Well, 2017 was a dumpster fire of a year. I’ve honestly never been so tired of social media, so fried on blogging, so inclined to hide out in a fictional Vermont town.
That said, it was also the year I turned 40, the year my son reached double digits, our return to Disney World, and the year I officially made Thornton a series of novels, not just a novel and some “bulges.” (That’s Diana Gabaldon’s term for the stories that bulge out from the main narrative, and I like it.)
I’ve got some concrete goals for 2018, both writing-related and personally. I won’t bore you with the specifics, but they boil down to more words for you, more balanced me. They’re mostly born from failures from years past and lessons learned. I’ve screwed up more than a few things, but there were some amazing successes, and it’s time to take the reckoning and move forward.
Twice today, I typed “onward!” in conversations with online friends. Twice, before I realized that’s the word, the guiding word for 2018.
I’m sure things will get lost, I like the idea that they will be found by those who come behind, and I will pick things up, too, as I go. Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia is one of my favorite plays, has been since I worked the tech crew for a college production, then took a class on the maths and physics of Stoppard’s plays. Septimus Hodge said it far more eloquently than I, so onward I go.
I hope you’ll stick with me. I like having you here.
This is not about comic books, or superheroes, or even villains, really.
This is about Catwoman.
This is about being just a little bad, about being sexy and funny, and not taking yourself too seriously. Or: What I learned from Eartha Kitt.
There was something about her voice. The low, intimate timbre with the sharp delivery. The way she rolled those r’s. Purrrrfect.
Same Bat time, same Bat channel. Early morning reruns of Adam West and Burt Ward ZAM!ing and POW!ing their way through the villains of Gotham were my first exposure to superheroes. There was always something in Batman’s eyes that let you in on the secret. Something cheeky and conspiratorial, though at five I couldn’t have explained that.
At five I just wanted to marry him when I grew up. Ahem.
Something else I couldn’t have described until years later was that Batman’s world was a boy’s world. Wealthy, charming Bruce Wayne, strong, clever Batman, reliably naughty, comical villains, and a roll-call of women I barely recall, all designed to satisfy the boys. Even Julie Newmar and Lee Meriwether’s feline glamour seemed to complement Batman.
And then there was Eartha Kitt.
A third thing a five-year old can’t articulate: that woman was sexy as hell, but she was so much more than a packaged reflection of male attention. She was deliberately provocative. She owned the scene and her place in it. When she purred, I listened. She made being a bad girl look awfully powerful, even when the situation was completely ridiculous.
There’s a brilliant moment in which she pulls up alongside the Joker who’s attempting to look innocent walking down the streets of Gotham. She’s driving the most preposterous car imaginable, complete with a tail, eyes, cat ear wheel wells and a convertible bubble.
“You want a lift, big boy?”
In the ensuing 30 seconds or so, she manages to be saucy, snarky, and completely in possession of how goofy the whole thing is.
She transcended the camp of the show even while she was low-slung-belted-hips deep in it. She didn’t need the Joker–or Batman–to shine, but they sure were fun to toy with.
I think I looked for Eartha Kitt’s Catwoman in every heroine, every anti-heroine, every villainess I found after that. She set a strangely high bar for such an unrepentantly silly adaptation of the Batman story. In searching for that wonderful mix of humor, sex appeal, and sass (easier to articulate as you get older), I began to gravitate towards villains and bad girls–not necessarily in comics, but in other fandoms. Forget about blondes and their fun, bad girls had more power.
I am, for the record, the farthest thing from a bad girl, except that I write romance. (Just ask my son. He will tell you his mom writes inappropriate books.). I still haven’t forgotten Eartha Kitt; her voice is in my ear anytime I write a strong, provocative woman.
She and Catwoman opened the door for me to tap into the bad girl under the surface, but also to find the heroines I needed. The ones with self-awareness, humor, sass, power, and some rebel bad girl in them.
Do you ever forget you’re a person? Work and chores and obligations and parenting tangles you up so fiercely you forget how to relax? It happened to me this spring. The company I work for diversified over the winter, and the brunt of the extra labor fell on me. I was struggling in the weeds, juggling flaming chainsaws, and I forgot to be myself. I can’t even entirely blame external pressures, because I’ve been keeping up with my writing and editing as much as possible in the stolen moments. I was so twisted up, so tense, I let my passion add to my stress, when it’s usually my outlet.
Thank goodness for a mile long stretch of pristine beach along a noisy, gaudy boardwalk on the New Hampshire coastline. I spent a week by the ocean with my husband’s family, and aside from some re-entry pangs, I felt like a person again.
It took me a day or two of literally lying in my beach chair with the sound of the tide in my ear and powdered sugar from Blink’s Fry Doe on my nose to remember that I had books waiting for me.
To read. For pleasure!
Firstly, the fourth installment in John Dolan’s Time, Blood & Karma series. I cannot accurately describe my crush on David Braddock. So it has been for four books. Running on Emptiness returns to the format of the first two books, and we are treated to Mr. Braddock’s signature wit and troubled, mischievous philosophy as he navigates a suspicious suicide, the spectre of a man who once wanted him dead, a Thai gang war, and the emotional maze of his family life. Running on Emptiness is dark, sharp, and tender, and the ending left me breathless, wondering how David Braddock will go forward.
