of products, or stores selling gaming gear. That was my observation at Archon 44 last fall, too.

But this is my “home convention,” and I know a lot of other writers in the area who really don’t have enough books (and other resources) to justify having a whole dealer’s table of their own. Three of us have banded together and decided to see if teamwork and our collected works can make a table worth the effort. So, we’ll give it a try, and see how it works. One of us has already said she can cover mornings (blessings upon her!), so at least that worry is alleviated.

But when I pack up and do it again this time, I’ll have considerably more to pack than usual.

A box full of books and other Dealers Room supplies, with covers for Jan’s three books, “The Other Side of Fear,” “What’s Bred in the Bone,” and “A Bone to Pick.”
I’m packing up my dealer’s table supplies. (See credits below).

Meet my Table-Mates

For this dealer’s table adventure, I’ve paired up with a couple of wonderful writers I met in local fandom and critique groups. From working with them in writers’ groups, I know they write good stuff. I’m proud to be associated with them, even if I am the “odd science fiction writer” in the mix.

M. C. Chambers

I first met Mary through KaCSFFS, the Kansas City Science Fiction and Fantasy Society, about which I’ve blogged in the past. She just looked like an interesting person from the get-go. We talked and discovered we have many things in common (including our birthday). I invited her to join my then-current writers’ group, and we’ve been friends ever since. Her work includes a bunch of wonderful short stories, several of which have won awards, and the fantasy novel Shapers’ Veil. She’s also the mother of five boys (“Mother of Heroes”), a flutist, and a variable print programmer.

Karin Rita Gastreich

I met Karin in a different writers’ group, and I’ve recently had the privilege of beta-reading her latest (really wonderful) novel, which I don’t believe is available yet. She’s also written multiple short stories and won several awards. But she’s best known as a writer for her woman-centered fantasy Silver Web Trilogy. All this, and writing is not even her “day job.” In the rest of her life, Dr. Karin Gastreich, ecologist and author, serves as Chair of the School of Natural and Applied Sciences at Avila University in south Kansas City.

M. C. Chambers’ Author photo and the cover for her novel “Shapers’ Veil,” with the three-cover collection of the “Silver Web Trilogy” and Karin Rita Gastreich’s Author photo.
My table-mates have written some cool stuff! (See credits below).

Pack Up and Do it Again: Art Show

It wouldn’t seem like I really was at a convention if I didn’t have anything at the Art Show. Moreover, ConQuesT historically has an outstanding art show, especially for a convention of its size. I don’t just say that because I was the Art Show Director for three years (a decade ago). People have long come to this show to buy art, and the artwork comes in from all over. It’s now run by the highly competent and awesome Mikah McCullough, who is a way better Art Show Director than I ever was!

I’m bringing essentially the same pieces to ConQuesT that I brought to DemiCon. That’s possible, because the work I sold in Iowa was part of a multiple-original edition. Not all of my paper sculpture artwork consists of multiple-originals, however. Some are one-of-a-kind. And Mikah has arranged for me to glom onto the end of a table for my Ranan mini-maps , so they’ll be displayed to their best advantage.

Jan’s paper sculpture on display at the DemiCon 33 Art Show.
My artwork at DemiCon 33. The display won’t look much different at ConQuesT 53. (photos by the author/artist).

Fewer Panels than Usual

I missed a key communication with ConQuesT Programming somewhere along the line, so I’m only on two panels this time. Considering my dealers table commitment, this is probably just as well. But this programming schedule is unusually light for me.

On Friday night, I’ll pair up with my friend Kathy Hinkle for a feature we’ve repeated the last several times we’ve had an in-person ConQuesT: SF & F Name that Tune (or Show). Kathy and I both love the music of science fiction and fantasy media. We’ll draw from our respective deep libraries of music we’ve collected, play selected cuts, and see how quickly our audience can name them. In past years it’s been a lot of fun.

Then on Sunday afternoon (after Art Show check-out, but before Closing Ceremonies), I’ll moderate a panel called Curiouser and Curiouser (on which my table-mate Mary is a panelist), about how protagonists’ curiosities can get them into trouble – and bring readers along for an interesting quest. Much to my disappointment, there are no author readings at ConQuesT 53. This is because when they had them they weren’t well-attended, and they’re restricted in the number of programming rooms available. I understand, but I’m still disappointed.

Time to Pack Up

And now it’s time to end this post and get back to work preparing for ConQuesT. Especially with this one, when I’m getting ready to pack up and do it again, it turns out I have a lot to pack!

