The Perfect Christmas?

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving if you celebrated that holiday. This past Friday (Black Friday here in the U.S.), my sister-in-law and I made my brother turn from a Star Trek marathon so we could watch a Hallmark movie. Lest you misunderstand, I also was enjoying the Star Trek marathon. But around the fourth episode, I wanted to watch something else.

Anyway, the plot of the movie involved a woman following a list of activities she believed would make the perfect Christmas. For example, staying in a cozy cabin in the mountains (with the perfect covering of snow on the roof), singing Christmas carols, seeing The Nutcracker, making a gingerbread house, buying a real Christmas tree, baking, ice skating, taking a picture with Santa, etc.

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My brother glared at the television. “That’s every Christmas stereotype there is!” he declared, his lip curled.

I laughed, because he was right. But I couldn’t help recalling one Christmas season years ago, when a friend of mine and I followed a list of the quintessential Chicago Christmas activities. It included having lunch near the Christmas tree in the Walnut Room at Macy’s (which was Marshall Field back then), oohing and ahing over the Christmas display in the store windows, ice skating, checking out the Christmas trees at the Museum of and Industry (see photo below; it is not one of mine, however), going to see The Nutcracker (fail), etc. (Click here for a list of holiday things to do in and around Chicago.)

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We waited two hours just to get into the Walnut Room (see photo below; I did not take that photo either). While I was glad we checked that off on our Christmas to-do list, I can’t say the meal I had was memorable. It certainly hadn’t met my extraordinarily high expectations.

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And that’s the crux of the matter, isn’t it? Unrealistic expectations often put a damper on our enjoyment of the holidays. I learned that the hard way.

This year, I don’t feel motivated to rush around, doing holiday things while trying to manufacture the “perfect” Christmas season. Case in point: I skipped shopping on Thanksgiving or Black Friday. Instead, over the weekend, I took in a good movie (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) with friends.

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And I don’t plan to stress about Christmas shopping. This year, I’m focusing on the things in which I truly delight, rather than the “have-to’s” of the season. Guess that means crocheting more reindeer to give away (not a have-to, but a want-to), seeing more great films (Moana, you are next), and having quality conversations with friends and family.

What, if anything, constitutes the perfect Christmas or Hanukkah season for you? What are your plans for the season?
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Crocheted reindeer thugs stage a coupe by blocking my coffee mug. While I’m not exactly sure what their demands are, I will make it a priority to find good homes for them this season. And yes, the keyboard below them is very dusty. It’s not one that I use these days.

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Rainbow Kate and her BFF Popette finally finished hanging the Christmas lights on Rainbow Kate’s house, to the delight of the children Kate babysat. But the delight turned to consternation when they discovered Kitty in the living room, drinking the last of the cocoa.

Christmas tree in the Walnut room from anadesigns.blogspot. Christmas tree at the Museum of Science and Industry from commons.wikimedia.org. Santa from hdwallpapersforiphone.blogspot. Fantastic Beasts logo from geeknation.com. Other photos by L. Marie.

Thanksgiving

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Poor Thanksgiving. You often get lost in the shuffle between Halloween and Christmas or Hanukkah, don’t you?

Mostly, you’re lumped into the general autumn scheme of things when it comes to decorating. Well, you are a holiday born out of thanksgiving to God for a good harvest (and for survival) back in 1621. And thanks to President Lincoln, you were celebrated nationally on a Thursday, though you didn’t become an official national holiday until 1941.

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I’m grateful for all of the Thanksgiving meals I’ve had in the past, where I consumed mass quantities of food, played board games with my family, then vegged out in front of the television, watching football. This year will be a little different. I plan to hang out with friends, play board games, and eat mass quantities of food. (As I said it will be a little different.)

What are you thankful for? My attitude this past week was anything but thankful, though. I received a record number of rejections from manuscript queries—four. I felt like a failure. But some good friends encouraged me (thank you, Sharon, Laura S., and Megan). Someone else did too. A few days ago, I made a quick stop at a jewelry party at the home of another friend. A young woman was there, whom I hadn’t seen since she was a kid.

“I still have some books of yours from when I was a kid,” she said, referring to a series I’d written many years ago, that went out of print within a year. “They were some of my favorite books. They helped me decide to be an author/illustrator.”

Her words made me tear up. How could I have so quickly forgotten the power of reaching even one kid by the written word? How easily swayed I was by discouragement.

Sometimes you have to kick discouragement in the teeth. And what better way to do that than with the giveaway I introduced in my last post? (Click here for the list of books.) At first, I was going to give away just one book. But I decided to give away more than that. It is Thanksgiving (soon) anyway.

