I’ve been burning the midnight oil a lot lately. To no good purpose, I might add. Just to watch time go up in smoke. The ending of a year does that to me, encourages me to squander my remaining resources.

I also find that the final days of December cause me to think more about endings than beginnings. The Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Nine has been no exception. It was a bad year for me, and I’m not sorry to see it go.

I wrote next to nothing this year. I reinforced my poor self image by being unreliable in my writing commitments to this blog and to the Mission: Possible! exercise. Over the last two years my writing productivity has ground to a halt yet again. I used to be frightened when this happened. I thought my Muse had died, and that I would never write again.

The good thing about having years of writing experience under my belt is the knowledge halts and dry spells don’t last. You can BICHOK and begin again. If any of you are suffering from doubts or writing blocks, I would suggest you take the valuable suggestions to be found in Rox’s blog of December 29th and put them to use. Start by making specific goals and writing them down on paper. Don’t be too hard on yourself or waste time in recriminations. Move with the flow of the universe and renew yourself with positive thoughts and good fellowship with other writers.

I wish you all good things in the days to come. I offer you a toast: May your days be long and filled with the joy of family and friends. May your imagination be fruitful, and may your writing tools produce many pages. May your work lead you to a publisher’s door, and may you earn the lasting satisfaction of authorship.

Have a Happy New Year!

Coming Soon: A New Year

With Christmas over, it means it's time to think about New Year's Resolutions. "I resolve to fill in the blank in 2010." But while we're all thinking of passing up anything with more than 200 calories, let's focus more on goals for the year, especially writing goals.

What are goals? defines a goal as the result or achievement toward which effort is directed; aim; end. Synonyms are target; purpose, object, objective, intent, intention. Good words! Even better because they can help us make goals.

Reaching a goal takes effort.

One caution when creating a goal. Aim for goals that can be achieved. A goal needs to be within your control. For instance, a goal of selling a book isn't completely achievable. None of us can control what or when an editor or publisher will buy, but what we can do is write the book and submit it.

If you have a large goal for the year, break it down into smaller ones. Large goals, such as submitting a manuscript, should be a series of small, achievable goals.

1. Find the right publisher for your idea.

2. If research is needed, do as much as possible before starting to write. That doesn't mean that once you're into the writing you can't look up specific information you need, but knowing a little about your hero or heroine's career from the beginning can mean not having to go back and revise later.

3. For those who plot, do it now. For those who don't, and idea of the beginning, middle, and end of your book can be a big help and keep you focused.

4. Writing a book definitely requires writing pages. But what if writing 200 to 300+ pages seems like a daunting task? Break it down! It's been said countless times that if a writer writes only one page a day, at the end of a year there would be 365 pages written. That's equivalent to 91,250 words!

But maybe you aren't ready to submit a book to a publisher. What other goals might you be thinking about?

Coming up with a story idea? Ideas are everywhere! Watch the news, read a newspaper, even watching people in the mall can generate an idea. If you have an idea, but don't know how to work it into a book, try brainstorming with friends or a critique group or partner. 'What if' is great way to put a story together.

Entering a contest? Kick off 2010 with WARA's Right Hook contest in March, followed by our Flyover contest in June, and ending with our HEA (Happily Ever After) contest in November. Work on entering each of these contests throughout the year, and you may end up with a finished book by this time next year. If you're an RWA member, many chapters have contests each year. Those can range from the opening to the first chapter or even a specific type of scene.

Check the internet for more ideas on how to make and achieve your goals. You can start with tips from Renee Knowles' Do You Have a Plan. Good luck!

Another Christmas Come and Gone

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year for so many reasons. I love the get-togethers with family and friends, the special shows put on by the local music theatres, the excitement and anticipation on young children's faces, and hearing the memories of past Christmases that my senior adult friends share with me.

I'm a sentamentalist who keeps way too many "memory" items. I have boxes of old school papers of my own, my siblings, and my daughter's. I'm the designated keeper of all generations of family photos for my family and for my husband's family. I keep souvenirs from trips, from events, and even movie tickets. Basically if it can (and probably shouldn't be) kept, I keep it. (I am trying to sort through things now and thin out those amazing collections since I don't believe my daughter really wants to inherit quite so many "treasures.") And I have many, many special keepers from Christmases over the years.

