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The Perfect Cup of Tea

This entry is part 1 of 8 in the series December Ramblings

So, thecatisacritic asked me to ramble to you all today about the perfect cup of tea.

The perfect cup of tea varies, of course. It depends on my mood. When I was growing up, my grandmother always had a tin full of various Celestial Seasonings flavors and we would boil water and try out a new flavor each time, sometimes go through more than one a night, and even less often, more than one per cup. My favorites growing up were my perennial yerba maté—we were doing Wisdom of the Ancients back then—and Roastaroma, which is essentially chicory tea. I still love chicory and now I use it in my own blends.

Yet and still, I buy those old flavors I loved so much over the years: the holiday teas, Bengal Spice, zinger teas, the new rooibos flavors. Sometimes, I just like the comfort.

Growing up, I often drank cold yerba maté from the fridge (we brewed up pots of it at a time), but after I left my insurance job due to tendonitis, my grandfather would bring me cups of steaming hot maté from time to time, and I was hooked. I'm often cold, so cold tea has completely lost its appeal for me. I'll buy bottled Guayaki if I'm out and about, but I always drink that at room temperature or heat it up. In short, the perfect cup of tea is piping hot and sipped for pleasure, warmth, and whatever additional benefits it may provide.

As mentioned, I make my own blends now. I drink supertea daily for health and it's my standing go-to: equal parts pau d'arco, stevia, thyme, and yerba maté. When I want to get warm and want to save my supertea, I tend towards peppermint chamomile, gingermint, chicory spice tea in various ratios, and rooibos with flavor of the day additions. And every once in a while, I still do pull out tea from the fridge and pour it in a cup to drink it cold—just not often. It's a granddaughter/grandfather thing, this hot tea stuff.

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The First Person

This entry is part 2 of 8 in the series December Ramblings

Because naturally, the first person in importance and existence is oneself.

So, prompted by in_the_blue: my thoughts on the first person point of view in fiction.

I have an odd relationship with these sorts of things. Fiction is fiction. It's all a device. It's all a way to convey a story and lock you, the reader, into the moment. Which is a fancy way of saying that I have no opinion on the point of view as a point of view and I often wonder why so many people get up in arms over this.

Divergent by Veronica Roth is in first person. We are told "I" and "we," etc., and that's the narrator/main character, Tris. But once the story gets going, as a reader, I am swept along and forget the point of view, the verb tense, and so forth because I'm lost in the story. When I read a third person point of view story, such as Emma by Jane Austen, the same thing happens. I forget how it's written and get caught up in what is going on. I forget half the words, except as they let me speed faster through the panorama in my mind. If I notice the framing for too long before getting sucked in, then there's a good chance you're doing it wrong. Equally half of my favorite books ever are in first person and the other half mostly in third. The book of poetry, naturally, doesn't count either way. :grins:

There is one thing that I'll admit is difficult to pull off as gracefully in first person—names. You're stuck with self-referential names and thus, Andrew and Natalie, the names of Tris's parents in Divergent, are only mentioned once each. I had to ransack the book to find them for fanficcing. Other than that, they are rightly referred to as Mom and Dad.

So there you have it, the bulk of my opinion on the first person. Though if you think about it, "the first shall be last..." and all that jazz.

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Grateful For...

This entry is part 3 of 8 in the series December Ramblings

No one prompted for day three, so I just spontaneously decided to do some belated Thanksgiving ramblings.

I am thankful for the God who loves me, no matter how far I stray, whose love is bigger than my biggest sins, who wants me to be His even when I've wandered so far I think I'm lost forever.

I am grateful for my family and their unconditional love. I have been showered with love and blessings this season beyond what I can imagine I deserve. I have been blessed with enough to remove my most urgent debt, a new tablet, and more thanks and praise than I feel I have merited.

I am grateful for my friends in this writing community o' mine. For in_the_blue who is always there for me and always reading and always writing and always understanding. For thecatisacritic who keeps me writing and keeps me thinking and keeps me wanting to hug her all the time. For lithiumlaughter and arliddian and Rabia Gale who are always lovely and kind and write the kind of observations, reflections, and stories that make me want to linger a long, long time. For all of them who put up with my fits and starts and idiosyncracies and love me anyway.

