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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Just a Thought--A Christmas Collage

This year I will celebrate my 53rd Christmas, and I guess I have enough years under my belt to wax a little nostalgic on Christmases past. It has happened gradually, but Christmas has changed a lot over the decades.

When I was growing up in the 60s and 70s, the month of December was a magical time of preparation leading up to the big day on December 25. Each morning during Advent at St. Athanasius in West View, where I attended grade school, a different homeroom went to the office and sang over the scratchy loudspeaker, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Every time I hear that song now, (my favorite is B. E. Taylor’s version) I’m transported back to my desk, counting down the days until Christmas. In first grade, Sr. Lois putting up a manger and handed us slips of yellow paper. We were to write a good deed we had done each day on these slips of “straw” that were placed in the manger as the bedding on which baby Jesus would rest. The mothers of the children there took turns cooking our lunches in the cafeteria, and for Christmas they always served us a complete turkey dinner.

As I got older, my circle of friends and I began to exchange gifts. Hot ones were Love’s Baby Soft Cologne and Lipsmacker lip-gloss. One year I got a frankincense and myrrh candle—it smelled terrible. At my class party in 1972, we played records, and that was where I first heard John Lennon’s Happy Xmas (War is Over). Forty years later, I still love that song.

At home, the arrival of the Sears Christmas Wishbook catalog was one of the best days of the year. My brothers, sister and I would fight over who would get it first. I remember lying on my stomach for hours paging through it circling things I wanted—everything from Snoopy Sno-Cone Makers to cowgirl suits. My paternal grandmother, Grandma Aggie, worked at Sears and one year she got me one. It was robin’s egg blue and had white fringe on the skirt’s bottom and across the shirt’s yoke. Pearl snaps finished off the Western look. My mom used to the clean the house from top to bottom starting in the beginning of December as if Joseph and Mary themselves were expected coming to our house to give birth. And then, when the house was in order, we decorated. I often wonder at the people who put up their trees on Thanksgiving if their houses are clean? I can’t put up my decorations unless I’ve cleaned. Old habits die hard.

Usually, we spent Christmas Eve in Etna with my mom’s side of the family, and after Grandma Aggie was widowed, we used to bring her along too. I believe it was Hass Electric on Butler Street that turned their whole storefront in to a Christmas scene. It was mesmerizing. The spread at my grandma’s wasn’t fancy--chip and dip, pretzels, and cheese balls and crackers, but it was fun. I remember my grandpap letting my brother smoke his first cigar with him when he was about 16. It was a trial to try to sleep on Christmas Eve, and one year my mom found me lying under the coffee table around 2 a.m. just staring at the presents under the tree. I always got a baby doll or Barbies when I was young, and looking back I realize that I was big into crafts too. One year I made macramé purses, another I molded candles, still another I made homemade soaps, and then it was on to oil paints and calligraphy pens. It’s a wonder I’m not living in New Mexico selling beads.

It was always so hard to tear ourselves away from those toys and go to church. But I loved Christmas Mass because all the songs were Christmas carols, and I knew all the words. Most Christmas dinners were spent at my Uncle Paul’s house. They had seven kids so there were people and kids everywhere. They set up two tables for dinner—one in the dining room and a kid’s table in the big foyer. Even though it was a big deal to make it to the adult table, a lot more fun was had sitting at the kid’s table.

 I don’t remember spending the days after Christmas at the mall returning gifts and shopping for bargains. We spent our holidays visiting friends and relatives, celebrating with them all the way to the New Year. Now, decades later, I have two trees, each with different themes and certain color schemes. I scour cookbooks to delight my company with delicious confections, and I have special Christmas plates and gold-toned cutlery.

Although everything looks a lot more stylish and is much more elaborate, I think over the decades, we’ve forgotten to make Christmas fun and how to really celebrate. Sometimes you can get caught up in all the wrappings and miss the real joy. Merry Christmas. I hope you wade through all the trappings and find it this year.

This originally appeared in the December 2012 issue of Northern Connection magazine.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Happy 12.12.12!

Hi Readers:

Several years ago as part of my course requirements to acquire my degree in writing, I had to take a math course.  I did fine in math in high school, but like many things, advanced math is something you must use or you lose it.  Well, I'd lost it by that time, so telling a writer they have to do math strikes fear in the heart. 

To satisfy the requirement, I took geometry, specifically sacred geometry, which turned out to be fascinating.  Although I did have to do some calculating, this was more a history of math type of course and revealed how math actually does play a role in our lives.

One of the things I learned is that numbers had significance in literature and religion.  Today, is 12.12.12.  Twelve, biblically speaking, represents completeness or the whole enchilada.  There were the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles, 12 days of Christmas, etc.