I enjoy seeing what my friends and family collect as decorations. Some people put up exquisitely decorated trees or have holiday designers do their trees. They are nice, in my opinion, but not special. I like seeing trees filled with ornaments made and collected over the years. That's the kind of Christmas tree we put up. Some of my most beloved ornaments are the twisted pipe cleaner ones or the felt ones made by my daughter when she was very young. You aren't really sure what they are, but they're keepers. Even more so because she always tries to hide them at the back of the tree.

I also treasure the ornaments friends and family have made for me: beautifully beaded ones made by my Great Aunt, handpainted ones lovingly created especially for me by my niece, crocheted candy canes, and the special ornaments people choose for me. And I pick up ornaments when I travel to different places.

Every year when I decorate the tree it's a time to reflect on the past. The last few years my daughter and one of my nieces has helped decorate the tree and put out my other holiday collections of decorations: snowmen, angels, Santas, gingerbread men, and my holiday houses. As we pull out the decorations and decide what to put on the tree, we talk about our memories of the ornaments. Unless an ornament gets totally broken, it will find its way onto the overly decorated tree. The wounded but beloved ornament will be nestled on a branch. The tattered and stained small cloth angel that my daughter took from the tree and played with when she was young still finds its way onto our tree.

I hope each of you had a wonderful Christmas and that you took the time to drift through pleasant memories of past years.

Shrieks of Christmas Past

There have been very few times in my life where I got something I really, really wanted for Christmas. I got a lot of things I liked, but not what my heart actually desired. Maybe I didn’t make my wants known to others, maybe they were too expensive or too hard to acquire. Or as my naughty husband implies, I’m just too picky. I doubt I’ll ever know and at this point in life, I don’t even care. But there is one Christmas that stands out where I not only got something I truly wanted, but something I never asked for in the first place.

We were all packed into my sister’s living room, sharing space with crumpled wrapping paper and gifts haphazardly strewn across the floor. The fireplace was warming my backside as I sat at its corner on the floor. The scent of apple and cinnamon candles, turkey, pumpkin pie and wood smoke permeated the air. The crackle of the fire was punctuated by rounds of laughter, thank you and the occasional, “Oh good grief, what am I going to do with that?”

My sister’s gift to me was a good sized box which I dutifully shook, and attempted to weigh, but had no clue what it might actually contain. Imagine my extreme surprise to find a case, not just a box, but a case of Team cereal. I was so excited I actually screamed my delight.

For those of you under the age of, well, just under; Team cereal was the BEST cereal of my generation and our personal favorite. It was healthy too, which made us seem really weird to our friends, but we didn’t care. We noticed in the early nineties, I think, that our usual store quit carrying it. We then excitedly called each other and bought extra boxes to share any time we did happen upon some but eventually, it went the way of the dinosaur and disappeared from sight.

Imagine our heartbreak and disappointment at finding no Team to start our days with. We each sampled unknown, but similar looking cereals, in hopes of finding a suitable replacement but to no avail. Disenchantment and disappointment ruled our mornings (Big Sigh!) until my sister sneakily discovered that it could be ordered by the case from our friendly neighborhood Dillons store.

My ecstasy increased when I offered to share the case with her and she informed me that she had bought her own. Hallelujah, the only threats to my mouth’s eternal bliss were all the kids parading through my house that thought they should be fed. I tried to hide them (the boxes not the kids) but no dice, they had witnessed the opening, they knew I had them somewhere. Alas, I had to share! (Bigger Sigh)

Life was good until I hit that last box and discovered that Dillons could no longer order my beloved Team, even by the case. Woe is me! That was still one of the best Christmas’s and one of the best presents ever. And I’m sure that my shriek of eternal glee is still reverberating around the neighborhood, haunting the houses as a joyful ghost of Christmas past.

Christmas Romance (Penny Rader)

I love Christmas stories and if the Christmas story is also a romance, well, that's even better. One reason why I read romance novels is because they're uplifting. Add Christmas to the mix and I get an extra spurt of joy.

While the entire story of Sapphire and Gold isn't centered around Christmas, there are several scenes that take place during the Christmas season in Colonial Williamsburg. Here's an excerpt of one:

Alexandra stood at the staircase landing’s large multi-paned window, bathed in the golden glow of the setting sun. She waited and worried. Waited for Derek’s schooner to appear at the plantation’s wharf. Worried about his reaction to her confession.

