Christmas Towns

Christmas holds different significant meanings for people: religious meanings, commercial and of course the favorite one for children…the fantasy behind it. Well, raised on the two topics not to discuss–politics and religion, the one I would like to shine the spotlight on is the fantasy one.

We never had Christmas in our house growing up. No tree, Santa who? No decorations, unless you count the candy canes and glitter ornament-adorned evergreen trees I would make out of red and green construction paper. Mommy would let me tape a few to the front window. And I tried hard to believe in Santa Claus. It came as no surprise that not only would Christmas be brought to life in my own home as an adult, but the fantasy of it would be so great. I used to want to live in an actual Christmas Town, where 24/7 it would rain, sleet and snow Christmas any and everything. My town had lights that never went off, snow-covered cottages with ample color and candy accents (think old-fashioned Gingerbread houses). And every house had a brick fireplace.

Share how you see your Christmas Town? Would it have reindeer? Would it be a Christmas Farm? Would it look like a scene straight from How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ Whoville?

Putting the “Give” Back In Thanksgiving

by A.M. Day

This is the time of year we are supposed to gear up for what we’re thankful for and with Thanksgiving only a few weeks away, there are so many things we can give thanks for today. One, the ability to be able to see and read this blog post. Our sense of hearing, smell, taste and touch. What about the ability to walk, run, play, laugh?

This Thanksgiving, I will be reflecting and giving thanks for my past, present and future. Dwelling on the best of holiday memories, especially, Thanksgiving 2010. It was extra special because we were also celebrating my parents 50th Anniversary and the fact that I was about to get my debut novel published the following spring. And then my world came to a halt the very next day. I learned that my best friend (we’ll call her L) had been admitted to the hospital, subsequently to a nursing home. Whoa, wait a minute! We’re far too young for nursing homes, I thought. When I think of a nursing home, I think of a place where the elderly go when they have no one to take care of them.

I’ll never forget the look on her face. It was so blah. When I looked closer, her eyes told a different story. They still had hope shining through them, behind the fear of what was happening to her body. Her prognosis…bleak and what we thought was a stay for physical rehab turned into a nightmare with the need for long-term care. Multiple sclerosis had rendered her crippled. L has had relapsing/remitting MS for the past twenty plus years and sought little to no treatment–always spry with the thought she’d bounce back after the relapse as she has before. But this time it would last longer and possibly be a permanent state. She hadn’t seen a doctor in several years prior and stayed locked away in her parents house.

L begged me to get her Power of Attorney. I refused, opting to be a secondary on it instead because we lived in two different states. After hearing about the lack of care she was receiving and sending my family to visit her for Christmas, my mind was slowly tipping towards stepping in.

I did the next month. When I arrived at the nursing home and the sitting area where she was, my heart broke from what I witnessed. Everyone looked so sad and lonely. L was sitting in a chair clutching a wax paper bag with vanilla wafers in it. It was true what my family told me about her frail, wasting away appearance. She had only eaten 1-2 boiled eggs a day the two months she was there and a few vanilla wafers. We knew it was her choice. She had grown picky over so many things from food to toothbrushes to the color of clothes she would wear. With MS a shift in mental capacity can occur and it did in her case. Still, ever heard of Ensure, nursing home folks?

In short, got her Power of Attorney and brought her home with me. Luckily, I had a team of doctors, specialists and physical therapists on stand-by when we arrived at the ER a week later. Everything was going as planned.  Finally, there was a small glimmer of hope. She was doing great in physical therapy, getting stronger and gaining weight back. And then that glimmer disappeared along with her progress, changing her condition to worse.

In between taking care of my kids, L, the dog, the house, writing and book details, I was almost a blubbering mess. There would be no book release for me in 2011. What there was was at least 7-8 strangers in my home a week, doing assessments and such. I knew I had taken on a mountain of responsibility, but this was my best friend and she had no one to take care of her.

I was on a path to something. That path was the discovery of giving thanks daily…over and over again. Thank you! I can use my hands and my feet. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! This did not come easy at first. My emotions went on a roller coaster ride of angry, sad, hurt and compassion. Gratitude set in shortly after. Gratefulness of having her in my life and showing me how not to take something as simple as walking to the bathroom for granted. She has always looked up to me. And now I look up to her as she hangs in there not cursing her illness and disability. Her eyes still have it. My childhood friend is in there. My high school buddy, who I used to cut class with to go downtown and see the holiday displays, my friend who spent two nights at the hospital with me while I was in labor with my first born. If I look hard enough I find glimpses of her former, healthy self more often and it makes me smile warmly…inside out.

The doctors don’t hold much hope for improvement and the future is uncertain for L, but I won’t give up. I won’t stop believing in miracles, in her. Every now and then, she’ll ask me if I think she will ever stand or walk again. And I reply, “Maybe. Nobody can say you’ll never stand or walk again. You could get up tomorrow for all we don’t know.” While I am thankful for so many other things, I am most thankful for L.

