Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Twleve Nights

Well, it’s over. Christmas has come and gone for another year.
But has it?
Today is Boxing Day, a traditional United Kingdom holiday.  The usual lore is that masters gave Christmas presets or “Christmas Boxes” to their staff the day after Christmas. This usually included the day off so that servants could visit their own families to exchange gifts. Boxing Day is a less formal holiday, with people dropping by for a snack or a drink.
The British also let their eccentricities out on Boxing Day. Like our Polar Swim Clubs, there are swims and dips in the icy waters around Britain—often in fancy dress—rubber ducky races and beagling—a sort of mock fox hunt on foot.
It’s also a day for giving alms and remembering the poor, a day when churches traditionally opened their alms boxes and distributed the money to the needy.
Shopping has become a Boxing Day passion recently.  Although it’s a national holiday, with public offices closed, shops and malls are open with lots of after-Christmas sales.
Remember the Twelve Days of Christmas?  Well, Boxing Day is the first day, the day of a partridge in a pear tree.
Despite popular belief, the Twelve Days of Christmas begin Dec. 26 and run until January 6, Twelfth Night or Epiphany. This is historically when the Magi arrived to give gifts to Jesus and is one of the oldest Christian feast days.
What this means to people like me—people who know that Christmas is ALWAYS on December 25, but never finish preparations in time—is that I still have twelve days to get cards written and mailed, some gifts bought and sent, some friends visited, some phone calls made. 
I’ve been celebrating Twelfth night for several years, once I figured out this means I can keep my tree up and decorated until January 6.  Twelve more nights of the wonderful glow in my living room, twelve more days of the piney smell in the house and twelve more days before I have to face taking down and packing up all the decoration until next December.
Ah, the Twelve Days of Christmas.  Bring ‘em on!

Michele Drier’s works include the paranormal romance series, The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles.  The first two books, SNAP: The World Unfolds, and SNAP: New Talent, received 4 stars from PRG.  The third and fourth books, Plague: A Love Story, and Danube: A Tale of Murder were given 5 stars. The first four books are now available in a boxed set at Amazon and Kobo. Book Five, SNAP: Love for Blood, published December 15, has already received 5-star ratings on Amazon and Goodreads.  She’s writing SNAP: Happily Ever After? for release in summer 2013 and a seventh book in late fall 2013.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Remembering Sandy Hook's Shooting Victims

Picture Source-http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/15/sandy-hook-shooting-victims-names_n_2307354.html

Last Friday something terrible, something that should have never happened, did. Twenty children and seven adults died in Newtown. Most were at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Like everyone who has heard of this tragedy, I’m heartsick. I can’t do my usual Thursday Thirteen post. Instead, I’d like to remember those we've lost.

