Saturday, January 28, 2012

Saturday at the Movies #81 - Cold Case

This is going to be a tricky one, but in a way, that's fitting. Cold Case is not available on DVD, most likely due to copyright regarding the music that plays a heavy role in each episode, and I'm okay with that. I wouldn't want a single note changed. Reruns are currently on Ion Television and that's good enough for me.

Detective Lily Rush and her colleagues delve into unsolved homicide cases from the past, and it's the victims, perpetrators, and those they left behind who are the real stars here. What makes Cold Case work for me the most is that it's not only about solving crimes, but providing closure. Stories unfold over the course of each episode, with flashbacks to the events preceding the deaths. With these glimpses into the lives and worlds of the victims, accompanied by period-appropriate soundtracks, we not only find out what happened, but why.

Whether homicide, accident or even suicide, each case is comprised of multiple layers. Victims have their perspective, but so do witnesses, friends, family members and often the killers as well. Not everybody has all the pieces to any puzzle, and it's only years later, when there's been some distance to allow for new perspective -or for investigative techniques or technology to catch up- that everything can fit together. Witnesses who were children at the time can now see through more mature eyes. Detectives may have to dig hard to unearth memories from older witnesses with memory disorders. A formerly drug-addicted witness may now be thinking clearly, or a sober one might have spent the intervening years in an alcoholic fog from guilt or despair. Viewers get to see the characters involved in each case shift between their past and present selves, the change fluid and poignant.

Any drama filled with history and emotion is a no-brainer for me, and Cold Case fits the bill. With periods ranging from the early 20th century to the 1990s and all points in between, viewers get to engage in some vicarious time travel as past and present intermingle to weave the whole tale that could not be told until the time was right. All good on its own, but the angsty, sniffly bow that ties up every story is the closing montage. Without dialogue, we see the case close, the evildoers taken into custody, and the loved ones begin to heal. The crowning moment of closure comes when a vision of the deceased person appears to the one most affected by their passing, and with a wistful smile, they vanish, their business now complete.

If you haven't seen these episodes but plan to, SPOILERS are in the closing montage clips below, from my two favorite episodes.

Season One's "Lover's Lane" requires detectives to reopen the case of a teenage girl, beautifully played by Mae Whitman, when DNA evidence exonerates the man wrongly convicted for her death in 1986:

Season Two's "Revolution" stars Sarah Jones, now starring in Alcatraz, as a Vietnam-era small town girl torn bewteen caring for her disabled veteran brother and fleeing to Canada with the love of her life:

Being a romance writer, I want to reach into the episodes and grab these wounded characters out and make everything turn out better. They make me feel and invest in the lives of people with human wants and fallibilities, living out stories that could not have taken place if they had lived in any other time. I find Cold Case a wonderful lesson in how to marry the history to the emotional journey, and quite possibly that could turn into a springboard for an upcoming workshop lesson.

How about you? Do you have a favorite Cold Case episode? Know of any other shows or movies that use past and present to tell a single story? Ever rewrite endings in your own head to make them turn out the way you'd like?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Happy Dance Friday #81 - Happy Birthday, Maksim

I'm going to give the powers that be the benefit of the doubt and say my invitation must have gotten lost in the mail. It was probably stuck to yours, which is why neither one of us found out about Maksim Chmerkovskiy's birthday bash until now. Still, this is much better on the wallet, and we don't have to deal with weekend NYC traffic (unless you already are in NYC) or the what to wear dilemma. It's the spirit that matters, and this week, we'll celebrate the birthday (okay, his actual birthday was on the 17th, but the party is today, so I still claim timeliness.)boy.

We can travel back in time to see Maks compete in 2004 at the World Masters semi-final:

No need to decide if Maks should celebrate with friends or, Friends or Brandy. Since he's the birthday boy, he can have both.

Some Argentine Tango:

An elegant Waltz:

And when he gets tired (or outruns crazed admirers), there's another one like him at home, with brother Val:

Happy birthday, Maksim, and here's to many, many more.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


It's funny what a good night's sleep after a particularly sleepless night will do for a person.

