In the City

Hello, friends!  Just a quick update!  I may not have any more deadlines for a while (Yay!) but life is still as busy as ever!

I’ve been enjoying a wonderful few days, celebrating the impending Christmas season with friends and family.

A few of my girlfriends and I had a Christmas crafts night.

Then my mom and my sister and I took a trip downtown to see the world premiere of the opera Becoming Santa Claus.

And life is only going to get busier!  Tonight, my friend and I are taking my sister out to celebrate her birthday.  Tomorrow night, a group of my friends from high school and I are going with our English teacher (our Mr. Feeny, if you will) to see MacBeth.  Thursday night, I’m going to a bachelorette party and Saturday is the wedding!  So much fun and merriment and all the while I keep thinking, “Oh my goodness!  I have to get the new book out!”  Then I remember it’s already out and I think to myself, “Oh, yay!  I love it when that happens!”

The new book is doing great.  And Boy Band is getting some new love because of it!

I’ve had two reviews in the past week that I particularly love.  One is from a new friend down in Mexico named Bryan.  You can check out his review here!

He also took this fabulous picture and I’ve got to be honest, it’s one of my favorite book portraits ever.

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The other is a review I believe I already shared, but I love it so much, I’m just going to share it again.

I love all my readers and reviewers and friends so, so much!  I don’t know if you realize it, but you make so many dreams come true just by doing what you love!  Thank you, thank you!

I hope you all are enjoying this most wonderful time of the year.

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Wonderful Christmastime

Hi, friends!  Well, the new book is out, I enjoyed a wonderful evening at the Sanger Library as my last public book even for the year… I’m ready to enjoy the holidays!

It’s funny, I’ve had so many deadlines this year that every time I look at my phone and see the date, I think, “Oh my gosh! I need to hurry up and…”  And then I remember that I HAVE no more deadlines this year!  Yay!  It’s a pretty great feeling.  Not gonna lie.  And I’m proud of myself for sticking to them.  Now I just have to get them out of my head and relax and enjoy.  I’ve never considered myself a workaholic, but I am very goal oriented and I usually have to have SOMETHING I’m working on or toward or else I just don’t know what to do with myself.

But I DO have a lot of things to work on.  For one thing, I’m beta-reading my good friend’s first book!  Her name is April, but you might know her as A Well Read Woman.  I’m very much enjoying her book.  It’s taking me a bit longer to read than most books, however, because I’m going through and making notes.  I really enjoy beta-reading, especially because it means I get to read books before they’re released!

April was also sweet enough to read Boy Band and she wrote one of my most favorite reviews of all time.

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And no, I don’t JUST love it because she included a One Direction gif.

After I’m finished beta-reading, I’m really looking forward to reading the rest of the books on my TBR list for 2015.  I’m not sure I’ll finish them all by January 1, but I WILL finish.

If I could have one wish this Christmas, it would be for independent authors everywhere to enjoy the same amount of recognition, respect, and readership as our traditionally published colleagues.  If you have a reader in your life, visit Amazon.com or BarnesAndNoble.com and check out an independently published book.  I guarantee you you will make an author’s Christmas dream come true.  A reader’s as well.

Love you all!

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The Writer’s Christmas List

Hello, friends!  How are all of you?  Sadly, I am still battling The Crud.  I thought I was getting better, but then Monday night I had a bit of a relapse and it hasn’t gone away.  It’s not horrible, but it makes you feel just gross enough to not want to do anything.  Blah.  Thankfully, I get to work from home so I don’t have to go out and infect the rest of the world.  Unfortunately, in my sickly state, I don’t want to work.  I just want to sit around and snuggle with my kitty and watch Disney movies.

As I was getting ready for bed last night, I couldn’t help but think that this virus has seriously gotten in the way of my Christmas shopping.  And THAT gave me an idea for a blog post.

Ladies and Gents, may I present to you…

The Best Gifts To Give To Your Writer Friend This Holiday Season.

