Trash or Treasure?

I’ve got some book winners to announce in just a bit. But first, let me tell you about my Saturday. You’re stuck hearing about it, so you might as well nod your head as if you really wanted to hear about it—or at least part of it. Anyway, I attended an ugly Christmas sweater party at my pastor’s house. It was an eye-opening experience. I wore this little number.


My phone remained in my purse, however, so I can’t supply photos of the other sweaters. Perhaps that’s for the best. Some industrious individuals threaded Christmas lights through their sweaters in the hope of gaining one of three prizes. The guy who won the “most authentically ugly” prize had pinned Christmas potholders (one with teddy bears in Santa hats) to a sweater. Pretty much everyone voted for him. No one else stood a chance. The winner of the “most crafty” sweater was a person wearing a tree skirt and a sweater with tiny Christmas lights sewn into it. Again, a landslide victory. The third prize was a “Scrooge” prize for the person who refused to wear a Christmas sweater! (Wish I’d thought of that!)

I hadn’t thought to “soup up” my sweater with Christmas lights, believing that it could stand on its own merit. After all, it had gained me several “You’ve come to the right place in that” nods at the party. Yet someone had given me the sweater, which once belonged to her mother-in-law. It’s not the kind of sweater I usually wear, except to events like this. Consequently, it resides at the back of my closet until the next party rolls around.

When I arrived home, intending to take a photo of the sweater to show my sister-in-law, I took a closer look at it. It’s very neatly stitched—not a thread out of place. Granted, it has snowmen and birdhouses. But the snowmen are smiling at least. Perhaps it isn’t quite so bad. Still, I can’t help thinking of this old adage:


And of course, this one:


The flipside—ugliness—is likewise subjective.

Someone put love and attention into designing that sweater. Someone else liked it enough to buy it. One woman’s treasure . . .

As I thought about the sweater and my response to it, I thought about the characters in my novel. Will someone else besides me treasure them? Or will they be roundly dismissed and labeled as “ugly” or “ludicrous” by others as cavalierly as I judged that sweater?

It gives you something to think about, doesn’t it? If you’ve spent time on Goodreads, you know how subjective and cruel some reviewers can be. Some take pleasure in being vicious, under the mistaken belief that they’ll be perceived as smarter than the author. But a person who really is smarter doesn’t have to put someone else down to prove that.

Someone wise once told me that worrying about what someone may or may not think is a waste of time. A better use of my time is to spend it in a more enjoyable way: continuing to create stories I love about characters I love. That’s the only outcome I can control.

You’ve been patient long enough, so let’s move on to the winners of A Gift of Shadows by Stephanie Stamm and Curse of the Dark Wind by Charles Yallowitz. (See interviews here and here.)

      shadows_promo Steph_2_copy_(2)

          Charles_author_photo_B&W curse-of-the-dark-wind-cover1

Thanks to the random number generator, which has earned my love . . .

The winner of a paperback of A Gift of Shadows is . . .

Sue Archer!

The winner of an e-book of A Gift of Shadows is . . .


The winner of another e-book of A Gift of Shadows is . . .

Laura Sibson!

The winner of an e-book of Curse of the Dark Wind is . . .

Andra Watkins!

Winners please comment to confirm below. Celine, please provide an email address. E-book winners, please specify which format you need. Thanks again for commenting!

28 thoughts on “Trash or Treasure?

  1. Congratulations to the winners! Oh, I think your sweater is cute, L. Marie. I love the snowmen! I’ve never attended an ugly sweater party, but I’m sure it’s entertaining. 🙂
    One of the benefits of growing older has been not worrying so much about what other people think.

    • As I mentioned to the Professor, it’s growing on me. I also love snowmen, Jill. I have some as part of my Christmas decorating. 🙂 I hope you have some in your writing nook.

  2. Great quotes and you’re so right that characters are beautiful/ugly in the eye of the beholder. I see it all the time with mine. Some people think Luke Callindor is brave while others think he’s weak. The opinion seems to change depending on what aspect of him is viewed and the personal standards of the reader.

    Another thing, at least with a series, is how this perspective can change over time. Most times this involves the character evolving, but also the reader. Though I’ve seen some strange ones over the years. Most of the more mind-baffling changes from ‘beauty to ugly’ involve Twilight fans. I know this is a dead horse, but it’s the best example I have. Someone I know was a big fan while the movies were out even though I’m not sure they read the books. Anyway, a year after the last movie came out, the topic came up with this person who was always defending the series. The person started ranting about how terrible it was and then tried to deny ever being a fan. So tastes definitely change and some people even try to deny their past to make their present more defendable.

