Tag: holiday

What About You?

Happy Holidays!Another year has passed. Where did the time go?

When I was young and heard older generations make similar statements, I thought they were nuts. The year took forever to pass back to my favorite holiday season.

Now that I’m older, I totally get it.

Time ticks by, every second the tiniest fraction faster than the last. If I make it to my grandmother’s age—God willing—I’ll blink and the day or week or month will have passed. I need to remember to stop rushing to meet deadlines and wash laundry and cook dinner. Instead, I need to start savoring each moment before it’s gone. I’ll never have this much time again; might as well make these seconds worth as much as I can. I want to laugh with my son before he leaves for college. Shop with my daughter while she still (somewhat) values my opinion. Enjoy my husband before we’re too old to even take a stroll together. Appreciate coffee with friends and dinners with family. Yes, I want to savor these sweet moments.

This year was the proverbial rollercoaster. I lost dear loved ones, but our family also grew—through birth and marriage. We’ve weathered our share of illnesses, accidents, and injuries, but we’re all relatively healthy (and I can’t complain about that). I left wonderful friends at a job I loved (albeit a job that was killing me) to work on my own (alone at home) as a full-time writer and editor.

Which brings me to the reason for my post.

readers' favorite awardThis was my most productive year yet. I released two novels (Bleeding Heart and Out and About) and two short stories (“Malevolent Whispers” and “Footprints in the Snow“) in collections with other writers. I received a 5-star review for Type and Cross from Readers’ Favorite. I even managed to do a writers’ talk at a local library and discuss my body of work with the patrons there. That was fun. Now, I didn’t quite manage to post once a week like I did last year, but I did write several guest posts for other sites (you can grab the links here) and host other writers here, as well. As much as I enjoy talking to you all, it pleases me greatly to introduce you to fellow artists who you might not otherwise ever find on your own. All this while editing more manuscripts than I ever did in prior years (for a full list of work I’ve edited, visit my editing page) and while taking courses to help me better navigate the ever-changing world of publishing. Like I said, this was my most productive year yet.

But this wasn’t the pinnacle.

love set in stone

One of four novels promised next year.
Coming Spring 2016.

Next year I’ll be even busier. I’ve committed to releasing four novels, a novella, and probably a couple more short stories in anthologies. I’ve also promised myself to post once a week (until the end of the year, when I close down for the holidays), including all twelve First Friday Fiction Features. I want to write more reviews, which means reading more, and I’d really love to amp up my marketing efforts. I’m telling you all this because (1) you are the reason I’m working so hard and (2) you can help hold me accountable.

Yes, you are the reason I do this. I write because I have stories to tell, but I publish because readers like you enjoy my words and ask for more. (click to tweet) And the more you can correspond with me and tell me what you want from me, the better I’ll be able to provide you with the content you crave and deserve. So consider writing that Amazon review. Sign up for my newsletter. Join other like-minded readers at my Facebook group, Staci Troilo’s Novel Idea. Follow me on Goodreads. Heck, send me smoke signals if you want. Just keep in touch. I love to hear from you.

So, I’m winding down my site for the year, and I’m trying to remember to follow the list but enjoy the journey. I just shared my work resolutions with you. Now all I have to do is thank each and every single one of you for your support. I couldn’t do this without you.

And I want to remind you to enjoy your journey, too. Savor these moments; they are fleeting. (click to tweet)

One last thing before I go. I wish you all a fabulous end of December and start of the new year. See you then!


Now, for the title of this post… What about you? What did you do this year that surprised you? What do you intend to accomplish next year? Who do you really want to thank? Why not share in the comments?

The Importance of Down-Days

down-daysI remember when I was young; stores and restaurants remained closed on holidays and Sundays. I don’t know if it was our local government ordinances (I come from a small town in Pennsylvania), if it was the owners wanting time with their families (and expecting us to want time with ours), if it was a religious matter (I don’t think anyone in our town celebrated the Sabbath on a Saturday), or if it was merely a matter of habit.

But somewhere, sometime, for some reason along the way, commerce encroached on our Sundays and holidays.

