The snow is falling and it’s so magically quite here. Forecasts say light snow in my area and a huge snowstorm moving east. We dodged that bullet. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed. I was looking forward to snow lanterns. My husband digs potholes in the snow and puts candles in them. Talk about magical.
For more than twenty years we’ve hosted a Christmas eve party for people who have nowhere to go, or no family to spend the holiday with. The roots go into my childhood. My family always gathered on Christmas eve. The day before we’d gather and make Italian sausage (with the grinder and the whole shebang) to cook the next day for our party. It’s always on the menu for our party, though I admit I buy the sausage from an Italian grocer instead of knocking myself out with a grinder and casings.
When my kids were little it was always our family that did the traveling to one sister’s house or the other. Even if that ride happened to be 70 miles away. I remember many times I was practically a zombie when I returned home to finish helping Santa get his show on the road for morning. Those early days with my young family made me the proactive person I am today. Don’t wait until the last minute to do holiday things that must get done. Plan better. And I do!
There are only three of us left in that once big family of mine. Geography has us scattered across several states. After our first sister passed away our individual families drew inward. The family gathering when we did get together was subdued and for me, quite sad. My family unit had a few years where Christmas eve consisted of staying home to watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas or attending the holiday service at the small church in town. Then one year a friend I’d just made at work revealed her and her boys had nowhere to go. They came here.
A few years went by and another small family of friends with nowhere to go joined us. It’s been twenty years now and our “orphans’ party” expects 41 people this year. It’s no trouble at all to host a party this size. I love hosting parties. My skill set was honed from living at an open air camp where each meal fed a minimum of 50 people in addition to staff, and sometimes 200. Having learned the trick of layering to see to preparations, I do things in stages each day and have it all down to a science. 🙂
To some, my family celebration is their family celebration. There are 41 gifts I’ll attempt to finish making this weekend in addition to the rest that I’m nearly finished with. You might think that isn’t necessary, but everyone gets a gift. For some of my friends, my little bag of goodies is the only gift they get. Giving from my heart is what I do. I’ve rebuilt my family Christmas eve celebration with friends and people who are as close as the family I was born into, and I love it.
My time is measured right now so I’ve found another recycled post for today. This one is a portion of an interview I did with author Jan Bowles a while back:
Q. What inspired you to write The Witchy Wolf and the Wendigo?
Several years ago while taking a much touted artists tour not too far from my home, I wandered into a barn converted into an artist studio and found a new author sitting beside a stack of books. This curious book with its B-movie cover was all about the Wisconsin werewolf. At the time, I was less fascinated by werewolves than I was by anyone who’d actually managed to get published. In the days before email submissions, eBook publishers, Indy publishers, and self-publishing, I’d spent a considerable sum printing manuscripts to mail in their entirety to the major NY Publishers, and tasted confidence-shattering disappointment as rejection letters came in reply.
Needless to say, I saw opportunity to learn by talking to this author. Of course, after picking her brain as best I could, I bought the book. It seemed only right that I do. While my husband drove us from art studio to art studio, I read passages to him. The story was pretty farfetched but entertaining. Eyewitnesses claimed to have seen a wolf walking like a man. Some of these witnesses were upstanding citizens in their communities. We well knew the areas mentioned in the book, and were surprised to learn some of the sightings of this weird creature had supposedly taken place over decades. Back home, I went digging for more. Apparently the Ojibwe legends in the Great Lakes region mention a magical wolf or dog that guards burials.
That caught my attention. Legends of grave guardians around the world often take the form of wolves or dogs. There’s that jackal-headed Anubis from ancient Egypt for example. Wasn’t he the Lord of the Dead? Beyond that, Wisconsin was covered in ancient Native American burial and effigy mounds. Coincidentally, one of the accounts in that book went back to the 1930’s and took place on top of a burial mound. Needing more information, we took the Great Mound Tour across Wisconsin into Iowa. I saw these effigies and burials for myself, what was left of them. After seeing an effigy in the shape of a standing man with a wolf’s head, my imagination went wild!
Q. Which is your favorite scene in Loving Leonardo?
I’d have to say it’s the moment where the spark of attraction catches Nicolas unawares. Here’s a small bit of it:
When in the presence of true beauty, my mind often imagines the person unclothed as the artists of the ages might have seen him. Sitting at my table was a statue carved in marble by Gian Lorenzo Bernini; an artist known for his remarkable ability to capture the essence of a narrative moment. And I found Luca Franco to be exactly that — a moment indelibly captured in time — a moment of meeting the mind could revisit in its entirety.
