Dec 31, 2014

Goodbye 2014 . . .

. . . and don't let the door hit you on the way out!

Anybody else as ready to say goodbye to 2014 as I am? But was it really as bad as I remember, or is that just the spin I'm putting on it. Let's review to find out, shall we?

To refresh your (and my) memory, here's a list of my goals for the year:

1. Organize my days
2. Publish three books
3. Do more self-promotion
4. Submit short stories and poems on a regular basis
5. Find a writing schedule I can live with and stick to it
6. De-clutter
7. Catalogue my books
8. Exercise more
9. Start using up the wool stash in my craft closet
10. Read more and more of a variety

So how did I do?

1. Organize my days
No. Not even close. It has nothing to do with schedules or having enough time, and everything to do with laziness and procrastination.

2. Publish three books
Again, no. The three books I'd specified in my goals were An Elemental Water, Lucky Dog, and Wandering Wizards. An Elemental Water was indeed published, although later than I'd hoped, but although the draft of Lucky Dog is done, it needs some serious editing. And Wandering Wizards I never even so much as looked at. However, I'm close to being done with An Elemental Earth, as well as this year's NaNo, that has the working title of Guardian of the Sea.

3. Do more self-promotion
A big fat hairy no here. If anything, I did even less promotion than I normally do.

4. Submit short stories and poems on a regular basis
I'm seeing a pattern here. No and no. Although I did write a couple of stories and poems. :-)

5. Find a writing schedule I can live with and stick to it
This one gets a "sort of". While I wouldn't exactly call it a schedule, I did get a lot more writing done this year, and the last few months it's been on a regular basis. I've been a little slack over the holidays, but prior to that I was a writing machine.

6. De-clutter
Well, I didn't have much luck getting rid of the clutter, but at least I didn't make it worse.

7. Catalogue my books
Again, this only gets a partial yes. I converted the closet in my office (or to give credit where credit is due, the hubby did most of the work) into a book nook and the books that went into it are catalogued. However, my science fiction and fantasy collection is only the tip of the iceberg as far as my books go.

8. Exercise more
At last! A full and hearty yes! LOL I started out using the stationary bike and hand weights, but then in the early fall I joined a gym and I go at least five times a week.

9. Start using up the wool stash in my craft closet
This one gets a qualified yes. While I did use up a lot of my stash, I also added to it, so I don't know that I'm any further ahead. :-D

10. Read more and more of a variety
While I know I read more of a variety of books, I have no idea if I read more or not. My way of keeping track was Goodreads, and I fell behind on it and never caught up.

So as far as my goals, went, except for the writing, the year was pretty much as much of a failure as I thought. Which is not to say the year was a total failure, just my goals.

But to be honest, it just gives me that much more incentive to do better in 2015.

See you then. :-D

Dec 26, 2014

Happy Boxing Day!

I hope Santa was good to everyone yesterday. And that you all had a safe and merry Christmas.

I am now officially on a blogging break.

But never fear! I'll be back again on January 5, 2015. :-D

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy a couple of videos of the Christmas music I drive my daughter batty with every year. ;-)

Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Wizards of Winter

Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Christmas Eve in Sarajevo

This is actually the version from their Lost Christmas Eve tour. If you get a chance, check out the version from their Website. It's awesome!

Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Christmas Cannon

Dec 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Here are a few of my favourite Christmas videos to celebrate the season:

David Bowie and Bing Crosby - Little Drummer boy

Faith Hill – Where Are you Christmas

Bing Crosby - Silent Night

Annie Lennox - God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Emerson, Lake and Palmer - I Believe In Father Christmas

Dec 23, 2014

Pre-Christmas Eve

'Twas the night before the night before Christmas and all through the house . . .

There was wrapping paper and ribbons everywhere, only a fraction of the cookies made, a scarf to finish crocheting, and mess everywhere! :-D

But my presents are all wrapped, so that's saying something. LOL

Time to relax a little and listen to some Christmas music. Here are a few tunes for you to enjoy:

Enya - Silent Night in Gaelic

Harry Belafonte - Mary's Boy Child

Celtic Woman - Carol of the Bells

Celtic Woman - Oh Night Devine

Dec 22, 2014

Mandriarch Monday

mandriarch ~ founder or leader of a monastic order

So I was sitting at my computer late last night, posting a picture of all the baking I did as my excuse for not getting any writing done, and it suddenly dawned on me that I didn't have a post done for today. So I was faced with a dilemma. It was already close to 2 a.m. so should I stay up an extra half hour or more writing the post, or should I go to bed and write it in the morning, knowing that it means I'll be late posting it.

