Love, family and holidays: a memorable journey

It’s finally officially Christmas in the household.

After a number of delays and assorted other grumbles, we got a tree (a real one this year, thanks to Dr. Doo-Be-Do, who even put it on his Christmas list), got it up and last night decorated it.

Our tradition, which I’ve stuck to through the years, is that we put on Christmas music then Momma hands out each ornament to hang up. That saves the mad dash and grab for the goodies in the box, as we have a somewhat eclectic tree decor.

When we go to Kraynak’s, I admire the heck out of the beautiful trees displayed, in perfect shades of white or blue lights and ornaments, themed beauties that they are, draped in fluff or tinsel or whatever puffy thing is the flavor du jour of the season. But ours isn’t like that.

Ours is kind of a history of our lives. We have a tiny trolley car that looks just like the real thing, that we bought in San Francisco during the first book tour in 1999. We have the pink flamingo we bought in Key West on our honeymoon. Several macaroni-framed school pictures also grace the tree, from preschool right up through junior high, as well as the popsicle stick reindeer K made in elementary school with the cockeyes.

Little Miss’s Nightmare Before Christmas ornament is up, as well as the Grinch and little Cindy Lou Who, who was, as we know, no more than two. Of course, there’s the Star Trek shuttlecraft and the Enterprise, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Neil Armstrong on the moon.  Now if we only had a replica of our beloved Firefly ship…. *sigh*

Moving on through the years, we have the “hat babies” that I bought from some fund raiser M had back in elementary school, when she was younger than her kids are now. There’s the cut-out babies, gilt paintings of little cherubs copied from magazines of the 30’s and 40’s. We have a thick glass book from Germany that we picked up at EPCOT, a series of carousel horses, a red metal tricycle, and several small glass balls traded during various community theatre shows over the years. Miracle on 34th Street, anyone? Four of us did that the first year I was divorced, even K, who got to play a child on Santa’s lap. There’s a delicate clipper ship we bought in Maine the summer we visited B at her Ferry Beach gig, and several blown glass ornaments my mother gave to me, that reflect the lights in a hundred sparkly ways.

Following a tradition I learned from my grandmother’s days of watching Days of our Lives, we also have large red globes with names of each of the family members. We’ve lost several over the years, thanks to many cats and small children, and always try to get them replaced in time for the next year so that even on the tree, we can all be together.

As with the rest of life, we pull together new memories and let go some of the old. Children come to us, grow, learn, and move on to have Christmas trees and macaroni ornaments of their own. Christmas is a time to remember to stop and reflect and be grateful for all we have, have had, and will have.

“Christmas–that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance. It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance–a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved.”
~ Augusta E. Rundell

Space: the mentoring frontier

I’ve mentioned before that the Cabana Boy and I met at an online sci-fi RPG. For the uninitiated, that’s a “Role Playing Game.” Although some prefer LARP or groups like the Society for Creative Anachronism (of which I was a member back in college), this online group suited me fine.

Maquis Universal is an offshoot of an earlier Star-Trek based group, the United Empire of Planets. Set in a mirror universe from the original Trek, the UEP were generally strong, but evil, and the Maquis were Robin-hood type good guys.

MU however, attracted a broad group of sci-fi aficionados, and quickly branched out from the Trek format to include Babylon 5, Stargate,Firefly, Battlestar Galactica and dozens of others. Other RPGs had firm rules and requirements–all we ask is that people choose a character from any one of the franchises they like, or make up their own consistent with those stories or others. We have Q, anime, Federation, Klingons, androids, AIs, humans, wolves, faeries, ghosts, evil scientists, Doctor Who companions: a virtual creative burst of improv adventure theatre every night.

I am one of the oldest in the group, and when I married the Cabana Boy, we became stand-in “parents” for many of the youngers, most of whom were teenagers back in the late 90s. Through instant messenging services, we got to know these young people, and they us. I think it says something for the quality of these relationships that a number of them survive to this day.

There is something about the anonymity of communication on the Internet that encourages intimacy. Perhaps it’s that one isn’t constrained by all the physical discouragements, or that it’s easier to find those of like mind outside one’s immediate vicinity. While our characters hashed out great space battles, engaged in chivalrous love stories and carried out lives that could never be in real life, we talked about things that mattered to them, like teen life. Boys. Girls. Driving. Bullying. Careers. School. Parents. We worked hard to make sure that the adults who participated in our group were like-minded and would watch out for our little brood of Internet space chicks.

It’s been ten years since this group solidified. Some players have gone and new ones have joined. The core group is the same. Young people who we saw through pimples and dating are now getting married and having babies of their own. They’re graduating from college. They’re out in the work force. They’re serving their country. They’re getting ready to become pilots. As a cyber-mother, I have the opportunity to be proud all over again.

