I Triple Dog Dare You!

The hustle and bustle of the holidays is through and the new year has begun, full of resolutions for the future. I’m not sure why this is the time we stop to think about what we want to change about how we live our lives. Is it because we see a new year as a good place for a new beginning? Or is it because in the deafening silence that follows in the wake of the holiday season, we actually have time to sit and think about what we want for ourselves? Maybe it’s a little of both.

What I do know is that New Year’s Resolutions rarely stick. Life gets busy and any plans we had to: eat better, exercise more, call our family, etcetera, etcetera, get derailed. I decided that first, anything I promise I will do differently this year, can’t be so radically different from my normal routine that it becomes impossible to uphold. Secondly, the best way to stay on track is to take someone along with me on the ride.

So when I saw a 2015 reading challenge on Popsugar.com, I thought this was just the thing!

 

 

I already read, but I used to read much, much more. Not only do I miss escaping into a good book but according to Stephen King, and I have to agree with him, reading is fundamental to my writing. In his book “On Writing,” which I would highly recommend all writers read, he says,

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

So part of my plan to work the day job less, and write more, must include the goal to read more. As much as I enjoy reading, I know that life will get busy. The dishes need to be done, the dog needs to be walked, the chicken coop needs cleaning… If all I tell myself is I want to read more, then I know I will fall into the trap of saying to myself – I will! Just as soon as I have the time.

I came up with a plan. I printed three copies of the challenge, and went to my two adult children and dared them to take it with me. We’ll all work on our own lists. Whoever completes their list first, wins. The two losers each cough up $25 to buy the winner a $50 gift card of their choice. And the race is on!

It was fun to watch them search for books that would fit the categories. The only rules are that we cannot use a book we’ve read before (unless the challenge category requires it), and one book cannot count more than once. So my first book I finished was “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy. It could count as: a Pulitzer Prize winner, a book that was turned into a movie, or a book that made me cry. I must choose which category it will be used for, it cannot count for all three.

 

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Not only is this a good thing for me, it’s a good thing for my kids. Can I count that as being a better parent for the new year? Why don’t you try this with your kids? If this list isn’t appropriate for their age range, make one up. How about categories such as: read a Caldecott Award winner, read a book about an animal, read a book in which a girl is the hero…I’m sure you can come up with some great ideas of your own!

In conjunction with this, I plan on reviewing the books I read. I will post each review here, as well as on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, Booklikes, and Librarything. I’ll post it on Facebook, Twitter, and Google +, as well. I encourage everyone to do that. Reviews are essential to authors. Do you want to take the challenge? If you do let me know. If not, but you just love reading, or happen to read a book you just love (or hate), tell me about it. Word of mouth is also essential to authors! I can’t wait to hear what you’re reading. Go on – pick up a book, READ – I triple dog dare ya!

 

Monches Artisans Holiday Open House

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The holiday season is upon us and it’s time to deal with the hassle of Christmas shopping. But finding the perfect gift shouldn’t be a hassle. The best way to  to check off the people on your Christmas list, while enjoying some holiday cheer, is to visit local shops, holiday fairs, and open houses.

 

Not only do you avoid the crowds and chaos of the large department stores, and malls, but you help to make the holidays a little brighter for local business owners and artisans.

 

And face it, isn’t a beautiful, hand crafted gift more special than a mass manufactured item?

 

Here’s a wonderful opportunity for you to do just that this weekend!

 

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31st Annual
Monches Artisans
Holiday Open House

December 5-7, 2014 (at most locations)
9:00-5:00

Join in and celebrate! With map in hand you’ll be guided on a driving tour through the historic Monches and Holy Hill area to visit artist studios, quaint shops, farms and inns.

 

Friday, December 5th through Sunday December 7th will mark the 31st year that artists in the tiny artist community of Monches, 30 miles northwest of Milwaukee, will open their doors and welcome visitors for a weekend of holiday cheer.

