Oh, Christmas Tree, Oh, Christmas Tree were you in my setting

20171125_165252I love a good Christmas novella or two this time of year. Historical ones are my favorites. One thing you might not know unless you are a historical writer is that the Christmas tree was not always a part of American Christmas celebrations. So, finding one in a novella set before 1900s gives me pause.

The earlier a setting the less likely a tree in American History.

The Pilgrims didn’t celebrate Christmas. They considered the revelry of Christmas traditions sacrilegious, as did the Puritans in Massachusetts. So, if you set your story in 1600s America, there would be no tree.

Legend says Germany adopted the tradition of a Christmas tree when Martin Luther used the evergreen to explain the setting of the nativity to his children—just as Paul had used the statue to the unknown God to share Christ with the Greeks. (There are lots of articles on the internet explaining the origin of the Christmas tree in Europe.)

This strange custom brought to America by German immigrants took hundreds of years to become part of our Christmas celebrations.

There’s a variety of legends regarding the first Christmas tree in America. One being: Hessian soldiers (German mercenaries hired by King George to fight the colonists) brought the tradition with them. It is said a German immigrant in the 1830s decorated the first tree out west.gallery-1510848808-gettyimages-599911197

The media helped spread the tradition

Queen Victoria’s German husband Prince Albert is credited with introducing the tradition to English society about 1840. The tree was decorated with gifts for their children. An artist rendering of the tree appeared in the newspaper. Because of the popularity of Queen Victoria, the custom spread among the wealthy. They strove to have the most elaborately decorated trees.

B H Tree

Eventually the tradition crossed the pond. The first president of the United States to have a tree was Benjamin Harrison. (1889-1893). It was placed in his children’s play room. Allowing reporters to view the tree set the tradition in the forefront of American society.

By 1900 one in five households had a Christmas tree. Edison’s invention of Christmas tree lights made it safer for families to have a tree in their home. Before then, trees were illuminated with candles.

Strive for accuracy

When you write a historical that has any scenes focused around Christmas be sure to get the details right. Before the 1880—unless they were German immigrants—there probably wasn’t a tree. A little research should help you determine if a tree is essential for your setting. Most of the time there may be stockings hung or special dishes served. Some immigrants consider Christmas only a religious holiday while others added some version of Santa Clause.

A few additional historical tidbits

My Ukrainian friend celebrates Christmas in early January.

Three Kings’ Day is popular in many cultures. Gifts were given on January 6th rather than Christmas Day.

 

Check your facts regarding ethnicity of your characters when creating a Christmas scene.

 

 

Have you written a Christmas novel? Tell us about the traditions you added to your story.

 

Advertisements

New Zealand Author Carol Roberts Talks about her Writing Journey and Debut Fantasy Novel

 Carol RobertsToday I welcome Carol Roberts who makes her home in New Zealand. Her debut fantasy Atlantis is available now. Carol, I love to ask fellow-authors to share their writing journey. Please tell my readers about yours.

When I left school, I was interested in psychology, and I would have studied that, had I not decided to travel first. As was, I left my birth place of Vienna at the age of 18 and travelled through South America and Asia, indulging my interest in culture and tradition.

I met my husband-to-be in India, a photographer from New Zealand, and we ventured into places that were so distant and remote, that I can still remember the feeling of eternal timelessness that took ahold of me in such locations. I was completely fascinated; what were those people’s stories, what did they preserve in terms of their mythology? I took a lot of notes about places and people, and by the time I settled in New Zealand, I had a firm plan of compiling a non-fiction book about stories and myths from all around the world.

While working through the material that we had collected, I realized that I was more interested in understanding the meaning of those stories, rather than compiling them into a non-fiction book. I was especially interested in stories of creation, and if our collective psyche can possibly reach back to a point of evolution through these stories.

Extensive travel is something we all dream about. How wonderful for you. Now tell us about your debut novel and the inspiration behind it.

It’s a fiction book, called ‘Atlantis’; genre is mythical fantasy/mystery.