She placed her hand on her abdomen and wondered if she would look different to him. Within weeks her condition would be apparent to all. Would he turn away from her in disgust? She wouldn’t be able to bear it.


She leaned over the balustrade looped with spruce garlands. “Yes, Mother?”

Laurel stood at the foot of the stairs. “Our guests are arriving.”

“I’ll join you in the ballroom in a few minutes.” With a heavy sigh, she cast one more longing glance out the window then gathered the folds of her burgundy velvet skirt and descended the stairs in slow, unhurried steps. Her brow knitted in concern. Derek had said he would be there. Something terrible must have happened.

“Why, wherever could your husband be, sister dear?”

Alexandra turned to see Jillian emerge from the shadows of the hall. The jubilant expression in the younger woman’s dark gaze put her on guard.

“Do you suppose he has tired of you already?” Jillian shook her head and clucked her tongue. “I can see why. You look a bit dreadful. I fear that color doesn’t suit you. Did you do your own hair? Your secret’s safe with me. I shan’t tell anyone.”

Alexandra resisted the urge to smooth her hair. The slight movement would only serve to reward her sister’s desire for revenge. Instead, she stood confident. Derek had often remarked he liked her hair unbound and he had chosen her dress himself. “I won’t fight with you. Nothing you can say will spoil this day for me.” With quiet dignity, she walked past the younger woman.

“I do believe the purpose of this ball is to celebrate your marriage. Won’t that be a trifle difficult without your roving husband?”

Alexandra’s footsteps faltered for but a moment at the venom in her sister’s voice. Then she squared her shoulders and continued on her way, struggling to shut out the echo of Jillian’s mocking laughter.

“Derek has not left me,” she whispered. “He will come back. He must.” She lifted her chin a notch and entered the ballroom.

Festive splendor greeted her. Christmas finery decked the large room and brought a hint of a smile to her troubled heart. The fragrance of pine and bayberry mingled in the air. Garlands of box and bay added touches of gaiety. Sprigs of holly had been tucked behind the mirrors. In one corner, fiddlers played a romantic ballad that tugged at her already fragile emotions.

She forced back the sudden onslaught of weepiness and moved forward to greet her guests. Many of the prominent planters of the area accompanied their wives in wishing Alexandra well with her marriage and asking after Derek. After each congratulatory offer, the scorching heat of Jillian’s triumphant gaze bored through her back.

Where are you, Derek? Behind her she heard the doors open. The curtains fluttered, then a hush fell over the room.

She turned.

There stood Derek. Dizzying joy swept through her

Her husband caught her up against his lean, muscled form. “I claim the right of kissing the fair maiden standing beneath the kissing ball.” He lowered his mouth to hers and stole her breath.
Alexandra entwined her arms around his neck and reveled in the sweet sensations. “I thought you’d never arrive.”

He pressed a final kiss to the tip of her nose. “I always keep my promises. Don’t you know that by now?”

A lump in her throat thickened her speech. “I’m sorry I ever doubted you.” A frown gathered on her forehead and she gave his chest a sharp poke. “Where have you been?”

His eyes alight with a merry twinkle, Derek turned and signaled to a house servant. Within seconds, Polly Taylor and the children swarmed around her, talking and hugging all at once.

The children had come. Tears spilled down her cheeks as she pulled them close, touching each and every one of them to assure herself they were really there.

She looked up. Derek stood outside the circle of children, his grin wide. “Is this the pressing matter you had to attend to?”

He nodded. “You are pleased with your Christmas gift?”

“Pleased? I’m more than pleased. It was more than I dared to dream for.” No wonder she loved him so.


One of my favorite Christmas movies is While You Were Sleeping. (Love the leaning scene.) One of my favorite Christmas books is A Season for Miracles by Marilyn Pappano, which is the first book in her awesome Bethlehem series. Do you have a favorite Christmas story or movie?

What Keeps Me Going?

It is all about me this time. What more could an author want than the riveted attention of the entire internet and all people of the world swooning for just one more evocative word to flow from my presence?

Was that a tad over the top?

Perhaps. But as exposed as that feels, the opposite (and closer to the truth) is that the crumbs on the collective human counter tops that need wiping off after breakfast each morning have had more intense application of notice than all the words I'm ever likely to write.

