I mentioned that I have been collecting Christmas songs. And when I was listening to them, I noticed the people that each song represents. The songs are the echoes of real people in life, people who find their place in the Christmas narrative year after year. Those people read books too. So I started to feel some songs were closer to particular stories of mine than others were. I could almost imagine the characters singing these songs, although Christmas has actually never been mentioned in any of my books to date. (I’d like to do a Christmas-themed book. On the bucket list. On the bucket list.)
It's true that some of the carols I gave each book weren't written in the historical era the book is set in (or they were from another culture so the characters probably wouldn't have used the song) and that my fantasy characters don't celebrate Christmas because their worlds are imaginary and I never included a Christmas-type idea in them. But if these characters lived here and now in December they might sing these songs. The people who have such and such carol as their favorite—they are the people who I wrote about in those exact books.
Just for fun, I put together a playlist for you of some of these carols. Because these songs are likely so familiar to you, they might literally ring a bell. The arrangements are choral, vocal soloist, piano soloist, even Celtic. The last two are representative of several songs I associate with my two WIP. I trust by next Christmas that one of them will be published. And after that there are always Christmases to come.
(list below for which songs go with each book. This list won't appear in the actual playlist, so reference it here.)
This Merry Summertime
Hark the Herald Angels Sing
A King is Born
City of the Invaders
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
I Saw Three Ships
Facets of Fantasy
I Wonder as I Wander
Come Thou Long Expected Jesus
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
Emmanuel (God is With Us)
Ryan and Essie
Ding Dong Merrily on High
What Child is This
The Test of Devotion
The First Noel
Joy to the World
A Year with the Harrisons
Angels We Have Heard on High
The Trumpet Shall Sound (from the end of Messiah)
Victoria: A Tale of Spain
Oh Holy Night
Sing We Now of Christmas
The Birthday Present
Away in a Manger
Do You Hear What I Hear?
O Come, O Come Emmanuel
And there will be more updates.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve been given quite a few clothes that I’ve never or rarely worn. So last month I looked at them and thought, “you know, you never wear these because you’re not sure if they coordinate together and what goes with what. That means you most likely WILL never wear them unless you start trying them on and putting them into outfits.” I started putting stray pieces into sets. I assigned a dedicated blouse/poncho/something to wear on top for each skirt or pair of pants. And I went on until, eventually, I turned a pile of random things into something less random, something with a purpose. For clothes, since being worn is their purpose, I guess they now have one.
Millhaven Castle and The Birthday Present used to be random little strays too. While people liked Millhaven Castle, it didn’t belong with the semi-epic fantasy mood of Facets of Fantasy, so to improve Facets of Fantasy I took MC out. It was too short to stand alone, so it went to The Birthday Present. These two stories didn't fit with anything else I'd written, but they didn’t seem to go together either. Presenting them as a contrast was my initial idea, but that’s like wearing bright green with bright red. It only works sometimes, like at Christmas, and other times it’s just silly.
A sci-fi story about how mutants almost wiped out humans just had nothing to do with Millhaven’s little spinoff of period drama. Until I noticed (and my readers probably saw it before I did!) that Millhaven's setting needn’t actually be viewed as historical. In fact, while castles are from an older culture they still exist and can even be inhabited. Farming, socializing through dancing, and people holding a position of wealth or importance over others happen today and could certainly exist in the future. So gradually the visualization of Millhaven Castle moved from a separate world into another story about the Birthday Present world. The Birthday Present is about the old conflict between humans and mutants being ended. Millhaven Castle is a little episode that takes place within the society of the mutants themselves. Typical, middle-class people who aren’t connected to the royalty or the military that appear in TBP. The different regions of the country have a lot of autonomy and their regional leaders almost have a position of minor kings, like Lord Timson.
So the people in these two stories are in such different spheres that they have never interacted with each other, keeping their episodes distinct. I have already added a new introduction to the book, called "The World of Aure's Dominion," in which the connection between the two stories is clarified, plus I have assigned regional tags to the story locations. The Birthday Present mostly occurs in the Kaline district, of which Arnea is the capital, and Millhaven Castle takes place in the Milland district, of which Flangost is the capital. And the book's description now elaborates that GMFs are like superheroes gone bad and they tried to crush normal humans instead of saving them. Although that's not the end of the story, of course.
And there will be more updates.
With Christmas coming up later this month, shopping and gift-giving (a tradition that for some people seems to preempt the holiday’s Christian significance) are probably on everyone’s minds. I’m not a kid anymore and in any case I view giving and receiving material objects as hardly the real reason for the season. But I do like to see people happy when they get a token of personal affection, especially from family members and it’s nice to hum Christmas songs as I go through the store, surrounded by tins of caramel popcorn and displays of fudge brownie mix. Yes, I do like Christmas carols!
In fact, I have been collecting old CDs of Christmas music that I found very, very cheap at resale stores. Most are 10-25 years old, but Christmas is a lot older than that. And every so often I find a lovely recording. We’ve had traditional Christmas music in our home for decades—songs we plug into the TV or computer’s USB port and listen to every year. But after so long I felt some refreshing would be good. Some new arrangements. So I’ve been working on getting some new renditions to join the ones we always listen to. Most likely many people have a favorite version of a Christmas carol, by a particular artist or orchestra, that they feel just really captures the mood of that song. The Christmas emotions.
There are so many Christmas songs written through over a millennium of Christmases and they are much more than just different variations on the same thing—different flavors of holiday popcorn. I will add that I love holiday popcorn. But as I listened to so much Christmas music recently, I’ve noticed how different ones speak to different people. Almost all of them are reiterations of the same idea: Jesus was a baby in a manger, angels praised his birth, all should rejoice, the holidays are here, Christmas is a meaningful season, bells and other religious emblems are important, etc. But every one holds different emotions about this event. Some express people to whom Christmas is a cultural winter holiday, a time of peace, while others celebrate the religious theology or reflect on bittersweet personal feelings. Many tunes with far from spiritual origins, such as Greensleeves, are recycled to include Christmas messages, while some carols seem to have little point at all. (We Wish You a Merry Christmas was the original carol for those people who were just showing up for the holiday food!) 😊
At Christmas people sing. Churchgoing or not—Christian or not. People sing. And in their songs, they are shown quite as much as God is.
And there will be more updates.
Pleasant Fiction in an Age of Noise
I write stories about human emotions--about the journey of life. Every step of it can be meaningfully great or simply terrible and you can only reach the end after experiencing many kinds of things that make you grow. Emotional travels are the travels of life and the road of living is not one planned out in notebooks or organized in Scrivener. It is felt in love, hope, and fear and developed through an understanding of why humans go through these. And, on top of that, my stories are adventure stories. History, fantasy, and daily modern situations are all adventures as long as you don't know for sure what's going to happen when you wake up each day. Because that would be like repeating the same day over and over again and who wants to do that?
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