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The 12 Blogs of Christmas – Today’s Guest Heather Haley

15 Dec

The 12 Blogs of Christmas

Today’s guest post is from Canadian West Coast author, Heather Haley!

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Here’s Heather’s  Bio:

The Siren of Howe Sound, trailblazing poet, author, novelist, musician and media artist Heather Haley pushes boundaries by creatively integrating disciplines, genres and media. Her writing has been published in many journals and anthologies including the Antigonish Review, Geist, sub-TERRAIN, the Vancouver Review, FORCE Field: 77 Women Poets of British Columbia and The Verse Map of Vancouver. Haley was an editor and reviewer for the LA Weekly and publisher of the Edgewise Cafe, one of Canada’s first electronic literary magazines. She is the author of poetry collections Sideways, Three Blocks West of Wonderland, and debut novel, The Town Slut’s Daughter.

 

http://amzn.to/113yB4S

heatherhaley.com

 

A YIN-YANG CHRISTMAS

From Joy to Dread and Back Again

 

‘Tis the season. For melancholy. Haunted by Christmas Past, I get nostalgic for the little girl who believed in Santa. A child’s lament; “Why can’t it be Christmas every day?”, I’d wail at my mother. Because, my parents would rally, no matter how broke we’d been all year, to put up a tree, to fill the house with presents, candy, nuts and booze, to be filled with joy, or at least in a in a good mood, when they weren’t fighting or knocking over the tree.

I have an image burned into my psyche of sitting on the couch next to it, staring at my reflection in an exquisite silver bulb, in a trance of hope and excruciating happiness. That damned tree. Its heady perfume permeated the house, blasting away banality, infusing bliss. Magic. Or madness, I’ve come to realize. The Christmas tree has become for me an emblem of the innocence of childhood, innocence lost, innocence I have finally quit trying to regain.

Light-Dark. Fire-Water. Male-Female. Yin-Yang. Without dread, how can there be joy? Seeking the answer traces my evolution from doe-eyed youngster to jaded diva, but at last I am comfortable with such dualities. I’m not a Daoist but understand that life is an endless cycle, and that opposites are bound together to create a mutual whole.

“Thank God I’m an atheist.” I struggled with that when my son was little, thought that if we were going to observe-after deciding we would honour tradition, albeit our way-that Junior should know about the Christ in Christmas. He learned that Jesus of Nazareth was most likely a rabbi, his teachings were sound and the man must have been a charismatic philosopher, healer or social reformer who many saw as a prophet and the son of God. I’ve also taught my son to be discerning, to consider the source, to put things in relief. In perspective. With healthy skeptiscim comes a certain ambivalence, but he’s a good kid, smart and compassionate.

I refrain from spouting “Bah Humbug,” but don’t put up a tree anymore. Junior, now 20, no longer cares, which is rather sad, considering how much he did care, how excited he’d get, waiting for and believing in Santa. But we share fond memories; one year he, his step-father and I spent Christmas in Hawaii with his godmother and extended family. We met Don Ho, watched a lighted parade in the little town of Waiamea on Christmas Eve, and Junior even went boogie boarding, despite having been afraid of the water.

Peace and goodwill toward men. Why should it be seasonal? I do enjoy the time the holidays afford us, the opportunity to get together with loved ones. When we gather with those who are dear to us. If the fates allow. I like nothing better than to cook for my family, as I do each time I’m lucky enough to have them visit throughout the year. That is joy. Time is the most precious gift of all and peace comes from within.

 

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The 12 Blogs of Christmas

13 Dec
The 12 Blogs of Christmas

The 12 Blogs of Christmas

Hello everyone! This holiday season I’m honored and excited to be one of a group of 12 authors who have come together to offer you up some great reading. This special project, titled “The12 Blogs of Christmas”, has been organized by my friend and best selling author, Martin Crosbie.

Here’s how it works: between now and Christmas, each day we will be hosting and posting a different bio, author picture, and a blog post from one of this group of very talented and hand-picked authors: R.J. Crayton, Jamie Lee Scott, Heather Haley, Jennifer Ellis, Helga Zeiner, Laurie Boris, M,L. Gardner, Roberta Kagan, Sarah Lane, and Wendy McClelland, and Martin Crosbie.

I know! What a fab group, right? So here is my contribution. Thanks for dropping by!

Getting Into The Christmas Spirit …

Bah, Humbug!

To steal that popular line, it is Hot Stuff Hubby’s summation of what he also refers to as “a Hallmark Holiday”. The rest of us call it Christmas.