So, where am I in the scheme of things? Where did I pop up from?

I've been a voracious reader from a young age. And as all young-uns, had a notion by the time I was fourteen or so of a solution to the world's problems (in story form). And if I only found a writer to write it, I would know how it ended. Thirty-four years later, I shared that ONE story idea at the one, single point in the fabric of time that it made a difference. I started the story that night, having to get out of bed (having laid down for only a minute) to scribble a note for beginning the next day. My mom had sent me a Tandy laptop word processor she'd picked up at a garage sale. For the next eight months I wrote whenever I could and finally a book (400+) pages was born. I remember how surprised I was that the tale actually came to a natural conclusion and stopped. I told my beloved that it was finished and that I wanted to go into town for supper. (I thought to celebrate, he thought we could check a sprinkler and buy a part too). He's a farmer. Doing twofers and threefers is what he does. Nothing is done only for itself--wastes time you know. That's ok. I'm a farmers wife and find it charming in him and make bets with myself on how many things he can put together in seemingly random ways until they all get done on any single trip to town. I also never turn down an opportunity to hit the ladies room. Sitting field side on the way home for an extra hour while a field sprinkler turns is havoc.

What happened during that eight months? I didn't tell the tale. I had to tell her younger sister's story. I think because I had refused to think of the details for all those years that it wouldn't flow for me. But, as I wrote the story of her younger sister who was inspired by her older sister's story, both stories unfolded for me. I wrote the story as I thought writers would, from beginning to end. But, problems began to crop up as I wrote. How to get the characters to behave? I kept checking on them to see what they were doing and writing it down, but they refused to get together for the longest time. I even wondered how long a novel was. I called a publisher. The person who answered the phone told me it depends. When I asked, on what, the conversation went downhill fast. Yes, you can be that ignorant. I was and still am in so many ways.

I knew that if I did write I wanted to write a satisfying story for readers. So many stories go along very well and then, as if a dinner bell rang somewhere, they finish the book too quickly--chopping the end right off. I didn't want that. I also wanted the reader to 'see' the characters the same time as the character did. I played tricks on the reader by misdirection. Oh, how fun that was. Then the middle of the story seemed to drag in the writing of it and I wondered if the characters were EVER going to get where they needed to be--at the end of their thousand mile walk. So, I did something else to keep me interested in the process. I didn't name the most powerful individual in the book, the heroine's father. It took a bit of effort, but he was a minor character. I managed to make it smoothly to the end without readers noticing he had no name. This little game kept me interested in the story enough to keep going. The second book, he's a much more major character and I've still managed to keep him nameless. I've enjoyed that almost as much as finding out I can write two novels. Oddly, the second novel ended in about the same number of pages--don't you think that odd too?

The joy of writing, for me, is the surprise of where the story goes. My premise is that in the future, to assure population control and viable quality control of humans, all the world's people agreed that we would have sterilization implants at the age of eight or so and that you could be anything you wanted to be, but if you wanted children, you must walk a thousand miles through the proving zone and reach the last step. The last step is in Randar, where after your trek, whenever you like, you may have your implant removed and are free to have as many children as you like. A survival of the fittest if you will. Each story explores different reasons people have children as well as the character's personal reason to be going through the Zone. One guy got dumped there as left for dead--he has no idea where he is but he isn't wearing his own clothes when he wakes up. Another character/story, well, let's talk about the last one.

I thought it would be terribly funny if a woman was so vane, she had to have perfect grooming at all times, her hair was dyed. She ended up going through the zone with a man she needs to impress and taking in her backpack everything she needs to maintain her personal image--including her hair dye--which explodes in her pack. I thought it would be a story of blasted vanity. The story went a different direction entirely. The woman was afraid. If she wasn't perfect, she faced horrible consequences from her nanny from the time she was an infant. She could only be free if she was alone. She went catatonic when her hair dye exploded. In the Zone. Where animals, weather, and unstable people hang out.

The changes of direction of stories don't seem to be up to me and they are what keeps me writing. I have to check in with my story people to see what they are doing and write it down. I am each of them as I write. I see out of their eyes and describe what they see. Sometimes they won't move or think and they are stuck in position. This usually happens when I try to make them go somewhere or do something they don't want to do. Other writers tell me this happens when I'm trying to force a character to do things that is out of character for them. They are right. But since I don't know what is happening until it is 'seen' except in the most vague of ways, I often write until I'm stuck or have painted myself and my characters into a corner. Then my subconscious comes to the rescue and the next time I sit down to write, the characters have figured out a way out of the problems I left them in.

