2018: A Year.

2018 has been a year. January feels as if it was 5 years ago, and I swear it was October yesterday. But here we are, in the last days of 2018 and I have feelings.

It’s easy to get caught up in all the things one wanted to do in the space of 12 months, but it’s important to instead focus on one’s accomplishments (big or small). This year, instead of looking back and seeing all the things I didn’t do (*cough* meditate, eat better, finish novel *cough*), I’m going to focus on the positives.

This blog post is in three parts: accomplishments, favourite things, and goals.

Accomplishments

While I may not have FINISHED my manuscript, I did get it to its final draft. 11/29 chapters are fully edited and I’m happy with them. I’ve still got a little ways to go before it’s completely done, but I think I can safely say that I can/will start querying agents in 2019!

In 2018, I wanted to get more involved in the online writing community. I was more active in my online writing groups and I was better at maintaining my social media presence (aka actually posting on a regular basis). I also learned about twitter’s writing community and I’m more active in the weekly hashtag thingies.

One thing I feel especially proud of is investing in myself by starting a real, professional-looking blog. This one! I’ve been posting semi-regularly with content I’m passionate about, like the book reviews and blog posts about my writing journey. It feels more coherent and better put-together than my old blog.

Something that’s not quite so writing related, but I’m still proud of is that I read 36 books in 2018. That’s the most I’ve read in one year I think maybe ever. If you want to see what books I’ve read, you can find them here.

Favourite Things

Earlier this year, I wrote a blog post of my favourite books that I’d read up to that point. It’s time to look back and actually pick a favourite… I’m so bad at picking just one favourite anything…

Book:

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

I read Practical Magic before this one because I LOVE the movie version, but I found that I enjoyed reading The Rules of Magic a lot. A LOT.

A very close second (because I can’t resist including more than one) is The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden.

Movie:

Annihilation

There were a lot of really good movies out this year and with amazing diversity, which I am HERE FOR! But, according to the horrible rule I gave myself, I had to pick one. And I’m a sucker for Natalie Portman. Annihilation also happens to be based on a book, which I read after watching the movie. All I can say is… wow.

Honourable mention goes to Black Panther (obviously), Ocean’s 8, and Christopher Robin… and A Wrinkle in Time.

I’m very bad at picking one.

Food:

SOUP!

Photo by Ceyhun Özden on Pexels.com

This year I discovered the amazing power of eating soup. As a child, I didn’t really like soup, but this year my love for soup has gone up exponentially.

My favourite soup is a potato, bacon, and cheese soup. It’s basically a baked potato in soup form. A close second is the butternut squash soup from the Magnolia Table cookbook.

Honourable mention for “food” goes to the Lobster Tacos from Made in Mexico in Newmarket… SO GOOD!

Can you tell I’m not good at this?

Show:

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

This show technically isn’t from 2018, but I discovered it this year. I’m sad I didn’t check it out sooner! This show just tickles me in the best possible way. The first two seasons are on Netflix, so definitely check it out if you like Dr. Who but on Earth with Elijah Wood.

Honourable mention goes to The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Schitt’s Creek, Queer Eye, and Outlander.

These were a few of my favourite things!

Goals

Despite New Year’s resolutions being a bit over-rated, I can’t help but think about the things I would like to do in 2019.

  1. I’d like to finish my manuscript FINALLY and start querying it (does that count as two goals?)
  2. Write more book reviews. I only did three this year, so it won’t be hard to beat.
  3. Read more books! Maybe aim for 37?
  4. Continue research for viking novel! (At least it won’t be hard since I’m already doing it)
  5. Start research for fun blog project (it’ll be a surprise so look forward to it)!
  6. Focus on the positive!

If you have any goals, I’d love to hear them! Leave a comment and spread the love! Best wishes for 2019!

A Tale for a Winter’s Night

Imagine: It’s a cold night in December, the snow is falling, the wind is howling. But you and your family and friends are warm and cozy, sitting by the roaring fire. There’s delicious food, warm drinks, and a general jolly spirit throughout. Then the stories begin…

“You will be haunted,” resumed the Ghost, “by Three Spirits.”

A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

Hands down, the most popular Christmas story (besides the Nativity story) is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. First published in 1843, the 6000 copies sold out in a matter of days. By the end of the following year, thirteen editions had been released.  Today, a first edition copy can be found online selling for upwards of $25k.  

We have Charles Dickens to thank for some of the ways we celebrate Christmas now. A combination of Oliver Cromwell’s puritanical change of religious traditions (he even tried to ban Christmas carols) and the Industrial Revolution meant that Christmas was quite understated. In the 1800s, families were often scattered for work and workers were only allowed one day off at Christmas, thus familial gatherings and traditional celebrations were starting to disappear. Charles Dickens helped bring back the carols, feasting, decorations, the festive spirit. His descriptions of the family celebrations of the Cratchits and Scrooges’ wealthy relatives, ignited a festive spark in the minds of the new urban society.


Growing up, it seemed strange to me that such a spooky tale would be associated with Christmas at all. As a youngster, I watched The Muppet Christmas Carol and was thoroughly scared of Waldorf and Statler as Jacob and Robert Marley. It wasn’t until I was a little older when I read the original story for the first time. 

In western culture, October is the “time” for ghosts and ghouls. Halloween is when I break out the Stephen King novels, visit haunted houses, and generally enjoy a more spooky atmosphere. But this is actually a more recent development in North America and Europe. 

The celebration of Christmas coincides with the pagan festival of Yule, which falls on the winter solstice. Being the longest night of the year, the festival was considered more haunted due to the themes of the death of light. The barrier between the world of the living and dead was the thinnest and the dead could walk the earth on Christmas Eve. A convenient night for Marley’s ghost to appear to Scrooge.

The tradition of telling ghost stories was actually unknown to me until about a year ago. Obviously, I knew of Dickens’ book, and I’d heard the lyrics from “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year“: There’ll be scary ghost stories / And tales of the glories of / Christmases long, long ago. But, I’d never thought too deeply about what that meant.

However, this storytelling tradition goes back much farther than either Andy Williams or Charles Dickens. 

A sad tale’s best for winter: I have one / Of sprites and goblins.

Act 2, Scene 1
The Winter’s Tale, Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s play dates back to 1623. The title itself is a reference to these “sad” stories, or possibly is a reference to a play by George Peele from 1590, where a storyteller tells a “merry winter’s tale” about a missing daughter. 


For the Victorian English, ghost stories at Christmas were just as common as Mariah Carey’s Christmas songs are on the radio now. Charles Dickens continued to write ghost Christmas-y tales in the Christmas editions of the magazines he edited, Household Words and All the Year Round. Dickens stopped publishing Christmas stories in 1868, claiming he felt as if he’d “murdered” Christmas.

Many other authors continued the tradition though. 

Even at the turn of the century, Yuletide ghost stories continued to be popular. Authors such as M. R. James (1862-1936), Jerome K. Jerome (1859-1927), and J. H. Riddel (1832-1906) wrote spooky tales for Christmas. 

Jerome K. Jerome in his anthology “Told After Supper,” wrote:

Whenever five or six English-speaking people meet round a fire on Christmas Eve, they start telling each other ghost stories…

References & Further reading