 

The 2014 tour will include a pottery studio, an art glass studio, an outdoor metal sculpture gallery and a rural inn and vineyard featuring seasonal wines. Monches Farm will be offering fresh handmade wreaths, holiday greens and a shop brimming with antiques, unique gifts and seasonal décor.  A local church will also be hosting a craft fair on Saturday.

 

The drive-it-yourself tour will take visitors along rustic roads through the scenic area surrounding the renowned Holy Hill Basilica. Refreshments, seasonal music and outdoor bonfires will welcome visitors at several of the stops along the way.  The tour runs from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  Maps will be available at each of the tour stops and HERE.

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I will be at Paul Bobrowitz Spectacular Sculpture talking about Charles Dickens, his book “The Christmas Carol,” and his influence on the Christmas we celebrate today. Signed copies of my books, including “Christmas Carole,” will be available for purchase.

What better stocking stuffer, or teacher’s gift than a Christmas book signed by the author?

I will have several yummy treats that you may have found in Dickens time for you to taste, along with wassail to warm you up.

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Plus you will have the opportunity to purchase many beautiful items and gifts made by talented local artisans!

I truly hope you can make it to this wonderful holiday event!

 

 

Merry Christmas of Olde

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Happy Christmas,  Hanukkah,  Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, Saturnaliatreecrop, or whatever it is you celebrate in your heart this holiday season!

At our house – well the one we’re living in – Christmas is a rather quiet affair. With moving boxes in every corner, it didn’t make much sense to pull out all the decorations. That didn’t mean we’re ignoring the holiday all together. We moved a little Arborvitae into our living room and put some lights and small ornaments on it. Add a star on the top, and we have a Christmas tree that can move to the mill house with us come spring.

We have finally closed on both the purchase of the  Monches Mill House, and the sale of our current home. We’re renting from our home’s new owner while working on renovations on the mill house.  That didn’t keep me from doing some decorating though! The day we closed, I ran over to the mill house to put up some outdoor decorations. I think I had a need to mark my territory. Mother nature added her own frosty decorations! Who needs fake icicle lights?  Even unoccupied, the house looks like a Christmas card!

 

Not only is the work on the mill house, and the packing up of our belongings keeping me occupied, but I also launched a Christmas program that I’m doing at bookstores and libraries. It’s a presentation on the history of Charles Dickens, his book “A Christmas Carol,” and how it affected the Christmas we celebrate today.

Along with my verbal presentation, I put up a display.

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I also served Wassail and a variety of Dickensian Christmas treats.  The candied orange peel was the favorite of kids and adults, alike.

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mincepies

 

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As were the Shrewsbury Cakes!

 

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Recipe:

 

3/4 cup butter, softened

1 1/4 cup sugar

1 egg

1 1/2 tsp. grated orange peel

2 tsp. vanilla

2 1/2 cups sifted all purpose flour

1/2 tsp. salt

extra sugar

Cream butter and sugar together. Add egg, orange peel and vanilla.

Stir in flour and salt to make a stiff dough.

Wrap dough in wax paper. Chill for several hours or overnight.

Roll chilled dough into 1 inch balls. Roll balls in sugar.

Arrange balls 1 1/2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.

Flatten the balls gently with bottom of a small glass.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Our Christmas may be quiet this year – but it’s still filled with traditions of old.  Just wait until next year – I’ll be pulling out all the stops to celebrate our first real Christmas in the mill house!

I hope your holiday is a happy and healthy one, whether large or small, contemporary or traditional, and I hope your new year brings you all the best!

A Literary Halloween

We currently live in a subdivision which is big on Halloween. Many houses sport decorations, some elaborate, and there was even a haunted house, just around the corner, with the entrance fee of a canned good for the local food pantry. Luckily, Halloween also happens to be one of my favorite holidays.

Since our house is known as the castle house by the neighbors, both kids and adults, it made sense to use that to our advantage. It was a no-brainier for me to decorate in the spirit of one of my favorite book (and movie) series, Harry Potter. Some of the pictures are taken with flash, some without. The lighting was dark and moody – it looked great to the naked eye and cast just the right atmosphere, however it’s not so good for the camera.