I am thankful for breath in my lungs and sunshine on my face each morning. (I'm not kidding. It wakes me up through my makeshift curtains.)

I am thankful for Christmastime and holidays with family and hugs and feasts and cards that bring tears to your eyes and shoulders to cry on when you need to.

I am grateful in short that I am alive.

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Five Things to Love, Love, Love about Colorado

This entry is part 4 of 8 in the series December Ramblings

Prompted by in_the_blue, for a change of pace:

  1. Christmas - Don't get me wrong: I take issue with harsh winters and icy roads I have to actually drive or be driven on, icy winds, and the deeply drifted snow. That is, I take issue with having to be out in it. But there's something about deep snow outside and wind wailing around the house when I'm inside and the white Christmas lights are glowing from greenery and Christmas carols fill the house and I'm sipping hot carob with the family. That is what I grew up loving, and that is still perfect.
  2. Dry Summers - There was nothing particularly pleasant about the forest fires that wracked our state, and that's not why I love it dry. It's the humidity. When we went down to San Antonio, I felt like I'd stepped into a swimming pool. That feeling lessened but didn't go away the week I was there. I felt like I'd shed pounds getting back home and the temperature swings didn't bother me as much.
  3. Sunshine - Except for Florida, Colorado gets the lion's share of America's sunshine and this is a very good thing. It's beautiful even when it's freezing outside—though technically I usually take umbrage if the sun tempts me out to my own cold misery.
  4. Swings - Frankly, I don't know that this is a Colorado thing, but I know it's not a New Mexico thing. Green parks with swings. I could swing forever.
  5. Family - My family is here. That makes it home.
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New Arrivals

This entry is part 4 of 8 in the series December Ramblings

Again, nothing prompted, so I picked my own topic to ramble on. :grins:

  • A Samsung Galaxy 3 Tablet in white - You want to see gleeful, shocked scribbler? This was it. I'm thrilled to my toe-tips. Now, I just need to buy a keyboard that can keep up with me, though I'm getting the hang of Polaris office.
  • The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin - I have wanted to get my hands on this book for a long time, particularly because I love M.C.A. Hogarth's The Worth of a Shell, and the two get compared a lot relatively. So I have it now due to the Yuletide bookswap and I'm thrilled to my fingertips.
  • An actual pinch-hit I managed to snag for Yuletide the other day. I don't know what I was thinking, seeing as I still have to do my regular assignment, but I can't seem to keep the grin off my face.
  • The Splintered Gates storyworld - This was a total accident, I promise. It arrived after watching too much The Book of Daniel (love that movie) and everything I could get my hands on about the upcoming Divergent movie, then playing too much mentally with the space-version of Vardin. So I could dump the Vardin and keep the clans that arrived and their physiology and their societal structure and the things already interesting me about it and the new ways to combine characters, some old, mostly new, and yeah. This is scary. I have other work to finish first, you know?

What's new with you?

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Fandom & I

This entry is part 5 of 8 in the series December Ramblings

So, this question—Can you tell me a bit about where you're at with fandom? How you got there?—from stormkpr...

I have gone through many phases of fandom. I'm sure for all of you who have stuck with me through several iterations and hiatuses that you already aware of this. Perhaps, you remember the times I've said I came back after a long flat-out absence from fandom. Well, here is my journey. It's not simple or pretty; in fact, it's pretty twisted, but here we go.

Round One: Roswell, Andromeda, X-Men, Mutant X, Avalon, etc.

So I entered fandom at a young teen stage of my life when anything I loved was something of a fangirl situation and my dad and sister were both the same. I did more graphics than fic at first, but I did write some popular Roswell/Andromeda stuff before my parents changed their collective minds about fandom and cracked down on it. I deleted my profile and for a long time, kept my pictures and fanfic archived personally, but lost those in a move.

When I got old enough to return sometime after the 3rd X-Men movie came out, I was starting from scratch. I hadn't intended to return ever. I had for years simply resisted the impulse to do anything fannish when I wanted to until there was no longer an impulse to resist. But I did return. I did.

Crisis of Writing, Crisis of Faith

I talk about this from time to time, but it's still hard. I wrote a book. The first draft was so terrible, it's not even funny. I wrote and reworked and finally got somewhere I liked with it. The worldbuilding was phenomenal: it incorporated most of my core ideas for fictional worlds, which I still repurpose today. At the same time, I was in the process of writing another story, Rain, which dealt with a huge faith crisis by the characters when Team Five left the Projects, a top-secret branch of the military. These two books broke me.

