This tradition of mine — looking back on each year for the highlights — is always a good exercise for focusing on the upside of life. That’s not to say any of us can ignore the turmoil around us. Racial unrest, the decay of our national values or our surrender to corporate interests. I like to think the little victories fortify us to fight those greater battles.
From a home fires standpoint, it was a fine year at our house. Rozzie is now in the 4th year of her reign as Queen of the Castle. Lucky for us, she’s a benevolent sovereign. Especially when we remember to hide all the toys that make noise at bedtime. Jenny and I finished the year in reasonably good health for a couple of old gals. I’ve got a possible cyborg remedy on the near horizon for my incessant backache … I’ll let you know how that works out.
I finished my 2013 Top 10 List with this note: “Thanks for hanging with me for another year. Let’s go make 2014 the best ever!” So let’s see how we did.
#10 — This probably won’t mean a lot to most of you because it’s one of those things that happens quietly behind the scenes. Still, it was very important to me in my role as a board member for Lambda Literary. This year, I was asked to take part in a series of seminars sponsored by the Annenberg Foundation called Alchemy+, which were designed to help nonprofits deliver on their mission. To be honest, I wasn’t excited at first about having to go — until our board started putting some of their ideas into action. Ultimately, those four seminars lit a fire underneath our organization and set us on the path for one of our best years ever.
#9 — Last spring I visited a friend of mine who’s doing a post-doc at one of the mighty telescopes atop Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii. I had it in the back of my head that I wanted to set a story there some day, so I set out to do a little research. On the flight over from LA, I found an article in the airline magazine about an experiment conducted on Mauna Kea. Turns out the terrain up there is a lot like Mars, and several training simulations — they’re called analogs — are planned for the area in anticipation of a manned flight to the Red Planet. A story idea was born — T-Minus Two, now in the hands of my editor, due out May 2015 from Bella Books.
#8 — You’re never too old to have heroes, especially when they’re icons like Xena and Wonder Woman. It’s even better when those icons are brought to life by women who deserve hero status of their own. Lucy Lawless and Lynda Carter, a pair of stars who put their celebrity capital on the line to champion humanitarian causes. Those are the sort of people I can get behind. I saw Lucy last week at the Pasadena Playhouse in Sleeping Beauty. And I caught Lynda Carter last spring when she received her star on the Palm Springs Walk of Fame. Definitely worth of the highlight list.
#7 — And speaking of Lucy Lawless, the annual Xena Convention always makes my list. It actually saddens me to realize I likely won’t ever recapture the feeling of those Xena days. The power, the passion. The subtext. Were it not for the gift of fanfiction, I wouldn’t be writing today. The annual trek to Burbank gives me a chance to catch up with my dear friends and celebrate those magical days.
#6 — I did a couple of library events this year, one at the Palm Springs Public Library and another at the LGBT Center of Raleigh (hat tip to JJ Crabb for setting that one up). It is unbelievably cool to look up from a book to see a roomful of lesbians who gave up their afternoon to come hear me read. It’s even cooler when the backdrop is a busy library.
#5 — It isn’t often one’s passions intersect so perfectly, but I enjoyed that with my summer release, Anyone But You. I know, I know — romance readers want romance — but it sure is fun to mix that romance with a serious message. Some readers complain that political stories can be preachy, but I can live with that. Lesbians like strong characters, women who do heroic things. It takes a hero to fight the fossil fuel industry, or any industry that thinks it’s above the law.
#4 — I celebrated a major milestone this year — my 20th Bella Book, Life After Love. The dedication page gave me a chance to thank all the women at Bella Books for their hefty role in my success, from the editors and proofreaders on down to the ones who pack the boxes and answer the phones. I count myself lucky every time I see that yellow emblem on the spine of one of my books.
#3 — There will never be a year when the annual GCLS conference doesn’t land high on my highlight list. This year we journeyed to beautiful Portland, OR, for five days of lesbian book talk with several hundred of my closest friends. Shortlisted for a couple of Goldies — nice! And I had the great honor of hosting a panel called “I Wish I’d Written That,” a review of some of the greatest characters, plots, premises and word-turning, featuring three of the finest writers in our genre. If you are a lesbian book fan, you *must* get thee to a GCLS con. Next one is July in New Orleans.
#2 — Like the GCLS con, the Lammy ceremony in NY always ends up among the top events of my year. Sitting on the board gives me a major stake in the outcome, and I was proud this year to be part of such a fabulous event. I went all fangirl over meeting AM Homes, and my cheer is probably still reverberating off the rafters for Katherine V. Forrest’s Lammy win for High Desert. It was especially nice to see Radclyffe pick up the Jim Duggins Mid-Career Award … until I realized she’s “mid-career” at 40 books and I’ve written only half that many. Obviously, I should have been writing faster all these years.
#1 — In 2013, my #1 highlight was all of you who answered the call to support the charities and causes I championed. You’re #1 again for this year, but I’m feeling a bit more selfish about your contributions. Like the fact that you’ve sustained me through 20 books by continuing to spend your hard-earned cash on me when you have so many choices. Or that you’ve taken the time to post reviews, drop notes or leave kind remarks on social media. That you show up for conferences, book clubs and library events, and you tune in for radio shows and download the podcasts. It’s an honor for me to sign your books, to pose for photos. I’ve heard too many of you say, “I’m just a reader.” That means I’ve failed to let you know how important you are. I think of you every time I sit down to write. Let me take this chance to say thank you.
So let’s put 2014 to bed and get to work on the next one. I’ve got a few resolutions I’ll share in a couple of weeks. Happy New Year to all, and thanks for reading.