Saturday, December 31, 2011

Six-Sentence Saturday 12/31/2011


I can't believe that 2011 is over and that we are heading into 2012. I'm hoping that you all have a blessed New Year, and that the Christ Child grants you light and peace in 2012.

1.) We had a fun, fun, fun dinner tonight, with fruit kebabs, a vegetable spread, multiple cheeses, crackers, chicken wings and sausage, bruschetta, and of course multiple wines for wine tasting, with sparkling cider for the littlies, which was so, so, so lovely!

2.) I am half-way through revising a novel that I love, love, love.

3.) I seem to have a penchant for repeating things thrice tonight. :)

4.) I have decided that I want to get back into my music and my clay with the beginning of the New Year - one of my sisters bought sheet music of the Lord of the Rings for flute, and I have to say that music may be the thing I love the most, though writing is what I do best.

5.) The one thing about Christmas I utterly adore are all the Christmas songs - I admit I'm a really Christmas-hearted person, and I could listen to Christmas music all year, if everyone else would let me! - so I'm going to share a few Christmas songs I totally loved this year.

6.) We may have Bishop's wine tonight, which is a fancy way of saying mulled wine - it's a lovely, warming brew that makes you feel quite happy and fulfilled! :)

That's all I have for tonight, except I want to wish everyone a very, very Happy New Year full of blessings and answered prayers. I myself have promised candles to St. Andrew and St. Raphael if they come through with a particular thing I prayed for during Advent, and I think I may add St. Nicholas to that promise, as soon as I find a novena I especially love.

God bless, youse all, and have a very, very Happy New Year! May the Christ Child fill your hearts and souls and very lives with peace and happiness, and a joy that will last you all year round. God bless, and Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Epiphany, and Joy to the World!!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

My favourite Christmas Story -- Number 7

The last, and possibly best Christmas story ever is called THE CRIB OF BO'BOSSU. This is another story that can be found in Ruth Sawyer's THE LONG CHRISTMAS book, and it is another gorgeous story.

Bo'Bossu is a clever woodworker. In the boatyard where he works, his handiwork is the most sought-after. His is the hand that crafts the most delicate pieces for the ships, and he is the one who shapes and fashions the figureheads for the ships prows.

The other lads that work in the boatyard respect him. Amongst the lads in town, however, Bo'Bossu is mocked and humiliated, for he is a hunchback, slow and shuffling and not at all straight as the other boys are straight. Great sport it is for them to throw things at him and watch him run on his warped legs.

Bo'Bossu braves the jeers and thrown stones because of his great love of our Lady. He loves to spend time in the chapel and pour out the sorrows of his heart to her. As Christmas time draws near and the chapel is decorated in preparation of the great night, Bo'Bossu notices that the manger that will hold the Infant Child is a poor bit of workmanship. It is unworthy to hold the God of Gods in its frame. Bo'Bossu resolves then to fashion a new manger for the Child, a lovely thing in the shape of a boat with angel figureheads at each prow.

He snatches all the hours he can over this work, and though his days at the boatyard are long this job he has set for himself is a labour of love and he rests at it. He smoothes the wood, and carves it as perfectly as he can, and as the days draw near to Christmas and the village lads' torments become harder and crueller to bear, he makes a bargain with Our Lady: if he finishes the manger in time for Christmas, will she please make him tall and straight as the other boys?

A week before Christmas a new and urgent job is brought to the boatyard, and all the lads are made to work even longer hours in order to complete this task before the deadline. Bo'Bossu has no more time to work on his manger, and time becomes another relentless enemy. The night before Christmas he seizes the last scraps of daylight he can to feverishly work on his manger, but the daylight is against him and night falls before he can complete his task. In despair he sits in the darkness crying out his apology to our Lady.

In that bleakest hour a lad comes to him, a lad unknown but who also worked in his father's carpenter shop. This lad tells Bo'Bossu to rest, and he will complete the manger. Bo'Bossu is so exhausted that he throws himself down and does indeed fall asleep, and when he wakes the manger is complete and the lad is polishing it to a shine.

The two of them take the manger to the chapel before the Mass is begun, and as Bo'Bossu lays the figure of the Christ Child in the manger he recognizes him. Surely, surely the Christ Child and the mysterious Carpenter Lad are the same...

Every time I read this story I cry like an idiot, but it is such a beautiful story and written so well that you feel the tension as Christmas Eve approaches and Bo'Bossu's manger is still incomplete. You feel the amaze he feels when he recognizes the Babe and the Carpenter Lad.

