December Nostalgia


Shiny and Bright

Shiny and Bright


December is a rough time of year.  In Seattle, the days are dark and the nights are long.  It’s damp.  It’s cold–not cutting like Midwest- or Canada-cold, just brisk enough for me to complain about.  It’s a time when digging enthusiasm and impetus out from the basement is a brutal proposition.  My creativity grumpily crawls back into bed, telling me to fuck off until February.  Suffice it to say, we’re deep into my least favorite time of the year.

It’s the light I miss most.  A quaver of panic squirrels through me come August when the sunshine shades away from bright gold, and casts the world in a crisp silver light.  That’s how I know the season has truly changed, when the quality of light alters.  I struggle to convince myself that the slowly rising dark is not a sign of imminent doom, and it will all turn out fine.   It’s not that bad.  No big.

Eh.  My optimistic self is a liar.  It is that hard.  Every year.

With my deep and abiding antipathy for our night-filled months, I find it odd my most powerful feelings of nostalgia are stirred by something that only occurred in deepest, darkest Decembers.

My family celebrated Christmas when I was growing up, and we were lucky enough to always have a tree.  This was a real tree, that gave off a piney, foresty scent for days after we brought it home.  Our lights were the big, fat, translucent ones of gold, green, red, and blue, that came out before safety regulations and energy conservation was the norm.  Some  flashed, some glowed steadily, all burned hot and bright.  Tinsel, paper chains and gold garland decked each bough, and the old glass ornaments gleamed even in the daylight.  We didn’t mess around.

When I was small (and even not so small), I used to wrap up in my bathrobe and sneak back to the living room in the middle of the night.  I remember hugging the wall as I descended the stairs–I’d read in a spy novel that the middle of the treads were what squeaked–and extreme quiet was called for, you see, or I’d wake up the dogs, who would then wake up my mom. My pre-teenaged brain was certain that would be bad.  Navigating the black-on-dim silhouettes in the living room, I’d find the switch to the Christmas tree lights.  Then, when they were shining like sunlit jewels in the darkness, I’d curl under the tree, nestling amid whatever presents were already there.  I’d look up through the boughs at the dance of colors and shapes.  I’d smell the resin, and feel the warmth of the bulbs, and gaze in sleepy bliss for what felt like a small forever.

And that was it.  It wasn’t anticipation of Christmas Day and its various celebrations.  It was the sensation of being cocooned in warmth and color, light and shadow.  That was the magic.  That’s what I remember.

So now, though I don’t celebrate Christmas, per se, we still find a way to get a tree.  We haul out the flashing lights along with the memories that come with thirty-years worth of ornaments.  Every now and then this ritual conjures the childhood magic of wonder and comfort, beauty and light in the darkness, driving away the gloom beyond the windows–and in myself–just for a little while.

Or maybe it simply proves that I’m more like my cats than I want to admit.  At least I don’t knock the ornaments off the tree.


What is your brightest memory of Decembers past?



Do these 3 things to rebalance your mind

I have a theory.
The holidays at end of the year are like the universe washing a cosmic load of laundry.
Projects that stalled, ideas never executed, stories unfinished, high emotion encounters.
Everything becomes an immediate priority simultaneously. You didn’t think you were going to have to deal with it, but here it is in your face, and it needs your attention right now.
This is a good thing.
It’s the opportunity to resolve the year and start fresh in January. All this dirty chaos laundry will finish its washing, but right now it may feel like you’re caught in the spin cycle.

How do you rebalance when the universe is trying to spin you senseless?

One: Quiet your immediate space
Sit in your quiet place.
If you don’t have a quiet place, find one.
Your quiet place should be someplace comfortable where no one will bother you for 2-3 minutes.
Close your office door. Sit in your car in the driveway. Step into the nearest closet.
Maybe your life is so crazy right now that the only place you can escape is the bathroom.
Whatever your quiet place is, go there.

Two: Close your eyes and breathe
Close your eyes.
Now breathe.
Inhale through your nose to the count of six.
Exhale out your mouth to the count of six.
Do this ten times. Breathing is good.

Three: Open your eyes and look at a kitten picture
Open your eyes.
Look at the kitten picture below.
Say to yourself, out loud five times, “This kitten is okay, and so am I.”


Leave your quiet place. Go back into the world. Rinse and repeat as necessary.

The Chosen One

To publish traditionally or to self-publish?  That seems to be the question at the forefront of writers’ minds of late, if the writing/publishing blog-o-sphere is any indication.  I’ve been ruminating on the topic for the last few weeks, and finally decided to set some thoughts down.

The big hoopla right now is, of course, over Amanda Hocking’s suc­cess.  She’s the poster child for the self– or indie pub­lish­ing route, hav­ing sold over 900,000 copies of her books since 2009, all via Amazon’s Kindle.  For us writ­ers not (yet) part of the Old Skool sys­tem, her suc­cess is, we’re told, our suc­cess.  What she’s done, we can do.  No Big Six Houses need apply.  Right?


One of my favorite entre­pre­neurs and mar­ket­ing mavens, Seth Godin, took a recent dive into the Indie Pub­lish­ing fray (he swims in it reg­u­larly):  “Reject the Tyranny of Being Picked:  Pick Your­self.” In it he posits that the big pub­lish­ers, “… the gatekeepers–the pickers–are reel­ing, los­ing power and fad­ing away. What are you going to do about it?

“It’s a cul­tural instinct to wait to get picked. To seek out the per­mis­sion and author­ity that comes from a pub­lisher or talk show host or even a blog­ger say­ing, ‘I pick you.’ Once you reject that impulse and real­ize that no one is going to select you–that Prince Charm­ing has cho­sen another house–then you can actu­ally get to work.”

As much as I regularly love Mr. Godin’s insights, I’m not sure this one works for me.  There are many excel­lent rea­son authors seek to be pub­lished by tra­di­tional houses, ones that go far beyond “it’s the way it’s always been done,” or hav­ing an “author­ity” val­i­date their work.  In fact, being cho­sen by an agent, an edi­tor, a pub­lish­ing house … that’s only part of the equa­tion.  Authors also choose.  And that’s what turns the process into a partnership.

The world of tra­di­tional pub­lish­ing is pop­u­lated by peo­ple who know what has sold, what is sell­ing, and what will prob­a­bly sell in the future.  They know how to sell.  It’s their job to know, and it’s that acu­men, that abil­ity to spot good–or at least entertaining–stories, and get spines on shelves that com­pletes the loop, secur­ing them, their houses, the agen­cies and the authors a pay­check.  That’s their CV.  That’s how we choose them.

Traditional publishing brings something to the table.  It seems to me that it’s up to the author to decide if what a house offers is right for them.

Ms. Hock­ing just signed a four-book deal with St. Martin’s Press.  On her blog, she explained:

“Tra­di­tional pub­lish­ing and indie pub­lish­ing aren’t all that dif­fer­ent, and I don’t think peo­ple real­ize that. Some books and authors are best sell­ers, but most aren’t. It may be eas­ier to self-publish than it is to tra­di­tion­ally pub­lish, but in all hon­esty, it’s harder to be a best seller self-publishing than it is with a house.”

As far as I can tell, pub­lish­ing no longer has to be either traditional/or self-.   It can be a both/and depend­ing on what the author wants out of it.  We’re in an age of publishing options, and those options are growing every minute. There seems to be no right answer, there seems only to be the answer that is right for you when the time is right.

What’s impor­tant to you?  What draws you toward self-publishing, indie pub­lish­ing or tra­di­tional houses?  What makes you shy from one or the other?  What do you want out of pub­lish­ing?  I’d really love to know.

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