After I had spent endless hours interpreting mythical symbolism, I felt that a lot of stories try to portray the origins of our human condition. And that’s what I wanted to write about; a challenge that passes on from one generation to the next, the meaning of individual and collective destiny, and the consequence of choices made.

I started writing ‘Atlantis’ with a poem. The poem held th

Atlantis Carol Roberts

e clues of a mystery, and became the map. It’s too long to quote, but it held the essence of what I was about to write, and I kept on interpreting it as I went.

 

Here is the back- cover blurb

Here is the blurb:  When Alanthea, high-priestess of Atlantis, connects to a woman in her dreams, she becomes haunted by a mystery. Compelled to trace the other woman’s life she finds coded poems that hold clues to the predicament of her people. Now she has to venture ever farther into forbidden territory to link past and present, and understand the real danger threatening Atlantis.

Arakon always thought of himself as an orphan, a loner without any real belonging. But after a strange encounter his life changes, and he is drawn into events beyond his control.

They move parallel in their search for answers until their destinies converge, and the weave unravels. Yet what they finally uncover lies deep at the heart of collective evolution, and what has been set in motion cannot be undone.

Now I’d like to take my questions in a different direction.

Who is your best support system to keep you focused on your writing?

My husband in all matters writing and helping me to ‘man up’ and stand by my work. My publisher, Stephanie, for picking up ‘Atlantis’ and giving me confidence.

What is your favorite genre to read for fun?

Romance, hands down. There is nothing like a good romance.

How interesting, I write romance yet enjoy a lot of fantasy on TV, movies and novels.

So, tell us your favorite place to write?

Where-ever I find that piece of paper and pen when I have an urgency to write. This could be virtually anywhere, lol.

We can all relate to that. Thanks so much for visiting with us today.

Here’s a little about Carol Roberts.

Carol Roberts is a free lance writer with particular interest in cultural myth. Originally from Vienna, she has spent all of her adult life in the Far North of New Zealand. Her work took her to several different countries, where she indulged her fascination with stories, particularly those dealing with the creation of man.  ‘Atlantis’ is her first full length novel.

Blog/Newsletter: https://www.smore.com/app/pages/preview/jb2ug,

Twitter: @authorRobertsC

Buy link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B0777J2MC8/

Check out Carol’s creative Christmas giveaway. Everyone is a winner

For all those who purchase Atlantis before December 31st, I will say THANK YOU by sending you a free copy of my second novel Tower of Babel. Go to this link after you purchase Atlantis and sign up to receive Tower of Babelhttps://www.smore.com/app/pages/preview/fpnxr

 

15 Christmas Gift Ideas for the Writer in your Family

Christmas Gift1_1

Christmas shopping season is upon us. As a writer, I’ve received over the years gifts that touched my writers heart. Fun t-shirts, mugs and magnets. However, There’s more creative options for the clueless non-writers’ gift-giver. Let me inform them with my gift idea list for the writer in the family. Writers, post this blog in a prominent place for your friends and family to see.

  1. Gift card for favorite place to buy office supplies.

Running out of ink in the middle of a project is maddening. You can never have enough flash drives, batteries and copy paper.

  1. Small notebook

When inspiration strikes, it’s nice to have a notebook in your pocket or purse.

  1. Software programs for writers

Some examples: Scrivener or Dragon. Scrivener is a word program for writers and Dragon is a voice-activated program to dictate your words. (Great when a writer’s hands, arms and back are out of commission.) There are more writerly programs out there, listen, when your writer raves over their fave.

  1. Amazon Gift Cards

Books, books and more books!

  1. Gift card to favorite writing spot

Some suggestions: Starbucks, Panera’s or another Wi-Fi available coffee shop.

  1. Magazine subscriptions

These are must haves for writers. Try Writers Digest, Christian Communicator or other Writing Craft periodicals. There are online e-zines subscriptions as well.

