Jingle Bells

I was tired all day yesterday–very low energy for most of the day, too tired to deal with a lot of anything. I spent the day making condom packs and watching a strange reality show on HBO MAX–Finding Magic Mike–and it really wasn’t what I was expecting, to be honest. I was thinking it was going to be an excellent piece of camp; Bravo had tried this with the trashy Manhunt, which was about casting a male strip review in Las Vegas. But this was…different. This was about helping the contestants “find their magic” by gaining confidence in themselves by learning how to perform for women while taking their clothes off. “I don’t feel like the main character in my life story anymore,” one of them says in the first episode, and many of the others echo the same kind of discontent and dissatisfaction with their lives. The process of the show was kind of interesting, and the contestants were actually kind of likable? (One was incredibly arrogant, but the editors did a really nice job of softening his edges by showing other sides of him, interacting with the others and helping them? He was the closest thing to a villain the show had, and I was actually kind of glad the editing didn’t try to fit the contestants into the boxes you usually see on competition shows.) It was actually kind of nice to see, particularly as the contestants bonded with each other.

So, while I was kind of disappointed in it, at the same time I was rather glad I watched. It did make me think about a lot of this “cultural war” stuff; like how “men aren’t men anymore”–but I would posit that men never used to be men, either; it was all a facade because of societal expectations placed on men to be “tough” or “strong” or “big boys don’t cry” and make them emotionally distant and disconnected from everyone in their lives. Societal norms and expectations when it comes to gender roles are quite damaging, I think–and while of course there are those who bemoan the breakdowns of those cultural norms. I do think/feel/believe that that the breaking down of gender roles and the redefinitions coming in their wake will make for a stronger society in the long run. I found male gender roles to be terribly confining and revolted against them most of my life; which means–in theory, at any rate–that my life has been subversive.

Which, while a cheery thought, is also kind of sad.

And I certainly didn’t expect a reality show where guys learned how to strip like Vegas professionals to lead me down a brain wormhole of examining masculinity roles and expectations. So, well done, HBO MAX and producer Channing Tatum. Well done, indeed.

I am going to work on the book as much as I can today, while cleaning and organizing; I have to do a live reading and panel thing this afternoon–which means turning on the camera in the computer, which means people can see the kitchen behind me, which means it can’t be in the condition it currently is in–and I am also supposed to record some promo videos. Sigh. I really hate being on camera and I really hate the sound of my own voice. But I agreed to do all of this, like it or not, and so I really need to commit and get it all done. I also need to figure out when all the things I’ve agreed to do are actually due, because the first quarter of 2022 looks to be booking up with all kinds of things that need to get taken care of and I need to pay attention to, or else I am going to be horribly frantic in the first few months of the next year.

And one thing I really need to get done is this book. I need to make enough progress into it so that I am not feeling stress about it–good luck with that, right?–because that stress will shorten my fuse and make me start snapping at people, and that’s not a good thing on any level. For anyone. I need to plan and make lists and get organized.

Last night I dipped into Death by Dumpling by Vivien Chien, and it’s absolutely charming. I also found my copy of Johnny Tremain and read the first chapter again–which is so dramatically different from the film that I am now wondering how much of what I remember of the book is actually from the film? Paul is going to be gone most of the day–he has Wacky Russian in the morning and then he is going into the office–so I am going to try to get as much writing done as I can before three my time, which is when I need to start rehearsing my reading for the panel at 4 central time. I also have to do a promo video for #shedeservedit, and I also have to record a short reading from “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy,” which I am dreading. I’ve never liked seeing recordings of myself, am usually not terribly fond of photos of myself either (until years have passed), and I absolutely hate the sound of my voice. I am not sure what that is–a lack of confidence in myself? More deep-rooted self-loathing? Not feeling like the main character in the story of my life? (Damn you, Finding Magic Mike, for triggering all these self-questioning self-examinations in my head!)