·         Charlotte Bacon, 2/22/06, female. Her brother, John Hagen, described her saying, "She was going to go some places in this world. This little girl could light up the room for anyone."
·         Daniel Barden, 9/25/05, male. His family said, “He was fearless in the pursuit of happiness in life.”
·         Rachel Davino, 7/17/83, female. Rachel was a behavioral therapist whose passion was working with children within the autism spectrum. 
·         Olivia Engel, 7/18/06, female. Her uncle, John Engel told reporters, “She was a child who lit up a room and the people around her."
·         Josephine Gay, 12/11/05, female. Josephine liked purple, riding her bike and selling lemonade.
·         Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 04/04/06, female. Ana liked to sing and, rumor has it, there’s an internet video of her performing, “Come, Thou Almighty King,"if you’d like to see her.
·         Dylan Hockley, 3/8/06, male. His grandmother, Theresa Moretti, said he liked eating garlic bread, playing video games and watching movies.
·         Dawn Hochsprung, 06/28/65, female. Dawn was Sandy Hook’s principal. People say she was smiling more often than not and she had a way of letting children know she cared about them.
·         Madeleine F. Hsu, 7/10/06, female. Madeleine loved reading, dancing and running.
·         Catherine V. Hubbard, 6/08/06, female. Catherine had bright red hair and an infectious smile. She loved animals.
·         Chase Kowalski, 10/31/05, male. His neighbor Kevin Grimes, spoke of Chase saying, “You couldn't think of a better child."
·         Nancy Lanza, 52, Nancy was the gunman's mother and his first victim.
·         Jesse Lewis, 6/30/06, male. Barbara McSperrin, a family friend describes, Jesse as "a typical 6-year-old little boy, full of life."
·         James Mattioli , 3/22/06, male. His family called him “J”. They said he liked to eat and to sing.
·         Grace McDonnell, 12/04/05, female. Her family called her "the love and light" of their family.
·         Anne Marie Murphy, 07/25/60, female. Anne Marie died shielding others.
·         Emilie Parker, 5/12/06, female. People said Emilie liked to make cards, draw pictures and bring cheer to others. 
·         Jack Pinto, 5/06/06, male. Jack was a New York Giants fan.
·         Noah Pozner, 11/20/06, male. His uncle, Alexis Haller, described Noah as "smart as a whip." Noah liked to read and figure out how things worked.
·         Caroline Previdi, 9/07/06, female. Caroline had brown hair and a huge smile that will be missed.
·         Jessica Rekos, 5/10/06, female. Jessica loved horses. She was hoping to get one when she became ten.
·         Avielle Richman, 10/17/06, female. Avielle was happiest when she was on horseback.
·         Lauren Rousseau, 6/1982, female. Lauren just landed the job as a teacher and her family said this year was the best year of her life.
·         Mary Sherlach, 2/11/56, female. She worked at Sandy Hook as the school psychologist. When she heard the shots she ran to help.
·         Victoria Soto, 11/04/85, female. Victoria was a teacher who gave her life trying to save others. Her mom said she’d wanted to be a teacher since she was three. People said she had a gift for making students feel special.
·         Benjamin Wheeler, 9/12/06, male. Ben loved soccer and swimming.
·         Allison N. Wyatt, 7/03/06, female. Allison was a kind-hearted girl who liked drawing and wanted to be an artist.

In lieu of comments, please take a moment to pray for Newtown and the families who will never be the same. Thank you.


None of this information is first hand. The fabulous reporting of the sources listed above allowed me to collect a fact or two about each victim. Thanks.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Blazing Hot Keyboard: 50,000-Word Novel in a Month

            This November, I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a rigorous challenge where writers from all over the world come together with the goal of completing a 50,000-word novel in a month.
            That's right, it's no typo: 50,000 words -- a total of 200 typed pages in slightly more than four weeks.
            I’m proud to tell you, I completed the challenge.
            Woot! Huzzah! And Hooray. I’m a NaNoWriMo "winner," which basically means each day in November I strung together almost 1,700 words or 7 pages of double-spaced copy to add to a Rough Draft --  the bare bones of a fictional story, which, I tell myself, holds the promise of becoming something awesome, perhaps even a best-seller given a bit of rewriting, editing and polish.
            Which brings up the question: Could my novel or any of the NaNoWriMo novels actually get published?
            The answer is YES, absolutely. Here are 13 participants who have tasted that success:
                    1. Amelia Atwater-RhodesPersistence of Memory (Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2008). Contact: randomhouse.com/features/atwaterrhodes
            2. Jill BaguchinskySpookygirl (Dutton Juvenile, 2012). Contact: mintconspiracy.blogspot.com
            3.  B.A. BinnsPull (WestSide Books, 2010). Contact: babinns.com
            4.  Kathy Cano-MurilloLove Shine (Grand Central Publishing, 2007) Contact: CraftyChica.com
            5  Lisa DailyThe Dreamgirl Academy (Plume/Penguin Putnam, 2008). Contact: stopgettingdumped.com
            6. Delphine DrydenSnow Job (Ellora’s Cave, 2008), When in Rio (Ellora’s Cave, 2008), How to Tell a Lie (Ellora’s Cave, 2009). Contact: delphinedryden.com
            7. Terie GerrisonSpringFire and SummerDanse (Llewellyn Worldwide). Contact: teriegarrison.com
            8.  Sara GruenFlying Changes (HarperCollins, 2005), Water for Elephants (Algonquin, 2007) and Ape House (Spiegel & Grau, 2010). Contact: saragruen.com                  
          9.  Kimberly LlewellynCashmere Boulevard (Berkley Books, 2007). Contact: kimberlyllewellyn.com
            10.  Erin MorgensternThe Night Circus (Doubleday Books 2011). Contact: erinmorgenstern.com
            11.  Lani Diane RichTime Off for Good Behavior (Warner Books, 2004), Maybe Baby (Warner Books, 2005), and Wish You Were Here (Warner Books, 2008). Contact: lanidianerich.com

