On the (Twenty)-Seventh Day of Christmas…

#amwriting #amediting #blogging

Hope everybody’s gotten a good start on the New Year. I was a little surprised to get my year-end stats and realize I hadn’t posted anything but a few short quotes since Thanksgiving. (Re-blogging others’ work doesn’t really count.) So I thought I’d take this opportunity to explain what I’ve been up to.

On the writing front, I finished the final edit of my first manuscript, LET THE CANYONS WEEP, based on a “revise and resubmit” request from an editor at a small press. (I resubmitted, but haven’t had any news yet – still got the fingers crossed.) I also had to admit that my query letter just wasn’t working, so started from scratch. The process of writing a query letter is completely and utterly different from writing the novel – it takes a long time time and a totally different set of brain cells to distill 100,000 words down to three paragraphs. Now that it’s done, I really like the finished product and have begun sending it out. We’ll see what happens…

Then I got my second manuscript, THE WOODSMAN’S ROSE, back from my critique partners – there were some problems with story flow, so I’m still working on a few new scenes, but most of the other edits are done. And I’ve been preparing my third work, RAINBOW MAN, for my critique partners – still got quite a bit of editing to do on that.

Last, but certainly not least, I’ve completed two new chapters of my latest novel, THE WINDS OF MORNING.

Sounds like I might have had my hands full, but this year I also decided to invite my family for Thanksgiving. Never done it before – always just had to bring a covered dish or dessert to someone else’s house, usually my mother’s, MIL’s, or brother’s. But I’ve got to say I really enjoyed it. I like to cook (on occasion) and I love to bake, so it was a really great experience!

As if that weren’t enough, my family makes a REALLY BIG DEAL of Christmas. That means the house gets decorated to the hilt – even the shower curtains get changed. Special Christmas dishes come out of storage, candy canes and snowmen rim the lawn, wreaths are put on every door, inside and out. Reindeer, snowmen, Santas, music boxes, cookie jars – oh, and trains, I love the trains! When I’m finished, the house almost looks like an old-fashioned “shoppe”! Glance in any direction, in any room, and you’ll see something of Christmas.

For much too long, my husband and I lived in a small 4-room apartment that had no room for a tree, so our Christmas tree went on the enclosed but unheated porch downstairs, which meant I only saw it twice after it was decorated: on Christmas morning and at our holiday open house. One year I found a cute little tree that I could decorate and hang on the wall, so at least I had the feeling of a Christmas tree upstairs. Two years ago, my brother gifted me two artificial trees (one full size, one 4′) and my sister gave me a table-top tree.

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The Wall Tree

At that time, we moved into a 10-room home, and decorating has taken on a scope it’s never had before. This year, I decided to use all the trees at my disposal, plus the live tree for the living room. Tiny tree went in the guest room, wall tree to master bedroom; full size tree to my office, 4′ tree to the TV room downstairs. And believe it or not, I had already accumulated enough ornaments for all of them!

Crazy, you say? Maybe a little bit. But living for 16 years without a Christmas tree in the house leaves its scars. And this year, a whole lot of healing took place!

Fortunately for me, the artificial trees can go out to the new shed with the lights still on them, though the decorations have been removed. Otherwise, it might just have taken me until Easter to get everything put away.

I’m at the end of the process now, holiday dishes and cookie jars about the only things that haven’t been put away. Which means that soon, I be getting back into my “normal” rhythm, and be posting a few times a week.

And next year, I’ll be sure to let everyone know there will be down-time between Thanksgiving and the middle of January. Hope you don’t miss me too much!

Hotdogs, Ice Cream, Fireworks … & Russia?

I may be the only person alive who objects to the Russian National Anthem being played to celebrate America’s Independence Day.

Our July 4th celebrations here in my new home town were cancelled this year due to heavy rains.  I found out today that there will be fireworks locally to celebrate Labor Day this weekend.  Which put me in mind of the Fourth just passed.

Regardless of the rain, I wouldn’t have been able to attend the local fireworks on the 4th, as I was spending the weekend in New Jersey with friends and family.  In much of NJ these days, fireworks come at a premium; the cost of admission is anywhere up to $25 per person, and we’re a really big family.  So, at the end of a lovely day, we gathered in my mother’s living room to watch the Macy’s fireworks on TV.

4th of July Fireworks

4th of July Fireworks

Not quite as good as live, but they do a wonderful job.  It just never fails to amaze me that we so often hear the national anthem of Russia as the musical accompaniment to our Independence Day celebrations.

Yeah, I’m talking about The 1812 Overture.

Now I love Tchaikovsky — his Concerto in B-flat minor is my favorite piece of classical music.  And where would we be without The Nutcracker at Christmas?  Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty — the man was a genius!  But The 1812 Overture was written to commemorate his country’s victory over Napoleon.  And that passage with the cannons roaring in the background?  Behind the flourishes, the score includes excerpts from Russia’s National Anthem.

And we Americans play it every Fourth of July.

Try mentioning that to anyone and you will get “the face”.  The “you’re-crazy-you’re-weird-you-don’t-know-nuthin’-and-who-cares-anyway” face.

But it is crazy, at least to me.  Why, when we have scads and scads of scores written by Americans about America, do we insist on playing a Russian song on Independence Day?

Ever heard Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean?  Wonderful song.  It could use a little cannon fire at the end.  Or what about our own March King, John Philip Sousa?  There are several fabulous choices from his works, including The Liberty Bell March and Hail to the Spirit of Liberty.

John Philip Sousa

John Philip Sousa

Or what about our national march?  Almost everyone is familiar with Sousa’s Stars & Stripes Forever.  And let’s not forget about our own National Anthem, The Star Spangled Banner.  It’s already got “rockets red glare” and “bombs bursting in air”.  An enterprising music arranger could certainly accentuate it with some cannons roaring for effect.

Now at this point, you may be thinking I’m just a Russophobe.  But I’d have the same reaction to any other country’s anthem.  Seriously, wouldn’t you object to celebrating the Fourth with La Marseillaise (France) or A Soldier’s Song (Ireland)?

But those other anthems aren’t included in a song with CANNONS.  So I guess they don’t have a chance to start with.

It may just be one of those things that comes under the heading of “Well, we’ve done it this way for so long …”  Or maybe nobody has actually been paying attention.  But let’s stop and reflect.

Isn’t there a better choice?