 

Did you get your Hogwarts letter?

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If not, don’t worry. All are welcome at Hogwarts tonight.

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Welcome to Hogwarts!

 

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First the trick-or-treaters get to walk by Aragog.

 

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And Hagrid’s Pumpkin Patch.pumpkin

 

 

Sorry this video is dark. The spot light on the Dementor was bright enough to the naked eye, but the camera had a harder time picking it up.  Luckily Harry’s Patronus was strong and saved all the little ghosts and witches from the soul sucking Dementor! (MAKE SURE TO TURN YOUR SOUND UP FOR SOME AWESOME SOUND EFFECTS!)

 

 

This is what the Dementor looked like in daylight.

 

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Visitors entered at Diagon Alley where they could browse many of the shops.

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Eeylops Owl Emporium had a selection of owls as well as owl treats!

 

 

 

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Ollivander’s Wand Shop

 

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With a selection of wands.

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Flourish & Blott’s Bookstore

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Where Harry and friends can buy their school books.

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Every student must stop at Madam Malkin’s Robes for all Occasions!

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And of course, Quality Quidditch Supplies!

 

We also had the Hogsmeade shop, Honeydukes.

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Where you can find Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, Fudge Flies, and Droobles Best Blowing Gum.

 

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Butter Beer!

 

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Fizzing Whizzbees, Cockroach Clusters, Blood Pops, Chocolate Frogs, Licorice Wands, and Pumpkin Juice are available.

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And you can’t forget Ton  Tongue  Toffee, Fairy Floss, Pepper Imps, and Dumbledore’s beloved Lemon Drops!

 

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Now we enter Hogwarts. Our first stop is the potions classroom, with none other than Snape brewing several potions.

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 Where he brews from Moste Potent Potions.

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With all kinds of creepy ingredients.

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Watch out for the Hand of Glory!

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A potion bubbles and spurts in the corner.

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The Great Hall is set for dinner.

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It wouldn’t be the Great Hall without floating candles!

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Anyone for a game of Wizard’s chess?

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What can you see in the crystal ball in Divination class?

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Herbology is Neville’s specialty.

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Watch out for the screaming mandrake!

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Can you turn a snail into a teapot?

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That’s the lesson being covered  in the Transfiguration classroom.

 

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In the Entrance Hall you can check out one of the portraits, check the counters to see which house is in the lead for the house cup, or take a look at the Goblet of Fire.

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See the smoke and blue flame?

Here are some of the how-to pictures.

I built the Dementor by pounding a metal fence post into my garden, then I wired a long piece of PVC to it. The flexibility of the PVC pipe made it so the Dementor swayed ominously in the wind.

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I shaped his torso, arms, and “tail” out of chick wire, with a styrofoam block for a head. I painted all of this black so the the shiny chicken wire wouldn’t show through the fabric.

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I made the Dementor’s hands out of wire, wrapped in regular masking tape. Then I spray painted them gray, and went over with a light coat of black, making sure not to cover the gray completely.

After attaching the hands, I just covered the Dementor in layers of black dyed cheesecloth and black sheer fabric I picked up cheap at a rummage sale. I made sure to tear all the edges and leave long tatters hanging down.

He was sufficiently scary. Every once and a while he would move in the wind and startle us, and freak out our dog.

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I didn’t want kids grabbing at all the props, so I took plastic cauldrons from the dollar store and filled them with a quick dry cement. Before it set, I put in a piece of PVC painted gray (It was cut to length at Menard’s, where I bought it. I added a “T” connector on the top to run rope through. Once the concrete was dry a gave it a base coat of green, then dry brushed a coat of glow-in-the-dark green paint. With the black lights in my garage, the glowing, lumpy concrete looked like a bubbling potion!