            12.  Vanitha SankaranWatermark: A Novel of the Middle Ages (Avon A, 2010). Contact: vanithasankaran.com
            13.  Anna SheehanA Long, Long Sleep (Candlewick Press, 2011). Contact: annasheehan.com
            I’m only listing 13, but you can find more at: http://www.nanowrimo.org/en/publishedwrimos.
      And if you participated in National Novel Writing Month, I’d like to congratulate you! Fifty thousand words in just four weeks is a lot and making a daily commitment to writing pages isn’t easy. Kudos for stretching, for trying something brave and adding something new to your daily routine.
      I’m with you and I wish you much success.
            Did you pick up the Nanowrimo gauntlet? Did you take up another challenge? I’d love to hear from you. Please share.                

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Which Came First, The Fork Or The Chopsticks?

By Eilis Flynn

Once more, it was eating out with the Hub that led to a conversation that I had to tell you about. Usually, it was when we went out to our favorite diner, but this time, we had decided to go to our favorite Indian restaurant. As always, it was a thoughtful comment by the Hub—this time, as he was examining his fork as he was about to tuck into his dahl—wondering why it is that some cultures use forks and spoons, while others (notably, in Asia) use chopsticks.

I was an anthropology major, so I could hazard a guess about some of this—but only some, because I was a linguistical anthropology major (language was my forte, not sociocultural norms), and the most I would easily be able to hazard a guess about would be the terms used in utensils. But that wasn’t the question, was it? Anyway, I felt a need to do a little research.

The way these things go, I still don’t have a definite answer about why one was adopted over the other, considering both the chopsticks and the fork are of prehistoric origins, although the entire topic was an intriguing one. And I can’t help but think that it may be like the chicken and the egg: did one set of cultures adopt the chopsticks because the foodstuffs available there were easier to manipulate with one over the other? In that case, if it’s true that Marco Polo brought pasta back to Italy from his adventures in China, why didn’t the Italians promptly adopt chopsticks, because the hashi (as the Japanese call chopsticks) work so much better on noodles? For that matter, did Marco Polo really do that? I gotta check that out, too. Back in a bit. (Well, I’m back. Apparently the tale about Marco bringing back pasta from China originated from the trade periodical The Macaroni Journal, which, come to think of it, I remember hearing about from watching the TV show Good Eats. Is that true? This may take a while longer, and I’ve got a deadline.)

Anyway, chopsticks were being used in China as early as about 3,200 years ago. But the earliest chopsticks weren’t for individual use, for eating, according to Wikipedia. They were most likely used for cooking, and eventually, of course, chopsticks became the main choice of utensil in East Asia (with subtle differences among different cultures for their proper use), although forks are in plenty evidence these days. (As an aside, I present a series of workshops online and at conferences with my copresenter Jacquie Rogers called “Myths and Legends Along the Silk Road,” looking at how various mythological figures appear and change between Western and Eastern cultures. One thing that I found interesting is that vampire myths don’t appear a whole lot in the Far East, with the exception of the legend of the hopping vampire in China. I posit a theory here: most of the vampires there have been killed off, having been stabbed into oblivion by wooden chopsticks! Anyway.)

And speaking of the fork — which we were before I teetered off into another topic — it apparently had some history on its own, with evidence that it was around as early as Mesopotamia, ancient Greece, and the Roman Empire. The Byzantine Empire is about when the fork for you and me came about, finally becoming in common use starting from the 18th century. Of course, it didn’t come into broad use without some complaints (“Fancy high-tech!” probably being somebody’s sniffed comment), of course, including some church folk who apparently pointed out that fingers were mankind’s proper utensil and the fork was an affront to the Deity (and even though the fork is referred to in the Bible, and not in a negative way).

