Alycia Christine

Enchanting Tales, Intriguing Art

Category: Holidays (Page 1 of 2)

When You’re Struggling Through The What, Remember Your Why

“Fallen Angel” photograph

I hear each tick of the clock—each second passing with the steady beat of my own heart. Time continues its inexorable slip through my fingers. The holidays are always hectic. There are always so many things to see and do. This morning, I feel the pinch of it all. My shoulders ache with the weight of all the hustle and bustle. The job needs doing. The clients need helping. The laundry needs washing. The papers need filing. My products need marketing. The family needs visiting. And on and on and on.

Every time I turn around, there is some new shiny distraction that keeps me away from the scrawling pen and paper and I long for simpler times.

“If only I were more organized, I can get all of the things done that I need to do,” I think.

The truth, however, is that better organization will only solve a fraction of my problem because, if I’m honest, busyness isn’t my core dilemma. The real issue is motivation. Motivation to work and to write has been scarce for me these days and it’s compounded by the constant whine of all of the distractions. Of course, the biggest, scariest distraction of all though lurks beneath all the petty stuff—the distraction of doubt.

Can I really do all that I need to do, and if I can, is it really worth all of the effort?

I think all people struggle with these two questions no matter what they are trying to do in life. One of the chief reasons that these questions can bog us down is because we ourselves haven’t quite answered the question of why the work we’re doing in this life actually matters. If you truly understand why your work matters, then that why will carry you through all of the muck of the what. If you don’t, all of the things you want to accomplish will quickly overwhelm and bury you in a stagnant mire of apathy.

Of course, why work matters is something of a subjective question that can change from person to person. For me though, work—whether it’s artistic, technical, or relational—only matters if it helps make someone else’s life better in some way. A kitchen appliance that makes it faster or easier for a person to prepare a meal matters. A spreadsheet software that helps its users better track company inventory and sales matters. A piece of art or music that entertains people and makes them think about life in a new way matters. Everything else is pointless.

Finding your why fuels your way.

In the end, it’s not a question of if I can write; it’s a question of why I should. Not everyone will understand why I do the things I do or say the things I say. Truthfully, I’m not even sure that half of my own family members understand why I am the way that I am. But that is okay because I don’t write for them. It’s for those men and women young and old who feel trapped in the corners and crevices of this flinty-edged world that I write. I write for the lonely, the aching, the weary, and the wanting. I write to remind readers that you are not alone—that we share this broken, grieving world together. My dearest hope is that my words will help to bind up your wounds.

In short, I write to remind you to hope again.

And though dark doubts and distractions may sing their shrill cacophony in the back of my mind, I’ll continue to pay heed to the bright Son of Hope rising before my eyes and ask that you do the same. Always remember that this perfect Son who was born of a virgin, crucified on a cross, and buried in a borrowed grave, did indeed rise again. Always remember that it is His what that laid the foundation for our true why, and it is His why that will always light the way through our what. Merry Christmas!

Until we meet again, may we each rewrite our world for the better!

Alycia

~

The SCRAWLS blog is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with enchanting fiction, deep love, and vivid art for all. As always, contact me with any questions or thoughts. Thanks!

FREE STUFF

Books:
Skinshifter | Dreamdrifter | The Dryad’s Sacrifice | Thorn & Thistle| Musings | First Fruits

Artwork:
Drawn Art | BW & Sepia | Animal | Earth | Flowers | Trees | Mountains | Objects | Urban | Water | MORE

What Happens When Thanksgiving Feels More like a Thanks-Getting?

thanksgivingtable1-ac4x6On the eve of Thanksgiving Day, I must admit an ugly truth—I am less interested in giving thanks for the things I have than I am counting the things I want. Never mind the Turkey Day, I want to skip straight to Black Friday. Being grateful isn’t nearly as much fun as being enticed. The admission sticks in my throat like a half-swallowed barb. How could I, of all people, be so unwilling to give thanks?

How bad could a little ingratitude really be?

Apparently, ingratitude breeds catastrophe. According the Bible, the ruin of our world actually occurred because humans were ungrateful. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God and ate the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, it introduced several curses including death to humans (Genesis 2-3). Such a calamity happened because Adam and Eve were ungrateful. Adam and Eve’s exalted position of fellowship with God was not enough. Being able to walk with the Creator of the Universe in the utopic Garden of Eden was not enough. Instead of being grateful and content with being made in the image of God and having direct fellowship with Him, Adam and Eve were tempted to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil so that they could become like God. In demanding more, they actually chose for themselves much less. Whether you believe such a story to be fact or fiction is not the point. The point is that this story highlights the misery that occurs when we don’t give thanks.

This cautionary tale brings me back to this morning in which I sit in an attitude of ungratefulness for the things that I’ve been given. Never mind the fact that I sit with a full belly on a comfortable couch in a warm home with electricity to power the lights and keep the clothes tumbling in the dryer. Never mind the fact that I am surrounded by shelves filled with books, movies, and art. Never mind the fact that my husband and I actually have enough money to cover all of our bills this month. Never mind the fact that I have had a good amount of work lately to help cover those expenses. Never mind the fact that more people have been interested in my books and my photography than ever before. Never mind all of the good stuff.

