December

When the kids and grandkids were little, I was really into the holidays. Then they grew up and moved out, and I turned into more of a slacker. These days, they usually drive up from Indy to see us for Christmas, but that’s not until the 25th, so most years, I don’t bother with the tree and decorations until the second weekend in December, and then I grumble about how much work it is. I even tried to talk HH into a smaller tree, but he wasn’t having it. And that’s good, because for some reason, this year, (maybe because we didn’t get to see the kids for Thanksgiving since they’d traveled), I was psyched about decorating the house. So the wreathes went on doors and the decorations went on shelves the Saturday after Thanksgiving on November 28. WAY early for me.

The rest won’t be far behind. The tree goes up next. Pre-lit, yes, but I have TONS of things to hang on it. Then I want to bake cookies and make candy. I want to have a Christmas Eve meal BEFORE the big Christmas ham and fixings. I’m even in the mood for Christmas music, which sometimes annoys me in early December.

I’m not a Grinch. I don’t want to shut down the holiday. But this is the first time in a while I feel ready to jump into it. My sister and cousin have been watching Christmas Hallmark movies for a long time now, and I’m not so much into those. But I did already get out the Christmas dinnerware to use everyday and the Christmas, quilted placemats.

And then there’s my writing. My mind’s been churning to think of a nice Christmas short story that’s a mystery–you know, something cheerful with a dead body under the tree:) And oops! That thought gave me an idea:)

I’m up to 50,000 words on the Jazzi cozy I’m working on now and need at least 20,000 more, but for my next Jazzi, I want to write a Christmas novel, and I’m excited about that. I’ve never done one before–focused around Christmas so that George can wear a Santa hat on a book cover. Lots of other authors write Christmas mysteries, and this time, I’m motivated. It’s going to happen.

Anyway, the Christmas spirit bit me earlier than usual this year. And I’ve rambled about it long enough, but I hope all of you have a wonderful December, whether you celebrate Christmas or Passover or something else, and whether you’re in the mood to celebrate or not. And I’m hoping a holiday Muse inspires you with lots of lovely words.

So, Happy December! And Happy Writing!

Supernaturals at Winter Solstice

I’m knee deep into my fourth Muddy River novel that I’ve been posting here.  My fictional supernatural town is populated by witches, vampires, a fire demon, shifters, a siren, Fae, and Succubi, among others.   Part of the fun of writing them is the background that goes with each of them.  I’m a fan of myths and legends, old tales and beliefs.  Demons were often described as incubi, the infamous creatures who supposedly entered women’s dreams and led them astray.  Vampires, of course, have all kinds of baggage that go with them.  In some stories, they drain mortals dry while “nice” ones sip from them, but they leave two bite marks on their victims’ necks.  Sunlight was their enemy.  And writers tweaked how they described them to suit their needs.  Almost everyone agrees they were sexy and alluring and could glamour people.  Witches have been shown as everything from old crones with wild gray hair and warts on their noses, who offer young girls poisoned apples, to mortals gifted with magic who can use it for evil or good.

In Muddy River, my witches are all good.  They have to be with Hester as the leader of the town’s coven.  Those who resort to the dark arts are punished or banished.  As a matter of fact, every supernatural in my southern Indiana town has to obey the rules or Raven, Muddy River’s enforcer, will banish or incinerate them.  And anyone foolish enough to interfere with the town’s citizens will face Hester and Raven, who’ll hunt them down.

In this book–TATTOOS AND PORTENTS–the story takes place in December leading up to Christmas, so I wondered how a witch would celebrate the holiday.  And that led me to Yule or the Winter Solstice.  For witches, it’s the time of year when the days begin to grow longer and Light returns to the world–a time to celebrate.  Yule logs are lit in the fireplace, and candles glow on mantles and window cases.  In the books, I’ve put a Druid settlement close to Muddy River, and the witches and Druids share some of the old Celt practices.  Aengus and his fellow Druids collect and sell mistletoe.  I’ve also put a voodoo village, run by a high priestess, just across the Ohio River.  Their religion, too, is based a lot on Nature, but their magic differs from the others.

Occasionally, I’ve bent beliefs and legends to suit my story, but I try to give a true feel to each supernatural.  In the chapter today, I introduced a man who’s half Phoenix, half warlock–Cein.  Since supernaturals had to scatter and hide to avoid being hunted by mortals, it’s common for them to intermarry, mixing one gene with another.  He got lucky.  His combination of strengths made him very powerful.  But it’s not just genes that have mingled with one another.  Over time, supernaturals adopted some of the customs of the mortals they have to deal with so often.  So gift giving has become a happy tradition to celebrate friendship and love.