For anyone who has anything for sale, the Christmas retail season is like bottled oxygen to an astronaut in a Space Station – absolutely necessary in order to survive the rest of the year.

Not a particularly religious man, Hot Stuff nevertheless laments the overshadowing of the original intent of fellowship and gratitude of the season, with that of a glut of retail activity.

Personally, I love the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. I think I must have been a magpie in a former life because I love all things sparkly – twinkling lights, reflective ornaments, the ropes of flashy tinsel, diamonds (ahem, are you reading this, Hot Stuff?), and such.

I love Christmas music, especially the more traditional carols and hymns perfectly harmonized and performed by choirs – I feel no shame in humming along out loud as they are pumped out of the speakers in the mall stores; I thrive on the smells of Christmas baking – sugar and cinnamon, butter and raisins, warm gingerbread – and can often be seen hanging out around the local bakery counter until the clerks get a little nervous at my continuous presence; and I take personal pride in decorating my home and yard as though it were a marker for NASA to be easily seen from outer space.

But this year is a  little different.

  • My family is grown and gone and have moved away to the farthest points possible. They won’t be home to appreciate my normal decorative efforts.
  • An early Arctic vortex unexpectedly moved across the Canadian prairies where I live and parked itself over top of my house, and as much as I want to have my yard lit up in a display that rivals a summer fireworks display, I am loathe to be out there in -25, tying strands of lights to my trees.
  • And finally, sinking into a twinkle-deprived depression, I didn’t feel the need to haul my pre-lit tree up from the basement, rearrange the furniture to accommodate it, and transform my living spaces into a picture of perfect Yuletide-ness.

I curled up in front of my fireplace with my own Grumpy Cat, Sergio, for the practical warmth of it, rather than to immerse myself in the contentment of the holiday season.

Sergio: Anyone ready for a cuddle with me by the fire?

Sergio: Anyone ready for a cuddle with me by the fire?

 

Christmas was creeping up on me and I had not done any preparation, including getting my own writing ready for a Christmas push. I avoided visiting the mall and the bakery, and my playlist was a jumble of Country rock and techno.

Until the phone call.

Hot Stuff’s side of the family phoned to say they would be coming to stay the entire Christmas WEEK with us for the first time ever. The parents, their two grown children, and … their two Border collies.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love these relatives. They are FUN people with deadly senses of humor and the week with them will be non-stop entertainment with plenty of culinary pleasures, liquid refreshments, and laughter. I was delighted to hear they were coming, although the news that there would be two hyperactive dogs in my house for the entire week left me a little less joyful (but believe me, I am not as distressed about that news as is Grumpy Cat Sergio…).

TWO dogs?? For a WHOLE week?? You gotta be kiddin’ me! I think I’m gonna be sick…

And so the phone call galvanized me into a furious whirlwind of action. I rearranged my furniture like I was a set of triplet interior designers, I relieved my local hardware store of their entire supply of exterior extension cords with which to light up my house and yard, and I brought in a two week supply of food, drink, and baking goods. I even have my Christmas playlist wired so that the music fills my house AND yard. (Gotta love those wireless speakers.)

I may have permanently injured my Achilles tendon hauling that damned tree up from the basement in such a hurry, but no worries. It’s a small price to pay for having rediscovered my Christmas spirit. The busy preparation is done and I have only to sit at my laptop, rear glued to a chair, nostrils filled with the sweet scent of fresh cinnamon sticky buns baking in my oven, and get to work on my next manuscript in my Quintspinner series. Too late for Christmas sales, but maybe for the post-Christmas slump in late January when there is not so much competition? I’m sure I read a post somewhere claiming that there is such a thing.

And I think my Christmas spirit may be infectious. Hot Stuff Hubby has mentioned that the tree does look kinda empty, that maybe we should go shopping, and oh-by-the-way did I know that there are a couple of neighbors who will be spending Christmas alone – do we have room at the table for a few more?

You bet.

I love Christmas. Best wishes to all of you. May you be filled with the feelings of joy and friendship that is Christmas, however you see it. And in case you need a cheap-like-borsch last minute gift for a loved one, well there you go. Hit that link.

Merry Christmas! Ho, Ho, Ho!

Blog – Adventure #3 – Is that a Snake you’re wearing?

19 Oct


When I was still in High School, I volunteered to be the biology lab assistant. Our biology lab was an interactive one and hosted many animals such as a rabbit, cages of white mice, aquariums full of tropical fish, salamanders, mealy worms, and most notably, a cage for a 6 foot long snake.

 
A six foot long Bull Snake to be exact.