A malcontent multiplies misery.

Instead of the warm home, I focus on the creaking floors cloaked in ragged carpet under my feet. Instead of the paid rent, I focus on windows that weep every other time it rains. Instead of the ample electricity, I focus on the flickering overhead light and the groaning, pint-sized refrigerator in our tiny kitchen. Instead of being thankful for the work that I now have, I focus on the fact that we could well be homeless in a few months if sales and jobs don’t pick up soon. Those major worries and minor annoyances are that have occupied my mind for the last month.

A few weeks ago, I met a woman in the middle of the grocery store whose home sits less than a mile from mine. When the tornado came whirling and swirling through our corner of Dallas last December, she and her husband hid inside a closet. That closet was one of the few things left standing after the clawing winds did their worst. When I met her eleven months later, she was buying toilet paper for the RV where she and her husband live because the repairs on their house still aren’t finished. She lives in a twenty-foot trailer and I live in an 850-square-foot apartment. And yet I am ungrateful.

During yet another grocery run, I had a homeless man offer to help me load my groceries into the car. My newest acquisitions took up the entire trunk of my vehicle while all that he owned fit inside a child’s backpack. He has so little and yet was still generous to me who had so much. And yet I am ungrateful.

Three years ago, my husband and I were far more affluent than we are now. We owned an 1800-square-foot house and had more than enough money from our jobs to pay for all of our needs. I often had the option of taking only those freelance projects that I found interesting and was able to work from home. We had so much, yet I was miserable.

What is wrong with me?

We had some friends where we lived, but most of our closest friends were scattered far beyond the desert sands we called home. We might have had a glut of material possessions, but I couldn’t have been more starved in emotional health. I was still reeling from the deaths of three loved-ones and the incapacitation of a fourth when we decided to move to Dallas, and that blood-stained view has colored my perception ever since.

Dallas was an opportunity to start anew—to make new friends, seek more cultural variety, and trade our easy but mundane living for a chance to make a true difference in the lives of others. And yet I’ve often been less than grateful that we took this chance. We’ve endured a lot to come here and to remain here, but we have also been amazingly blessed. My husband and I have found real purpose in this city that we didn’t have in the desert. Life is still hard and often discouraging, but the work is some of the most fulfilling that we could do.

Even with all of my worries weighing me down, I wouldn’t trade my life here for my life in the desert—not even for a second. I still don’t know how all of this will play out, but I do know that the God who faithfully led us through the desert is the same God who wants to restore us back to Eden. Whether we get back to Eden or not, I think is up to me and whether I’m willing to accept His good gifts just as they are or if I’m still more interested in eating the fruit of ingratitude plucked from that poisoned tree.

Until we meet again, may we each rewrite our world for the better!

Alycia

~

The SCRAWLS blog is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with enchanting fiction, deep love, and vivid art for all. As always, contact me with any questions or thoughts. Thanks!

FREE STUFF

Books:
Skinshifter | Dreamdrifter | The Dryad’s Sacrifice | Thorn & Thistle| Musings | First Fruits

Artwork:
Drawn Art | BW & Sepia | Animal | Earth | Flowers | Trees | Mountains | Objects | Urban | Water | MORE

The Whirlwind Week

Sloth_Smiles-4x6ACIt’s been a whirlwind week…literally. My husband and I left our little patch of West Texas scrub brush last Tuesday afternoon, so that we could attend the Texas A&M Abilene Club’s Aggie Muster celebration. For those of you who don’t know, Aggie Muster is one of Texas A&M University’s oldest and dearest traditions. Every year on April 21st, current and former students of Texas A&M gather together in all parts of the world to share some of our fondest memories of the school and to honor those Aggies who have died during the previous year. Since my granddaddy was a proud Aggie member of the Class of 1947, my family gathered with his local A&M Club chapter to answer the ceremonial roll call for him.

After Muster, Matt and I spent the night in Abilene and then traveled to begin our tour of three seminaries in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. My husband has felt God nudging him into ministry for a couple of years now and we believe that now is the time to begin looking into the scholastic side of that Calling.

We visited one seminary on Wednesday, one on Thursday and Friday, and one on the following Monday. The graduate programs ranged from offering a mere 36-hour degree to a full 120-hour Master’s Degree. Two universities were affiliated with specific Christian denominations while the third is a non-denominational Christian seminary. Overall, we were very impressed with all three, so we have some work to do weighing the different curricula.