From every angle, he was beautifully made: black-haired, of medium build, and physically fit. He possessed a warm hue to his skin, his lineage no doubt stamped centuries past by the darker Moors or Turks. In startling contrast, and quite handsomely framed by black lashes, he had striking eyes the color one might see in a shadow falling across snow — not quite sky blue nor exactly steel gray, but a blending of the two in gradated rings.
I rose to shake his hand and felt the unmistakable current of compatibility. If this man weren’t forward in his mutual attraction, it was there nonetheless.
Q. Which of your characters is your favorite and why?
Of all the characters in my books to date, Nicolas Halstead from Loving Leonardo is by far my favorite as he’s the most complex and human of all my fictional people. I found a surprising depth of character to him. He’s a Victorian man of means forced by society to wear a disguise because he’s gay and that’s a criminal offense. His experiences in this story come to redefine how he’s always thought himself to be. I think anyone would fall in love with Nicolas, especially his perceptions. It’s through his perspective that we see and feel his world. An art historian by profession, Nicolas can’t help but compare life to art. Because of this, he leaves many references to artists and artworks scattered throughout the pages of his book. My art references aren’t just word-padding. I carefully wrote the story so readers could see what he saw if they cared to look up the artworks.
Q. Where and when do you like to write? What is your writing day like?
Since I work off a laptop now, the whole house is my office. Most days I work at the kitchen table. Last year for Christmas, my son gave me a back massaging office chair…for the kitchen! It’s a little uh…out of place… but I can’t deny the love behind the gift. I get up, make coffee, drink coffee, walk dogs, feed dogs, play with dogs (if I don’t then I’m hounded with squeaky toys until I do). Then I see to the details of being an author. Any given day I might have 60 or more emails or when yahoo is having one of its fits a few hundred repeats. Occasionally I’ll have a guest post to write or an interview to complete. I’ll try to get to my own blog if there’s time. Whew. By ten o’clock I’m writing my work in progress. If the Muse is on my side that day, I might get several chapters completed. I’ve recently added a stint on the treadmill to my daily repertoire because sitting all day is turning my muscle to mush and a recent study says that is seriously unhealthy for my kidneys and my heart. If I could figure out how to duct tape my laptop and coffee cup holder to my treadmill, and have the dogs in tow behind me, I’d be all set!
Q. What advice do you have for someone just starting out?
I’d say they need to keep in mind that not all of their books will be a good fit with every reader out there and not to take it too hard when the inevitable poor or snarky review pops up. Books are no less works of art than masterpieces in oil or stone. And beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So I’d say new writers, please remember that reviews are simply opinions. How many people do you know with opinions different than your own? Revel in the good ones. They feel great! Consider the bad ones. If you’re lucky, they’ll come with constructive criticism and that’s not a bad thing because sometimes authors are just too close to the story to see gaffs and gaps. And above all, ignore the nasty reviews. Nasty comments with nothing of value to impart and are simply mean-spirited, consider them to be the power plays they are and move on. A recent confusing review got to thinking… What do reviews look like for some of my favorite authors? I checked on Diana Gabaldon, Michael Crichton, Stephan King, and even JK Rowling. They have bad reviews too! My advice is — new authors, check your favorite authors for yourself. You’re in good company.
Q. What is the hardest part about writing romance stories?
Stopping in the middle of a scene to see to the mundane has to be the hardest part of writing anything. I mean really, who needs dinner? I’m a perfect candidate for the secluded writer’s cabin in the woods, because when I write, I fall into stream of consciousness mode.
Definition: Stream of consciousness is the continuous flow of sense‐perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and memories in the human mind or a literary method of representing a blending of mental processes in fictional characters, usually in an unpunctuated or disjointed form of interior monologue.
Yep, that’s me.
Q. Which are your favorite authors and why?
I do have favorites but not many. I’m an informational reader for the most part. Oddball that I am, I read encyclopedias like other people read magazines. Once a year I’ll binge on fiction, and I mean really Binge with a capital B. Romance mostly, but I’ve been known to do a run of historical fiction too. To me a favorite author writes the book you read so many times the pages fall out. I would read anything that Diana Gabaldon wrote and yes, I’ve read Harry Potter at least five times from start to finish. I’ve had to replace books in both series because I’ve read them to death!
