Snow, Snow, Slow Your Roll

I’m sitting here as I write this, gazing out of the window at a gray-blue sky. We’ve had day after day after day after day of snowfall. And more is on the way, according to my brother and sister-in-law, who within hours of each other, texted the happy news to me.

   

Yeah, I know. That’s what winter is all about, Charlie Brown. Snow falls. Temperatures drop.

   

Anyway, I was complaining to Barbie about this recently. She’s a good listener. Even put down her magazine and gave me her full attention. I was explaining how the snowfall has caused me to slow down while driving.

She gave me a look as if to say, “Like that’s a bad thing?” Snow-Fro the Shoppet also concurred. She would. She was made for winter.

I like to zip around town, catching every green light, making good time, getting to my destination quickly. But zipping down a road, heedless of what the conditions are like, is how accidents happen. Having had my share of winter accidents, I learned the value of taking it slow. When you live with snow and ice, you adjust to the pace of the season.

Revision is that way. I’m revising a young adult fantasy novel for probably the twelfth time. I want to zip through it, like I zip down the street when the roads are ice free. But that’s what I did before. And I’ve discovered several things I missed in the earlier revisions. Like the gaps in logic or faulty descriptions I constantly find as I read the chapters.

My revision cave, where, yes, crocheting and video watching also occur

One chapter took me two days to work through. Two. Days. So, no matter how hard it’s been and how long it’s taking, I need to give myself permission to keep at it. “Slow your roll, L.,” I remind myself.

Winter is here in all of its messy glory. Just like revision. I’m trying to be present in the moment and present on the page in this season of change.

The sun is out, like a kiss of heaven. Though the snow lingers and threatens, I can’t help believing that I can weather the snow and the revision.

   

Barbie is a registered trademark of Mattel. Snow-Fro and Kissy Boo Shoppets and Fluffy Snowball and Terri Tennis Ball Shopkins are registered trademarks of Moose Toys. Photos by L. Marie.

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’Tis the Season, or So We’re Told, to Be Thankful

With Thanksgiving around the corner here in the U.S., I couldn’t help making a list of things for which I’m thankful. At first, I resisted the idea, thinking that list making at Thanksgiving seemed a little too been-there-done-that. After all, do I really need a holiday to tell me to be thankful? If I’m not thankful throughout the year, how fake is it that I’m suddenly thankful on Thursday? (Well, I’m thankful for turkey!)

But since I’ve got the time, and you’ve come here anyway, here it is. I’m thankful for . . .

* Frost-rimed leaves representing the full spectrum of the seasons . . .

  

* Family and friends far and near who are as dear as family (Actual friends and family are not depicted in this photo. No one I know has a worm coming out of his or her head.)

* Friends who make cards for me . . .

* Blogger friends like FictionFan, who offer to send me free Audible books . . .

* This hand cream. Cold weather is hard on the hands, so . . .

* And chocolate of course. Oh and ice cream.

“Wait a minute!” you interrupt. “Are you really taking this thankful thing seriously? I mean, come on. Hand cream? Dead leaves? Chocolate? Ice cream?”

Well, I am thankful for those. And if I really want to go beyond just surface-level stuff, I’m really thankful to God and to incredibly generous friends who helped me through a difficult season. I haven’t mentioned even half of the things that have happened to me this year—good or bad. Some things I keep to myself.

But I am grateful. And that’s why I’m sponsoring another giveaway on this blog. Just because. No, I’m not crazy. And yes, I know this isn’t Christmas—the gift-giving season. But one way I show thankfulness is to give. Really, I only included the above list to lead up to this point. Comment below to be entered in the drawing to receive a $30 Amazon gift card (or its equivalent in Amazon UK). What are you thankful for, even if Thanksgiving Day is not something you celebrate? If you celebrate Thanksgiving, what are you looking forward to eating on the day?

Once again, the random number generator will decide the winner. I’ll post the name on November 27! Just in time for more holiday shopping (or to buy yourself something you love)!

Now, that’s something to be thankful for.

Turkey from wallyball.homestead.com. Lalaloopsy dolls by Mattel. Photos by L. Marie.

Chillin’ Like a Villain

Lately, I’ve been reading a novel by Timothy Zahn about a Star Wars character—Grand Admiral Thrawn—and how he came to power.

    

Thrawn’s like Machiavelli and Sun Tzu—known for his ingenuity and military prowess. However, if you side with the rebel characters in season 3 of the animated series, Star Wars: Rebels, you’ll have only one word to describe this guy: villain.

I haven’t read many novels in which the antagonist is the main character. It’s interesting that a number of novels this year feature compelling villains or villains searching for redemption. Charles Yallowitz wrote one. A friend who had read other novels by Zahn encouraged me to read Zahn’s latest. And since I’ve written a novel in which one of the main characters is the primary antagonist, I wanted to see what made Thrawn tick.


