Excerpt from Kringle in the Night

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One Friday, in a college classroom that had seen a hundred years, Brent Oberhauser stood in front of his class, a tall and lean man in jeans and an ice-blue sweater that matched his eyes. He ran a hand across the side of his head, a habit he retained from before he’d started shaving his head against his prematurely and fast-receding hairline.


Students, heads bowed, wrote rapidly in examination books, answering questions about Medieval and Renaissance European history. History, Brent considered as he proctored the exam, wasn’t just about what happened, but what one had learned from what happened. More than once, he wondered what he had learned from his twenty-nine years thus far. He’d think about that later, when his obligations were over and before he settled down for the night. First, he would need to go to the office to pick up a couple books, then drive into Denver to work his barista shift at the Book Nook. If he timed it right, he could have a cup of espresso Romano before work.


The exam proceeded uneventfully, with students silently scribbling, and he wished his students a happy holiday as they wandered off one by one toward winter break. He gathered up the exams and walked briskly down a hallway with its dark wood and stark white walls, dodging students who waited for the next exam. He passed the statuesque Renee Porterfield, also a PhD candidate, who wished him a happy holiday in her rush down the hall in the other direction.
Soon, Brent stood in his cubicle in the small grad students’ office, putting books into his worn leather messenger bag in which he’d already stuffed the last of the exams for the semester. One book he packed to help him double-check the last-minute corrections his dissertation committee requested after he defended two weeks before; the other book was a history of Father Christmas he had written a few years earlier and published on Amazon, and it was that volume that caused him much frustration at the moment.

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Brent pulled on his fleece-lined denim jacket and slung the messenger bag over his shoulder. Father Christmas, he thought as he turned off the lights of the office on his way out. Survival of old pagan customs. Symbol of English Christmas. Topic of endless Victorian postcards. But which Father Christmas?


His cell phone rang. He checked the readout to find out who his caller was, and he answered the call. “Kris.” He felt his cheeks flame. “I don’t know if I can do it.”


The pleasant voice on the other side spoke calmly. “Brent, you wrote the book. You understand Father Christmas better than anyone else in — in the world, perhaps.”


That was the rub. Brent’s medieval reenactment group had lost their Father Christmas when Kris Kriegel moved to Missouri to be with his true love. Kris, the former Father Christmas, had decided that Brent should take over as Father Christmas for the Yule Ball.


It was two weeks till the Yule Ball, and Brent didn’t know how he could fit in Kris’s boots.


“You can do it,” Kris repeated. “I have a sense about you.”


“A sense,” Brent echoed.


“Yes. I’ve been playing Father Christmas long enough that I get a sense of who would be good at playing him. And that’s you, Brent. I can’t explain it. Trust me.”


“But I’m not you. They’re used to you.”


“I can’t come back and do it. Marcia’s going to have that baby any minute.”


“Oh, yeah.” Brent seized upon the change in conversation. “How’s she doing?”


“Fine. She thinks she’s huge, but that’s the way pregnancies happen. She’s healthy, and our daughter Noelle should show up right on time. Whenever that is.” Kris chuckled. “I’m doing Santa gigs with my phone at hand in case she goes into labor.”


Ten minutes later, after closing the call, Brent didn’t feel any better about playing the spirit of Christmas for the medieval reenactment group that hosted the Yule Ball, of which he’d been a member for ten years.
I am not Kris. Brent grimaced. I am not Father Christmas.

Christmas Songs in October?

No, there’s a reason

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I am prepping for my NaNoWriMo project, It Takes Two to Kringle. It’s the third Kringle Christmas romance. I’ve made a tentative outline which will get less tentative the second or third pass around. I have two weeks till NaNo, so I think it will get done.

But I also make a playlist for each novel I write, hopefully before the novel is written. I should mention that it’s not just my efforts; my husband contributes by searching iTunes for suitable songs. He’s at his best with Christmas songs.

The playlist goes as follows:

  • Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas — Judy Garland
  • Jingle Bells (Synth-Pop Version)
  • The Christmas Can-Can — Straight No Chaser
  • Sister Winter — Sufjan Stevens
  • Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! — Dean Martin
  • White Christmas — Johnny Mathis
  • The Christmas Waltz — Leslie Odom, Jr.
  • I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm — Barry Manilow
  • Justice Delivers Its Gift — Sufjan Stevens
  • River — Sarah McLachlan
  • Christmas Lights — Coldplay
  • Time To Fall In Love — Lindsey Stirling
  • Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy — Pentatonix
  • Merry Christmas Baby — Elvis Presley

A listen through

I listened to the whole playlist this morning and I’m really getting a good feel from it. It fits the moods of the novel, and it stands alone as a Christmas playlist (along with the two previous years’ Christmas soundtracks).

Now all I have to do is write the novel in November.

What I’m learning in therapy

I’ve been going to therapy online to get over the uncomfortable feeling that I don’t know who I am now that I’m successfully getting treated medically for bipolar. I’ve had this nagging feeling for years.

What I have learned so far:

  • I have good boundaries. But I have boundaries around my boundaries
  • I believe (or have been led to believe) that my inner child is a monster
  • I have walled off inner child from rest of me.

I don’t quite believe all of this. I believe it’s more nuanced, as if the inner child isn’t so much walled away but quarantined. I have a sense of myself as inner child but I don’t trust it. It’s probably right to not blindly trust its judgment, but I treat it as if it were my bipolar tendencies.

That’s a lot for three weeks, though..

Busy/Not Busy

New responsibilities at work

I’ve been moving into a period of more responsibilities at work, probably because I’m seeming more stable lately. I don’t mind, but I have to make sure I don’t a) procrastinate; b) overwork myself.

