Holiday Decoration Time

Added lights to our outdoor front door area this year.

Christmas is coming around again. Seems like only yesterday we were taking down the decor from the last one. Now, it’s time to deck the halls once more. In my family, we take turns hosting the celebrations. This year, everyone is coming to our house.

In previous years, I set up the tree in the entry vestibule. It’s a cathedral ceiling and open to the living room as well as visible from the double front doors. The perfect spot to showcase the lights from the street as well as enjoy them from within. And it looks super cool with our seven foot tree all decorated and the bannister behind it hosting a nice garland.

Last year’s tree in blue and silver. Went with red this year.

Yet it is not a very comfortable set up for the actual gift giving moment. The area has no seating, so we have to bring over the dinning room chairs. It’s not horrible, but it’s not as comfy. Still, it has worked up to now.

This year, I had an idea. Instead of setting up the big tree in the entry area, I set up a smaller tree in the living room. The big fellow could fit but it would looked very cramped. Instead, this little white tree makes the space look pretty and has plenty of area around it for the presents. Since the living room seating is around it, the passing out of gifts is going to be a comfortable affair.

Our spindly white tree and chimney decor.

I also added a garland and lights to the chimney to make the space extra festive this year. All in all, though not as speldorous, the new set up looks lovely in our cozy home.

As I was commencing the decoration day, I looked for my white spindly tree. I could not find it. It was not in any of the storage boxes we had in the one closet that houses all our Christmas stuff. The only small tree I could find was a solid silver statue tree. There was no way to hang any ornaments on him, but he would have to do.

This year’s staircase garland.

I set about decorating it and soon had it looking pretty nice. Then my mom woke up. I asked her what happened to the white pre-lit spindly tree we had bought way back when. She didn’t remember ever having one. At last, my dad came down and he told us it was stored in the garage. I had never considered looking there because as far as I knew only our out door reindeer were in there. Everything else, or so I thought, was in that one closet.

Upon searching the garage, I found the white tree. So, this year, I decorated two trees. The silver statue tree ended up in my father’s office and is in front of a window so there you go. Now, we have a tree that can be seen from outside like we normally did with the entry area one.

Dad’s office got a tree this year… by accident.

So, that’s the saga of this year’s Christmas decorations. By the time it was all set up, it had taken all day and my body was sore. I’m not as young as I used to be. This kind of thing didn’t cause achy muscles before. Nevertheless, it is a worthwhile endeavor to have the home decked out for the holidays.

After Halloween — The Hauntings Continue

I’m relaxing this week and for good reason. Another successful presentation of Haunted Holidays Readings at Brazos Bookstore has come and gone. If you missed it you have two options. You can go to https://youtu.be/A83grQr9bis?si=ZETZ-A-2F9k8nxSi

and watch the enjoyable event on WiVLA’s YouTube channel. Also, you can start writing more spooky stories in preparation for next year.

I must take this opportunity to thank Brazos Bookstore and especially, Amy, who helped to coordinate this evening. Also, when you watch the presentation on YouTube, please know that Melody Locke is our wonderful and official film crew.

As you can see the skeletons who participated this year are quite tired and taking a bit of a rest. You might notice that this year Barbie was able to join in the fun. This was in addition to all of the other spooky guests. Once again this year, my good friend, Jim, served as the Chief roadie and skeleton wrangler. He made sure all skeletons made it to the event on time and then landed back home safely. I think we only lost one sock in the process. Also, Sabina Gartler (Sister WiVLA Member) helped with additional decorations. Finally, thanks to all of the wonderful members of WiVLA and the Houston Writers Guild for joining in with their creative talents. It takes a village to pull off a well organized Haunting. Much gratitude to everyone.

Of course, there will not be a lot of time for rest. There are other holidays to consider, but for me and my skeletons, the stress level goes way down. This fine fellow volunteered to be our official Turkey Day mascot. My official Thanksgiving plans include going to Govinda’s for a vegetarian Holiday dinner with all the trimmings. Yes, I actually like Tofu Turkey!!! I will bring enough home to share with my skeleton crew. It’s the least I can do.

So as of now, I have completed all of my public readings for the year. I will keep you up to date with all of the antics me, my crew and my friends get into over the rest of the holidays.

And of course, I have plenty of time to write. I have both short stories and the Great American Novel that I continue to work on. A writer’s work is never done and skeletons can try to scare you all year round! BOO!!!