Back to the original topic — which came first, the fork or the chopstick? After looking at the references I could find off-hand (without enrolling in graduate school somewhere to study the topic for several years before defending a thesis for what possible use I cannot imagine), I have to conclude that they probably came about in the same period, maybe in the same area, maybe distant from each other — hard to say. The fork would have been more useful for stabbing and handling larger hunks of food, while the chopsticks would have been better for stabbing vampires (just kidding!) and tackling smaller items. Like so many other things in mankind’s development, things change and even (dare I say it?) evolve, depending on how it’s most useful to the situation at hand.

What all this means, of course, is that we can take advantage of all of our choices. So what’s this mean for you? It means you’re free to use whatever utensil you want. And if that involves using your fingers to eat soup, well, wait until it cools off a little, because otherwise it’s going to be not only messy but painful.

Eilis Flynn likes Indian food, which is why we got into this topic in the first place. She can be found to argue with at Facebook, Twitter, or at her website at www.eilisflynn.com.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What is love?

"What is love?" was my DH's question after he'd told me on our first date that he "just about loved me" - and then took it back. Talk about back peddling. It actually sounded more like, "Oh come on, what is love anyway."

Eventually he figured it out because here we are many years later, but I look back at that now that I'm a writer and when I'm reading another writer's story and ask myself, what are we looking for? As writers and readers, how is true love expressed in your favorite stories, movies?

What is the love readers want to see portrayed in fiction? Is it the HEA (For anyone who's never heard that term, it's "happily ever after".) Is it some more "realistic" depiction of love with all its challenges no matter how it ends? Or is it somewhere in between?

When I read or write or dream the love between two committed individuals this is what I think of it as:

A "You're it for me" and "All I want is you" desire whether hot and passionate or burning slowly and deeply that can keep the attraction alive through the years, a desire for the other person's body but even more for their stellar humor or intelligence or kindness.

Acceptance of each other for who they are, appreciation for how the other's differences can challenge and complement the relationship, and at least respect for how they are different.

Consideration and kindness and care for each other's well being.

An "I'm-on-your-side" mentality when everyone else isn't.

Trust and a lack of competition.

Someone who shares the same vision of life, the same priorities.

My favorite contemporary depictions of love are Jamie and Claire in Gabaldon's Outlander series, Roarke and Eve in Robb's In Death books and most recently the Windhams in Grace Burrowes' books, especially Lady Maggie's Secret Scandal.

How about you? Who are your favorite lovers portrayed in recent movies or books?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Losing My Hero

Some of you may have noticed I’ve been MIA for a while now. There’s a reason for that. Every little girl views her father as the first hero in her life. On August 31st, I lost mine. He was 75 years old and taken from us suddenly and without warning. Since then, I haven’t not had the will to read or write romance. It’s nearly impossible to think about love and happily-ever-afters when your heart is broken.

Instead, I’m finding consolation in reading books like Heaven Is For Real, The Shack, and Many Lives, Many Masters. I’m falling back on my faith, seeking comfort in the knowledge that I will see him again. I’ve also opened myself up to messages from the other side. I’ve found that things that on the surface may seem odd, strange, or coincidental take on a new meaning when I pay attention and connect the dots. I truly believe my dad has sent signs of comfort, letting me know he’s okay and still around. I’m keeping a log of these incidences and may blog about them at some point. But right now they’re a little too personal to share.

Thanksgiving was tough, as I’m sure many firsts without him will be from now on. Still, I did have things to be thankful for. I gave thanks that we were able to celebrate my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary two years ago with my brother and sister and all the grandkids at Emerald Isle. I am thankful that last summer we spent a week RVing with my parents through Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. I’m thankful that 3 weeks before he passed, we were able to spend a week at Garden City Beach with dad, where he played in the sand surrounded by all 4 of his grandchildren. Those are memories my children will always cherish of their grandfather. But most important of all is I’m so very thankful that as we hugged our goodbyes at the end of that beach vacation, the last words my father and I said to each other were “I love you.”

I’m slowly working through my grief and will eventually get back to writing. Some days are better than others, while at other times it’s very hard for this daddy’s girl to make it through the day. After all, daddies aren’t suppose to die, and little girls shouldn’t lose their heroes.

I love you daddy.