Friday, December 31, 2010

Of resolutions, candybars and gnomes

I hardly ever write short stories, but Lisa over at Paranormal Point of View held a writing prompt contest. I want to thank her for all her paranormal insights that have provided humor, unusual food for thought and sometimes even inspiration over the past year.

What better way to end 2010 than with a story?


The Three SweetTooth Gnomes

Once upon a time there were three gnomes, Doorknob, Chuckle and Cane, who lived in the old Agriculture building at the University of Wyoming. These were staircase gnomes, which are a different variety from your common garden gnome and do not wear red caps. In fact, Doorknob always wore a brown hat, Chuckle wore a pink hat, and Cane wore a white hat, except on Sundays when he wore a tie-dyed cap.

The old sandstone building had two staircases, one at either end of the terrazzo halls. Doorknob was the keeper of the west staircase and Chuckle was the keeper of the east staircase, and Cane split his time between them. He suffered from a terrible case of bitterness because he did not have a staircase of his own.

Most of the students and faculty did not realize that gnomes lived under the staircases but the janitors did and were always careful to leave a candy bar on the last step on the last hour of the last day of every month to keep the gnomes happy. Otherwise odd things would happen like a small puddle appearing on the second landing for the dean to slip on, or chewing gum stuck under the staircase railings.

Eventually the powers that be at the College of Agriculture decided to have an elevator installed because the building was not up to code. The gnomes were very disturbed by the construction but when the elevator shaft was complete and the elevator installed, Cane capered in delight. Now he had his own domain to keep.

Unfortunately, the janitors were not aware there was a third gnome who had taken over the elevator shaft. When they failed to leave a candy bar out for him, the elevator began to stop at random locations between floors every other Tuesday, trapping people for hours at a time. The faculty and staff soon figured out that the elevator was not safe on Tuesdays. But many of the students, who only stopped by the building for classes, became Cane’s victims. He especially enjoyed piping Muzak into the elevator to torture his captives.

One Tuesday, which happened to be the last day of the month, a researcher who worked in the building decided to take the elevator up to her office, even though she knew it was a risk. She was 7 months pregnant with twins and climbing the stairs had become very difficult. But sure enough the elevator jammed between the second and third floor, and just as soon as it stopped the mysterious Musak started playing even though there were no speakers in the elevator that she could see. She pressed the emergency button and someone from engineering promised they would be over to help her just as soon as they fixed the flooding toilets in the Business building (most likely the bathroom sprites in that building had not been appeased for some time).

So she sat down to wait. Because she was carrying twins she was always hungry, and because she was always hungry she always carried a candy bar in her purse for emergencies such as this. But when she pulled out the candy bar she realized she had picked a Mounds by accident and she could not abide coconut. She would starve to death before she ate a coconut candy bar.

But then a useful thought occurred to her (perhaps prompted by her baby twins, because it is quite true that twins are much more prescient than singles and even more so when they are still in the womb). She decided to leave the candy bar in the elevator for the next poor hapless soul who got trapped inside of it.

So that is what she did. An hour later she was rescued. The next day one of the janitors discovered the candy bar wrapper tucked into a crevice below the emergency call button. He had a lightbulb moment. Ever since then the elevator gnome has been well supplied with candy bars and there have been no troubles with the elevator. Everyone lived happily ever after in the Agriculture building except for the butterflies pinned in the display case outside the entomology lab.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Tale of Two Trees

Normally I take the easy route when it comes to picking a Christmas tree… I trot down to the corner store at the end of our street that sells spruce trees every year. This year however my husband, Bill, wanted us to go up into the mountains and pick out our own tree and cut it down.

Even without four kids in tow, this is no easy adventure: all the trees along the roadsides have already been picked over, and the snow gets awfully deep when you try to trek into the forest to find a handsome tree. But Bill had a great idea: “we’ll take the horses. They can plow through the snow for us, and we can cover more ground.” Okay, so what about the kids? "Easy," he says. “The oldest can ride her own horse, and the other three I’ll pull along in a sled behind me, and you can pull the Christmas tree behind you after we cut it.”

Sounds simple. But of course it was not. First of all, Bill got this bright idea around 2 pm in the afternoon, so by the time we’d loaded the horses and hauled them up into the mountains (a 45 minute drive), unloaded them, saddled them, and got all the girls trussed up like goose-down sausages, it was already 4 pm and we had about 45 minutes of daylight left in which to find a tree.