Balance

Work is a balancing game for me because of my bipolar disorder and because of my writing. I have office work to do today. And a meeting with a therapist. And part of my outline for It Takes Two to Kringle. Luckily I’m working at home today and I can get the work stuff done before I do personal stuff in the late afternoon.

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The work unnerves me when I look at it all in one piece. Which, I guess, is a good reason not to look at it all at once.

Time for rest

I have to work on this one. I get plenty of sleep (this is necessary with bipolar) but I don’t always feel rested. I think a lot of this is psychological — when I’m faced with a pile of work, I fret about whether I’ll get it done, and that makes me tired.

I need to work on resting my mind, which comes from things like meditation, time management that includes free time, and sleep without dwelling on things. Empty mind, in other words.

Time to quit writing and do something

Yeah.

Difficult Conversation

Rumination

I have to have a difficult conversation with someone later today. I’m stewing over it, much more than I would like to. It’s getting in the way of my usual mood of calm anticipation. I’m ruminating about it. I keep rehearsing the worst case scenario.

I have to clear this, because it’s getting in the way of teaching. It’s getting in the way of enjoying life.

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What to do

There are a few things I can do about this disturbance. One is doing a cognitive exercise, contradicting all the surmises I have about how the conversation is going to go. Another is mindfulness and focusing my attention to the present. Yet another is imagining that the conversation goes well, but for me this would lead to more rumination.

Right now I’m turning my attention outward listening to the Cowboy Bebop (original version) soundtrack. It’s amazing blues, showing off Yoko Kanno’s talent at its best. I’m waiting for the live action soundtrack to complete my auditory pleasure. Later I may have to do a cognitive, perhaps before my morning class, because I want to be my best for my classes.

In the End

In the end, this is a little thing in life, especially if the conversation is handled well with no blaming and empathetic listening. And in the meantime, I take care of myself so class (and my life) goes well.

Staring It In the Face

Writers’ angst

I am not as popular as I thought I would be as a writer. Which means that my rank under Amazon’s system is close to the bottom. I don’t know if anyone has read my latest, Kringle in the Night, although I will also in my defense say it’s only been live for a week.

Promotion woes

I don’t know how to promote. I mean, I do, but not in a way where people actually pay attention. Every day? I can’t do that; my conscience won’t subject people to that. Every few days? I think I can do that, and it’s about time for me to do that. In the newsletter? I’ve got to write that today, don’t I?

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Writing and my future

I’m torn between quitting writing, writing for myself, and doing this same path with writing and promotion. I think if I get some positive outcomes I can certainly continue with the latter, but I need some good words to continue. Sorry for the bummer, but this is where I am at the moment.

Send good words and thoughts here!

A Writing Day (Hopefully)

I have a project to do today

I will once again be doing NaNoWriMo in November this year, and I will once again be writing one of my Christmas romances (working title: It Takes Two to Kringle). Today, though, I need to work on outlining the book so I have guidelines on what to write come November. The first book (The Kringle Conspiracy) I wrote without an outline, a process known by writers as “pantsing”. I loosely outlined the second book (Kringle in the Night), otherwise known as “plantsing”. I feel like the second book is tighter than the first, thus I will be outlining the new novel as well.

But first, motivate

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I have been off writing for a little while because life got busy, and now I need to get back to it before NaNo or else I won’t write next Christmas season’s book. But I’m so undermotivated! I don’t know what to do to motivate — I could go out to the cafe, but I don’t know if I feel like it. I could play music on the stereo.

Honestly, though, what’s really stalling me out is feeling overwhelmed by the project at a time where I don’t have much energy.

Breaking the Impasse

If the task of writing an entire outline for a book today is too much, I can break the task down over a couple of days (perhaps five chapters a day) and promise myself a break at the end of those chapters. That way I don’t feel stressed and thus defeated by the task of outlining.

And if I really get into it, maybe I get it all done in one day!

So what are you procrastinating on lately? Let me know in the comments!

I’m Back!

A long hiatus

I’ve taken a hiatus from writing, especially writing this blog, because I have truly been burned out. I’m hoping to get back into the habit before I find myself no longer in the space to write.

What’s been going on.

Not much has been going on — I’ve given and graded midterms, done casualty simulation (moulage) for a major disaster exercise, troweling fake blood on volunteers. I’ve been tired at night and cozy in the early mornings.

I’ve published Kringle in the Night as of a week ago, and I think you should be reading it. A bit of romance, a bit of suspense, and Santa Claus. What more can you ask for? You can find it here.

This is the cover, for anyone who has forgotten:

I should mention I designed the cover to this and to my previous novel, The Kringle Conspiracy, myself.

What to expect from this space in the future

You can expect pretty much the same meanderings as have always been — tomorrow I suspect I will be trying to evoke feelings about fall (available now in the Northern Hemisphere; waiting for six months in the Southern Hemisphere). And I will try to write every day.

See you soon!

Lauren

Fighting Burnout

You haven’t heard from me in a while

I apologize. I’ve been neglecting my writing. Not just the blog, but the books, etc. I’ve been busy with work. I’ve been tired. I’ve had so many little things to arrange.

Or I’m just burned out. The ideas are not flowing. I’ve been devoid of good ideas. I’ve been discouraged by how little my books have been read compared to other people’s work. I’ve been frazzled by how much of my life has become promotion of books. I’m irked at how many writers look down on self-published authors like myself. Like there’s a pinnacle to reach and I will never read it.

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I’ve lost the joy of writing

I’ve been actively avoiding writing lately. I avoid my current work in progress rather than staring at it. I avoid this blog.

I need to find the joy of writing again. I am thinking of changing gears and working on the next Kringle book, which needs to be plotted by November 1st. I need something to perk me up, to remind me that I’m a writer.

I have been here before; I will be here again. I just need to find the way out.