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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