Herod the Great (Big Jerk)

English: Herod the Great Suomi: Herodes Suuri

Herod the Great  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I know well enough that the Jews will keep a festival upon my death, however it is in my power to be mourned for on other accounts, and to have a splendid funeral, if you will but be subservient to my commands. Do you but take care to send soldiers to encompass these [illustrious] men that are now in custody, and slay them immediately upon my death, and then all Judea, and every family of them, will weep at it, whether they will or no.

This was how Herod intended to ensure mourning at his funeral. Yikes. (Fortunately, these orders were not carried out after his death.) Continue reading

Songs of the Little Drummer Boy

Detail of the Three Kings from The Adoration of the Magi, tapestry, by Edward Burne JonesLast time I talked about the prevalence of Little Drummer Boy figurines in Nativity scenes and the fascinating research I got to do for So To Honor Him. Today I’m going to talk about the obligatory soundtrack for the book: “The Carol of the Drum” or “The Little Drummer Boy,” depending on when it was recorded and by whom.

I’m not even going to try to list all the myriad covers of this song, or even just the better ones. Here I’ll simply point out some really stand-out recordings and explain why I think they deserve a mention. I know I’m leaving out a lot of favorites; feel free to comment below with a plug for your choice!

Continue reading

So To Honor Him – a tale of the drummer boy

Garishly-dressed drummer boy with Italian Greyhound.

This is more than a bit ugly. And why does he come with a dog?

Maybe it’s always been there, but a few years ago I started noticing a curious trend of Drummer Boy figures in Nativity sets. Had the carol become so prominent in our Christmas traditions that we were now including the recent and wholly fictional character in depictions of the scene? And why were so many of them oddly inappropriate to the setting? I was simultaneously a little weirded out and a little intrigued.

I’d always liked “The Carol of the Drum” at least a bit. It’s simple and not terribly authentic, but it’s got a decent message (“your best is your gift”) and anyway it’s catchy, pa-rum-pum-pum-pum. It was only written in 1941, allegedly based on a similar Czech song but the original (according to Wikipedia, anyway) has never been found. It probably has more to do with the carol “Patapan.”

It became hugely popular after the Von Trapp family (of The Sound of Music fame) recorded it and Harry Simeone recorded it two or three times, renaming it “The Little Drummer Boy.”

K.K. Davis' "The Little Drummer Boy"...

K.K. Davis’ original “Carol of the Drum” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So I’d always enjoyed the song. But it bothered me. I mean really, who plays a drum for a baby? Most of my time around infants is filled with admonishments to make no noise, lest we wake the sleeping screamer. I know people who even travel with white noise machines for their young children. And how did the Wise Men happen across a renegade drummer from an anachronistic military band? Because that’s how the kid is usually depicted in illustrations. And where are his parents, anyway?

If you want skip ahead to the story, jump to the bottom of the page.
If you want to hear about the research, read on for a bit.

This has bothered me off and on for years. And then I found my brain starting to do something about it. Where did this kid with the drum come from? Continue reading

The Golden Age of Indiana Literature

When speaking of the arts, most people don’t think of Indiana right off the bat. We have an unfortunate reputation of being nothing but miles of cornfields. (This is unfair and wholly untrue. We also have a lot of soybeans.)

We also have a hotbed of aesthetic culture.

English: White river; Indianapolis, Indiana, J...

White River; Indianapolis, Indiana, July 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Indianapolis has two major art museums (and several smaller), a whole slew of various other cool museums, a compact and entertaining downtown, and a thriving theater community with a ridiculously high number of theaters per capita. (I frequently catch a small or large production, in houses from a cozy supposedly-haunted lodge to the gorgeous Indiana Repertory Theater.) And Indiana has long been known for literature in particular. Continue reading

History: When Fiction isn’t Whack Enough

Herod the Great

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why write from history? Because seriously, even my caffeinated imagination couldn’t make some of this stuff up. From my (very rough) NaNoWriMo work in progress:

“Now, don’t judge him too harshly,” Saman said. “After all, the man is capable of deep love. When he left for the dangerous task of negotiating with Octavian, he feared that if he died, he would be separated from his wife, who would surely find another husband with her great beauty. So he left orders that should Octavian kill him, she should be executed at once, so that no other man might have her and he could be with her in death.”

Arash simply stared at his master.