For the holiday season, Muddy River’s streets are decorated with evergreens and lots of lights.   Hester’s baking cookies and making candies for when her coven comes to her house to celebrate.  Troubles don’t disappear at holidays, though, so Hester and Raven have to find a voodoo priest who’s kidnapping witches, even as they struggle to finish up their holiday chores.  And just like them, I hope you can juggle the busyness of the season with the joy it symbolizes.  Happy writing!

Best Laid Plans

Okay, I like to have a sense of organization, of security.  Mind you, I’m usually delusional, but it feels good to THINK I’m on schedule, that I have a plan.  The thing is, life interferes.  A lot.  More than usual lately.

It started with November.  Now mind you, my next mystery’s deadline isn’t until March 5.  I’d already started it, had the rough draft three-fourths done.  Me–who is usually grumpy and borderline paranoid about my writing by now (This books sucks, won’t work)–was feeling pretty good about it.  Miracles do happen.  It looked like I had plenty of time to sneak in a free romance for my webpage and STILL finish my mystery with plenty of time to spare.  Looks can be deceiving.

I got a great start on my romance until Thanksgiving.  And that’s when my daughter was going to be inbetween jobs for a few weeks, and she was coming to stay with us.  I was SO excited!  Both of my daughters are just downright fun.  We were going to cook together, rent movies, and visit some of my hub’s and my favorite places with her.  And we did.  And it was AWESOME.  But then her travel nursing deal sort of fell through.  So did the next one and next one.  Yes, they offered her jobs, but not enough money.  What sounded good on paper wasn’t good when you looked at the big picture.  No big deal.  She was at our house.  Tyler (Holly’s son, our grandson) came for Thanksgiving and stayed a few days.  We had more fun, but my writing crawled to little or nothing.  But I was having a great time!  I’d make up the writing time later:)

I don’t know why I ever think I’m going to get much writing done in December.  It looks like I should, but December is…holiday month.  There must be somebody out there who still writes faithfully during a social whirl, but I’m not one of them.  The month crescendoed to Christmas, and then Holly’s second son, Nate, came home for two weeks of leave from the marines.  Jackpot time!  We hadn’t seen him since he’d been stationed near San Diego.  I’d been writing for an hour or two a day, but with Nate here, all we wanted to do was enjoy him.

Before I knew it, it was New Year’s Eve.  Nate left on January 5th.  Holly took another job in Indianapolis, but she didn’t start orientation until January 15.  She started looking for apartments, but that wasn’t easy either.  She’s finally moving in today.  She left our house after noon today.  And it’s going to feel weird for a while.  It was so much fun having her here.  We’re going to go through empty-nest syndrome for a week or two.  And then, finally, things will settle back to a sort-of routine.  I’m guessing Holly is ready to be on her own again:)  When you’re a grown woman who’s been on her own for a while, staying at Mom and Dad’s has its perks…and its downside.  But what a wonderful bubble of time to reconnect!  It was a blessing.

Now, I have to settle back into a routine again.  It’s going to take me a minute.  I’ve been cooking more than I’ve cooked for a long time, trying to make everyone’s favorites.  There’s a lot of food in my books, but nothing to compare to the last weeks.  Hubs and I are going to go simple for a while to balance ourselves out.  The holidays were pure delight, but it’s time to hit real life again.  And I think every single one of us is ready:)  I’m going to have to hit those keys to try to catch up.

Happy Writing, All!

Webpage:  (I’m up to Chapter 25):  https://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

Author Facebook Page:  https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/

Twitter:  @judypost

 

Settling in

I have a cold.  My head feels gloopy inside, but it didn’t down me until today.  Which is good.  I got to enjoy every minute of Nate’s visit.  He left late yesterday afternoon to drive to Indy to see his brother one more time before he flew back to San Diego today.  Even when he was here, though, I got to sneak in a little writing time–when he was visiting old friends, etc.   And I started working on my mystery again.

It’s January.  Winter.  And 2018 started out COLD.  Below zero temperatures.  Time to stay inside and settle in for long hours of editing the three-fourths of The Bodies in the Wetland I got done before the holidays started.  From Thanksgiving to New Year’s day is hit and miss on writing for me.  I still plop my fanny in my office chair.  I still put fingers to keys, but I might only have an hour or two in the morning or a pocket of time in the afternoon.  No regular schedule.  And I’m ready for that again.

I worked on the free romance for my webpage during December, because I knew I’d be distracted, and the romance is easier for me to keep in my head.  I had the luxury of doing that since I’m ahead on the deadline for my mystery.  But I got so far away from the mystery, it took me a while to get back into it.