A good friend once told me that she can tell when I'm not okay because then I get really quiet. Considering that A) this friend is very observant and B) she has known me well for many years, I think she's on to something.

As many have said, writers write. It's one thing to think about working on the book, the article or the blog post, but another altogether to have the confidence to put fingers to keys and get those words out there. Life happens. This should not come as a big surprise to any of us, and yet sometimes we scritch our heads and wonder how (insert thing that devours writing mojo) happened. The deadline got closer, BISW is in week number two, we're still on that same chapter, and time is not standing still.

Recognizing that is the first step. After that comes refilling the well. Getting back on the horse. Putting on one's big girl (or boy) panties and getting back in the game. The how, I've found, is different for every person and every instance, so there's no hard and fast rulebook for that, but what I can talk about is a few things that I have reminded myself work for me.

First, know yourself. Over the past year or so, I've come to accept that I am an extrovert. That means, among other things, I often process thought through talking. Lightbulb moment. Understanding this means that when I'm stumped, rather than going around and around and around in my own head, like a car on a rotary that can't find the exit, the best thing to do is corral a writer friend (or a reader friend if writer friends are busy) and start blabbing. Often, the answer I couldn't find no matter how hard I searched for it is right there when someone else asks me the right question. I come away feeling energized and bounce back to the keyboard, notebook or legal pad like Tigger on Red Bull.

Second, your process is okay. There is no one hard and fast rule on how to write. Whatever gets you to the end is what you need, and you should take it. Charge up on it with grabby hands, dig in deep and don't let go. Whatever works for Nora Roberts or Bertrice Small is absolutely the one true and perfect process...if you are Nora Roberts or Bertice Small. If in doubt, check your ID, look in the mirror or ask a family member. No part of your process is stupid. If it works for you, keep doing it. Whatever gets you to The End is what works, and it's none of anybody else's business if you write better wearing bunny slippers, give yourself an M&M after every completed page, or can only think straight if you type first drafts in Comic Sans. I personally write better if my nails are polished. So be it.

Third, mama needs her some strange. This comes from accepting the fact that I am a musical omnivore and no matter how deeply I love my elebenty billion favorite songs I already have on countless playlists, I always need more, more, more. Ditto with nail polish colors; see above note. There's a continual need to keep reaching for some new tool to add to the writer's toolbox, and those tools can come from anywhere; a new TV show to obsess over and let it plan its roots in the writerly subconscious, sticking one's toe into a new hobby, trying a new genre or subgenre to write or read, even sampling a treat heretofore undiscovered that sits on the shelf, crooking its finger and casting the come-hither look. Today, that's Elvis Costello's Poor Fractured Atlas album. Said album came out in 2001, but it's new to me, and with a title like that, how could I resist? New stuff in, new stuff out. It works.

My mother used to say "the more you do, the more you'll want to do," and she was right. What we're doing here, as writers, isn't the same as data entry or moving beads on an abacus. We're creating lives and relationships in our story worlds, and we know how to do that. It's what we did when the stories formed in an amorphous glob in the backs of our heads while we scooped out the litterbox or desperately wished for a way to get through an endless work meeting. These are the voices that live in our heads and won't shut up, demanding their stories be told. Since nobody else can tell my stories, my way, I need to get busy and fill my well with what's good for me and set off on the route I know that takes me and my characters to happily ever after. Which means a fresh coat of polish on my nails, the latest musical discovery on my headphones, and me at the keyboard, unquiet. Are you with me?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Saturday at the Movies #80 - Alcatraz

Alcatraz, oh Alcatraz, where do I begin? With some shows, you know. With Moonlight, I knew. With Lost, I knew. With New Amsterdam, I knew. There were others: State of Grace; Cold Case, The Walking Dead, Hell on Wheels, even How I Met Your Mother.

I had that same feeling the first time I caught a glimpse of Alcatraz. No surprise to my regular readers that anything with that gloomy grunge aesthetic is going to catch my attention. There's the fact that we have a prison on an island, as in

...and there are spooky goings on and since this is on network TV, odds are that I will not have to watch every week through my splayed fingers (and I am still too chicken to watch Shutter Island, and yes, I do know it's also a book, but that's for another entry.) Bonus points to Alcatraz for being a real place, and the fact remains that since it still stands and I am still alive there is a chance that I might actually be able to go there at some unspecified place in the future and indulge my love of places-where-people-should-be-but-aren't.