IMAGE CREDITS

Many thanks to ConQuesT 53 for their website’s header, and to my son Tyrell Gephardt for the photo of the DemiCon 33 Dealers Room. I took the photos of my dealer’s table preparations and my DemiCon33 Art Show display. I’m grateful to M.C. Chambers and Karin Rita Gastreich for their author photos, and to Amazon for the photos of Shapers’ Veil and the Silver Web Trilogy. Grateful appreciations to all!

Two hall costumes and a display-model T.A.R.D.I.S. from “Dr. Who.”

The Best and Worst Time

By Jan S. Gephardt

I’ll spare you the Charles Dickens opening line, but DemiCon 33 Weekend really was the best and worst time I’ve had at a convention in ages. Regular followers of this blog have already figured out that I came home from it with a bad cold.

No, it wasn’t classic “con crud.” That’s some new thing you contract at a convention, when you encounter something your immune system can’t fight (possibly because you partied for several nights in a row). I came to DemiCon 33 with a scratchy throat, desperately hoping it would go away. It didn’t. Among other things, that really cut into the partying (like, ended it before it began).

I stayed masked, did my best to socially distance, and I washed my hands a lot. Since my son Tyrell Gephardt and I were teamed up for all our panels, I “let” Ty do most of the talking (for once – like I had a choice!). And I hope to God I didn’t become a vector of con crud to anyone else! It really was the worst I remember feeling at a science fiction convention, ever. But when you’re that far from home and you’re part of the program, you do your best.

Demicon 33’s welcome table.
The welcome table by the front door offered new arrivals information about DemiCon 33 and some of its features, as well as free face masks and hand sanitizer. (5/6/22 photo by author).

DemiCon 33 Was the “Best Time” Part

It’s really a pity and a waste that I was sick, because DemiCon 33 itself was awesome. The con committee did everything they could to welcome people back to con-going safely. Everybody seemed really happy to be there (that I saw), and they were all very warm and welcoming. A longtime friend gave me a tin of mints when I ran out of throat lozenges.

I took pictures in the hallways before they got really full. That was partly out of respect for people’s privacy, and partly because I tried to avoid crowds (or at least stay distant from them). I wasn’t coughing too much (and I was masked) at Opening Ceremonies, but after that I kept a lower profile. Don’t imagine from my photos that no one came, however. They did, and many of them were absolutely fabulous in their hall costumes.

But at a convention where one of the first people I met was a young person handing out “In Science We Trust” badge ribbons, people were (mostly) taking sensible precautions. Part of what makes this year a contrast of the best and worst time is that we’re all really lonely for a good “fhannish” get-together with each other, but we know we have to be careful.

Two hall costumes and a display-model T.A.R.D.I.S. from “Dr. Who.”
Fender Jack (AKA Corey) and Spencer the Klingon model their costumes outside the Missouri Room on the lower level of the convention hotel. Upstairs, a mock-up of Dr. Who’s T.A.R.D.I.S. stood by the front door across from the welcome table at DemiCon 33. (5/6-7/22 photos by author).

The Art Show

The DemiCon Art Show had a new crew at the helm, bringing the operation more fully into the 21st century via electronic record-keeping. They overcame tech glitches at the beginning. But I’m sure they fought for most of the weekend with the hotel’s less-than-stellar Internet service. Why do convention hotels so rarely provide good Internet?

The overall quality of the artwork I saw was outstanding. One of the best, in my opinion, was the wearable art piece called Dandy Lion. I didn’t get to the Masquerade, so I don’t know if it was entered there, but it’s a genuine piece of artwork all on its own.

I saw new work from longtime art show favorites Sarah Clemens and Theresa Mather, and I was impressed by the excellent craftsmanship and creative range of “Random Fandom.My own display was small compared to some in the past, but I’ve been busy with a lot of non-paper-sculpture work (writing, blogging and working on Weird Sisters Publishing  projects) during the Pandemic.

Jan’s DemiCon 33 paper sculpture display and a closer view of the mini-3D maps on the display table.
My paper sculpture display was small compared to some in the past that took up several panels, but I recently discovered that the mini-3D maps display much better lying flat, so I was glad for the corner of the table. (5/6/22 photos by author).

The Best and Worst of Panel Experiences

Ty and I were Team Gephardt at our panels – they scheduled us together for all three, and that was it. Just us. I had the best and worst time there, too. Best, because Ty is fun to partner with on a panel. He’s witty, well-spoken, and knowledgeable. Plus, we had excellent, (relatively) large, and very interactive audiences. That always makes it more fun.