We took the weekend off from graduate school tours to have some fun together. Since we won’t take a full vacation together this year due to the expense of home renovations and such, we wanted a couple of days to ourselves to enjoy a mini-vacation. Friday afternoon, we did some shopping before heading to Dave and Buster’s for a good meal and some goofy gaming. Not to brag too much, but I thoroughly whipped my husband’s tail in Ski Ball. Since Matt is the consummate gamer, I rarely beat him at anything. We were just about to leave D&B so that we could catch a movie when the heavens opened and poured sideways rain upon the city. Needless to say, we missed the movie. Instead we were forced to ride out a tornado warning in a two-story building full of lots of sharp plastic, metal, and glass. Fortunately, no tornado touched down. As it turned out, everyone and everything in our area survived the storm without even hail damage to report. Several trees sported broken limbs afterward, but that was about the extent of the damage. Even so, I’m not eager to do that again.

Falconer_Don_Mia-4x6ACOn Saturday, we wondered around the Dallas World Aquarium, the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, and Medieval Times. I’ve loved the aquarium ever since childhood, so I had a wonderful time introducing it to Matt. We saw lion fish, bonnethead sharks, sawfish, sting rays, coral, eels, manatees, turtles, black-footed penguins, toucans, caimans, poison-dart frogs, sloths, tree kangaroos, tamarins, bats, and much more. Neither of us had been to the John F. Kennedy memorial museum before and we both found the history of JFK’s life and his death quite fascinating. Finally, on the advice of dear friends, we attended the Medieval Times dinner and tournament in Dallas. The food was great, but talking to the falconer and watching knights jousting on Andalusian horses definitely proved to be the highlights of my evening. Thank you again, Don and Mia, for the beautiful Barbary falcon feather!

Sunday, we went shopping for some much needed clothes at a mall in Arlington. I also found the cutest, most practical handbag ever, which is a bit of a miracle since I’m not much of a purse girl. We were going to see a movie that evening (the one we had missed on the night of the funnel cloud), but instead I became horribly sick. Consequently, we spent most of Sunday evening with me curled up in bed trying to contain the contents of my wayward stomach.

On Monday, I was feeling well enough to join Matt as he toured the final seminary on our list. Then we spent one last afternoon relaxing in the Metroplex. We spent most of the day Tuesday driving home from Arlington. When we finally did get home, I spent much of my time catching up on laundry and culling kitchen items. After nearly five years of living in our house, we have lots of unused stuff cluttering all of its cabinets and closets. I can’t wait to have a garage sale, but first I have lots more sorting and culling to do.

Now that the week out-of-town is finished, I also have lots of writing catch-up to do. My plan today and tomorrow is to finish implementing the proof reader’s edits on Skinshifter. I’ll also send him The Dryad’s Sacrifice on Friday and then begin work on the second draft of Thorn and Thistle. Once final proof reading and formatting is finished, Skinshifter and The Dryad’s Sacrifice will go up for pre-order. The Dryad’s Sacrifice will be available as an e-book while Skinshifter will be released as both an e-book and a print book. I have a ton of marketing work to do between now and this fall’s publication.

Until next time, may we each rewrite our world for the better!

Alycia


The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with love, art, speculative fiction books, and virtual baked goods for all. Please let me know your thoughts about this particular post and, as always, if there is any subject you wish me to discuss, contact me. Thanks!

My Thanksgiving Protest: A Make-In

Scrub_Brush_Sunrise-AC4x6Well, it’s official. Thanksgiving is cancelled. Not only are stores around the country opening at obscene hours on Black Friday morning to lure shoppers in with merchandise sales, but now some stores like Macy’s and JCPenney have made it a habit to open on Thanksgiving night.

As someone who once worked in retail, I have a serious problem with retail stores of any kind being open on Thanksgiving Day. Retail as a business is torturous for its store employees. More often than not, the pay, benefits, work hours, and general time-off at retail stores and chains are pretty abysmal. Add to this the fact that corporations are further destroying their employees’ enjoyment of major holidays by being open on Thanksgiving Day itself or, God-forbid, on Christmas. I cry foul. Since I’m not in charge of the companies in question, I can’t directly stop the idiocy. That being said, I can do something as a consumer to run interference with this rampant commercialism. I propose a Make-In.

What’s a Make-In?

A Make-In is a two-day event occurring during the Thanksgiving holiday. Family members stay home during Thanksgiving Day to spend time with each other. They also stay home during Black Friday instead of shop—for anything. Now before you scream at me about the time lost on Christmas-gift buying, keep reading. The point of a Make-In is not about boycotting businesses, although you could make it about that if you really wished. The idea of a Make-In is to spend some quality time with your family and friends doing something besides stuffing your face with turkey or fighting the masses for the last My Pink Posy doll for your kid.

People participating in a Make-In are responsible for actually making their own Christmas presents for their family members and friends instead of spending the day buying them. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ll still be buying Christmas presents for people. I know from experience that retailers make the majority of their annual sales during the month before Christmas. Retailers making sales means that their employees can keep the jobs that help their families stay afloat. From this standpoint, buying from retailers is a good thing—just not on Thanksgiving Day.

How do you plan a Make-In?

Doing a Thanksgiving Make-In requires a little extra organization on the part of the event planner—mainly you have to get supplies ahead of time. In order to do this, you’ll need to make a trip to your favorite craft stores, office supply stores, and dollar stores way ahead of time to purchase the supplies you need.