What cemented my interest, though, is that the cast includes Jorge Garcia, who was amazing as Hurley on Lost. In Alcatraz, he's Dr. Diego Soto, Alcatraz expert and comic book writer. I am sold right there and would not have needed to hear more. Add in the bit about missing people from the past coming back to the present (okay, sure, they're all convicted crimnials...well, and the associated staff, so we do have a chance for some good guys) possibly for some greater purpose, though we don't know if that's a good purpose or a bad one, and I'm there. Cherry on top is Sarah Jones as Detective Rebecca Madsen, the homicide cop who has tragically lost a partner and has her own take on how the job should be done, and in certain shots, giving off a rather Sophia Myles-esque vibe. All we need now is a couple for me to ship. Jeffrey Pierce, as Jack Sylvane, the first inmate to reappear, is certainly equipped with the looks to qualify him as a possible love interest for Detective Madsen, and he has a sympathetic backstory, and I'm genre-savvy enough to know that a four-letter name ending in a consonant is code for hero material in such well favored gentlemen, but...

:happy sigh: Yeah. I could seriously go for these two, and since the first thing Dr. Soto says to Det. Madsen is "marry me," well, come on. I'm a romance writer. What do you expect? Granted, the proposal was an expression of admiration for Det. Madsen's knowledge of comics lore, but what male comic book aficionado wouldn't fall hard for a gorgeous blonde who also loves comics? Come, on, it's perfect. Nope, Dr. Soto doesn't have a rock-hard physique (pun intended) but he's got that geeky-suave charm, he's smart, enthusiastic, and he works what he's got, and I think this could work. What do you think, faithful readers? Am I barking up the wrong shipping tree, or am I on to something? Or does it not matter because of the great visuals, the history angle and super cool plots? Take a look at the trailer below. What do you think?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Combination post: Happy Dance Friday #80 and Saturday at the Movies #79

cute animals - Freshly Chewed and Ready to Be a Bed
see more Daily Squee

Random sleepy puppy, as Monweek wasn't quite done with me yet, though Saturday brought a wondrous repast with friends and Sunday's NECRWA meeting put a spring back in my writing step. Which is why you get last week's Saturday post along with today's happy dance post, because it irks me when the numbers don't line up for these entries.

Speaking of springs and steps, I don't think any happy dance could top this four legged fellow's:

Though my DH would likely urge me to post this next clip if he were looking over my shoulder, so I'll stick it up on his behalf.

No clip yet, but I'm very eager to see how Copper turns out. 1860s New York, Irish immgirant neighborhood and a police officer who wants to do right, but finds that a complicated task? Pop the corn, I'm there, and save all talking for the commercial breaks. I'll pretend John Amsterdam is in the office down the hall, because, well, he could have been, and I still miss that show.

In the can't-believe-I-Missed-It category, Smash. I love stories set in the theater world, love the audition process, and let's take a look at the cast - Debra Messing, Anjelica Huston, and Katharine McPhee, who made an impression on me back in her American Idol days. Definitely need to catch the premiere and remember to record this one. Extra points because in a show set on Broadway, there's got to be some dancing.

Also missed out on the premiere of The Fades (this is why there is On Demand, right?) I'm not as much interested in the undead/ghost aspect as I am the psychological/social issues - twins, social awkwardness, insider/outsider dynamics. What do you think, faithful readers?

All current on this front, and tomorrow, Alcatraz....

Friday, January 13, 2012

Happy Dance Friday #79 - Monweek Soundtrack

funny pictures Life is like a screen door:  Somedays you're the door, others you're  the bug on it
see more Lolcats and funny pictures, and check out our Socially Awkward Penguin lolz! Considering that Friday the thirteenth fell in a Monweek, the theme for this week's Happy Dance Friday is a natural. Clear some floor and prepare to strut your Monweek stuff through interpretive dance to some of these appropriate tunes:

Mary Chapin Carpenter's "The Bug" seems to capture things nicely.