*Please note I am NOT writing this as a suggestive hint that all of you need to buy me presents.  This is just a fun little list that I came up with for all writers.  Not that I speak for all writers.  You know what I mean.*

  1. Books.  This one, I think, kind of goes without saying.  We’re writers.  The only thing we love more than writing is reading.  You can never go wrong with books.
  2. Gift Cards.  Let’s face it, most writers are poor.  And even if we’re not, we can be hard to shop for.  Gift Cards, especially to Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, or Starbucks are always appreciated.
  3. A Bottle of Wine.  Insert stereotype that authors really, really, really like to drink here.
  4. Scented Candles.  Okay, maybe this is just me, but I love lighting a scented candle while I work.  It brings me so much peace and makes my work environment so pleasant.  12246903_10206808044093322_3679859631548650627_n
  5. Scarves.  We’re writers.  We love scarves.
  6. Homemade Cookies.  Honestly, this is probably the best present of all.  I’d so much rather have a good friend make me something (especially something chocolate) than go out and buy me something.
  7. A Book Review.  The very best gift you can give to any writer anywhere is a book review.  Just a few short sentences about how much you enjoyed their book.  Book reviews are invaluable to writers.  It’s free and it only takes about three minutes of your time, if that.  Best.  Present.  Ever.
  8. Giving Their Book as a Gift.  You want to make a writer’s holiday season merry and bright?  Give their book as a gift to someone else.  That is better than buying the writer themselves a car.  Okay maybe not, but it’s almost just as good.
  9. Donate to a Good Cause.  Last year, instead of buying gifts, my mother donated to charities in our relatives’ names.  I thought that was a great gift.  Great causes to donate to for your writer friends include literacy and education charities.  Also the Humane Society because everyone loves animals.
  10. Quality Time.  To me, nothing is better than quality time spent with those you love.  Take your favorite writer friend out to dinner, or go drive around a look at Christmas lights and drink some hot chocolate.  Bake cookies and watch a Christmas movie.  It’s the season for gift-giving, true, but it’s more so the season to love and appreciate the people in your life.  It’s the moments, not the gifts, that will last a lifetime.

 

December Tidings

Hello, friends!

Oh my goodness, it feels like it’s been a while since I last posted.  Probably because it has been.  This has been quite a week though, let me tell you!

First of all, I hope all my American friends had a splendid Thanksgiving full of good food and good times spent with family and friends.  My Thanksgiving was pretty excellent, although as soon as I got home from our friends’ house, my throat began to hurt and I spent the next three days on the couch with The Crud that’s going around.  Thanks, Dad.  Fortunately, I didn’t get it nearly as bad as he did.

In much more exciting news, IT IS FINALLY DECEMBER!  It’s time for snowflakes and hot chocolate and Christmas lights and movie nights by the fire and all those wonderful winter things!  Now of course, once Christmas is over, I won’t be nearly as excited about the cold, but for the next 25 days, bring on the winter chill!

Even though it’s only the first day of December, it’s already turning out to be an incredibly busy month.  I’m giving a talk tonight at a local library about NaNoWriMo and what to do after you’ve finished your manuscript.  If I can figure out how to post the Power Point presentation here, I will.

I’m also giving another talk at another library NEXT week, but I need to check in and make sure everything is still on schedule for that!

Also… BACKSTAGE WILL BE AVAILABLE IN EXACTLY ONE WEEK!  I’m so excited for y’all to read it.  I would post the first chapter here, but it contains MAJOR spoilers for the first book, so I’m afraid y’all are just going to have to wait a week!  You can, however, enter to win a signed copy of BOTH BOOKS on GoodReads.

Once Backstage is released, I’m going to take some time just to enjoy the holidays, spend time with family and friends.  But I’m also going to be investigating a few new publishing platforms as well as a few new projects.  Oh, and I’m also going to be catching up on a LOT of reading.  My goodness, I am so behind.

Happy December, everyone!  It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

(Except for, you know, when it’s warm and sunny).

 

Hello Tuesday

Hi, friends!  I hope you all had a great weekend.  Mine was super busy.

For one thing, my dad had another eye surgery yesterday to take care of a nasty cataract which was a direct result of his last surgery.  Thankfully, everything went well.  It was a simple procedure and he was up on his feet and totally fine within about thirty minutes.  He still can’t drive, so my mom and I are helping him out there, but his vision has improved significantly in just twenty-four hours.  Pretty cool!

For another thing, I have been sending out review copies of my books like crazy.  And I still have more to send!

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I also finally made it to the mall to visit the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree.