Merry Christmas, my dear friends, and a very Happy, Happy New Year!!! God bless you all.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

My favourite Christmas Story -- Number 6

Today's story is called The Father Christmas Letters, by J.R.R. Tolkien. Between the years of 1920 and 1942 J.R.R. Tolkien's children received letters from Father Christmas. Each letter contained news from the North Pole about all the exploits that Father Christmas' helpers (notably the Polar Bear and his polar cub nephews Paksu and Valkotukka) got into during the year, and what trouble Father Christmas went through to get the presents to Tolkien's children.''

Many of the letters were accompanied by colourful pictures (drawn by Father Christmas) that showed different aspects of the North Pole during the year. Sometimes Father Christmas could not write and his Elvish assistant Ilbereth sent a letter instead. Sometimes Polar Bear sent a letter in his stiff, heavy handwriting, and sometimes the letters were very sparse. But each letter was a continuation of the stories that Tolkien created for his children about the life of Father Christmas in the North Pole.

The letters were beautifully detailed, written on stiff paper in shaky Father Christmas calligraphy, and the stamps on the letters were handcrafted originals drawn and pasted onto the envelopes to give a more authentic North Pole feel.

This delightful book is wonderfully peppered with actual copies of the original letters that Tolkien handcrafted himself. You can see the care he took in creating completely different handwriting for his three main letter writers: Father Christmas, Ilbereth, and Polar Bear

This blog contains many more pictures of the North Pole happenings. I hope you enjoy them!

Last, we have a winner for Cat's Mathoms contest, the Christmas Eve First Chapter Giveaway. Courtesy of Random.Org, the awesomest neutral random number generator, the winner is... Craftier!!

Congratulations, Craftier!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

My Favourite Christmas Story -- number 5

This is my fifth favourite Christmas Story of all times. THE GIFT OF THE MAGI tells the sweet tale of young married couple Della and Jim. It is almost Christmas, and Della wants to buy Jim the greatest gift in the world, something "fine and rare and sterling -- something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honour of being owned by Jim." But all the money that Della has is one dollar and eighty-seven cents. There was no gift she could buy for such a paltry sum!

Two fine things Jim and Della owned. One was Jim's watch, the marvelous gold watch that belonged to his father and his grandfather. The other was Della's hair, fine brown hair that hung to her knees.

In a flash of inspiration Della finds the means of procuring enough money to purchase a fine chain upon which Jim could hang his gold watch. She waits for Jim to come home from work, and when he does nothing could have prepared either of them for the twist of fate that their love for each other wrought.

This is one of the best and dearest stories about unselfishness and love. Jim and Della love each other so much that they are willing to part with their greatest treasures in order to give something great, something beautiful, to the person they love so much.

Luckily, you can read this story online here, which is wonderful because it is a sentimental and gorgeous little story. There are two book versions of the tale that I utterly love. One is illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger, and the other copy is illustrated by P.J. Lynch.

This story is just beautifully written, and Della and Jim are such sweethearts that you can't help but feel that the world would be a sweeter place if people were more like them. The style is gentle and poignant, and Della's shining love shines through this story like a beacon, illuminating Jim's character and bringing a smile and a little tear of beauty to your eye.

"The magi, as you know, were wise men--wonderfully wise men--who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi."
~ O. Henry 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

My favourite Christmas Story -- Number 4

Today's story is called "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" by Barbara Robinson.

This is the endearing story of the Herdmans, the worst kids in "the entire history of the world." They smoke, swear, and lie most appallingly, and they never go to church. So when they crash into church one day and decide to take over the annual Christmas pageant no one in the parish quite knows what to do.

The Herdmans know absolutely nothing of the Nativity. As they hear the tale they air their own opinions of it quite belligerently and oftentimes their take on the story has the rest of the parish reeling in shock. But despite their rudeness and lack of refinement, the Herdmans interpret the Christmas story so honestly that their pageant moves more than one person to tears.

This story makes me laugh, and cry, because it's written so honestly and with such touching phrasing that you cannot help but love the Herdmans, ruffians though they are.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My favourite Christmas Story -- Number 3

Up next as Featured Christmas Story of the week is THE WEE CHRISTMAS CABIN OF CAR-NA-WEEN. This story is right up there with my utterly favourite stories to read at Christmas time.

This beautiful little story is written by Ruth Sawyer, and tells the tale of Oona, a tinker's child left on a doorstep in the little village of Car-na-ween.

All her life Oona's one dream was to have a house of her very own, but her tinker-birth betrayed her at every turn. No man in the village of Car-na-ween would dream of making her his wife. As Oona wends her way in life she is doomed to spend it in other folks' houses, helping other folk with their childher, nursing the sick and the very old, and being turned away to wander again whenever her usefulness is at an end.