No political statement on anything, but REM also has a pretty good handle on the theme of the day:

Daniel Powter continues the encouragement:

Still in need of choreography? Try one of these:
Dance the Zoidberg GIF - Dance the Zoidberg
see more Gifs
Bear Dance Party GIF - Bear Dance Party
see more Gifs
see more Gifs

Monweeks can't last forever, but Monkees can:
How are you planning to put some happy in your weekend?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Welcome to my Monweek

funny pictures - Gawd! Can you please turn down  the Monday!! I'm trying to ignore it!!
see more Lolcats and funny pictures, and check out our Socially Awkward Penguin lolz!

Monweek (noun) - a week that is comprised entirely of Mondays.

That should about say it all. In one week (and it's only Thursday, whimper) our family has had one car in the shop, one laptop with firewall issues (mine) and two blue screens of death (mine and mine) and mercurial moods depending on the type of internet connection, an exodus of non-ready-to-be-tossed socks at the most recent laundering, the temptation to rename my day planner "Schroedinger's Schedule," due to simultaneous planning of dates/plans that must be assumed to both work and not work at the same time and...well, you get the drift.

Hence the term "Monweek." Maybe it's seasonal, maybe it's something in the water, but I know I'm not the only one in my circle to be having a Monweek. We've all had them. Those weeks that invoke Murphy's Law, when everything that can go wrong, does, and at the worst possible moment. Still, unless said Monweek involves one's untimely demise, they don't last forever.

Even with the Monweekiness of the last few days, there have been good things. A good meeting with one of my writing friends helped talk me down from the ledge of writerly despair. My TBR shelf, at least the one I have planned to tackle first, has been whipped into shape. I have distinct plans for both reading and writing in the foreseeable future, and I like having those concrete goals written out, with accountability. DH surprised me with pizza (always a good thing) on the evening he came home to find me lying down on the bed with my laptop and Sims2 (the laying down was the key here, after wrangling baskets of laundry as well as other things after the second Monday-in-a-row.) Saturday will be spent with good friends and home cooked deliciousness. Sunday will be ticking a goal off my professional goals list for the year - join NECRWA. Internet wonkiness has combined with aformentioned meeting with writer friend to get me back into the meat of the current ms, and though perfectionism is bound to come trying to sneak in through the kitty door again, for now, it's off bothering someone else. Probably scared away by all the bad words hurled at high volume toward the blue screens of death.

Of course, after Sunday guessed it, the next Monday. We'll take that one when it gets here.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Saturday at the Movies #78 - What Took Me This Long?

Photobucket I wish I could say that no harm came to the Sim model in this image, but that would be lying. When setting up the shot, I'd forgotten that area rugs are flammable, and as it's not possible to control a Sim once they're on fire, well, events transpired. I was able to quit without saving once the fire had done its thing, and my model survived for many more shoots...until the game crashed and I had to uninstall/reinstall, but that's another story. All of this is my long winded way of getting around to a Saturday post on a Monday, as this was a CORW Saturday and I crashed on Sunday.

These meetings are always memorable, and when Corrina Lawson and I get a chance to gab, talk often turns to television. We have similar tastes, and she hasn't steered me wrong yet, so when I told her I'd finally gotten a chance to get into Mad Men, this opened up yet another avenue of conversation.

Given my penchant for gorgeous period detail, great acting and emotional drama, why didn't I jump on Mad Men the second it came out? Too close to home. My father was, for most of my childhood, an art director in advertising in New York, so the idea about a show set in basically my dad's office didn't sound like the most appealing of prospects. Now that AMC is re-airing the show, I have to re-evaluate that position. I'm coming late to this party, in the second season, but that's what DVDs are for, right? Hey, I came into Highlander in season three, and those who know me know how that turned out, so late arrival does not mean missing the party, by any means.

