Thursday, December 29, 2016

Happy New Year

2017 is almost upon us (while I've barely gotten used to writing 2016, a symptom of growing old, no doubt). Do you make New Year's resolutions? As I've probably mentioned before, I gave up that concept a long time ago. I think more in terms of goals, plans, and hopes. Some goals for 2017 include: finishing the paper I have to deliver at a conference in March (a task I can't avoid unless I want to show up at the session with a rough draft!); submitting stories to two annual anthologies in which I've occasionally been included in past years; and completing a short novel I started several months ago but haven't worked on lately because of holiday prep, proofreading a re-released novel, and typing up my usual annual vampire fiction bibliography update.

The current issue of RWR (the Romance Writers of America members' magazine) includes an article about planning. It highlights the virtues of paper planners and discusses some advantages of mapping out long-term and short-term plans on paper instead of just relying on an electronic schedule. Brain research has shown that writing by hand is uniquely helpful in making material "stick" in the mind. While I haven't tried a planner, I do like making tangible lists. The older I get, the more I need the confidence of having things written down in order to remember them.

Along with some good things—my husband and I celebrated our 50th anniversary in September, with all our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren present, along with some other relatives and friends—2016 also brought some negative events for me. My two principal publishers closed this year, leaving most of my works "orphaned." Another publisher is picking up the books from Amber Quill, but of course it will take a while before everything becomes available again. I'm still considering what to do with the books and stories from the other closing publisher, so another project will be self-publishing a few of those pieces. Recently we've had illness and other trouble in our extended family. In the public sphere, we've witnessed the loss of iconic figures such as Leonard Cohen, John Glenn, and Carrie Fisher. And then there's the American presidential election, a source of "comfort and joy" to almost 50 percent of our population, but a cause of disappointment and anxiety for me.

On Christmas Eve our priest preached on Hope—as distinct from optimism, a feeling of confidence (whether substantiated or not) that things are inevitably getting better. Looking around at the world, we see many factors to undermine optimism. As one of my favorite carols, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," laments, "Hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on Earth, good will to men." All the more reason to practice the cardinal virtue of Hope.

Loosely quoting Colonel Potter from a New Year's episode of MASH, "Here's to the new year. May she be a durn sight better than the last one."

By the way, on the subject of the holiday season, which doesn't officially end until January 6 (Epiphany), I've just finished rereading Connie Willis's collection MIRACLE AND OTHER CHRISTMAS STORIES, as well as her two long stories not in that volume, "Just Like the Ones We Used to Know" (the cumulative effect of all those thousands of playings of "White Christmas" generates an unprecedented worldwide weather anomaly) and "All Seated on the Ground" (aliens land, and nobody can figure out what they want until they hear Christmas carols at a mall). Willis's keen wit infuses all the stories with her unique brand of humor-in-seriousness. Highly recommended!

Wishing happiness to all in 2017!

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

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