Wednesday, December 3, 2014

O, Holy Night

It's one of the most familiar Christmas songs to us, but where did it come from?

Bethlehem, images | Star of Bethlehem was bright star that showed Magi the way to Baby ...

The version we often hear today is a rendering by John Sullivan Dwight, but the original version was called Cantique de Noël.  It was written by a Frenchman named Placide Cappeau, and the original music, which we still use today, was written by another Frenchman named Adolphe Adam.  Neither of them were truly Christians; in fact, Cappeau was an artist and journalist who wrote the song at the request of a parish priest.  Adam wrote many operas and ballets.  Still, God used them to write one of our greatest Christmas carols about Christ's birth and the redemption and hope it provides to men.

O Holy Night

O holy night!  The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
'Til He appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.

How's the Christmas season progressing for you?  Don't forget to enter the giveaway for A Christmas Carol.  Speaking of that, I'm going to see a musical version of The Christmas Carol live this Friday.  I can't wait!  Are you doing anything special this week to celebrate Christmas?

Thanks for reading, God bless, and Merry Christmas,

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Christmas Giveaway!

Hey, guys!  Welcome back to Hidden Orchards for our second day of festivities.  Today, as those of you who already read yesterday's post know, we're having a giveaway.  And what, pray tell, am I giving away?

Well, everyone knows that Christmas movies are a fun tradition in most families, so I decided to give away a Christmas movie.  To be specific, I'm giving away one copy of my favorite version of A Christmas Carol.

Yes, that's right, folks.  You could snuggle up with your family and a few Christmas cookies and watch this wonderful movie with great delight.

Are you as excited as I am about Christmas?  Last night, my grandpa and one of my brothers and I went and saw an amazing Christmas light display in this park.  We drove through and just admired thousands upon thousands of lights.  It was really pretty amazing and put me even more in the Christmas spirit than I already was.

Well, I'm going to go bake something Christmas-y, so I'll leave you with a Christmas song.  Here's the suite from The Polar Express.

Thanks for reading, God bless, and Merry Christmas,

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Big Christmas Bash - Day 1

Merry Christmas, Bloglings!

Oops! I Craft My Pants: Christmas iPhone Wallpaper

The day I've been waiting for has finally arrived.  The Big Christmas Bash, hosted by Hidden Orchards, is finally here.

Honestly, I've felt like a time-bomb, just waiting until it was socially acceptable to begin open Christmas festivities.  There are so many mini-Scrooges who think that anything that has to do with Christmas before Thanksgiving is a capital crime and call it commercialism.

I like to imagine them boiled in pudding and buried with a stake of holly through their hearts.*  It helps heighten my Christmas spirit, doncha know.

And, for all those who are wondering, no, I am not Black Friday shopping.  I hate shopping at the best of times; why would I want to risk my life amongst mobs of people?

Instead, I am writing this splendid blog post and welcoming you to Hidden Orchards for a delightful Christmas celebration.  Since Christmas comes only once a year, I like to keep it up as long as possible.

By the way, keep your eyes open for a series of giveaways between now and Christmas.  Our first giveaway will start tomorrow.

Now, to bring out the Christmas cheer, I'm going to open this party with a link-up!

Hidden Orchards' Christmas Favorites Link-Up

Feel free to answer the questions on your own blog and link back here when you're finished.  Just comment with a link to your blog post.  I can't wait to see what everyone does at Christmastime.

1.  What's your favorite part about Christmas?

Baking Christmas Cookies2.  Does your family have any special Christmas traditions?  If so, which is your favorite?

3.  Everyone knows that music is best part of Christmas.  What's your favorite Christmas carol?

4.  What's your favorite Christmas song (i.e. non-sacred carol).

5.  What's your favorite Christmas story or novel?

6.  What's your favorite Christmas cookie?

7.  Do you shop at Christmastime?  Where's your favorite place to do Christmas shopping?

8.  What's your favorite Christmas treat?

9.  Do you watch Christmas movies?  What's your favorite one?

10.  We all know how much fun setting up the Christmas tree can be.  Of course, there are always those ornaments that you made in first grade that you would rather forget but they go on the tree anyway.  Do you have a favorite ornament?  What's the story behind it?

