Happy Holidays 2016

22428327-baby-jesus-nativity

Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled:
Joyful all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies,
With the angelic host proclaim,
Christ is born in Bethlehem:
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King.

Words: Charles Wesley (1707-88), George Whitfield (1714-70), Martin Madan (1726-90), and William Hayman Cummings (1831-1915)
Music: “Mendelssohn” chorus by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809-47), adapted by William Hayman Cummings

img_4019

Merry Christmas!
Chag Sameach to those who celebrate Hanukkah.

Before we go our separate holiday ways, I’d like to announce the winner of The Spirit Well by Charles Yallowitz. (If you are confused by that statement, click here.)

the-spirit-well-cover

That person is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . . (I could go on like this all day.)

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Jill Weatherholt!

Congratulations, Jill! You know the drill—please comment below to confirm, then email your info to me at lmarie7b(at)gmail(dot)com.

img_3984

Believe it or not, Kitty received gifts from a grateful fan. She chose not to share her Christmas bounty with anyone.

Baby Jesus image from freeimages.com. Book cover courtesy of Charles Yallowitz. Other photos by L. Marie.

How to Really Win the Holidays

I’m very late getting this post  out, having been offline for three days. Obviously, I’ve returned! 🙂 But I said I would announce the winners of the book giveaways today. Better late than never, eh?

If you’ve watched TV at all recently, you’ve probably seen some of Best Buy’s recent “win the holidays” campaign. You can win by purchasing gifts of technology at—where else—Best Buy. The clear winner of course would be Best Buy, who would significantly add to its coffers with your money.

bby-stock-best-buy-logo

But I’m sure you know how to really win the holidays. With the angels proclaiming peace on earth and goodwill toward men (Luke 2; consult A Charlie Brown Christmas, which comes on TV every year), you can extend goodwill toward people. How?

    • Instead of texting, call or visit a friend or family member—especially someone who lives alone or suffered a recent loss. Maybe you don’t know what to say. But your presence is more valuable than words.
    • Buy someone homeless a hot meal. You’ve probably seen this viral photo, which involves a woman doing just that. Think of the impact you can have. A hot meal might seem like a drop in a bucket compared to an ocean of need. But it’s an act of love that will never be forgotten.
    • Make a card or a gift for someone. Remember how excited you were when you were a kid and could hand off the paper chain or wreath you made? Recapture the fun and wonder by making a gift for someone.

Happy Foot

This is a Happy Foot coaster I’m making as a gift (pattern by A.D. Whited of Enchanted Hook).

  • Instead of stressing about where you can find that bobble-head figure from the Star Wars franchise (Toys R Us or Target by the way—you’re welcome), take a hot chocolate break. I know. Easy for me to say. I don’t have an 11-year-old who is dying to get a storm trooper bobble head. But I know some would love to chat about the movies or shows over a nice cup of hot chocolate.
  • Give an animal friend a treat. Even if you lack a pet, you can still give to the animals around you. The orange tabby who lives in the area likes to stop by for tuna. (Though he’s very finicky about brands. He won’t eat the dirt cheap kind.) If you have a garden that rabbits and deer enjoyed over the summer, relax. You’ve already given.

Another way to win is to get free stuff. So let’s get to the book giveaways: All We Left Behind by Ingrid Sundberg

ALLWELEFTBEHIND Ingrid Sundberg Author Photo

and Heading North by Andy Murray.

Andy Photo 12294646_10153732827966740_3177437019818522964_n

The winner of All We Left Behind is

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Carrie Rubin!!!

The winner of Heading North is

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Laura Bruno Lilly!!

Winners please comment below to confirm.

Best Buy logo from slant.investorplace.com.

No Peeking!

004Remember when you were a kid, and you tried to figure out what was in those boxes under the Christmas tree? (Maybe you still do.) Perhaps you grabbed a box and did the shake test to figure out its contents. (With the shake test, you run the risk of it backfiring if you are particularly vigorous and the package’s contents particularly fragile.) Or, maybe you were bold enough to tear off a tiny corner of the wrapping paper, which you later blamed on the dog or cat or a sibling, especially after a parent told you, “Hey, no peeking!”

