Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Letter from Santa

No, I haven't abandoned this blog. I'm not planning on doing that any time soon. Though, I suppose, no one really PLANS on abandoning a blog. Things just happen that way, eh? Still, I'm still here, and I have plenty of things I want to blog about.

In the mean time, though, I thought I would share with you a new regular tradition in my family. On Christmas Eve, Santa leaves my son a letter on the tree, usually depicting some adventure the big man went on during the year. I thought I'd share with you this year's letter. It's pretty fun.

So, enjoy A Letter from Santa, 2011.

Hello again, my dear friend! When I didn’t get a letter from you this year, I was concerned. Had something happened to you? Were you angry with me? But then, I saw you at the Bernardo Winery, and was gratified to know that not only were you well, but you were happy and telling jokes. I still smile at that candy cane you pulled on me.

Thinking of letters reminds me of something that happened this year. Just a few weeks ago, in fact. Our letter carrier, a young elf named Jeffery, came running into the workshop in a panic. I was called down immediately, and managed to calm Jeffery down enough to get the full story out of him. He had gone down to the receiving room, where all the letters to Santa from all over the world arrive, to pick up the latest deliveries and bring them to me. However, when he got there, there were no letters!

What had happened?

As we watched, new letters arrived. Jeffery assured me that new letters had arrived after he noticed before, too, but there should be a pile of letters he had yet to sort. And that the whole pile disappeared from as he made his last delivery. We quickly set about searching the room when I discovered a small, elf sized hole in the wall under some discarded present boxes. I took one sniff of the foul odor that came from its depths, and knew instantly what had happened.


Yes, there are goblins in the North Pole. Goblins are elves that end up on the naughty list and never get off. They are very, very bad. And for many years, the goblins have been trying to ruin Christmas for everyone. They’ve done everything from trying to wreck my sleigh to kidnapping Rudolph to even stealing my magic sack one year. This year, they were trying to stop Christmas by stealing all the mail. Without that mail, I won’t know what the little boys and girls of the world want, and if I don’t know that, I can’t deliver it.

There was no other choice. We needed to go into the underground tunnels the goblins live in, and try to recover the mail. I told Jeffrey the news and he agreed with me. He pulled down his cap and said he was ready to go. Just then, we saw something out the window. It was a friend of mine, one you might remember. It was the polar bear from last year, the one with the bicycle.

He asked what was going on, and when we told him, he agreed to come along and help out. Polar bears don’t like goblins. So, with the same magic that allows me to slide down chimneys’, I got the three of us into the hole and down to the goblin tunnels.

It was dark down there, but Jeffrey had been smart enough to bring along a candle. He lit it with elf magic and we made our way down. It was dark and scary in the tunnels, but I kept on going. I knew I had to get those letters, because children like you were counting on me. Eventually, we could hear something in the caves ahead. It was the goblins! They were laughing and carrying on and bragging about their plan and how they had ruined Christmas.

Lights up ahead showed us where they were. When we peaked around the corner, we could see them, throwing the letters in the air and dancing on the pile. I shushed the polar bear and Jeffrey. Mr. Bear nodded and me and pointed his noise into the room with the goblins. I nodded at him, and he moved off.

With a mighty roar, he charged into the room. The goblins were so startled that they dropped all the letters and started running away from the polar bear as fast as they could, screaming the whole time. Jeffrey and I laughed and laughed to watch them, and the polar bear chased them down the tunnel. Jeffrey and I quickly gathered up all the missing letters and put them into Jeffrey’s mail sack. We carried them all back to the receiving room. Jeffrey smiled, and then sighed. This would put him behind schedule!

That was when Mr. Polar Bear came back. We told him the situation, and he said he would stay and help Jeffrey sort the mail, and make sure that no more goblins stole it. I said I would have a repair crew in to fix the hole in the wall, and we all agreed to meet for hot coco later that night.

It was all quite the adventure, but in the end, it all worked out okay, and Christmas was on schedule.