Thanks so much to all those who answer these questions.  And now, here's one of my favorite Christmas songs, from the Disney version of A Christmas Carol.

Thanks for reading, God bless, and Merry Christmas,

* This is based on a quote from A Christmas Carol, just so you know.  If you haven't read it or watched it yet, you really should.  It's one of my favorite things about Christmas.  And now I feel good about myself for citing my sources.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

I Love to Laugh (and more about Christmas)

Hello, everyone.  Today I'm going to go on a rant about fiction, so beware.  To make up for said rant, I will talk about Christmas-y things at the end, because everyone knows how much fun Christmas is.

The Rant

I am past starting to get annoyed with the fact that I most of the books published in my time are unreadable if I want to (a) stick to godly, Christian standards and (b) not have to keep my brains from running away because of the way I've abused them.  Oddly enough, though, that's not exactly what I'm going to rant about.  It sort of stems off of that.  You see, so many people go around bemoaning the sad state of modern fiction when they are writers who can help fix the state of modern fiction by writing decent literature.
Ha Ha Ha Ha!
No, I'm sad and a little mad that people who do write decent literature always seem to think that a sense of humor enters the story as an afterthought.  Gone are the days of Mary Roberts Rinehart and A. A. Milne, and even Wilkie Collins, but why?  Why has the literate world suddenly plunged into this state of darkness and gloom and epic fantasy that has the whole world at stake?  Why is it that the funny character is always the sidekick?

There is very little light-hearted fiction being written nowadays, and that makes me sad.  The entertaining reading that is being put out nowadays is dark and heavy.  That's not to say that it doesn't have a great message, but why must we always dwell on grandiose battles and the hero saving an entire world?  Or, worse, why must we dwell on romance?  I shan't even take my mind there right now, because then I would be writing an even longer and duller post.

Am I saying that there's something wrong with fantasy or adventure books?  Of course not!  I even enjoy them.  What I am saying is that we are losing the art of humorous writing styles when we stick to such themes, and when we lose humor, we become dry.

Why does no one satirize society anymore?  I can think of a good many things about society that I could make ridiculous through humor.  Good authors seem to shy away from that, though.  

As for situational comedy, there seems to be very little of that being published any more.  Does no one see that it doesn't have to be fluff?  Some of the best messages can be relayed through humor.

I am of the firm belief that people who laugh at wholesome humor are the better for it.  The only problem is, how are we supposed to laugh at what doesn't exist.

Now, I shall follow my own example after I give a few more details about my big Christmas bash.

 Christmas-y Things

St. Patrick's in NYC at Christmas timeAh, we can talk about fun things now.  Don't forget, I'm having a Christmas party here on Hidden Orchards starting the week after Thanksgiving (for those of you who absolutely can't stand the sight of anything that has to do with Christmas before Thanksgiving).  

You can be involved.  In fact, I want you to be involved.  I've already had a few girls respond to being interviewed here on Hidden Orchards, but I'd love to have more.  If you want to talk about Christmas and Christmas books here, then please feel free to leave a comment below, and I'll contact you later.

Also, I'm going to have some fun giveaways.  Also, I'm going to have some tags.  Also, Christmas at the Tittletons is on sale now for Christmas.  It would make a great gift for someone who loves to read.

Lastly, I've been toying with the idea of making a vlog post during the Christmas party.  What do you think?  Let me know if you would enjoy hearing the melodious strains of my voice.

Now, feel free to spread the word about this most glorious event.  I would be most grateful.

Thanks for reading, and God bless,

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mrs. Mabel Flavingswell and Co.