If you’re anything like me, you didn’t wait for presents to be added to the tree. You went looking for them. I usually did, especially after hearing my older brother say, “I saw something in Mom and Dad’s closet.” Yes, I was gullible enough to take him at his word. And of course I didn’t find anything in the closet. But I continued the search by poking under their bed and in the living room closet. And you know what? My parents were way ahead of us. With three curious children, they didn’t bother hiding gifts in the house. A locked car trunk ensured that our Christmas gifts remained unopened until Christmas Day.

014

Hello Kitty wants to peek inside this gift. But the tied string thwarts her. Poor Kitty. She failed to realize that the gift is in the envelope. The thing on top of it is a crocheted Christmas tree light stuffed with cotton.

What is it about surprises that make us try to figure them out beforehand? Some surprises, like wrapped Christmas gifts, are all about delayed gratification. But in our instant, I-can’t-even-wait-a-second-for-my-download society, we have to know NOW. “I’ve gotta peek,” we tell ourselves. But does learning the outcome right away make getting the gift any better? (I hear some of you murmuring, “It sure does.”)

Waiting is part of the magic of Christmas. Think about it. When a parent refused to give in to any demands to tell you RIGHT NOW what’s in those packages, the anticipation was all the more heightened. Consider how excited you were as you lay in bed, counting the seconds until you could spring up and rush to the tree.

christmas-gifts

This season, is there anything for which you’re waiting? What can you do to regain that delightful sense of anticipation if you haven’t felt it for a while?

While you think about that, let me move on to another item of business. Those of you who waited for the Christmas book giveaway reveal, the wait is over! (Wondering what I’m talking about? Look here.) Drumroll, please . . .

drumroll

First up is a preorder of Audacity by Melanie Crowder.

Audacity-cover-206x300  500

The winner of is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Courtney Stein!

Next is The Terror of the Southlands by Caroline Carlson.

20306792  CarolineCarlson

The winner of is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Nancy Hatch!

Last, but not least, is Caminar by Skila Brown.

Caminar-hi-res-180x271  Skila-larger-size-180x120

The winner is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Laurie Morrison!

Congratulations, winners! See? You didn’t have to shake a package or look in a closet or under the bed. Merry Christmas! When you confirm below, please provide an email address. Thanks for commenting.

Christmas gifts from ivysays.com. Santa hat from dcafterfive.com. Drumroll from funylool.com.

’Tis the Season

Christmas-gift-ideas“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas,” as the song goes. And it’s my pleasure to announce that Christmas has come early for the two winners of Gene Luen Yang’s two-volume masterpiece Boxers & Saints. Ho ho ho!

             boxerssaints

So, without further ado (or should I say much ado to work in a Shakespeare title), the two winners are . . . first . . .

First . . .

First . . .

First . . .

First . . .

Charles Yallowitz . . . and second . . .

Second . . .

Second . . .

Second . . .

Second . . .

Ellar Cooper!!!!

Congrats to you both. Please email me (lmarie7b(at)gmail(dot)com) to provide your snail mail address. Please also provide your phone number. (Sorry. That’s Amazon’s requirement for package delivery.) Merry Christmas!

Speaking of Christmas, what is it about the holidays that makes you willing to put up with more cheese than usual? Okay. I’ll speak for myself. I’m willing to put up with a great deal of cheese. I’m hooked on the Christmas movies on Hallmark and Lifetime. They’re the perfect vehicles for washed-up ’80s TV stars or sisters of ex-Disney Channel stars. The plot is usually a variation on the following: a recently fired, high-powered career woman/broke single mom needs to turn over a new leaf/sell toys or trees/experience a miracle/pay a mortgage before the bank forecloses/get back her self-respect/mojo. Though she’s as broke as a busted window, she usually has a designer wardrobe with killer shoes and a condo or house large enough for a family of six. Or, she lives with her parents who run their own Christmas-oriented business and cheerfully meddle in her love life.

