…and Happy New Year 2014

Twenty-fourteen has started with a nice little burst of energy. I got the flu in late December (it may very well have been swine flu, since H1N1 is a predominant strain this year) and was knocked flat on my back for 3-4 days. The funny thing about that time is that I enjoyed the exhaustion. There was really nothing to do but rest.

And now, I feel good about putting 2013 behind me. I think we all do… I wanted to mention two people who impressed me last year. Pope Francis seemed an odd choice for pope, yet has become already both beloved and controversial. In a recent in-depth New Yorker article, the reason for the pope’s humility and soul-searching was revealed. During the Dirty War of the 1970s, the pope played an ambiguous role. (He was head of the Jesuit order in Argentina then, I believe.) Two rebel priests left the order and were picked up and tortured by the security forces. They weren’t killed, like so many people were during that time, but they believed that Francis didn’t do enough to save them. Another woman, Esther, whom Francis was very close to, was one of the “mothers of the disappeared.” She eventually met a tragic death, being one of those prisoners who were taken out in helicopters, disemboweled, and then dumped into the sea.

It’s clear that guilt and suffering, which have played such a role in Francis’s life, have made him who he is, able to empathize with homosexuals, the sick, the poor. He is the first pope whom I’ve ever felt any interest in or affection for. John Paul II was all glitz and gloss.

As for Edward Snowden, I am thrilled that he has been partially vindicated. Now we know that there is a massive program of spying going on in the US and that the NSA has a virtually unlimited reach. Snowden was willing to throw his life down the toilet to disclose these things. He’s acted carefully and shrewdly. I don’t blame him for wanting to stay alive: he presumably knows a lot more about what the special services are capable of than we do. He described himself to a journalist recently as “an indoor cat.” May he have nine lives!

fiery_green_horseTwenty-fourteen is the Year of the Green Wood Horse in Chinese Astrology. That makes it a yang year. I am more comfortable in yin years than in yang ones—I generally fear the fast-moving and sometimes drastic incidents of previous Horse years. In 2002 my mother died unexpectedly and I lost my full-time job shortly afterward. I was also asked to leave the longtime writing group I’d been in for more than ten years. All that upheaval was drastic. But this year may be better. Doesn’t a green wood horse have a benign, creative feel to it, like a child’s toy?

Take a look at this gallery of Year of the Horse images from the CBC blog. And check out the Google Doodle on January 31 🙂

Here are some things I look forward to in 2014:

1) Getting my new health insurance card from Covered California. Like a lot of Americans, I’m supposedly covered as of Jan. 1 but haven’t received confirmation yet. Here’s hoping! Affordable individual health insurance has been something I’ve been craving for years.

2) Doing more reviewing through NetGalley. Now that I have a Kindle, I’m able to receive electronic ARCs (advance review copies) of interesting books. I come across books I never would have noticed before. One of my recent reviews was of Gyles Brandreth’s The 7 Secrets of Happiness: A Reluctant Optimist’s Journey.  Any book that treats chocolate seriously as a happiness-enhancer is worth it, in my view.

3) The new season of Downton Abbey starts Sunday—and I’ll be glued to it.

Book news update: My erotic historical short, “The Captain and Claire,” had a recent KDP Select promotion. Subsequently, I was thrilled to see that for a short while in December it reached #1 in the paid lesbian fiction category in the Canadian Amazon store! It has been selling briskly in the UK as well.

About Gabriella West

Author of LGBT historical fiction and contemporary queer romance. Copyeditor/proofreader.
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