MERRY CHRISTMAS! (yes, I said it)

There’s this hangover 60s gene that resides in my person that simply says “let it be” when it comes to most things but when one of my grandkids’ school cancelled a Christmas concert because a number of the kids attending that school have different beliefs my “let it be” gene steps aside and my “what the hell” gene leaps to attention.

I’m all for diversity in cultures and peoples…it makes life interesting and a big part of my early life (in that decade of the Sixties) was steeped in tolerance and understanding. We weren’t forced to be ‘politically correct’ but unknowingly most of us were. Most believed that we all share this planet and each of us had the right to live his/her life the way they chose.

What brought this to a boil was a media report that certain groups felt that celebrating Christmas by way of a group of kids singing and dancing was somehow trying to sway these children to Christianity and away from their own beliefs. Yeah, right. These are probably the same people that get upset when you wish them Merry Christmas on the street or in stores. Sorry folks you’ll get a “Merry Christmas” from me every time…like it or lump it.

As far as should Christmas concerts be cancelled…anyone ever ask the children?

Another of my grandkids did have a “Christmas” concert (a big shout out to the staff of Summit Elementary School for keeping this tradition). On that stage were children of all ages and seemingly every race and, I suppose, religion. From kindergarten to Grade 7 they worked together on a particularly impressive presentation. They were all smiling and laughing, wrestling with each other before the lights came up and helping each other when lines were forgotten. A little United Nations brought together to sing in peace and harmony (well…kinda harmony).

It just happened to be called a Christmas concert and when something that simple can bring people together (even as young as they are) isn’t that the bigger message?

Ye of other beliefs…I respect your traditions and even take part in some of your holidays and customs. I don’t get cranky when one of your celebratory parades ties up downtown traffic for an afternoon and I will never try to convert you to whatever beliefs I have. All I ask is that you do the same.

So like it or lump it…Merry Christmas. I hope you and yours have a warm and peaceful whatever you call it and a happy and prosperous New Year.

santa

Joyeux Noel, Feliz Navidad, Gesëende Kersfees, Gezur Krislinjden, Idah Saidan Wa Sanah Jadidah, Boas Festas e Feliz Ano Novo, Nedeleg laouen na bloavezh mat, Tchestito Rojdestvo Hristovo, Gun Tso Sun Tan’Gung Haw Sun, Kung His Hsin Nien bing, Chu Shen Tan, Yukpa, Nitak Hollo Chito, Mitho Makosi Kesikansi, Sretan Bozic, Prejeme Vam Vesele Vanoce a stastny Novy Rok, Glædelig Jul, Zalig Kerstfeast, Jutdlime pivdluarit ukiortame pivdluaritlo!, Hyvaa joulua, Froehliche Weihnachten, Mele Kalikimaka, Shub Naya Baras, Mele Kalikimaka ame Hauoli Makahiki Hou!, Kellemes Karacsonyi unnepeket, Gledileg Jol, Selamat Hari Natal, Idah Saidan Wa Sanah Jadidah, Nodlaig mhaith chugnat, Ojenyunyat Sungwiyadeson honungradon nagwutut, Ojenyunyat osrasay, Buone Feste Natalizie, Shinnen omedeto. Kurisumasu Omedeto, Sung Tan Chuk Ha, Merry Keshmish, God Jul or Gledelig Jul, Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia, Feliz Natal, Pozdrevlyayu s prazdnikom Rozhdestva is Novim Godom, Hristos se rodi, Vesele vianoce, Nollaig chridheil huibh, Sretam Bozic, Vesela Nova Godina, Hristos se rodi, Srozhdestvom Kristovym, Chung Mung Giang Sinh.

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DETAILS, DETAILS…TOO MUCH? TOO LITTLE?

A couple of lifetimes ago (the Seventies actually) I was a member of the IPMS (International Plastic Modeler’s Society)…yup, geekdom. I used to build military models and took great pains to add all the little details like rust and dents, shovels and saucepans. I did occasionally put together a muscle car or two, just for a change. It was here I learned more about details.

I was at a public show and contest and received good comments from my peers who knew what work went into my creations far more than the casual onlookers. It was the onlookers however that taught me more about this modeling thing than the other modelers. Along with my tanks and armored cars I displayed my MG-TC that I had spent months building. A ‘civilian’ studied it closely then commented that I’d forgotten to add the dipstick (it was there, he was looking in the wrong place). I figured out that you can add all the details you want but it’s the one thing you don’t add that some $m@rt@$$ will notice.