27161-280x280-Sexychristmasshoes

Nothing says Christmas like these shoes.

Of course she’ll find true wuv before the holidays. A hot guy will walk up to her and ask her out, even if she’s in the ladies room. But she’ll get dumped or dump him five minutes before the end due to a horrible misunderstanding. Thankfully, her adorable child/wacky best friend/loyal dog/nagging mom/conscience/belief in Santa Claus/circumstances will work to give her the happy ending the movie requires. Before that happens, there will be lots of holiday moments: ice skating, tree trimming, hot chocolate sipping, tinkling the ivories while singing Christmas carols, Christmas cookie baking, kisses under the mistletoe, and walks around Manhattan. She’ll help him be less cynical/love tree decorating/regain his Christmas spirit/learn to ice skate. He’ll teach her to love again/take a risk/ice skate/see the beauty within/work with disadvantaged kids. Good times. Note that zombies never figure into the scenario. Sigh.

  simple-christmas-tree-wallpapersbuckethead

This . . . but never . . . this.

But I don’t mind the predictability. Movies like this are comfort food for the eyes, thanks to the guaranteed happy ending. After all, it’s Christmas, right?

Sigh. As much as I love a happy ending, for some reason, I can’t wrap things up so cheerfully in my novel. I’ve tried. So I wrote an ending that seems more realistic. Yet I feel like the Grinch who stole Christmas as I steal the joy from my characters. I wish some adorable child/loyal dog/wacky best friend would come and make things all warm and fuzzy. But given the events of the story—heartache, unrequited love, death, chaos—warm fuzzies at the end are an uneasy fit, even with a bit of wuv woven into the narrative.

So, I watch these holiday-cheer movies as I work up the courage to end my characters’ hopes for now. Blue Christmas? They’ll probably have one, even if the characters in the movies I watch don’t.

How about you? Is a happy ending a requirement for you? If not, what is the most satisfying ending you’ve read recently, even if it was sad?

Gift image from vizfact.com. Tree from wallpaperchristmas.net. Shoes from shoes.lovetoknow.com. Zombie from plantsvszombies.wikia.com.

A Belly Button for My Bookcase

024Every bookcase needs a belly button. What? You don’t believe that? It just so happens that mine has one. (And yes, my bookshelves are crowded.)

Have you spotted it yet? The belly button I mean. It’s the word joy. A belly button reminds me that I was born a vulnerable human being—a tiny baby connected to my mother for nine months. Joy reminds me that I’m still a vulnerable human being in need of the fresh perspective that joy brings.

And of course, this season of Christmas with songs that declare “O tidings of comfort and joy” and “Joy to the World, the Lord is come” are a vivid reminder to be proactive about being joyful. Not always easy, huh?

Julie-as-Maria-maria-von-trapp-julie-andrews-30320447-486-750You know, the word joy has occupied my bookshelf so long—years actually—I stopped seeing it until today when I needed the reminder. See, instead of tidings of joy, I’ve been singing tidings of grumpiness, constantly focused on what I think I don’t have or what I do have (loud neighbors, a car with bald tires, a refrigerator without chocolate). I’d forgotten that joy, unlike happiness, isn’t intermittent or based on things going right. It’s an all-day feeling—a secret room in my heart. I can go there, put my feet up, and remember. As Maria (Julie Andrews) in The Sound of Music sang, “These are a few of my favorite things.”

Take a joy break with me today. Remember what brings you joy.

    zuko-300x185Plain-M&Ms-Pile

Royal_Poinciana

“These are a few of my favorite thiiiiiiiiiiiiings!”

Julie Andrews as Maria von Trapp from fanpop.com. Prince Zuko from probablymortal.com. M&Ms from shinebeautybeacon.blogspot.com. Royal Poinciana tree from commons.wikimedia.org.