Christmas, Writing, Doctor Who, and other tidbits

Christmas is finally over, although most of the decorations will stay up until New Year’s. I’m not sure about the tree. it isn’t drawing water very much anymore, and it sheds something awful. We’ll TRY to leave it up, but we may have to tag and bag it before the next week is over.

I had to pick up a new belt for my vacuum cleaner. I still have to install it, but nearly 7 years working for a maid service in the past affords me that skill and knowledge. I still think I should sweep up as much of the fir needles from the carpet as I can before I try to vacuum there. Evergreens are rough on vacuum motors.

The image for Mr. Grimm’s profile page will have to wait until after New Year. My budget is VERY tight right now. I will send Invicta Photography a message to that effect, since she is the owner of the image I want to use.

On the writing front, I have started typing up the manuscript for Hell’s Dodo, the fifth book in my Waves of Darkness series. It will be released sometime around next Halloween, if my publisher sticks with their schedule for me. I am over halfway through writing the rough draft of The Daedalus Enigma, the sixth book in the series. I had hoped to be further along than that by this time, but I’m not too nervous yet about it, since It won’t be released until 2016.

I watched both the original animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas AND the Doctor Who Christmas special, The Last Christmas, last night. At first I thought I would have to watch one or the other of them on demand, because I mistakenly thought they were scheduled up against each other. Thankfully, that was not the case. I AM still irritated at ABC for over-booking commercials during the Grinch AND for snipping off bits and pieces here and there to allow for the extra commercials. At age 48, it is easy for me to spot where they’ve butchered it.

I thoroughly enjoyed Doctor Who. I will not post spoilers here, but the trope the writers used has been a sci-fi standard for years, and they handled it very well. I admit I do not follow the series’ every episode, mostly because of my work schedule and the irregularity of BBC programming compared the American TV schedules. I would like to catch up on it eventually. I would REALLY love to find ALL of the episodes dating back to the original Doctor back in the ’60s. (I first discovered the series in reruns on PBS in the early ’80s with Tom Baker, the fourth Doctor.)

Back to book news:

The annual Preditors and Editors Readers’ Poll opened on Christmas eve and will run through January 14. Black Venom, the fourth book in my Waves of Darkness series, has been entered for Best Horror Novel of 2014. When last I looked at the tallies, it was fifth down the list in a three way tie for third place. Friends and readers voted my third book, Silent Fathoms, up to a finishing rank of fourth place last year.

I would appreciate any and all votes for Black Venom. I believe you can help me top last year’s ranking. The P&E Poll does have a limit of one vote per category per email address. they do NOT spam voters, but they want to keep the voting as honest as possible and weed out voter bots and fraudulent votes.

To vote for Black Venom go to http://critters.org/predpoll/novelh.shtml

While you’re there, feel free to browse the other categories and vote; or nominate a book/short story you like if you don’t see it on the poll. 🙂

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Christmas Madness

Last night, my home smelled like sin.

We made our annual triple batch of fudge. It turned out 4 pans. We’re keeping 1/2 a pan and will be giving the rest away, some to friends and family, and some goes to my department at work’s annual Christmas lunch, Monday. We’ll be baking cookies Sunday. Again, we’ll only keep a small fraction of them.

I doubt the tree will stay up much past Christmas. I usually leave it up until just after New Year’s, but that was the pre-lit fake tree. The real tree has stopped drinking, and sheds quite a bit. We make sure to have the lights turned off and unplugged when we’re asleep or out of the house. We also make sure to inspect the wires daily to make sure the kittens haven’t chewed on them.

One can’t get so full of the holiday head that they forget basic household safety. So many people lose their homes, and sometimes lives, to fire at this time of year simply because they don’t take the proper precautions.

Watch here for some more blog-building this weekend and the week between Christmas and New Year. I plan to add some more character profile pages, whether I have acceptable pictures or not. Those can always be edited in later. 🙂

I will be putting my main character, Viktor Brandewyne, and two major secondary characters, Belladonna and Hezekiah Grimm, up sometime today.

Happenings and Developments

This has been a weird week.

Monday, I scared the crap out of my husband unintentionally.

I am diabetic, and have been taking insulin glargine (a slow-release type of insulin, normally) as part of my management plan. This injection is meant to be subcutaneous rather than intravenous. Occasionally, one does hit a small blood vessel by accident.

I did.

Within half an hour of the injection, my blood glucose level bottomed out at 33. It took a glass of orange juice, an iced Christmas cookie, and half a box of chocolate-covered cherries to bring it back up to normal levels.

