Wednesday, 19 December 2012

12 Blogs of Christmas – Decorations That Have ‘Kangaroos In Their Top Paddocks’

In case you’re wondering ‘kangaroos in the top paddock’ is an Australian expression for someone who is a little nuts. So… this is a blog about Christmas decorations that are a little bit nuts… or at least a little left of centre, in a weird, hideous, or cute kind of way, featuring decorations contributed by other participants in the 12 Blogs of Christmas.

We start with the wackiest decorations and work our way down to some unique and poignant family traditions.

Chucky the Snowman by Ciara Ballintyne - This thing is hideous. OK, it doesn’t look hideous. It looks kind of cute – in a mad, axe-wielding scarecrow fashion. It’s also huge. I mean, at least three feet high. Once it starts singing, though, it’s hideous. It sings ‘Let It Snow’. In this awful high-pitched voice which should not be permitted to exist. Mum loves it. Because everyone else hates it she says. What does that say about Mum’s sense of humour? Dad says she doesn’t have a wicked sense of humour, she just likes to laugh at other people’s misfortune. I suggested that he reconsider that statement in the context of the definition of the word ‘wicked’ and then get back to me. 

What’s worst about this decoration, though, is kids reallylove it. They don’t want it to stop. After this thing has sung its song a half dozen times even Mum is ready to put an axe through its music box. But the kids want it to keep going. In the words of Bill Cosby… ‘Do it again!’ I would have liked to provided a video but it just wasn't happening.

6 White Boomers by Ciara Ballintyne - I also can’t miss this opportunity to mention ‘Six White Boomers’. This originates from a Rolf Harris song (of 'Tie Me Kangaroo Down' fame – if you don’t know him, be sure to look up Rolf and his wobbleboard). 

Santa’s sleigh is pulled by eight reindeer, right? Everywhere else in the world, maybe. But not Down Under. Here, in Australia, the sleigh is pulled by… six white kangaroos. Of course… No I have never seen a white kangaroo, but just go with it... OK?

This does make an awesome yard decoration though.

Check out my short story A Magical Melody in the anthology Spells: Ten Tales of Magic.
Christmas is Cactus by Kelly Gamble - When you live in a desert, you make do with what you have, right? Instead of a Christmas tree, how about a Christmas cactus.  Ethel M's Chocolate Factory has a huge cactus garden that they light up every year, and it is so strange, but unique.  And after looking at the various cacti, you can eat chocolate!

Visit Kelly here for book recommendations from the 12 Blogs of Christmas.

Creepy Christmas by Karen Delabar - A couple of years ago we were at my husband's grandparents and we did the annual search for the pickle ornament on the tree (I have no idea how this tradition started but it’s fairly popular around here). I was so excited when I found it because it meant I won a prize. :) 

Then I opened my "prize" and found what I thought looked like two figurines screaming to be put out of their misery. Trying to be of the Norman Rockwell variation, these two Christmas carolers look... well, creepy. However, since I technically got them from his grandparents I can't throw them away. Each year I bring them down from the attic and put them in a drawer. When his grandparents stop by they come out for the hour or so and then back in the drawer they go until Christmas is over and they join the rest of our Christmas decorations back up in the attic.

Visit Karen here for some favourite Christmas movies from the 12 Blogs of Christmas.

Karen suffered an extreme case of Toxic Shock Syndrome following strep throat earlier in this year and almost lost her life. You can read her story here. If you would like to donate to help Karen's family meet all her medical bills and other expenses, please click the 'Donate' button below. 


Fallen Angel by Erica Lucke Dean - Several years ago my mother gave me the vintage 1960's tree topper from our childhood Christmas trees.  It's just about the ugliest angel I've ever seen but it brings back wonderful memories.  My kids won't let me put her anywhere but the back of our tree but I don't feel it's Christmas unless she's tucked in there somewhere.

Visit Erica here for some childhood nostalgia with the 12 Blogs of Christmas and check out Erica's book With Love from Katie coming out March 2013.


Football Santa by Marie Patchen - We might be living in the milder climes of southern Arizona these days, but my family is Pennsylvania born and bred.  And if it's one thing we take pride in, it is our beloved Pittsburgh Steelers.  

Now, we don't go to heck with the joke, but the truth of the matter is, if Santa Claus came out of the closet as any other football fan but a Steelers fan, we'd have to take issue with him.  This is why we make sure that when he visits us, he's always dressed in his finest black and gold, and has a prime spot underneath the Christmas tree.  Because honestly, what other football team is there?

Visit Marie here for Christmas cartoons with the 12 Blogs of Christmas.

More Power! by Natalie Kenney – My mother likes lights on the tree. Lots of lights. It's a crime not to have lights on your tree in my family, punishable by coal in the stocking. (All of the house lights are off in the first picture. I swear). Last Christmas, one of the cats spent all her time trying to blend in with the decorations… After all, she lit up too!

