Brown River Queen cover art

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Obligatory Holiday Decorating and Gift Guide for Writers

People do strange things during the holidays. Drink eggnog. Listen to that infernal barking dogs Christmas song. Willingly sit through long elaborate meals with Uncle Eggbert, who won't drink tap water or eat anything cooked with it because that's how the secret Communists deliver the mind-control drugs.

But among the more inexplicable habits of Christmas is, to me, the urge to wrap seemingly random objects in tinsel and plastic simulated fir tree needles.

Streetlights? Wrapped and lit, because apparently they weren't already sufficiently lit. Storefronts, business signs, random shrubs, the Courthouse clock. All of it festooned with decor I assume to be festive.Some of it does indeed seem festive. Some of it, not so much.

A wreath of the front grille of a fire truck? Okay. That way, when panicked drivers look up from their texting and realize a fire truck is two inches off their bumper, they get a little holiday cheer along with enough adrenaline to induce a myocardial infarction. But that's important, because it's Christmas.

But where do you draw the line? Do we add wreaths to the gun cameras of our F-18s? Should we rush the launch of an orbit-ready Christmas tree to the ISS?

To provoke thought and discussion around this topic, let's play a little game I call "Festive or Not?"

Holly and ornaments strung along police tape at an active crime scene. Antlers added to chalk outline of decedent on pavement.

Tinsel and garlands strung from motion detector to motion detector around Area 51. Black wreaths on the front of the unmarked security vehicles that appear from nowhere to whisk you away to a place decidedly less jolly than the North Pole. Sprigs of mistletoe sent anonymously to your next of kin.

Elaborate lighting displays around each settling pool at all municipal sewage treatment plants.

It's a lot more nuanced that it looks, folks.

What to Buy a Writer, or, Look, There's a Liquor Store

Is there a writer in your life? Are you struggling to come up with that perfect Christmas gift for him or her?

If so, my condolences, because I'm a writer and I know full well what a morose bunch of budding alcoholics we writers usually are.  I'm constantly staring off into space, oblivious to the world around me until the front bumper strikes something solid and the air bags deploy.

Every year, it's the same dilemma.  What to give for Christmas?  What will make your writer's eyes light up, or at least open halfway?

As usual, I'm here to help.  My list of suggestions follows, in order of descending utility.

1) BOOZE.  HOOCH. ROTGUT.  That's right, kids, the Demon Rum himself.  Why?  Simple.

A writer's job is to plumb the depths of the human condition, or at least convince a harried editor that he or she is plumbing said depths long enough for the ink to dry on a contract.  And the first thing you'll learn when you start taking a really close look at the much-vaunted human condition is that doing so induces a sudden, powerful urge to have a drink.  Or three.  Or maybe just leave the whole bottle and start running a tab, because right after the urge to drink comes the realization that it's going to be a long bad night.

2) A THESAURUS. Because nothing works better as a coaster for the drinks mentioned above than a really thick book.  I'd counsel against actually using a thesaurus for writing, because no one wants to read sentences in which characters advance, meander, promenade, traipse, or wend one's way across the room.

3) A CAT.  Hemingway had a cat, right?  He had a cat because a cat is the only creature on Earth more vain and self-centered than the average author.  While other more social animals might feel neglected or ignored by an author, who is probably staring off into space or rummaging in the cabinets for more liquor, a cat is perfectly comfortable being ignored because it doesn't know anyone else is in the room anyway.  The cat's 'I don't care if you exist or not' attitude is perfectly suited to the author's mindset of 'What? Huh? Who?'

4) AN ELEGANT LEATHER-BOUND JOURNAL.  We all know that writers, and I mean serious professional writers with book contracts and everything, are always prepared to whip out a convincing character or a heart-wrenching plot at the drop of a dangling participle. So give your author the most expensive, ornate leather journal you can find, wait a year, drag it out from under the whiskey-stained thesaurus, and give it to the writer again.  They won't ever know, because each and every page will be as blank as it was the day you bought it.  Seriously, people.  I tried the whole notebook by the bed schtick for years, and I recorded exactly two notes in it, which read:

"Char. A sees the thing, intro. other scene w/char B, str. exc. Plot hole & 9 days."
"Why G. not cld/not E?"

Which explains why Hemingway's cat had six toes, for all I know.  But leatherbound notebooks make pretty good coasters too, and if the glasses sweat on them, you can tell people the stains are from a solo hike through Guatemala which you took to 'reconnect to your muse.'

I don't have a Number 5.  You should probably stop at Number 1, because gift-wrapping a cat is nearly impossible and writers can spot a gift wrapped thesaurus from across a crowded room anyway.

Mug and Meralda News

The print version of the new book, All the Turns of Light, is done, cover and all. Amazon is reviewing it now, and I expect the print version sales page to go live early next week (if I had to bet money, I'd say Tuesday). The printed book will go for $12 in the US, and the equivalent amount everywhere else. 

Speaking of the new book, another wonderful gift for an author is that of the Amazon reader review. Reviews tell potential buyers that the book is being read. Of course, good reviews are the very best kind, but honest ones are always welcome. If you've read it, and you liked it, posting a review will only take a moment. Thanks!


  1. Starbuck's cards, coffee and more coffee... and Port... Yeah, I like Port... and instead of mistletoe for some relatives can we switch to the black wreath? Too morose? FYI - started the new book - great, as usual!

  2. I like 'meander'. It has style, it has grace, it has Victorian Charm. He meandered to the wet bar where he noticed a bottle of liquor called, Thesaurus. Some kind of Greek hooch. If it tasted like vodka, then he was in for a fantastic night. He might have to write down the name in his journal as he meandered back to his table.