 
Bull snakes are members of the constrictor class of snakes and therefore not poisonous. This snake was pretty docile (read: well fed) as far as snakes go, and she would routinely completely ignore me as I lifted the lid of her cage to lift her out and put her in another container while I changed her water source and dumped clean wood chips into one corner of her cage. In reality, I had no idea if she was in fact female, but I nicknamed her Heidi because for the most part she liked to burrow under the wood chips and thus was completely camouflaged and hidden for most of the time.

 
On another biology corollary – stay with me because these two plot lines are going to intersect – one day, I decided to impress a boy who had caught my eye. He was, in my teenaged eyes and opinion, a ruggedly handsome fellow with a bad-boy personality that I found irresistible. I needed something to catch his interest. Something that would make me stand out from the crowd of the much more physically attractive females that flocked around him. And before you judge me, let me point out that this desire to be attractive and noticed is a pre-wired, basic biological reaction in all juveniles of all animal species, humans included, so lacking a pretty plumage or beautiful singing voice, I substituted.

 
My idea: I would “wear” the snake around my waist, and casually walk past the object of my intended affections as he was at his locker which was conveniently situated right outside the door of the biology lab. How cool would that be??
Heidi co-operated and wrapped herself a couple of times around my waist. I think the warmth of my midsection was attractive to her and once in place, she traveled contentedly there without any further movement from her. Thus wrapped and strapped with said fashion accoutrement, I casually strode out into the hallway and past Bad Boy at his locker.

 
Heidi had the intended effect.

 
Bad Boy spun on his heels as I walked past and called out to me. I stopped. I turned. I smiled. He smiled back. We talked. He was visibly impressed. We made plans to meet in the biology lab the next day after classes.

 
Hoo boy! This was gonna be good. As I returned to the lab to continue with my animal caretaker duties, my head was swimming with romantic thoughts. I was daydreaming so hard that lust had made me careless.

 
I was in the mouse room, chopping up cheese and chunks of apples for the mice when a piece of apple shot away across the counter. As I reached out to grab it, there was this blur of movement and color that snaked out (bad pun, I know) across the counter in pursuit of that same piece of apple. It was Heidi!

 
In my mind it happened in slow motion but in reality, it happened in a micro second: I reached toward the piece of apple and she sprang towards it, her mouth unhinging and opening clear back into her body, fangs poised. Although non-poisonous, constrictors of all sorts still come equipped with a set of fangs for capturing and holding their prey while they first constrict and then devour their meal. She and her fangs reached that piece of apple a fraction of a second before my fingers did.

 
It was with shaking hands that I unfurled her from my waist and deposited her back in her own cage.

 
Although I’m pretty sure bull snakes don’t eat apples, I had completely forgotten that I still had her wrapped around my waist there in the mouse room, and as anyone who has ever been close to many mice can attest to, there is a definite STRONG mousey smell around them. The combination of intense mouse odor and the sight of a small object skittering across the counter had activated her hunting reflex. My hand had nearly become her unintended target.

 
The next day, Bad Boy showed up, but I could not bring myself to handle Heidi, and without my snake fashion statement, my attractiveness was lost upon him. Just as well. Snakes smell, too.

 
There have been a few times, while on holiday with my family, that we have come across photo ops to handle exotic animals. When it comes to having a large constrictor in the picture, I prefer to be the photographer.

My stepson and snake; I'm the photographer...

My stepson and snake; I’m the photographer…

 

Oh yeah, and for those of you still reading this far, I used that close-up-and-personal experience of a snake attack in my second novel, DEADLY MISFORTUNE, with the event expanded to be bigger and badder, of course. Curious?

You can get a copy here: http://authl.it/B00KYUAZCY

Deadly Misfortune

Blog – Adventure #2 – Operation Sting! (Jelly Fish Sting, that is…) or Up Close and Personal With Creatures of the Deep

6 Oct

Taking a shortcut and drifting through a Mexican Mangrove-like swamp, the eight of us (yup – same family of mine, that by now you’ve probably come to know reasonably well), were boating over to a neighboring beach, the sun splashing down on our shoulders like warmed suntan oil. It was early December – shoulder season meant no crowds – and it was blissfully perfect.

 

Arriving at our destination, we were delighted to see that, except for a half dozen fishermen who were working their fishnets in the shallow waters, we were the only ones on the beach. There weren’t even any customers lounging on the patio of the tiny traditional Mexican restaurant that sat just back of the soft strip of sand that rimmed this little bay.

My family in Mexico - all 6 kids. (Not a typo - count 'em!)

My family in Mexico – all 6 kids. (Not a typo – count ’em!)