  1. Trade books

Here are some must haves:

  • Chicago Book of Style
  • Writer’s Guide, Christian Writer’s Guide

There are many, many writing craft books and among them are a few your writer wants. Listen and learn.

  1. A day or week end away to write.

A gift of hotel or a cabin in the woods—heavenly.

How about offering your home when you’re at work? A time away from the interruptions of family is golden for productivity.

You might volunteer to babysit or be responsible for picking up kids from school. Maybe take grandma to the store so your author can have a full-day of uninterrupted time to write. This is a special blessing if they are on deadline.

  1. Pay a conference fee for them.

Even a one-day seminar is a wonderful gift.

  1. A new laptop

I don’t know how many writers are still trying to use computers that are limping along.

If it’s new enough pay for repairs and buy the latest software upgrades.

We know a new one is often cheaper than the repairs. And if you can do all the software installs and have it up and running in advance that’s even better.

  1. Office furniture.

Maybe a nice new comfy chair or a file cabinet. Shelves or cabinets. A friend’s husband built her an office to her specifications.

  1. A nice pen for autographing.

The right pen is so important. You don’t want it to bleed through the paper, neither do you want a cheap ink pen that fades or skips.

  1. Nice house slippers with a sole sturdy enough to walk outside or run to the store.

I don’t write in my PJs but I’m often in slippers or socks only. Writers are a casual breed and taking the time to look for suitable shoes to run an errand distracts our brains from more important things—do I hear plot twists.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

  1. A homemade coupon book

Create coupons for various chores. The more items taken off a writer’s plate the more productive their word count. Dishes and laundry call to us when we need to have our fingers on the keyboard.

  1. Accolades

A certificate, note or plague reminding them you support their writing career choice. A wonderful reminder of your love and support.

These ideas are in no particular order. Authors, journalists, free-lancers and novelists will appreciate finding any of these gifts under the tree this year.

What ideas would you add?

A Visit with Author Lindsey P. Brackett

BrackettLWEB(1)Today I welcome Lindsey Brackett to talk about her debut novel Still Waters. The setting is the same as a favorite mystery writer of mine. So, I had to have her as a guest. Love the story. Made me want to visit Edisto Beach. Welcome Lindsey. Tell us about your novel.

My debut is Still Waters, a Lowcountry story about the power of family and forgiveness. The novel released in September with LPC Books and is enjoying great reviews—including 4 Stars from the Romantic Times! It’s the story of Cora Anne Halloway who has just graduated from college. Cora Anne had a plan that didn’t involve her grandmother’s ramshackle beach cottage or Tennessee Watson, the local builder dedicated to the preservation of Edisto Island—and her heart. But as tends to happen, life has sent her back to the one place she doesn’t want to be, even though it’s the one place where she may find her peace

What inspired you to write your book?

This novel really started with a place—Edisto Beach, where my family spent most summers of my childhood. When I first decided maybe I could actually do this, write a book, all I knew was I wanted a story set on Edisto. From there I began to build characters and to discover what brings them back or makes them stay away. As I grew as a writer, and began to understand how little I knew about novel structure, the plot changed many times, but ultimately it has always been a story of homecoming, relying on the power of family that ties us to a place.

StillWaters 500x750 (1)

 

There is a sprinkling of a faith message throughout Still Waters. Do you have a favorite verse that resonated with you as you began this project?

My prompt for Still Waters was 2 Corinthians 4:18. I just love that “focus on the unseen… for what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal.” I really need to stick it on my laptop for all those times social media wears me down.

Love that verse. Now tell me who is your best support system to keep you focused on your writing?

My husband is my rock. He’s always encouraging about anything I’m doing. Specific to writing, I have a small group of friends who have banded together to push and uplift one another. I know I can send them chapters or scenes and they’ll read and offer me feedback. I also know they’ll answer if I call in tears on a random Tuesday because things just aren’t going my way.

Every writer is always told to read extensively in the genre they write in. What genre do you read for fun?