Thrawn in Star Wars: Rebels

In an interview, which you can read here, Zahn, who created the character, discusses why he made Thrawn so compelling:

Readers like their villains to be a challenge to the heroes because that forces the heroes to bring their best game to the field. The more clever the opponent, and the more difficult the fight, the more satisfying the victory.

I’m down for that! An ingenious antagonist means the stakes will be high, especially when the hero is thwarted at just about every turn.

I’m enjoying the book so far. Thrawn is a fascinating character with a mind like that of a chess grand master. And how nice that this fan favorite is now canon in the Star Wars universe (hence this novel published by Del Rey/Random House).

What brilliant, but controversial characters have you read about (fictional or nonfictional) lately? While you think about that, I’ll move onto the giveaway, which I discuss here, if you missed that post. Thanks to the random number generator, the winner of the $25 Amazon gift card is

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(Okay. I’ll stop.)

Laura Bruno Lilly!

Thank you to all who commented. Have a happy and safe Halloween! Are you planning to dress up? What is your costume?

Grand Admiral Thrawn image from starwars.com. Star Wars Rebels logo from denofgeek.us. Book jacket photos and eerie pumpkin luminary photo by L. Marie.

Fall into a Giveaway

Mwahahaha!
I am the creepy pumpkin luminary that presides over L. Marie’s armoire.

Now that it’s fall, I can’t help reminiscing about activities I loved in this season back in the day. When I was in elementary school, we used to bring leaves to decorate the classroom or to use as models for drawing time. Living in a climate where leaves change colors and drop to the ground made leaf gathering extremely easy. Finding a variety of leaves in a neighborhood where maple trees dominated—well, that was more challenging.

Happy fall, leaf. Dare I say, “How the mighty have fallen”?

We’d also make orange and black paper chains to hang on the walls above class drawings of trees with leaves cut out of paper, pumpkins, and other fall-ish things.

And of course, I enjoyed fall treats like Halloween candy (especially chocolate) and caramel apples.

I haven’t made a paper chain in a long while. Apple picking and apple donut eating have replaced the paper chain production. But I still love Halloween candy (especially chocolate) and caramel apples. Other fall food favorites include hearty teas and soups.

Recently, a good friend sent me a box of my favorite tea: maple apple cider. This friend knows who she is, so I won’t embarrass her by naming her here.

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But this friend’s generosity reminded me of another favorite, one that isn’t confined to a season or a reason: hosting a giveaway!

I’m giving away a $25 Amazon gift card (or its equivalent on Amazon UK).

All you have to do to be considered for this drawing is to comment below. Tell me a fall tradition you have or a food you love. The lovely random number generator will choose a winner, who will be announced on October 30.

Kirstea says, “Happy Fall!” Obviously, she’s not daunted by the luminary.

Caramel apple from galleryhip.com. Amazon gift card from Amazon.com. Other photos by L. Marie. Kirstea™ is a Shoppie doll made by Moose Toys.

2015: The Thing That Will Finally Leave

On Saturday Night Live in 1978, John Belushi participated in a horror movie trailer spoof with Jane Curtin and Bill Murray called “The Thing That Wouldn’t Leave.” Christopher Lee hosted the show, so the spoof was appropriate, based on Lee’s earlier career. (Sorry about the video quality. If you show this video to your kids, you might have to field questions about the telephone Belushi dials and other items your kids might wonder about in this age of cell phones and song downloads.)

Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience with an acquaintance or relative who wouldn’t take the hint to leave, but instead made excuses to linger and annoy. This sketch came to mind, however, as I thought about the close of 2015. If I could sum up this entire year, I would say it often seemed like the annoying thing that wouldn’t leave, thanks to its many challenges. So I’m delighted to finally see the backend of 2015. I wouldn’t care to repeat one day of it.

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Many people dear to me have had a hard year due to job loss, tornadoes, loved ones with cancer, health issues of their own, financial reversals, multiple rejections, and other disappointments. If you’ve read this blog this year, you know I can relate to all of those.

I know. I shouldn’t blame 2015 for the hard times I and others faced. Recently a friend sent a post to me that really hit home and caused me to see those hard times in a new light. If you have a minute, take a look at it. I won’t mind if you dash off to read it. Rachel, the writer of this post, makes a good point about the way trials test your resilience. Just as rough terrain tests the quality of a tire, you find out what you’re made of when life’s terrain grows rocky.

So many times I’ve felt like I was made of gelatin, thanks to my tendency to shake with fear or melt into a puddle when the heat was on. Yet by the grace of God I’m here still with dirt under my fingernails. And so are you.

