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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

THE LIE OF CHRISTMAS MAGIC


Some say Christmas has never been magical, not even from the beginning.

We tend to overlook that the Holy Birth occurred in Bethlehem because of an act of oppression, and the threat of violence,

 when a man and woman were forced to travel from Nazareth to their ancestral home 

by the decree of an occupying army in the final days of the young woman’s pregnancy.


And, although we tend to be only vaguely aware of it, the massacre of innocents is woven inextricably into the story.

Only three days after Christmas Day, on Dec. 28, the Church’s calendar remembers the other children of Bethlehem,

the ones left behind when Joseph fled with Mary and Jesus to Egypt for safety following an angelic warning, 

the ones slaughtered by King Herod in a fearful rage.


Magic in Christmas? 

No matter how much we might like to make it so, magic was not prominent in these events.

Though we may rarely come to terms with it, 

the Christmas story begins and ends in violence.

We should not be surprised.


We should not be surprised that the incarnation of good, of which the innocence of all children reminds us

is not received either warmly or passively by the presence of evil.

Sometimes that evil finds its expression in armies of violence, sometimes in greed and fear and power,

and sometimes in clouds of darkness that overtake and consume those among us most vulnerable

to delusion left to their own devices by a society deaf to the needs of those without power: the old, the mentally ill, the poor.


The thought that there is no magic in Christmas might even do some good:


Magic too easily lets us off the hook for the role we are called to play in the story,

the story of goodness being birthed in the world, 

the story of light that the darkness would overcome, the story of innocence confronted by evil, the story of Christ.



No, there is no magic.

What there is is an age-old struggle with evil that comes in many forms.

Christmas comes into play, 

not because it represents even a temporary respite from reality, 

but because the birth of incarnate love lays bare the reality 

that it is the evil that does not belong here. 



The birth of incarnate love lays bare that the slaughter of innocents in whatever form, 

child or adult, finds no place, no home, no tolerance, no business as usual in the world of which God dreams.

And once we are robbed of the magic of Christmas, we begin, maybe, to grasp its reality. 


The reality is that the birth of the Christ child does not cast a magical spell rendering the presence of evil ineffectual.

It does not relieve humankind of the hell-before hell we have made of this world. 

Rather, it invites us to participate in its redemption.

The birth of the Christ child is not a tool for us to use, like sorcerer’s apprentices, 

magically relieving us from doing the hard work that needs to be done. 

It is a call to action


God has entered the world in a profoundly real, not magical, way. 

And that in this particular child, Light has come into the world,

 and the darkness did not, and will not, overcome it.


Tomorrow:  
BELIEVE IN THE MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS



Monday, December 11, 2017

IS CHRISTMAS DYING?



Reindeer and Christmas trees are two of the most recognizable symbols of the Yuletide season, 



but future generations may never get to see either of them.

 New research has revealed that both are at risk of being wiped out, as a result of climate change.


 Arctic reindeer are becoming smaller and lighter due to the impact of climate change on their food supplies.



But is the Christmas Spirit itself being starved?  Are we becoming a country of Scrooges?

We cross out Christ in the windows of our stores with Xmas; 

We decree it illegal to show Nativity Scenes in front of the Courthouse, 

whose sculpture of the Ten Commandments over its doors have also been taken down; 

TV's bombard us with commercials of people only being made happy with the acquisition of more and more things.





 And we wonder why we feel cold and alone as we wander this culture of frozen hearts and grasping hands.

Do you long for that childlike innocence you had so very long ago?



Or does your sense of your childhood seem as far removed and cold as the withered, dead leaves of your past?

 But the wonder and awe still live in your thirsty heart and bruised mind.

Search the corridors of your heart and find a memory of a time as a child when you felt loved and safe.

Reach out for a smell that lives in that moment: 

Perhaps it is the scent of vanilla your mother is pouring into the preparation of your favorite Christmas treat.

Perhaps it the tingle of the cold morning grass beneath your bare feet as you play with your puppy as it runs beside you.

Love can have a feel like the tickling of your mother's hair about your cheeks as she hugs the pain of your scuffed knee away ...

Love is the sense of being made to feel grown up, though a child, as when your mother included you in adult things.

The Christmas Spirit lives within you still.

But like a fire that dies to cold embers if it is not constantly fed, 

the Christmas Spirit must be refreshed with such memories ... and more ...

It must be fed with acts of kindness to strangers, and even more importantly, 

to those close about us who we have stopped seeing as feeling, hurting souls

as we dwell on past hurts and slights.

Love is a perfume that lingers upon the fingers of those who give it to others.

Happy Christmas, Everyone, from me and Midnight

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

IS YOUR NOVEL A STILL LIFE or LIVING? IWSG post



WHAT MAKES A NOVEL 
COME ALIVE?



1.) Memorable characters

More than plot, riveting, absorbing characters draw us in.

I read and re-read the Spenser mysteries for the quick wit and snappy dialogue 

between Spenser, Hawk, and Susan.

Raymond Chandler made Philip Marlowe a person you wanted to listen to no matter how confusing the mystery.

“From 30 feet away 
she looked like a lot of class. 
From 10 feet away 
she looked like something 
made up to be seen 
from 30 feet away.”




2.) Original Plot

Take the movie, Mirage:

 Gregory Peck is caught in a building’s blackout, 

and rather than wait for the power to return and use the elevator, 

he makes his way down the stairs. 

