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Jan. 29th, 2017


Birka, Birka, Birka.


As I write this, Birka 2017 is now in the books. For those of you who don’t recognize the name, Birka is the big winter event that the Barony of Stonemarche runs every year, and it’s basically a con masquerading poorly as an event. There’s food, there’s a hotel, there’s a hot tub, there’s a few tournies, and there is court. Oh yes, and there was shopping. Oh lord, there was shopping.


I’ve run Herald’s Point at Birka for too many years to remember, and this year, although I wasn’t running it, I was volunteering there. It’s a ton of fun, but a lot of work too, and that’s why there was no posting last week, either here or at the Patreon blog. My brain was full of Birka.


Now that I’m home, my brain is still full of Birka, but for other reasons. I’m charged up, like I get at cons, and finally coming to an idea of what I want to do in the Society now that I’m not Baronial Herald. There will be changes coming here, as I work through things, but regular posting will resume within a few days.

Originally published at The words of Valerie Griswold-Ford. You can comment here or there.

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Jan. 18th, 2017


A week in review


Wednesdays are going to be my week in review, moving forward. It’s a good day to stop and take a look at the last week (Sunday through Saturday) and see what I’ve accomplished (or not accomplished).


Last week, I was sick, so this week in review is not going to be as long as some of them. I lost Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, AND Saturday to the ick that I’m suffering from, so there was no writing. However, I did finally figure out how to do the corner-to-corner crochet stitch, so I got three squares done for my first afghan for Hooking for the Homeless, which was good.


Writing-wise, I got … nothing. I wrote blog posts for the week, and that was about it. But that’s okay – sometimes you need to do that in order to recharge.


This week, I’ve got the following planned:

  • Pitch a book to a publishing group
  • Write blog posts for the upcoming week for both the Patreon and this blog
  • More squares for the afghan
  • Write the pitch for Well of Dreams
  • Start the outline for Well of Dreams

We’ll see how I do in a week.

Originally published at The words of Valerie Griswold-Ford. You can comment here or there.

Jan. 15th, 2017


Writing groups versus critique groups, and why you should have both


Wow, that’s a long title, but it’s a true one. I belong to both a serious writing group (where we read each other’s pieces and comment) and a creatives group (where we all just work on our own stuff and BS). I actually cherish both of them, for different reasons.


The critique group has really, really helped me to craft my writing. We have several published authors, and we’re all voracious readers. These guys keep me honest – I have issues with talking heads in my rough drafts, among other things, and they’ve helped talk me down from the ledge when I was ready to chuck the entire writing thing. We’ve been together for over 10 years now, and although we’ve had members come and go, the core group has remained the same. This group is valuable, because our goal is to make the story the best it is. We’ve actually lost members because we won’t sugar-coat things. This is why this group is good, because sugar-coating things doesn’t help the writer. We’re pretty honest – if it doesn’t work for us, we’ll tell you why, and it will be more than “I don’t like it.” It’s okay if you don’t like things – there are plenty of people out there who do like it. But if it’s unclear who’s talking, or your grammar is atrocious, well, you need to know that. A good critique group will point out the bad and the good, and help you make the story the best it can be. Our critique group meets once a month, for several hours, and we generally get through 2-4 pieces (depending on who brings what).


On the other hand, our creatives group meets once a week (mostly) at the studio or at Gibson’s, and we do all sorts of things. I’m writing this blog post during our Creatives meeting, and looking around the table, I see the following: two people stitching, one person working on audio editing, one person working on design work for a book, and two people talking about events for the SCA. There are times when we have people coloring, or reading, or coding. It’s a time dedicated to creating things. It’s valuable because it’s time to do anything, as long as it’s creative. This is a recharging of the well that I can only normally find at cons. There’s something about being with other people who are doing something they are passionate about that really gets me going.


And that’s why you need both. If you can find both, you’re in a very good space.


Are you part of a group? Tell us about it in the comments!

Originally published at The words of Valerie Griswold-Ford. You can comment here or there.


Jan. 11th, 2017


Healthy attempt number god knows

Ah, January. That wonderful time of the year where everyone wants to get healthy. And yeah, I’m totally one of them.


I really just decided that I wasn’t going to worry about more than getting through the holidays this year. I survived them. I didn’t go over my highest weight from last year, although I got close, and and I got through it. Now, it’s time to work on getting better again.


That means I’m quitting the soda (again), and making sure I take my medications, which to be perfectly honest, I’m terrible at. I’m using my bullet journal to help me keep track of that, and I’ll be updating on this once a month. This month, my goals are simple:

  • Take all my meds for the rest of the month

Seriously, that’s it. I’m aiming for one goal a month, because I know from past experience if I try and do more than that, I get easily overwhelmed and say “Fuck it.” So the goal this month is meds.


What are you doing for your health goals this month?


Originally published at The words of Valerie Griswold-Ford. You can comment here or there.

Jan. 8th, 2017


(goals/writing/personal) Looking towards the future

Chateau Miranda, Celles, Belgium

It’s a new year. I’ve already started to do things a little differently – set up a new theme here on the blog, and added a button at the top of the page so you can follow me on Patreon if you’d like. There will be new stuff on the Patreon coming soon, as I’m planning on writing 3 new novels this year: the first Resonant Frequencies book, the first novel-length Pendragon Casefiles book, and the next Advent story for December. In addition, I’m going to start blogging regularly, both there and here, about my writing process, being a writer while having a day job, and anything else that happens to catch my fancy.