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I usually don’t post about personal stuff like this, but every year, my sister and I adopt an angel.  I know that it’s always important to give things like food and clothes, practical items to those in need.  But I’ve always loved the Angel Tree because it gives me the opportunity to give those kids something more.  I love the idea of being able to make their holidays magical, to bring them a bit of joy.  By adopting an angel, you’re making a kid’s Christmas dream come true, a wish that may not have been granted otherwise.  So if you have a moment, or a few gifts to spare, stop by your local Angel Tree.  It’s so much fun to play Santa, and a beautiful reminder that this truly is the season of giving, of love, and of goodwill towards all men, women, and children.

This weekend, I also got to spend a bit of time outside, first with my friend and an adorable puppy named Kate, and then with my cousins at White Rock Lake.  I’m so happy to say it is finally feeling like fall.  I’ve been wearing my jeans and scarves and sweaters.  I love it!

Of course, I’ll only love it until December 26, but hey, I’m going to enjoy it while I can.

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Last but not least, I’ve been working tirelessly on Backstage, getting it ready for publication in less than a month!  Agh!

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On a similar and very fun note, there’s a new Twitter account called Niall (Horan) as Books.  I may have mentioned before that even though I am fond of all the 1D boys, I am very partial to the adorable blond Irishman.  Imagine how thrilled I was when this appeared in my Newsfeed:

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This is officially one of my favorite Tweets, along with a Tweet from a similar account, Harry (Styles) as Books!

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Yes, I am still a 1D fangirl and I am eagerly awaiting the release of Made in the AM this week!  I’m probably looking more forward to that than the release of my own book.

Well, maybe they’re tied.

Love you all!

Making it Through

Yesterday was a bit of a rough day.  I won’t go into details.  All I will say is that I’m glad it’s over and I’m hoping that everything will work out for the best.

Today is already turning out to be a better day.  The weather is finally feeling cool and crisp, One Direction released a new song (YAY!), and I’m really beginning to feel like the holidays are on their way.  I’m so ready.  I’m ready for Christmas lights and hot chocolate and Christmas sweaters and the smell of fresh balsam and firewood.

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I’m ready for my family and friends to get together for Thanksgiving and Yuletide festivities.

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I’m ready for parades and good food and drink and laughter.

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I’m ready for Christmas music and snowflakes and winter’s chill.

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I know it’s not even Thanksgiving yet.  Trust me, I’m excited for Thanksgiving as well.  It brings just as much warmth and joy and laughter with it as its December counterpart.  But after yesterday, I need this dose of holiday cheer.  I’m ready.  I’m so ready.

The Cheese Ball That (Almost) Ruined Christmas

Well, another Christmas has come and gone.  It was a pretty fantastic one, full of food, family, friends, and merriment in general.  I got exactly what I wanted, gift cards to Barnes and Noble.  There were also a few surprises, however, such as a Michael Kors purse and a really nice Anne Klein coat.  I never get designer stuff, so I feel very fancy.

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Christmas Eve was kind of an adventure.  My sister realized, kind of completely out of the blue, that we didn’t have our annual holiday cheese ball.  Apparently, she believed that you don’t actually go out and buy a cheese ball.  Around Christmastime, one just magically materializes inside the refrigerator.  After assuring her that this was not, in fact, the case, we went out to buy a cheese ball.

Well, as it turns out, cheese balls are very popular around the holidays.  We ended up going all around town, to three different stores, ON CHRISTMAS EVE just to find her dang cheese ball.

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Apparently, if we had not found this particular cheese ball (port wine… because cheddar isn’t good enough or something), then Christmas would have been ruined, her life would have been over, and the Horseman of the Apocalypse probably would have trampled our house to the ground.

But in the end, Christmas was saved.  Thank God.

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Aside from the Great Cheese Ball Expedition, Christmas was beautiful.  We went to Midnight Mass and reconnected with a lot of old friends.

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We enjoyed a vintage Christmas around my sister’s new record player.

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And of course, we spent Christmas Day with our friends, the Kisers.  Sadly, there was no toilet this year.  I did come in second place in Mario Kart, however, which is nothing short of a Christmas Miracle.