As we strode into the warm waters, the fisherman yelled and greeted us in Spanish, waving their arms in an enthusiastic fashion. Speaking no Spanish, we grinned, waved back and plunged into the waves.

 

 
Within seconds, the entire underside of my body exploded in pain, feeling akin to what I imagine it would be like to have five thousand elastic bands all snapping against my skin at one time. Staggering from the water, I was nearly stampeded and pummeled into the sand by the rush of all other family members in their efforts to clear the water as well. Our combined screeching, however, was topped by the shrieks of my 14 year old daughter. A raised crimson welt slashed down the length of her thigh. Something had stung us all, but only she had any mark to prove it.

 

 
Somewhere in my panicked brain, my EMT training took over. A thought rose to the forefront. A very logical, extremely scientific thought. Something about either vinegar or concentrated urine salts changing the ph or cellular barrier of the ocean dweller’s venom-filled cells to stop or reverse the expulsion of the venom out of the deposited cellular cysts. So I did what any scientist would do.

 

 
“Boys!” I bellowed in my most motherly commando-sounding voice. “Get over here right now and pee on your sister’s leg!”

 

 
Well, I can tell you that I got no co-operation from either side.

 

 

By now the fishermen had hustled over to us and had already enlisted the assistance of the senora, owner of the beachside restaurant. This angel flew to our rescue with a huge bowl of sliced up limes and began to squish vast amounts of lime juice all over the welt. Plenty of it. And it seemed to work. Within minutes, my daughter’s wails had downgraded to a few shuddering sniffles.

 

 
“Why you no listen, Senora?” the puzzled fisherman asked.

 

 
“Listen to what?” I asked, slightly annoyed to being grilled like this while the lime juice application was continuing. This woman was using copious amounts.

 

 
“Medusas peligro!” he replied.

 

 
Peligro. Danger. That much Spanish I knew. But what kind of danger? My confused look brought only a snort from him, and he grabbed a glass from his satchel, strode into the ocean and scooped it full of water.

 

 
“Medusas!” he exclaimed upon returning, and he held the glass up for me to see.

 

 
I squinted and then I gasped.

 

 
Suspended in the water-filled glass were several tiny almost transparent Jellyfish! The “friendly” hand waving and shouts from the fishermen had been words of warning to the crazy Canadians who were blindly romping into the infested waters. We later heard from another bilingual tourist that there had been some kind of overnight underwater storm that had stirred up and brought into the shallow waters, a bloom of – given the size in the glass sample – baby jellyfish. Oh yeah, and one humongous one, as my daughter would have you believe.

 

 
Later that evening, as the sun set over that expanse of mysterious ocean, I made a journal entry of  our day’s adventure, filing it under “Quintspinner Research”.  It was shortly after that,  that I got around to  treating my still-slightly-burning skin with a lime juice/tequila concoction of my own. Taken internally. And plenty of it.

End of a Day in Paradise

A Peaceful End to a Day in Paradise

Now go and see where in Quintspinner – A Pirate’s Quest, part of this little true story was adapted to fit into the plot. I’ll give you a hint. It involves the character, Mr. Lancaster. He was fond of liquid medications taken internally. Believed they did more good that way….

 
For those of you needing to acquire your own copy of the Quintspinner adventure to find the answer, you can net one right here: http://amzn.to/1kLuqi9 .

 
And stay tuned for the next adventure installment: Um …  is that a snake you’re wearing?

Damn Fine Stuff!

25 Mar

[Image
I once had an old aunt who, in her youth had been quite a fire cracker. Years later, in the twilight of her life, she was still a confident, opinionated, and quite deaf old gal, but a bundle of entertainment to be around.

Most notably, she had a signature expression of everything that was to her liking, as being “Damn fine stuff” – as in music she liked: “Now that’s damn fine music!”, or in a sip of the ol’ medicinal: “Now that’s a damn fine drink!”, or (my favorite) in judgment of a particular lifeguard’s overall build: “Now that’s a damn fine piece of beautiful walking past us right there!”

Like I said, she was deaf, not blind…

Image

She passed away at the end of March several years ago, and I can’t help but think of her at this time of year, and so, in borrowing her phrase, I’d like to introduce you to some Damn Fine Stuff.

It just so happens that I am a part of the eNovel Author March Book Frenzy.  It’s an 8 author multi-blog (55 stops at last count, yup – NOT a typo. Fifty-five stops) that is running this week, March 27th through to March 30th. There are several amusing and revealing posts by the authors, book give-aways, and contests with cash prizes to be entered into. Here’s the link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/YTQ1NWM3Zjk2MGMzZTg0ZThhYTIzYWJlNDcwMWUxOjI3/

You can find details for all of this incredibly Damn Fine Stuff here: http://fabulosityreadsbookpromotions.blogspot.ca/p/enovel-authors-march-book-frenzy.html

And free and give-away and cash is always good, isn’t it?

