Happy New Year!

Do you make New Year’s resolutions?  I don’t normally make them, at least since high school, but last year I set a goal.  It was to get my book published.

I didn’t complete it, but it encouraged me to start the process.  This year’s goal (I prefer that word to resolution) is the same.  I think I will continue to make this my resolution until it happens or I decide to self-publish.

What is your New Year’s goal and/or resolution?

Doing Battle on the Football Field

I attended the Texas Bowl yesterday, where I cheered the University of Illinois Fighting Illini on to victory.  It was incredibly fun, but I also had an interesting insight.  Football is a little like war.

It has probably been said multiple times.  This is not a new concept.  The piece that I realized came when Kamryn, a friend of mine, said that she was surprised at how emotionally involved she got in the game.  She is a U of I alum, and I grew up cheering for the Illini at home basketball games.  As she started late at the school (she was a transfer student) her school spirit was somewhat less than other graduates of the university (like my dad).  I may have been a die-hard Illini fan as a child, but I went to a completely different university and now have my own favorite teams.  Neither of us had attended any type of Illinois sporting event for years.

Yet somehow we were both on our feet, swaying to “Hail to the orange” and yelling “I-N-I!”  Even though we were sitting surrounded by Baylor fans, the memories of cheering and singing came back, and the adrenaline rush of watching our team score a touchdown filled both of us. 

This is how football feels like war.  We are loyal to a “side,” and even if our loyalty is fleeting, it is all-consuming.  The other team becomes the “bad guys” for the duration of the event, and while no one wishes injury or death on the opposition, you are cheering with great sincerity for them to lose.

An interesting perspective to keep in mind as I am preparing to write a battle of my own.  🙂

A Printer Called Chihuahua

I had a compact, cheap printer in college that sat on a shelf on top of my monitor.  It was perfect when I switched to a laptop; together they took up less than half of my desk.  This little printer had an attitude.  If the paper went in incorrectly it would jam.  If there was too much paper, it would pull two or three sheets nearly at once, ruining all the pages and requiring a reprint.  I ended up babysitting the thing during any large print jobs.

I called it the Chihuahua.

The printer died a few years ago, requiring a replacement.  I have recently found myself once again without a printer, and today (thanks to some gift money) I bought a new one.  Inexpensive, small, with limited capabilities, I think it is the updated version of the Chihuahua.  It’ll be interesting to see, once it’s connected and in use, if it lives up to its predecessor.

Now I have a printer.  You know what that means: time for query letters!

Writing Letters

I use writing to deal with emotions and thoughts that I don’t know how to express otherwise.  Besides poetry and emotional writing practice, I’ve written (un-sent) letters to coworkers, friends, family, and even significant others.  These letters are a chance to put what I’m feeling down on paper.  Once they are written down, they usually stop circling my head and dominating my thoughts.

Here is my dilemma: at what point are un-sent letters not enough?  At what point do I use those letters to organize my thoughts and present my emotions, my responses to situations, to the person who needs to hear them?  The few times I have shared letters with someone went incredibly poorly; instead of giving that person insight into my side of the issue, they inflamed an already volatile situation into a full-scale argument.  (Granted, I know now that the other person involved was never going to listen to my side of things, so I can’t take his reaction as the only possible response.)

I am in another situation that I fear has gotten to the point that writing down how I feel and keeping it to myself is not going to suffice.  It’s hard to be upset with someone for not considering my feelings if they haven’t heard my feelings.  So here again is the question: when is writing letters not enough?  When is it worth exposing myself to a possible negative or angry response so that the person in question has heard my side of the story?

Steps to a Story: a necessary thank you

When I was home for Thanksgiving, I had the chance to visit with some of my mom’s side of the family.  At that point, I asked a huge favor of one of my cousins.  I have to thank him profusely for helping me out with Matthew’s story.

You see, my cousin Bryan is a retired Marine who had been stationed in Iraq.  The favor that I asked of him was this: to tell me what he looked at, what he noticed, when he entered a town.  I figured that if anyone in my family could give me an idea of how a soldier sees the world, it would be him.  (I do need to mention that my mom suggested it first.  Credit where credit is due, after all!) 

Bryan asked for some time to think about his answer, and a few days later came through with the information I needed.  I know that it was probably not an easy or comfortable thing to do, reflecting back on that time.  Today I incorporated his response into my story, and into Matthew’s point of view; it made me think of things differently than I see them, and I am incredibly grateful to my wonderful cousin for his contribution to the story.

A Merry Dragon Christmas!

My first Christmas alone turned out to be a good one.  It also turned out to be a dragon Christmas.  🙂

My secret Santa gave me, as part of my gift, a fabulous dragon pop-up book.  My parents gave me How to Train Your Dragon on DVD, as well as the matching ornament.  I promise to be surprised, because he hasn’t given it to me yet, but my friend Jack told me he knitted me a stuffed dragon. 

Even besides the dragons, this was a good holiday.  I got off work early yesterday, which makes for a nice, longer-than-normal weekend.  I spent a wonderful (albeit rainy) Christmas Eve with friends and dogs, Skyping was a fun way to open presents with my family, and while all of the Chinese restaurants we went to were closed, I did get to have Mediterranean food for dinner.  🙂

I hope you had a wonderful holiday!  Don’t forget the last part of Bonded posts tomorrow. 🙂

Creature of Habit

Tonight my dog Eli and I went to visit friends for the evening.  He enjoys these visits as much as I do because my friends have two dogs, Illy and Georgia, who adore him.

Watching the dogs play and do all the other things that dogs do I realized that dogs are the epitome of creatures of habit.  The girls’ routine is different from my dog’s routine, and watching him adjust to that is always interesting.  Eli is used to being walked and then fed sometime between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. which means that even if I walked him at 3 a.m. (a very rare occurrence) he still insists on going out again by 8.  Even if it means he has to wake me up.