Visit Natalie here for some delicious Christmas Cookie recipes from the 12 Blogs of Christmas.

Good Things Come In Small Packages by Amberr Meadows – I used to envy my ex-boyfriend's mother for her Christmas decorations until we went to visit her at Christmastime. She had two Christmas trees, one of them devoted entirely to Santa ornaments and the other devoted to expensive Disney ornaments. She had more Nativity scenes and Disney displays in the yard and around her home than I'd think could fit comfortably in one storage shed, and I resented her magnificent collection of outdoor and indoor twinkly lights. Her family Christmas stockings were of the finest material, and she even had a damn snow machine. I could never have hoped to have decor even half as lovely with my then-salary.

In spite of it all, it took only the one visit to determine I was the luckier one. She was batshit crazy and constantly going through bouts of mania and depression and bringing us along for the miserable, unwanted ride. After jumping through hoops and dealing with the issues associated with that matriarchal drama queen, I realized something important. It didn't matter that her home was more lovely and her decorations were of the finest quality – she was miserable and destined to continue in this vein, because she thrived on it. The atmosphere in her home was dark and dreary, and not even five storage sheds full of fancy ornaments would have remedied the problem. I hated every minute of my time there.

When I returned home, I looked around my tiny one-bedroom apartment with the 18" Christmas tree decorated with mini-Santas and didn't feel the usual sad Holiday feeling. I felt grateful and humbled. The scant decorations didn't matter in the slightest; genuine joy lived within these walls, and I never took it foolishly for granted again. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Visit Amberr here for traditional Christmas food from the 12 Blogs of Christmas.

Wreathed In Christmas by Justin Bogdanovitch - I love the bubble lights and other vintage ornaments of the fifties and sixties and I'm partial to multi-colored lights for a tree... an all-white lighted tree is static to me, same with the all-gold theme some really stylish people can't seem to do without. Give me the green, red, blue, yellow, and orange lights powered up to the nines with only a few of them blinking away in syncopation. 

Having said all this about color, my favorite Christmas decoration is a large house wreath hung on the side of the house. It only has the tiny twinkling white lights because when our last wreath grew too weathered with so many winter seasons, the current model was the only one readily available. Just seeing the view as I drive home or walk the dogs around the pond adds to the peace of the season. 

Visit Justin here to read the 12 Faux Pas of Christmas -- part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas and check out his book Sandcastle and Other Stories.

It’s Raining Christmas Trees by D.C. McMillen - My favourite tradition during the holidays is to walk around downtown – mostly the financial and the shopping districts – to look at all of the amazingly decorated Christmas trees. 

Many of the trees are the same every year so my excitement builds to an excruciating level before I’ve even left the apartment. Will Dundas Square feature trees made from stacked balls of light again this year? Will the snowflake tree in The Esplanades Park be set up in the fountain?  

Of course, my absolute favourite is the Swarovski tree in the Eaton Centre. This rotating, 35 ft high tree is covered in ten thousand sparkling Swarovski crystal ornaments. Every year I snap a picture and then complain that the picture simply does not do it justice. On that note, here is the picture:

Visit D.C. here for favourite festive drinks from the 12 Blogs of Christmas and check out D.C.'s book A Decent December.

Personalised Christmas Ornaments by Raine Thomas - Our Christmas tree this year is the "pretty and stylish" design that I like.  We also have a "kid-friendly" version with lots of brightly colored lights and ornaments, but this "more traditional" one is my favorite.  So that my husband and daughter can more enjoy the tree, though, they hung a number of ornaments that reflect them... including Chewbacca and the Disney princesses. And I'll admit it... the Atlanta Braves ornament is all mine!

Visit Raine here for favourite Christmas music from the 12 Blogs of Christmas and check out her Daughters of Saraquael books.

The Yule Log by Maureen Hovermale - In any home at this time of year, there has to be a Yule log. In Neo-Aramaic (the Chaldean language - think Iraq) yule meant child. It took a while for the tradition of the log to be in a hearth, but when it finally did, it was sprinkled with salt, oil, and mulled wine then prayed over to protect the home.  

Nowadays, it’s a cake rolled like a log and decorated with icing holly and roses. Sounds better than salted and oiled wine to me!

Visit Maureen here for a look at the Christmas Clauset in the 12 Blogs of Christmas.

