I’ve been thinking about this for a while. And I’ve finally come to the conclusion that it’s time: I need to go dark for a while. No, it doesn’t mean I’m going to The Dark Side (even though they have cookies). It means I’m going to turn off the light switch on this blog.
Closed for renovations, remodelling, rethinking.
In the words of Tara Leaver, a lovely artist I’ve been following and taking inspiration from for some time: “I need to go dark. To be in the dark with my work – the winter dark, the dark of not knowing, the dark of not showing.” (Tara Leaver’s ArtNote newsletter, 16/11/2020)
So that’s what I’m going to do. You’re not going to see me around here for a while. Don’t worry, all the current posts will stay up, so you can re-read them at your leisure, and I’ll still be available via email if you want to talk to me. Also, Steve says that any bears or other stuffed animals who want to come by our house for a chat are more than welcome (it’s been established that they’re immune to Covid-19; social distancing is not an issue for them).
So I’ll sign off for now. Thank you, everyone, for being along for the ride with us, and Steve and I wish you a wonderful Christmas and New Year 2021!
That’s Life, the Universe, and Turning Off the Light Switch. Merry Christmas to All, and to All a Good Night!
Drumroll please: Another Christmas short story is now available for your delectation from Yours Truly!
THE FORTY-DOLLAR CHRISTMAS: A CANADIAN HOLIDAY STORY
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… unless you don’t have the cash to make it happen. When Liz is stuck at home over the holidays, she finds out that her downstairs neighbour is too broke to celebrate Christmas with his little girl. Can she bring her ingenuity to bear to show Jonathan that it’s not the content of his wallet that counts?
Available now on Amazon for Kindle and print, and Smashwords (as well as other ebook retailers shortly) in any other format you’d like.
And here’s a little taste test:
Liz leaned back against the kitchen counter. “Look, what do you mean you can’t afford Christmas? You can’t be that broke!” “Yes, I’m that broke! I mean, just look around at this place—do I look like I’m made of money? Why do you think I’m looking for work? I don’t have the kind of cash to throw a Christmas shindig, or the room on my credit card, either. I can’t just pull a grand out of my back pocket!” “A grand?!? Are you kidding me?” “Why, you think that’s not enough? After all, she’s just a little girl, but… Yeah, I suppose; I think the last time Morgan and I had Christmas together it came to over two, and that was a few years ago. Prices have gone up since.” “Over two thousand dollars?” Liz said. “That’s nuts! What did you spend all that on?” Jonathan frowned. “Well, the usual stuff—Christmas trees, decorations, food, presents…” “Wow, those must have been some kind of presents! What did you get? Diamonds and rubies and fancy new cars?” “Yes, pretty much. Well, not the cars, but some jewellery, and I think there was an iPhone involved somewhere, or an iPad, or another i-something. I just can’t do that this year.” “No, of course not! That’s crazy anyway. But that doesn’t mean you have to scrap Christmas altogether! Just keep it simple,” Liz said. Jonathan reached into the refrigerator and pulled out a handful of carrots. “Look,” he said gruffly, “can we please just drop it? I can’t even afford a simple Christmas. God knows I’d let Katie have a Christmas, but I just haven’t got the money.” “Okay, I know this is totally intrusive—sorry—but are you so totally broke you can’t even afford groceries?” He gave her a look. “No,” he said, “but just about. There’s barely anything extra.” He reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet. “Okay, here, that’s as far as it goes. I can spare a twenty.” He took out a green bill and tossed it on the counter, Queen Elizabeth landing upmost. “Hah!” cried Liz. “See, that’s not nothing!” Jonathan scoffed. “Oh, sure, you can make a Christmas on twenty dollars!” “Well, maybe not on just twenty. You know what, I think I can toss in a twenty, as well. And that we can do something with.” “Forty dollars? That’ll get you, what, one branch of a Christmas tree! Or maybe one turkey drumstick. Come off it, lady.” Liz’s eyes sparkled. “What’ll you bet?” she said. “Bet on what?” “That we can have Christmas, with tree and trimmings and turkey and presents, on forty dollars or less.” …
Go to Amazon or Smashwords to find out if Liz wins her bet. Bonus: includes some recipes and a knitting pattern!
“It all started with a partridge in a pear tree… Mac’s boyfried goes missing on Christmas Eve, right around the time some unearthly beautiful people turn up in town. Will she be able to find Tom in time before the Twelve Days of Christmas are up?“
Well, good news: it’s now available in book form! That’s right, you can get the ebook on Amazon (Kindle) or Smashwords (in whatever ebook format you like) for the princely sum of US$0.99 or equivalent, and pretty soon it’ll be available at other ebook vendors such as ibooks and Kobo. The print copy is available on Amazon, as well.