I looked at the list of people who mentioned books. Here it is:

Charles (Star Wars)
Penny (Meetings)
Pamela (Meetings)
Karen Gradient (Grace Lin)
Reocochran (Star Wars)
Lyn (Grace Lin)
Nicki (Grace Lin)

Congrats. You’re all getting a book. Please comment below to confirm. Then I’ll need you to email your snail mail address and phone number to lmarie7b(at)gmail(dot)com (or email my primary email account if you know it, which would be faster). If you would prefer that I not have your snail address, please let me know, and we can make other arrangements.

If you commented and mentioned a book, but don’t see your name on the above list, please comment below. I’m going by the honor system here.

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Seriously, have a good Thanksgiving (if you celebrate it, that is; if not, have a great Thursday)!

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Rudolph and his gang of unfinished crocheted reindeer discovered a new house in the neighborhood. Perhaps they could spend Thanksgiving here.

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After booting out the reindeer, the new neighbor, Rainbow Kate, took up residence in her new house. But Kitty invited herself over for a Thanksgiving meal. Chaos is sure to ensue.

Turkey images from latintimes.com and openclipart.org. Thanksgiving image from dvd-ppt-slideshow.com. Other photos by L. Marie.

When Delight Is in Short Supply

Don’t worry. This is not a tirade about the election. I think we’ve heard enough of those. Rather, this is a post to announce a random giveaway to a commenter. I will give away a copy of one of the following books:

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The book choice is up to you. If you click on each cover, you’ll be taken to Amazon, where you can read about the book. (By the way, the Star Wars Character Encyclopedia is by Pablo Hidalgo and Simon Beecroft, since that’s not obvious from the cover.)

Why these books? I just finished reading the Grace Lin book, which is utterly delightful and poignant. Don’t worry. I won’t hand you my used copy. You’ll get your own, if that is the book you want. And Pakenham’s book is marvelous. It was a huge help in my novel world building. As for the third book, I don’t own the Star Wars Character Encyclopedia. But I wanted to include a Star Wars book, since I’ve been a fan of the Star Wars universe for many years. While I can’t say I’ve loved all of the movies (maybe four out seven), I greatly admire the depth of world building. And I’ve loved most of the Clone Wars animated series. Totally love Star Wars Rebels. I also recently enjoyed Ahsoka, a young adult novel by E. K. Johnston. If you would prefer that novel over the encyclopedia above, please let me know.

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These days, when hate-filled messages crawl across the internet, and delight seems in short supply, I take comfort in whatever is life giving.

The stories we share we each other, the beauty of nature all around us, the limitless universe of the imagination—these things are life-giving.

I love books that remind me of beauty, truth, courage, faith, love, and hope. And now, I’m reminded of a quote by Paul from 1 Corinthians 13:13:

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

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So, now, it’s up to you. Comment below to let me know which book you would want if your name is drawn. If you like, please share why this book appeals to you. The winner will be announced on November 21, right before Thanksgiving. 🙂

Book covers from nationalbook.org, Goodreads, and Starwars.com.

Bring On the Ninjas

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Kitty and her effigy

Don’t worry. I’ll get to the winner of the preorder of Second Chance Romance by Jill Weatherholt. But first . . .

The other day, I watched this video at Swoozie’s YouTube channel. (It’s okay if you don’t know who he is. You can Google him later.) It involved ninjas.

With this video, we’re reminded of TV and movie series featuring the Power Rangers, and of course the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and martial arts films from Japan and China, which give us a feeling of nostalgia. While watching the video, I couldn’t help wondering why I and many others enjoy the sight of ninjas. So I searched the internet and found a great io9 article by Annalee Newitz on the subject: “Why Americans Became Obsessed with Ninjas.”

This quote from the article caught my attention:

Today being a “ninja” is just a way of saying you’re awesomely skilled, and maybe a little aggressive.

Newitz mentioned the 22,000 people on Twitter who call themselves social media ninjas. Even if we don’t call ourselves that on Twitter, many of us like the idea of being “shadow warriors”—stealthy and in control.

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Kitty has bought wholeheartedly into the notion of being a ninja.

Sadly, some people online use stealth to attack others with their words or actions. Like stealth bombers, they deploy missiles of hate or rage, believing themselves to be cool and clever, but also safe behind the mask of anonymity.

Wouldn’t it be great if people became ninjas not to harm but to help or encourage others? I’d love to see people who are “awesomely skilled” at building others up, instead of tearing people down. Imagine stealthy acts of kindness and generosity.

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At first, the sudden appearance of tiny, masked strangers struck fear in Jordie’s heart. But when they gave him gifts of food, he had a different idea of what a ninja could do.

Food for thought.

Now on to the winner of a preorder of Jill Weatherholt’s book, Second Chance Romance.

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I said there would be one winner. But in the spirit of being a ninja who gives or encourages, I’m giving away two preorders instead of one. How’s that for stealthy? . . . Okay, maybe I need to work on my stealth.