I LOVE to read. Southern literary fiction is my favorite and To Kill A Mockingbird is my favorite book. Right now I’m reading a lot of Joshilyn Jackson, Karen White, Charles Martin, Kristy Woodson Harvey, and Julie Cantrell. I’m a sucker for a good romance, too, and I like Susan May Warren, Rachel Hauck, or Pepper Basham for the best kissing scenes on paper.

Where is your favorite place to write?

On my back porch with a glass of sweet tea (or a cup of coffee right now). I also tend to get up before the rest of the house, and I tuck myself into an old wingback chair of my grandmother’s, put my feet on the ottoman and write before I do anything else. With four kids, my days can get hectic, so it’s a relief to know writing happens when I’m at my freshest—and most open.

 

Share with us the quirkiest thing you’ve done to promote your book?
This year I’ve been tapped (pun totally intended) to participate in my local community’s biggest fundraiser: Dancing with the Stars for Hope which benefits our domestic violence shelter and the Rotary Club. This event pairs well-known community figures with “professionals” and we have a dance competition. People vote for their favorite teams (only $1 a vote) and there are lots of opportunities to win great raffle prizes. I’m paired with my friend, Jeremy, the high school theater director. We’re both theater nerds, so we’ve done several shows together and while we haven’t made a concrete decision about our routine yet, no doubt it will be epically theatrical. Right now, through November 30, our fundraising promotion is a donation of the proceeds from my book sales. So, there’s no better time to buy, support a local author and a great cause! Voting and prizes are not limited to North Georgia—anyone can go online and support us or enter to win raffles over on my Facebook page, Lindsey P. Brackett.

Want to help support our team_For every copy of Lindsey's book sold November 15-November 30, a portion will be donated to our team's fundraising efforts forDancing with the Stars.(1)

I love it and know you’ve given my readers a new way to look at marketing.

What a great way to discover a new author and support a worthy cause. Purchase Still Waters and do both.

Thank you so much for stopping by, Lindsey. You are an inspiration.

Dancing with the Stars Link: http://www.dancingwiththestarsforhope.com/vote-for-teams.html

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LindseyPBrackett/

Bio:

Award-winning writer Lindsey P. Brackett once taught middle grades literature, but now she writes her own works in the midst of motherhood. A blogger since 2010, she has published articles and short stories in a variety of print and online publications. In both 2015 and 2017, she placed in the top ten for Southern Writers Magazine Best Short Fiction. Previously, Lindsey served as Editor of Web Content for the Splickety Publishing Group, and currently she is a general editor with Firefly Southern Fiction, an imprint of LPC Books. In addition, she writes a popular column for several North Georgia newspapers.

Still Waters, influenced by her family ties to the South Carolina Lowcountry, is her debut novel. A story about the power of family and forgiveness, it’s been called “a brilliant debut” with “exquisite writing.” A Georgia native, Lindsey makes her home—full of wet towels, lost library books, and strong coffee—at the foothills of Appalachia with her patient husband and their four rowdy children.

Connect with her at www.lindseypbrackett.com, where she Just Writes Life, on Facebook as Lindsey P. Brackett, on Instagram @lindseypbrackett, or on Twitter @lindsbrac.

 

 

 

 

 

Musing Over a Ray Bradbury Quote and Story Ideas

alrm clock alertRay Bradbury said, “I don’t need an alarm clock, my ideas wake me.” This iconic science fiction writer’s words challenged me. Sleeping after an idea floats through my mind is hard. Getting up to write when I work the next day—a bigger battle. If the idea strikes a half hour before the alarm my creativity usually wins out. But 2am when I get up at 4:30—fat chance. I roll over and tell my characters to go back to bed.

Then there’s the ideas I get in the shower. They often flow away in the recesses of the bath towel as I dry off. By the time my shower is over, and the idea has been thoroughly discussed with my imaginary friends I don’t have time to write it down. But if it happens on my day off I’m excited. I drag those characters out of the tub and make them wait while I dress. Then we traipse to the computer and they dictate as I type.