So what are you waiting for? Get your very own copy of The Twelve Days of Christmas: A Tale of Christmastide. With Elves. to read on your phone, ebook reader, tablet, computer, or good old paper, whenever you darn well please. If you get it and start reading today, one chapter per day, you’ll get done on Christmas Eve, and can start all over again on Christmas Day, in time for the actual events of the story!
Around this time of year, you will often see posts on social media saying something like, “give an author the best gift imaginable: leave a review for their book!” As an author, I agree whole-heartedly with such posts. I got to thinking the other day, though: if I weren’t an author myself, would I understand just why reviews are so important? And I realized, probably not.
So I thought I might take some time to explain why authors will often sound almost desperate in our pleas for reviews for our books.
The first reason has to do with algorithms. Ugh, I know. In the world of bookselling as it exists today, algorithms are what determines how easy it is for potential readers to find your books. On, say, Amazon, if you type “magic most deadly” into the search bar–well, I scrolled through fifteen pages before I gave up on finding…
I just ran across this post on my old blog, from September 2012. And it’s not a bad post, worth rereading. So here it is.
Sock Puppetry, or: Showing Off and Hiding Out
There’s this lovely term floating around the internet: sock puppetry. In case you haven’t run across it, it’s when people build themselves fake identities in order to make themselves (in their regular identity) look good. Say, for example, if I created multiple google accounts for myself, and then posted admiring responses to my own blog posts, that would be sock puppetry. (No, Steve made his own account, I had nothing to do with it. Excuse me? Who’re you to say that a bear with two-inch-wide fuzzy paws can’t type?)
But there’s another, subtler form of sock puppetry. Oh, perhaps it’s not technically called that. But I think it might well be. It’s when we portray one persona on the internet, but behind the scenes, things are really different.
I used to do puppetry in high school. Marionetteering, to be exact (handling marionettes, string puppets). I have some photos from the first show I was part of, a production of Dr. Faustus – not Goethe’s classical piece, but one closer to Marlowe’s original. My character (see picture) was the Duchess of Parma (I both handled and voiced her; we recorded the play on tape and then moved the puppets to that soundtrack for the performance). She’s a beautiful, elegant noblewoman who does some heavy-duty flirting with Faust, but doesn’t really get anywhere with it. But I was also Helen of Troy, a speechless specter which is used by Mephistopheles to seduce Faust away from his impending conversion. And I was a silly-looking demon, who, at the beginning of the play, gets rejected in favour of Mephistopheles (being a much more sophisticated-looking devil, the latter was obviously better suited to Faust’s purposes. I mean, he had a silk-lined cloak – how could my sackcloth-clad character compete with that?). But really, literally behind the scenes, where we stood on a little walkway holding the cross bars over the miniature stage on which we made the marionettes dance, hidden behind the backdrop, I was an awkward, naive eighth-grade girl who had a crush on the boy who manned the sound equipment (I think for the most part he was unaware of my existence).
When you’re doing puppetry, you can hide behind the backdrop. On the internet, you can be whoever you want to be. You can, all at the same time, show off and hide out. You can tell people in the breeziest of tones about your latest wonderful project, and make yourself sound like you’ve got it all together. But meanwhile, your world isn’t nearly so cheery and bright. You’ve been fighting fatigue and depression for weeks (or not fighting it, as it were). You’ve been dumped by a friend whom you were trying to help. Your beloved kitten has vanished; he’s almost certainly become coyote bait. Your garden is going to pot (no, not weed. Just weeds. And the plants you liked died of thirst). Your remaining kitty, the neurotic one, has gone and pooped in your bathtub (fortunately, you weren’t in it at the time). And so on.
I think it’s interesting that the word “person”, or “persona”, comes from the Latin or Greek word for “mask, character in a drama”. We wear masks. We play puppets; whether sock puppets or string puppets, it hardly matters. I don’t know if we can get away from it, from presenting one persona in one place, and another one in another; the whole of us just doesn’t fit on that little marionette stage.
Internet sock puppetry is offensive because it is meant to deceive. But perhaps it’s possible to play our puppet personas without deception. I don’t think anyone who watched that production of Dr Faustus, back in 1981, was really under the impression that any of us were the characters we voiced and acted (well, if they thought that I was, in fact, a ten-inch-high Italian duchess, let’s leave them their illusions; they’re probably happier that way). Masks don’t have to mean deception. Sometimes they can even be protection. Sometimes it’s safer to hide behind the scenes, and the dusky lighting backstage can be comforting. So long as, at the end of the play, you step out from behind the curtain, and rejoin your friends and family who have come to watch you do your thing with the puppet on the string. So long as you’re not trying to deceive.
Life, the Universe, Showing Off and Hiding Out. Sometimes things are better on that tiny little stage.
A cinnamon stick and a few cloves in water on a potpourri burner. Simmer all day. Usually I don’t start doing that until December, but this year winter hit so early, there was nothing else for it: the scent of hygge to banish November gloom.