Over the weekend, we got to spend time with my older sister, brother-in-law, niece, nephew, his girlfriend (they are so unbelievably cute together), and my crazy cousins (I say crazy in the best possible way).  It was great to see them and to spend that time with family.  My sister and her family live about two hours away, so we don’t get to see them that often.  I do have to take a moment to brag on my nephew, however, who will be attending the University of Texas next year and playing on their baseball team.  Next stop: the Major Leagues!

Finally, I have to tell you all about quite possibly the coolest thing to have happened to me as an author.  I ran into a guy yesterday at Barnes and Noble.  We got to talking about books and I told him to friend me on GoodReads.  As soon as he did, he looks up at me and goes, “Wait… You wrote Cemetery Tours?”

I said, “Yeah.”

He goes, “You are not going to believe me.  You are going to think I’m lying.  But my mom has this book.  She wants me to read it but I’m afraid it’s going to be about killers and stuff.”

Can I just tell you that it is the coolest thing to meet a complete stranger who knows about your book?  It seriously made my entire day.

Speaking of books, I am so excited, not only about Boy Band and the third Cemetery Tours book, but about all the books I have in my head.  Sometimes, I wish I could clone myself so I could work on all these books at once.  Not only do I want to finish the CT series, I have a follow up novel to the new one, I have a whole different series planned in my head, I have at least two stand alone novels that I want to write, and another series that I began working on in college.  It never ends, people.  It really never ends.  But I’m glad it doesn’t.  It can get very confusing, but for the most part, my brain is kind of a neat place.  There’s always some form of entertainment.

As for the New Year, my goal is to get in as much writing as possible.  I will be publishing at least two new books and hopefully working on several more.  I’m also really hoping to keep cleaning out my numerous possessions that I don’t use and donate them to a good cause (Operation Kindness is actually going to get a lot tomorrow).  I just feel so much lighter and freer without the clutter.  Finally, once my fresh batch of fudge is gone, I’m back on the healthy bandwagon.  Christmas was great, but I ate SO much that I shouldn’t have.  It will probably take me months to recover.

On that note, I think I’m going to go see if I can find anything else to donate.  I hope you all have had a wonderful holiday season and that your good fortune continues on well into the new year!  I’ll talk to you soon.

Double Movie Day

Two years ago, my sister insisted that I needed to see Wreck-It Ralph before Christmas.  I turned around and said that she needed to see the first Hobbit movie (although she’s not really a fan of Middle Earth, she loves Martin Freeman).  We decided, what the heck?  Let’s see them both in the same day.  Thus Double Movie Day was born.

This year was our third year in a row to celebrate Double Movie Day.  Last year, we saw Frozen and the second Hobbit.  We could very well have kept up with tradition and gone to see a Disney movie and then the final film in the Hobbit trilogy, but the big white thing in the new Disney movie scares me and I have way too many problems with what I’ve heard of the third Hobbit movie to sit through it in the theater.  Instead, we decided on The Theory of Everything and Night at the Museum 3.

Now, I’m not a reviewer at heart.  However, I do very much love giving my opinion on films.  Instead of making this a beautiful and eloquent piece about the highs and lows of the movies, I’m going to format this post the way I did when I “reviewed” Godzilla over the summer: https://jackiesmith114.wordpress.com/2014/05/18/godzilla-a-very-girly-review/  

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WARNING!  SPOILERS AHEAD!

Thoughts on The Theory of Everything

*This movie looks so good.  I can’t wait to see it.

*Stephen Hawking is really smart.  I hope I understand this movie.

*I wonder what young Stephen Hawking would have said if someone had told him that he would grow up to be a guest star on The Big Bang Theory.

*I had no idea Stephen Hawking was English.

*Eddie Redmayne is really cute.  I’m attracted to a guy playing a young Stephen Hawking.  I don’t know how to feel about this.

*I love guys in glasses and cardigans.

*This movie is just beautiful.  It’s just a beautiful movie.  The music, the cinematography, the lighting, the camera angles.  Everything about this movie is beautiful.

*OMG his roommate is Khaleesi’s creepy brother.

*He’s hot too.

*Stephen Hawking asked her to dance! This is so romantic!

*OMG his professor is LUPIN!

*He’s not hot.  Sorry, Lupin.

*Must stop thinking about The Big Bang Theory.  