The winners are  . . .

Are   . . .

Are   . . .

Are   . . .

S. K. Nicholls

and

Phillip McCollum!!!

S. K. Nicholls and Phillip McCollum, you have until Wednesday at 10 p.m. (November 9) to confirm below and email your address and phone number to lmarie7b(at)gmail(dot)com. Let me know if you want a paperback or an ebook. I will preorder the book to be sent to you via Amazon. If within that time frame I fail to hear from either of you, the random number generator will choose two other winners.

Thanks to all who commented.

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Um, this is a raccoon, rather than a ninja.

Newitz, Annalee. “Why Americans Became Obsessed with Ninjas.” Io9. Gizmodo, 06 Feb. 2013. Web. 06 Nov. 2016.

Jill Weatherholt photo and book cover courtesy of the author. Other photos by L. Marie. 

Cover Reveal: Second Chance Romance

Hope you had a happy Halloween. I consumed copious quantities of carbs. How about you?

If you’re a follower of the blog of the awesome Jill Weatherholt, you know the history behind her debut novel for Harlequin’s Love Inspired line. You can click here to read her blog post on the subject. But for now, feast your eyes on this cover!

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Book Blurb
Small-Town Daddy
Jackson Daughtry’s jobs as a paramedic and part-owner of a local café keep him
busy—but the single dad’s number one priority is raising his little girl with love and small-town values. And when his business partner’s hotshot lawyer niece comes to town planning to disrupt their lives by moving her aunt away, Jackson has to set Melanie Harper straight. When circumstances force them to work side by side in the coffee shop, Jackson slowly discovers what put the sadness in Melanie’s pretty brown eyes. Now it’ll take all his faith—and a hopeful five-year-old—to show the city gal that she’s already home.

At the end of the post, I’ll have news about a giveaway. But for now, I asked Jill a few questions about the cover.

El Space: How did you feel seeing the cover of your first novel? Did you have any expectations? If so, how were they met?
Jill: When my editor first sent a sneak peak of the cover in order for me to catch any obvious errors, my hand shook as I moved my mouse to click on the link. Despite having the daughter of my hero as a brunette instead of a blond, I loved it. My editor promptly notified the art department for Harlequin, who operate out of Canada, and they made the change. I’m very pleased with the final cover. Since this is the first book I’d ever written, to say it’s surreal to see the characters I created in my mind when I first wrote the story on a cover is an understatement.

El Space: What input did you have in regard to the cover?
Jill: Since the art department doesn’t read the books published by Harlequin, it’s the author’s responsibility to provide photos and descriptions of both the characters and the setting. I was required to describe three outdoor scenes in my book and provide a photo similar to each setting. The descriptions also included what the characters were wearing at the time.

El Space: What types of covers do you usually like? Some people like covers with photos. Others like illustrations or interesting fonts.
Jill: I suppose it depends on the genre. I’m usually more drawn to a cover that has at least one of the characters if it’s romance or women’s fiction. If I’m reading a thriller or suspense, I prefer to see a snapshot of a dark scene without a character. I’ll admit, while browsing a bookstore, I’m always drawn to a cover with a beach scene, since the ocean is my favorite place to de-stress.

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By day, Jill Weatherholt works for the City of Charlotte. At night, and on the weekend, she writes contemporary stories about love, faith and forgiveness for Harlequin Love Inspired.

Raised in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., she now resides in Charlotte, North Carolina, but her heart belongs to Virginia. She holds a degree in Psychology from George Mason University and Paralegal Studies Certification from Duke University. She shares her life with her real-life hero and number one supporter. Their relationship grew on the golf course, and now they have one in their backyard. Jill believes in enjoying every moment of this journey because God has everything under control.

Connect with Jill
Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
Blog 

You can preorder Second Chance Romance here:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble

But one of you will receive a preorder of the book. Just comment below to be entered in the drawing. Winner to be announced on November 7.

Kitty Returns—My 400+ Post

Actually, this is my 411th post. I meant to commemorate the 400th post, but totally forgot about that milestone until now. Better late than never right?

Which brings me to the subject of this post: Kitty, or as she is sometimes known, Hello Kitty. She has not been seen since this post. Guess she’s been kinda busy. Being a supervillain can be difficult, especially if you’re carrying a cupcake and generally look sweet. Perhaps you can relate.

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If you’re like Kitty, to make up for those deficits, you try to be extra clever as you work through your nefarious schemes. You travel the world, making sure the world is worth your time and effort to take it over. And you hire henchpeople and supervise them, or delegate that responsibility to thugs who don’t often have your work ethic.

You also speak to large crowds, making sure they understand your demands, and are aware of their place—squarely beneath the heels of your fur-lined jackboots.