I mean that.

My grandmother means more to me than almost any other human on earth. She read what I had—and I was excited to share it—and was more than a little appalled. Oddly, it wasn't because of the issues I addressed, which is why I address those issues to this day. It was because some of the ways I grappled with those issues were in direct contradiction to my faith. My books about crises of faith became my crisis of faith and I literally got sick to my gut at the thought of ever writing my own work again. So I stopped cold. It was hard. That was the darkest period of my life. I was depressed, angry, hurt, sensitive, and not understanding how to find my way back to a God I hadn't even realized I'd walked away from.

Nevertheless, I have been a writer since I was old enough to know what a story was and how it was created. I had engraved that idea so deep into my identity that I literally couldn't not write. In despair, I turned to fanfiction. It changed my life.

Round Two: X-Men (all 'verses), Take the Lead, Secret Garden

It sounds melodramatic to say that, but it is something I have truly learned is my nature. When I cannot trust myself to write, I fanfic and in that second bout of fandom, I crossed over from amateur writer to absolute confidence in my own voice.

In the first three months of that year, I started three popular stories and wrote them consistently on a rotation basis. I was rather disciplined; it was nice.

Around that time, I got tendonitis, then I got on pau d'arco, a natural anti-inflammatory and the only one that helped me, and then I got an unexpected side effect I didn't track down to the tea until months and months later. I got insomnia. Every morning between 1 and 2 a.m., I woke up and could not go back to sleep unless it was the fifth or so such morning and I was exhausted.

Between that horribly early wake-up time and the time I got ready for work (more like 4:30 a.m.), I wrote fanfic. Needless to say, I racked up the word counts and produced roughly 300,000 words of posted fanfiction that year besides the unposted WIP stuff. My story count went through the roof and I had way too many balls in the air, but I wrote.

That's when I found out what I liked in a story, how to write a whole story, how to interpret reader feedback, what to ignore. I learned to experiment, to challenge myself, to post, and that's when I blew past the million words of crap line and more, knew it.

That's why it changed my life. When Dean Wesley Smith and company shared the first real information about the emerging independent author situation (and it was truly only just beginning), I immediately saw the parallel between the way fanfic was then handled and the way original fiction was going to be. I started thinking about it then, but I didn't really have one piece of my confidence back: the faith factor.

Finding My Way Back

After all the grief that period gave me, you would think the return would have been huge, climactic, and so infinitely memorable, I would know the exact moment everything changed.

Well... No.

I read some stuff of Rabia Gale's and Natalie Whipple's and Kayla Olsen and kept hammering away until gradually, I did find enough peace to tentatively begin trusting God again. Though really it wasn't Him I hadn't trusted before, it was myself. I didn't trust myself to know if I was really with Him or not. When that happened, I shifted focus.

I started hammering away at a story. Well, stories, but most died on the vine. One made it, the first I'd finished after that horrible, horrible year: "The Singer." When lithiumlaughter recently read this story, she loved the main character. What I didn't know until today was that story mirrors my emotional journey. The most important thing I had died and I had to make peace with God over it before it could live again. And oddly, I think that story's playing a lot into Justus', which is probably why for so long, I didn't want to touch his story, afraid I'd screw it up as badly as I screwed up Rain.

When I finished that story, I'd proved that I really could write and finish something again that belonged to me. And I stepped sideways.

Round Three: Everything

My original fiction worlds are so incredibly interrogative of the stories and poems and biblical themes and questions and struggles I love and fangirl that there is really, literally no difference between them to me. If anyone wants a catalog of the origin of one character or another, odds are 50% or better, they started out in my fandoms.

I thought I would balance fandom and canon at first but I couldn't do it. I immerse so deeply into one world or pairing at a time that everything comes unbalanced naturally all the time, and it's one or the other, this or that, move through sets of stories on rotation. Thus, I have hiatuses and do exchanges and go on the occasional original fiction binge, but none of them really take over my life. I have too many things I love to do and so have always spread myself too thin.