As our horses started plowing through snow we soon encountered another problem. Riding horses through the mountains means going up – and what goes up, must eventually come down. That means a heavy sled holding three girls comes down rather FAST – right into the heels of the horse pulling. Riding behind Bill and the girls, I saw the sled starting to gain on him and called out a warning. I figured he’d just drop the rope and pull the horse to the side, but instead he kicks his horse into a gallop to keep ahead of the sled. Which turned out to be the best thing to do because otherwise the sled might have crashed into a tree. Regardless as anyone who has ever gone hill sledding knows, all the kids eventually flipped out of the sled, but they were all giggling and crying out “do it again Daddy, do it again!”

Well, our 45 minutes sped by before we found a good tree, so we ended up backtracking and hunting for trees by flashlight. We cut down two trees we thought might be decent specimens (one for us, one for my parents), but when we got them home and into some proper light, we realized they were perfectly pitiful, skinny, sparse things. I am not a tree snob but I just couldn’t see how there were even enough branches for half my ornaments. Then, I had a light-bulb moment. “Let’s wire them together and see how they look.”

Bill thought I was crazy but he’s a wise man and knows better than to argue with a woman in a Christmas-decorating mood. So he helped me wire the two skinny trees together and lo and behold – a real Christmas tree emerged. I still had to help my mom get a Christmas tree for her house, but I was tickled about our two-tree Christmas tree. You can’t even tell unless you stand up right next to it!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Christmas Horse

I'm sure we all know someone who has the perfect child. Gets straight A's in school, excels at sports or music or both, never seems to give their parents any trouble (at least that they tell us about).

My kids all have problems of some sort - nothing major (thank heavens!) They require help like speech therapy, or physical therapy (for one of my preemie twins), or vision therapy for dyslexia. My oldest girl is borderline A.D.D. at school, is a very reluctant reader, is 9 years old but already has a 13 year old attitude. But when an idea takes hold of this girl, she takes off! This Christmas, entirely without prompting, she wrote and illustrated a Christmas story, and of course being a proud mama I have to share it (adorable spelling errors and all)

The Christmas Horse

A young horse was a good horse but the hrose did not have any friends. One night the horse was sleeping and a nois woke her up. The hores saw a man in red and white. The horse was scard. "I do not want to be stolen!" said the horse. "Stop! Stop!"
"I will not hert you, girl," the man said.
"Then who are you?" said the horse.
"I am Father Chrismis," said the man.
"Then Farthe Chrismis why did you come?"
"I came because you would like a friend."
"Yes!"
"Well come with me!" So they went into the night.
Father Chrismis said "do you want to fly?"
"Yes!"
"Well, I lost my slay [sleigh] so I cannot get home." Then Father Christmas grapped a bag and said: "Let the horse fly." and the horse floo off with Father Chrismis and they became best friends forever."

My daughter doesn't realize that she just gave me the best possible Christmas present she could possibly give!

What's the best "home-made" Christmas gift you've ever received?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Inspiring articles by Holly Black, John Green, Lemony Snicket and more

Seriously, it took me this long - almost two weeks! - to recover from thirty days and 50,300 words of writing during NaNoWriMo. This was the hardest NaNo of the four I've done so far. I have (what I feel) is a great book, great characters, a detailed outline to follow... and yet the older I get, the slower I write. I've heard a lot of other writers say when they get focused they can write upwards of 2000 words an hour. I wrote an average of 600 words an hour. So my progress was slow, and I built up a huge sleep deficit.

But I had a wonderful time! I love how NaNoWriMo allows me to immerse myself in my alternative worlds where I discover new things every day. I feel so ALIVE during this month, like I'm living to my fullest potential.

I have about 2/3 of my YA novel written... 1/3 to go. Problem is that Christmas season follows right on the heels of NaNoWriMo, and with four kids in various Christmas programs and concerts, not to mention Christmas cards and shopping and mandatory parties to attend (yeah, it's rough, MANDATORY parties) and I still have a day job with projects that didn't get proper attention during November so now I had to get them back up to speed.... the excuses pile up I haven't gotten any writing done since November ended.

And I miss all my blogging buddies! So I am going to wrap this up with links to some inspirational writing talks from authors that kept me going during NaNoWriMo. Then I'm visiting all my favorite blogs and see what ya'll have been up to since I disappeared!

Famous authors inspire NaNoWriMo participants:

Lemony Snicket - author of A Series of Unfortunate Events. This article will have you scratching your head with delighted confusion and reverse psychology


Holly Black's article - author of Tithe and co-author of the Spiderwick Chronicles

John Green's article - author of Looking for Alaska and co-author of Will Grayson, Will Grayson


Find other recent amazing author articles here and more from 2007-2009 here, with a stellar list of authors including Meg Cabot, Gail Carson Levine, Neil Gaiman, Garth Nix, Robin McKinley, Mercedes Lackey, Piers Anthony (REALLY! PIERS ANTHONY!), Tamora Pierce, Brian Jacques, Phillip Pullman, Jonathon Stroud, and more.

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