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My goblet of fire started with a plywood base on which I screwed a length of closet pole. From there I just cut a hole in each piece and slid it over the pole to secure. The top and bottom are made of pressed paper rose cones. The star shaped platform is just cut from foam core. Then I used things like soup cans, margarine containers, and an oatmeal container.

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After it was all assembled, I added a blue spot light inside, and hid the cord under the paper mache’ rocks. Some paint, and gel stain and we have a Goblet of Fire. I used “smoke” oil drops from a model railroad (available at any hobby store). I just squirted a few drops onto the hot spot light bulb and got the blue flame/smoke effect.

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Before it was Hogwarts, it was just a garage. The “stone” walls are from scene setters. Details like the gargoyles and lots of battery operated candles brought it all to life.

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I spent a few dollars on the hanging flame lights, stone walls, and life sized Snape, but almost everything else was either something I already had, or fashioned out of finds from thrift stores, rummage sales, and the dollar store. Even the old beat up student desk was only $2.00.

If you have any questions on how any of the props were made, just ask in comments. I’ll be happy to share.

Happy Valentine's Day!

In celebration of Valentine’s day, I share with you a short romantic comedy I wrote. I hope it makes you smile!

free vintage retro valentine_ice cream

For The Love of Ice Cream

by D.L. Marriott ©2009

 

Janie couldn’t believe it had come to this again. Here she was, drowning her sorrows, alone, in an ice cream parlor, the monstrosity in front of her bringing her comfort. Each time she dipped her spoon into the sundae and brought it to her lips she gently sucked the dessert off, savoring every moment of it.

She set the cherry aside, saving it for last. Swirling her spoon through the whipped cream, Janie sampled the light, fluffy topping with a flick of her tongue. Closing her eyes for a moment, the young woman imagined reaching into the sky and taking a scoop out of a billowy cloud. She held the sweetened cream in her mouth until it melted.

From then on, all the spoonfuls were the same. A piece of dark chocolate brownie from the bottom, a bit of banana, a healthy dollop of ice cream coated in hot fudge, toasted coconut, and pecans. She loved the contradiction in texture and flavors. The frosty ice cream mixed with the soothing warmth of the hot fudge. The crunchy coconut together with the chewy brownie. The salty taste of the pecans battling the sweetness of the banana. She didn’t just enjoy eating her sundae, this was more like a romantic rendezvous with food.

Despite her heavenly treat, she was still feeling frustrated that another guy she barely knew could drive her to this state of overindulgence. But then, maybe getting dumped was her excuse to feed her ice cream addiction. Maybe she was subconsciously sabotaging her relationships, giving herself a excuse to splurge. That thought was almost enough to make her laugh, until she remembered that she was eating a sundae large enough for four. I’m as pathetic as a drunk sitting alone in a bar, she thought to herself. Keeping her gaze down, the dejected girl avoided looking at anyone else. She was convinced they could tell how pitiful she was. If only she wasn’t a slave to her emotions. If only she didn’t let her heart rule her. Her head knew better.

It’d happened after only two dates with Jeremy. She barely knew him really. They were set up by some friends who were, no doubt, tired of her being the third wheel on all their outings. All of her friends were couples, but Janie found herself to be perpetually single. Not that she didn’t date. Her boyfriends just never stuck around long. She wondered if there was something fundamentally wrong with her. Maybe she was too desperate. No, she was just a hopeless romantic. Unfortunately the speed in which she fell head over heels, generally scared any potential boyfriends away. She attacked love like she attacked ice cream and chocolate.

Janie couldn’t help but wonder if there were other people like her. Was she really all that different? Maybe it’s a therapist she needed, or a dietitian, instead of another boyfriend. Maybe she just needed to swear off guys for a while, take a break, stop trying so hard. That’s it. She would chill out and avoid men. Maybe then this obsession she had with finding Mr. Right would dissipate. Eventually she would try to date casually. Try not to put so much pressure on any potential relationship. Yep, it was a plan. Janie sighed with relief now that she had a solution.