Until next time.….…..

Haunted Holidays is Coming

Saturday, November 18, starting at 6pm, writers from Houston Writers Guild and Women in the Visual and Literary Arts will be at Brazos Bookstore for the annual Haunted Holidays Short Story Reading. This event began as the brainchild of the amazing ELLEN SEATON.

This year’s flyer, which you can enjoy here, was designed by Melody Locke. Her hauntingly beautiful artwork has given the event a whole new look. The partnership with Brazos Bookstore was originally for Haunted Winter Stories but last year the event was expanded to include any holiday tale with a haunted twist.

If you are a writer and would like to read a story that evening, there are still some spots available. You can register on the information page on the WIVLA website: https://www.wivla.org/calendar-from-mw#!event/2023/11/18/haunted-holiday-readings

The truth is that this year I will be reading a slightly revised version of the first story I ever read aloud for this event. Last year, I made up a whole new holiday for Thyrein’s Galactic Wall because… well I do love world building. But with my new full time job and my second novel waiting for me to finalize the edits from my editors I just didn’t have the time to do a fresh tale.

Original artwork from previous years.

The first year I participated in this event, it was held via zoom because we were mid-pandemic. So it will be nice to see how this winter witchy tale does to a live in person audience. Since I first read it, the characters have, as they often do, taken on a new life of their own. There’s a backstory now of the lady that leaves the cottage to the protagonist of the tale I will read next Saturday at Brazos Bookstore. I am certain that if I’m not careful this could become a whole new series of novellas. Not that I could keep them from blossoming if I sat down in earnest and wrote on it. They might well end up epic novels.

Just because I won’t write again until after the coming Thanksgiving break.

But, I must keep them where they are now — short tales. I have to get the two connected series I already have books published on out before I go off into yet another story line.

Nanowrimo 2023

On top of everything else I’m doing, I’m still one of the MLs for Nanowrimo Houston.

Well if it isn’t November already. Wow, the year does fly by. So now that we are here, it’s Nanowrimo season. November is National Novel Writing Month. The challenge is 50,000 words in 30 days.

And already, I’m behind. I didn’t start on November 1st as I have in the past. Usually, I wait up until midnight on October 31st and then I start writing my nano project. But not this year. I’m working so I couldn’t stay up that late on a school night.

So I haven’t actually started a project yet. I do have two books outlined and ready to write. Love’s Fire is book two of the Dragon and His Kitten series. I should work on that one as it is the next one that needs to release after War Rising.

This is the outline for Love’s Fire, which will be book 2 of the Dragon and His Kitten series.

Which of course brings me to the fact that War Rising, book two of the Thyrein’s Galactic Wall main line series, is waiting for the final edits. Max Regan, editor extraordinaire, has sent me the feedback and I need to make the final tweaks so it can go off to copy editing. AND I need to start working with my designer on a cover for it.

But that won’t do for Nano. You can’t successfully complete 50,000 words on a revision draft, least of all if it is pretty ready to go. SO, Love’s Fire is waiting for me. Then again so is Gortive Offensive.

Ah, yes. That was supposed to be book 2 for Thyrein’s Galactic Wall and the sequel to United Vidden, but the preparations for war took so many words (nearly 127,000) that we had to cut it off and create War Rising.

Here is the outline for Gortive Offensive. This will be book 3 of Thyrein’s Galactic Wall series of which United Vidden is book one.

I have Gortive Offensive mapped out as well. To be honest, I even have a nice start on it because of the chapters that didn’t make it to War Rising which had already been written and which are being shifted to GO, which is now book three.

So, as this weekend, the first in November, kicks off and I host my first write ins, which book will I work on? I honestly don’t know. I guess when I sit down later tonight during the first write in I’ll see which one decides to speak to me.

All in all, this is a good moment for me. I’ve been so swamped with keeping Inklings going and full time teaching, not to mention Authorpalooza conference and the release of the Journey into Art volume for Houston Writers Guild and Women in the Visual and Literary Arts, that I haven’t written anything since August. It will be lovely to get myself back into my projects and back to my writing soul.

Like a Frog in a Boiling Pot…or Whatever That Saying Is

It’s been another crazy few weeks! Long story short, I’m moving again (fifth time since 2019!) and very unexpectedly. It’s definitely the right choice and I’m looking forward to it, but I am exhausted. In the span of under a month, I’ve had

I’ve been watching a LOT of New Girl while I pack. It makes me feel a little less like a disaster.

to make the choice to move when I wasn’t planning to do so for another year at least, and get all my belongings packed and ready to go.