Obviously I chose the latter. I decided empires will not rise or fall on me getting a post up on time. We'd be in serious trouble if they did. ;-)

It was a crazy busy week last week, and an even crazier, busier weekend. For those of you who aren't on my Facebook, here's a picture of my tiny tree:

Photo credit goes to the daughter, who took the picture with her phone. I tried to take one with my camera but when I used the flash you couldn't really see the lights. And if I didn't use the flash the lights blurred. It was a really cool effect, but all you really saw were the lights.

And just because I know it's piqued your interest, here's a picture of the cookies I baked yesterday, all chocolate ones for gift baskets:

Starting at the upper right and going clockwise, they are: chocolate covered pretzels, Mexican chocolate cookies, Hershey kiss puffs, no bake cookies, haystacks, and fudge. The Mexican chocolate cookies are new this year, and have a bit of a bite to them. As you may (or may not) know, chocolate comes from Mexico and it was common for them to add spice to their chocolate. The other new one is the Hershey puffs, which were kind of an experiment. They taste good, so I guess the experiment was a success. ;-)

Remember how I said we did most of our Christmas shopping last weekend? Well I think I lied. We spent another four hours shopping this past weekend, and spent another $300. However, we only have two more gifts to buy and then we are officially done. I even got everything wrapped yesterday. Well, almost everything. I'm short two gift bags. Or is it three?

I finished one of the two scarves I needed to do last week and I've made a good start on the second one. I still feel like the first one is too wide, but I am not going to re-do it again. It could also be a little longer, but I'm going to finish scarf number two before I go back to add to scarf number one. I may be crazy, but I'm not insane. ;-)

I actually started out knitting the second scarf, I thought it would be faster. But honestly? I was surprised to see crocheting was faster than knitting in this case. Maybe it was because I was using a half double stitch instead of a single.

I was quite the slacker in the writing department last week, and this week isn't boding any different. On the weekend I started a new story instead of working on either of my two WIP, but I just couldn't seem to help myself.

And Friday I meant to post some Christmas carols but forgot completely. *sigh*

I will in all likelihood post some music videos tomorrow, and this week's chapter of Earth will be moved to Wednesday. Thursday and Friday I'll post some more Christmas music, and then I'm taking a blogging break until January 5.

What I'll be doing during that week, aside from recovering from the holidays, is catching up on my writing and reading, and cleaning up my office and the craft closet. The craft closet will not be as epic as it was in January 2013. I just have to deal with the stuff piling up at the front of the closet, I don't have to pull everything off the shelves and go through boxes.

So I'll just take a moment now to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. :-D

Dec 17, 2014

Of Christmas Superstitions . . .

I don't know about you, but I tend to be superstitious about a lot of things, so it seemed only natural to look up some popular Christmas superstitions to share with you. :-D

Singing Christmas carols at any time other than during the festive season is unlucky.

Failing to decorate a Christmas Tree will cause spring to never come – instead you’ll have bad luck and evil spirits.

A dog that howls on Christmas Eve will go mad.

If an apple is eaten at midnight on Christmas Eve, good health will follow for a year.

The gender of the first visitor to the house on Christmas Eve was said to foretell the sex of the child of the pregnant women in the household.

The gates of Heaven open at midnight on Christmas Eve. Those who die then go straight to Heaven (an Irish belief).

Christmas candles should be left burning until Christmas morning and should rest undisturbed from time of lighting until they are snuffed.

Never give shoes for Christmas gifts. Giving a new pair of shoes as Christmas gifts would make your friends walk away from you.

Snow on Christmas means Easter will be green.

On Christmas morning the first person down the stairs must quickly open the front door and sweep trouble out the door.

The child born on Christmas Day will have a special fortune.

After the Christmas dinner, a popular parlor game was to float walnut shells as boats with small burning candles in them in a bowl of water. The owners whose boat crossed across the bowl safely were said to be endowed with prosperity for the coming year while bad luck awaited those whose boats sunk in the bowl.

Everyone was given an apple after dinner, which was then cut in half lengthwise. If the core was star-shaped, the company was sure of meeting again safely next year. If anybody's core was in a different shape, their death was predicted within twelve months' time. The appearance of four-point cross was a particularly bad omen.

