Friday, December 15, 2017

How to breathe new life into a supernatural being?

My parents told me there was no Santa Claus. I don’t remember how old I was, only that I always knew he wasn’t real. Ditto for the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. I never felt like I missed anything in my childhood, but my kids have Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny. There’s something special, something magical, about believing. We work hard to keep the magic alive.

How did a kid who believed in nothing end up writing paranormal stories? My parents may have prematurely enlightened me on the most popular of childhood legends, but they encouraged avid reading. Books were more than entertainment to me, they were my friends, and I read everything I could get my hands on. Through hiding my soaring imagination behind a quiet facade, I began writing stories. Writing became a natural extension of my love for reading. I wanted to share the joy books brought into my life with others.

We live in an extreme world where information overload desensitizes us to anything that is less than over-the-top. We need more. And, then, more again. Has the need for more—fantasy, adventure, and stimuli—led to renewed appeal of the paranormal? I write paranormal romance because the possibilities are endless. What other genre gives my imagination free reign, allowing me to create the other worldly and supernatural?

In my debut novella Dream Hunter, I dreamt up Gabe, my guardian angel, and created alien life forms who communicated with humans through their dreams. Dreams have fascinated me for years—starting with my childhood nightmares. My adult dreams are not much better. Far from run-of-the-mill, they consist of the ‘people chasing me’ or ‘I’m an assassin’ variety. Watching scary movies fuels the fire and initiates a total recipe for disaster. What is going through my mind while I sleep? I fear the answer to that question.

I wonder if ‘crazy’ is a prerequisite for writing? What does it take to create the paranormal basis of made-up worlds and beings? Do I have a great imagination or do I describe the real monsters in my head? Does it matter? Do I even want to know?

Paranormal is defined as “next to” normal. The stage is set with the standard lineup. The usual cast of characters. We, the authors, infuse the supernatural element. Human once removed.

Vampire. Shifter. Mystical gods. Angels. Demons. Zombies. Aliens. Fairies. Witches and warlocks.

We know them well. We read the books. We watch the shows. But how do we imprint our mark? Make them our own? We research and apply our findings, with every ounce of our limitless imaginations, to create magic, adding our unique signatures to the supernatural beings we know and love.

Friday, December 8, 2017

How Santa Ruined Christmas

The concept of Santa Claus is a fantastic one. We can all appreciate the spirit of generosity Santa promotes. I too believe that it is better to give than receive. But I don’t believe the act of giving should leave people in debt long after the Christmas season ends.

The idea of Santa puts unrealistic expectations on parents. Children believe Santa can make anything in his workshop. They don’t understand if their toy is out of stock on amazon.com. The letters to dear Saint Nick send parents on a frantic holiday scavenger hunt. Yearly. My kids always seem to ask for the toy of the season. How do they know? We don’t even have cable.

I find the amount of money spent on Christmas, in general, and Santa presents, in particular, shocking. I know parents who spend thousands of dollars on Christmas. Dollars they don't have. Financed by credit cards. Or worse. HELOCs. And I see parents who can't even afford presents purchased on credit.

What message are we sending? We are fulfilling instantaneous wants. We are using presents as a benchmark for good behaviour. We are, in fact, lying to our children.

I didn't grow up with Santa... (or the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy... but those are tales for another day...) so we have adopted my husband's traditions for our kids... with a few updates.

1. Santa is magic.
2. Santa brings all the presents.
3. Santa doesn't bring electronics.
4. Santa wraps presents.
5. All presents are opened on Christmas morning.
Sometimes, I think I missed out. I enjoy bringing a little magic to my kids. Seeing their excitement on Christmas morning. But, I worry that we, as a society, have let 'Santa' ruin Christmas. A simple act of generosity has turned into a commercial circus and a financial nightmare.

How can we keep the magic present without sacrificing our financial futures?

We don't break the bank at Christmas. Do the kids get everything they ask for? No. Are they still spoiled? Probably.

I'd like to scale back Christmas. And, to some extent, we already have. We email our Christmas letter.   We do most of our shopping online. We prepare for Christmas in advance. There is still room for improvement. And it could be worse... at least Santa doesn't put up the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve.

This year, look beyond the stuff.  Think about presents money can't buy. Time. Memories. Experiences. Steer Christmas magic back to its origins... the spirit of generosity.