But it was the worst, because the longer into the convention we went, the less voice and energy I had. I could croak a few thoughts, but Ty carried them, especially on Saturday. We were prepared, however. From the time we’d received our schedule, we’d been thinking about our topics. Then we put our heads together to find common themes, suggest possible lines of discussion, and make notes we could share in common.

Topics ran a pretty wide gamut. On Friday night, when I still had something of a voice, we led a very well-read and engaged audience in an “If This, then What?” set of adventures in alternate history. By Saturday, when it was time for “Smoke and Mirrors Steampunk,” I could still talk, as long as I kept it short (a great trial, to be sure!). And I had begun to sound like a foghorn. It’s a good thing Ty knows his Steampunk. Someday we’ll have to do a joint blog post on the sticky ethical wickets this subgenre presents, and its clouded future.

Photos of Jan at ConQuesT in Kansas City (in 1985 and 2012), plus at Archon 43 (2019).
I’ve been going to conventions for quite a while, and participating in panels almost as long. But I don’t think I’ve ever been completely unable to participate on a panel or reading before. (See credits and panelist identifications below).

As Saturday Waned, So did my Voice

I got a respite for my voice – and a chance to do one of my favorite “con things,” attend another author’s reading – after the Steampunk panel. Adam Stemple writes in an amazing range of genres, including horror, literary fiction, and heroic fantasy. Adam set up his three books on How to Write Fantasy Novels, then read completely other things: The Boy from Buanfar, Werewolf Elegy, and a great piece of character development from Galloch, second in the Mika Barehand Trilogy. Wonderful, funny, engaging stuff. Highly recommended!

By Saturday evening’s “What are an Artist’s Rights Online?” panel, I could say only about one word to every four to ten of Ty’s. But we had a good, sound outline, resources at need, and he is well-versed on many nuances of this topic. The audience was a little smaller, but they were interested and had great questions, which I’m happy to say that Ty answered very well.

Finally it was time for my long-anticipated reading. A straight hour of nothing but XK9s and me. I was doomed! Except, I wasn’t. It was the worst and best of times at a reading. Worst, because I could barely speak. Best, because good ol’ Ty came to my rescue yet again. He did an outstanding cold reading of What’s Bred in the Bone Chapter One, “A Walk in the Park.” If you’d like to see what he read, click here or on the Chapter title.

Adam Stemple reads at DemiCon 33.
Author and writing guru Adam Stemple read from several of his works, while displaying his How to Write Fantasy Novels series. (5/7/22 photo by author).

Yes it was the best and worst of times at a convention for me. But Demicon 33 itself was 100% awesome!

IMAGE CREDITS

I (Jan S. Gephardt) took all the photos used in this post, except those noted below. They were taken during DemiCon 33, May 6-7, 2022. Where people are shown, they gave me permission before I clicked the shutter. I particularly wish to thank Fender Jack (AKA Corey) and Spencer the Klingon for allowing me to photograph their costumes, and Adam Stemple for allowing me to photograph him during his excellent reading.

I don’t think I was ever sure who took the “historical documents” that show me at ConQuesT, but I can identify my fellow panelists. In the 1985 photo they are L-R: Dell Harris, Ken Keller, me, and the late Roland Schmidt, my former co-teacher and a fantasy watercolorist. BTW, that’s my calligraphy on the name cards, done back before desktop publishing made them easy to print.

In the 2012 photo that’s me on the left. Tracy S. Morris sits in the middle with her book Bride of Tranquility. At the right is fellow Kansas City writer, artist, and longtime sf fan Sherri Dean.

Finally, I owe Tyrell Gephardt thanks for photo of me at Archon 43 in 2019, preparing to do a reading. And most of all, I owe him an unending thank you for all he did to make the best and worst time I ever had at a DemiCon an overall positive memory!

I hate to waste sick days actually being sick - Unattributed

Taking a Sick Day

By Jan S. Gephardt

Americans give a hard side-eye to any talk of taking a sick day. The Pandemic has taught us a few chastening lessons recently, it’s true. Perhaps in today’s contagion-conscious workplaces, taking a sick day is less “suspect” than it has been in the past. But I’m dubious that will last.