What keeps me going? That no-name the important guy game I have going, readers who fight over what a character actually looks like, the fun of describing exactly what I mean even if it takes me fifty tries, the joy of communicating with other writers and their processes of the amazing skill that writing is, my husband's warm regard, and so many other things that add up to so much for me. I've a curious experimental nature and finding how other people's writerly talent expresses itself and how they deal with the process of publishing and that world are all fascinating to me. Last week, on line, I met a woman who is so opposite of me, she plots everything before putting the story on paper. She even knows that every four pages written is one percent of the story finished. She writes about four hundred page books. Wow!

I hope all of you find, if not a passion, then something that fascinates you about what you do, something that keeps you going. That's my Christmas wish for you.

Enjoy your life and the process of living it.

Feeling the Crunch...And I Don't Mean Snow

I wish I could hear the crunch of snow beneath my winter boots. I think it might put me in more of a Christmas spirit.

I've always loved the holidays and have never understood people who dread them. I would teasingly refer to them Scrooge or Grinch. This year I'm trying very hard not to put myself in that category. In looking back of 2009, it's easy to see why I might not be so elated with greeting what is supposed to be a joyous time of year. It's been a difficult year. I won't go into detail because I've dealt with a lot of the same issues most everyone else has at one time or another: divorce, sickness, death, unemployment. It all tends to suck the life out of a person, even someone like me who has rightfully earned the reputation of the optimistic, care-free, look-on-the-bright-side Pollyanna.

I've stayed away from malls and stores this Christmas. I don't have the money that I've had in previous shopping seasons. I thought it would be too depressing to be in a mall when I can't buy anything. But the other day I had to go to a certain store for a non-Christmas related purchase. You know what? I should have gone sooner. The beat of the cheerful Christmas tunes restarted a holiday rhythm in my soul. The glitter and twinkle of bells and balls made me smile. The wonder in the eyes of children searching for Santa warmed my heart.

Later that day I stopped by the grocery store. In the parking lot was a rusted out truck with a cardboard sign taped to it. It read: "Homeless vet needs work of any kind. Job in California. Just need the gas to get there." I considered that message with more compassion than I used to. I was embarrassed at what my inner reaction would have been just one year ago. But with the lesson the last year has taught me, I understood better. How many of my friends were not too far away from being in a similar situation? It's been a hard year for a lot of us.

I was asked this week what was the best Christmas gift I ever received. I thought of my favorite book on my shelf. It's a leather bound notebook filled with my father's handwritten stories and poems. A few years ago he gave identical books to my two sisters and me. He must have worked on these gifts for months. It cost him nothing but time and maybe a few bucks for the notebooks. But it truly is the best gift. He gave me a part of himself.

So how does this all tie together? Because as writers, you know we have to tie it all together, right? I think when I'm 90, I will look back on this Christmas as one of the most memorable. Not for what wasn't under the tree or stuffed in a stocking, but for what filled my home and heart. I've been given a most amazing gift. The wonderful part is that it is something I can give away, too. The gift is one of an ever-expanding heart. The hurts of this past year have increased my capacity for understanding, compassion, and love. Without the losses, I couldn't have gained so much. It's priceless.

And I have another gift, as well. It's the gift of words. Like my father gave to me, I can give a piece of myself to others. Because even though the past year has had it's hardships, there has been support and love, too. Won't those friends and family members smile when they see their gift from me: A long letter to my 90 year old grandma filled with all the stuff I meant to write all year long but didn't make the time. A thank you to my parents for their unwavering support and abundant love. A fun poem to my best friend who finalized a divorce this year, too and helped me find something laugh at almost every day. A list of really useful advice (like how to catch an escaped hamster) to my corporate-ladder sister who lives in a world SO different from mine but asks for my opinion all the time anyway. And I'm-Proud-of-You-Because letters to my children because I really am so proud of them. It will cost me nothing but time and few bucks for paper. I'm guessing these gifts will be remembered long after the others have been forgotten.