    • So true, Charles. I’ve known people who denied being fans, especially if others claim they hate a series. 😦 I wasn’t the only one at the theater when the Star Wars prequels debuted. Yet I can’t find a single person now who admits to liking any of them.
      You’re right. Tastes change. Some of the books and movies I liked as a kid I dislike now. But many more of them, however, are still favorites.

      • I was at the theater for the prequels and was iffy on them at the beginning. I think watching them again made me realize how they weren’t necessary and kind of harmful to the originals. I have found people who claim to like the prequels, but many of them tend to admit that they saw those before the originals.

      • I saw all three at the theater, but after I’d seen the originals, which I grew up on. I like some of the first one (but not Jar Jar Binks; love Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon Jinn and Ewan MacGregor as Obi-Wan) and many scenes in the third (like the Obi-Wan/Anakin battle and the Obi-Wan/General Grievous battle). I only like the Yoda/Count Dooku fight in the second one and the arena fight with the jedi. I’m not a fan of Anakin Skywalker, except in the Clone Wars animated series. Maybe it’s the voice acting, but he’s not annoying in that series.

      • I found the while thing forgettable. Except Jar Jar and that’s not a good thing. I saw the extended or whatever they did with the originals in the theater in the 90’s. Prior to that was vhs.

      • I saw that extended stuff. I like some of the technology used. But I’m hoping that when the new movie comes out, it will be satisfying like Empire Strikes Back was.

  3. I like the sweater! I mean, I don’t think it’s ugly at all. Like you said, the snowmen are a plus…

    Reviewers (critics) can be vicious. (Look at that fellow from Ratatouille.) I’d love to read your book.

    • Ha. So true. (I haven’t seen Ratatouille in ages. Maybe I’ll watch it during the holidays.)
      The sweater is growing on me, but probably not enough for me to wear in public. 😀

  4. I love the way you saw your experience writing fiction through the Ugly Sweater Christmas Party. And wow, I won? So exciting! I love Stephanie’s covers and I’m excited to see what lies between them! I’m not sure what format I need. I have a Kindle. Does that help?

  5. Congratulations, winners! Great tie-in of the sweaters with books/characters and with the quotes. Our perceptions are so subjective and, as Charles points out, even changeable. You’re right. The best thing we can do is to stay true to what we love, knowing that some with join us in that love and others will not. And that takes a certain strength.

    • Thank you. Unfortunately, I’ve been realizing more and more how subjective I can be–quicker to criticize than to praise. That’s a quality I’m trying to change.

  6. This is why I never go on Goodreads. Anonymous sites encourage people not to take responsibility for their words and actions. I appreciate what you said about the sweaters (and I’m not a sweater person because even through one or two layers of clothing they always seem to itch) and how you tied this in with characters. Just as we have different personalities, different types of characters resonate with us.

  7. Christmas really is the season of questionable sweaters 🙂 In regard to your conversation with Charles: I too have many childhood films and books that remain favourites. I’m excited about the new Star Wars films, mainly because the cast from the original films are returning. The only thing I really liked about the prequels was Darth Maul. I thought he should have survived to bring more to the other two movies.

  8. Even though I am not a Christmas sweater fan, I think those snowmen are cute. I started appreciating cute things more after my son was born because of his reaction to them. There was a time when I was surrounded by drawings of happy faces. 🙂 Who doesn’t need more of those?

    And that’s great to win the contest. 🙂 I’m really looking forward to reading it, Stephanie!

  9. Ah, the bad sweaters… Always fun. 🙂 And a wonderful allegory, which applies well to more than just writing.

    That tree skirt sounds like quite something. I wonder how much effort it took to make something intended to be unattractive. And I wonder how often I spend time making things to please other people, whether they’re attractive to me or not. Hmm…

    • You know, I probably would have worn the sweater with the lights. She’s pretty crafty. I don’t think I’d look right in the tree skirt though.
      But yes, I know what you mean, ReGi. We often dress to please others.

      • Dress or behave. *cringes* I’m not one to give in to peer pressure, but I am a people pleaser and sometimes I find myself doing something just because I think it’s expected of me and not because there’s any actual reason to do it.

  10. Sorry for the delay in getting this – Christmas festivities have been keeping me away from blogging these last few days. But what a wonderful pre Christmas surprise to come back to! Thank you both, I’m looking forward to reading it! My email is, and I have a Kindle.

    That sweater is cute as far as bad Christmas jumpers go. And I really like the writing analogy. the way I’ve been thinking about it recently is that it’s all about finding your people, your tribe, those who like the same things as you do. If you like what you write and they like the same things as you, it stands to reason that they’ll like your story too. Those who don’t enjoy it, well they’re just not right. I find it less intimidating thinking about it that way – about finding the people who are right for my story rather than worry about making my story right for other people!

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