I do most of my rewrites as I go, but I’ve been even pickier since I’m giving this book another sweep through.  I have to.  When I signed to write three cozy mysteries, I didn’t realize they had to be SQUEAKY clean.  No cuss words at all, and I seem to have more of a potty mouth than I realized.  Damn.  Oops, I mean darn.  I was never a whiz kid at sex scenes, but everything stops at the bedroom door for a cozy.  Even internal dialogue has to be circumspect:)  So,  I’m going through the entire manuscript to censor myself.

For my next mystery, I’ll know the rules and abide by them.  Lusty thoughts between Jazzi and Ansel will be monitored.  This time, I have to find them and think of creative rewrites.  Once I get through the pages I already have, then I can finish the manuscript.  That’s another 20,000 words where everything builds to a climax, then gets solved and wrapped up.

I’m ready to be a boring person, sitting in front of my computer for hours a day again.  It feels good to settle into my writing groove.  However you write, I hope you find your flow.

My webpage: http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

Facebook author page:  https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Twitter:  @judypost

 

An Ode to Food, and Back to Routine

Happy New Year!  I don’t know about other people, but I’m ready for a fresh start and a new year.  2016 was a full, busy year with more “events” than usual.  Our grandson Tyler graduated from IU in May, then he traveled for a while before starting a new job in Indianapolis in June.  Our Friday night friends moved to Carolina in June, and now I picture them playing in sunshine.  I broke my leg on June 17th and that pretty much blew my plans for the summer.  My life revolved around physical therapy and lots and lots of TLC from friends–I’m one lucky person. Then our grandson Nate joined the marines, stayed with us to do Thursday night training sessions in town, and then shipped out for boot camp in early December.  He couldn’t wait to go.  I wasn’t quite so gung-ho to lose him right before Christmas, but he was ready to prove himself.  I get that.  And inbetween all of it, I wrote.  That’s what I love about writing.  It’s “my” space, my place to go when routines crash and fall around me.  Writing can be flexible, so I met all of my deadlines.   It was nice to end 2016 on high notes, but I’m still ready for 2017!

The high notes?  My daughter and grandson came to stay with us from Friday, December 23, to late afternoon on Tuesday, December 26, and all I concentrated on was lots of good food and lots of time to visit.  No work.  No “office hours.”  With my cane and the butcher block in the center of our small kitchen, I can cook like a crazy woman, as long as I remember to stop and ice my leg in the middle of the day.  And I love cooking, especially with my daughters (except Robyn and Scott couldn’t make it this year)!

Now, my romances mention lots of food, because cooking is such a passion of mine.  And for me, the holidays revolve around food, so this next part of my blog is a blatant tribute to wonderful recipes.  Holly and Tyler both love Thai food, so I made my version of Nigella Lawson’s Thai yellow pumpkin and seafood curry to put over rice for their first supper at home.  My hubs has always insisted on a “fancy” supper, with all of us together, on Christmas Eve, so Holly and I made desserts for Christmas dinner early on Saturday to get them done ahead of time, and then I made The Pioneer Woman’s Steak Oscar for supper.  (Holly loves to try new recipes as much as I do.  Steak Oscar was a HUGE hit, and if you want to impress, this does it!)  For Christmas, I made “the big-ass ham” (20 pounds) that John won at the Legion, and I glazed it with The Pioneer Woman’s red raspberry/dijon mustard glaze.  I took an extra mason jar of the glaze to my sisters’ house, and they wouldn’t let me bring it home, so I know it was a hit.  And I highly recommend Marcela’s slab apple pie (from foodtv’s The Kitchen): http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/marcela-valladolid/apple-slab-pie.html.

Aside from food, we watched a movie every night Holly and Ty were here–something unusual for us, but boy, did we enjoy it.  We were all in the mood for low-key this year.  I picked first: The Magnificent Seven.  I mean, it’s a Western, and it has Chris Pratt in it. How bad can that be?  Holly picked The Secret Life of Pets–just silly fun.  And Ty picked the new Jason Bourne movie with lots of action.  Then it was time for Holly and Ty to drive back to Indy and jobs and the real world.  I finished reading The Help, and John and I rented that movie and loved it.

I got a smidgeon of work done until New Year’s Eve, but nothing to brag about.  And tomorrow, it’s time for me to hit the real world again, too.  Time to get up and write again.  And I’m ready.  It’s fun to play, but it’s great to get back to routine again.  I’m ready to hit 2017 running…Okay, limping, but with purpose.  Hope your holidays were wonderful, and have a great, new, fresh year!

