Sunday, December 11, 2016

Inclusivity and the War on Christmas

When I was a kid, I went to school with a kid named George (not his real name) the son of our bus driver. Some days, George wouldn't come to school. Those days inevitably were the day of our Valentine's Day party, Hallowe'en party, and our Christmas Pageant.

George was Jehovah's Witness, whose faith members don't believe in celebrations like that.

Fast forward to today. The populations of the US and Canada are becoming more and more diverse, with Christian, Jewish, Sikh, Muslim, and representatives of many other cultures and faith groups. In the effort to follow two dictates, one of a separation of church and government, but also to foster inclusivity, schools no longer have Christmas Pageants, they have Winter Fests, or something like that. Stores urge their staff to wish everyone Happy Holidays, so as to include everyone, not just Christians.

And apparently, that is driving some people batty. Every year around this time people start griping about the War On Christmas. The memes start... you know the ones.

Like this:

Or this:

And there are the signs:

So, let's dissect what this is saying, shall we? To me, this is saying 'You MUST follow my dictates or you're not welcome in my home.'. Such a welcoming spirit.

I understand when adults lament that kids won't grow up with Christmas pageants and the like, but please realize... you're focusing on YOUR happy memories, not the memories they will make. In years to come they'll be every bit as fond of the memories of their Winter festival pageant.

And in the meantime? They won't be making a kid like George (and many others) feel unwelcome where they ought to feel welcome, in school, by focusing on one religion only, or any religion at all.

Tell me Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Peaceful Kwanzaa, and I will return whatever greeting you like. I'll NEVER tell you you can't say Merry Christmas if that's what you prefer. And in return when I say Happy Holidays, or Season's Greetings, I haven't joined some mythical War on Christmas, I'm just being me.

So... Happy Holidays, whatever you celebrate. I've got up a Christmas tree and will send out Christmas cards that probably say Happy Holidays to cover the gamut. And as for George? I'd wish him a wonderful day.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Gotta Love A Library Sale!

Hundreds of people, thousands of books, dozens of tables... it was a sea of books and readers. I was home!

On Friday I went to my city's library sale, an annual tradition that I don't always get to attend, but try to as often as possible. It takes place in a cavernous room most often used for agricultural displays, or home renovation displays. It echoes with voices and laughter and the line of people checking out with boxes and bags of books snakes back ten or twenty feet at its shortest. There are people  representing every age group, from a baby no more than a few days old carried by its mother in a snuggly front carrier, to an elderly woman shuffling along in a wheelchair.

There were moms with kids and thousands and thousands of children's and YA books - a sight I love to see. I was a huge reader as a child, and my advice always is, if you want to raise a writer, raise a reader. People eavesdropped on conversations and a stranger would shove a book across the table, with a surreptitious, 'I heard you were looking for this,' or 'how about this one?'

It was like coming home, finding my people. Hallelujah!

And I came away with gems. At a UBS or thrift shop the books would have cost me, conservatively, a hundred to two hundred bucks, but instead, it cost me twenty seven.

So... readers, never apologize for buying used books. Never be shy about it either. I got 3 Anne Perry books, a Diane Mott Davidson, and Ann Purser - whose books I have never read but look forward to trying - and more non-fiction historical books than I can hope to read! The picture doesn't even show the cookbooks I got.

It was a very good haul. The library cleared out their shelves and made some cash. A good day all around.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Collaborative Writer

When I pair 'collaboration' and 'writing' in one sentence, I suppose most people would think of those great writing duos, like Ellery Queen, Mary Higgins Clark and her daughter, etcetera.

But truth be told, most writers work in a collaborative process, at least for some books. I'm in the middle of that now. I am working on a proposal for a new series. It's not a cozy series, so it's vital that I get everything right the first time when we (my agent and I) approach editors. I'll get no second chance.

My first stab at it, my agent didn't like at all. We had a long conversation, and I took what she said, and what my cozy editor had said about the idea, (My agent had told her about it briefly in a phone conversation) and went back to the drawing board, rewriting everything except the central idea.

My agent read the synopsis and liked it much better, and after some rewriting I sent her the first fifty pages, the standard proposal amount of a book for an experienced published writer. She liked it a lot better, but had another reader read it, and then she did a line by line critique.

Wow... the ideas that are coming from that are so much better than my original! It will take me a little while, but the manuscript will be so much better for her extensive input. Our collaboration will never make it onto the cover, but I will be thanking her in my acknowledgements, you can bet on that. So, when you see those Acknowledgements in the front of a book, you can be sure that the writer had a collaborator (or two, or three) to significantly help form the book into that prose you love so much.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

So... what's the big deal?

I have yet another confession to make. I have never tasted Pumpkin Spice anything... not latte, not muffins, nothing. Nada. Zip.

I mean, I like it in theory, right? I like pumpkin pie. I like spice drinks like chai.

So tell me... are you on the pumpkin spice bandwagon, or no?

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Autumn Wandering

When I was young, we lived in the country. I've never forgotten nor lost my love for wandering in the woods: the smell of leaves, the acorns littered among the red and gold leaves, the nip in the air. With the weather turning cooler, I think back, and even though the only 'wandering' I'm likely to do is in my mind, the imagination is a wonderful place, and I can stroll into this photo...

Monday, September 5, 2016

Labour Day... or Labor Day?

When I was a kid, being from a union family on Labour Day meant a parade downtown (once I was in it, on the UAW float!), a picnic and sometimes even a show in the park. And then... school the next day.

Ever since then, the day after Labour Day a kind of 'click' happens in my brain. I suspect many of us feel that way; it's a shift to a back-to-business mentality. Down to work. Fresh starts.

I'm fortunate enough to do what I love for a living, and look forward to many more words to come.

I'm asked often about the state of my cozy mystery series. So, to update...

Unfortunately, the Teapot Collector Mysteries are done. It was work for hire, so I have no option but to let Sophie Taylor and all her friends go, but let me assure you, Sophie and her beau will stay together, Nana and Laverne will let her take over more of Auntie Rose's Victorian Tea Room, and they will even be traveling a bit, maybe to Teapot Island in England.

My beloved Vintage Kitchen Mysteries is not being continued by Berkley either, HOWEVER, I have made the decision to keep writing them as long as sales support the work. They will be published - in ebook format only - by Beyond the Page, who already do a beautiful job of re-publishing my Regency Romances I wrote as Donna Lea Simpson. This will allow me more freedom in some ways. I am writing Book #6, Leave It To Cleaver right now, tho' I don't have a publication date yet. I am contemplating, however, a couple of connective short mysteries in Jaymie's world.

The very good news is, I still have one more book in my Merry Muffin Mystery series. After that, it will depend on whether sales grow for the series if Berkley will continue it or not. Right now I am writing Muffin To Fear; big changes happening for Merry, and more castle chaos, of course!

So... Happy Labour Day, my friends, however you spell it! And I look forward to the work year ahead.