I also finished reading Nightwing: Leaping into the Light, and it was, as I expected it would be, truly wonderful. I also started evaluating Nightwing as a character and why I connect with him so much; which will inevitably the blog entry/review of the book, no doubt–and possibly another essay at some point as well. (Honestly. I have so many essay ideas…maybe make that a part of the new year’s goals; finish the essays.)

I did make a list yesterday of all the writing that I have to get done by the end of the year, or by the end of January, and it’s staring at me from my notebook. I am resisting the urge to flip it over and not look at it, but I really do need to know and I really do need to get to work on all of these things. Ass in chair, fingers on keyboard is what is absolutely called for here, and focus.

So, on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Saturday before Christmas, Constant Reader, and I will talk to you tomorrow.

Only One Love In My Life

Hey there, Friday. Here’s looking at you, Kid.

So all the stuff with Romance Writers of America finally came to an end yesterday with the resignations of their president (good riddance) and his partner in crime, the executive director (see ya!). What does this mean? It means that perhaps the long and slow and painful process of rebuilding the organization can begin–and a lot of the nasty racists outed themselves, which is always a good thing. Me? I’d rather know who they are myself–same with the homophobes and the misogynists and all the others.

But all of this reminded me of one of my favorite mystery novels of all time: Die for Love by Elizabeth Peters.

Elizabeth Peters is one of my favorite writers of all time, bar none. I am also an enormous fan of her more supernatural pseudonym, Barbara Michaels. Her novels as Peters, though–my God, so clever and witty and laugh out loud funny. I absolutely adore her Amelia Peabody series; decades of reading pleasure as we follow the adventures of heiress Amelia as she meets, falls in love and marries  her Egyptologist husband Emerson–all the while solving murders and catching antiquities thieves. The series was wonderful.

But Die for Love isn’t a Peabody novel. Peters also wrote two other series; one featuring an assistant museum curator named Vicky Bliss (some of the best opening lines ever), and another, featuring Jacqueline Kirby, head librarian at a small Midwestern college who is sharply intelligent and knows how to not only take advantage of an opportunity but squeeze every bit of use out of it as well. The earlier Kirby novels are quite intelligent and well done; The Murders of Richard III is a particular standout, in which a Richard III society’s members begin to be murdered in the same manner–and order– as the King’s victims in the Shakespearean play of his life.

Jacqueline, as head librarian, has a budget that allows her to travel to literary events–in order to increase her knowledge and to find authors/books to highlight and stock in the library–and generally finds events in places she wants to visit. So she decides to visit a romance convention in New York, and murder–and hilarity–ensue. I’ve always loved this book, and one of the things that is perhaps the funniest–or was to me, over the years, but now I’m kind of rethinking it–is that Jacqueline, who is a speed reader, reads some of the romance novels written by the biggest names in the business while she’s investigating the murder, and realizes I can do this. She also starts, whenever she has a spare moment, scribbling away at her own romance novel.

In the next, and sadly, final book of the Kirby series, Naked Once More, we find that Jacqueline is no longer employed as a librarian as she is now an international bestselling romance novelist. Naked Once More is just as funny as Die for Love, frankly; all of Peters’ books are delightfully witty and funny.

I should reread Die for Love. Let me add it to the Reread Project.

I am putting in eight hours today rather than my usual half-day Friday because I am taking Monday off for the game. We’re supposed to have horrible weather tomorrow morning (hail, tornadoes, flash flooding), so welcome, Clemson fans? But then I am coming home and hoping to get back to the writing. I am working on a secret project–Lord, how many things am I working on at the same time?–which actually started coming together the other night, and I am anxious to get that all done, hopefully over the course of this weekend, along with the website copy I need to write and some short stories, as well as some more work on Bury Me in Shadows.

We started watching Manhunt on Acorn last night, and it’s intriguing; we will continue, and then another episode of Messiah, which is really picking up speed. I’ve also heard good things about Dracula, and of course HBO’s adaptation of The Outsider premieres this weekend as well. Sex Education and Schitt’s Creek are also back, if not already, then soon–so that’s my television watching in my free time sorted for quite some time.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, everyone.

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