Thank you for enriching my life, L. You are an inspiration! 

What are you thankful for? How will you be Putting the Give back In Thanksgiving this year and everyday?

I Know Where the Muses Play

by A.M. Day

Recently, while on a river walk, I stumbled across something huge—the undeniable urge to write about what I rediscovered…Muses. Like other writers, I sometimes have more than one. They tap and hammer and hone in on my frequency, sometimes all at once—especially, if I’m ignoring them to quiet my mind. And I have been ignoring them lately…my own Muse included. I found a way to silence them when needed. My Muse had been resting comfortably during her forced hiatus as I began to reflect on this year so far. She usually shows up when I’m truly in need of some Muse musings, inspiration.

But the last couple of months…nothing. Not a peep out of her or the other Muses. I searched deep within the walls of my mind, my heart. She wasn’t there. This dragged on, forcing me to do whatever I had to in order to revive her spirit. I walked and ran, hoping she’d pop in with her regular chatter and rattling off as the endorphins opened me up. And still, no Muse or Muses. She was snubbing me, giving me the cold shoulder, like I had been doing to her.

I killed my Muse! I remember thinking. A feeling of loss came pouring in as I sat on one of the nearby benches. The river rippled and something gushed from underneath, pushing bubbles to the surface. As I took off to finish my walk, a song played out against nature’s tapestry, enticing me to take a closer listen. Every step felt as if something were touching me, playing tag with my soul. It danced a circle around me, in front of me and behind.

Something was with me the further I walked through the lushness of the tree-lined path. My ears became hyper-aware as the droopy tree branches on either side of me began to sway synchronously. The soft, colorful fall leaves and the stiffened, brown ones blew underneath my feet, racing me, as I lifted one foot after the other. There was a lively jolt further in that became dormant when I passed the thicket, toward the opening to the end of the path. I turned to go back the way I came, only to find that my Muse had warmed up to me again and invited a few of her Muse friends to play.

“She’s not dead! I didn’t kill her!” I sputtered inside. All the joy came flooding back to me. Gleeful whispers passed my ears, and then I heard it…loudly, distinctly. “You would not like it if someone tried to quiet your voice. Why would you quiet our voices? Never turn your back on us again or we might have to leave you for good…for someone who will appreciate our gifts and who enjoys playing with us.”

“I have learned my lesson well, Muse. And I will never turn my back on you again,” I replied.

If you lose the Muses, remember, they play all around us and within. We just have to be willing to pay attention, respect them or begin-the-begin.

Genre Hopping–Part 1

by A.M. Day

Should writers limit themselves to one genre? There was a time when it was almost taboo to switch genres. ‘Stick to what you know’ is still a frequently used statement. Maybe this works in non-fiction writing, but I can’t see a writer of fiction being restrained by genre limitations. Today’s genres are plentiful. And with the addition of multiple sub-genres, a good writer can write in any one of them. The flavor chosen can suit the writer’s particular personality or it might just represent a place and time the writer is at, in that moment.

I wanted to get the opinions of other writers about the ‘genre hopping’ vs. ‘stick to what you know’ topic, so I enlisted the help of a few fellow tweeters/bloggers. Sticking to what you know is probably meant in the same spirit as Chris Ledbetter @Chris_Ledbetter mentioned, “I think one should consider perfecting their talent in a single genre before trying to move on to others.”  Chris writes YA fiction and Greek mythology.

And like another fellow tweeter, Aaron Cooley @fleming17f said, “If you get lucky with a big hit, you should keep going back to that brand,” but admits, “I’d want to change it up. I couldn’t write longer than a trilogy.” Aaron is a producer exec. with his spy-fi novel Shaken, not Stirred coming this fall.

I found it interesting that the ratio 2:2 females/males opinions were actually split female/female and male/male. My two male tweeters/bloggers, for the most part, seemed okay with writing in different genres, but both heedful about genre hopping, airing on the side of caution to stick with one genre, for a while anyway. Gotta love these guys! If you read between the lines, their comments say a lot about them. They’re the kind of guys Mom and Dad would want their girls to bring home—the cautious, protective, provider type.

Sorry, Mommy and Daddy…still apologizing for the ones I brought home.

My two fellow female tweeters/bloggers were quicker to shed the ‘stick to what you know’ thought. While Samantha LaFantasie @SamLaFantasie might stick with speculative fiction, she said, “I like going through different sub-genres.” She also writes some sci-fi. Her debut novel Heart Song is out this September.

Jennings Wright @JenningsWright doesn’t hold back, confessing that she needs multiple genres. “I think I’m secretly ADD.” That’s me, too, Jennings. Talk about girl-power. I LIKE IT! Jennings released her action/adventure novel Solomon’s Throne earlier this year. Her new romance novel Undaunted Love will be out soon.

I was surprised, not so much, by the difference of opinion, but more so by the two genders opinions. Usually women are known for playing it safer than men. Hmm, I like this shift…we’re all continuing to evolve.

