Ani’s Advent Invitation: What is magic? A holiday story (and a new book!) from Allie Potts

An essay about the magic of Christmas -

Her Royal Highness used her influence to gain me an audience with Ani of Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo where I am discussing my experience with a bit of holiday magic. I have disabled comments here and encourage you to see what else the small dog (and Sue) has to say.

via Ani’s Advent Invitation: What is magic? A holiday story (and a new book!) from Allie Potts

Good tidings to you

There are good weekends and then there are gooooooooooood weekends.

Last week, my sister (I’ll call her Lucinda, which is a nice enough name, or Lucy for short) announced out of the blue that my boys were invited to spend the night on Friday. Lucy said the invitation was because my niece (Xena sounds right) was going off on an adventure, but my nephew, Casimir (sure, why not) was not, and she wanted Casimir to get to do something special too.

I had their bag’s packed before breakfast.

Merry Christmas from the Death Star
Merry Christmas from the Death Star (image courtesy of Flickr)

Suddenly Lamont and I found ourselves curfew-less on the night of the Star Wars premiere. It was just too bad that the shows were sold out. Or so I thought. While discussing my little bit of unexpected good fortune at work, a co-worker mentioned that I should, at least, look into a theater a little further from home than I usually go to. Tickets offered there were slightly more expensive than closer theaters, but you are able to select your seat in advance. I logged in. And lo, what to my wondering eyes did appear, but two unclaimed seats for the much-hyped premiere.

I called Lamont. Lamont is not really a Star Wars fan (I guess, no one is perfect), but knowing that we wouldn’t be forced to sit in the front row and knowing how much I wanted to go he chose not to fight an unwinnable fight agreed to go with me (he’s a good man). Click. Click. The tickets were mine ours.

For those of you who did not stumble upon your own golden tickets, rest assured, I am not offering any spoilers. The Star Wars portion of my story ends here.

Books are like an author’s children. I’ve been promoting the second for awhile now, but every so often I feel compelled to do something special for the first. I’d experienced an unexpected gift, so I decided to pay it forward. I offered my first novel, An Uncertain Faith, for free Saturday and Sunday – no strings attached. It was my way of playing Secret Santa.

I expected 25-50 downloads. And that, I thought, was a generous estimate. I hadn’t had time to advertise and with many of my blogging friends going offline for the rest of the year, who was left to help me promote it? Therefore, I practically spit out my coffee Saturday morning when I saw I’d already reached 30 downloads before 9 am.

I picked the boys up from Lucy’s. We discussed exactly why sneaking out of bed and dumping cups of water on the floor for no apparent reason at all wasn’t just a rule for our house (please Lucy, invite them back. They’ll be good. They promise!). I drank more coffee. I went to the gym and to the grocery store. I spent an hour hunting down the elusive graham cracker beast (is it considered cookie, cracker, or baking supply?) along with other Christmas dinner related supplies. It was a regular day. I checked my report again. And then it wasn’t. At some point, I’d shot well past 50 downloads and well past 100 too. My brain, heart, and lungs stopped functioning (luckily not all at once).

I was, if only for a fleeting moment, ranked #1.

Best Seller

Okay, so if you want to be picky, I was number one for free e-book downloads in the category of women’s literature that also happens feature mystery and female sleuths, but I also cracked the top 100 for free e-books overall and even made it to #1 in a similar category in the UK. But that’s beside the point. As of this weekend, I am (or at least I was) an internationally bestselling author (sort of).

I can only assume that my Robotic Overlords have chosen to reward my declaration of fealty with higher placement in the search algorithm (all hail). Either that or I just experienced the writer’s version of a Christmas miracle. In either event, I can only now wish good tidings to you and all of your friends as I try to think of a way to pay this particular gift forward in 2016.


Hugh’s Photo Challenge: Week 8 – Charity Christmas Tree Topper Challenge

Tree Topper

This is also known as 20 things to do when you are trying to write your weekly blog post, but all you can think about is all the things you have to do between now and the end of the year and how much you want to see Star Wars.

  1. Go for a walk
  2. Bring in the mail
  3. Watch as the box tower you made out packages already received and haven’t yet had a chance the inclination to wrap sways dangerously from side to side as you attempt to add one more to the pile
  4. Decide protection of life, limb, and property is worth a few minutes spent wrapping
  5. Run out to the store to purchase more wrapping paper
  6. Issue an all points bulletin on the tape that you could have sworn you left on the table and yet is nowhere to be seen
  7. Locate lost tape the minute you return to the wrapping area with a new spool
  8. Open another package after realizing the paper you cut for the first package was the wrong size
  9. Treat paper cut
  10. Wonder why you didn’t pay for the gift wrap option when purchasing presents
  11. Pour yourself another cup of coffee / tea / water / wine
  12. Return to the computer to intent to write, only to discover 100 handy dandy rules for evil overlords (which are also good tips for how not to write clichéd villains / confrontation scenes and therefore, valuable research and definitely not a time waster)
  13. Head over to another room to turn on some music
  14. Trip over discarded cardboard
  15. Catch your reflection as you reorganize pile of excess cardboard waste and ponder whether or not it is time for a haircut
  16. Look again at the package tower and remember why you didn’t pay for the gift wrap option while also forgetting about scheduling a haircut
  17. Return to the computer read about Hugh’s Photo Challenge and his charity, The Dog Trust, and decide that you’d like to support a cause whose mission is to help all dogs enjoy a happy life, free from the threat of unnecessary destruction while wishing there was a similar one for all people
  18. Take a picture
  19. Eat a cookie
  20. Relax and be happy

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas

It was the morning of the annual Christmas celebration in my neighborhood. Roads around a park would be shut down for a couple of hours while kids decorated cookies, made crafts, danced to a live band, and of course, met Santa. My neighborhood homeowners dues can feel pricey at times, but on this occasion they seem worth it.