I personally felt no fear during this incident. I was too preoccupied with trying to maintain coherent thought. My reflexes were slow, my eyes dilated badly, my ability to make rational decisions or respond to questions from my husband was severely impaired, and at the nadir, I suffered disorientation, no sense of time, and mild memory loss.

Thankfully, I was not alone when this happened and managed to avoid slipping into a coma. Had I been alone, I doubt I would be here to make this blog entry.

Wednesday brought a renewed attack on my computer by a Trojan virus we’d removed once already. Our anti-virus program successfully fought off the attacks, but took too much CPU usage to allow the computer to function properly.

The powelik Trojan has been successfully removed AGAIN. Hopefully, we don’t encounter it anymore. I’m not sure if it came through the advertising my ISP runs on their home page and email pages or from the webcomic site I was looking at when the attack occurred. The first time we got this virus, we thought it came from wordpress, since that was the only new place either of us had visited prior to the attack. Now, I’m not so sure. I’m leaning toward the ads as the entry point.

Friday, my publisher shared an article or two about Facebook’s upcoming policy changes towards pages and what constitutes a business page or advertising. Corporate greed strikes again.

I intend to use this turn of events to leverage a better following for this blog and less reliance on FB for promoting my writing.

Also, check out the new page I added: Waves of Darkness Character Profiles. I will be adding more character profiles as I can acquire fitting graphics. (That’s right, Katishka; I’m about to nag you mercilessly for the promised photo-shopped pics of Viktor and Belladonna.)

O Holy Night

This post is probably going to make some people very angry. I do NOT apologize for the views I am about to present. All I ask is that you read the entire post and THINK about it before making a judgment.

I grew up raised Southern Baptist. While our church put on some sort of Christmas program every year, it was very rare to ever hear more than one verse of any given Christmas carol. (This always bothered me. Even during regular services, at most the first, second, and fourth verses of hymns were sung. The third verse was almost always omitted. Was getting everyone out by a certain time so they could go eat or watch football really more important than singing the full message intended by a hymn’s lyricist?)

Because of this practice, I remained unaware of the second verse of the carol “O Holy Night” until I heard a recording on the radio as an adult. (I don’t remember this carol being printed in our hymnals, and the verse was never included in the sheet music copies the choir leader had.)

One particular line in the second verse bothered me very much for a long time: “And in His Name, all oppression shall cease.” The reason this grated on me was and still is that, as things currently stand, this line is a lie (or at best, wishful thinking). More oppression has been committed throughout history in the Name of Christ than I care to know of. Some oppression is still committed, even here in the United States, in the name of Christ.

(In case you missed it, THAT was the statement I figure will piss people off. Please stay with this to the end, because I have a proposal to CHANGE that fact and make the song line ring true.)

Before I wrote this post, I decided to dig into the historical context of the carol. The original French poem “Midnight, Christians,” was written in 1843 by Placide Cappeau, a professed atheist. He was commissioned to write it for a celebration of the renovation of the church organ in Roquemaure. The carol music “O Holy Night” was written for the poem in 1847 by Adolphe Adam. The English version we know today was written in 1855 by Unitarian minister John Dwight Sullivan.

For a comparison of the original poem, the literal translation, and the two current versions of the lyrics, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O_Holy_Night

Given the source (Sullivan) of the line I find troublesome, I am led to believe that it was hopeful rather than a statement of fact.

The fact remains, that much oppression has been committed in the name of Christ. The Inquisition comes immediately to mind. It was devised as a means to force the proselytization of Muslims and Jews to Catholicism, and to ensure the “purity” of their conversions. Basically, Europeans told Jews and Muslims to convert or get out. (That’s right, the Inquisition spread across ALL of Europe, not just Spain.) They then persecuted and oppressed these people, using torture and other methods to force confessions of heresy. This allowed the rulers of Catholic nations and representatives of the Holy Roman Church to execute their captives for not being Catholic/Christian (or not Catholic enough) and seize their property and assets.

However, that is ancient history. Oppression still happens in this country today. Although not as vocal as they were in the past few decades, there are still large groups of anti-Semitic Christians. Not as much oppression is committed by this group any more, so much as just hating Jews and blaming all the world’s woes on them. The surest way to piss THEM off is to remind them that Jesus was a Jew.

Next up are the Christians who not only seek to deny equal rights and legal protections to the LBGT community, but would see them criminalized. There are even those who endorse acts of violence against anyone non-heterosexual. Slowly, some legal battles are being won to gain those rights and protections, but it remains a long, hard battle. The sheer amount of hate and vitriol toward these people which spews from some of those who profess to love Christ is quite sickening.

By the same token, Muslims in this country are oppressed and persecuted. It is even considered by some to be the height of Patriotism to hate anyone connected to Islam.