Remember your true gifts this Christmas and share them. I promise, it will put you in the Christmas spirit.

Merry Christmas,

Deborah Macias

Our Guest Blogger

WARA is proud to have fellow writer Deborah Macias as our guest blogger today. Please give her a warm welcome!

Is Publishing Your Goal?

We are fast approaching the end of the year. The beginning of the year, I write down my goals I want to accomplish for the coming year. One goal I continue to strive for is to be published. Some day I will succeed. If you’ve made that goal, I say Congratulations. As a writer I never want to give up. I’m always looking for ways to perfect that goal. Here are some suggestions I would like to share.

1. Examine the true reason you are writing. Is it for the personal achievement of completing a finished novel? Do you want the glory of seeing your name on the cover of your published book in a bookstore? Is it primarily for the desire to make money? Are you writing because your friend is writing and you want to be just like him or her? Do you enjoy developing and creating characters, with the excitement of seeing a completed ending? Learn what your drive is you want to pursue. Knowing your motivation will help you to be honest in achieving your publishing goal.

2. Read what you enjoy. I believe reading can only enhance the quality of your work. You hold the book in your hands and you say, “If he or she published, I can as well.” This is a great motivator in reaching your personal goal.

3. Entering contests is a great way to get an honest opinion from others in the writing field. This helps you to experience an opportunity to submit your work. You just might be one of the lucky one’s to place in the competition.

4. Don’t be in a hurry. Don’t try to send a chapter, synopsis or a proposal. A non-published writer must do the work. Complete the book. Your book must have a beginning, middle and an ending. Of course there are other elements such as romance (if it is a romance novel), conflict, a black moment. A main plot and sub plots vary. The list goes on and on. The main point I’m trying to convey is, learn the craft of writing and complete the book.

5. Do rewrites. Don’t try to by pass this step. Your poor writing will show through. Your story must be the best it can be. You must grab the editor’s attention. This is crucial to the sale of your book. Research all you can on the subject of rewriting. Be familiar with the techniques, so you can adjust your book accordingly. Find a good critique partner who will give you helpful suggestions. This doesn’t always have to be, but sometimes finding a writer who reads and writes the same type of books you are interested in, will give you the right helpful critique you need. Above all stay enthusiastic about your writing.

6. Read everything you can about publishing industries. Knowing someone employed in the publishing market could be a plus. Learn as much as you can about the market you are targeting for. One thing I’ve seen over time, write what you like. Not just what the market or editor is wanting. For example, if you are writing a novel, by the time you reach the end and have done all the rewrites, the demand for that type of story may have changed. Write what you are inspired to write. There is always going to be a time and place for your completed manuscript.

7. Once you’ve finished, submit as soon as possible. Research the publishing houses to find out who is requesting submissions. Once you’ve made your choice, follow their guidelines exactly. There aren’t any short cuts. Researching and finding the right publishing house to submit to, is just as important as writing your story.

Hope these steps help you in accomplishing your publishing goal. Feel free to share your experiences in your writing career. It is always interesting to hear how other writers motivate and follow their dreams.

May everyone have a Blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Blossom's Christmas Surprise

As my special Christmas gift to my WARA friends, here is a short Blossom story.

The weather outside was frightfully cold and Blossom would have preferred staying in the nice warm barn today. Except that Her Highness Elsie had started the morning off being particularly snooty. T he herd leader had refused to leave the barn when Farmer Sam came to let them out. Her faithful lemming cows refused to go as well. Blossom’s choice had then been to stay inside, be warm, but grow more and more annoyed as the day wore on because, as always, Elsie would do everything she could to get on her nerves. Or she could brave the cold and venture out to the frozen field, with the hope of seeing her beloved bullfriend.

Her hooves were all but frozen by the time she’d hoofed it on near tippy-toes to the corner where she usually met Ferdinand. She could hardly blink her eyes. It was if her eyelashes had frozen in place. It all seemed so wrong. The sky was a beautiful clear blue and the sun was shining brighter than ever. Besides that, there was none of the usual Kansas wind. But it was bitterly cold and she shivered clear down to her double stomach.