It’s a lot.

I was talking about it with my mom earlier and I observed that it seems to be a common theme in my life that as soon as I’m finally comfortable in a situation, something unexpected happens that shakes everything up and 

That’s called a hypnic jerk btw! Scientists still aren’t sure why they happen but they do majorly suck.

forces me in an entirely new direction, whether I like it or not. It feels kind of like when you’re about to fall asleep and your body does that involuntary jerk that wakes you right back up.

This isn’t a complaint though. Honestly I’m grateful, because it’s always with situations that were objectively wrong for me. Things I know aren’t right and don’t fit with my life path, but eventually I make a conscious choice to accept it regardless, generally because it’s the safe and easier choice. 

And almost like clockwork, within weeks of finally making peace with the safe choice and resolving to stick it out, the ground falls away, I trip on a curb, a giant explosion happens, and I’m involuntarily jerked awake.

Suddenly fired from the soul-sucking receptionist job by the attorney who used to scream at her clients’ families, dumped by the girlfriend I’d later come to understand was terribly emotionally abusive; all situations that I did not belong in but I was already there and they were familiar and didn’t require taking any scary leaps, so I probably never would have left of my own accord. Or at least until conditions were absolutely perfect and I knew with absolute certainty that I was making the right move.

It didn’t matter if the house was on fire, I wasn’t leaving until I knew the weather outside was perfect.

I don’t have an explanation for the uncanniness of it all, although I do like to imagine that there’s a spirit guide or some higher power rolling their eyes behind me and going, “Fine. If you won’t choose to take the risk, you just don’t get to make a choice at all.”

It’s like I’m playing a game of chess against the Universe, and I’ve been safely moving my pawns forward one-by-one to create a safe border protecting my more powerful pieces, which is physically keeping my king safe but also blocking me from making any big game-changing moves. And then the second I have all my little pawns back in a row, the Universe’s queen surges forward and knocks out the one right in front of my king, immediately exposing him and putting him in serious jeopardy if he doesn’t get the heck out of there.

It looks intense at this angle, but these pawns are actually completely stuck and useless in this position. It’s literally impossible for either of them to move without somebody making a sacrifice.

So I do what I have to do, and get him the heck out of there, and start playing the game with a backbone, and eventually it turns out that was exactly what I needed to win all along.

Now I don’t know if any of that is actually good chess strategy (although I skimmed a chess forum and it sounds like I’m at least kind of right), but I do know that as much as losing that pawn and being forced to make an immediate decision was startling and felt chaotic in the moment, ultimately I’m so thankful every time for that shove into action. 

It’s always terrifying, but it hasn’t steered me wrong yet.

So I’m excited to see where it takes me this time.

Keeping Promises, Breaking Promises

I retired several years ago and at that time, I made a promise to myself. The job I had for 25 years involved a lot of driving. I drove to see clients, I drove to meetings, and then I drove to some more meetings. During that time, I developed a distinct dislike for driving in the rain. You know the situation. I would find myself behind the wheel of my car, the rain was pouring down and visibility stretched for an entire 5 feet or so. Maybe there was thunder and lighting, but that did not bother me. It was the pounding rain causing ponding on the roadways and oftentimes flooding. I knew it was time to retire the day I drove to work during an actual tropical storm. Gratefully, I survived to tell the tale and swore I would never drive in the rain again.…..never.….…ever.….ever.

So it came as a shock to me the other day when I found myself driving along I‑10 on my way to Highway 6. For those of you not familiar with Houston geography, it felt like I was driving from the Grand Canyon all the way to California. Well, it felt that long to me and then I had to drive back home. I went to a place called Crown Trophy. The Authorpalooza conference is happening this weekend. Friday night is the Journey Into Art Anthology launch and I had the First, Second and Third place medals for the winners of the writing contest. This was a very nice company to work with and I highly recommend them for all of your medal and statue needs. But must they locate themselves so far away from where I live? Not very neighborly of them. But at least I have fulfilled my obligation for this weekend.

As soon as I got home, I sat down with some of my skeleton friends. Now that the temperatures are actually cooling down, they prefer to sit outside and study their books. I think they also go for walks at night or so they tell me. Luckily they are in a spot where they are protected from the rain.