More often the not though, on my days off, if I haven’t jotted the ideas down, it feels like my characters have gone to the beach and taken the next scene with them.

Such is a fiction writer’s life.

When I do capture the ideas, it makes my next block of writing time so much more productive. Rather than letting the idea alarm rule my writer’s life I tend to scribble ideas on scrape paper at work and shove them in my uniform pockets. God forbid those uniforms get washed before the pockets are emptied. The ideas come during down times at work when the phones are quiet, and the paperwork is caught up. Those notes spark my thoughts for the next scene when I sit down to write.

Bradbury was far more determined than me if he let the ideas dictate his day no matter what time of night. If my ideas become my alarm clock during retirement at least I can take a nap after my sleep has been interrupted. Until then I’ll keep pushing the snooze on the idea alarm.

How does this quote speak to you?

 

 

 

A Writer’s Thankful List

Writer's thankful list

Writing requires getting words on a page. Lots of words on a page is what we do. At times it can be a thankless pursuit. In order to refocus my mind from the attitude “this is too hard” to “I am having fun” I created a thankful list in no particular order of importance.

  1. I am thankful for computers and spell check.

When I first began this writing journey it was with a typewriter, carbon paper and white out. Bleh!!!

 

  1. I am thankful for the internet.

Research questions answers a key stroke away. I love the library but not leaving the house is golden.

 

  1. I am thankful for writing blogs.

So much information and encouragement to remind me I am a writer.

 

  1. I am thankful for e-mail.

No more sending proposals and query letter snail mail. No additional expenses to send my manuscript to several publishers at once.

 

  1. I am thankful for social media.

Connecting with my fans and other authors is wonderful.

 

  1. I am thankful for reviews.

Good, bad or quizzical. They remind me that real people read my words.

 

  1. I am thankful for my critique group.

Without my Word Weaver partners, I would still be unpublished.

 

  1. I am thankful for the friendships I’ve forged with fellow-writers.

They’ve mentored, encouraged and opened doors for me.

 

  1. I am thankful for a supportive family who brag about me to their friends.

Making me feel so loved.

 

  1. Most importantly, I am thankful to Jesus for the gift of words.

 

What’s on your thankful list?

 

      

 

Processing Rejection and Life Events

SDRandCo (7)

photo from pixabay

This has not been the week I’d hoped it’d be. This has not been the month so far, I expected. Good thing I didn’t join NANOWRIMO because most of my days have had zero writing in them from November 1st.

I’ve always been told life happens and you need to adjust. Well, a family member recovering from a stroke is a definite life event my husband and I weren’t expecting? (Family member is not hubby and will remain anonymous.) The patient is recovering well but having my day interrupted with home health care nurses and physical therapist is not conducive to writing.

maxwell finalists

Award and Rejection

Those of you who follow me on Facebook saw my announcement of winning the Maxwell Award for Secrets & Charades. Third place is awesome considering the point spread between first and third was minimal. That was on Saturday. Just two hours after Bride in Disguise (The sequel to S & C) was rejected by the pub board. So, that put a damper on the award. I don’t get emotional over these things immediately.  Rather, I have a delayed reaction. So, this week was grief and confusion mode for me. I’m sensing I need to just knuckle down and rewrite the thing to resubmit. (They said I could.)

I imagine I won’t start until next week or even December. Why? Rejection takes times to process. Courage takes time to emerge. And with health care workers invading my space I get overwhelmed. Honestly, health care workers are one more acrobat standing on the shoulders of other unexpected trials over the past few years.

Adjusting to life

Once my emotions and brain have wrapped themselves around the new normal, I will get back in the writing groove. This blog is a day late because Wednesday was the apex of my emotional downer. Thursday things seemed more normal. So, I’m posting on Friday to keep my two posts a week going.

I want to ask what you do when the acrobats of need weigh down your emotions and stymie your writing life? Please leave a comment.

 

Also, congratulations to Heather Roberts the winner of Shellie Arnold’s eBook Abide in Me.