I do believe the DVDs are going to be a must, not only to get the subtext -Corrina's tip that lead character Don Draper is himself a construct is, I think, going to be key to getting the most out of this- of both characters and world, but to drink in every drop of the gorgeous midcentury set design and costuming. Okay, and John Slattery; I'm still not over his character being recast on Judging Amy. Punctuated frequently by observations of this or that being eerily close to the homes, clothing, posessions or patterns of speech I remember from when I was a wee sproglet looking up at the adults. I will admit to a bit of flashback in an episode where Don brings his young daughter, Sally, into the office, as I'd been in Sally's shoes a few times myself. While I'm expecting a few more moments like that, I'm ready and willing to dive into the world of Don, Peggy and company. In short, I'm sold.

Since it is not possible for me to have a conversation on current TV without mentioning The Walking Dead, Corrina pointed me toward the BBC series Survivors. Unlikely band of survivors banding together after the end of the world as we know it? Check. From mysterious circumstances? Check. Like The Walking Dead but with British people and no zombies? Looking for DVDs now. Definitely have to catch this one.

Boardwalk Empire's name also came up as something I might want to investigate, given my preferences. Intricate historical drama, gorgeous period detail, and bonus, Steve Buscemi, who is crazy talented.

What do you think? I don't have HBO, but am willing to hunt for DVDs, and suggestions for new (or new-to-me) period dramas are always welcome.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Happy Dance Friday #78 - Back in the saddle, with Quickstep

January sixth means the holiday season is down for a long winter's nap, the new year is underway, and I know I could use a good dose of energy this morning, so we're going with the quickstep. This dance has been likened to a duck - smooth as glass on the top, paddling like mad underneath. I know that as a writer, I can relate to that. Hence writing quote in today's art piece.

First, straight out of Blackpool (2010 championships, to be exact) let's take a look at how it's done in competitive circles:

I think of that as the guidelines for one's genre. I'll use romance, since that's what I write. From, the official definition is as follows:
A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around two individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.
An Emotionally-Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.

As long as those two requirements are met, the writer has a lot of room in which to move. In dance, there's competitive dance and show dance (please correct me on my terms, dance fans; I'm only working on one cup of tea here) and what entertains on TV won't always please the judges in Blackpool, but if entertaining is the whole point, I think the clips below do an admirable job. As long as the requirements of the dance are there, it's fun to see what the individual dancers and choreographers do with the same essentials.

Though I haven't seen a quickstep performed to Matchbox Twenty's "I'll Believe You When," I think it's a natural.

Why, yes, I do sometimes choreograph dance numbers in my head, usually for fictional characters...doesn't everyone? Eh, we writers are odd ducks; it's in the job description.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Happy New Year Rambling, Part The Third

In the spirit of honesty and authenticity, I should probably mention that as I start this entry, I have no earthly idea what I'd originally meant to say here. Which means the new year is truly here, and back to work. Easily done, though I think I short circuited part of my brain by transcribing and tweaking seventeen pages on Tuesday.

Today's "voice" graphic is here because A) I vaguely remember that voice had something to do with the planned post that got nibbled to death by ducks, B) my brain fritzes out as soon as I open Photoshop Elements, and C) I can turn this around. Probably need more caffiene first, though.

Right now, I'm wrangling with convincing my laptop that it is signed into Rhapsody, and my brain that I do know how to do this writing thing. Or in today's case, re-writing. The scene I'm working on today wasn't there in the last draft of this ms, but it works better than what was there in the first draft, is truer to the characters, and heightens the impact of what is to happen next, so this is a good thing. I'll grumble and I'll wrangle and dear writer friends, you will probably hear me whine, but it's all part of the process. Life and love can both be problematic, so I can't see writing about either topic being without a few bumps in the road.

So. This voice thing. Ask a dozen writers what voice is and you might get a dozen different answers (or a dozen "I dunno" answers, possibly at the same time) but we know it when we encounter it. Give Meat Loaf, Weird Al, Luciano Pavarotti, Paul McCartney, Toby Keith and James Blunt the same song to sing, stick them all on the same playlist and hit shuffle. Doesn't matter if it's "Unchained Melody" or "I'm a Little Teapot" or anything else one might like. There's not the slightest chance that the playlist will sound like the same guy singing the same song. The words might be the same, the arrangements and melodies the same, but it's the unique voice of each singer that's going to make the difference. Not going to mistake Loretta Lynn for Lady Gaga, that's for sure, and if you bought an Osmonds CD and found HIM inside, (or vice versa) even if the song list were exactly the same, it would not be the same listening experience.