She craned her neck over the fence and strained to look across the Stanton field, but saw no sign of her hunky Galloway. How depressing was that! She’d even brought him a little Christmas gift, one of the apples Farmer Sam’s daughters had brought her as a treat this morning. None of the other cows ate apples. A few might have tried them, but Elise turned her nose up at them. To stay on her good side, they refused them as well. Stupid heifers. Still, Ferdinand shared her love of apples. Such an intelligent bull. Even if he’d turned out to be a wuss and stayed in his no doubt warm barn today instead of coming to meet her.

Shoulders weighed down with disappointment, she picked up the apple she’d carefully carried all the way here and dropped to look over the fence. She’d just take it back to her stall and munch on it while she sulked over all this wasted effort.

Blossom had just turned around and trudged a few steps when a deep rumbled complaint stopped her. Her heart pitter-patted crazily. She drew in a familiar scent. Then, as she shifted back again, the post near the corner crashed to the ground. Evidently he’d been hidden behind the large clump of bushes.

“Where are you going, My Love?” Ferdinand grouched, forcing his way through the space he’d made. “I’ve been near freezing to death waiting to see you.”

She did a little happy dance and skipped over to him. She held her head up proudly so he could see the precious apple gift she’d brought him. As he grinned in that odd macho-bull way of his, she tossed the apple at his hooves. “For you, my hunka-hunka, Stud Boy.”

Ferdinand ambled closer, rubbing his massive head against her neck, nibbling at her almost-frozen ear. “I’ve got a Christmas present for you, too, Sweet Blossom.” He breathed hotly and moo-rumbled, “Something personal. Very personal.”

“But it’s so cold outside,” she teased, trying to bat frozen eyelashes at him.

“It won’t be for long.”

Blossom forgot all about the frigid weather and the warm barn she’d left behind. Ferdinand always made her days better. “Merry Christmas to you. Merry Christmas to me. Merry Christmas to us,” she moo-sang.

Why Write if it isn't Right?

Is there a right or wrong for writing?

Why would we assume that our writing abilities are duplicates of any others? Some of us visualize the stories we write and then describe them on paper from beginning to end. Any changes along the way affect the rest of the story. The story is written without formal guidance. That's writing by the seat of the pants or 'pansters'. However, there are variations of talents that work that way. Some people 'see' scenes out of order and stitch them together later.
Some writers know where they are going in a nebulous way, but the path is twisty and they do not know many details before the story begins.

There are others who do extensive character layouts and determine meaningful intentions into their writing before ever putting fingers to keyboard. Still others write the story in pen and ink leaving the typing for the finishing edit. Many writers place their characters like dolls in a doll house, determining the amount of scenes necessary to tell the story they are crafting. Each scene is crafted with every detail determined to contain special meaning. These are plotters.
There are combinations of plotters and pansters. There are those who've never heard of either.

Writers write in the wee hours of the night or morning. Sometimes they write in the spare time they have on lunch hours and breaks. Others have whole rituals they use to work their magic.

Some writer's feel affection and other emotions for their characters. Some writer's feel in control of their characters. Colorful words and phrases have sprung up to describe writerly things such as internal conflict, external conflict, plot, tension, pacing, turning points, black moment and the happily ever after ending.

One thing is for sure, the writing process that any writer might have may also seem like another writer's process, but it doesn't have to be anywhere near the same. Writers who believe in story arcs and internal changes in characters are just as numerous as those who don't. Writing comes from within us and is as diverse as we are.

The conclusion I've reached to all this writerly mess is that a writer's process is their process. If that means a five mile run before two triple lattes and then arm wrestling a muse, then that's what a writer has to do. If it means getting up at 2:00AM and eating a stack of Oreos first, then that's what a writer has to do. If it means filling up a board or book with pictures, lists, details and then listening only to PDQ Bach while burning red candles, then that's what a writer has to do.

It is ok to be different.

It is ok to be the same.

There is no right or wrong for writing as long as you're writing your way.

Our First Christmas

Our first Christmas after our wedding found us in Arkansas where Vince was stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base. Our railroad style apartment was in North Little Rock in a four unit building. We were dirt poor but wanted to celebrate Christmas like we both had back at our families’ homes. That meant at least a tree with all the trimmings. We soon found all we could afford was one string of lights. No tree. No ornaments. Just lights.