As most of you know (I suddenly realized that I start a good deal of blog posts with that statement.  Good heavens, I need to give you some new information!), The Replacement Relatives is set at the Christmas after the World War I Armistice.  Soldiers are coming home, and Mrs. Flavingswell, our capricious, inconsistent, and eccentric leading lady, is in denial that her son, Edward, is not going to be coming back with the others.

Mrs. Mabel Flavingswell, the heroine of our story
Mrs. Mabel Flavingswell
Mrs. Flavingswell is a pretty fun person to be around when she's in a good mood.  She's a soft heart, really, but she's not afraid to say exactly what she thinks when she gets angry, which is basically any time Mrs. Sylvia Flavingswell, First-Cousin-Once-Removed Bruce's wife, is in the close vicinity.  Mrs. Sylvia is both similar to and different from Mrs. Mabel.  Their chief difference lies in the fact that Mrs. Mabel has a sense of humor and Mrs. Sylvia doesn't.  Other than that, though, they're both capricious, strong-minded women who have pretty deep-running feelings.

One of my chief points in the story is the introduction of Hamilton Claymore, a recently discharged soldier.  I initially debated actually putting him into the story, because there is something kind of trite about the "mysterious stranger showing up on Christmas Eve" that I want to avoid.  Claymore, for your information, shows up on Christmas Eve Eve, but he could still seem . . . same-y.  In order to avoid that, I let Bruce Flavingswell suspect him of being a con artist.  That put in a lot of extra conflict that I wasn't going to have originally, as the entire household tries to keep him away from Mrs. Flavingswell so that he can't con her out of her money.  Claymore actually came for the express purpose of giving Mrs. Flavingswell a private message from her son, so naturally he's trying to get her alone while everyone else is trying to keep him from getting her alone.  In this way I try to keep Claymore from becoming that character.  Who wants to read about a character that is exactly like fifty-seven other characters that he has already read?

Claymore is going to be bothersome.  I can already see that.  First of all, he's a young, unmarried man, which I didn't have before.  I originally added him into the mix to heighten the situational comedy that I was going for anyway.  Now it looks like he could be the one and only love interest to our clumsy oaf of Mrs. Flavingswell's companion, Bianca Quettle.  Poor Bianca has had a difficult life, and she gets saddled with the undesirable task of keeping four snow-bound children out of trouble, making her life even more difficult.

I need some help for Bianca.  Would you personally rather read this story if she and Claymore fell in love or if they stayed sane and healthy?  What would be better for the comedy?  Feel free to express your opinions with gusto in the comments below.
Snow, snow, snow!
Snow for Christmas
As for the children, I've been working on their relationships to the grown-ups.  Bianca gets stuck with them, and she definitely has a favorite in Solomon Spencer, the shy middle child of the Spencer siblings.  Her least favorite is Edgar Flavingswell, a brat plain and simple.  Anne and Carl Spencer, the eldest and youngest of the Spencer children, take it upon themselves to make Edgar's life miserable.  Bianca, of course, has to keep the parents from finding out, because she's afraid they'll blame her for everything that goes wrong.  In Mrs. Sylvia's case she's completely right.

Mrs. Flavingswell feels a sentimental, benevolent sort of tie to the children.  She's happy to have them in the house at Christmastime, because it takes her back to the years when her own son was young and there were many children in the house all the time.  She has all sorts of things for them to do, from making fudge to singing for her.  Both of those activities go terribly awry, but Mrs. Flavingswell turns a blind eye to the children's faults, partly because she is so taken up with the adults' faults.

I don't go much into the parent-children relationships.  The parents mostly leave their children alone, trusting to Bianca as a sort of nurse-maid while they enjoy themselves.  This is partly because I don't want to make things too complicated and partly because I want Bianca to have a lot of troubles with the children.

As for Claymore, he actually attracts the children.  I'm sort of basing this on my oldest younger brother, who happens to love little kids and always hits it off well with them.  Bianca is frustrated, because she doesn't trust Claymore, thinking him to be a con man, but she wants to keep the children placated so that she doesn't get into trouble.