I caught up with Kitty at her latest rally, and watched her address the crowd, hearing their mournful sighs as she unveiled her master plan for world domination. I had a few questions for her afterward.

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Me: So, what’s it like being an icon for females young and old who love carrying backpacks shaped like you? By the way, that doesn’t seem like supervillainy to me.

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Kitty: It’s part of the plan, L. All part of the plan.
Me: I see. So, will you tell me what’s going on in the photo below? Is that a crocheted beaker? Is Jordie (below left) one of your henchpeople? Since when do you have a minion (below right)? And is Jordie spelled J-O-R-D-I-E or J-O-R-D-Y? I haven’t been very consistent on this blog, because I wasn’t sure of the spelling.

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Kitty: No. Yes. Yes. None ya.
Me: Huh?
Kitty: No, I won’t tell you what’s going on in that photo. Like the rest of the world, you’ll have to wait and see. But by then, it will be too late for you. Mwahahahaha! Yes, that is a crocheted beaker. How observant of you. Yes, Jordie is one of my henchpeople. And none of your business whether or not I have a minion. Hence the term none ya.
Me: You’re rude.
Kitty: Thank you. I try. And for the record, Jordie prefers the J-O-R-D-I-E spelling.
Me: Gotcha. And what is the significance of this photo?

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Kitty: Don’t ask. Just . . . don’t.
Me: Well, can you at least tell me why Gandalf is in the beaker in this photo?

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Kitty: That’s actually a funny story.
Me: I’d love to hear it.
Kitty: Too bad! I won’t tell it to you. Mwahahahahaha!
Me (sighing): I give up.
Kitty: That’s what I like to hear!

So, there you have it. A supervillain’s work seems confusing and secretive at times—kind of like the thinking processes of this intrepid blogger.

Thanks for sticking around for 411 posts. You can count on me to bring you the 4-1-1 (that’s old slang for information if you’re completely confused) on the weird, the whimsical, and the wild.

Photos by L. Marie.

The View in the Darkness

img_3709I haven’t wanted to write this post, so rather than talk myself out of it, here goes.

I’ve had the kind of season people describe with idioms like “the bottom dropping out” or “waiting for the other shoe to drop—whoops, there it goes.” In the last few months, my electricity was switched off due to nonpayment. Internet also. The landlord sent polite notices asking for the rent. I often wondered where my next meal was coming from. When you lack money or a job that pays regularly, you can expect this sort of thing to happen.

You can also expect to field a lot of advice from well-meaning people, who assume you’ve lost control of your life and need them to step in to fix it. “You should apply for this job,” I’ve been told so often, that if I had a dollar for every time I heard it, I could buy real estate.

Oh, I have applied for many jobs. Case in point, I applied for an office manager job at a nearby college a couple of months ago. I had to take four tests for that. I think I broke a record for how low I scored on the Windows Excel test. (The last version of Excel I had was the 2003 version.) Needless to say, I did not get that job.

Anyway, not long after that, a friend and I were headed into a grocery store (a store known for their gelato section, where you can buy a small cup for $1.25) for our bimonthly chat when we spotted a guy who is a friend to both of us.

“What’ve you been up to?” I asked.

“I just got a new job,” he said.

“Oh, where?” I asked.

And then he named the college and the department. Yep. The job I did not get. But I was happy for him. He needed work too.

So yes, I have applied for jobs while using the library’s wifi. (And yes, I applied for a job at that library three times. Didn’t get those jobs.) I networked. I auditioned for writing projects (mentioned in this post here), only to have to wait and wait and wait.

When your lights are off, candles become very precious. Now, I’m not into candles like some of my friends who love the mood they create. So I’ve tended to shove into cabinets the ones I’ve been given. Well, they came in handy this time.

I thought about how the pioneers in the days before electricity were able to do so much without it. I also thought about scenes I’d written in novels where the people had only firelight and a few precious candles to use for light. I totally had the lighting all wrong in my twenty-first century-used-to-electricity mindset.

One thing about being in the dark—you can’t help noticing the shapes of things in shadow. You also tend to appreciate any sliver of light you can find.

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I couldn’t read for long in the dark, even with candles, so I had to turn to my imagination. I told myself stories—something I used to do every night. When had I gotten out of the habit? I’m not sure. This was a nice habit to reclaim.

Anyway, my time in the dark didn’t last long. I received a check for something I can’t really discuss in public, but could tell you a little about in private. The check enabled me to have the lights turned on. And just last week, one of the projects for which I auditioned was finally approved with me as the sole author. And it pays well. 🙂 My landlord will be happy. I have a tight deadline on that one though. But I’m grateful for the work. Want to know something funny? It involves writing stories—a lot of them in fact. One hundred to be precise for kids ages 4-7.

It seems my time in the dark was helpful after all.