Winter Wonderland by Melody Kauffman - My favorite Christmas decorations are outdoor lighted ones.  My parents didn’t do yard decorations when I was growing up.  I always loved the houses where the yard was lit up with reindeer, snowmen, and other colorful figures.  They were so magical.  As a kid I always wanted to have a house with a yard like that.  I had no idea the time, expense, and work that went in to them.  The first year we owned our house we didn’t decorate the outside.  I told my husband how much I wanted to decorate the yard and we looked at a lot of decorations.  I suffered a bad case of sticker shock and decided not to even try to decorate that first year.  After Christmas that year my husband bought me my first yard decoration - a lighted, beaded snowman.  I was so thrilled.  The year we put it up he bought me a set of the lighted beaded presents to go with it.  The beaded design allows the figure to reflect the light better at night. During the day the beading prevents the figure from looking skeletal.  We’ve added a lot of decorations since then but the snowman and his presents are still out there.  They give me a ridiculously happy feeling when I get in from work at night. They sparkle like some magic winter wonderland dropped right on to my lawn.  Childhood dream decoration realized thanks to my awesome hubby.

Visit Melody here for some fun Christmas toys from the 12 Blogs of Christmas!

Thanks for stopping by. This is one installment in the 12 Blogs of Christmas series – do be sure to check out the others!

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Boundaries in Erotica

I recently guest-posted over on D.C. McMillen's blog on the topic of boundaries in fiction, and more specifically in erotica. There have always been topics that are taboo, and it seems like The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty breaks a great deal of them. 

Hop over to D.C.'s blog for my discussion on whether the conduct of the characters in the book is criminal, immoral, or just downright yucky. Note that while I am aware a book can have a world that operates by different rules than ours, and that therefore conduct which we find unacceptable can be acceptable within that world, I don't believe Anne Rice has established such a sufficiently three dimensional world with alternative rules as to make the reader stop applying their usual sensibilities - and thus the debate. 

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven't already. If you're finding yourself here often, you might as well join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or sign up for the newsletter. 
Don't forget to share the love and spread the word on Twitter, Facebook or StumbleUpon (or other social networking site of your choice) if you know other people who might also enjoy this. 

Thanks for stopping by and visiting with us!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

A Writer’s Need For Validation

Every writer needs validation. If I’m wrong, and there’s one somewhere who doesn’t, we’ve never heard of him and he’s never shown his work to anyone. 

I’m not criticising this need. I am a writer, after all, and therefore I, too, need validation. I’m not ashamed to admit it. Writing is a solitary business, and it’s a hard and lonely business to bleed one’s soul all over the page in a room on one’s own. Social media has remedied this to some degree, giving writers the comfort and support of a network of like-minded souls who ‘get it’, but it’s not a complete salve. 

Writing is, at its heart, an act of creation. In that sense it is akin to pregnancy and birth. 

I was once remonstrated for saying my pregnancy was so hellish it seriously made me reconsider wanting more children. Apparently this meant I somehow didn’t appreciate my daughter. I replied no, the only thing worse than having gone through my pregnancy to get a baby would have been going through it to get nothing.

Similarly, how soul-destroying is it to go through the painful process of writing fiction and have nothing at the end of it?

Sure, you always have the completed work, but that’s not enough, is it? We don’t just want to stick it in a drawer and let it gather dust. We want people to know we wrote it, we want them to read it, and most of all, we want them to like it.

Writers who seek traditional publishing want their validation in the form of approval by a publisher – someone thought my work was good enough to invest their money in and take a chance on it! You can’t deny the ego stroke in that. 

Why do these writers need someone else to say their work is good enough? Why can’t they just look at it and know it’s good? I’m one of these writers, and I would hazard a guess it’s because we have all, at some point, looked upon a work of ours that we once thought was fantastic and wanted to burn it so no one else would ever read our shame. ‘Good’ is subjective. We can only assess if a work is good as against our current standard. What was our best work ‘at the time’, will in the future, when we improve, become merely ‘OK’ or even ‘bad’. We crave someone else’s approval because we can’t trust our own judgement. 

There's a quote that says something to the effect of the stupid have boundless self-confidence, while the intelligent or talented are riddled with self-doubt. I suspect that’s because the intelligent or talented know enough to recognise their own shortcomings, and so question themselves constantly. This probably circles back to the four stages of learning, and I suspect it’s why a good writer (of any publishing stripe) so desperately needs validation. 

I’ve heard it said in self-publishing circles that self-published authors don’t need validation; but they do. It doesn’t arrive in the same form as for traditionally published authors, but self-published authors still crave it and need it. Validation in the self-publishing industry comes in the form of book sales, five star reviews, and industry recognition. For the lucky few, it might come in the form of invitations to speak at conferences, or even an offer of a publishing contract. Make no mistake, a publishing contract is the ultimate validation for a self-published author, even if they don’t accept. The author is then in the position to say ‘I’m good enough that you wanted me, but I made it this far on my own, and I don’t need you.’

We’re all the same, at our heart, no matter which way we choose to publish. We have fragile egos, and we spend so much of ourselves in our work we often no longer have the defences necessary to protect ourselves from a cold, harsh reality. We fear rejection, and no publishing path is free of rejection, it’s only the form of rejection that changes. 