So, this sounds like a lot of fluff, you say.  Don't worry!  There is a theme underneath this comedy as Mrs. Flavingswell starts to realize that the replacements she's brought in for her relatives are really not so very different from the relatives themselves.  Her problem is not with her relatives, but in the way she views people in general.  Also, she has to learn to let go of the past and learn to enjoy the present, which is pretty hard to do when you have four mischievous kids trying to amuse themselves while snowed into your house that seems to grow smaller by the minute.

Yes, I'm only slightly obsessed with this at the moment.  Hopefully I'll be posting some snippets soon, although as my choir has a concert next week and tour starting the week after that, I'm sure that my posting will be sporadic, at best.

Don't forget that Christmas at the Tittletons is on sale here right now.  You should go check it out, because it will make a good Christmas gift for any of your friends and family who love to read.

Thanks for reading, and God bless,

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Replacement Relatives

Welcome back, dearies!  As promised, here is a bit about my annual Christmas story.  This year it's called The Replacement Relatives.

When Mrs. Mabel Flavingswell decides that her relatives are too annoying to endure for an entire Christmas holiday, she invites a different set of people: middle-aged twins Marshall and Martha, who haven't spoken to each other for fourteen years, and Martha's husband and three children.  Unfortunately, just as Mrs. Flavingswell is settling back to enjoy the highly interesting clashes between the formerly estranged siblings, disgruntled First-Cousin-Once-Removed Bruce Flavingswell arrives at the Flavingswell homestead with his persnickety wife and bratty son.  With a beastly blizzard in the mix and a strange, recently discharged Lieutenant showing up on Christmas Eve, nothing could possibly be worse.

That is, nothing will get worse unless hired girl Bianca Quettle decides to improve her shy nature around all these confusing people.

Set in New England during the Christmas of 1918, The Replacement Relatives may or may not make you groan with sympathy for poor, misunderstood Mrs. Flavingswell.  Just please don't root for Edgar.  He's pretty bad.

Edgar Flavingswell, the terror of everyone who knows him
Edgar Flavingswell

So, yes, this is my Christmas story.

Now, I've basically given the cast in the summary, but here's a list of some of the delightful (and otherwise) characters.

  • Mrs. Mabel Flavingswell ~ The lady of the house is a bit annoying, especially at first, but she really does have a soft heart . . . once you get to know her.
  • Bianca Quettle ~ Poor girl, she's the one who has to deal with all the cranky people and bratty children.  Of course, with her sense of humor, I think she can manage it.
  • Elkanah Bimms ~ He's the hired man of Flavingswell homestead.  He's the sort who comes out with one-liners and does all the handy things about the place.
  • Mrs. Bimms ~ Elkanah's wife, of course, is the cook, and she makes no bones about what she thinks of children messing up her kitchen.
These four live on the homestead, and they're pretty nice most of the time.  It's only the thought of having to spend Christmas with Edgar Flavingswell that makes their skin curl in disgust.

And now for some snippets:

It was at that precise moment that Bianca Quettle came stumbling into the parlor.  Bianca always stumbled, poor girl.  She stumbled, dropped things, and looked generally unhappy whenever she was about people.  Now she came in, balancing the tea tray on her hands in a way that made Mrs. Mabel Flavingswell shudder with fear and horror.  Bianca was a nice young lady, but she was so dreadfully awkward.  Mrs. Mabel Flavingswell, admittedly, kept her around simply for the excitement.  There was nothing dull about Bianca.
Mrs. Sylvia Flavingswell, the annoying wife of First-Cousin-Once-Removed Bruce
Mrs. Sylvia Flavingswell
~ The Replacement Relatives