Well, there you have it…A Novel Perspective. Share your perspective! Do you genre hop or stick to what you know? I guess in other words, Do you stick to what works for you?

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Genre Hopping—Riding the Wave. We’ll touch on writing safe or taking risks.

 

Special thanks to my fellow tweeters for all their help. You rock!

Write To Fall

A Season To Write Series

by A.M. Day

Writing has always been synonymous with breathing to me. Whether jotting down notes, to-do-lists or grocery lists for Mom–writing is writing. And because I was never one to bite my tongue as a kid, venting on paper worked sometimes after Mom made me write hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of lines for punishment.  I even wrote the occasional ‘You’re On My Sh*! List’ lists for high school bullies and neighborhood evildoers.  

“If you take my computer, I will write with pen. If you take my pen, I will write inside my head. I will write long after I can no longer write, I will write until I’m dead.” ~A.M. Day

With that said, by now, everyone who knows me knows that writing is a part of me, like a kidney or a limb. But is there a particular time in a writer’s life that said writing thrives more than in other times? It has been said that the phases of the moon brings about certain energies in one’s life and I believe that is true for some writers when it comes to seasons.  

Begin the begin–The smell of ‘crumble under your feet’ leaves are upon us (and not the ones left by the drought). I’m talking about fall leaves in the Midwest. And as fall fast approaches, I find myself pillaging the cleaning and home fragrance aisles at the local Walmart to pull together that perfect balance of fall scents. Sweet Vanilla and Pumpkins from Airwick won out over the regular Apples and Cinnamon this year. 

Fall…one of my favorite seasons and I can’t wait! It evokes new life and endless hope in me. The cells in my body get a little perkier and renewed (I am a ‘fall baby’). Smelling the crispness of Wisconsin’s night air…it has a hint of fall, swirling between the subtle notes of smoked-wood and patiently-waiting morning dew. A ghostly whiff of Mom’s peach cobbler with the most delectable crust and Grandma’s fry-pies creep inside my memories of childhood.  And I actually celebrate the season change on the first day of fall every year. Hot cocoa w/marshmallows and hot apple cider pleasantly dance in my mouth at night along with Pumpkin Spice flavored coffee from the local coffee house before bed. 

With fall comes a slew of things for me to get done…write, write and write some more. I write in all seasons, but I write to fall the best! I think it’s because most of my best life-memories happened in the fall season. 

What season does your writing thrive in the most? And, why? Share your season with me. I would love to hear about it!

Book Wars–The PR offices of “My Book Is Better Than Yours”

Upon second thought, I took pause, pondering to write about this touchy subject and clicking the “Publish” button. In the end my initial decision won. Today I would like to address book wars and author etiquette. What exactly is author etiquette you ask? Simply put…good manners and not just to fans, but to fellow authors as well. There seems to be an upsurge of attacks on authors. Well, maybe not exactly on the authors themselves, but on their novels and that’s just as bad, hence, book wars.

Showing poor author etiquette publicly (social media, etc.) is never a good idea and is almost always unsavory. Using social media to stick it to fellow authors is shameful, plain desperate and sad. What’s better is when the other author doesn’t respond, keeping the attack one-sided. For instance, not only did a best-selling author (and for the life of me, I cant understand what would possess a best-selling author to act this way) recently parade tweets and retweets about how her novel is so much better than another author’s novels; there is also a quote in her book, blatantly putting down the other author’s work.

Personally, and these are my feelings, I would not have allowed a quote attacking another author’s work to be printed in my book. On the flip-side, I enjoy both authors’ work, but can you guess which author’s next book I will buy first? You got it! The author, so far, maintaining author etiquette. 

Thankfully, it’s been some time since I’ve seen the negative blah toward this particular author displayed.   

  I try to keep in mind the old saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Sometimes it can’t be helped, but in this case, come on—indirect/direct jabs; pitting book against book is horrible marketing and promo. Maybe it shouldn’t bother me. I mean, not like it has anything to do with me, right? Only in the sense of how I would like to be as an aspiring author…and attacking a fellow author’s work is not it. I don’t know about anybody else, but I look up to certain authors and if I find that they are stooping to author attacks…respect will be lost.

Side-note: Speaking of author etiquette, minus getting too deep in the Sue Grafton remarks–I will say this. No one author holds the corner market on working hard. Hell, it took me thirty years, three grown children and tragedies later to finally complete and start publishing my debut novel, all while trying to maintain my sanity. I hope that I never wind up in the PR offices of “My Book Is Better Than Yours.” 

Authors, please lead by example, be proud of your work. You work hard plotting, and researching, and everything else in between to breathe life into your novels. Remember, there is always more than enough to go around (i.e. fans, sales, etc.). Take pride in yourself and be proud of your fellow authors. Author etiquette is GOLDEN. That is the truth and I’m sticking to it! This is A Novel Perspective.

How would you rate your Author Etiquette? Share your perspective!