Feeling more self assured, Janie sat up straight. She purposely looked around at the other patrons around her. Not all of them were in groups or pairs. There were a few other lonely souls out there. Maybe they were here to find comfort in their frozen concoctions too. But not anymore for Janie. She was determined. She could rise above it all. No more wallowing for her. Her eyes scanned the room, as she dug her spoon back into her sundae. No sense letting all the creamy goodness go to waste, after all.

Before Janie could take another bite she paused. There, across the room from her sat a vision of beauty, if a man can be called beautiful. He was all by himself, eating a sundae just as large as hers. She wondered what his story was. Was he getting over someone too? No, no, she had to stop this, this wasn’t the plan. Janie let out a strangled gasp as he looked up and his eyes fell on hers. He had the most intense blue eyes she’d ever seen. They were like tidal pools in a tropical sea. His dark hair was slightly mussed, like he had just come in out of the wind. How she would love to run her hands through that hair. There was just a bit of stubble on his chin. She always loved her guys a little scruffy.

He smiled. Could he really be smiling at her? Janie was finding it difficult to draw in air. Her heart felt like it was going to gallop right out of her chest. She followed his gaze. He wasn’t looking at her face, he was looking lower. She slowly looked down and noticed that she had been holding her spoon halfway to her mouth for quite a while now. The hot fudge had melted the ice cream and the resulting mess was dripping into a puddle on the table. She set her spoon down, and tried to wipe up her mess as gracefully as she could. She used all her napkins to soak up the melted ice cream. The result was a mountain of sticky wet napkins sitting in front of her. How embarrassing! It was evident that she really needed to take a break from dating or anything having to do with guys. She needed to rein in her emotions.

Janie took a deep breath and tried to banish any thoughts of handsome men from her mind. That’s it, she needed to just concentrate on finishing her sundae. It wouldn’t take long, she was almost done. Janie picked up the cherry she had set aside and swirled it through the remnants of melted ice cream and fudge. She lifted the dripping fruit to her lips and popped it in whole. As she bit into the overly sweet confection it burst, flooding her mouth with sugary fluid. A drip escaped her lips and dribbled down her chin. She reached for a napkin but then realized she had used them all. She looked around hoping for a spare on a neighboring table. There were none.

She closed her eyes in frustration for just a moment. As soon as her eyes flickered open, there was an outstretched hand holding a napkin right in front of her. Janie looked up. She couldn’t believe it. Of all the people who might have noticed the juice dripping down her face, it had to be him. As she accepted the napkin, the corners of his mouth turned up in a sweet smile.

One single thought crossed her mind. “Oh God, I’m in love!”

 

Now in Paperback!!!!

Christmas Carole is now available in paperback for just $5.95! Just in time for Christmas!


Just click on book cover below to purchase.


“Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said Scrooge. “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change.”
-Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Carole is a modern day, career-driven woman who has little time for love and even less time for Christmas. While escaping the flirtation of a co-worker and the trappings of an office Christmas party, she meets a mysterious stranger. With this man, she travels back in time to 1843 London. There, she becomes a guest in the home of Charles Dickens, as he writes “A Christmas Carol.” People and events that inspire Mr. Dickens become part of Carole’s life. The secrets she learns about the man, his life, and his writing affect her in ways she could never have imagined.

This novella is a story about love, life, the Christmas spirit, and redemption.

Christmas Carole

 

IT’S HERE!!!!

Christmas Carole

E- book available on Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com (Paperback coming soon!)

Only 99 cents!

 

“Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said Scrooge. “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change.”
―Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Carole is a modern day, career-driven woman who has little time for love and even less time for Christmas. While escaping the flirtation of a co-worker and the trappings of an office Christmas party, she meets a mysterious stranger. With this man, she travels back in time to 1843 London. There, she becomes a guest in the home of Charles Dickens, as he writes “A Christmas Carol.” People and events that inspire Mr. Dickens become part of Carole’s life. The secrets she learns about the man, his life, and his writing affect her in ways she could never have imagined.