Keep your eyes open for the number 12 today.  I'm keeping my eyes open for a dozen of doughnuts or roses!  Or perhaps you might like to pick a dozen of books featured in the Holiday Ebook Extravaganza that concludes today.  Drop on by the website and pick up your copy of my book A Shepherd's Song or one of the many others featured.

Also, I'm featured on the Happily Ever After blog today.  Drop by and post a comment.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Holiday EBook Extravaganza for you Happeners!

Hi Readers:

I'm happy to be part of the Holiday Ebook Extravaganza.  Last night I attended a lovely Christmas dinner hosted by my husband's cousin for all the women in the family.  Someone suggested that everyone there take a turn and tell a tradition that they do in their family to celebrate Christmas.  

One of the cousins said she buys a special ornament for the women in her family who do things to make Christmas special.  Her mother-in-law, my husband's deceased  aunt, started doing that for her when she joined the family, telling her that "Christmas doesn't just happen.  Women make it happen."  Other relatives there confirmed that it wasn't my husband's aunt who started this tradition with her daughter-in-law, but my aunt's mother, my husband's grandmother, who has been dead for more than 50 years.  She used to put a silver dollar under the plate of those women who worked hard to prepare for Christmas.  What a lovely tradition, and it's now being carried on into a third generation.    

This time of year can be quite hectic for women who "make Christmas happen" for those they love.  I wish I could give all you "Happeners" a special ornament or silver dollar for all that you do to make the season merry and bright, but I can't.  But I can give you my thanks for making the world a much better and beautiful place in which to live and to offer you some advice:  Sometimes while doing all that needs to be done for the holidays, it's easy to misplace your Christmas spirit.  Please take some time for yourself this season.  One way is to sit and read a great Christmas story.  There are many featured in this extravaganza. My Christmas romance, A Shepherd's Song is guaranteed to help you reclaim the spirit.  Enjoy

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Tag--I'm It!

Thanks, Lily Silver, for tagging me for The Next Big Thing Blog Hop.  Lily has a new book The Rock Star Next Door .  It is a modern fairy tale, and who doesn't need a good fairy tale?

The Next Big Thing originated on the She Writes site, as far as we could work out, and is designed to raise awareness of our work, or work in progress. We do that by answering ten questions about it. We graciously thank the person who nominated us, and tag five other authors whose work could well be that NEXT BIG THING.
Lily's book was featured in the Thanks for Great Book Blog Hop & Fall Book Release event that just concluded.  Click here to read more about it.

Now, it's my turn to answer the questions and tag five more writers.  So far, I've struck out on tagging anyone.  If you are interested, please contact me.  It's really not hard and a great way to spread the word about your NEXT BIG THING.

My latest novel, A Shepherd's Song, also debuted during the Thanks for Great Book Blog Hop, but since we are talking about the NEXT BIG THING, I'm going to preview the next book that will come out.

What is the title of your next book?

The title of my next book, which will come out in late spring, is CAPE CURSED. 

I just love the cover my designer created.  

Where did the idea come from for the book?

For more than 20 years, my family has vacationed on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  Some years ago, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was moved inland--a major engineering feat--to save it from the encroaching Atlantic Ocean.  I wondered what would happen if a  Yankee girl's company came to the Outer Banks to move a beloved lighthouse?  Thus CAPE CURSED was born.

What genre does your book fall under?

CAPE CURSED is a romantic suspense.  

 Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Bliss Sherman is the heroine and she is half Korean.  No Asian/American actresses came to mind so I googled some.  Sonia Couling best exemplifies the beautiful woman I see in my mind when I think of Bliss.  

Parker Swain is the handsome descendant of the lighthouse keepers.  He's blond, soft-spoken and a Southern gentleman.  Tim McGraw would be a good one or Matthew MConaughey.  

Nancy Klempner is Bliss's faithful assistant.  She's an athletic, blonde, older woman.  If we could frump up Nicollette Sheridan, she'd be perfect.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

When beautiful Bliss Sherman arrives at Cape Destiny to move the cape's beloved lighthouse, she faces an even greater challenge when she falls in love with the handsome, mysterious descendant of the lighthouse keepers, Parker Swain, who is vehemently opposed to her moving the lighthouse and who may be trying to kill her.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? 

I'm a control freak.  I like self-publishing.

 How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

In all honesty, I' don't know. I've lost track.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? 

I'd say it compares to the seaside moodiness of du Maurier's classic Rebecca.  

 Who or What inspired you to write this book?

Strangely, one of the former secretaries where my husband's worked inspired me.  She was  very possessive of the company, even though she had no vested stake in the organization, other than being a regular employee.  Nancy is Bliss's assistant and is devoted to the company much as my husband's co-worker was.  

What else about your book might pique the reader interest?

The Outer Banks is a very romantic as well as treacherous place.  It is called the Graveyard of the Atlantic.  I wanted to capture the romance and danger of that stretch of coastline. 

Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to contact me if you'd like to be THE NEXT BIG THING.