Part of the fun of a Make-In is to create beautiful, one-of-a-kind presents without emptying your wallet. Look for items that are relatively inexpensive to purchase and then find creative ways to dress them up into something truly unique and special.

What presents should you create during a Make-In?

When doing a Make-In, play to each person’s strengths. Does someone in your group love to shoot photos? Let him take photos of the family while they are crafting gifts and turn the photos into small personalized Christmas scrap books. Do you have a writer? She can write personalized poetry for people or write a fiction story to share with everyone as a gift. Got a gamer? Have him create a series of crossword puzzles or mazes for people to solve. Is someone great at organizing? Let her make decorative storage boxes or office bins for use in people’s office cubicles. Know a cook? Have him create custom recipe cards for people sharing a few of his favorite treats. The point of this is for everyone to create a personalized present for each other.

This year, for example, I plan to handcraft everyone’s Christmas tree ornaments. Every year, my husband and I send out Christmas ornaments to our family members and close friends and this year will be no exception. Consequently I’ve been brainstorming some interesting concepts. Here is a list of a few of my fun present ideas:

Origami ornaments: create Christmas tree ornaments with an oriental flare by folding paper into unique sculptures. Coat these origami designs with clear resin to help protect them. Don’t forget to add a ribbon so that they can hang on the tree when you’re finished.

Needed supplies: square sheets of scrapbook or wrapping paper (6×6 inch squares work well), scissors, resin, and ribbon, and anything else that looks interesting.

Photo ornaments: capture special moments in hand-painted frames for your Christmas tree.

Needed supplies: special photos, small frames that need painting or decorations added, paint, brushes, buttons, stickers, cloth, ribbons, jewelry bobbles, and anything else that looks interesting.

Hand-painted ornaments: make hand-painted ornaments for your loved-ones.

Needed supplies: plain glass ornament bulbs, paint, brushes, buttons, stickers, cloth, ribbons, jewelry bobbles, and anything else that looks interesting.

Custom Jewelry: craft unique necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and more for the special people in your life.

Needed supplies: beads, pendants, wire, ribbon, string, fishing line, scissors and/or wire cutters, and anything else that looks interesting.

Need more good ideas? I suggest browsing places like Etsy or Pinterest to spark some creative concepts. By all means, please contact me with what you craft. I can’t wait to hear about your creations. I wish you all a wonderful, meaningful Thanksgiving!

Until next time, may we each rewrite our world for the better!

Alycia


The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with love, art, speculative fiction books, and virtual baked goods for all. Please let me know your thoughts about this particular post and, as always, if there is any subject you wish me to discuss, contact me. Thanks!

Thanksgiving Recipe: Orange Spiced Tea and a Short Story

Twirling_Ballerina_Cover-1600x2400Since Thanksgiving is a mere nine days away, I’m working double-time to make sure that all of my writing and photography work is finished before the holiday hits. I plan to sit back, relax, and enjoy my time with family next week. Okay, truthfully I plan to enjoy my time with family and help cook, but cooking for me is fun anyway so I don’t mind.

Now that the final preparations are finished for “The Twirling Ballerina” short story’s publication date on December 1, I’m feeling pretty festive. I’m also practically bouncing off the walls with excitement over this story because it’s one I’ve wanted to tell for a while now. It’s a story about faith, family, love, and grief. As excited as I am about its publication, I have to ask that no one try to pre-order it yet because I want to make “The Twirling Ballerina” free as a Christmas gift to everyone. Since Amazon is weird about free e-books, I have planned a 24-hour sale in which you can pick up the story for free as soon as it’s released. Don’t worry, I’ll make a blog and newsletter announcement when all of this takes place. Until then, please DO NOT purchase it unless you just want to spend the extra $0.99.

Since I am prepping for holiday feasting, I thought I should post a fun recipe for everyone. It’s a hot beverage that won me several smiles last night when I served it for the first time. Here is my version of Orange Spiced Tea. Enjoy!

Orange Spiced Tea

Ingredients:
3 quarts (18 cups) water (purified water makes better tea than tap)
3 teaspoons whole cloves (McCormick seasonings work best)
3 1 inch cinnamon stick pieces (McCormick seasonings work best)
6 tea bags black tea (Twinings Ceylon Orange Pekoe Tea works wonders for this recipe; although you could use Lipton if needed.)
2 12-ounce cans frozen Orange Juice concentrate (I use Minute Maid)
1 12-ounce can frozen Lemonade concentrate (I use Minute Maid)
2 cups sugar

Pour the water into an 8 quart pot; add the cinnamon sticks and cloves (I use a loose-leaf tea infuser to hold everything). Bring water to a boil; remove from heat. Add tea bags to the water and set tea mixture aside to steep. You want the liquid to have a nice dark red coloring throughout (steeping about 7-9 minutes should do the trick). Remove the tea bags, cloves, and cinnamon sticks (you can reuse these to brew a second batch of plain Spiced Tea later if you wish. If not, just discard them.).