Both of these hatreds are borne of fear: fear of those different. Gay haters fear that children will be “corrupted” or that non-heterosexuals will try to convert THEM. Some even are foolish enough to fear that allowing same-sex marriages will devalue and de-sanctify their own marriages. I honestly do not understand this fear. I’ve been married for 24 years. If my brother-in-law were allowed to marry his partner of 30 years, how would that harm my marriage or make it any less?

For those who claim that allowing gays to raise children will result in turning the children gay, I say your logic does not stand. The majority of non-heterosexual people were raised in heterosexual homes.

The hatred toward Muslims in this country continues to grow. (The only Muslim I can think of that most Americans actually LIKED was Mohammed Ali; and he converted to Islam because of Christian-led oppression of the negro race during his youth.) Most people automatically assume that ALL Muslims are terrorists or support terrorism. This just is not true. If it were, this country would have fallen to internal war years ago.

One may ask how Muslims are oppressed. Hate crimes come to mind, but the more wide-spread oppression comes in the form of trying to make these AMERICAN CITIZENS feel unwelcome in their own homes. (Yes, most of the Muslims in America are citizens, either by birth or immigration, but citizens nonetheless.) Their persecutors may say, “Well, THEY started it by hating America and trying to impose Sharia law.”  I say, “How do you KNOW they hate America? Have they told you so? Have you asked?  What evidence do you have that ALL American Muslims want Sharia law? I’m sorry, but I just haven’t seen it.”

Fear, always fear.

My fellow Christians, I exhort you to consider the following scriptures and apply them to your treatment of those different from you, whether by race, sexual preference, or by faith:

For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt no bear false witness, thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. ~ Roman 13:9-10 KJV*

The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. ~NIV**

Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer; and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. ~ 1st John 3:15 KJV*

Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him. ~ NIV**

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. ~ 1st John 4:18 KJV*

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. ~ NIV**

If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? ~ 1st John 4:20 KJV*

If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar, for anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. ~ NIV**

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. ~ 2nd Timothy 1:7 KJV*

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. ~ NIV**

*KJV=King James Version

**NIV=New International Version

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Some Winter Reading and a Preview of Things to Come

First, I would like to tell you about In the Dead of Winter. It is a mid-winter dark fantasy short story I wrote a while back, and is available in all ebook formats on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, and my publisher’s website, http://gypsyshadow.com/TamaraLowery.html

This story was originally written for a winter/Christmas themed anthology that never came to be. My publisher contacted a select number of the contributors and offered to publish the short stories as stand-alone ebooks instead.

In the Dead of Winter is reminiscent of some of the original Grimm Fairy tales in that it is dark, a little creepy, and the ending is NOT “happily ever after.” It takes place in a world I hope to revisit and expand in a future book. I had to limit myself for the short story in order to meet the word count requirement of 3k-5k.

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Master Torbin feels honored to be accepted to a post at the University of Cordun and eager to get there. His greatest obstacle is the long trip around the edges of the Forest of Narghill. Why is there no route through the forest? No one in the village he stops in on his way seems to know of any path through. The villagers try their best to delay Master Torbin’s departure, at least until the after the Solstice and the Winter Festival. Only one old man claims to know of a shortcut through the forest, and offers to show it to him. He soon learns why no one travels in the Forest of Narghill, especially on Solstice.

 

Now for the preview of things to come:

I still have some research to do in order to give the subject the depth and insight it deserves, but I plan to do a post about the lyrics of “O Holy Night.” Specifically, I want to address my thoughts on the portion of the second verse that states, “And in His Name, all oppression shall cease.”

Christmas Under Seige

Thanksgiving is over. The tree is up and decorated. Let the month-long battle begin!

We started with this, our first live tree since 1990.

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Next, I added stuff (a tiny fraction of what I normally put on the tree, but this tree is smaller than my pre-lit artificial one and has much more…flexible branches).

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The final result looked like this.

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For a more psychedelic look, try the no-flash version to show the lights. My ancient camera does NOT have a stabilizer.

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Now add the Rottentots, Wally and Louie, and the Wreckin’ Krewe, Star, Tribble, and Cricket.

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I have already picked up and re-hung multiple tree ornaments, and I’ve had to straighten out the tree skirt at least twice a day this weekend.

Star seems to have it in for every deer ornament and decoration I’ve placed. This poor guy gets taken down every time the cats are out of their room.

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The Nesting Snow Family asked that I also include a plea for the location and safe return of their pet penguin. I suspect the little guy is either under the couch or the stove.

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I hope every enjoys their holiday, whichever ones they choose to celebrate. 🙂