Now of course the two friends who are not necessarily protected by the rain are Mr. Gargoyle and his friend, Skelly. One day I asked them why they chose their current spot and Mr. Gargoyle said that it was the spot where he could best protect my home. Since he feels like this is his primary function, I decided he could stay there. He assured me a little rain wouldn’t hurt him. Also his friend, Skelly, knows how to hold on real tight in case the wind starts blowing. I feel very safe knowing that these critters are in charge of the safety of my home. Of course, when I leave and go somewhere else (like Highway 6), I am pretty much on my own. That’s why I stay close to home.

But I will attend Authorpalooza this weekend! It is much closer to me than Crown Trophy. Thanks to the Houston Writers Guild for pulling this wonderful weekend together!

Until next time.….….

AUTUMNAL EQUINOX 2023

I’d like to wish you a Happy Autumnal Equinox!  For those of you who are not familiar with celestial terms, then I will wish you a Happy First Day of Fall. According to many pictures on Social Media and television commercials we can now expect colorful leaves, the nip of coolness in the air and Pumpkin Spice everywhere we go. What difference does this make in Southeast Texas? Apparently, not a damn thing. As I write this, it is 97 degrees outside with lots of humidity. The only real sign I have of the arrival of fall, is the appearance of the Spirit Halloween Store! I was there this morning and purchased another skeleton, because obviously seven are just not enough.

I have enjoyed sweating through the early stages of decorating my home. Of course it is always decorated on the inside, but this time of year is when I let all my neighbors know for sure what kind of neighbor they have. The best comment I have gotten so far is that folks are happy that I am finding enough chairs for all of the skeletons and witches to sit down. Yet, please understand, I am only getting started. I have plans. Lots of plans. There will be bats added into the mix this year and even a gargoyle. I like to start out small so as not to scare the villagers too quickly; however, once October 1st arrives everything is fair game.

I have extra space to decorate this year and I plan to cover every inch possible. I even have extra doors, so I don’t have to decide which wreath to use. I just have to make sure that I follow current fire regulations by keeping walkways clear. Now that’s a funny thought, because the ghosts already know to get out of the way whenever there is a fire or medical emergency. Even the goblins have that basic knowledge. Humans are so weird sometimes with their various rules and regulations as if they are in charge of things.

The only thing left for me to do, in addition to decorating, is to write haunted, scary stories. All of my standard characters show up during the fall. Willow, the Grim Reaper, is already present and accounted for, and I’ve lost track of all the ghosts and goblins who are showing up to get a good spot in the next plot.

After presenting AuthorPalooza in early October, the Houston Writers Guild and Women in the Visual and Literary Arts will once again join literary forces for a night of Haunted Holidays stories at Brazos Bookstore. All of the original stories, essays and poetry are written by members of those two illustrious organizations. I hope you will join us for the fun and frolic!!!

Until next time.….…..

Author’s Professional Growth

As a writer, it is important to stay abreast of what is happening in the publishing industry. Many things have changed and when you are serious about having a career as an author, you must stay informed. Author conferences are a wonderful place to network and learn about what is happening in this vibrant industry.

The Houston Writers Guild is hosting an in person conference the weekend of October 6–8, 2023. There will be many amazing sessions to select from as well as lunch as a group on Saturday. Here’s a few things the Guild is offering this fall:

The venue is both comfortable and ideally located for a wonderful view of Houston.

The conference venue is the beautiful Hilton Houston Plaza/Medical Center Hotel located at 6633 Travis Street I Houston, TX 77030  Friday night kicks off the weekend with a session on how to use anthology and journal publications to build your author platform followed by the celebration of the winners of the Journey Into Art short story contest. The compiled anthology features the authors that won this contest sponsored in collaboration with Women in the Visual and Literary Arts as well as local publishing house, Inklings Publishing. (yes my company)

Saturday is the main day and starts with a powerhouse keynote by renowned fantasy author Kevin J Anderson. Sessions offered during the day include: Tips to being a freelance author; legal issues for authors; several sessions on different types of editors and when you need which; using writing to bolster your personal and professional life; a magnificent panel on writing diversity into your books; effective kickstarter campaigns; writing for radio; marketing tips for authors; using critique groups effectively; and even an old-style Samurai Renga Poetry competition.

Sunday the weekend closes with a wonderful session by Kevin J Anderson on how to maximize your productivity.