“She learned of this, and rather than appreciating his vast devotion, she grew to hate him. In the end, he tried her for treason and saw her executed, and he grieved for a great while.” Saman’s voice was flippant, with a deeper undercurrent of disgust.

“I… should think he might,” Arash ventured.

“He named a tower for her,” Saman said. “The Miriame. It is quite beautiful.”

This is a lot of time-consuming research — really not ideal for the on-the-clock NaNoWriMo — but I confess to having some fun with it. I may post more findings later, but in the meantime, I’m quite behind on my word count, so back to work!

Authors at Robots & Rogues

Robots & Rogues Small Business Saturday posterCome out Saturday, November 29, 2014, to one of my favorite names in indie bookstores, Robots & Rogues. I’ll be there from 10 am to 3 pm, and there will be other authors present all day, including Stephanie Cain and others yet to be announced. You can even meet Santa!

We’ll be chatting and signing throughout the day, and it’s a great chance to get a jump on your Christmas shopping. As the name implies, Robots & Rogues is a good source for the geeks on your shopping list, but they serve other reading niches as well with mysteries, thrillers, non-fiction, etc.

You can follow the event updates on their Facebook page as new authors and features are added. We’d love to see you there!

The Monumental Marathon 5k: Go, Me!

Totally just an achievement post.

Last week I was traveling, spending much of my days on a bus. In the evening I found a hotel treadmill or, one lucky evening, a great trail by a river. I wanted to lift weights, but hotels don’t always offer weights. But all hotel fitness centers have a treadmill.

One night on a treadmill, I bumped up the speed to a jog. And when I was able to maintain that pace for a solid five minutes, I felt ridiculously proud of myself. (I know, I know. Go ahead and laugh. I’ll even laugh with you.)

Where I’m going with all this is, while high in a fit of optimism and fitness enthusiasm, I stumbled across a tweet warning of the imminent closure of registration for the Monumental Marathon. I hadn’t even known it was happening, but it offered a 5k. I signed up. Continue reading

Something Wicked, or How I Got Kicked Out of Book Club

Cover of "Something Wicked This Way Comes...

Cover of Something Wicked This Way Comes (film)

So Monday night I attended for the first time our local library’s book club. It may also have been my last.

The club was discussing Something Wicked This Way Comes, the creepy seasonal novel by Ray Bradbury. I’ve always felt vaguely guilty about not liking this novel quite as much as it probably deserves, but after listening to everyone else give their impressions, I felt like a positive fangirl. Oh, sure, a few enjoyed it, but at least half the group hadn’t even finished the book.

That’s not what got me into trouble, though. No, this particular session of book club offered dinner and a movie, and we watched the film adaptation for further discussion.

I realized I was both dominating the conversation and sounding rather negative, both of which I figured were bad for a first-timer, so I squelched myself a bit. And thus a blog post was born! But the comparison really does offer a really spectacular example of what removing the stakes and changing motivations can do for a story. Continue reading

A Halloween Treat

Two cousins, the boy dressed in military camou...

Two cousins, the boy dressed in military camouflage and the girl in a ballerina outfit, wait outside a door as they go trick-or-treating,. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ll be honest, there’s a trick to this treat: this is only an excerpt. Not the complete story. (Sorry!) I’ve turned in three stories in the last two days, and there just wasn’t time to get this one done, too.

But I wanted to share at least a bit of it, because it’s seasonal, and it’ll be a fun peek behind the curtain of the writing process to see how it develops. Some stories keep a similar feel from the beginning, while others are hardly recognizable by the end. This one will change significantly before it’s done! but that’s why it’s called a draft. Also, please enjoy a glimpse of the quite-real Irvington Halloween Festival and maybe mark your calendars for next year!

I’d love to hear your comments on this work in progress, so please don’t be shy. Also please note that it will be available for a very limited time, because it is just a draft — and trick or treating doesn’t last forever! Continue reading

It’s October!

Autumn leaf color in Shinnyo-do, Kyoto, Japan

Autumn leaf color in Shinnyo-do, Kyoto, Japan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s hard to pick a favorite time of year — I like pretty much everything except March — but October would be near the top of any list. The colors, the slanting light, the crisp temperatures along with favorite traditions such as bonfires, pumpkins, and spooky stories.

I write this from a train car rolling through autumn colors. Trains are a great way to experience scenery, and I’ll have a travelogue post soon to share with you. But I have something else to share as well. Continue reading