 

Hump Day

For most people hump day is Wednesday, the day of the week in which one has crossed the center and is now in a race for the finish of the week. For me, hump day is similar, but different.

I wish I could say I was one of those people who are disciplined enough to get their work done well ahead of when it’s needed, but alas, I am anything but. If there’s not some deadline looming over me, I procrastinate. In all fairness, I do lead a very busy life. I have my writing, and all the book events, marketing, seminars and classes that go along with it.  I also work a full-time day job, and have a home and family to take care of. Add in any kind of social activities and don’t forget holidays, and you can understand why I have very limited time to get things accomplished. I can use lack of time as an excuse, but I know myself. I need a deadline, and will dawdle about until I’m in a panic because I’m running out of time.

That goes for everything. I’ve had paint chips taped to my kitchen wall for a year now. It really wouldn’t take much time to actually pick a color and paint the small accent wall. But it will take a party, or inviting someone over that hasn’t seen the house to motivate me, and even then, I can picture myself staying up until midnight the night before praying that it will dry in time for said event.

This month the project du jour is a Christmas novella. My story is  about a modern day woman who once fancied being an author, but had been disillusioned and embittered by life. She meets an unusual stranger and travels back in time with him to 1843 London, where she finds herself the guest in the home of Charles Dickens, as he is in the process of writing his classic “A Christmas Carol.” Once there, Carole (get the pun) learns (you guessed it) the meaning of Christmas from the father of Christmas spirit(s), himself. When I set out to write this Christmas story, I actually gave myself a year. Does it really take me a year to write a novella? Nope. Yet, here I am, on November 28th, racing through edits, hoping against hope, that “Christmas Carole” will be out in time for Christmas.  What does all of this have to do with “hump day” you ask?

Because I’m always writing right up until deadline, there are times when my mouth is telling the public “I will have a new book out for Christmas,” however, I will not have enough written to have any confidence in that statement.  I tell my readers on Facebook to expected it, and only have three chapters complete. I post a flier that promises it’s  “coming soon” at a book signing, and only have five chapters written. I say it to the bookstore owner who will be selling my book-that-does-not-yet-exist, when I have seven chapters written, but still don’t have a clue as to how the story will end. Hump day, for me, is the day when I have enough written, and know enough about where the story is going, that I realize I actually have a chance of meeting my deadline.  It isn’t based on any formula. It’s not based a certain word count. It isn’t even the half-way point. It’s some imaginary point-in-time in which the story is complete in my head, if not on the page, and enough pages are written that I feel I can complete it in time. It’s a feeling in my gut that I have gotten over the hump and I’m cruising for the finish line.

Last week Saturday was hump day. The story wasn’t finished, but it was whole. This past weekend I completed the last chapter, and this week is edit-mania. If all goes well “Christmas Carole will be available as an e-book within a week. Paperback is a bit more of a gamble since I have to depend on editors, on cover design, and on Amazon’s Createspace to get  the book printed quickly, once I approve the proof.

But you know, Charles Dickens wrote “A Christmas Carol” in only six weeks, finishing it at the end of November and having the final product in hand by mid-December and that was ages before computers and print-on-demand.  If he can do it, so can I!

So…

COMING SOON! IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS!

Christmas Carole by D.L. Marriott

Sure to be a holiday favorite!

Flame

What better day than  Valentine’s Day to share a bit of poetry.  I don’t write a lot of poetry, and certainly don’t consider myself a poet, but every once in  a while, words come to me in a pattern.   I hope you enjoy!

 

Flame

tended well
it brings comfort
provides fortification
sustenance

it can hypnotize
mesmerize with brilliance
embrace with warmth
excite with heat

but it demands respect
must be treated with care


its tendrils can reach up
singe
bring pain
burn until one cannot draw breath

its intensity
searing
bringing unimaginable agony
complete destruction

but doused
its loss leaves us chilled
cold
hungry


dangerous yet necessary


love