Friday, December 9, 2016

Hygge Me!

Get thee behind me, pumpkin spice. Hygge is the big league of cold-season trends that help you forget the brutality of reality beneath a smothering mountain of blankets.

I've canceled my 10 hours a week of creative writing time for the month of December so I can focus on my day job--at which I might receive death threats at any time for promoting peace, love, and justice--and recovering from that day job while taking care of myself, my family, and my friends, who--I have realized this fall--are frankly better people than a lot of America, you flaming dirtbags.

This month, I'm putting up Queen Elsa-sized, icily fortified boundaries around my personal energies, so get in line, devil's advocates and ism apologists. You can wait for your hot cocoa right there in that greasy snowbank.

Meanwhile, I am volunteering at churches that serve activists and immigrants.

I'm working on semi-obscene Christmas cards to spread the warm feelings among friends who need a laugh.

I'm baking all of my Christmas gifts. I hope you like pastries made of extra fatty European style butter. BECAUSE I DO.

My tree is up and lit. My daughter has one of those crummy $1 "advent" calendars full of garbage chocolate flakes and also a Christmas countdown house loaded with Barbie accessories and candy behind the little doors. Every morning is magical.

I took my little ninja to decorate a Christmas tree at our covenantal church and, to remind us of the true reason for the season, we hiked in the dark to find a Yule log to burn, told stories of our Germanic tribal ancestors, and bashed on percussion instruments while howling like barbarians to bring back the sun.

And we're making sure we can keep the hearth lit at home as well.

Before the first snow, we traveled deep into Trump country, out beyond the suburbs, through a forest of T/P signs, out to a large and picturesque rural estate with a giant peace flag flying in the wind, and we bought a 1997 pickup truck with nostalgic roll-down windows. This is an upgrade from our old "other" car, and it looks real cute next to our Nissan Leaf. Coexist, baby. And haul firewood!

We used that truck to upgrade our broken TV to a less broken hand-me-down TV. It's a grotesquely large plasma monstrosity that we have crammed into the little movie room behind the fireplace, where we can watch Rammstein videos in life size from between layers of animal skins and quilts.


Or children's cartoons. Or Home Alone. Our kid doesn't really sleep. Anyway...

Rejoice! Let us hoard food, firewood, and f**ks for what really matters--taking care of ourselves and each other in a time of frightful politics and social unrest.

It's not even selfish if you invite people over, cook for them, wrap them in snuggly things, and help them recuperate from the stresses of their work or home lives. You don't have to have a fancy house or anything. All my thrift store furniture and crumbling 1980s tiles look awesome in the half-dark, illuminated by candles and Christmas lights. Or Rammstein videos on the giant TV that mostly works.

God ferie!

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Grove of Thorismud

I have rewritten Briars and Black Hellebore into a more twisted love story, less sweet than savory. The Grove of Thorismud is complete, composed of 40% Briars material, now fermented and spiced. I received feedback from four beta readers and one editor, sharpened the emotional drama, cleaned out 6,000 unnecessary words, and submitted The Grove to one agent upon request.

The Grove of Thorismud takes place in a small forest kingdom of Central Europe in the 10th and 11th centuries. Two cursed dynasties inspired by the ancient stories of "Sleeping Beauty" and "Beauty and the Beast" are rescued during the same spring, and the two heroes--an aspiring knight from a nearby farm and a nomadic wolf huntress--claim their own prophesied right to rule Vepres.

Johann marries "Sleeping Beauty," the former Princess Rosemary, and Bellynda marries the transformed "Beast King" Gustav.

Bellynda easily takes the throne as reigning queen, but as a gift to her tenderhearted husband, King Gustav, she gives the post of bishop to Johann, who is Gustav's only known blood relative. Johann accepts the post, but he and many others in Vepres begin to plot against the new queen.

As the bishop's wife, Rosemary cannot obey the virtues of a good woman, even in her sleep. Despite her excessive desires for Bishop Johann, she fails to become pregnant, and she embarrasses her new husband with her weak eyesight and fragile health. When Johann prepares to go on a journey to see his family, Rosemary wants nothing more than to travel for the first time in her life and prove her worth to her in-laws. But Johann drugs her and leaves her behind for the entire summer.

Rosemary takes solace in an intimate friendship with Queen Bellynda, trying to find meaning in her new life as a peacemaker, keeping Bishop Johann and Queen Bellynda from harming each other using their mutual love for her. But Johann's abusive control over Rosemary escalates and thwarts her attempts to serve anyone but himself.

King Gustav adores his new wife, Bellynda, and suffers in his marriage for a different reason: Bellynda is already pregnant, and her culture mandates sexual abstinence during pregnancy. Gustav suspects that his wife pretends to be zealous about this rule because she is not physically attracted to him. While Bellynda and her people work with Bishop Johann to rebuild the kingdom, Gustav begins to feel vestigial.

Bellynda notices an attraction between Gustav and Rosemary, and she proposes that Rosemary leave Johann and enter into the royal marriage as her own sister-wife. Gustav and Rosemary both resist, clinging to their hopes for peace in the kingdom and romantic solutions to their respective marital troubles.

But the people of both households collude in complicated alliances and betrayals, challenging each other's core beliefs and loyalties.

The Grove of Thorismud is an upmarket light fantasy of 119,000 words. I have plans for a sequel and a story about the next generation.

I am currently seeking agent representation.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Lighting the Way with Literature

My rewritten novel, The Grove of Thorismud, is complete to THE END! I'm making final edits with the help of beta readers--several with expertise in writing, European culture, and/or history that far exceeds my own--and with some gifted advice by an experienced editor, Teresa Crumpton of AuthorSpark. (And she is currently offering free sample manuscript critiques to first-time submitters, so get your work-in-progress a Christmas present!)

EDIT: I have cut 6,000 unnecessary words out of this document. My book just went on the biggest crash diet ever.

Jessie Willcox Smith 'The New Book' 1915 from 'When Christmas Comes Around'

My rewrite of Briars and Black Hellebore, which has evolved into The Grove of Thorismud, has taken a much darker turn that feels more aligned with the social unrest happening around us in real life. My sweet romance has become something almost like an anti-romance, in which the characters' disillusionments challenge them to find new reasons to go on living and loving.

Art imitates life. I'm inspired by this list of 18 famous authors' contributions to "What It Means to Be a Writer in the Time of Trump."

I'm also moved and motivated by my friend Tashmica's heart-led wisdom as she amps up her advocacy and professional services for our community's children.

Compassion runs deeper than allyship. Some people have more, some people have less or none at all. No one can be shamed into feeling compassion, though they might be scared away from committing acts of harm. We can only nurture compassion where it exists, particularly in our children. That is the job of mothers and fathers, teachers and artists and friends and neighbors during this holiday season, when we yearn for quiet intimacy and peace.

P.S. Happy Black Friday, and I hope you're staying cozy indoors all day, in your jammies, buying nothing and spending time with family. I'm with you in snuggledarity!