When I'm full up, I write. When I'm hurting and angry or scared, I fanfic.* When I'm empty and dry, I read and listen to music. There is very little overlap unless I force the issue, except reading. I always read.

This is my relationship to fandom. This is how I got there. It's one place I can be angry and hurt and afraid and lash out and cry out to God and the world, Why? I don't get it and somehow it's okay because then He answers back and no one else even knows the questions I was really asking. Sometimes I don't. For some things, there are no words.

For me, there are a lot of those some things.

*Fluffy, funny stuff just doesn't take a lot out of me, but that's a little different. I'm rarely invested in that stuff.

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Letter to My Former Self

This entry is part 6 of 8 in the series December Ramblings

So, thecatisacritic asked what would you as a writer tell you the writer of five or ten years ago? As an author's note to this, I probably wouldn't. Oddly enough. But put to, here goes:

Dear former self,

I know you always think of yourself as a writer, first and foremost, but I wanted to suggest to you that you start thinking of yourself as a human being. You'll never be able to un-engrain that deep writer-identity from your consciousness; you dug in too deep. Stop trying. God gave you a talent. Use it, hone it, focus it, but give up on trying to get rid of it.

It is important, no matter who tells you otherwise. There is nothing more powerful in this world than an idea except for love.

It's going to get worse. You're going to lose faith for a while, lose heart, forget everything you ever believed in and pretend you never believed in it in the first place—at least with your actions. You're going to go through a valley of hard times and testing, but stay strong. You're going to be okay. You've got a God who loves you even when you don't understand. You aren't a lost soul because you don't know how to find your way. You're a writer and you're His. Cling to that, and you'll be just fine.

Take it from someone who knows, 'kay?

Hugs (you'll need them),

the scribbler

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In Too Deep

This entry is part 7 of 8 in the series December Ramblings

So I finally did an interesting breakdown of "Dowse and Bleed," also known as the story from inferno—so-called because my protagonist drives me batty. She tells her story grudgingly in an interesting raw but very veiled way. Slowly, but surely, I am coming to realize that all those layers are simply part and package of her: she hides things away even from herself; it just makes for a really lousy way to write a story. I have to dig deep, finish laying myself out raw, then look back at the prettyness of it before digging deep again and clawing my way down to the mess of it. Because that's where the story is—the mess.

That said, my breakdown:

INTRODUCTION: 1482 words

  • Scene 1. 1007 words: Killinger calls Rachelle to ask for help.
  • Scene 2. 1475 words: Rachelle visits the scene with Killinger.


  • Scene 3. 3130 words: Special Unit works on the case with the evidence they have.
  • Scene 4. 3005 words: Special Unit works with Manning on the case at the scene.
  • Scene 5. 2352 words: Special Unit determines what happened and develops a plan.

CRISIS: 1252 words

  • Scene 6. 408 words: Special Unit regroups before going in.
  • Scene 7. 844 words: Special Unit takes down Auspin and Rachelle goes down. Climax.

RESOLUTION: 1488 words

  • Scene 8. 1187 words: Rachelle deals with her injuries and separates from Special Unit.
  • Scene 9. 301 words: Justus takes Rachelle home where she deals with the fallout.

The story doesn't have a lot of surprise twists and it seems rather oddly shaped if I think in terms of arcs (which I usually don't, was just curious), but I found it an interesting exercise to poke into this story to figure out how it ticked and why adding another layer is giving me grief.

Then I figured it out from looking at that breakdown and realizing what Rachelle was doing. In this story, you see Rachelle and only because I pried herself out of the surface level and asked her body what was going on and asked her emotions why this assignment was her story, what did it mean to her. But I look at this and I see why she was just so weary and kept side-stepping particular thoughts, feelings, and flashbacks. In short, this snippet from the first scene summed up the problem:

The answering machine clicked on. "Rachelle Winslow. Leave a message."

Her birth name in her own voice jarred her. It wasn't her name.

Who in the world calls herself by a name she doesn't consider hers? Someone who doesn't want to look at the other side of herself, the part she does consider hers. She's disassociating and it shows. What this story doesn't show is the operative. And that's why it keeps leaving little odd threads hanging out that don't quite gel, don't come together, don't make sense. I was in too deep and couldn't see what she was refusing to see because she already knew it was there.

So yeah. Round three.

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