Now, I admit, I am guilty of taking advantage of this change. My family often goes out for brunch after Mass. I often shop on Sundays, because there are things we need and we’re passing the store, anyway. Laundry needs to get done sometime.

But losing these rest days, those down-days, is detrimental to us. On many levels. (Tweet this.)

  • It takes time away from family.
    People are far busier now than when I was young. Kids have sports and clubs and travel teams. Adults work longer hours and more days. Housework needs to get done at some point. But when we fill our rest days with mundane tasks and club events, we separate our family unit. We need that time together. It strengthens the family bond. When I was young, we visited my grandparents every Sunday evening. Not just my family; my aunt, uncle, and cousins, too. That’s why not just immediate families, but extended families as well, used to be much closer. It was the time spent together. We should all use our “down-days” to make time to strengthen these familial bonds.
  • It prevents us from recharging our batteries.
    Working more than a forty-hour week. More homework than in years gone by. Traveling several hours for a tournament. These things take their toll. The human body needs rest to function properly. The human mind needs downtime to prevent memory loss. The human spirit needs a break from the bustle of daily life to stay healthy. Without a “down-day,” we court trouble for later on.
  • It takes focus away from what’s truly important.
    For some people, explaining this is as simple as saying: Keep Holy the Sabbath Day. But not everyone belongs to a religion with this mandate; some people don’t belong to a religious group at all. Having one day a week to focus on what is most important in our lives is so important. It takes away from the drudgery of everyday obligations and reminds us of our priorities. We don’t (or shouldn’t) work to make money. We should work to care for our loved ones. What’s the point of working to support our loved ones if we’re never with them? It’s time we take those “down-days” back and spend that time doing things that truly matter.

How do we do this?

Plan.

Sure, it’s convenient to run errands on our down-days. But if we change our priorities just a little, we can have that one day to ourselves.

  • Do one load of laundry a night instead of waiting to do it all in one day.
  • Stop at the store on the way home from work one evening.
  • Make extra food during the week or utilize leftovers so you aren’t out at a restaurant or in the kitchen all day on your down-day.

A little forethought and planning will give us the time we need at the end of the week for the things that are most important (and the things we’ve neglected the most).

For Writers
Do you have a character who is always working? Give him one rest day and see what happens to him. Or, if you have one who makes use of his down-days, take them away and watch what happens. These down-days are essential for physical, mental, and emotional health. Adding or removing them can add tension, conflict, and drama to a character that is falling flat.

For Everyone
This is a three-day weekend for many of us here in the United States. It gives us the opportunity to group two or more down-days together, to really make the most of our time off. Are you going to use the time wisely or waste it away? Let’s discuss how you spend your down-days, or whether you even have any. I’d love to hear your ideas.

Maintaining Mental Health During the Holidays

holidaysFor many people, this is a joyous time of year. If you’re a Christian, you’re celebrating the birth of Jesus. If you’re Jewish, you celebrate Hanukkah, the miracle of lights for eight days with only enough fuel for one. If you celebrate Kwanzaa, you are celebrating “the first fruits of the harvest” for a week at the end of the month. (Heck, if you’re a Seinfeld fan, you might even be celebrating the airing of grievances during Festivus!) And if you aren’t religious at all, there’s still enough food and gifts circulating around—as well as merriment and good will—that the mood becomes infectious.

For some people, however, this is a sad and painful time of year. According to PsychologyToday.com, many factors contribute to the melancholy of the season. Possible causes include:

  • Excessive commercialization of the season, resulting in the true meaning being lost.
  • Obsession over the “perfect” gift or menu, resulting in stress and unrealistic expectations.
  • Self-reflection over accomplishments, resulting in despair over shortcomings and anger with others who have more.
  • Pressure to meet or exceed others’ or last year’s gifts, resulting in anxiety over finances.
  • Dread over familial and social obligations, resulting in stress and depression.
  • Despair over lost loved ones (and/or lost employment), sometimes even culminating in suicide or attempted suicide.

One Christmas, we had three family funerals within a span of one week. (Believe me, you couldn’t make a story like this up.) They were all on my husband’s side of the family, but actually three different branches of his family, so most people only had to attend one funeral that week. We, however, had all three: a Troilo death, a Turra death, and a Biagioni death. Grieving the first was horrible. Grieving the second was difficult. By the time we got to the third? After the shock and incredulity wore off, we were simply numb. Humans simply aren’t conditioned to process losses like that.

I thought that would be the worst holiday I ever experienced. Of course, I also thought that the year my grandfather died. That was the first time I experienced a loss of someone close to me, and it was terrible.

Several years after these sad holidays, I’m faced with another familial death. My husband’s grandmother just passed away. The funeral is this weekend. Added to that, my uncle has taken a turn for the worst and is likely never to return home. This holiday feels like the most difficult one I’ve ever faced. But I know it’s just because this pain is fresh, and the other difficult holidays are being remembered through the numbing effects of time.

Time may not heal all wounds, but it certainly takes the edge off.

(click to tweet that)

So I ask you for this one favor. This year, when you meet a person who is less than jubilant, consider the stresses they might be under. Don’t call them a Scrooge or a Grinch. Instead, offer them some compassion. It might be just the holiday gift they need.

For Writers:
The triggers mentioned here are real and powerful factors that impact people, not even just during the holidays, but all year long. Fiction relies on conflict. Incorporating any of these issues as character motivation will enrich your work. I’m about to release a mainstream fiction novel full of dysfunctional family dynamics and poor choices. The motivations behind the characters’ actions, however, are understandable and in some cases even noble. These are the things that take one-dimensional characters and make them vibrant.

For Everyone:
Yes, this is an emotional time of year. If you are happy right now, my wish for you is that you continue to be so. If you are stressed, my wish is that you find relaxation. The holiday is coming whether your cookies are baked, your gifts are bought, or your cards are sent. Try to enjoy the frivolity and let the other issues go. But if you are seriously depressed? I wish you the peace of the season, the ability to focus on the good messages and intentions and the release of your anxiety, and the redirection of your negative emotions to something healthier. My prayers are with all of you, this season and always.

HELP THE ELF: I Found Santa’s Missing Nice List!

bookshelf museHi everyone! As you may remember, a few weeks ago Pete the elf had a touch too much Eggnog at the Holiday Christmas Party and as he stumbled home, he lost Santa’s NICE LIST.

The North Wind scattered the papers to all four corners of the world, and The Bookshelf Muse put out a call to help find them in order to SAVE CHRISTMAS.

Ever since I read about it, I’ve been on the lookout. And then today, EUREKA!

Yes that’s right…I found part of Santa’s missing NICE LIST. There it was, fluttering in the
wind, half caught under the corner of my welcome mat. And shock of all shocks, I recognized the names, and I bet you will too.

Here they are below:

NAME: Michele Jones

LOCATION: On her way to Vandergrift, PA

NICE LEVEL: 91%

NAUGHTY LEVEL: 9%

OBSERVATIONS: Michele is a great sister, hard worker, and makes time to edit drafts, even long distance.

RECOMMENDATION:

a) Coal

b) Gift X

~~*~~

NAME: Joy Keeney

LOCATION: Fayetteville, AR

NICE LEVEL: 93%

NAUGHTY LEVEL: 7%

OBSERVATIONS: Joy is overworked, and has been spending all her free time visiting a loved one in the hospital, yet she still finds the time to write and edit for her friends.

RECOMMENDATION:

a) Coal

b) Gift X

~~*~~

NAME: Rhonda Lee

LOCATION: Springdale, AR

NICE LEVEL: 92%

NAUGHTY LEVEL: 8%

OBSERVATIONS: Rhonda has the most creative mind, puts her friends and family before herself, and works hard at writing and editing.

RECOMMENDATION:

a) Coal

b) Gift X

~~*~~

Because poor Pete is dashing all over the place trying to hunt down the rest of Santa’s missing Nice List, I decided to take care of these three myself. Michele, Joy, Rhonda… I feel so blessed to know you! Enjoy the gifts I sent to your inbox and have a wonderful Christmas!

Idea courtesy of The Bookshelf Muse: http://thebookshelfmuse.blogspot.com/

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