Carol of the Bells

Well, I am officially on Christmas holiday. No working at home this Thursday; I do have some errands to run and I am hoping–really hoping–that once I return from these errands I won’t have to go outside for anything other than going to the gym over the next few days. I also am hoping to be incredibly productive: to get some writing, cleaning and organizing done; and some serious and intense reading. Here’s hoping!

Huzzah!

This cold snap (go ahead and sneer, all those who live north of I-10) has been wonderful for my sleep. I slept well again last night and thus feel very well-rested this morning. There’s just something about a warm, comfortable bed and piles of blankets that make sleeping much better for me. (The problem in places that get super cold is that I never want to get out of the bed–well, one of many problems I have with cold weather.) As I mentioned, I have some errands to run today and other than that, this is a free day at home for me, and I hope to use my time wisely. I never did pay the bills yesterday–they aren’t due until next week at any rate–so I should probably go ahead and get that out of the way at some point today or tomorrow; I also need to get some things from the store and pick up the mail, and let’s face it; today will be better to do that than any other day this weekend. The book continues apace; it’s halfway done now and hopefully by the end of the weekend will be much deeper into it and closer to being finished. Huzzah!

So, back to the blatant self-promotion. Part of the reason I am so bad at self-promotion is because promotion, in theory, is about beating the drum and shouting your name from the rooftops and trying to engage people into being interested in buying, or at least thinking about buying, your latest book. I tend to constantly question myself about everything–was this my place to write this book; could I have done a better job of it; and so on. I hate begging people to review my books, let alone read them; and of course I am never comfortable bragging about myself or feeling secure in myself and with my work (that “humility” part of my upbringing) that I inevitably always default to self-deprecation, which is also self-defeating, which is also a part of my own personal psychosis that I need to either control or cure myself from–it’s hard to be successful when you are constantly undermining yourself.

One of the major difficulties about writing for teenagers is that, well, I don’t really know any. I do remember being a teenager–the best advice someone gave me while writing my first y/a many years ago was “just remember everything is the end of the world to them”–but the world is dramatically different for teens today than it was back in the Pleistocene era when I was one. (So much for “write what you know,” right?) But I don’t think the emotional lives of teenagers are any different than they used to be; sure, they grew up with the Internet and smart phones and communicating through apps become obsolete and passé between first and second drafts–and trying to decipher the abbreviations and emojis and so forth would need Champollion and the Rosetta Stone–but being a teenager today, with it’s technological differences, doesn’t mean their interior lives have changed that much. Sure, the bullying and it happening on-line are significantly different than it was when I was a teenager–I am so glad we didn’t have social media and smart phones when I was in high school–but like I said, trying to be accurate about the apps they use to communicate can quickly date your book, so I try to leave as much of that out of them as possible. One of the things I absolutely hated about young adult/juvenile fiction when I actually was one myself was it never seemed real to me; the characters weren’t anyone I actually knew–I remember one book where the teenagers were into Gilbert & Sullivan and this was completely alien to me. There also seemed to be a sort of Hayes-like code for these books; and while I know that the 1970’s was also a period of change and more explosive topics for books for kids (Judy Blume, anyone?), the vast majority of books targeted at me didn’t interest me. I also always hated preachy books; and so avoided ones that dealt with “controversial” topics because they inevitably had A Very Valuable Lesson to Teach, something I try to avoid when I myself am writing about something controversial.

Following the stories of what happened in Steubenville and Marysville, and other stories like the Stanford Rapist and this recent one about the kid who was drugging and raping girls on Long Island and will serve no time, deeply offended my own personal sense of justice, fairness, and equality. As a gay man who has been directly discriminated against as well as passively (the micro-aggressions and daily reminders from a culture and society riddled with systemic homophobia are endless), I never like to see other people treated unfairly, either individually or as a group. For many years, I was so focused on homophobia and concern about HIV/AIDS that I basically had tunnel vision and was unable to see how what I experienced personally and as a part of a minority group extrapolated to other marginalized groups. This was partly because I was raised in a society where that marginalization was the norm; my gender and skin shielded me from it for the most part and the loss of privilege experienced as a result of my own sexuality was outrageous in some ways to my sense of justice and fairness, therefore that was the priority of any and all activism from me.

But as I slowly undid the conditioning and lessons of my childhood, and given the reckoning triggered by the aforementioned cases as well as the #metoo and #timesup movements, I felt toxic masculinity and its companion rape culture needed to be something I addressed in my writing. I started with some short stories–“The Silky Veils of Ardor” for one, and “This Town” for another–all the while the Kansas book was being developed and worked on in the background and around other contacted manuscripts. Homophobia is, after all, deeply rooted in toxic masculinity; and I began to realize how interconnected all forms of discrimination are; what theorists refer to as ‘Intersectionality.’ I’ve always, after all, written about homophobia and discrimination of some sort, so why not expand myself and where I am mentally, extrapolate everything I’ve experienced to other similar situations and issues involving other marginalized groups? The Diversity Project I’ve embarked on over the past few years, reading other voices that are non-white, has broadened my mind in so many ways that I wish had not been necessary, and I am rather resentful that my own education was so narrow and so exclusionary. But at least I am aware of its failures, and my own that resulted from this lack; although it can be frustrating from time to time to see something much more clearly that I should have always been conditioned to see clearly; and I hate that I had on blinders that I wasn’t aware I was wearing.

I am trying to do better. I am trying to be better. And I am getting better at noticing defaults that are problematic, that are a result of the cultural and societal conditioning of my childhood and most of the first half of my life that it took me far too long to start questioning.

And you now see why I am so shitty at self-promotion.

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