Vince proved the hero of the day when he appeared at our apartment door one afternoon with a real pine tree. I was aghast when he told me he had driven out into the countryside and “chopped” down a pine tree with my butcher knife. I thought he was lucky he didn’t get shot. My poor butcher knife was never the same. I thought it the most wonderful tree in the world. I’m certain I rewarded him suitably for such heroics.
Immediately I set to work making decorations for our grand tree. I colored and cut out paper ornaments. We strung popcorn for garland and then splurged and bought tinsel. That weekend we spent a very romantic evening decorating it while we listened to Christmas music. The only photo I could find shows not only that I was a poor photographer but that the tree had a few large gaps between the branches. That green thing bottom right is a green net tree I sewed. I still have it and a few of the original ornaments from our first tree.

Something else I did to decorate was use Glass Wax Stencils. These were heavily waxed, hence waterproof, stencils which I stenciled onto windows and mirrors using Glass Wax window cleaner. The cleaner dried white—to the left is the mirror above the fake fireplace in our apartment in N. Little Rock. When I rubbed the stencil off after Christmas I had the bonus of a clean mirror. I still have the stencils and continue to use them.

Vince surprised me by arranging for us to go “home” to Kansas on Christmas Eve. The photo at the top (we are sooooo young!) was taken at my parents’ house that first Christmas. The gift from Vince is a watch. But gifts weren’t necessary. The previous year he had been overseas serving in what is now called the Vietnam Conflict. This first Christmas we were together; we were married. We had a gorgeous tree, gorgeous because it and its decorations reflected our love for one another. We now have forty two years of ornaments and garland and Vince always does a spectacular job decorating the tree, but none ever meant as much as the one we had on our First Christmas.

What are some of your First Christmas memories? First Christmas away from home. First married. There are a lot of different firsts Christmases. Share some. Merry Christmas!
When I sat down to do this I tried and tried to come up with one or two special stories to write about our Christmases. But I couldn’t. Our holidays are now and have always been a hodge-podge of small, delightful memories strung together like a string of lights. Individually not much, but as a whole they illuminate the entire season.

I was lucky enough to have both my parents around for every holiday up until this year when my dad passed away in October. I know this Christmas will be hard for us, but we will get through it. Hopefully, instead of dwelling on his passing, we will reminisce about the good times we’ve shared as a family.

Even though we weren’t well off, my parents went all out at Christmas. After a special Christmas Eve dinner, my sister and I were allowed to open one present —always pajamas. But long before the big day arrived we’d pour over Christmas catalogs, making our lists, writing letters to Santa and watching Santa’s Toy Shop with Toy Boy. Several times during the month, we’d pile into our station wagon and drive around for hours looking at Christmas lights. Of course this was before filling your gas tank cost as much as a new pink bicycle with a white whicker basket and streamers dangling from the ends of the handle bars.

After I married and had my own family we started our own traditions and as much as I anticipated Christmas as a child, there is nothing better than experiencing Christmas through the eyes of your own children and grandchildren. Now I understand why my parents looked forward to Christmas as much as we did.

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

My Most Romantic Christmas

In 1976, my sailor husband was out to sea in his submarine leaving me and our infant daughter alone in Groton, Connecticut. My Kansas home had never seemed so far away. In spite of the fact that I was going to spend the holidays with only my seven-month-old daughter, I was determined to imbue our sparsely furnished apartment with the Christmas spirit. With the baby in my backpack carrier, I trudged through the snow at a nearby Christmas tree farm and picked out the most beautiful blue spruce I could find in my price range.

Needless to say, it was small, but it filled my apartment with that wonder fresh-cut pine scent. After adding a string of new light and the few ornaments I had brought from home, my living room didn’t look quite so bleak. In fact, the sofa and the floor lamp looked positively delighted to have the company. As I made a foil star to top my tree, I struggled not to cry. It was a very low point in my life. Facing the holidays alone was hard.

Then, one December 22, I got an unexpected call. My husband’s submarine was coming into port for repairs and the crew would be allowed one night’s liberty. On Christmas Eve! That night, I hurried to picked up my husband at the naval base. We hadn’t seen each other in two and a half months. There was a whole lot of kissing going on even without mistletoe.

After the baby was tucked snug in her crib, my husband and I snuggled together on the sofa. The lovely lights of my little tree cast a heartwarming glow across the room. That tiny, bare apartment became the place I spend my most romantic Christmas Eve ever.

Tell us about a special Christmas in your life.