I was looking for my camera as Kiddo approached me. “Mom,” he said. “I know it’s not going to be the real Santa.”

I gulped as I glanced around the room. LT was nowhere in site. Shew, the situation is still contained. I frantically thought how best to handle the line of questioning I was sure would be coming next.

Now I have a few issues with Christmas, how it has taken over the entire month of December, is annexing November, and has even begun to bleed into October. It even has a small outpost in July. Yet at the same time I absolutely adore the look upon the kids faces as the decorations go up (which is the only reason I have forgiven my siblings for the 6ft tall bilingual singing Santa they ‘gifted’ us with several years ago and perhaps a story for another day), and I can’t help but smile at their excitement as the holiday specials begin to flood the airways.

Only this year, as we watched a few of the movies, I began to notice how many feature a character rediscovering their Christmas spirit after meeting the real Santa and it troubled me. Just a year or two ago, Kiddo would never have thought to question the authenticity of Santa in the park. But now? . . . Darn you Holiday Classics! Darn you, every one.

I looked into Kiddo’s eyes, still unsure how to respond.

“I know it is one of his helpers,” kiddo offered, oblivious to my discomfort.

In that instant it felt like a little bit of Kiddo’s innocence fell away. “Yes, it probably is,” I said while hoping that LT would remain in the other room awhile longer.

Luckily the conversation ended there and we arrived at the park a short time later. The band was rocking out holiday tunes and the hot cocoa was delicious. After taking a ride in a horse-drawn carriage, we got in line to meet Mr. Claus. Before long it was our turn. For the very first time, LT wasn’t afraid as we placed him on the bench next to the man in the red suit. Without missing a beat, Santa insisted that Lamont and I join the boys for a group photo while instructing the prior family to stick around and take our picture. I was impressed. The man knew how to run an assembly line. Once photographed, he turned to each boy and listened as they tried to recall their wishlists. Afterward, he looked at them both and announced with authority that they had been good rather than asking them if they had. I watched in awe as kiddo’s eyes widened.

As we walked away, Kiddo turned to me and said, “mom, I know that Santa has helpers, but I think that might be the real Santa.”

“I think you might be right,” I answered as I saw a little of his boyhood wonder return, if only for a moment. And I meant it. After all, I certainly got what I wanted from Santa this year.


Owning rejection

To my Jewish friends, Happy Hanukkah. I envy you right now. You are in the midst of celebration. The prep work is mostly over.

churchill-giving-quote1I on the other hand-made the mistake of looking at today’s date. There are only seven days left until Christmas! I hope you did a better job of managing your personal shopping calendar than I did this holiday season. While I managed to check off many names from my shopping list, I still have a few presents to go and am nearly out of time. I would like to apologize to those recipients in advance. From this point on some gifts may be more thoughtful than others depending on what is still in stock on the shelves or what can ship on time.

This rush of panic is one of the few downsides of having an above average sized family. I have two much younger brothers. I was grown and out of the house before they were even talking. As a result, there have been several years that I didn’t have a clue what to give them. How would I know what a young boy would want? Before they came around our entire house had been girl-centric. I would try my best, but often as I watched them unwrap their gifts, I would learn that my guess was wrong in the exquisitely blunt and honest terms that only preschoolers and/or extreme elderly can get away with.

All I could do was plaster a smile on my face and try not to take their rejection too personally. They didn’t know that I had spent three lunch breaks staring at rows of toys only to return with empty hands and an empty stomach. They didn’t know about the traffic related stress I had been exposed to, the hours I spent on the internet researching gift guides, or the impromptu co-worker polls I had conducted to find the thing I eventually gave them. All they knew was the box in front of them didn’t contain what they were looking for and told me so. I assume they were only trying to help me do better next Christmas (or their next birthday, whichever came first).

Giving gifts to small kids who aren’t your own during the holidays can teach you a lot about how to handle rejection in general.

This experience repeated itself over a few years. Gradually though, I either learned how to better anticipate what they would like (or they learned better tact). I grew a thicker skin. I learned how to rebound after rejection. It can still hurts like heck at the time of impact, but I’ve learned that there will almost always be another year, another time to try again. Most importantly I learned how to, um…, ask them what they wanted (I know – who has time to waste finding out pesky details like wishlist requirements).

So I know I can handle rejection. I’ve learned to finding a way to spin it in a positive light. I don’t just handle it. I’ve learned to own it. Rejection, after all, is just another means to help you figure out exactly what it is you really want in life. But I still really do not like it. I might even say I go out of my way to avoid it if I can.

But recently I’ve started asking myself why?

Since the birth of my children, I’ve had toys and books hurled at me, been peed, pooped, and puked on. I’ve had a little voice scream in my ear ‘NO!’  and ‘Bad Mommy!’ as I carry my son to his bed before he thinks he is ready (I’ve developed a bit of a constant ring in one ear). Why then should I let a little thing like a piece of paper with a no thanks on it or a negative review get me down? I’ve experienced far worse.

If there is only seven more days until Christmas, that means the New Year is just around the corner.

I may be completely behind in my holiday prep, but I can get a head start on my New Year’s Resolutions. In 2015, I am resolving to put myself out there more. To do more with my writing goals. I am going to submit my work to one to two more contests than I did in 2014 (yes, this is a quantity greater than 0 – I just haven’t heard back from the judges yet). I may even submit my work to an agent or larger publishing house (I might not sign with them, but I wouldn’t mind seeing what they have to offer).

Oh… and I might actually finish my shopping on time next year.