I hope you enjoy your presents this year, and I look forward to seeing you again next year. Just make sure to try and write me. I thought the goblins still had your letter, and I’d had to think they had done it again next year.

Much Love,
Santa Claus 

Friday, December 2, 2011

NaNoWriMo Round-up!

I know that it’s a day late at this point, but NaNoWriMo is officially over, so I thought I would do a post Novel-Writing post.

I love NaNo. I’ve done it five times now, counting this year, and have won all five times. And I learn something near each time, too.

The first time, I learned that I can, in fact, finish a project. This was important to me, and I know many other authors out there that have trouble finishing projects, so I think it’s a worthwhile point to make. Finishing that novel was a huge success, and the fact that it was also a GOOD novel was even better. I spent the last few years editing and polishing it, true, but that’s not the point here. It could have been utter crap that I never touched again. The fact was, I finished it, and that was damn good.

The next time I won, I did it with 60,000 words, and a half-finished novel. That year taught me that, when I put my mind to it, I can find the time to write. A few hundred words in the morning before anyone else is up, and the same at the end of the day. My 15 minutes breaks at work to get in a few hundred words more. I found that getting in 2,000 words a day was pretty damn easy. Sadly, this novel has not been finished. I did like it, though, and I believe that one day I shall revisit it, and finish it off.

The third year, I tried something different. I outlined a novel as much as I was able to. I learned during this run that while outlining helps me to a certain degree, by giving me a guideline when I get lost in the narrative, I need to be careful to not over outline a novel. I am what many call a “seat of the pants” writer, meaning I do best when I just sit down and write. I prefer the term “discovery writer,” myself, but it means the same thing. I have learned, however, that pure discovery writing doesn’t always work, and some outlining helps keep the discovery writing flowing. This story, for those interested, turned out to be utter crap, and I have simply tossed it aside and moved on. Sometimes, you win in word count, but not in story. Another lesson learned that year.

As a side note, that same year, I had also done Script Frenzy, for the first and last time. I did it because I had always wondered if I could write a TV show script. I learned that I could not. At least, not at my current level of skill. Script writing is much harder for me that straight prose. It requires a certain kind of thought processes that I would have to train myself to do, and so I’ve put that desire aside for now. But, I can at least say I gave it a try, and I’m happy about that.

My fourth win was part of another project I was doing at the time. I took a challenge from Ray Bradbury, which was to write one short story a week for a full year, and I blogged my stories. (You can read them all here, So, last year I combined NaNo and 1 Story a Week by writing a novel that was a collection of short stories. I learned that writing short stories was much different than a novel, and making the individual stories complete stories in and of themselves while still telling one big story was also pretty hard. I’m not sure how successful I was, but I can tell you that I learned a lot doing it, and that if I ever did it again, I would be better.

This year, I decided to write a story that I had been keeping in a drawer labeled “really good ideas that I don’t want to fuck up.” I’m sure many of you authors out there know this drawer. I had avoided writing this story out of a fear that I would do just that. The idea was a good one, and it deserved good prose to make it come to life. Well, I learned this year that, unless I actually write it, unless I am willing to risk writing something really shitty with that great idea, I will never write that idea at all. Taking a good idea and writing something bad, I learned, is better than not doing it at all. Also, it turned out that the story I am writing is pretty damn good, up to par with the idea, I believe. So much so that, even though I won NaNo, I am still writing this book. Because unlike my second win, I want to finish this novel.

And that’s my NaNo journey so far. I am looking forward to NaNo next year. I have no idea what I will write about, or what I will learn, but I’m sure that I will have a blast doing both.

So, until next year, I hope that those of you who did NaNo had fun, win or lose, and I hope you keep writing your novel, win or lose. Because in the end, the best thing about NaNo isn’t winning, it’s getting that novel started.

Oh, speaking of this year’s Novel, I am planning on posting the first chapter up here soon. Maybe tonight or tomorrow, so stay tuned.