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Star Wars Saturday: Christmas Edition

Published December 23, 2017 by admin

It’s almost like I’ve been waiting for this alignment for years.

So some fun stuff for today!

Backstory: having a minster in the family can open one up to all sorts of experiences, one of which might be having a giant, mega-sized nativity scene that would rival some playsets from the 1980s. And because The Sibling and I tend to amuse ourselves in creative ways, there has been a long stretch of years where we felt the need to…enhance things.

I don’t really remember how this started, and to our credit it probably would’ve stopped long ago if some people would stop bringing it up every year, but for a long stretch of time, sneaking things into the manger scene was tradition. I think one year we added Barbie accesories, we’ve mixed up sizes on some things, by far one of the best years was when I found a bunch of pirates with the same paint job as the actual figurines…

Yes, okay, we’re very mischevious and we’ve heard about this more than once, but who are we to fight with tradition at this point? It’s dropped off a bit over the years as we’ve gotten busy, but at least we still have photos.

Did I mention we had a lot of Star Wars figures growing up? You can see where this is going:

 

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Beautiful

 

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What, you didn’t know the Wise Men were Jedi?

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Keeping watch in case of Herod’s men or mynock, whichever comes first

Seriously, I cannot stress how big this thing is. What, you thought it was just the inn? Nope, we’ve got the Roman temple to deal with, too…

 

 

 

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and you thought finding a parking space for The Last Jedi was rough…

 

 

 

 

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perfect

Also to our credit, that is hardly the only decor in the house we enhance:

 

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must be Christmas: the special edition

***

hollyandivy

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After losing her job and her boyfriend, Holly returns to her parents’ farm. Embarrassed and hopeless, she doesn’t expect to bump into a forgotten childhood friend that wasn’t supposed to exist. Ivy is not only a dryad, but she lives in the pine trees Holly’s family grows to sell at Christmas. As the old friends reconnect, Ivy not only shares her strong oninions, but gives Holly a charm that will change both their lives. As days melt into weeks and the seasons change, Holly’s life magically turns around. Christmas not only brings surprises, but a choice for the human woman. What’s more important: stability, success, and love, or keepinga promise to an old friend?

 

 

 

 

 

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Influences Revisited: Remembering Brooke McCarter

Published December 22, 2017 by admin

December and I have a complicated relationship. I want to like it, I do like it, but I’m very aware of the other side of things, and things always seem to go sideways or fall apart during this month for me in some form or another.

But there’s the other side to that, too, because at a certain point, you begin to…or at least try to acknowledge the good even those moments and people have had in your life. For me, December is definitely that battle of realism vs wanting to still believe and fighting to maintain that belief.

I definitely know the agony of what it’s like to lose someone right before the holidays. The anniversary of my grandfather’s death (among a handful of other personal anniversaries I’d rather forget), always gives me pause every single year. And yet (like I said in the elf post), there are bright candle sparks in the night in those moments, too, especially if they help me remember people who touched my life and made it better. And I am extremely lucky to have met a lot of amazing people full of that positive, candle-bright glow during the course of my life.

So yeah, one of those days, and we’re going to do the revisit an old blog post thing to make it a little easier. Part of it’s practical – admittedly I always feel pressured to come up with content this time of year and that with everything else can take a toll (hence all the reposts so I don’t have to think as much). More than that, though, I just plain don’t like good people to be forgotten.

***

Obviously those who inspire are important to me, and I want to touch on a special one today.

I went back and forth forever about this one.  I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to post when it happened. December is not an easy month for me anyway, and this was the thing that made me take a break this year. Also, as of a year and a half ago I’ve lost one of my best friends and mentors, two people who pretty much helped raise me, as well as one of the biggest influences of my life. I’ve been selective in what I talk about publicly because otherwise this would be the most depressing blog ever. And, there’s that little, insidious part of me that is aware that there are people who knew him way better, who were much closer, and what do my words really mean in the scheme of things anyway?

At the end of the day, though, that’s silly, and I’m also well aware that Brooke would tell me just that, so whether these words help remember him or are just for me, here they are.

So I’ve done a lot of posts on Lost Boys through the years. I don’t think I’ve ever talked about why it was a turning point for me, and that’ll happen at a later date. Let’s just say it influenced my costume design work and obviously my writing. Somewhere between those two time frames, though, Brooke McCarter became my friend.

It feels like ages, but I suppose it was only like seven years ago that I met him at a con. Meeting Brooke was like going from being completely intimidated to talking to  a good friend I hadn’t seen in forever in like twenty seconds. He has this gift to just really connect with people and I’ve always been somewhat blown away to watch that in action because it’s always genuine and from this beautiful, sincere place. We got to talking because I was near an area he’d grown up in, and I’ve got the most incongruous, out of the box collection of entertainment work experiences ever. A couple ideas were kicked around, and life went on.

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Holiday Excerpt: A Newborn King to See

Published December 21, 2017 by admin

Admittedly, I’m not as cynical as I bill myself. Like everything else, I tend to hide behind the sarcasm and eye rolling a little bit. While I have mixed feelings about this time of year, it makes great fodder for stories. Some of which actually are uplifting.

I KNOW!

With that in mind, here’s another excerpt from my co-authored collection, Lost in the Shadows. This time in A Newborn King to See, we take a look at my take on hope, reincarnation, and the little drummer boy.

Hey, I never said it wasn’t going to be weird.

***

The close of the year is coming. Once again my annual search has become a little more. It is the same every year. I have never once failed to find what I am seeking. Still, the thought of failing for the first time is enough to make me anxious. Or is it the thought of not stumbling into Him again this year? I suppose it is this way for most people.
It is our special tradition. Every year the hide-and-seek game takes me to new countries, new times, new peoples. It has been our special game since the ancient year a tiny infant looked upon a poor beggar child with a single talent, and smiled.
I did not understand the full extent of such a blessing then. I was too busy worrying about my next meal. That tiny smile followed me afterwards, until one unseasonably cold Bethlehem night I went to sleep huddled in a pile of rough grain sacks in an alley and never saw another sunrise.
His memory went with me and I suddenly found that I had so much possibility ahead of me. There was no time to be bitter about one short, poor life. The One that had sent Him is a loving protector and understands my longing for expression and knows of my quiet bond with the boy.
At the start of each year my search begins and my spirit wanders tirelessly to seek Him out before the year’s close. I see many people this way and see many old faces resurrected and reflected in the eyes of each new generation.
I have strolled down crowded streets in third-world countries. It is astounding and heart-breaking that thousands of years past my time there are children that have less than I once did. I peek in windows in London, Sydney, New York, Los Angeles, amazed at opulence beyond that of the kings and Caesars of old. I take all that I see to heart, and when I do finally return for my rest I talk about this with others, with The One that sent my very best friend in those quiet moments before dawn.
I always find Him, though, in this odd game of hide and seek that has spanned the centuries. He is good at hiding, always has been, for many never do find Him. But I know always to look in unexpected places, because he is no longer content to wait in the obvious stables and mangers. One must look harder.

lost in the shadows

Kindle     Paperback 

Journey with authors Selah Janel and S.H. Roddey to a world where every idea is a possibility and every genre an invitation. In this collection of forty-seven short stories, lines blur and worlds collide in strange and wonderful new ways. Get lost with the authors as they wander among fantasy, horror, science fiction, and other speculative musings.

Shadows can’t hurt you, and sometimes it’s all right to venture off the path.

SJ Reads: Batman: Noel

Published December 20, 2017 by admin

batman noel

 

Time once again for another alternative holiday title to get you in the spirit! This week, we look at Batman: Noel.

I stop and start with the Bat family comics, but they’re consistently the only DC I really keep up with (though not so much once New 52 hit). In general, I prefer titles like this or trade paperbacks of arcs to individual issues. I have my own thoughts on what Batman is and isn’t, but one thing I love is that within the title, there are so many different facets to the character and to Gotham, itself. It makes ideas like this not only work, but become something really interesting and special.

The basic gist is that this is A Christmas Carol put through a Batman filter. We see Bob, one of Joker’s henchmen, be used as a potential pawn by Batman, whose world view has become even more black and white after the death of Jason Todd. Different heroes and villains take on the role of the ghosts as Batman/Bruce slowly succumbs to pneumonia, while also trying to take down the joker and deal with what he’s becoming.

Because Batman can be so many things, it’s interesting to see him as Scrooge, and not all that unbelievable. It’s also interesting to see Batman as not benevolent hero or hardcore badass, but something in the middle, someone who will do a lot to support their view of the world that’s slowly been affected by grief. You also get to see how others view him, plus there’s the obligatory action and fight sequences and solving the problem of the moment. Yet it still keeps to theme, still feels like a Christmas title. I also like that you do get a character arc from Bruce, you do get the sense that he’s working through things and learning somewhat, but it’s also believable and not something cartoony to fit the source material.

For me, especially, it vaguely reminds me of the animated series episodes where you’d take a brief look at some poor guy stuck in the middle of Batman and Joker’s constant battle, or see the main action through a side set of eyes. I love choices like that, and they really work for this title.

The art is just gorgeous, too. There’s a haunting quality to it, a cold realism that transcends typical comic book looks for me. I rememer not going into this one with any real expectation, because so often for me gimmicks like this just don’t work. I have to admit, I was very pleasantly surprised and read it a few times in a row – and got a different take each time I paged through it.

 

Happy Star Wars Day! or Thoughts on Leia Revisited

Published December 15, 2017 by admin

Since we’re celebrating Star Wars today, I thought I’d revisit this post, especially since Carrie Fisher is no longer with us.

***

So while the world is doing their best of lists and talking about resolutions…eh, I’m just gonna do my thing. And that means talking about something near and dear to my heart.

I saw Star Wars the day after Christmas. The short version is while I get what some people are nitpicking over, I personally loved it. Having been obsessed with the franchise as a preteen, then falling out of love with it for various reasons, it’s nice to see something that feels like the universe I love again. What’s amazing to me is to also see so much inclusiveness on screen. This is huge for so many different people. From my own standpoint, if I had seen this Star Wars when I was eleven, seen women fighter pilots and First Order officers and wise aliens, and a protagonist who was confused by trying her best…yeah, I wish I had had that movie. So to that end…

woke up this morning to see Carrie Fisher firing back at accusations about her appearance in the film. Brava.  I love her so much for this, I can’t even tell you. It’s ridiculous that this is what people are focusing on, but it’s an unfortunately reality that she will always get more grief over something so silly over her male costars. Seriously? She looks great. She looks how many human women look as they get older, so way to go casting! I loved her in the movie. And to THAT end…

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Projects: Yule the Goat & Cuddly Krampus

Published December 13, 2017 by admin

It’s that time of year, and since I’m still working on this year’s goodies, I figured I’d show some. pics of some stuff I’ve done for previous Christmases. And no. You’ve already gotten enough elf costume pics for the month, so don’t hold your breath for more.

Although I’m a little late, I figure I’d show pics of some of the critters I made a year or so ago. They hang out around different parts of my place and have the run of it for the month along with a few other random fellows.

krampus and yule.jpg

I got into making plushies through the Aranzi Aronzo books, and they really inspired me to start coming up with my own ideas and patterns. The guy on the left started as a puppy, but I didn’t quite have the amount of fabric for a dog, and the more I looked at the pieces, the more it reminded me of a baby goat. Hence, Yule the Goat.

Yes, I know he’s not made out of straw. Be kind, he’s a just a kid (ahaha). The goat has had various symbolism in different winter celebrations, and you can read more about him here. 

His body and head are faux fur, hooves and horns are purple fleece scraps, and eyes are buttons. Pretty easy peasy.

And, of course, on the right we have Krampus, but since I live for cute creepy stuff, I have probably emmasculated him into his current chibi-ish form. He doesn’t seem to mind, though. Similar deal, the main parts of the body are faux fur (he also has a long, fashionable tail), and the facial details, hooves, horns, and chains are fleece. He was a little more complex and I had a little bit of trial and error getting him the way I wanted him, but I’m pleased with how he turned out. All in all, they are cuddly and adorable, and they watch over the place and guard my holiday cards and everything else without causing too much mayhem.

***

Still Looking for a Stocking Stuffer? Email me at selahjanelauthor@gmail.com for prices on signed paperbacks of Olde School and Lost in the Shadows!

Prefer something for your Kindle/ereader?

HollyAndIvy72dpi (1)

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After losing her job and her boyfriend, Holly returns to her parents’ farm. Embarrassed and hopeless, she doesn’t expect to bump into a forgotten childhood friend that wasn’t supposed to exist. Ivy is not only a dryad, but she lives in the pine trees Holly’s family grows to sell at Christmas. As the old friends reconnect, Ivy not only shares her strong oninions, but gives Holly a charm that will change both their lives. As days melt into weeks and the seasons change, Holly’s life magically turns around. Christmas not only brings surprises, but a choice for the human woman. What’s more important: stability, success, and love, or keepinga promise to an old friend?

Excerpt: Candles (from Lost in the Shadows)

Published December 12, 2017 by admin

Tis the season, and since we started off the week on a horror vibe, I figured we’d keep it going with an excerpt from a Christmas short I did for the collection Lost in the Shadows. Taking place on Christmas Eve during the zombie apocalypse, it combines the ceremony of advent and the desire to keep Christmas close under bleak circumstances.

***

If it was any other Christmas, the candles would have been purple, pink, and white. As it was, Jamie had been lucky to find extra candles at all.

“This Christmas sucks. No turkey, no presents. We don’t even get a tree,” Tony whined from his seat in the shed’s corner. Jamie bit her lip against the sudden urge to cry. Of all the horrors they’d seen lately, it was her thirteen-year-old that was making her break down. The worst part was that he was right. Celebrating was a stupid idea that just made it all worse. She couldn’t save her family, or even give them a proper holiday. What kind of a mother am I?

“We have a lot of things,” Grant reminded him. There he was, coming to her aid once again. Every time they ran out of food, every time Tony or her five-year-old Andy got sick, every time the undead got riled and tried to charge their hiding spot of the moment, he was there with an answer. He gave her a tight smile over her oldest’s head. He looked as ragged as the rest of them did, but his drawn face didn’t look bad on him. His sandy brown hair didn’t show the light blond in it unless she looked really hard, and they hadn’t been alone enough lately for her to have a chance to look. His grey eyes were reassuring, though there was exhaustion in them, too. It was the same fatigue they all felt, the thing that chased them more than the zombies. It gnawed at them daily, made every little task an ordeal, dragged them lower and lower into submission to the new way of things. “We have a place to sleep. We have food for a few days. We have each other,” he urged. His eyes danced just a little, for her sake.

She echoed his smile, though she had to work to make her mouth move. She hadn’t felt a reason to really smile in so long; even the good moments were quickl

y overshadowed by another death, another problem, another strange shadow cast on the wall, another night filled with unearthly moaning, another attack. “That’s all we need,” Jaime agreed and wrapped both boys in her shivering arms. How long before I lose them? How long before I lose myself? Grant carefully struck one of their last matches and lit the candles in the Advent wreath made from barbed wire. His large fingers almost hid the match, but they couldn’t hide the tiny, beautiful spark.

“The first candle symbolizes hope.” The tiny blue flame struggled to stay alive. Jamie ran a hand through her dark, tangled hair and wiped it on her stained jeans to rid her hand of the oil. There hadn’t been a good time to wash it lately, especially with the cold weather. Tony and Andy weren’t particularly put out by not being able to take a bath, but it was a little comfort she missed. Hope.

It’s hard to have hope when Amanda was ripped apart by monsters, she thought, shuddering. She closed her eyes and pushed the thought of her baby away. She replayed the scene in her head constantly: how she’d gone to the nursery to check on her, how she’d found the screen knocked out of the open window, how three ugly corpses had been fighting over the infant’s remains. She’d only escaped because her husband Jason had dragged her away, forcing her to take Tony and Andy with her. She hadn’t seen his fate, but his screams had suddenly stopped when they’d reached the front door. The only reason she’d kept on running was because of her boys. That had been in June.

The only hope I have is that Grant found us, she sighed, and tried to focus on his rugged face and not the determined memory of her husband. Guilt came in bucketfulls when one had nothing else to think about besides surviving and the past.

“The second candle is preparation,” Grant continued, gently talking to the boys as he guided his hands to the next candle, his free hand guarding the little flame. Jamie chewed the inside of her lip and curled the dirty blanket she’d found tighter around her. Who can prepare for something like this? Decades of horror movies, of thinking about the most awful things, and there was still nothing we could all do to prepare for this. She glanced to the gun in her hands, stroked the barrel idly. They were down to their last three bullets unless they could find more. The heavy snowstorm three days ago had deterred the hordes that had been quickly giving chase to anything they considered worth eating, but it also made going on supply runs difficult.

She didn’t even know where they were now, except that they had been heading north towards Canada, where the hordes were supposed to be minimal thanks to the cold. They’d raided the empty downtown area of a small town a few weeks ago, and ended up in an abandoned shack on some abandoned plot of land. There wasn’t much cover so she was always sitting there, waiting for the final attack to come, but the weather had helped, at least. None of it, though, was anything anyone could prepare for. It had just happened. As of yet no one even knew how it had started, or if they did they weren’t sharing. Couldn’t share, more likely. Everyone was so cut off from each other, electricity and phone lines were rare, never mind a wireless signal.

“Joy,” Grant narrated, lighting the next candle, moving the match away at the last minute when Andy reached for it.

“I wanna help!” he complained.

“You’re just gonna ruin it or cut yourself again!” Tony grumbled and hunkered deeper into the hooded sweatshirt that was at least four sizes too big for him. “Butthead.”

Grant grabbed Andy’s arm away before he cut it on the barbed wire of the wreath. “C’mere, you, let’s do it this way,” he chuckled and shook the match out. Jaime watched as he helped her youngest get hold of one of the lit candles, carefully guiding the boy’s movements with his giant hand over the tiny one. “There we go…joy.”

“Joy, joy, joy!” Andy sing-songed. He was always doing that, making up little tunes from something one of them said. It had been cute when they’d lived in a nice house and had only the usual things to worry about. The last time he’d done it he’d alerted a shuffling corpse that had gone off on its own for some reason, though that wasn’t usually part of zombie behavior.

No. You know why that thing was on its own. She cleared her throat and blushed when Tony rolled his eyes. He knew how she covered her emotions all too well. You didn’t cover them up then, did you? You ran out and saw your little boy about to meet the same fate as your baby girl. You did what any mother would have done. She shivered and wrapped the blanket tighter. It was so hard to get warm when she’d lost so much weight and her clothes hung on her. You rushed right out, Grant’s advice be damned, and tore that bastard apart limb from limb. She could still feel the blood oozing over her hands, the cold flesh soft and slimy in her grip and smearing dirt on her clothes. It was only once she’d taken the head and gone to retrieve the pieces for burning that she thought to look at the face.

Jason. The thing after her son was half-eaten and had suffered more decay than any living thing had a  right to, but it had been Jason. It was hard to feel joy after that.

Lost - 400x600

Kindle      Paperback

OR Email selahjanelauthor@gmail.com on information about signed copies!

Journey with authors Selah Janel and S.H. Roddey to a world where every idea is a possibility and every genre an invitation. In this collection of forty-seven short stories, lines blur and worlds collide in strange and wonderful new ways. Get lost with the authors as they wander among fantasy, horror, science fiction, and other speculative musings.

Shadows can’t hurt you, and sometimes it’s all right to venture off the path.

Genre: various speculative genres

Length: 300 pages

Format: Kindle, Paperback (Nook and other platforms coming soon)

Publisher: Published by the authors