“No Bruce, no Sylvia, no Nephew Osborne, no Luke, no Sarabelle, and no Edgar.  I feel that this Christmas will be quite pleasant.”  Mrs. Flavingswell nodded serenely.  “Did you know that Sarabelle actually had the audacity to tell me that my dining room set was outdated?”
            Bianca did know that.  She had been there when Sarabelle had somehow screwed up the courage to tell her elder cousin what she thought of the dining room table.  Mrs. Flavingswell had returned a comment concerned with what she thought of Sarabelle.  Although that made things awkward for most of the family, Bianca had been rather entertained.  Sarabelle had a face that looked like a plump boiled potato, and it always reddened whenever she was angry.  Bianca had been hard put to keep from laughing at that most solemn moment.
~ The Replacement Relatives

She was greeted with a blast of snow and a tip of a very snowy hat.  “Afternoon, Miss.”
            “Good afternoon,” said Bianca.  “Do come in.”
            “Thanks much, Miss,” said the man to whom the snowy hat belonged.  “Mr. Marshall Lamb, at your service.”
            “I’m Miss Bianca Quettle,” said Bianca.  “Everyone just calls me Bianca or Miss Bianca.”  She slammed the door shut as soon as Mr. Lamb was all the way in the house.  “Welcome!”
            “Thanks, Miss,” he said as he began to divest himself of his outdoor wrappings.  He certainly had a lot of them, but when they were off of him and in Bianca’s arms, she could see why.  He must have been the thinnest man that Bianca had ever seen.  There was no mistaking him for anyone but Mrs. Martha Spencer’s brother.  His waist was smaller than Bianca’s; on that she would have staked her own life.  He had a thin mouth and a thin amount of sandy hair on his thinnish looking head.  His arms looked like little pine branches, and his fingers looked like very delicate twigs.  His trousers might have been made for a boy, so scrawny were they.
~ The Replacement Relatives

Thanks for reading, and God bless,

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Never Too Early

Ah, my lovely people, welcome to October.  Hereafter shall be the best part of the year, because for the me the official Christmas season starts in October.

1918, the first Christmas after WWIIn case you are wondering, yes, I'm already listening to Christmas music and dreaming about going home for Christmas and thinking about Christmas dinner and imagining what I'll be getting other people for Christmas.  I've already been doing that (since summer), but now it's official.

For all of you people who have this oddity of waiting until after Thanksgiving to begin your official Christmas festivities, I am truly sorry for you.  If you think I'm overly obsessing about Christmas and cheapening the holiday or making it less special because it's happening for a longer amount of time, well or (saints preserve us!) "commercializing" Christmas, well, think again.  I have my reasons.

Most of you know that I'm in college, and I hardly see my family (specifically my parents and younger brothers) at all anymore.  I worked on over the summer, and I was at home for about a week and a half in January and three days in June this year.  In other words, I have chronic homesickness, and the next time I'm going home is at Christmastime.  I can't wait!

Spread the joy!  Buy it here: course, I like Christmas for its own sake, and also because it lends itself so well to story plots.  Just look at my Pinterest account if you don't think that I'm serious enough about Christmas.

Oh, and I have exciting news, which is kind of what I was leading up to with all the rest of this post. That is, I'm having a Christmas sale for Christmas at the Tittletons starting in October.  You can find it here, yes, right here!!! 

The reduced price is $7.45, and this is a great Christmas present for anyone who likes to read.  It's also fun to read aloud, just saying.

Why are you putting CatT on sale right now, you ask?  Well, I'm doing this for those people like my mother who love to get their Christmas shopping done a few months early.  Don't worry, though.  This sale is going on throughout Christmas Day.

For all those people who hate celebrating Christmas before Thanksgiving, don't worry.  I'm going to have a big Hidden Orchards Christmas party, but not until after Thanksgiving.  Then I'll have a selection of tags, giveaways, and some Christmas-y interviews.  If you want to participate in any of the interviews, please feel free to leave a comment below with your email so that I can contact you.  I moderate all the comments, so your email won't show up.

Also, I'll be posting soon on a new Christmas novel that I'm working on, which is called The Replacement Relatives.  You'll hear more about that later.

All right, well, that's all folks.  Merry Pre-Christmas.

Thanks for reading, and God bless,