I’ve just finished the undercounter trim for our new kitchen and I’ve had to layer a shim of thin wood along the top. This required a little bit of filling and sanding to make sure it has a smooth transition. It took an extra couple of hours but it’s up under the counter where it’s not readily visible so why go to those lengths? Because if I don’t another Sm@rt@ss will comment on my shoddiness. Trust me.

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What does this have to do with writing?

Details…particularly in narrative…how much is too much?

One of my favorite authors is Sharyn McCrumb and “She Walks These Hills” has continued to be one of my favorite books since I first read it back in the nineties. Sharyn describes a scene right down to the color of flowers nesting in a ditch by a country road.  She presents all the intricate details and she does it well. I once read an article (I think it was by Stephen King) that stated it’s best to give the reader only enough information to create a familiar scene in their own mind. His example was an antique shop. You describe the commonalities in every antique shop so that readers can hopefully imagine a real antique shop they visited. Thus, the scene becomes more meaningful and they become more involved. Which approach is right? Are they both right?

I followed the minimalist  logic in White Wolf Moon with my description of a bookshop (among other things). Other than the color of the walls (a necessary addition for my Kamloops readers) the store was generic yet everyone seemed to find their way around it easily. I think allowing the reader to create the image in their own mind without having to ‘fit’ my descriptions into place would make for an easier read…but maybe I’m wrong.

I’ve had no complaints with the narrative in the first book yet I find myself being more picky with the second and I’m not sure why.

I still prefer dialogue and character driven stories but this time around I’m more conscious of the setting. Someone suggested that it was because I’m growing and wanting to explore writing more. Dialogue is just talking and while you can say what you want to say in dialogue, normal speech patterns don’t allow for the descriptive adjectives that narration can supply. That makes sense.

A character might say: “Look at that old tractor over there!” But it’s unlikely he’d ever say: “Look at that overly-rusted Massey-Harris tractor in traditional red with dried and cracked grey rubber falling off the yellow rims over there!”

It’s obvious I need a blend of both approaches and perhaps that’s why this new scene-setting attitude seems to have created a rebirth as such. I have found myself going back to some of the first chapters and reconstructing them with narrative descriptions and they do feel better to me.

But now I’m beginning to wonder again…when is enough enough?

RENOVATING FICTION & KITCHEN…

The house is shaking right now. I’m tucked away in my study watching collectibles walk about the shelf. The old kitchen counter is being removed as I type.

Again we’re uncovering a plethora of make-shift fixes performed by the previous owner. What appeared to be a solid half-wall is simply a sheet of drywall…no bracing or support. The cabinets are all different heights and the counter was shimmed in four places to level it. Not a problem with the drop-edge on the old countertops but the new granite sits on top so the gaps will be visible until I tuck some quarter-round underneath it. Every job done seems to be creating two other jobs but they’ve  just set a section of the new counter down and it’s definitely going to be worth all the hassles.

counter

On the book front words are flowing pretty fast right now. Dropping in the new scenes and new characters has opened up a whole new world for the old characters and me. The main thrust of the sequel was to answer the questions and suggestions of people who had read the first book. They wanted to know more about Ginn and her relationship with Evan, more about Evan and Marie, more about Danny and Evan’s friendship…and so on. Basically folks wanted more details of pretty much everything that was in the original but when I started the editing process I realized that, while I’d accomplished most of it, the story-line was, well…boring.

A few weeks ago I had a weird image pop into my head. I wrote it down to use in something else (there’s a blog post about this) but I decided that throwing Evan into this landscape would provide a change of scene plus give a little insight into the Ginn character without preaching facts. I think it worked well and is one of the parts that I’m most pleased with. It’s a total departure from White Wolf Moon in every way which creates another issue. The rest of the story-line has to catch up and blend with the new scenes.

These changes do add some excitement, a little danger, and some mystery that wasn’t in the original book. There are new sides to some of the old characters, some fisticuffs, a hint of gun-play, and a bit of law-breaking on Danny and Evan’s part (plus all the questions arising from the first book are answered). I was a little nervous pulling Evan and Danny out of their comfort zone and releasing them into these obviously fictional situations but after reading those scenes over a few times I’m quite pleased with the way they handled them.

It’s never too late to try something new and although they have set me back a little, these changes have opened up other areas that I’m excited to explore and definitely make me feel more comfortable with the story line.