Add orange juice, lemonade, and sugar together in a 4 quart pot and bring it to a boil. Be sure to stir the mixture until the sugar completely dissolves. Carefully pour the juice mixture into the spiced tea pot and stir until completely mixed. Serve hot. This makes about 6 quarts or 24 servings. Cheers!

Until next time, may we each rewrite our world for the better!

Alycia


The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with love, art, speculative fiction books, and virtual baked goods for all. Please let me know your thoughts about this particular post and, as always, if there is any subject you wish me to discuss, contact me. Thanks!

My Christmas Presents to You: Two-Tone Cookies and Inverted Icicles

Ice_Fingers-8x12ACMerry Christmas, all! Thank you all for the gifts of your support and friendship throughout this year! I am so blessed and inspired by your love and dedication.

As my Christmas gift to you, I have included two things:

The first is the “Ice Fingers” photograph above, which I have uploaded in high resolution so that you can download it and use it as your computer desktop photo if you wish. To do this, simply click on the photo above and follow these instructions:

    • Once the photo loads, hover over the picture with your mouse and right-click on it.
    • Choose “Set Image as Desktop Image” from the menu
    • Select “Fill” for your Position.
    • Click “Set Desktop Background” and you’re done.
    • Now the photo should show up as your desktop art.
    • Don’t forget to save it, so that you don’t lose it!
  •  
    The second is my famous Two-Tone Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe. Click HERE for the instructions.

    I wish you all the joy and love possible as we celebrate Jesus Christ’s birthday. I hope you fully enjoy the holiday season with your loved-ones.

    Until our next meeting, may we each rewrite our world for the better!

    🙂 Alycia


    The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the desk of Alycia C. Cooke and/or Alycia Christine Sears with love, fiction books, and virtual baked goods for all. Please let me know your thoughts about this particular post and, as always, if there is any subject you wish me to discuss, contact me. Thanks!

    Remembering Rebekah

    TexasStarforBekahACS4x6As we draw closer to the joy of Christmas, today has actually proved to be bittersweet for me. Yesterday marked the two year anniversary of my best friend Rebekah’s near-death and the start of her continued convalescence. Even though she collapsed and was rushed to the hospital on December 16th, I didn’t find out about her brain aneurysm until the 17th. That phone call changed my life in a way that not even the deaths of my grandparents could.

    I’ve known Bekah since we were eight-years-old. She has been my best friend from the Second Grade and beyond. There are photos of us in my family albums holding hands as we skate around the roller rink with bows in our hair. In every one of my birthday photos, Bekah is there—always smiling at the camera in between bites of cake and ice cream or laughing at my strange jokes.

    As we grew past the hair bows and into teenage troubles, Bekah and I cried on each other’s shoulders many times. She was the first person to whom I would tell my secrets and from whom I would ask advice. Bekah never would believe it, but she was one of the smartest people I knew. She always envied me because I was so academically savvy, but I always envied her because she had so much common sense. Her straightforward logic trumped my problems every time.

    Bekah understood me and I understood her in a way that few other people ever have. We were both dyslexic and school was a shared nightmare for us. I handled the pain of reading, writing, and mathematics by burying myself in my studies of the arts and sciences, hoping to get enough good grades to go to a top-ranked university one day. Bekah buried herself in her horse, teaching herself to ride as well as some of the best equestrians in the business. When Bekah was on the back of a horse, she felt free. I, meanwhile, just felt saddle-sore.

    As much as Bekah loved children and horses, I suppose it was inevitable that she would end up volunteering to do Turf Therapy during high school. She loved teaching mentally and physically handicapped kids how to ride a horse. She loved watching their confidence in themselves grow as they mastered the art of directing these 1000-pound steeds.

    We graduated from high school and continued on with our lives: me to Texas A&M University and her to South Plains College. By freshman year’s end, I had come close to suffering a nervous breakdown thanks to dreaded Chemistry and being 400 miles away from my family and friends while Bekah had met the love of her life. By the end my sophomore year, I had switched majors and Bekah had dropped out of school to get married. As she and her husband Cody danced the night away, I had to flick a few tears from my eyes. I had never seen her so happy.

    While I continued to work toward my bachelor’s degree, Bekah and Cody made a life with each other. It was difficult at times, but they always came out on top together. Bekah worked hard to help put Cody through college and then he did the same for her. It had taken Bekah a few years to figure out what she truly wanted to do for her life’s work. She knew she wanted to help kids, but she wasn’t sure in what capacity. After a stint working as a special education teacher’s aide, she had firmly ruled out being a teacher.

    Although she liked the academic setting even less than I did, she was deeply intuitive about children’s needs and extremely passionate about teaching them to succeed. Bekah finally decided to pursue being a Children’s Occupational Therapy Assistant, so that she could continue to help kids in her own way. Her COTA course load made my head spin. Bekah fought through and eventually aced every single course she was thrown from basic biology to anatomy and physiology. School had finally proved a triumph for her.

    By this point in our lives, Bekah and I barely saw each other three or four times a year owing to the fact that we lived across Texas from each other. When we were together; however, our time spent apart suddenly didn’t seem to matter. We had become more than friends; we had become sisters to each other—enjoying our similarities and differences with equal enthusiasm. We laughed and cried together about everything: from the sweetness of our husbands to how frustrating our respective families and friends could sometimes be.

    A few weeks after she’d taken on her first full-time job as a COTA, Bekah and I met for lunch. It was to be our last normal meal together. My 29th birthday and her 30th birthday were fast approaching so we treated each other to a Mediterranean style lunch complete with dolmas, hummus, pita bread, and chicken shawarma gyros. Bekah has always had an adventurous palate, but she had yet to try any of these dishes. We had a wonderful time talking and eating. I think I had definitely convinced her to try more of the gyro sandwiches.

    It would be at another lunch a month and a half later that my world would collapse. My husband and I were just finishing our seafood meal when my mother called. I picked up the phone expecting to hear news about my ailing grandfather and instead almost dropped it when Mom uttered “Bekah” and “aneurysm” in same sentence.

    Matt and I drove over seven hours that night to find Bekah lying in a darkened ICU room with her head bandaged and her face swollen past identifiability. I thought—all of her loved ones thought—that we would bury Bekah within the week, but that was not to be. Bekah is a fighter even when she shouldn’t be. She fought to live; she fought hard and she won—sort of. Within days of her sudden, inexplicable brain trauma, Bekah’s mind showed more electrical and blood flow activity than the doctors thought possible. Within weeks she was breathing on her own. Within months she could move her head and the tips of her fingers.

    As the months went by, though, her improvements slowed. Now she stares and smiles silently at me in between bouts of sudden sleep. When we were younger, I was sometimes frustrated by her tendency to be a motor mouth when excited. Now I can’t stand her silence.

    This morning I dreamed about her. We were sitting in her room at the special care facility where she now lives and Bekah’s roommate was griping at the two of us because we were being so loud with our talking and laughing together. Time had once again stood still to listen to the sounds of our mutual joy. As I awoke, the echoes of the dream faded and I realized once again that our time with each other had been cut too short.


    The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the desk of Alycia C. Cooke and/or Alycia Christine Sears with love, fiction books, and virtual baked goods for all. Please let me know your thoughts about this particular post and, as always, if there is any subject you wish me to discuss, contact me. Thanks!

    SCRAWLS: A Warm and Fuzzy Excerpt from “Winter’s Charge” (Plus a 15% Off Sale)

    Mountain_Ice_AC4x6Welcome to December and the snowy cold of winter! Okay, technically my corner of West Texas will likely see temperatures in the 70s today, but that was not the case early last week. We saw freezing temperatures and our first dusting of snow four days before Thanksgiving. Of course the weather cleared just in time for Turkey Day travel, but we expect winter to return this weekend.

    In the middle of all of this crazy temperature change, I have been hard at work on a tale crafted especially for those of you who love the snow. The short story is tentatively titled “Winter’s Charge” and its rough draft is about 6000 words long. I have included an excerpt for your reading pleasure today. I hope you like it.

    I stayed next to the graves of my clan members long after the fire died, the temperature dropped, and the winds rose again. I was trembling so violently that I was sure I would break my chattering teeth before the end, but if I must die, then at least I would die alongside my kin.

    A shuffling sound roused me from my fevered thoughts and I looked up to see a miracle materialize out of the starry darkness. The miracle came in the form of one of the most dangerous creatures an Alawaeun hunter can encounter: a polar bear.

    I wish I could tell you that I behaved in a manner befitting my new status as an Alawaeun warrior, but I am ashamed to say that I did not. When I first saw the bear, I screamed like a woman in labor. Death had found me and our first meeting was about to be far more painful than death’s original greeting to my frozen clansmen.

    As the bear moved closer, I shut my eyes and waited for the strong swipe of a paw to permanently tear my spirit free of my body. I waited and waited, but death did not come. Finally, I cautiously peeked with one eye at the world around me. My eyes widened when I found the bear simply sitting and watching me. Although I am no judge of emotions in animals, I remember thinking that she seemed quite sad.

    “What are you doing here, child?” the polar bear asked.

    I mouth fell open in surprise. Surely I was dreaming. Surely the Aurora had given me some last wild vision of peace before death finally claimed me.

    She repeated the question plaintively and I quickly sat up from where I had laid against the cold stone wall. “How can you speak? What are you?”

    The polar bear slowly shifted her head, studying me with an expression far different from any other predator’s that I had ever seen. “I am your guardian…for now at least,” she said.

    “My father once told me the story of how the Father Spirit sent an orca to save a fisherman from drowning,” I replied. “The orca used the fisherman’s net to drag his leaking boat back to shore. I have heard the same sorts of stories about belugas and ravens, but never a polar bear.”