We need each other, for support, for encouragement, to keep us going and motivated until we get the validation we need.
If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven't already. If you're finding yourself here often, you might as well join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or sign up for the newsletter.

Don't forget to share the love and spread the word on Twitter, Facebook or StumbleUpon (or other social networking site of your choice) if you know other people who might also enjoy this. 

Thanks for stopping by and visiting with us!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Club Fantasci: The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty

November’s Book of the Month for Club Fantasci was The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by Anne Rice. The book certainly seems to polarise readers, and it had that effect on myself and my co-hosts. Watch the Hangout below to see what we thought of this rewrite of the classic Sleeping Beauty.

Reviews by the co-hosts will shortly be available on the Club Fantasci website and will be linked here as soon as they go up. 

Next month, we have another erotic fantasy - Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey. Tune in to see the Hangout on December 29 at 7pm CST or, it being the holiday season, check it out while recovering from a post-holiday hangover!

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven't already. If you're finding yourself here often, you might as well join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or sign up for the newsletter.

Don't forget to share the love and spread the word on Twitter, Facebook or StumbleUpon (or other social networking site of your choice) if you know other people who might also enjoy this.

Thanks for stopping by and visiting with us.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

You’re Like Coming Home

Every time I hear this song, by Lonestar, I think of my husband.

While listening to it the other day, it occurred to me that people frequently ask the question ‘How did you know he/she was “the one”?’

In my life, I’ve had enough first dates that I don’t know the exact number – less than twenty, but enough that I can’t recall the number precisely since I didn’t bother to count. Out of that, I’ve had three second dates, and two marriages.

When I was dating, and more often than not refusing a second date with the latest man in question, I was frequently told I was too picky. I reject that notion out of hand – I’d rather be alone than with the wrong man. That may sound bizarre, but when I was on my own, I was just lonely. When I was with the wrong man, it was a constant reminder of what I’d had, but didn’t now have. It’s easier to bury the memories, I suppose, when you haven’t got something rubbing your nose in it and constantly reminding you.

Those are the reasons I didn’t bother with a second date often. If I didn’t feel that ‘click’ immediately, some ephemeral sense of ‘rightness’, I firmly believed it would never be there. Sure, you can grow companionship and a sense of familiarity, but what I was looking for was more than just that. Some might say I was searching for a great passion, a wild love, and to some degree I probably was, but that wasn’t the indefinable something for which I searched.

Some of those first dates never turned into second dates because he also wasn’t interested. A few people told me perhaps I should be more restrained in my personality when I went on a first date, which struck me as the most incredible advice ever. So… I should lie about who I am until… when? When is a good time to suddenly spring on someone that you’re not the person they thought you were?

Since my first marriage ended because my ex-husband turned out to have multiple personalities (see here for all the sordid details), I can attest to the fact there is never a good time to have that conversation. You’re left with a great sense of betrayal, of deception, and impossible uncertainty because suddenly you find yourself in a relationship with someone you don’t know. The best advice I can give you for dating is be yourself. Seriously. If your date doesn’t like you, then he/she isn’t the right person for you. The best gift you can give yourself is holding out for that person who loves you exactly as you are. I didn’t want to change myself. I wanted a man who loved me for what I am.

In any case, I think there is something in the fact that of the three second dates I had, two of them ended in marriage. Clearly one of those marriages ended in divorce, but I don’t blame myself for that. Something like 99% of marriages involving a spouse with mental illness end in divorce, and I did everything I possibly could to hold it together (at great personal expense). But I’ve also never wasted time on a relationship that didn’t feel right, that was never going anywhere, that was just ‘filling time’ as it were. I’ve heard people say things like ‘He’s nice enough, but I’m never going to marry him.’ Then what the hell are you doing dating him??

I knew on my first date with my second husband that it was right. There was a quality to those hours, a comfortableness, a familiarity, something that just made me want to stay. That did make me stay, long after I should have gone home, and even when we did part ways, I didn’t want to go. I had plans the next weekend – my friends were taking me out to get me drunk on what should have been my first wedding anniversary. But he wanted to see me, and I wanted to see him, and so I invited him along – and he came. And survived the experience, which is quite a feat, since my friends are an oddball bunch.

I can’t recall any other man I would have invited out with my friends on what was, essentially, a second date. I can only put that down to the sense of ‘rightness’ I felt, and I can only assume he agreed to come for the same reason. There was something there important enough to be pursued – that feeling was the only thing that got me out on a first date with him, seeing as it was only six months since I’d separated from my first husband. I’d met someone who was too good to not take a chance, even though I was still something of a mess.

I never analysed that feeling he gave me at the time. Emotionally wrecked as I was, that feeling was a soothing balm, and it was enough that I felt it, and recognised it, and it was good. It’s only now I reflect on it that I can put that feeling into words.

Honey – you’re like coming home.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Real Time Analytics