This is the country of rugged individuals, at least in our imaginations. We’re tough, we tell ourselves. We plead with the coach to “put me back in, I’m fine!” even when we’re concussed. We proudly proclaim, “I can sleep when I’m dead!” and go out on our morning commute bleary-eyed and half-asleep. We “heroically” (we think) go to work, even when our nose is running like a faucet, our eyes are puffy, and our sinuses feel like concrete. And even when we thereby spread our cold, flu, or whatever to the rest of our co-workers.

Heaven forefend that we should admit weakness, even when it’s patently ridiculous not to admit we’re sick.

I hate to waste sick days actually being sick - Unattributed
However, when you’re actually sick you should take them. (See credits below).

No One Here But Us Workaholics!

Those of us with ambitions for our careers may do anything we can, to avoid being suspected of “slacking.” I personally know people who take pride in being “workaholics.” Managers are alleged to love and reward this kind of behavior. Promotions and bonuses do seem to come often enough to the driven, that it strengthens the belief.

So people come in early. They go home late. They work toxic quantities of overtime, even on weekends. They live on their phone or computer. Notoriously, they forget, ignore, and miss family anniversaries. Kids’ birthday parties, ball games, concerts, recitals, school plays, and even graduations? They’ll skip them more often than they attend. It’s not just a cliché (guess why it’s a cliché). I’ve known real people who’ve done all of these things.

Sometimes, after they do this long enough, they only get to see their kids once in a while on “coke dates” and alternate weekends. That is, on agreed-upon, non-custodial parent visits, post-divorce. But think of the bonuses they banked!

I missed my dad a lot growing up, even though we were together as a family. My dad was really a workaholic. And he was always working.-- Steven Spielberg
Here’s a snapshot of the fallout from having a workaholic parent. (AZ Quotes).

Suspicion of Malingering

Any adult who’s been in the workplace for any length of time can attest that apparent “slackers” do exist. They watch the clock at the end of the day. If they can, they slide out early. And they have a highly suspicious habit of taking a sick day on Fridays an Mondays only.

I hate this behavior. These self-centered actions place genuinely sick people under suspicion of malingering. This means, depending on the culture where one works, that taking a sick day can give a person a bad reputation. Even if they’re really sick.

This is especially true if the boss is a self-appointed “hard-nosed capitalist” who sees all things through a lens of “time is money.” That’s why, especially in low-wage jobs where in many cases management already suspects their workers of being shiftless slackers (because they’re women, minorities economically hard-press . . . the list goes on), it’s rare to find paid sick leave.

Workplaces need to respond to the reality of family life in the 21st century, and allowing employees to have seven sick days a year is a bare minimum, the fact that the United States is one of just a handful of countries that does not require paid family or sick leave is nothing short of shameful. -- Rosa DeLauro
Lower-wage workers, especially women, bear the brunt of this lack. (AZ Quotes).

Taking a Sick Day

I remember taking a sick day occasionally when I was a teacher. It was a disruption to my students and a burden on the administration to scare up a decent substitute. But when you’re in daily contact with the seething germ-stew that exists in most schools, even the healthiest teacher gets sick sometimes.

I’d call in for the sub feeling guilty, even if I had a temperature of 100 degrees and could barely speak. I always hoped I sounded “sick enough” on the phone, so they wouldn’t suspect me of being a slacker. I had a responsibility to take care of myself and remove my germs from the “stew.” I had a right to take those days. My reputation was anything but being a slacker. But still I felt guilty.

I still do. This Sunday I came home from DemiCon with a raging cold. I tested negative for Covid on the home test, so it’s probably a more run-of-the-mill malady. My voice was so “gone” Saturday evening for my reading that my son Tyrell Gephardt stood in for me. He saved the day delivering a very creditable “cold reading” of What’s Bred in the Bone Chapter One. I still feel pretty listless today, but I also feel guilty about missing a blog post. So I’m only taking a sick day . . . “lite.”

And then there are days when you must rest. – Unattributed
Therefore, I’m taking a sick day. (Thanks, Kristi Jo Jedlicki).

IMAGE CREDITS

I took it easy with a shorter-than-usual post and some pre-made quotes (see attributions in cutlines), except I couldn’t find a rendition of the first one that I liked. It’s an unattributed quote that has been making the rounds as a meme or a square-shaped quote on an uninspiring background. It was short, so I did a DIY on the first one. Many thanks to Independent.ie for the background photo. it illustrated a good article on taking sick days. Check it out!

And now, I hope you’ll understand when I say, “That’s it. I’m taking a sick day.”

Page 1 of 7

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén