Top 10 Favorite Christmas Song Classics

SONY DSCI’ve been kind of absent short of WIP posts, and that’s a product of the latter quarter of the year being particularly busy for a variety of reasons, not to mention a few health scares for this chronic worrier. I hope to do better in the first quarter of next year, which is usually quiet. Also, I think I’ve figured out a way to end my femme fighting novel, which gives me hope.

But that’s not what today is about. I’m a big fan of Christmas songs, which puts me at odds with a lot of cynics and skeptics like myself. Maybe Christmas songs are just another facet to my I-love-all-music trait. Either way, I’m not going to apologize for it, because I enjoy it too much. I force myself to wait for the evening of Thanksgiving to listen to it (although I’ll sometimes give myself a reprieve with Christmas in July), and I’ve been amassing my collection for the last few years. This year I hope to get Linda Eder’s second Christmas album and Kelly Clarkson’s Christmas album at some point, but that’s only relevant to the next post about my Top 10 Favorite Non-Classic Christmas Songs.

The next ten songs are in no particular order, but they’re the classic songs with dozens of covers that I almost always love (I’ve noted a few here). Some are secular and some are religious, which makes little difference to me. They all contribute to music’s ability to transcend.

Top 10 Favorite Christmas Song Classics

1. “Silent Night” (Linda Eder, Boyz II Men)

There’s often a ringing clarity to the singing of this song. It’s like a lullaby, but it’s somewhere between the saccharine sweetness of “Away in a Manger” and the sometimes bombastic loveliness of “O Holy Night.” The form truly follows the intent. It’s such a peaceful song. It’s a night lover’s song. Linda Eder’s version is truly breath-taking. She hits notes it’s hard to believe exist in the human range, and with such gentleness.

2. “O Holy Night” (Crystal Lewis, Faith Hill, Linda Eder, Celine Dion)

I wouldn’t be a self-respecting soprano if I didn’t put down “O Holy Night.” It’s a diva’s song, but the music itself has a kind of power, so it’s no wonder divas enjoy it.

3. “Sleigh Ride” (Kristin Chenoweth)

This song is so relentlessly cheery, but not aggressively so. It covers a lot of the feelings that I have during the Christmas season, the optimism, the crispness of the winter weather, being with the people you love and experiencing sights and sounds of the season with them.

4. “Adeste Fideles” (Nat King Cole, Celine Dion)

For some reason, “O Come, All Ye Faithful” has an added depth in Latin when you can’t understand it. Just trust me on this.

5. “Ave Maria” (Rachael Lampa, Sarah Brightman and Fernando Lima, Mario Fangoulis w/ Jim Brickman on piano)

There are many versions of this, but I love each and every one of them. Growing up Protestant, Christmas was about the only time we liked to acknowledge Mary (sometimes Easter), and it’s the only time we can sing “Ave Maria” without getting the stink-eye. If like pop music and you can get your hands on Rachael Lampa’s version of this, you won’t regret it.

6. “White Christmas” (Bing Crosby, The Drifters)

I can’t help it. Bing Crosby’s opening notes and I’m transported to every Christmas ever. There’s a reason it’s the most recorded Christmas song ever. Every note is a memory, every lyric nostalgic, sometimes for a Christmas that no one will ever see but that still waits in their hearts each Christmas. This song is the Christmas we wish for. Then there’s The Drifters’ version, which is my childhood.

7. “What Child is This?” (Charlotte Church, Harry Connick, Jr.)

This entire song is a question (appropriate), but the minor key gets me every time. Who doesn’t love “Greensleeves”?

8. “Santa Baby” (Eartha Kitt)

I’ll probably get reamed for this one. But I really don’t like the Madonna version. It’s Eartha Kitt or nothing. When you acknowledge that this song isn’t meant seriously and instead ironically, you’ll appreciate this song even more. That, and who can deny Eartha Kitt anything she asks for? I mean, really.

9. “The First Noel” (Josh Groban with Faith Hill)

There’s a reason I named my first cat Noel.

10. “Mary, Did You Know?” (Erin O’Donnell, Kathy Mattea)

Another Mary song, which is no surprise. The minor key here is so powerful, and there’s such warmth when it’s done with a smoky alto or baritone. The lyrics are quite evocative as well.

Honorable Mentions: “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” (because, duh), “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “Joy to the World,” “O Come, O Come, Emanuel,” “Let It Snow,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “The Christmas Song” (maybe I’ll do another list next year…)

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Week 4: Femme Fighting (NaNo2013 Edition) COMPLETE

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“She understands fighting. She doesn’t understand shopping malls, much less shifted blame, scapegoating, and politics,” Melissa said.

Word count: 76,316 words

Words written since Week 3: 19,050 words

So, WH is officially finished! At least as far as the first draft goes. And the award for longest, sloppiest denouement goes to…

Seriously, my ending to the nightmare novel wasn’t this sloppy, and I wrote it at four o’clock in the morning.

I don’t know what gives or even if I’m ever going to take WH out of the trunk again. I had suck high hopes for the story, but I may have to chalk it up to a good idea and poor execution. The concept has been drifting about in my head for over a year, and up to the climax I was actually pretty good with it. It could take some polishing, some beefing up, but otherwise a decent first draft. Then that ending. I wrote everything that felt necessary, but I need to do something to keep up some of the tension, for Pete’s sake. It was awful. I mean, the last line is cool because I’d planned that for a while. But otherwise…just ugh. Such a mess.

Maybe in another nine years, I’ll can take it out again, add a few things, cut a lot, and finally feel good about it like I did with the nightmare novel. Or maybe I’m just in a bad spot in my rising and falling writer moods and happened to end on a low note. I’ve been doing so well these last few years, I was bound to have a few duds along the way.

I don’t know, and at this point it doesn’t matter, because it’s going in the trunk either way. I’ll revisit it sometime in 2014 to see if it can be salvaged with some cuts and rearranging…then to determine if it’s long enough to be shopped out.

Still, on the bright side, I wrote over 75,000 words and knocked out a short novel in less than one month, which is pretty amazing. Maybe next year I’ll try for 100k words in a month. I’m pretty sure I could do it.

Additional stats:

Number of days to finish: 24

Average word count per day: 3,180

Number of pages (single space, 12pt Book Antiqua font): 119

Number of pages (double space, 12pt Book Antiqua font): 235

Number of chapters: 25

Average chapter word count: 3,053 words (this surprises me)

Number of characters on character list (excluding a few): 34

Next up on the list of Things to Do is going over FTR1 to fix the beginning and do some character checking, then editing FTR2. We’ll get to that sometime in early 2014, January or February.

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Week 3: Femme Fighting (NaNo2013 Edition)

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Everyone wanted to see who would leave the War Room a victor: reigning champion Jewel or the plucky, fierce fighter on the rise, Peregrine. It was especially exciting for those who remembered the last time they fought against each other three years ago.
This fight was going to be epic.

Word count: 57,266 words

Words written since Week 2: 26,251 words

That “words written since” is actually larger, because I deleted the first 4-some-thousand words that I had whited out for NaNo word count. It’s hard to believe that I’ve written about 30k in one week, but there you go.

On Friday I won NaNo2013. That night, I went to the Overnight of Typing Furiously that our region does independent of the NaNoWriMo’s official marathon, which is why we call it something different. I got a good number of words written, but that was a bad IHOP day. The local management leaves a lot to be desired, with chaos and lying and duplicity, so we probably won’t go back to IHOP. The problem, of course, is that we have a limited number of places that are open overnight. Cafe Brazil told us straight out they’d kick us out in an hour if they were busy, but Denny’s has opened its arms to us, so we hope that works out in the future. Most other 24-hour wifi hubs don’t have outlets, because they don’t want you to stay either.

On Sunday, I concluded the climax of the story. All that’s left is a somewhat lengthy but still essential denouement. I’ve already written the last line, so I know exactly where it’s going. I expect to finish this novel within the week, by Friday at the latest, depending on whether I write 2k or 3k each weekday.

I’m still a little at loose ends on what to do with the novel, since it’ll probably end up a novella after editing. I guess I can figure it out once I finish polishing FF to a shiny finish. After all, I have to finish first before I start worrying about marketing. One thing at a time, A.

One thing I can say for this novel, it’s that it’s flowed so ridiculously easy from beginning to end, even when it felt wrong in first-person POV. The writing has been mostly action-oriented, pausing here and there for Peregrine’s reflections, but the action really drives it forward at a fast pace. It has stunned me that this kind of story has come from my head, since it’s so unusual for me. It’s not my usual style, and it’s not my preferred style on a regular basis, but on occasion, a story simply demands that kind of pacing.

I think it’s important to distinguish that some stories require that pacing, not all, as I often hear in writing advice. I’ll write that way when it is necessary, just as I’ll write at a more leisurely pace or with more bridge scenes to draw out tension when it’s necessary.

The function determines the form, and if that means a gothic cathedral instead of a Wrightesque box, or vice versa, so be it. I am not a slave to present preferred styles, because they too will change and what is written today will be considered bad in the future. Writing in an older-fashioned way isn’t bad writing, just different. I’m a slave to my story at all levels.

And now off my soapbox and onward to my writing once more. See you on the other side.

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NaNo2013 K.O.

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Paragraph that crossed me over: “After the fight, she probably wouldn’t want what she’d asked for. After the fight, she’d be reminded that fighting was all she was made for. Talons and claws. Not a kiss. Those kisses were for the fairy tales. Here, kisses were knife cuts in a cage. After the fight and after Jewel was gone, one way or another, and no longer there to tell the girls those fairy stories, she wouldn’t want them anymore.”

Just dropped in to say that at 1:49 a.m. this morning, I crossed the 50k-word line. I was technically only supposed to reach 49k words, but I decided why not go all the way. At one point, the NaNo stats said I only had to write 60 words a day to finish by the end of the month, which I found hilarious at the time.

Now, to finish. I’m quickly approaching the climax of the third act, and then we have the denouement to deal with. This is a very short novel, and after edits, I suspect it will be a novella, and then what will I do with it?

Anyway, it’s too early in NaNoWriMo for winner’s swag, but fireworks are good, too.

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Week 2: Femme Fighting (NaNo2013 Edition)

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“Running during a fight is a sure way to get a bullet in the back. And all of these men are good shots, better shots than they are fighters. Or men,” Jewel said. “Especially for a situation just like you’re describing. We’ve tried, all right? We tried and we didn’t get very far. The ones that didn’t die ended up in the Zone, worse than where they started. So excuse me if I sound like I’ve heard this chorus before. Let me know when you get to the bridge so I know that there’s something none of us have heard before.”

Word count: 31,015 words

Words written since Week 1: 15,952 words

That “words written since” number should go up by next week, since Week 1 was actually four days instead of a whole week. Also, I have an Overnight of Typing Furiously coming up on Friday night, which should up the word count as well. In fact, I should probably reach 50k by Friday.

I have reached the point where I don’t know whether this is all crap and an exercise in futility. I still don’t know what to think about this novel or whether it’s going to ever see the light of day. But as I’ve said before and will say again, I’m an emotional masochist. I want to at least finish it before I throw it into the trunk to never see it again.

Every time I ask myself if it’s too much for YA, content-wise, I remind myself of what I was like when I was YA and also remind myself that this is what some YAs go through every day. When I feel it is necessary for the story, I imply rather than go for stark exposure. I’m usually all about exposure, but I recognize the need for implication sometimes. I have three short paragraphs in my last chapter that were the hardest for me to write so far. And I have whole scenes of girls beating the crap out of each other. Just for the record, it’s not fun writing these thing. It’s just necessary. It’s part of the story. It’s part of the tragedy. Just how it is.

However, whether or not I’m okay with this story (is it YA, NA, regular adult, classic adult, adult lite? I hate these ever-expanding labels, y’all), I do really like all my femme fighting characters, and ever since I switched to third-person, I’ve connected much better to my MC, Peregrine. I like writing from her perspective, as long as I have a little distance.

You know, it’s funny. I’ve been slowly increasing my weekly quota for two years, and I’ve officially reached a point where the pace of NaNoWriMo seems leisurely in comparison to my own and I now shoot for reaching 50k in half the time that NNWM requires. That makes me laugh a little. I’m not complaining. I get more written more quickly that way.

Writing trends: My Young Adult novels are bleak with main characters that don’t talk much at all. My New Adult novels, however, are more optimistic with main characters that don’t shut up. Thank goodness my next novel is the third in the NA fairy tale remix series.

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Week 1: Femme Fighting (NaNo2013 Edition)

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First paragraph: “It was a special week at the War House. Jefe Orono caged a new girl, who he called Hero. Ivy had been throwing up every morning at breakfast and sometimes after lunch, not that Jefe Jace would notice. And here came Jefe Braun to introduce Peregrine to her new keeper.”

Word count: 15,063 words

And technically, that Week 1 started after midnight on Nov. 1 with our local NaNo group’s Kick-Off Party at IHOP. Don’t get too excited about how many words that is. All 4k words I wrote at the party ended up getting scrapped, which for NaNo means that I turned all the font white so that the words written still count but I don’t have to look at them. 🙂

As it happened, I set out to experiment with first-person, present tense, because the story felt more contained within one perspective and the immediacy of present tense would have worked for the story. However, 4k words in, I decided I still really dislike first-person POV. (The only stories I seemed to like in FP is anything by Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant and the Animorphs and Goosebumps novels. Don’t judge me.) It lacks a depth and richness that I get from third-person, even when it’s limited.

This probably speaks more to my incompetency as a first-person writer than the concept of writing this story in first-person, but I just wasn’t feeling it. So I rewrote the first chapter in third-person limited, which still narrows the focus to my MC, Peregrine, but I like her better from a slight distance.

I’m still not sure whether this first draft is going to stick or whether I’ll need to rewrite it like I did the nightmare novel (which I’m continuing to send out to agents, btw, although I’ve paused in sending out the FTR1 novel until I can fix the beginning). I’d prefer having a solid first draft to edit rather than rewrite, but at least the concept is still interesting to me. I have to give myself some leniency, because I’m writing a non-supernatural, uncomplicated novel, which I just don’t do.

By uncomplicated, I mean it only has one or two things going on. Most of my other novels have at least three things going on, which usually puts it over 90k words by the end of it, and my fairy tale remix series…well, there’s a reason it’s a series. So… simpler is new to me. Simpler does not, however, mean simplistic or lazy, just that the story is relatively straightforward.

On the bright side, it means that with my new accelerated quota plan of about 20-22k words a week, I’ll probably be finished with the novel (along with NaNo’s 50k words) well before the end of November so that I have some breathing room to watch the last season of Angel. It’s the little things, y’all, and that was one of my resolutions for 2013.

Another interesting consequence is that my chapters are shorter. I basically write chapters until I feel like they’re finished, and that ends up anywhere between 7k-15k per chapter for most of my novels. But this one has faster pacing, so my chapters are more in the 4-5k range.

I will say this: Why are all my YA novels so damn bleak? I mean, the nightmare novel is horror, so bleakness goes with the genre. This femme fighting novel is speculative (which in the fiction world has come to mean “genre fiction,” but I learned it as “set in a future based on a logical progression of the present” – ex: Margaret Atwood’s novels), and set within an underground femme fighting league of abducted and enslaved girls, a cross between sex trafficking, no-rules MMA fights, and cock and dog fighting. Gee, what could be bleak about that?