Sadly last summer, a long time love affair ended for me. I’ve been faithfully reading an author for nearly 25 years. I couldn’t wait for the new releases and I’d reread the old ones (until the pages fell out). I jumped on the new novel last year, but three chapters in I realized I’d read it before. Then it occurred to me that the last several books had been exactly like this one. I couldn’t finish. Don’t get me wrong, formula stories can be fun reads. It’s just that we had something special in our long reader/writer relationship – I was given heart fluttering romance with unique storylines that I’d think about for days after the stories ended. I’m sad it’s over. So that being said, I have an empty shelf waiting for a new favorite author. Now if I only had time to read…
Q. Name three of your favorite things.
I still have a very good sense of child-like wonder. Lots of things flip my switches! For this question, I’ve given a nod to gifts from the universe.
1. After a blanketing snowfall when the sky is still overcast and all the shadows are blue.
2. A sunset so vibrantly colored with reds, oranges, and purples you have to remember to breathe.
3. Those HUGE orange full moons
Q. If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
If not my grandmother, then hands down it would have to be Leonardo Da Vinci. I steeped myself into his life and times to write Loving Leonardo. He was what’s referred to as a polymath – a person of great and varied learning, and this despite the fact Leonardo was denied traditional education because of his bastardy. What that man went through to become the genius he was… Can you just imagine how fabulous that conversation would be? I think I’d serve a Mongolian Hot Pot — hot stock and small bits of food to cook in it — or perhaps a fondue. Slow meals are great for keeping a dinner conversation going. 🙂
Q. Are you a panster or a plotter?
Oh definitely a fly by the seat of my pants gal. An interesting idea will pop into my head and before I know it I have a character or two and they’ll start talking to themselves and each other. When they walk forward in their world, for one reason or another conflict comes in from the sides and they must react to it. The strange thing here is, I really don’t know how the story will end until they end it. They take over my brain until they’re done with me. I’ve heard other authors refer to this state of mind as a form of possession.
Q. Which comes first? The character’s or the idea for the story?
My characters tend to write their stories themselves. I just help in coloring their world. I’ve had this work both ways. I think, wouldn’t it be interesting to write a story with a story hidden inside it? The next thing I know, there’s an old derelict house. Then someone wants to buy that house. I discover she wants it and this desire goes back to her childhood. Wouldn’t you know she has larger plans. Suddenly she’s a doctor transforming the mansion into a free clinic. The next I know, there’s a ghost living there and he was a doctor too 100 years before. It didn’t take much for him to fall in love with his new houseguest. But wait a minute…he’s dead, that’ll go nowhere. How can they have real interaction? He spends most of his time just silently watching her, even when she sleeps. Ah ha! As pure spirit energy, he plies her sleeping mind and follows her dreams. But why is she dreaming about the days before he was murdered 100 years ago? Now that the story has written itself, it needs a name – Dreamscape.
Q. Where can we find out more about your books?
My books are just about everywhere books are sold in ebook and paperback.
Love Waits in Unexpected Places – Scorching Samplings of Unusual Love Stories
Sample my love stories for free!
It’s nice to hear people appreciate ephemera like my husband and I. We’re building a vintage holiday postcard scrapbook one card at a time. If you’re here for the first time, I’ve been posting one or two each day and plan to keep it up from now until January.
author Marianne Stephens’ blog day.
RB4U is participating in author Nikki Barrett’s READER APPRECIATION GIVEAWAY — Lots of prizes. Enter today!
Our December contest has approximately 30 prizes for one winner, including a $75 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card. I’m adding a free book from my backlist to the loot. Read the pages and find the dancing Santas.
Today: Author Interview Series with author Missy Martine. http://exquisitequills.blogspot.com/
First Kiss Wednesday ~ share your best 300 word kiss.
Set the Scene in Six ~ share your backdrop or lead-up on Sundays.
The Genesis of the Story ~ share the spark that ignited your novel
Author Interviews ~ We’re booking 2014 now.
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Exquisite Quills presents A Holiday Anthology Vol. 1
Many holiday short stories in several styles written
by more than a dozen authors. And it’s FREE!