One white Christmas, when Oona is an old woman and her usefulness finally at an end, she takes her bundle of collected treasures to a hill, and sits there beneath the falling white of snow, welcoming death. But there is a Christmas miracle waiting for her here, a Christmas miracle that will ease all the pain and suffering of a long lifetime and grant to Oona the only dream she's ever had: a wee cabin all her own.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find any snippets to enclose here for you to read, but I know you can get this story on Amazon, either as a stand-alone book or in a collection of the Christmas stories by Ruth Sawyer in the book THE LONG CHRISTMAS.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My favourite Christmas Story -- Number 2

This post is actually a collection of Christmas legends that I absolutely love.

The first is the Legend of the Spider's Web. It is a lovely story, hearkening back to the day when Jesus Christ was but a young Child and His parents were fleeing from the murderous wrath of Herod. As the legend goes, the Holy Family took refuge in a cave, and since it was very cold a little spider sought to help warm the Family by weaving a web across the mouth of the cave. It turns out that the spider's web did more than just warm the Family, for when a troop of Herod's soldiers came by the web protected Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in a very special way. You can read this legend here. (There's another story about Christmas Spiders, which is also very lovely but not as wonderful as the Legend of the Spider's Web. You can read the Legend of the Christmas Spider here, and make your own choice about which you prefer.)

Next is the Legend of the Christmas Rose. Young Madelon was dreadfully poor, but she wanted more than anything to worship the Christ Child. Yet seeing the rich gifts being brought to the Babe in His stall she despaired of finding any gift worthy to offer the Infant Saviour. But God does not disappoint those that try to please him, and so He granted Madelon a very special Christmas miracle, and you can read about that here.

Third is the Legend of the Christmas Robin. Have you ever wondered why a Robin has such a red breast? On the night the Christ was born, the night was very cold and the fire that Joseph kindled was feeble. The Robin could not bear to see the Child suffer the piercing cold. This poem here gives an endearing explanation to the cause of the Robin's red breast.

Fourth is the Legend of the Poinsettia. Two children desired to bring some special gift to the Baby Jesus displayed in the village manger scene, as the rest of the villagers were doing. But being very poor they had nothing to bring, except perhaps a few weeds growing beside the road. God shows that a gift given with love is worth more to Him than any expensive offering. You can read this legend here.

Last is the Legend of the Candy Cane, one of my more favourites. The simple little candy cane is given a deeper meaning in regards to its colour and shape with the telling of this tale. You can read it here.

There are many legends about Christmas and Christmas decorations or traditions. These listed here are just my more favourite ones. I hope you enjoy them!

See you tomorrow for the next story. Oh, and don't forget... the contest at Cat's Mathoms is ending on Christmas Eve, so get over there if you have a First Chapter or short story or picture book you want critiqued, and make sure you leave a comment under the contest!

God bless, and Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2011

My favourite Christmas Story -- Number 1

For the week before Christmas I'm going to post one Christmas book, or story, that I particularly LOVE.

The story for today is called FIDDLER PLAY FAST, PLAY FASTER. I don't believe you can get this story in a single book format, but there is a collection of short stories by Ruth Sawyer (out of print, I believe, unfortunately - you may be able to find it on Amazon) that contains this story. But it is a gorgeous, gorgeous Christmas Story.

On St. Thomas' Eve, Billy Nell Kewley, a fine fiddler, is accosted by a strange gentleman with a fiery glow about him. This grim and graceful gentleman requests Billy Nell to come and play for a feast that he will be having three nights hence, on Christmas Eve. In exchange, Billy Nell will receive as many gold pieces as he can carry away with him.

Stricken by the power in the man's voice Billy Nell agrees. However, he fears he may have made a bargain with Noid ny Hanmey, the Enemy of the Soul: the devil himself.

Billy Nell seeks to find an answer to this question: What manner of spirit is the Enemy of the Soul? Can he be anything he chooses to be - a devil in hell or a fine gentleman on earth?

"Is the man noble or is he the devil?" asks the abbot whom Billy Nell begs an answer from. "I cannot say. But go. Carry salt, carry iron and bollan bane. Play a dance and watch. Play another, and watch. Then play a Christmas hymn and see!"

This is the Christmas tale of Billy Nell Kewley, the fiddler of the Isle of Man, who goes to fiddle for one who may be merely a fine gentleman, or else the very devil.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Six-Sentence Saturday 12/17/2011

Enchanted Conversations
First and foremost, I have two announcements.

