December Pain and Glory

Kage Baker loved December.

She loved the whole holiday arc – Halloween to New Year’s – and really celebrated whatever holiday season it was, in our house. Deco was everywhere, from specially coloured candles to Glass Wax stencils on the windows. Did you know they were once available for every holiday in the calendar? Did you know they can be found on EBay?

Kage found out, and we had Glass Wax up with hearts, leprechauns, bunnies and fireworks – all in pale translucent pink. But it was Christmas where she really got crazy with them: angels, trees, reindeer, snowmen … I remember one year she tried adding fruit juice to give the Glass Wax a less ectoplasmic colour. You know what? Beet, blueberry and strawberry juice stain glass when mixed with whatever the hell is in Glass Wax. We had pale, coloured ghost figures on the front window for months.

Of course, peculiar mishaps like that are part of the fun. In other areas of the winter holidays, Kage kept an orderly time schedule. Halloween lights up on October 1st; changed to fall colours on November 1st; changed to Christmas on December 1st. Those Christmas lights then stayed up until 12th Night. House deco up on the firsts of months as well – tree up on December 15th, down on January 1st. It was all very regular and tidy, and my adherence to this admirable system has pretty much broken down totally … luckily, Kimberly has her own system.

I just sort of go with the flow these days, floating along like a semi-sentient fallen leaf on the bosom of the River of Time. It’s because I hate December.

I love winter nights, coloured lights, Christmas, frost, singing to the stars as you go house to house breathing out cold smoke in the silent darkness. I love ritual fires and feasts. I love giving gifts to those I love. And if it happened at any other time of year, I’d love it all just as much; although getting frost in August would be difficult …

It’s just that almost everyone I have every loved has died in December. And I hate tripping over the headstones day after day. I told Kage, that last December, that I would kill her if she died in December – she kindly did not point out the asininity in this statement, but took it to mean I would be even more peeved if she croaked it during that difficult time. And so she thoughtfully didn’t. She waited until the end of January, when nothing great has ever happened anyway.

This December has been very hard. The months leading up to it have been tough, too. I feel like I’ve suffered a relapse in the grieving process, which has made dealing with the latter half of this year especially painful. Dickens Fair has helped, but the physical strain of traveling up and down I-5 has – for the first time ever – eaten the marrow of my bones and left me staggering exhausted.

And now the writing has picked up. Oh, I have been a pretty good girl, pegging away at the old trunk novel and finishing it. Pegging away at Marswife and seeing the word count rise. Working on this blog. But now – a nice publisher wants to do a collection of Company stories, and he wants a new one in it. From Kage’s much-lauded notes, you know, that I talk about all the time …  in other words, Dear Readers, someone has called my bluff.

So I sat down, dug out the pertinent notes, made an outline (something I haven’t done since college, for St. Scholastica’s sake!) and in the last three days have produced a little over 2,500 words. It’s … growing. It may work.

It’s keeping my mind off the grimmer aspects of December, at least. And Kimberly has strung coloured glass beads about my desk, and Mike has put up the Christmas tree so its glory peeps over the top of my desk at me, and there are cookies and chocolate everywhere. We have light-decked mooses in the front yard, and Cthulu in a Santa hat on the television set.

So, you know, December is as good as it can get and I am writing. It’s really as cool as possible, at least as glorious as it is painful.  And I have discovered thereby that Kage (and Mendoza) were right. Nothing matters but the work. And the work can hold any heart break at bay.

Good to know. Merry Christmas to all of you, Dear Readers, and I hope the dark heart of winter is kinder to you. And, oh yeah – anybody want to do some beta reading?

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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7 Responses to December Pain and Glory

  1. Tom B. says:

    Beta reader? For you, any time – and you get two for the price of one.


  2. I rarely volunteer to beta for anybody, but for you, my dear, I’ll cheerfully make an exception. And since my WIP is now at the press, I even have the time. 😉


  3. Marc Bailey says:

    Yes indeed! I’d love to join the club.


  4. Mary Lynn Reed says:

    Experienced Beta Reader here (possibly two), more than willing to read–delighted, actually.


    • Mary Lynn Reed says:

      I posted before I read the comments. I see that I was previously volunteered. I’m not sure that lends credibility to my Beta Reading skills. I can submit references if requested.


  5. mizkizzle says:

    I’ll volunteer. I love to read and I’ve had loads of experience as a copy editor, rewrite person, fact-checker and grammar harpy.


  6. mizkizzle says:

    A new Joseph story! What bliss! Christmas has indeed come early. Now, how do you want to handle questions and comments? Do you have another email address or should I just post them here?
    I correct punctuation as I go, but there are occasional style points that come up in all copy. Case in point: the company itself. Except for newspaper usage, style manuals recommend putting a comma after the name of a business and before the abbreviation Inc. (i.e. Dr. Zeus, Inc.) On page one, you have it as Dr. Zeus Inc. Do you want to change it, since it’s a novel and not a news story?


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