The Yule log should be lit by a piece of the log used on the previous Christmas. Once that is done, no evil spirit can then enter into the house. Yule Logs should never be bought. Once lit, it must burn all through the Twelve days of Christmas otherwise bad luck will visit the household. Any difficulty in lighting the Yule log was taken as a bad omen for the year ahead. Yule logs were burnt on the Christmas fire and many people kept a piece on the log from the previous year as a lucky talisman.

Small amounts of lead were melted over the Yule log then poured into a container of water. The resulting shape was then used to predict future about the pourer.

Christmas evergreens represent endurance while the berries represent resurrection of life. Since the 15th century, holly and ivy were essential part of Christmas decorations for church. If the holly used for Christmas decorations is smooth the wife will be master. If the holly used for Christmas decorations is prickly the husband is the master. Prudent couples use both kinds of hollies on Christmas to assure balanced and harmonious home.

Mistletoe, also known as Celtic-All-Heal was popular by the 19th century. Since the times of druids, it was associated with fertility and kissing. Luck favors those who kiss under the mistletoe but turn against those who avoid it. It is bad luck to take Christmas mistletoe down and it should only be replaced on the following Christmas. Burning old mistletoe was said to predict marriage prospects of an unmarried girl. Steady flames ensured happy marital life while the spluttering flames predicted bad tempered and cross husbands.

Whatever you dream on any of the 12 nights between Christmas and Epiphany (Jan. 6) will come to pass within the next year.

The weather on each of the twelve days of Christmas signifies what the weather will be on the appropriate month of the coming year as the weather is on each of these days, so will it be on the corresponding month of the following year. If you really want to know the rainfall for the next year, you can hollow out 12 onions, putting salt into each. Each onion is named after a month of the year, and there will be rain in every month where the salt in that onion is wet. And if Christmas Day falls on a Thursday, the following year will be windy.

A Christmas tree should never be thrown out doors or it will attract evil spirits and goblins. Christmas trees should be burned, but save a section to be used as next year’s Yule log.

Dec 15, 2014

Monomorphic Monday

monomorphic ~ having only one form

I swear we're trying to break the record for most grey days in a month. Sunny days are few and far between, and it never lasts the whole day. Ho ho ho, bah humbug!

As I said last week, it's really hard to get into the Christmas spirit without snow. It struggled over an entire day to give us about two inches of snow last week, but it's gone already. It turned mild and melted the snow away over the weekend, and the forecast for the next couple of days is not only more grey, but rain on top of that.

However, our tree is up - all three feet of it, although I haven't decorated it yet. One strand of lights ought to do it. But I like Christmas lights, so I'm seriously thinking about draping the bookcases in the living room with the other strands. :-)

And we pretty much took care of the Christmas shopping over the weekend. None of this a gift here and a gift there for us, we usually get it done in one fell swoop. Only a couple of presents left to take care of - two big ones and one or two little ones. And when I grocery shopped I also picked up the stuff I need to start my Christmas baking. Now I just have to find the energy to actually do it. LOL

I went on a lot of coffee dates last week - three of them in fact. 'Tis the season to be merry and all that. ;-)

And I had a friend crochet me a couple of hats to give as gifts, and decided they needed scarves to go with them so I started them on the weekend. And of course I waited until I had the first one over half done before deciding it was too wide. Yes, that meant I ripped the whole thing out and started over again, 'cause that's the way I am. But it crochets up quickly and I'm past the halfway mark again.

I've never crocheted a scarf before so it's kind of interesting. It's also tempting to try knitting the other one to figure out which method is faster - knitting or crocheting. It's probably six of one and half a dozen of the other, but I want them to match the hats and the hats are crocheted, so . . .

Considering how sociable I was last week, I managed to get a fair amount of writing done. Let's hope I can keep up the good work this week. I also need to remember to post an update on my writing journal blog - I did so well during NaNo and now that it's over . . . nothing.

This week the focus will be on the Christmas baking. I had the brilliant idea of resurrecting my old tradition of giving cookie baskets this year. If I get the cookies all made this week, I can post a picture next week.

Once I get some new batteries for my camera. ;-)

Dec 10, 2014

Of The Twelve Days of Christmas . . .

I'm pretty sure you all have at least a passing acquaintance with the Christmas carol The Twelve Days of Christmas, but in case you don't . . . (the video's not the best, but the sound is great!)

Many people mistakenly believe that the 12 days of Christmas take place before Christmas, but they're actually the 12 days between Christmas and Epiphany (January 6). Epiphany is traditionally celebrated as the day the three magi presented their gifts to the baby Jesus.