Now I’m suddenly reminded of Metapod, a Pokémon with a skill called harden which always seemed useless to me whenever I played a Pokémon game. After all, it is a defensive skill, rather than offensive. Its skin hardens to help it defend against attacks. But now I see the usefulness of this skill. In the game of life, we could all use this skill to help us persist when the blows come. Yet, the temptation to grow harder in a cynical sense will beckon, however. We have to fight against that temptation in order to show compassion for those around us who are suffering.

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So, good-bye, 2015. You’ve taught me that when life is tough, I must be tougher.

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What has 2015 taught you?

“The Thing That Wouldn’t Leave” image from engineeringwellness.com. Year changing image from sageone.es. Metapod from memeaddicts.com.

Thanks, Winter!

Here in the Midwest, you get used to the temperature changing in the blink of an eye. One day you might have 50-degree (10 Celsius) weather; the next, a steady snowfall with a temperature of 24 (-4 Celsius). I can thank my friend Winter for that.

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Thanks, Winter, though you’re not officially due till next month. But it’s nice that you made your presence felt over the weekend. There was nothing gradual about you, was there? No, you kept snow falling late Friday night and practically all day Saturday. And you’re still here, clinging to the grass, trees, sidewalks, and streets with your icy sheen. I slipped on some ice Sunday and narrowly avoided a face plant, thanks to the quick thinking of a friend who grabbed my arm.

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But, Winter, I can thank you for the way you lace the trees with snow. On my drive to church Sunday, the trees on both sides of the road were so beautifully dressed. I couldn’t get a photo of them because (a) I was driving at the time and (b) my phone had died. But the scene was like a postcard. Perhaps memories like that were simply meant to be savored in the moment and not shut away in a computer the way my other photos are.

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But Winter, with the dichotomy of your hard edges and soft surfaces you remind me to be thankful for the way life is sometimes. Especially this year. I’ve endured the hardness of failure and a parent’s serious illness as well as the softness of caring people. But winter has taught me to find beauty in barrenness. Branches shorn of leaves wear the close-fitting garment of snow much better (IMHO) than evergreen trees. Winter’s barrenness makes spring’s renewal all the more vivid and celebratory. This makes me think that the barrenness of dashed hopes may someday give way to the celebration of a victory wrought by persistence. One can only hope.

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So with Thanksgiving rolling around and you as an early guest, Winter, thanks for the reminder that seasons change. And in the changes, good and bad, I can still give thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

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Thanksgiving sign from imageslist.com. Other photos by L. Marie.

Suits Me to a Tea

I’m a coffee drinker for the most part. But I love a good, hearty tea when the autumn weather turns nippy. How about you? A new favorite is Trader Joe’s Harvest Blend.

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Recently, a friend and I conducted an informal taste test of herbal teas. Among the cinnamon tea blends, we concluded that Trader’s Joe Harvest Blend was the best tasting. This is our opinion, of course. Yet others who tried the tea quickly headed to the store to buy it. They then gave tea bags to other people who then bought their own box of the tea. Yes, my friend and I are tea pushers. The first bag is free. 🙂

Isn’t it interesting that something steeped in hot water can produce such a rich, memorable flavor? Sounds like life, doesn’t it? (Work with me here. It sounds like life, doesn’t it? Just nod your head.) When we’re in hot water—troublesome circumstances—the flavor of our character is revealed. Are we bitter, as some tea is when steeped too long? Or do the “hot” circumstances bring out the best in us?

The subject came up as I recently pondered my reaction to disappointing expectations and problems. As others announced the joyous news of book deals, I contemplated the lack of positive news in my mailbox (including a no for the YA book I queried earlier this year). I soon realized that a thread of bitterness had crept in and wound itself around me, leaving me complaining and paralyzed. Kind of like a mummy in a sarcophagus. Only . . . mummies don’t really complain, do they? And if they’re of the undead variety, they’re not really paralyzed either. Instead, a mummy might break out of his or her sarcophagus and lurch about, terrorizing villages. So that metaphor is a bit labored. But you get what I mean.

A couple of quotes struck me recently:

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I guess it’s time for me to stop whining and do what I know to do: write and keep going. To celebrate the power of persistence, I’m giving away a box of this Harvest Blend Herbal Tea and some crocheted leaves. (If you want to know more about these leaves, click on crocheted leaves to get the pattern, which was designed by Michelle at The Painted Hinge blog.) I’ll choose a commenter at random. Feel free to comment on a tea you love or some aspect of autumn you love. Or talk about which quote above speaks to you. Perhaps you have another favorite quote about persistence. Winner to be announced Friday, November 6.

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Thomas Edison quote from pinterest. Harriet Beecher Stowe quote from viacharacterblog.org.