From the exotic chaos of John Dolan’s Thailand, I headed east to Hawaii, and devoured the two most recent Lei Crime Series novellas from Eden Baylee. SEAL of a Monk and Charade at Sea each return to Hawaii and the adventures of Lainey Lee. Eden’s novellas keep a crisp pace, and with each one, we learn more about Lainey Lee, a recently single mother of adult sons, whose beginning her life again after a long, unhappy marriage. SEAL of a Monk introduces compelling former Navy SEAL and security consultant Max Scott, with whom Lainey shares an undeniable chemistry, even as they team up to rescue a lost young woman dear to Lainey’s heart. Charade at Sea reunites Lainey and Max on a luxury cruise around the islands, and once again they join forces to solve a mystery while exploring their newfound passion. Ripe with Eden’s command of the sensuous, these sexy mysteries were a perfect read with my toes in the hot sand.
The Coincidence of Coconut Cake ended up on my Kindle thanks to a promotion that I can’t recall, but I loved this delightful, light romance not only for the feisty, culinary heroine and the charming, awkward hero, but for the author’s unabashed devotion to all things Milwaukee. Having set a novel in a place I love, I understand that need to sing a love song to the sights, scents, and heart of a beloved locale. I devoured this one, all puns intended.
I finished a positively decadent week of pleasure reading with the first two novels in Laurie Breton’s Jackson Falls series. In Coming Home, Casey Bradley’s tumultuous love affair with rock and roll singer Danny Fiore whisks her away from home. Fifteen years and a lifetime of hard, fast living, joy and grief bend Casey’s road home to the life she was always meant to have in Jackson Falls. Sleeping with the Enemy picks up a family thread introduced in Coming Home and ties it neatly back into the tapestry of Jackson Falls. While I loved Casey’s journey in Coming Home, I thought Sleeping With the Enemy was a tighter, better paced story.
Guess what happened then? I drafted these paragraphs and forgot to post them, and fell right back into the nonsense and marvel of day-to-day. You cannot imagine the cobwebs in my WordPress dashboard this evening.
Have you read any of my belated summer reading picks? Id love to hear your thoughts.
This isn’t about cats, but I do think Eliot was on to something, here.
The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn’t just one of your holiday games;
~The Naming of Cats, T.S. Eliot
This is about our goofy family tendencies to name things. The dog’s two favorite plushies, for instance, are called Mungo and Manky. Clearly the dog doesn’t care what their names are, as long as we play tug and fetch until he’s ready to drop. I wanted to call something Alonzo; Felix didn’t approve of it for any of his various stuffed friends, but he thought it was perfect for the concrete tiki in the front garden.
Apparently I spell “Alonzo” like an American. Who knew?
I knit and crochet. I am fond of amigurumi and stuffies. The end result is that my son has any number of handmade critters around his room, Starry the googly-eyed star, Frank the cat, Algernon the Octopus, Claire the Jellyfish. “22216” the friendly AT-AT:
A photo posted by Cameron Garriepy (@camerongarriepy) on
When he was in kindergarten, Felix called his backpack Sharkey (it had comical orange sharks on it), but one morning he told me his jacket’s name was Tom. Clearly. I was reminding him of that as we rushed out the door one morning last week, and then noted the time and said, “What we need to name right now is us getting in the car,” which he took to mean he got to name my car.
He named my car “Al.”
You know how sometimes a name sticks, even when you don’t necessarily want it to? That. So we celebrated by listening to Paul Simon on the way up the street to drop-off. Just call me Betty.
I keep tearing up because two performers passed away.
Alan Rickman and David Bowie: their talents both stolen from the world, their bright lights darkened, their hearts torn from their families. I’ve been sort of obsessively reading tributes, watching and listening to the legacies they left behind, trying to work out why I’m so saddened. The loss of an artist is always a reason to mourn, but I can only recall being this weirdly crushed twice before. When Mary Travers died, and when we lost Philip Seymour Hoffman to his own demons.
I just read a note, in the comments of the video below, from someone thanking Rickman for reading and replying to fanmail he sent when he was 13. The cynic in me assumes it was a toadie working for his publicist who mailed off a signed headshot… but then, what if it was the man himself? By all accounts, he was a good and gentle soul (Bowie, too, from what I’ve read), so why not?
It should not be such a brave thing, to reach out to the world for comfort. It should be the ordinary work of a day to say thank you, to say hello, to say, “Your work means something to me.” To tell someone you know you’re thinking of them, or to mention a passing memory to the person you remembered, even if it’s been a long time. It ought to be completely typical to connect.
And yet, sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes, at least for me, it’s hard to reach out, to place myself in the path of someone I’ve known, or wish to know, or want to acknowledge. (Extrovert problems: craving interaction and human energy, while simultaneously fearing you’re interrupting or intruding.) It’s a weird fear, a throwback to wanting a boy to like you back, or being hurt when someone wasn’t kind, but I am not a little girl or a fidgety teen anymore.
And so, I’m going to say out loud, the word that I’ve been rolling around in my brain for 2016: Connect.
Time to get over being afraid to reach out to the world for whatever reason, because I so love when the world reaches back. And to strengthen my resolve, I will indulge in the late, exceptionally talented Alan Rickman having a rather epic cup of tea. (Time to flip the table on my own reserve.) Maybe while listening to Starman. Because if anyone knew how to live life on his own terms, it was Bowie.