Within the last week, two of the young men I’ve known all these years have both mentioned to me their appreciation for the care and listening ear I’ve provided. I’m gratified to know I’ve been a meaningful part of their lives. They’ve certainly been part of mine.

So for Jordan, Jon, Sebastien and Jen, Mike, Dacie, Tim, Trina and John, Jeff, Brian, Luc, Matt, Robin, Stacy, Chad and Yolanda and the many others who’ve come and gone,  we wish you a safe flight out there in the black. Remember, you always have a place to come home and people who care about you.

As we enter our 10th year, Maquis Universal is accepting new players. Those wishing to participate in an online sci-fi community where seat belts are optional and anything can happen are invited to fly by and check us out.

Still walking those streets

“Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for love, and then for a few close friends, and then for money.” — Moliere

After the joy that was NaNoWriMo last November, when my family and I agreed I could throw everything into those 30 days and write a novel, I’ve worked on many writing projects, including this blog, in off-hours from real life. This week, I have permission to enter the writing life at full throttle again–and I’m grabbing it with both hands.

Oh yes, there are a few client matters to be handled first, and a round of doctor visits for the kiddies, but those are under control. The real business of the week is the Pennwriters Conference, including the special fiction seminar spanning the day Thursday. Ah, sweet abandon. To be surrounded in a place with 450 others as enamored of this vice as I, to speak of it day and night, to learn techniques and shortcuts and formats, to steep in its heady liquor until–

Whoa. I’m getting carried away already. Sorry about that.

Where was I? Oh yeah. Making connections. When I went to my first conference a number of years ago, I was really a fish out of water. Since then, I’ve met a number of folk of the Pennwriters persuasion either online or in person, so I’m a little more familiar. I’m also published regularly now; then I’d been practicing law a little more full-time. I have spiffy business cards from my Firefox gig. I have a blog and a whole new cadre of friends. I’m an author with a book under my belt and a story in another coming out in December.

I have a literary agent– a new development last week that was VERY exciting. My agent read my NaNovel with the autistic heroine and it clicked with her–because she, too, has an autistic child. Serendipity. Her comment was this: “What better way to encourage understanding than through a fictional and incredibly interesting YA novel?” What better way indeed?

At the conference, I have a PennPal–this means I’ve been appointed as the guide and gopher for one of their celebrity guests, in my case Keith R. A. DeCandido. So I’m excited about that, though I don’t even know where it might lead. At least we can commiserate over the loss of my dear Firefly as we curse the Fox Network over a few drinks.

I have an appointment to pitch my novel to Melanie Donovan of HarperCollins Children’s Division. How often do we get to see a real editor face to face? Everyone knows editors don’t put their pants on one leg at a time! Eeek! I haven’t practiced my elevator pitch yet, but I’m giving myself time to do that this week. Maybe I can get it down to a two-floor long speech.

So yes, I’m getting ready to sell myself. I’m even getting my hair done. But I don’t think I’ll be selling myself short. Wish me luck.

Where has all the smart, funny sci-fi gone?

I suppose I could subtitle this: “OR WHY I NO LONGER WATCH THE FOX NETWORK.”

Yes, fellow sci-fi fans, this is about Joss Whedon’s Firefly, and follow-up Serenity. Each time I think I’ve got the sting out of my system that it’s cancelled, BAM, someone brings up the subject again and opens the wound. Nooooo not again!
But this time it was a good thing.

Gamers who love the ‘Verse will be able to experience the joys of the Alliance and the Browncoats through the ship Serenity once again in 2008 as the Multiverse Network, Inc., releases a Firefly massively multiplayer online game (MMOG). While there seems to be some mystery as to the actual state of development or date of release, any incarnation of these fine criminals is worth checking out.

I always loved this show, even though I’m not a big Western fan. Living in a rural area, I’m constantly surrounded by people who aren’t all dandied up like they are on Persephone, so it’s all good. Besides, can you really believe the future will be as button-up and clean as Star Trek? Hardly the way we humans tend to run things. As River says, we “meddle” in how other people choose to run their lives. Better to live on the edge.

The humor was edgy as well, sharp with sarcasm, and there were mysteries aplenty yet unsolved at its untimely end. Most of the actors involved also tell how the project was a delight and wonderment to them–good vibes all around.

For me, I’m glad Firefly does not rest in peace. I hope the media mediums keep trying to bring it back from the dead, as long as any of us are here to watch. These nine living, breathing, wonderful characters deserve the chance at life. Nine. NINE. NINE. (Joss Whedon, you bastard!!!)