*This movie constantly has me on the verge of tears.

*I’m loving this movie because it makes math, science, and intellect so beautiful.  It’s brilliant and artistic.

*Eddie Redmayne deserves an Oscar nomination.  His portrayal of Stephen Hawking and his initial diagnosis and progression of his Lou Gehrig’s Disease is raw, passionate, and heartbreaking.

*At least we know Stephen Hawking doesn’t die.

“What do Sheldon Cooper and a black hole have in common?  They both suck.  Neener neener.”

Thoughts on Night at the Museum 3

*Robin Williams.

*Rami Malek.  You are so cute.  Why are you not in the first two movies more?  Why are you not in more movies in general? I need more of your cuteness.

*Steve Coogan and Owen Wilson are hilarious together.

*Octodaddy.

*Love Ben Stiller’s caveman doppelganger.

*I LOVE Rebel Wilson!  “What, have you never seen a gorgeous woman before who could be a model if she didn’t love pizza so much?”

*Teddy Roosevelt + Sacajawea = OTP

*MATTHEW FROM DOWNTON ABBEY IS LANCELOT AND OMG HE IS HILARIOUS.

*The whole exchange between Pharaoh Ben Kingsley and Ben Stiller about basically everything in Exodus is, quite frankly, one of the funniest scenes I’ve seen in a movie theater in a long time.  “Laugh out loud.  Yeah, that’s what I did.”

*Seriously, Rami Malek.  Be in more movies.  You were so cute in Breaking Dawn but you only had like, two scenes.  You deserve your own saga.

*Why is this movie so funny?  Why am I laughing so hard?  What am I even watching?

*HUGH JACKMAN WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?!

*I’m glad Dan Stevens ditched Downton Abbey.  He was never this funny as Matthew.  “Yes, hop, hop, hop!  You are REAL!”

*Owen Wilson, I thought you should know, I’ve always had a weird Texas crush on you.

*Why is no one in London questioning the Knight in Shining Armor riding through the streets on a white steed?  Is this just an everyday thing in London?

*Bus scene.  Hilarious.

I do need to take a moment to be serious here before I end this post.  This was Robin Williams’ final live-action film.  I went in to this film knowing that I probably wouldn’t make it through without tearing up, but I didn’t expect to break down completely.  I’m not going to tell you his final lines in the film, because I think they’re something you need to experience for yourself.  All I can tell you is that they broke my heart.  It seemed a goodbye message, not only to Larry from Teddy, but to all movie-goers from an actor we all loved dearly, and whose absence we still mourn.  It’s not fair that so many movies will exist without Robin Williams.  It’s not fair that such a great and wonderful life was cut short by such a tragic and shattering disease.  I will undoubtedly be seeing this movie again, and I will undoubtedly shed tears once again listening to Robin Williams bid us farewell.

“For Robin Williams. Magic Never Ends.”

In the Bleak Midwinter

Christmas is in six days.  My general rule of thumb is that I like the cold and the gray and the winter weather (or at least pretend to) until Midnight on December 26.  Once Christmas is over, I can go back to openly hating the winter chill as much as I darn well please.

Okay, so there are a few things I like about winter.  I like hot chocolate.  I like snuggling with blankets.  I love Christmas.  And I actually do like snow as long as I don’t have to drive in it.  It’s pretty.

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Ice can even be pretty.

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The only problem with pretty scenes like this is that they come with temperatures like this…

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That is too cold.  When it’s that cold outside, my face often looks like this…

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Or more accurately, like this…

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Every year I start off thinking that I really do like the cold.  I was born in the dead of winter, in the middle of a snow storm.  I feel like I should like I owe it to winter to try to like it.  But once the initial Yay-It’s-Cold-Outside-I-Can-Wear-Boots-And-Scarves excitement wears off, winter gets really old really fast.  The worst part is IT’S NOT EVEN TECHNICALLY WINTER YET AND I’M ALREADY SICK OF IT.  As far as boots and scarves go, guess what?!  I wear boots and scarves all year round!  I’m a writer who lives in Texas!  Boots are a given and scarves are kind of a thing for some of us.

I’m beginning to feel, in a weird kind of way, that by professing my “love” for winter and denying my love for all things summer, I’m in a way denying a part of myself.  I’m supposed to be listening to Christmas music, but I’ve been sneaking listens to my summer iTunes playlist for the past two weeks.  Even as I write this, I’m singing along to Summertime Guys from the movie Aquamarine.

But when you think about it, all of this is really to be expected.  I’m from the South.  Southern girls love summer. We thrive on sunlight and open-toed-shoes and the smell of coconut sunscreen.  Summertime is also the time for colors and being outside and swimming and flowers.  Honestly, how could it not be my favorite season?

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In my mind, summer equals freedom, and as a writer, as a creative mind in general, freedom is all that I want.  It’s all I’ve ever wanted.  Winter is fine, but I so often feel confined and limited in the cold and the gray.  And come on, shoes?  Who actually likes having to wear shoes?  My feet, like the rest of me, like to be free.  One of my favorite memories is of my first Fourth of July working as a summer camp counselor.  My co-workers and I spent the evening at our friend’s lake house and as the sun set, we ran around playing Ultimate Frisbee in our summer clothes and bare feet.  It was the best Fourth ever.

Winter, I guess, reminds me too much of the real world.  Summer is a fantasy.  It’s a time for adventure.  It reminds me of what I want out of life: mountains and oceans and gardens and hiking and swimming and running and forests and open fields of tall grass and flowers.  I realize I must sound like the biggest hippie right now, but that is what my soul craves.  That’s what it needs to survive.  If I can’t have that during the winter months, I at least need my summer music and pictures to keep me going.  Of course, I have my writing also, which definitely frees me, but I also like to experience these freedoms and moments for myself.  It’s not enough to just write them.  You’ve got to live them too.

So for the next six days, I will love and savor what’s left of Christmas, but in the back of my mind, I’m still anticipating the summer sun.

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My Christmas To Do List

Christmas is less than ten days away.  The most wonderful time of the year is undoubtedly in full swing, and there is still so much to do.  Yes, there are presents to be bought, but they’ve never been the most important of holiday traditions.  As my friends and I have gotten older, very few of us actually exchange gifts anymore.  Instead, we go out to eat, share a meal, and just enjoy the time together.  I like that better than exchanging gifts that may or may not actually go to use.  Don’t get me wrong, I love giving and receiving gifts, but as you get older, they become far less important.

Unless it’s a gift card.  Gift cards are actually the best.

I’ve got to tell you though, I’m really excited about the gift my family is getting for my sister.  She’s absolutely convinced it’s a gag gift because we keep laughing about it, but the truth is, it’s a really great gift.  She’s going to love it, even though I know she doesn’t think she will.

Some of our Christmas traditions have already taken place, for example decorating the family tree.

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This tree is actually pretty awesome.  We’ve got some great ornaments.  For example, my very favorite ornament, my Mimi’s bells.

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Then there’s Rudolth the Red Nosed Reindeer.  No, that’s not a typo.

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There’s the Scottish flag and Santa in a kilt…

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And of course, we have One Direction, because who wouldn’t have One Direction on their Christmas Tree?

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We also have the Magic School Bus.  Talk about a classic.

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Along with an array of other old and oddball ornaments.

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It’s a great tree.

But just because the house is decorated, it doesn’t mean that Im ready for Christmas to be here just yet.  For example, I still need to drink a holiday hot chocolate and drive around looking at Christmas lights.  My sister and I also need our 3rd annual Christmas Double Movie Day.  In years past, we’ve seen the newest Disney movie accompanied by the newest Hobbit movie, but this year, we’re branching out and seeing Night at the Museum and The Theory of Everything.  There are other Christmas movies I still need to watch.  There are Christmas songs to be sung.  I still have Christmas fudge to make, as well as our family history scrapbook, which I’ll be sharing with my mom’s side of the family.

For the record, we have a lot of ancestors.  Who knew, right?

On top of all of this, I’m working to finish the first draft of my upcoming book by December 31.  I’m pretty sure I’ll make it.  I was planning it out, and I estimate I only have six chapters left.  That’s kind of awesome.

Please keep in mind also that there are only 9 days left to enter my Christmas GoodReads Giveaway!

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/117688-between-worlds

I hope you are all having a festive countdown to Christmas!  What are some of your favorite traditions?