My New Adult stories are so much more optimistic. I guess I should write at least one YA that doesn’t make me want to hide in my closet with sharp objects near me.

Sorry I’ve been so radio silent since the end of writing FTR2. I just didn’t have a lot to say and I had a lot on my plate. You’ll get regular updates throughout the femme fighting novel, though, and after that, some fairy tale blogging and the edits on FTR1 and 2 before starting on FTR3 in April or May.

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Interlude: BTVS Rant

Season 6 Scoobies around the beginning of the season? We need to talk. Sit down and listen good to Miss A.

Buffy’s just woken up from being dead and is clearly depressed and in shock at being back. Then you present her with the news that the household is almost out of money and look to her, this traumatized young woman who’s been six feet under for months, to fix this situation.

First of all, Anya’s suggestion of charging for slaying is not so out of the question and heartless capitalist as everyone is making it out to be. All of you already know that Angel is doing the exact same thing in LA, paranormal investigative services and private security. Sure, secrecy is an issue and Sunnydale isn’t quite as easy to hide in as LA. But there are options for Buffy in the same kind of arena, and everyone kind of knew Buffy helped in high school, even if they didn’t know the whole story. That’s why she got the Class Protector Award at prom.

Instead of waiting for the evil to come to her, she could discreetly offer her services for people to come to her if something bad is happening. Heck, she could probably advertise at the Magic Box. That way she could take the cases that she wanted for a fee as well as do the cases she needed to do for free like she was already doing.

Even if you don’t want to go the paying for slaying route, you can always play to your strength and go into normal private security. Your petite size and occasional blonde moments only make people underestimate you, which is useful, and you’d quickly develop a reputation. Does anyone think of playing to Buffy’s literal strengths? For five seconds at Xander’s job, where she quickly gives it up because demons, and it never comes up again. Heck, she could do that police thing that she hated to think about back in Season 2. It would smart and savvy up the police force considerably.

All of that to say that, Buffy, you have plenty of options on your table, and no one thought to tell her any of this and instead let her go work double shifts at the Doublemeat Palace to try to make ends meet all by herself?

And this brings me to the really furious part of my rant. Dawn can’t work, because that would be child labor and illegal and she’s a bit too spazzy to do the babysitter thing, but she could probably do some odd jobs underage people do to pay for the things she’s klepting, which could cover some of the Dawnie expenses. But as far as the rest of the household goes…

Are you kidding me? Buffy just woke up and you put it all on her because it’s technically her house, but correct me if I’m wrong, but there are two perfectly capable, able-bodied adult witches living in the master bedroom of the house rent-free. Sure, you’re taking care of Dawn, but that should just be par for course. Everyone takes care of Dawn.

There is absolutely zero reason why they can’t be bringing in some cash flow to this house to help. They’re in college – although neither of them ever seem to have a declared major and always take random humanities courses, so who knows what they’re going to do when they get out of college, especially since I’m guessing Tara paid for her college through scholarships and loans alone – but that doesn’t mean they can’t both have at least part-time work bringing some income to the house that provides them shelter instead of parasiting off of two almost broke girls. Two women, two part-time jobs, would be like one full-time job, which would free up Buffy for more world save-age she’s Chosen for.

No one ever says anything to Willow and Tara about the fact that if they’re going to live in that house, they need to contribute. Tara, in particular – as the moral heart of the Scoobies – should know better and feel guilty about mooching, and magic addiction aside, Willow should know better because she’s practical that way. Instead, they both let Buffy flounder, trying to look for a job and recovering from major depression, ultimately feeling humiliated and exhausted in a minimum wage job. And they contribute absolutely nothing money-shaped to the equation. This is Not Okay.

Here endeth the rant.

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