 

Holidays trump writing

The holidays–what can I say? Things get busy. BLOOD LUST, my new Fallen Angels novel, is now on Amazon, http://amzn.to/1zghb1h, but I haven’t gotten around to advertising it anywhere yet. Decorating the house, my writers’ club carry-in, and special get-togethers have swallowed a lot of my time. My poor book got caught in the crush. To promote it a little, I’m going to offer Fallen Angels for free from December 26 through the 30th. Blood Battles will be 99 cents, and BLOOD LUST will be $2.99. I’m trying to set up a sign-up for an author newsletter on mailchimp so that I can send out e-mails when I have something new to offer or specials for readers who are interested. I was hoping Mailchimp would be easy. It looked easy, like something even I could manage, but so far, I posted a campaign, but can’t figure out how to send it. I keep getting a message about cookies–not the type I bake for Santa–the internet kind. I’ve deleted them and my past history, but that didn’t do the trick. I’m still struggling. Wish me luck. Any ideas…?

This coming week, I need to get the house and food ready for guests. My grandson’s staying with us over his Christmas break from college, and my daughter and son-in-law from Florida are staying from the 22nd to the 27th or 28th. The house will be full, and I love it when that happens. That means I won’t really get my wits about me again until January, so my writing and promoting will just have to hum Christmas carols until I can get to them again. Sometimes, I give in and let life interfere instead of trying to juggle too many things. I’d rather not get frustrated. I love my writing AND my friends and family. I’d like to keep it that way…and stay sane. Hope you keep your sense of balance, too.

Whether you’re writing or the holidays have claimed you, enjoy!

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Happy holidays!

This isn’t my usual writing blog.  I’m in holiday mode.  December 20th was Nate and Tyler’s last day of school.  Ty’s coming home from Bloomington for the holidays, and Nate’s dropping in to visit more often.  Our “second” daughter, Heidi, (she grew up across the street and spent a lot of time at our house with our older daughter) came to town on Saturday to see her family, so we got a quick visit with her and her husband and kids.

My thoughts are full of family and get togethers.  For me, that means I’m stocked up with lots of food.  I made a pot of Tyler’s favorite vegetable soup and Nate’s favorite chicken and dumplings for easy lunches.  I bought steaks and ribs for special meals.  I have everything ready to make chicken marsala tonight.  There’s a ham for Christmas day.  And more, lots more.

Anyone who’s read my blog knows how much I love to cook.  I’ve managed to accumulate more cookbooks and files full of recipes than I’ll probably ever use.  Cooking and food sneak into the stories I write.  To me, food is the thing that brings people together, that cements a social gathering.  My writing friend Mary Lou has warned me she’s going to put a big, red X on “food” scenes in my stories that don’t advance the plot.  She says she can gain weight just beta reading one of my manuscripts:)  But what can I say?  I love cooking for people.

I don’t make as many big meals as I used to since it’s just John and me, so when I get a chance to feed the masses, I’m a happy woman.  This year, I didn’t just stop at the food for the holidays, though.  I wanted the table to look festive, too.  For years, more kids crowded around my table than adults, and kids could care less what food is served in.  They don’t care how their hot dogs, spaghetti, or Korean beef is plated, just as long as there’s lots of it.  But now that the kids are grown, I decided to give away my old, beat-up cookware.  I decided to upgrade.

I’m not a fussy person.  I have no desire to have anything fragile that requires much care, so fine china and crystal were out.  That’s when I discovered stoneware.  Worse, my sister, Patty, told me about the joys of In the Kitchen with David on QVC, and a monster was born–me.  My husband encouraged me.  He was happy when I bought a new bakeware set, cheered when I ordered new pots and pans and casserole dishes.  I’m not usually much of a shopper…But things for the kitchen?  When I was actively looking for them?  Watch out, world!

I was actually slowing down on my love of loaf pans, pie plates, and 9 x 13 bakeware when my second sister, Mary, gave me all of her Christmas dishes, coffee cups, and stemware.  Her love of entertaining had reached the designer, paper plate level.  Her Christmas tree plates didn’t match  any of the stuff I had, but there was a holly painted cook set that would go perfectly with them.  So guess what?  I had to store my new stuff away to make way for the even newer, Christmas things.  Now I have more stoneware of different shapes and colors than I ever dreamed possible.

It’s a good thing I only binge on cookware a few times a decade.  It’s even better that I write five days  a week, because it keeps me out of trouble.  Who knows what I’d find if I devoted more time to it?

I’m ready to enjoy the holidays.  And I hope yours are full of food and friends and merriment!