He bumps into Diane Baker who greets him as a friend, but he does not know her. 

Alarmed, she flees into a sub-basement.

On the street, he finds the body of a man who supposedly jumped out of a window.  

He returns to try to find Diane only to discover there is no sub-basement.

Shaken, Gregory hires a private investigator to help him sort things out.  

He brings the detective to his office, only to find a blank wall.

It is an absorbing, riveting film because the plot is totally unique.  

And since it was made in 1966, there are no Matrix explanations ... only well-thought out ones.




3.) Do you like being a victim?

Neither does your reader.  

Most of us feel powerless in life more than we wish.  

We read to lose ourselves, to live vicariously adventures 

where the protagonists take control of their problems 

and after thrilling adventures triumph.



4.) Make them laugh.

Novels with serious themes like The Fault in Our Stars and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl 

use humor for good reason.

 Joss Whedon:

“Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, 
but then, for the love of God, tell a joke.” 

A good laugh is a great way to relieve non-stop tension to set up the reader for the next jolt.

Humor in dialogue also is a way to quickly, subtly convey character relationships.


WHAT ARE SOME GOOD WAYS 
YOU BREATHE LIFE 
INTO YOUR NOVEL?

Monday, December 4, 2017

LIKE A WOMAN is ready!



What makes a woman who she is?

Is she shaped by her past decisions, her present ones, 

or by her struggle to become more than she has been? 

Twenty-four authors from around the world give us their answer to that question. 

I am honored to be one of those twenty-four. 

I am snuggled in the middle of these great writers. 

I tried my best to be worthy of being included in this band of heroes. 

 Why Heroes? 

Because the proceeds of this anthology go to help a woman's shelter. 

Give it a try, will you? 

You will be helping hurting women to live better lives. 

 What could be better than that 
during the Christmas Season? 

Innocence draws the Darkness.
But you might be surprised why.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

CHAPTER TITLES? FOR OR AGAINST?






On Facebook ...

Gae Polisher asked: 

"Chapter Titles or Simply Numbers?"


Look at the tiger above.  What is his story?

The image is striking but tells little about what is going on in his head or around him.

But if you are like me, you wonder about his story.






If you can get your reader interested in what happens in the next chapter, 

you are on your way to crafting a real page-turner.

Page turners create word of mouth which helps sell books.



In my first Victor Standish novel, one chapter is entitled: 

"First Meetings and Last Rites." 

  It details Victor's first meeting with the ghoul, Alice Wentworth, in a midnight graveyard.




In the above novel, the chapter which highlights Victor's quick thinking is entitled, 

"Open Graves and Job Opportunities." 


I use chapter titles because of my own reading history.


1) CHAPTER TITLES 
ATTRACTED MY ATTENTION 
WHEN DECIDING TO BUY A BOOK

Most readers, even on Amazon, are browsers before they buy.

The first few chapter titles will give the reader 

an inkling if your story sounds intriguing enough to buy.



2) TITLES FOCUSED THE OVER-ALL TONE 
OF THE BOOK FOR ME

Chapter titles which were clever, funny, or intriguing 

hinted at those elements being all through the meat of the story.

Baited hooks catch more fish.



 3) CHAPTER TITLES SKETCHED 
IN THE STORY WORLD
 OF THE NOVEL 
I WAS CONSIDERING BUYING.

The chapter titles hinted at the world the characters found themselves in.  

They evoked the spirit of those characters. 

They whispered of the dangers and adventures awaiting them ... 

and me if I chose to buy the book.


QUESTION:

On flipping through my book above, what would intrigue you more?

Chapter 3

or

Chapter 3: 
Wasn't Nobody Coming To Save Us



MOST NO LONGER USE 
CHAPTER TITLES

DO YOU?

WOULD YOU CONSIDER 
USING THEM NOW?

Thursday, November 23, 2017

BLACK and BLUE FRIDAY


"Only in America do people trample others
 for sales 
exactly one day after being thankful 
for what they already have."
 ~ ghost of Mark Twain



I got off from work last night at 8 P.M. and visited Best Buy 

to pick up a Blu Ray of THE EQUALIZER in a steel book.

The metal railings demarcating where the shoppers would eagerly wait for Black Friday 

were already up ...

and a woman in a thick coat was already siting in her fold-out chair, book in hand.

I had to admire her bladder control if nothing else.


I wondered, among other things,
 if she would be trampled 
by the hoards behind her.



 What turns ordinary shoppers 
vicious and dangerous?




Adults hit children in their way.  

People snatch items from the carts 
or arms of others.  

Innocent bystanders are injured.


Store-engineered scarcity breeds an urgency and drive to snatch the "treasure" while it is still there.

City lights no longer have to go out for many to become animals.  

Just low prices, limited supply, and time shortage is all that is necessary.

Is a cheap flat-screen TV worth 
gouging out the eye of a child?



 We have lost sight 
of what makes 
this season special.  


It is not the possessions we love in our lives 

but the people in them who love us and we love in return.

Whether you believe in the Christ child or not, 

most of us know that it is better to give than to grieve.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF 
THE BLACK FRIDAY 
MADNESS?

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A THANKSGIVING WISH


Nothing witty or profound ...  just my sincere wish that this Day 

be one of healing, peace, and small acts of kindness for all of you.


Sometimes being in the right
 is not as important 
as being at the side of a friend in need: