Every year, I find myself wanting to display a whole new look for the holidays. In particular, I would love to go with a more 'natural, folksy' sort of Christmas theme this year, but it's just not going to happen. For one thing, I'm not about to spend the money it would take for a full set of new decorations. Tougher though, is the idea of not displaying the ornaments and do-dads my family has used for years. They have become tradition and something would seem amiss if I didn't put up the same decor each year. On the other hand, I know people who go for a new look each year.
What's your take? Do live to create a new look each holiday season? Or would it seem like a crime to ditch your Spode this year? I would love to know! And while we're at it, do you have a favorite piece of decor or holiday tradition?
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Okay, so maybe there isn't a romantic dinner involved. Although, there is a dinner that was meant to be romantic in this follow-up novella to Jigsaw Hearts--but it didn't exactly turn out that way. The steam factor in this baby, though? Well, there was the museum ... and the forest ... but the point is....
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So what if I never jump out of a plane ... I finally boarded one without the comfort of a companion. Who cares if I never give a speech in front of thousands ... I've given several for rooms of one hundred. And if I never make the top of the NYT bestseller list? Well, I might not be perfectly happy about that, but I have broken my self-imposed restrictions on what I could and could not write. How freeing! Calling these achievements 'feats' may be laughable to some, I'm sure. Others might relate to them as worthy goals. Still, other people might find them bold and beyond their own abilities. We're all different; I met a woman who had no problem rock climbing to dizzying heights, but don't put her near a cricket!
As much as I know I have nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to topics and situations that sit beyond my comfort zone, I came across a fear this weekend that completely pissed me off.
I went cabin camping. There were frogs. IN the cabin. IN the restrooms. Lots of them. Technically, I don't fear frogs. Actually, I find most of them adorable. I just don't want to see one hop at me when I lift a toilet seat. I don't want to sleep with them in the dark where they can use me as a trampoline.
It was sort of a women's retreat and there were three of us in the cabin. At first, two of us were ready to hit the hay, the third nowhere in sight. So there I was in a sleeping bag, on the top bunk, surrounded by frogs and lizards, wondering what sat on the ledge above me just below the roof. (I didn't look.) I knew the lizards would keep to themselves, and the small spiders seemed harmless enough, but the little frogs? They would suddenly bound off the walls across the room. To our credit, the other woman and I finally talked ourselves down from the fear and were actually drifting off to sleep. After all, the third woman--the seasoned pro--would return soon and hopefully have the guts to catch the frogs and release them outside.
But no! When she arrived she freaked out over the frogs, promptly became a landing target for two, and left to sleep in her pickup truck. That was it for me. I hunkered down low and--after at least an hour--had the sort of sleep where you wake about every half hour. I sweltered in my sleeping bag and wanted to climb out of it, but it was my only protection from the frogs. So I sweat through the night, quaked in fear, and listened to my lower bunk mate sleeping soundly most of the night.
And that's why I'm mad at myself: My sleeping bag was protection? From the frogs? What did I think they would do to me, anyway? I mean I owned a snake once. The fear was almost as silly as that rock climber and her crickets.
I suppose that's why we need to be gentle with each other, friends. We never know the extent of someone's fears ... of their comfort zones. They might not always make sense, but they are real enough to the person in question.
So I guess I can say, I might never be comfortable in a cabin full of frogs. BUT ... at least I can also say I didn't sleep in a truck all night because of them?
What are your irrational fears? Come on! Own em! :) I promise I won't laugh.
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A free ecopy of Jigsaw Hearts, the first novel in the Awaken My Heart series, is included in this giveaway!
If you've already read that, be sure to check out the first follow-up novella, Pieces of You, Pieces of Me (Just .99 for ebook.)
"Write the story you want to read."
That has always been my favorite piece of writing advice. I mean, otherwise ... why bother? Throughout various genres, I've aimed to do just that and it has served me well, in that--yes!--I wound up loving the stories I wrote. The only trouble with writing those stories is the same one I have after reading a stand-alone novel I truly love: I want more. Isn't it just the worst when you hit the last page and close the book on the characters and settings you lived and breathed throughout its pages with no sequel in sight?
So in writing my own stories, I wound up never wanting to stop delving into the minds of my characters. But now ... now I don't have to stop--or at least I get to spend a lot more time with them.
The Awaken My Heart series will do more than keep the stand-alone novels in the family, providing updated glimpses of characters who have already had their time in the spotlight. I'll add novellas after each spotlight novel that explore that couple in new situations. Of course, Ren & Galen are the first pair to claim the spotlight in Jigsaw Hearts. Their first novella, Pieces of You, Pieces of Me, has launched, and a second novella will soon follow. Also in the works ... the spotlight will shine on Corinne Zabriese and ________ (not letting that out just yet!) in a second novel. I'm super excited about the line of romance I'm building, and I hope you're loving it, too!
So what are those books that made me wish I could continue reading about the characters? I could never list them all. It happens quite often. Let's just say I'm ticked at Stephenie Meyer for not writing a sequel to The Host (no apologies ... I enjoyed it. Loved many of the characters.) After Barbara Kingsolver's The Bean Trees and Pigs in Heaven, I still need another glimpse into Taylor Greer's life. S.E. Hinton needs to pick up a pen or hit the keyboard and let me know what the remaining greasers from The Outsiders are up to these days. I need more of Melissa Foster's Luke Braden (Taken By Love). I don't understand why, because I could never be attracted to a man like him, but I want to read about Heathcliff again (Wuthering Heights). Most recently, should the duo of Penelope Ward and Vi Keeland decide to write more about Dr. Simon Hogue (Dear Bridget, I Want You), I certainly would not object.
What characters, stories, and/or settings do you need more of?
Surprise! There's a brand new cover for Jigsaw Hearts and a bunch of reasons why:
The following is the result of me trying to sort out my emotions 'on paper," as writers tend to do. I'm too bottled up with it all, so I'm finally popping the cork! It's not an invitation to attack--as that would completely not gel with the point of the post in the first place. Polite, respectful discourse is welcome. Love, Danica
These times are hard. I wind up yelling at myself almost daily for reading comment threads on political stories. They only distress me. Yet I can't seem to stop in a attempt to try to understand where people are coming from. Instead, I wind up so tired of the hostility, so sick of ignorance, so frightened over how our news sources (every last one of them) require us to research further, comparing and contrasting them with other sources for some semblance of a big picture. As if the lot of us have time for that. I don't. And I harshly remind myself of that each time I fall victim to another comment thread. There was a time when news was cut and dry and boring--and that's the way it should have stayed. Catering to ratings and particular groups of people was the worst thing for us. I vividly remember as a kid watching Walter Kronkite and telling my mother, "He's boring." My mother responded, "Well, it's the news. It's just supposed to give you information." Funny how, these days, my mom--who I love dearly and wouldn't trade for any other--hasn't a clue what proper news is anymore. I have a varied Communications background, and I'm slowly losing my grip on it.
As a country, as a planet, we are a mixed bag of intelligence. Education is not what it should be due to fluctuations in policy, economics, etc. On top of that, how many of us, intelligent or otherwise, are simply trying to get by day by day working hard at careers and raising families? How many of us struggle to pay rent? Deal with an autistic child? Struggle with an illness? Are frantic with exhaustion trying to help a loved one through the last years of their life? How many of us have time to seriously analyze what the media feeds us? We have actually reached a point where our government is taking advantage of our heavily slanted (both ways) media to tell us it's all fake. And isn't that so much easier a concept to accept than developing and/or using our own research skills? People are angry. People are tired. And when we do push ourselves to do the research, it's stressful and depressing. For me, anyway. We are all walking around in different shoes and fewer and fewer of us are understanding that, it seems.
Much of the division is a condition of looking at people and situations in absolutes. There are people who are too uneducated to do much more than mentally ingest whatever feels right to their comfort zones. We have bright citizens who take advantage of that or who cannot fathom operating with less of an education than they have, so they ridicule. The divisive nature of speeches from politicians (both sides) and commentary on social media (both sides) only serve to paint large groups of people with one brush. And that, in my opinion, is the most dangerous element of all of it. I am sickened by a frequently posted piece on Facebook, "7 Things I know about you if you voted for Trump." Sure, there are voters who fit many, if not all of those points ... but a good many do not. We are people from various backgrounds (different shoes) who think and act in particular ways due to our upbringings, education, and life experiences. I have a friend who refused to vote democrat this time around because he is law enforcement and his research tells him that he would be voting for a felon. My experiences and knowledge does not necessarily tell me the same thing. I love my friend. My friend is far from racist, does not care who loves who, and is the first person to come running if anyone of any background needs help. I can't get in his head on this one, even though we typically agree on so much. I don't understand. But he's one of the greatest people I know, and I've known him forever. Am I supposed to cast him out of my life because we can't agree on the lesser of two evils or who has a better chance of procuring a better country over four years? By the same token, I have friends who would agree with me politically on every point who are getting downright hypocritically hateful toward those who disagree. And then I've been told who to vote for by red-in-the-face senior citizens who fantasize about going back to the good old days, whenever they were. Personally, most of my comfort zones in life have been stripped away, so I can't relate to that at all.
Absolutes get us nowhere. I guess my question is this: While there are people who thrive on being part of the extremes and it seems there is no talking to them, can we focus on calling a truce with the far more plentiful rational people on both sides? To work toward compromises? Few hot topic issues need to be as black and white (absolute) as they seem. Is there a better way to face a person whose opinion you find completely ill-informed? I don't know. I'm just asking. For now, I'll surround myself with people who evoke a resounding 'yes' if I ask myself, "If this person saw a lost child on a street corner, would they offer help regardless of race, dress, gender, religion, or language?" It seems so quaint and delusional to say, "All we need is love." But unless you're a sociopath, don't we all need it in some way or at least be better off with it? Can we use the idea of love to generate more rational conversation? Again, I don't know. I'm on a new path where I'm trying really hard to make empathy and common ground part of my dealings with people. So ... I'm just asking.
Image: Michal Jarmoluk
Book reviews hold a lot of power--and I'm not sure how many readers realize just how much. I mean the debate over whether reviews sell books rages on. Many people will say they do for certain, while others argue that most reviews can no longer be trusted as legit anymore, so what are they worth?