It's the same with writers. Bertrice Small and Lynn Kurland both write historical romance novels, for example. Ms. Small is known for her love scenes, while Ms. Kurland is known for leaving the bedroom door modestly closed. Personally, I'm somewhere in the middle, but I have read wonderful books by both, and by a wide variety of others. I've always known I was hardwired for historical romance; even as a wee little princess, I was drawn to fairy tales and anything that took place in a century prior to the 20th. Even then, I was predisposed to stories with a hero, a heroine, and a happily ever after, so it's no surprise where I landed as a writer. The harder the road the characters had to get to their HEA, the better, and I still hold to that today. A college friend, after reading my first ms (thankfully retired to the back of the closet, for the good of all mankind) dubbed it "How To Totally Screw Up A Character's Life in Five Hundred Pages or More." She wasn't that far off.

My favorite quote from the Dr. Who episode, "Blink," gets trotted out a lot when I talk about voice, but "sad is happy for deep people" resonates with me. If somebody's heart breaks, if the floor drops out from below one of my main characters, if they lose everything they've ever counted upon to get through their world, then there's a great story in how they get back from that. The lower the valley, the higher the mountaintop. I like the high drama, the heights and the depths, and as a favorite writing teacher used to tell us, if the stars are real, then the mud had better be as real. Bad things happen in life, even to good people, but it's possible to get through that and not only survive but triumph. That's going to come through in any story I tell, and I'm fine with that. Bring it on, New Year. I'm ready.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Happy New Year's Rambling, Part the Second

First workday of 2012, and I'd say so far so good, but I've already done two hard reboots, wrangled an annoying firewall program, beat a suspicious popup into submission and discovered the hard way that the new power cord is not as long as the dearly departed one. This last bit, I should mention, requires me to scoot the comfy chair in Panera closer to the fireplace.

This last bit is not at all a bad thing, as it allows me to be both productive and comfortable. Fireplaces are something one wants to be as close as possible to during January in the northeast US. Hot chocolate may have to happen while Panera is still offering their peppermint version. Or I can smuggle in a mini candy cane and stick one in the regular stuff. I'm resourceful that way.

I'm counting this year as starting off on the right foot, as I spent yesterday at not one but two New Year gatherings; afternoon at the open house/book swap, and then the traditional non-traditional New Year's meeting at house church. Got a seat by the fire there, too, so I think I'm on a roll. Two gatherings in one day is like handing Tigger a Red Bull and an espresso, then putting him on roller skates. This is how extroverts recharge, so after all that, I'm good to go. Didn't hurt that DH had ordered in Chinese food by the time I got home, either.

So. New year of reading and writing ahead. While it took me a while to get into Christmas mode, I'm finding that New Year mode has arrived right on time, and I plan on making the most of that. I've learned that when the decluttering bug hits me, I need to let it do its thing; already, it's uncovered the missing longhand pages of a novella I'd been wanting to finish. Very much looking forward to getting back in the groove with that as well as throwing myself into the polish of the current front burner ms and making sure I keep up an ongoing dialog with writer friends. If I know that I process thought by talking, then keeping mum is kind of silly in the light of what I know works for me.

Similarly, the taming of the out of control TBR mountain range lies in organization. I have a short list of what I actually want to read most next out of my recent acquistions, in my current art notebook. I'm keeping track of title, author, setting and links or lack thereof to other books. Already have one book read from that, so I'm feeling rather accomplished there. I read better when I have some plan or structure, so I think things look good for reading more in 2012. No record of what I actually read in 2011, as I didn't keep track, only sporadic notes on Goodreads, but if I have something down in the art book, it's locked in.

Structure is needed for me in the writing as well. Without some sort of roadmap, it feels like I'm driving blindfolded on the Autobahn and the resulting billion car pileup can be seen from space. This does not make me more or less creative than those who plunk down at the keyboard with no idea what the day will bring; it only makes me, well, me. Which is a perfectly fine thing to be. What is not perfectly fine to be is constantly looking over my shoulder to see what anybody else thinks I ought to be doing instead of what comes naturally.

