In one of my favorite New Yorker cartoons, a young boy is sitting at the kitchen table saying to his mother, “I say it’s broccoli and I say the hell with it.”
Well, I say this year is over and I say the hell with it.
But, as the saying goes, “Every dark cloud has a silver lining.” 2020 had its redeeming features. It grew easier to connect online with people who were separated by distance. For those of us lucky enough to shelter with others, it was a chance to deepen those relationships. And for people with a list of deferred projects to do someday, the elusive someday finally arrived, as calendars emptied and the pace of the world slowed. Writers locked up for months on end tend to write. Unexpected sorrow and unexpected growth were two faces of this strange year, for me, and perhaps for you too?
I’m writing this on Christmas and my children and grandchildren are far away. I’ve yet to meet a grandson born In April in New York City at the prior peak of the pandemic. Another grandson will be born in California in February, perhaps in a hospital, or perhaps of necessity at home. But nothing lasts forever, not even a pandemic, and the New York Times reports that a million people have already been vaccinated. When my turn arrives, I will get on my horse and ride to one coast and then the other.
This year’s slow holidays turned out to be a great time for watching television, a form of entertainment I typically limit to an hour a few times a week. But these days everything is on television: theater, ballet, concerts. I tuned in to a new show produced by Shonda Rimes that premiered on Christmas. Bridgerton is a Regency costume drama about an alternate timeline where the British aristocracy includes people of African as well as European ancestry. Rimes is building a fascinating career upending our expectations about race and gender, as she did in her previous hit show, Scandal. In Shondaland, racism is acknowledged yet the plots play with “what if” in a big way. And those fictional models can pave the way for real change. I sometimes wonder whether Scandal played a role in preparing our collective consciousness for a black woman vice president.
In Stellaland (a relatively obscure part of the multiverse), it is gender and age where counter-tropes are at play. Ageism and sexism are acknowledged, yet the stories are about the sexual agency and passion of women after midlife. I began the year by writing a screenplay of Brilliant Charming Bastard, a story about three women scientists in their sixties who find out they are all dating the same lying dilettante and join together to plot their revenge. I finished writing the script March 2, planning to expend it into a novel. But by March 6 we were in lockdown, and suddenly the premise of a man cheating with three women was far too serious and unappealing. A cheater could be a fatal disease vector, which was not what I had in mind. So I switched gears and wrote The Erotic Pandemic Ball, a set of interlinked stories about the sex lives of women in a locked down senior community.
Meanwhile my other half (MOH) and I had been talking about the economics of publishing. Self-publishing essentially flips the numbers on their head: The standard royalty through a traditional publisher is 15% whereas the standard revenue when self-publishing is 85%. Of course, you earn that 85% by doing everything your traditional publisher would have done. We had learned a lot about book marketing and publicity when I published Aphrodite’s Pen in 2019 with the excellent folks at North Atlantic Books, and MOH decided to take that learning to the next level. He spent much of 2020 studying the nuts and bolts of online publishing, including how to format a book, how to upload and publish books to multiple platforms, and how to publish Print on Demand hard copies. Over the last few months, we published our first fruits including the FREE short story “Terraforming” and "Her Poly Pod" the FREE first volume of the three Tales of Love in Lockdown series.
Check your favorite ebook platform for all of my books - You'll find then on Apple Books, Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, Google Play Books, and Kobo.
The complete Tales of Love in Lockdown is now available.
The first in the series, Her Poly Pod, is a FREE download on all platforms.
Click on each cover (above) for details or for download links
With a cover designed by the talented Diana Rosinus and with MOH's great work designing the book interior, we were ready to go this month with The EroticPandemic Ball, published on Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google Books and elsewhere. Our publicity campaign is just getting underway—stay tuned!
In November I circled back to Brilliant Charming Bastard and wrote a draft of the novel during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The novel is now set in post-pandemic California, which solves my dilemma of wanting the cheater to be a bad boy but not a killer. NaNoWriMo is a great source of free support for writers, including their “What’s Next?” editing campaign in January and February. I look forward to editing the Bastard draft making use of the creative editing tools I developed and wrote about in Aphrodite’s Pen. And I look forward to self-publishing Brilliant Charming Bastard in 2021.
So, yes, I say this year is over and I say the hell with it. People I love and care about were sickened by the coronavirus or were affected indirectly by pandemic isolation. Other people I know faced serious illnesses and were cut off from the support of loving friends. I miss my children on both coasts terribly. And from the day we locked down to the end of her life, I never saw my mother in her care home again. Yet 2020 had its moments, its accomplishments, its tender memories. I hope it did for you as well. Let’s get out our sparkly earrings, pop a bottle of champagne, and sing a round of Auld Lang Syne.
I publish two blog articles (published online on the 10th and the 20th) and this newsletter every month, so you hear from me (or a guest blogger) a couple of times a month. Below is a brief extract from each of last month's blogs - click the links for the whole enchilada! If you've ever considered getting your voice out there, I welcome suggestions for topics, or a fully written guest piece in line with my philosophy for the site. Drop me a line......
Betty Dodson was a sexual pioneer who believed that in order to be truly equal, women must be independent from men for their sexual satisfaction. She is famous for her trailblazing work empowering women through masturbation, including her book, Sex for One, and her many hands-on workshops. “The Pleasure is Ours,” an episode of The Goop Lab that features Betty and her business partner Carlin Ross, was filmed when Betty was ninety. The Cut calls this Netflix show “a master class in vulvae, sexual pleasure, and intimacy.”
She died on Halloween 2020 at the age of 91.............
My mother died on Pandemic Thanksgiving. She spent the last two years of her life in hospice, in a nursing home, and most of the last year of her life cut off from family and visitors. She did not die of the virus. She was blessed to have care staff who moved into the facility and locked themselves away from their own families to keep my mother and the other residents safe. Such a gift cannot be measured. I like to think Mom would have done the same, had there been a pandemic in her earlier years, when she was Director of Nurses in an elder care facility.
Mom was a nursing student in Chicago during World War II.
You may remember the terrific guest post by my friend Simone LaBerge, “Sexuality Down the Decades,” where she reflected on her own sexual development from childhood to her seventies and talked about her hopes for the years ahead.
Her writing inspired me to create a free short course to help you to reflect on your journey so far and your hopes for the days to come.
Sign up for a fascinating interior journey, and share the details with your close friends and on social media please!