He also has the ingrained routine of going out as soon as I come home from work.  It doesn’t matter what time; even if I work a half-day, he needs to pee the moment I walk through the door.  Bedtime (which means another walk and more food) is a bit more flexible, but he’ll start to whine and bug me if it gets to be too much past 10 p.m. without going outside.  I think the main motivator there is his stomach, not his bladder.  Apparently he has a completely different routine when he stays with our friends; tonight the girls got dinner at their usual time and he stood where his bowl would be if he were staying longer than an evening. 

If only it were that easy to establish a habit in people (or at least in myself).  I tried to set an evening routine that included writing about a month or two ago.  It stuck for a while, but life got in the way.  Perhaps if I was less social and spent more time in my apartment, it would be easier.  I’m just hoping that I can get some serious writing done on Sunday, when I’ll be home alone with few tasks.  🙂 

Hope your holiday weekend has been great so far, and continues in the same vein!!

Christmas Alone

It doesn’t really feel like Christmas is almost here.  Maybe that’s because, for the first time ever, I will be spending Christmas alone.

Don’t feel too sorry for me; I don’t mind, and I’m looking forward to having an enforced idle weekend.  I also chose not to decorate my apartment (apparently plugging in the tree-scented air freshener doesn’t really count) so there is no holiday spirit in my personal space.

Back to this alone thing, though; I spent every childhood Christmas with my family (and our multitude of traditions).  Even when I went away to high school and then moved away to college, I was always home for the holidays.  My first Christmas after college I was jobless and living at home (haven’t we all done that?) and my first Christmas in Texas my family came down to visit.  After that, well, I had a significant other who was first boyfriend, then fiancée, then husband – all of which mean that he was part of my holiday.

As he is no longer part of my life, and I am not going home nor is my family coming to visit, the reality is simple: I am alone for Christmas.  Although alone may not be the right word.  I’m not exactly sure what word would be better.

I’m spending Christmas Eve with two of my good friends and all three of our dogs.  We’re probably going to get food, then drive around and look at Christmas lights.  I’m Skyping with my family Christmas morning to trade presents (I hope my package makes it on time!) and a friend and I are probably going to go get Chinese food for lunch.  I don’t know that you could truly define that as alone – it seems like a lot of other people involved in my holiday.  I am really looking forward to it, and to some down time (and writing time) during the weekend.

Even with all of that, it still doesn’t feel like tomorrow’s Christmas Eve.

Religion in Fantasy

One of the hardest moments for me in writing Butterflies came when I had to describe a wedding.  The reason this was difficult was because I had to address a question I had not considered prior to the wedding: religion.

I know that weddings do not necessarily require religion to happen, but for many people the ceremony is based on the forms and traditions of their faith.  As Butterflies is set in a world that I created, it fell to me to create everything about the people and culture.  Religion is a part of this, and this issue has been handled differently by different authors.

In most fantasy worlds that are very strongly magical, I have typically seen two variations on religion.  Either the belief system and the magic are heavily intertwined (as in The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan) or the magic makes religion a moot point.  Ursula K. LeGuin explained in a description of Earthsea that relatively common magic use in part of the world had precluded the development of an organized religion. 

Several of my favorite authors have a different approach.  For these authors, the deities in the story are heavily active in the lives of their chosen people.  Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series is fairly light on magic, as fantasy goes, but is full of gods and angels intervening in the lives of the characters.  Some of the cultures in Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books get their ability to work with magic (on its own a natural phenomenon) from the very involved goddess or god of their people. 

I have read some fantasy that takes place in a setting similar to medieval Europe.  In these books religion seems similar to what is expected for Europe at the time.  And then there is fantasy that doesn’t really approach the question at all; if it weren’t for that wedding, I would never have felt the need to address the issue in Butterflies.  Honestly, I kept it pretty simple; I described the ritual and a brief glimpse into the beliefs, but I didn’t dig around or get philosophical about it.  I figured that was sufficient.

Holiday Traditions!

In honor of the upcoming holiday, I’m going to share with you three of my favorite Christmas traditions from my childhood.  Although everyone celebrates different holidays in different ways, my family is a Christmas family.  Here are three of my favorites, in no particular order:

  • Wrapping paper!

In order to keep my sister and me from peeking at presents, the gifts under the tree were never labeled.  Instead, gifts for the same person were wrapped in the same paper.  An even number of similarly sized gifts would show up under the tree, half in one paper and half in the other.  Trying to reason out or simply guess which paper was whose was always one of my favorite games before Christmas.  I didn’t want to peek; I just liked the puzzle of the paper.  We found out Christmas morning, when our stockings were outside our doors with everything inside wrapped to match.

  • Christmas countdowns

We had several ways to count down to Christmas: a nativity scene we made in preschool (“On the 7th, add a sheep”), the neat Beary Merry Christmas wall hanging (“19: He looked in the attic”), the fabric tree (add an ornament every day) and, every once in a while, chocolate.  Counting down helped to build the anticipation while (I suspect) kept down the whines of “is it Christmas yet?”

  • Listing gifts

My parents were always generous at Christmas.  After we had moved our treasure to our bedrooms and had breakfast, Mom would always break out the paper and pens.  She’d tell us how many gifts we had gotten from them (not counting from each other or other relatives) and we would have to list them without looking at the piles.  Again, something fun that made my brain work and also helped me to be more thankful for what I received.  Every year I forgot at least one gift, usually something small or unexpected, and we’d have to rattle off the lists to Mom to see what we’d missed.

What are your favorite holiday traditions from your childhood?

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