Day 1 (December 25) is Christmas Day when we celebrate the birth of Christ by feasting and the giving of gifts.

Day 2 (December 26) is Saint Stephen's Day, the feast day mentioned in one of my favourite Christmas Carols, Good King Wenceslas. Saint Stephen was the first Christian martyr.

Day 3 (December 27) is the feast day for Saint John the Apostle. He was the only one of Christ's apostles who did not forsake Him.

Day 4 (December 28) is The Feast of the Holy Innocents, the day which is used to remember all the infant boys killed by King Herod.

Day 5 (December 29) is Saint Thomas Becket's feast day. He was Archbishop of Canterbury in the 12th century, murdered on this day for challenging the King’s authority over the Church.

Day 6 (December 30) is the feast day commemorating the death of Saint Egwin of Worcester, who founded the Abbey of Eversham.

Day 7 (December 31) is New Year's Eve, also known as Hogmanay. The life of Pope Sylvester I is traditionally celebrated on this day.

Day 8 (January 1) is the feast day for Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Day 9 (January 2) is the feast day for both Saint Basil the Great and Saint Gregory Nazianzen.

Day 10 (January 3) is Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, which celebrates the naming of the baby Jesus, and his circumcision - a memoriam of the first shedding of Christ's blood.

Day 11 (January 4) is the feast day for the first American saint, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, foundress of the American Sisters of Charity, which was the first sisterhood native to the United States.

Day 12 (January 5) is the feast day for Saint John Neumann, who was the first Bishop in America.

And there you have it. The real twelve days of Christmas.

And for those of you who are superstitious, it's considered bad luck to leave your Christmas decorations up after Epiphany, so make sure you take them down on January 6.

For more Christmas superstitions, join me here next week. :-)

Dec 8, 2014

Minargent Monday

minargent ~ alloy of copper, silver and aluminum

Got snow? Want to send a little my way?

It's really hard to get into the Christmas spirit without snow. Aside from that little spat of snow we got a couple of weeks ago, that lasted all of a day, we've got nothing. Of course even if we had snow it probably wouldn't last very long. Lately our weather pattern is a couple of cold days followed by a couple of really warm days. Which, of course, means everyone's coming down with colds.

So the big question is, are we going to get a white Christmas this year? The snow we got in November implied yes, but we've had nothing since and though cold, the weather hasn't exactly been cold enough for snow. Only 17 days left Mother Nature. Hop to it!

Yes, that's what I said, 17 (seventeen) days left until Christmas. Am I ready? Not even remotely.

The hubby got the outdoor lights up over the weekend and I've bought a couple of presents. And . . . that's it. Just a couple so far. And I'm left wondering about all those projects I was going to start in the summer time to have done for Christmas? *sigh*

And the Christmas tree is another problem altogether. The spot we usually put our tree is currently taken up by the hubby's recliner. We had to switch chairs for him in the summer time when he had to have his hip replaced.

However, our tree is actually in two parts and I'm thinking we could just use the top part and put it on the table that divides the living and dining rooms. It would mean moving the hanging that, well, hangs over the table, but that shouldn't present a problem. And I'm sure the plant would appreciate the break from the cats gnawing on it.

If it works - great. If it doesn't then it's no big deal. We'll either put the tree in the dining room or just do without one. It's just the two of us anyway, and it'll save us the trouble of having to constantly yell at the cats, who like to chew on it as well. Yes, they like to eat our artificial tree. Nobody ever said they were smart. ;-)

So, as you can imagine, this week will be devoted to getting ready for Christmas.

And writing. Lots and lots of writing. ;-)

Dec 5, 2014

What I'm Reading

Once upon a time, on a different blog, I did a weekly book review post. I never really thought of myself as a book reviewer, I just pointed out the things I liked about the books I'd read. And yeah, I'd usually find something nice to say about the book. If I took the time to read it, then there was probably a reason why, even if it meant looking beyond the poor writing or formatting. And the best part was, I had people wanting to send me free books to read and review, although I'd only accept them if I was actually going to read them.

This is not a book review post, this is just me sharing what I've been reading lately, and in some cases how long it's been taking me. But I'm still getting people offering me free books, and some of these books look pretty darn interesting. Maybe in the new year I'll do a proper book review post once a month. :-)

Anyway, NaNo's over now and I'm finding more time to read. Actually, I found some time to read during NaNo. You know, when I needed to procrastinate. ;-)

Electronic Books

You know, I checked George a couple of times just to make sure he was holding his charge or I didn't accidentally turn him on and run his battery down, but I didn't actually turn him on during the month of November. Poor neglected George.