In addition to the presentations, the conference offers add ons such as pitch sessions with agents and aquisition editors of small presses looking for new voices. Plus, an opportunity to have a one-on-one session with a social media expert. Aimee Ravichandran of Abundantly Social is an award winning influencer who can help authors expand their reach and build audience. This is a golden chance to have her look at your platform and give you specific tips to improving your reach.

If you are an author, I strongly encourage you to check out this conference. It will be a great event and offers many oppotunties for authors to grow professionally. Here’s the link to the website for a more complete description of the offerings as well as a chance to get your tickets. While you are there, consider joining the Houston Writers Guild. It is a volunteer run organization that truly seeks to help ALL authors succeed by offering many different programs. You can check out the membership benefits at the link below.

Link to conference information:

https://www.houstonwritersguild.org/writersroom

Membership Page for HWG:

https://www.houstonwritersguild.org/membership

Holidays in Confusion

Lately the Gulf of Mexico reminds me of a witch’s cauldron. As I watched the news coverage of Hurricane Idalia this week, I could just see the waters getting churned up. Then late at night when I listened very carefully, I could hear the faint strains of Shakespeare’s witches as they chanted: Double, double. Toil and trouble. Fire burn and cauldron bubble. As I reflected on this I realized that there were forces on the loose in the Gulf that were indeed doubling our toil and trouble. Then I realized that not only is climate change messing with our weather, but it is also causing much confusion with our holidays.

Every year around this time, I pay close attention during my shopping trips, looking for my first sighting of Halloween decorations. Of course, I would always purchase something to add to my already busy collection. My personal rule is that once Halloween decorations hit the store shelves, then summer is all but over, and it is time to decorate with my favorite witches and skeletons. This usually happens around the month of September.

I had my annual first sighting this year, but it happened in July. It was over 100 degrees outside. Yes, I made my first yearly Halloween purchase, but something felt off. I sweated entirely too much taking my new purchase out to my car and then when I arrived at home, it was too hot to start decorating outside. I know that last statement to be a fact, because I tried it and it didn’t work.

Now it is the last of August and turning into September. The situation gets worse. The last time I went shopping, I not only found more Halloween decorations (which I didn’t mind, because I can always use more!) I also found a display of Christmas decorations. Please let me repeat this, because this is newsworthy and worth repeating. In AUGUST, stores were displaying both Halloween and Christmas decorations right next to each other. It wasn’t like one holiday was over and items were marked half off. No, this was more like Santa’s sleigh was going to be pulled by both reindeer and goblins! Santa’s elves will walk around in the dark and try to scare children while skeletons will help to create exciting toys for the good little girls and boys.

The holidays are now all higgledy-piggledy. Can I blame this on climate change? There seems to be a direct correlation here. Maybe if I contact Neil deGrasse Tyson he can explain this with better scientific reasoning. I’ll let you know what he says. In the meantime, please only purchase Halloween supplies in September and Christmas decorations in November. A little decorum if you please.

The Return of the Creative Drive

As I’m sure most people can relate to in a post-pandemic world, I’ve been in a pretty big creative slump lately. I was tired, stressed, struggling with mental health, and my brain simply would not produce whatever juices it needed to in order to get me up and moving and start doing things for myself again.

I’ve been productive when it came to work and that sort of thing, but I had let creative hobbies fall to the side for a while because I simply couldn’t muster up the motivation.

I’m not sure if it’s that my meds are finally working, or that I have a day job that genuinely brings me joy now, (probably a combination of the two), but I am excited to say that I think I’ve busted out of that slump and am back to being excited about engaging in hobbies and creative projects just for

The gift project in question. Can you tell that we share a mutual love of DnD?

me.

I’d say the official slump-buster was a gift I decided to make for a friend’s birthday recently. I realize that sounds like it’s for someone else but I promise, making stuff for people is just as much a gift for myself because it gives me something fun to do. 

Not only was it a big ol’ project to take on, but I taught myself new skills and learned how to design the pattern myself, and could feel myself excited about working on an art project again and getting my hands busy.

A peek at the design. Isn’t she lovely?

From there, I finally completed some projects I had put on the back burner for months (which, of course, only fed the stress cycle by having something unfinished hanging over my head), and I’m already planning about 10 other ideas.

I can’t say if it’ll last, but I can say that I plan to enjoy the ride and the fullness I feel from getting back to something that has brought me peace and joy throughout so much of my life.