    “Never a polar bear…” The sadness seemed to deepen her dark eyes. “My kind and yours are often enemies, but even I will not thwart the will of the Father Spirit when he decides to favor one of man.”

    I said nothing.

    “Come,” she said as she rolled her massive body pack onto her four large paws, “You need warmth and food and you will find neither here.”

    I crossed my arms in stubbornness and stayed firmly seated on the tumbled ice and snow. If it was even possible, she laughed when she saw my resoluteness. “Come, little one,” she said to me. “Death has no purpose for you yet.”

    “What is your name?” I asked.

    “Ukiuq,” she said the Alawaeun name for winter. “You may call me Ukiuq.”

    I rapped my little hand against my fur-clad chest in a traditional tribal salute. “I am honored to know your name,” I said. “I am Ataniq.”

    She bowed so deeply toward me that her black nose almost touched the snow beneath her white-furred paws. “I am honored as well. Ataniq…yours is a strong name. Now come before you further drain it of its power.”

    As you might have guessed, this is one of the short stories that will be included in the soon-to-be-published Musings short story collection. If you enjoyed the excerpt and wish to know the rest of the story, please look for the full version in the upcoming book!

    Finally, I need to mention that I have a 15% OFF SALE going on all of my artwork from now until December 31st! If you are wondering what to get your loved ones for Christmas, look no further than the beautiful, high-quality prints on my photography website! I offer everything from custom greeting cards and phone case covers to framed prints, metal wall art, and stretched canvases. My work is reproduced and shipped through Fine Art America so you can be sure of its quality and its timely delivery.

    To redeem your discount, simply type in the promo code YMHLAA in the indicated box when you check out. Your 15% discount will then be applied to all of your products that are sitting in the buyer’s shopping cart at the time of checkout. If buying for Christmas, please remember that December 15 equals the last day for FedEx and UPS Ground Shipments and December 18 equals the last day for FedEx and UPS Overnight Shipments. All profits will go toward the production and marketing of Musings and related projects. Thanks so much!

    Until our next meeting, may we each rewrite our world for the better!

    🙂 Alycia


    The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the desk of Alycia C. Cooke and/or Alycia Christine Sears with love, fiction books, and virtual baked goods for all. Please let me know your thoughts about this particular post and, as always, if there is any subject you wish me to discuss, contact me. Thanks!

    Ink Blots and Tea Stains: Dullahan and an Uncommon Cold (Archive)

    NightmareHorseAC4x6The two weeks surrounding Christmas and New Year’s Day have been miserable. On Christmas Eve I was diagnosed with a sinus infection that left me sniffling and sneezing and all but bedridden at my parents’ house throughout the Christmas holidays. Then the next weekend my in-laws showed up on our doorstep to bring the second half of Christmas cheer, at which I continued to cough. I was finally able to breathe through my nose around midweek last week. All that said, this Christmas and New Year’s season has been far better than the same time last year in which I had to bury my grandfather and almost bury my best friend within three weeks of each other.

    Despite my fortnight affliction, I did to enjoy both Christmases and even managed to clean our house between visits. I did not, however, have a chance to repaint the master bathroom. That little project is on the back burner until I can comfortably breathe through a paint mask once again.

    On the writing front, I continue progress on the novel Dreamdrifter. I have also begun a new short story tentatively titled “Zoo Tales.” I am very excited about this new project because I believe the “Zoo Tales” concept is large enough to encompass a series of short stories.

    We have seen snow twice in the past two weeks and that has afforded me a couple of photography opportunities close to home. While I have not had the chance to process or upload any of those photos yet due to sickness and an abysmal Internet connection, I do hope to share them with you in the coming weeks. By the way, for those interested, my work will be among those featured in Austin, Texas, as part of the 3000 Weeks celebration hosted on Confabule.com and featured at 8PM on January 26, 2012 at Kick Butt Coffee Music and Booze (located at 5775 Airport Blvd in Austin, TX).

    Now, let us move on to today’s Creature Profile:

    Creature Profile: Dullahan

    Real or Imagined: Both

    In Mythology:

    The dullahan, also known as the far dorocha or Crom Dudh, originally comes to us from Irish legend. This dangerous fairy creature is said to appear as a headless man riding a black horse through the countryside. The headless rider usually holds his decapitated head in one hand or ties it by its hair to the pommel of his saddle. The head itself is often described as having the texture of stale bread or moldy cheese and has a huge use grin splitting the ugly face from ear to ear. The head also shines with the phosphorescent glow of decaying matter and is therefore used as a lantern by its carrier. As if this wasn’t frightening enough, the dullahan has the ability to call the name of the person whose death it heralds. It can also stop on the very spot where a person will die. Some believe that the dullahan is linked to the ancient Celtic fertility god Crom Dubh or Black Crom who is worshiped in Ireland through the decapitation of human sacrifices.

    In literature and entertainment:

    One of the most popular references to dullahan comes to us from Washington Irving’s “Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, in which a local village man dresses up as a headless horseman carrying a flaming jack-o-lantern to scare off the village visitor Ichabod Crane so that he would cease his courtship of a certain beautiful and rich lady. I grew up with the Disney film adaptation of the short story; however, there is also a live action version of the story starring Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci.

    Another story loosely based on the dullahan legend is that of the light novel series, manga, and anime television series all named “Durarara”.

    Despite the popularity of these two stories, there are relatively few other references to the original dullahan legend found in popular literature and entertainment. Even my own book Skinshifter, tweaks the dullahan legend some of these fierce dark creatures are the result of Turned centaurs (undead centaurs). Also known in my series as Gan Ceann, Dullahan are Turned centaurs whose decapitated head is speared on a pike and carried by its body as a way to hunt prey more efficiently due to its supernatural sight.

    In Reality:

    Dullahan is the name of a thoroughbred racing horse, which is one of the contenders for the Kentucky Derby. By Even the Score, Dullahan was bred in Kentucky by Phil & Judy Needham and Bena Halecky out of the unraced Smart Strike mare Mining My Own. Dullahan finished first at Toyota Blue Grass on April 14, 2012, and second at Palm Beach on May 11, 2012.

    For more information about centaurs, please see the following links:

    The dullahan as a mythological creature:
    -“A Field Guide to Irish Fairies” by Bob Curran (http://www.amazon.com/A-Field-Guide-Irish-Fairies/dp/0811822761/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1358190491&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=guide+to+irish+fairies)

    The dullahan in literature and entertainment:
    http://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Ichabod-Disney-Classic-Collection/dp/B00004R99Y
    http://www.amazon.com/Legend-Sleepy-Hollow-Washington-Irving/dp/1612930980/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1358189752&sr=8-2&keywords=legend+of+sleepy+hollow
    http://www.amazon.com/Sleepy-Hollow-Johnny-Depp/dp/0792164903/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1358189752&sr=8-4&keywords=legend+of+sleepy+hollow
    http://www.durararausa.com/story/

    The dullahan in reality:
    http://www.kentuckyderby.com/contenders/dullahan
    http://www.pedigreequery.com/dullahan

    Until we meet again, may your ink blots be liberal and your tea stains tiny.

    [~]D Alycia

    Ink Blots and Tea Stains: Christmas, Solstice-Style (Archive)

    Nutcrackers1-2x3ACSToday equals Winter Solstice, three days until Christmas, 10 days until the end of the year. As I look back at 2012, I am amazed and excited to report that my two-year-old self-employment experimentation has done so well.

    I have created not one but two websites (http://alyciachristine.artistwebsites.com for photography, www.alyciachristines.com for my main site) and am learning how to market those sites through bi-monthly blogs, Facebook, and Twitter messages. I have set up the websites to allow customers all across the world to order prints of my photography and artwork on a variety of merchandise through partnerships with Fine Art America and Zazzle. To date, I have over 300 photos on my http://alyciachristine.artistwebsites.com site and over 100 different products ready to customize with any of 15 graphic designs in my http://www.zazzle.com/alyciachristine store.

    In June, I published a photography devotional e-book called First Fruits: 31 Flashes of Biblical Perspective. I wrote First Fruits as a month-long daily devotional to help new Christians and non-Christians understand the meaning of the Fruits of the Spirit discussed in Galatians 5. I am very thankful that the book has been so well received by its niche audience.

    The month of November saw my second ever participation in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words on a single fiction novel in 30 days. I managed a little over 35,000 words on the rough draft to Dreamdrifter. I am extremely happy that I took my time during this NaNoWriMo because the prose is much cleaner and the plot structure is far stronger than the writing from previous NaNo attempts. In any event, Dreamdrifter currently stands as the 85,000 word (310 pages) sequel to Skinshifter, the fantasy fiction book that I wrote between the years of 2006 and 2008 (see my SpecFic page for full details). With the help of my genius head reader Sam and the entourage of beta-readers, I finished the final draft of Skinshifter late last year. I have been shopping it around to various publishing houses in 2012. So far several publishers have found the manuscript well-written and interesting, but not the right fit for their company. Right now, the manuscript is under scrutiny by the fine folks at Harper Voyager, so I am keeping my fingers crossed.

    December finds me finishing Chapter 16 of Dreamdrifter, writing the outline for a second photography devotional tentatively titled The Point of Prayer, doing a public reading of my newest short story “The Twelfth Christmas Eve”, preparing for the 3000 Weeks joint-exhibition in Austin, Texas, with Robert Stikmanz and over 40 other creative minds (See http://www.confabule.com/information for details), and continuing work on a TOP SECRET special gift for all of my wonderful supporters (more details to be announced soon).

    Incidentally, expect my Facebook and Twitter presence to be fairly quiet until after the New Year as I enjoy the company of family and friends over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays (and paint a bathroom in between visits). With this in mind, I must now flit away to start my cleaning.

    Until we meet again, I wish all of you a joyful Christmas and a beautiful New Year! And of course, may your ink blots be liberal and your tea stains tiny this holiday season!

    [~]D Alycia

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