That's not to say I didn't download any e-books during the month, I just didn't read any.

Tree Books

While I'm pretty sure I read a new tree book, I can't for the life of me remember what it was. It was one of those buy it and read it in the same day deals, and I didn't leave it out to remind me to list it. See, this is where keeping up-to-date with Goodreads would come in handy. I promise I'll do better with it next year. :-D


Oh . . . we're seeing a lot of action in this category. :-D

I finished Sisters in Fantasy, edited by Susan Shwartz and Martin H. Greenberg. It's an anthology I started way back when. There were too many long stories at the beginning, which made me think twice about picking it up a couple of times, but they were all really strong stories by women fantasy writers.

I had a couple of days where I really went to town reading Hunting the Corrigan's Blood by Holly Lisle. I really like this book - scif fi at its best, and even though the odds are against the two main characters, I'm really rooting for them. This isn't a romance novel, however, and I don't believe it's part of a series, so there's no guarantee how it's going to turn out.

I also started to re-read both The Best of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine Volume 1 and Volume 2. The title is pretty self explanatory. Marion published her own fantasy magazine from 1988 through 2000, and these two collections of the best of that magazine.

On a whim I pulled a couple of books off my shelf by a friend of mine who writes under the name of Annie Ottilie. These were The Lion in the Desert, her first book, and Further Than Beyond which was about her eighth book. There are no links to them because she prints up the books herself and sells them once a month at the local farmer's market.

They were quick reads, and if I'm perfectly honest, not very well done. She's a hobby writer, which means she has no interest in learning new things or improving her writing. Her books, novelettes really, have a niche market with the local seniors who get as big a kick out of being able to say they know a real writer as they do the books themselves, and the tourists that pass through our fine town looking for something to pass the time on the beach without straying too far from the waterfront.

As both a writer and an editor it's sometimes hard to keep my mouth shut when I know with just a little work she could have a book worth reading. But as my daughter would say, it's not my circus and it's not my monkeys. ;-)

So . . . what about you? What have you been reading lately?

Dec 3, 2014

It's That Time of Year Again

For some people, it's the most wonderful time of the year. For me, it's my opportunity to search the internet for Christmas tunes to entertain you with. :-D

I know a lot of people out there have had their outdoor decorations up for weeks, and a few of you even have their trees up. Me? I have nothing so far. No outdoor decorations, no indoor decorations . . . I haven't even given baking a passing thought.

I need another month. Heck, I need another six months and then maybe I could make a few of the things I was going to make for Christmas. I have not even a hint of the Christmas Spirit so far. I think I might have scared it off during the frenzy that was the month of November.

Anyway, here's hoping a few tunes will kickstart my Christmas Spirit.

Ho ho ho!

Dec 1, 2014

Multiscience Monday

multiscience ~ knowledge of many things

Happy first day of December!

This is the year's last chance for me to have a good month for a change.

But wait, you say. I can see by the NaNo widget on the right that you once again won NaNo. Doesn't that make November a good month?

Not even remotely. November is never a good month for me, and this one was pretty brutal. It was one of the greyest, most dismal Novembers ever, weather-wise. I had this on-going battle with tiredness which was probably a combination of several things. And there was just a lot of unexpected things going on. So yeah. I'm not sad to see the last of November.

I won the NaNo challenge, but I didn't quite finish the book. I'm pretty close though, so I have every expectation I'll finish it over the next week or two. However, counting that book, as well as Lucky Dog, which is technically finished but not edited, and Earth, I have twelve, count 'em, TWELVE unfinished novels.

I think next year needs to be all about finishing some of them. :-D

But hooray! NaNo's over. That means I can finally relax a bit, maybe even read a book once in a while. Venture outside to soak up some vitamin D. Oh, wait. No I can't. Christmas is just around the corner and I've got a few Christmas projects to finish.

Speaking of finishing, I only got three of the four pieces finished for the set I crocheting for my grandbaby. I finished a cowboy hat, diaper cover, and chaps, but not the vest. The chaps are absolutely adorable, and I'm really glad I took the time to put the fringe on them. I will post a picture next week when I have the vest done too.

And once I get the vest done, I can start working on a couple of knitting projects I had in mind for Christmas. It might make a nice break from the grueling writing pace I've been setting the last couple of months.

Or maybe not. ;-)