In case you missed it on Wednesday, I'm holding a contest on my site at Cat's Mathoms. Everyone is welcome to participate!

Second, and more exciting, the fantastic online magazine Enchanted Conversations is not closing! There was a point where it sounded like they were going under, but happily they are not, so keep submitting to them! They are a fantastic site that publishes fairy tales with a twist, and they are wonderful, so please please please support them. Click here to read their updated guidelines. Thanks so much!

Right, now onto this:

1.) It's A Wonderful Life has got to be one of my fav'rite Christmas movies ever... I think Jimmy Stewart has something to do with that!

2.) THE GREAT IMPERSONATION is one of the best mystery books of all time!

3.) I got all my Christmas presents bought and wrapped already.

4.) I'm going to buy ingredients for Christmas cookies tomorrow, which ought to be fun!

5.) I have the weirdest idea for a story brewing in the back of my head right now, and I'm just not sure how to go about writing it.

6.) I'm LOVING Josh Groban's Little Drummer Boy right now. Take a listen and see why:

That's all for now. Merry Christmas, and God bless you all!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Words on Wednesday - The First Sentence

First sentences are the devil. Don't let anyone say they're not, because they really ARE! You need to impart so much information in one little slice of words that it almost makes you want to quit before you've started.

I won a critique giveaway awhile ago, back in July, and I was super-excited that the lady who held that contest read the first chapter and thought it was really good. The only comment she made that really stuck with me most though was about my opening sentence. It was a good sentence, but it didn't impart necessary information. This is what she said:

The first sentence is fascinating, but it doesn’t seem to lead anywhere. My first thought is “futuristic.” We’ve got a smart letterbox that can announce the mail. Furthermore, the box calls for [the MC], not one of her parents. But the book’s not futuristic (if it is, we need more signs). The assumption, both because her name is used and because she ran for the mail, is that she was expecting something important. But apparently not so. We have no clue why she ran for the mail. Does she always? Is that a way of assuaging some of her loneliness? Also, the sentence about handling the letter makes me wonder if she has powers. Can she handle objects and receive mental images? But I see no other hint of powers in this section, either.

It's so important to get that first sentence absolutely perfect. You need to tell the reader, clunk, who the MC is, what the MC can do, and what's conflicting him/her, and why this sentence was written in the first place.

Because of how wonderfully illuminating this critique was, I decided that I'm going to offer a Christmas Eve First Chapter Critique giveaway over at Cat's Mathoms. You can read the guidelines for entering, and I sincerely hope you do... enter, I mean. I promise I'll give you nothing more than my own honest, and very nice opinion! (And I sincerely believe that my opinion is very honest but nice!)

God bless!


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Six-Sentence Saturday 12/10/2011

Hello, and Merry Christmas! I just love that Christmas is getting closer and closer. Whee! I'm so excited!

Ahem. To continue:

1.) I've spent a lot of time editing my website and blog so now they look really similar. Joy!

2.) I've been cleaning like crazy, but I'm still bone-marrow frozen.

3.) The song I LOVE right now is Hayley Westenra's CHRISTMAS MORNING.

4.) I've got all my Christmas cards done! Now, to mail them...

5.) I'm nearly finished with all my Christmas shopping.

6.) I don't think the glasses I'm wearing right now are adjusted quite right... they're giving me a headache.

Merry Christmas! I hope you had a wonderful St. Nicholas Day (for those who celebrate that) and a blessed Feast of the Immaculate Conception (for those who celebrate that, which I do!) I'll update In Principio hopefully sooner rather than later, so you can read about these two feasts.

God bless!


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Passage: Connie Willis

Joanna Lander is a doctor working at Mercy General Hospital. She specializes in NDE - Near Death Experiences - and her goal in life is to discover what really is on the Other Side of death. She interviews people in the hospital who have undergone NDE, but it's very hard for her to glean fact from fiction because of Maurice Mandrake, a pseudo-psychologist and famous author, who is only concerned with convincing people that warmth, happiness, and light await them on the Other Side so that he can sell a new bestseller.

Then Dr. Richard Wright arrives. He is a brilliant young neurologist also on the quest of discovering what NDE really is, and has even been able to manufacture NDE's with the aid of psychoactive drugs. Joanna and he team up to see if they can interview objective subjects as to what they see and feel during an NDE.

The scientific research and results are frustrating, and as time goes on the people that have volunteered for the experiment start drifting away until there is only one thing left to do. Joanna herself goes under the drug, and experiences an NDE firsthand.