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G’wan. Check it out. You know you wanna’… (Did I mention it was FREE stuff??)

Oh, and by the way, here is one of those entertaining author posts by yours truly ( a little bit of personal history in it) http://fabulosityreads.blogspot.com/2014/03/10-things-i-wish-i-had-known-before-i.html

Hope to chat with you somewhere along the blog hop! –Dianne

What I Live For

9 May

Today I’m taking part in ‘What I Live For’, an online event organized by author Satya Robyn. People like me all over the world will be sharing what gives their lives meaning. In Satya Robyn’s novel ‘Thaw’, Ruth gives herself three months to decide whether she can find a reason to carry on living. There’s 75% off the kindle version today (99p / $1.49) – you can read more here: http://www.satyarobyn.com/?page_id=56 .

And here are my thoughts on the subject of “What I Live For”.

I come from a dysfunctional family. At the time of growing up, there was no such term. I certainly wasn’t the only kid in school to come from a less than stellar background, but mine, in my younger years,  made me shy and insecure. I developed a tough exterior out of a need to survive, but I was always afraid that someone would find a chip in my armor and destroy the frightened little girl inside. Eventually I came to realize that I was OK. Each morning, the sun still came up, and each day I gained confidence in myself.

 My father was a workaholic, holding down a full-time real estate seller’s job, farming a small farm, and playing in a local band on weekends. He was also someone whose friends and social status was of much more importance to him that the feelings and needs of his family members were. The only time he really paid any attention to my brother and to me was to administer discipline at the end of his work day, for any infractions that we had done.

My mother was a severe alcoholic – so much so, that by the time I was the age of 12, I could no longer bring any friends home to play at our house after school, as Mom would be fall-down drunk and snarly. She was a demanding woman when she was sober, and a pugilistic one when drunk.

My brother was four years younger than myself, and I learned to “mother” at a very early age.

However, I outline these details, not to have a pity party but to rejoice in having grown up in such a family situation, because it has made me the person that I am today, and for that I am extremely grateful.

Yes. Grateful for that home life. How can that be? Well, it afforded me the environment in which to learn so much. As the popular poster says, “Children learn what they live.” In a way, that one wouldn’t probably expect, here’s what I learned:

  1. I became an excellent student. If I had 97%, I was not praised, but expected to have a reason for having lost those 3 marks. I still, to this day, strive to be the best that I can be, in all of my interests.
  2. I learned to cook. To do laundry. (Um, to drive underage.) To do my own banking. To administer simple first aid. These things I am grateful for, for I not only learned to cope, but began to thrive in all kinds of new or difficult situations.
  3. I learned of the damage that emotions can do, and resolved to not become embroiled in the inner struggles of others around me. Their wars are not mine. I now consciously decide where to spend my mental energies.
  4. I learned of the extraordinary feeling of bliss that loving one’s own family evokes. I now “mother” a blended family of six, and I do not think that I would have or could have appreciated how wonderful this family that I have is, had I not had the flip side to compare it to.
  5. My brother, who felt more like a child to me than a brother, passed away on his thirty-fifth birthday. He left me with so many happy memories of him (he had a deadly sense of humor that I miss most of all), but even with his passing, I have come to learn the incredible lesson that some people come into your life just to teach you how to let go.
  6. I wake each morning, grateful for all that I have, excited to see what my day holds for me, and I close my eyes at the end of each day, reviewing all that had been given to me.

And so, “What I Live For” is the opportunity to continue to experience all that life has yet in store for me, good and bad, frightful and restful, familiar and new. It is the purr of the feral cat who has decided that I am to be trusted, the whirr of the wings of the flock of birds who take flight at my advance, it is the comments of people that my writing has put me in touch with all over the world, it is the sunshine on my face, it is the excitement and sometimes the sadness that I hear in friends’ voices, and it is the feelings of love and contentment that catch me off-guard and pour over me at unexpected moments, filling me with the most joyous energy.

It is all part of my journey and I cherish it.

 Satya’s novel, “Thaw”, the story of a woman’s life choices, is available here: http://www.satyarobyn.com/?page_id=56 . Treat yourself to the pleasure of reading. Enjoy.

Happiness is a large fuzzy puppy at your side.

Happiness is a large fuzzy puppy at your side.

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