Getting wordy once again (oh big surprise) so that calls for a part three tomorrow, as I am now at the end of my alloted rambling time and must pound the grownup professional writer keys. Rambling is part of what I do, so I'm not fighting it anymore, but it does need to stay within certain boundaries. I think that's best for all involved.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Happy New Year Ramblings, part the first

Happy 2012, faithful readers. The end of one year and the start of a new one always provide good excuse to ramble, and so I will. I still have a while before I need to make myself presentable for the traditional New Year's Day open house and book swap held by some friends. Not the most romance friendly environment, but the company is good, their dog is fun and I get to scarf free noms while meeting interesting people. Plus I've been to two UBSes and B&N this week, so I thnk I'm good for a while. More on that later, as the clock is ticking.

I think our Christmas decorations are trying to tell us something. A few years back, DH and I acquired a much-beloved lighted wreath, and shortly after that, a Christmas tree made of red tinsel, like so: Photobucket

These two items have been mainstays of our Christmas decorating scheme, centered around the bedroom bookcase, since our apartment is what can best be termed "cozy." This year, they both went dark. I should also mention that the blinds have been replaced (the tear not being my fault, for those who keep track of these things) and same with the lamp, in favor of a nifty vintage 50s treasure. DH and I do have replacement bulbs and we are willing to do the work required to find the culprits in case our decorations are of the "if one goes down, they all go down" persuasion, which they well may be.

Due to a serious conversation we had at another of our holiday gatherings, the red tree will have to be saved, since when we are in a bigger place, we need to have a small tree in every window. We are willing to take heroic measures to save the wreath, as A) it was given to a dear friend by my dad on one of his final Christmases, B) said friend thinks it's one of the ugliest things she's ever seen, and C) DH and I recognize its inherent perfection. Our hearts will not break if the red tree can't be brought back to life; last night, I wound a spare string of clear lights around it and on with the show. That will do for now, and with the dying of the light (sorry, couldn't resist) coinciding with the January sales on all things Christmassy, this is the perfect time for me to snag a new mini tree, free of guilt.

The question then is, what kind of tree? I've seen black trees -though sadly, the last time I remember seeing one in the flesh as it were, was at dearly departed Borders- and would love to do a forest of different colored trees, but I'm getting the urge for a traditional green one as well. At lunch with writing friends, I nearly got as excited about a wayward evergreen snippet that had found its way into my gift bag as I did the gift itself. Driving around to peep at strangers' light displays always tears me in two directions; the classy all-white lights and the cacophany of colored ones. I have come to the conclusion I may eventually need two houses so I can indulge in both, but I'll need to sell a few (million?) more books first.

Though I recieved no new books at Christmas, many did come home, both novels and research tomes, over Christmas Week, and it's entirely possible more will come home today. Actually, it's a slam dunk that there will be at least one, as our hostess is extremely vigilant in that regard; all guests must leave with at least one book. Not sure at the moment what I'll be bringing to the swap (apologies to the one gal who has said she waits to see what I'll be bringing, as I don't know if I'll be hauling anything romancey in that direction, but will try) but I'm not going to sweat it. I have what I have and I'm donating what I'm donating and that's going to have to do.

All of this is a roundabout way of saying that this year is going to be the getting back to my roots/core/authentic self year, writing and otherwise. A few days ago, I sent off a paper letter to a writer friend, for the pure reason that it felt good to do so. Pretty pages are a good place to let my brain droppings spill, twirling around each other and combining into something I might not have expected when I first opened the file or put pen to paper. I do know that I owe some friends some long-promised mail art, and thanks for the patience; mail art is getting scheduled into my days, and since the most gorgeous day planner in the history of history is soon to arrive in my mailbox, sticking to my schedule is going to be a lot easier this year.

Well. No surprise here, I've taken the scenic route and time has not stopped, so I will leave this here for now and be back in the AM with part the second, wherein I ramble about reading, writing and other creative matters.