The experience is both what she expected and not what she expected. The place she finds herself in is haunting and somehow familiar. It makes her want to go under again. But each time she goes under, she starts to feel a sense of dread growing within her, as though she knows why the place is familiar and why she should be afraid.

In an effort to try and understand why the NDE is so familiar, Joanna catapults on a "quest" to figure out what her brain is telling her as she is "dying." The results and discovery are unexpected to say the least, and the climax is a stunner, for sure!

PASSAGE is gorgeously written. Connie Willis lets you see, feel, and hear the heartbeat of Mercy General Hospital, and makes you aware of the undercurrent of tension that most likely pulses in the veins of every hospital. There is a lot of drama and build-up in the first part of the book, and though not a lot happens you can't stop reading, because there's just something gripping about people running frantically through corridors in an effort to discover what NDE is all about. PASSAGE is chock-full of memorable characters -- the incorrigible WWII veteran with his ever-changing stories, the Mandrake-influenced NDE patient with her newly-discovered facts about the Other Side, the critically ill child with a penchant for disaster stories -- and you'll laugh, cry, and bite your nails through every page of this incredibly haunting novel.

My Rating: *****

PASSAGE Book Description:

A tunnel, a light, a door. And beyond it ... the unimaginable.

Dr. Joanna Lander is a psychologist specializing in near-death experiences. She is about to get help from a new doctor with the power to give her the chance to get as close to death as anyone can.

A brilliant young neurologist, Dr. Richard Wright has come up with a way to manufacture the near-death experience using a psychoactive drug. Joanna’s first NDE is as fascinating as she imagined — so astounding that she knows she must go back, if only to find out why that place is so hauntingly familiar.

But each time Joanna goes under, her sense of dread begins to grow, because part of her already knows why the experience is so familiar, and why she has every reason to be afraid.

Yet just when Joanna thinks she understands, she’s in for the biggest surprise of all — a shattering scenario that will keep you feverishly reading until the final climactic page.


Most of us would rather not spend a lot of time contemplating death
, but the characters in Connie Willis's novel Passage make a living at it. Joanna Lander is a medical researcher specializing in Near Death Experiences (NDEs) and how the brain constructs them. Her partner in this endeavor is Richard Wright, a single-minded scientist who induces NDEs in healthy people by injecting a compound that tricks the brain into thinking it's dying. Joanna and Richard team up and try to find test subjects whose ability to report their experiences objectively hasn't been wrecked by reading the books of pop-psychologist and hospital gadabout Maurice Mandrake. Mandrake has gained fame and fortune by convincing people that they can expect light, warmth, and welcoming loved ones once they die. Joanna and Richard try to quantify NDEs in more scientific terms, a frustrating exercise to say the least.

The brain cells started to die within moments of death. By the end of four to six minutes the damage was irreversible, and people brought back from death after that didn't talk about tunnels and life reviews. They didn't talk at all.... But if the dying were facing annihilation, why didn't they say, "It's over!" or, "I'm shutting down"?... Why did they say, "It's beautiful over there," and, "I'm coming, Mother!"

When Joanna decides to become a test subject and see an NDE firsthand, she discovers that death is both more and less than she expected. Telling anything at all about her experience would be spoiling the book's suspenseful buildup, but readers are in for some shocks as Willis reveals the secrets and mysteries of the afterlife. Unfortunately, several running gags--the maze-like complexity of the hospital, Mandrake's oily sales pitch, and a tiresomely talkative World War II veteran--go on a little too long and threaten the pace of the story near the middle. But don't stop reading! We expect a lot from Connie Willis because she's so good, and Passage's payoff is incredible--the ending will leave you breathless, and more than a little haunted. Passage masterfully blends tragedy, humor, and fear in an unforgettable meditation on humanity and death. --Therese Littleton

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Six-Sentence Saturday 12/03/2011

I'm late. Again. But this time, it wasn't my fault. My 'tupid internet was downish, and then I was out of the house from 9 ack emma to about 5 pip emma, and then of course I had to grab something to eat. SO, without further ado, six sentences:

1.) I caved at last and got myself a nook, and so far I rather like it.

2.) I went CHRISTMAS SHOPPING, and it was SO MUCH FUN! I love shopping for other people.

3.) We had a pretty good choir practice for Mass IX.

4.) I don't like Walmart, because whenever I go in there I get an instant headache and tired eyes.

5.) I utterly love, love, love to look at books on drawing, and I love, love, love browsing art supplies, like charcoal pencils, mannequins, and coloured pencils.

6.) Tomorrow is SUNDAY, and that means a NIBLET WITH COFFEE! Yumm. :)

That's all for tonight. God bless! Merry Christmas.
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