The goal is to blog here on Sundays and Wednesdays, and on the Patreon blog Tuesdays and Thursdays. The Patreon blogs will be set to Patrons only, so be aware that if you want to see those, it will cost you a minimum of $1 a month. But hey, that’s not a lot, and if you do, not only will you get the blog posts, but you’ll get new stories once a week! Because on Fridays, Patrons will get the next chapter of my new book.


I’m not abandoning this journal, so don’t worry about that. And the December Advent story will be held here as well. But it’s time for me to start expanding and taking this writing journey a bit more seriously, and that means getting organized. In fact, some of my first blog posts might be about that.


What are your plans for this year? Feel free to share in the comments!

Originally published at The words of Valerie Griswold-Ford. You can comment here or there.

Dec. 25th, 2016


(advent) Day 25 – Merry Christmas!


Sunday, December 25

The snow was falling on the ocean outside the sitting room window as Caliban sat in one of the easy chairs and sipped a cup of steaming tea. It was late, very late, and the rest of the house was fast asleep, but he hadn’t been able to doze off. Santa’s question kept playing through his mind, and he knew that the only cure was to meet the old man himself when he came in.

So he sat in the light of the simple Christmas tree that the Captain and Mrs. Hoskins had set up in the sitting room, and waited. The tree was clad in simple white lights, with sailing ships, anchors, starfish, and other nautical items swimming through the green branches. An elegant angel stood atop the tree with a seahorse cradled in her arms.

As he waited, Caliban wondered what Santa would say when he saw him there. Would he be surprised?

Did anything surprise Santa?

In the distance, the bells of St. Michael’s tolled the hour, and as the last peal died, there was a slight pop by the fireplace, and Santa Claus himself came into the room.

“Merry Christmas, Caliban,” Santa said gravely, nodding at him as he pulled gifts out of his bag. “Or should I say, Perry?”

“Perry, if you please,” Caliban said, rising to bow to the old man. “I think it’s time that Prince Caliban followed his brother into death. I’m no longer interested in participating in that world any longer.”

Santa raised an eyebrow. “That’s a big decision,” he said. “Are you sure?”

“Yes, Santa,” Caliban said. “It’s time for a new start. There’s more to life that I need to see.”

“Then it’s time to give you this,” Santa said, and pulled a small box out of his sack. “Merry Christmas, Perry.”

Caliban accepted the box, a little surprised. He hadn’t expected anything, especially since he felt he would be on the naughty list forever.

“People can change, Perry,” Santa said kindly. “And what truly matters is your heart. Remember that.” His tasks done, he laid his finger on the side of his nose, nodded, and vanished.

Sitting back down in his chair, Caliban looked at the small, gaily wrapped box. It even said, “To Perry, from Santa and Mrs. Claus” on it in neat black letters, and there was a small golden bow on the top. He pulled the ribbon, and opened the box.

A sweet, light wind came out of the box, rich with the promise of spring flowers and magic. As it rushed over him, he felt the magic work through, changing him, molding him, and sighed happily.

And then Perry put the box aside, picked up his tea cup, and said quietly, “Thank you, Santa. Thank you.”


They’ll make it, right? They’ll still come, even in the snow?

“They will,” Molly reassured Schrodinger. “Old Man Winter is coming, remember? He’s promised to stop and pick them up. I promise you, Gideon will be here to open the last window on the castle!”

Schrodinger stroked his head against her leg in thanks and ran back into the front parlor, where he, Lily, Kaylee, and Jack were anxiously awaiting Gideon’s arrival (and eating most of the goodies from their stockings, she suspected). The Advent castle had been moved in there, since there was no room under the Christmas tree.

“Is it just me, or do we seem to have more people here every year for Christmas Day?” she said to Drew, who was sitting next to her.

He chuckled. “Well, that’s what happens when you buy a big house. Holidays grow to fill it.”

Molly couldn’t argue with that. Besides her parents, her brother and sister-in-law, the kids, and herself and Drew, they were expecting Kiaya, Zeke, Gideon, Old Man Winter, and Drew’s cousin Doug, his husband Tim, and their two-year-old son Ryan, who was adorable and into everything.

“Besides, it’s not like we’ll really have to babysit the kids,” Drew continued, getting up to refill their tea mugs. Everyone else was in the living room or the parlour, so they were enjoying some quiet time alone. “We’ll just hand Ryan to Old Man Winter, and then leave. He’ll be thrilled.”

“Ryan or Old Man Winter?” Molly said.

“Yes,” Drew said, and she laughed.

Then they both heard the familiar reindeer bells, moments before the shrieks of joy erupted from the front parlour, followed by pounding feet as two children, a CrossCat, and a large dog ran out into the snow.

It was Kiaya and Zeke who appeared in the doorway, however, carrying presents and covered in snow. “That was quite the ride!” Zeke said, as he shook off the flakes. “I don’t think I knew reindeer could move that fast!”

“Most can’t,” Nathan said, appearing behind his sister and taking the packages from Zeke’s hands. “Old Man Winter doesn’t believe in things like the laws of physics.”

“Laws like that were meant to be broken,” Old Man Winter said, coming in behind them with Gideon in one arm, Kaylee in the other, and Lily on his shoulders. “Human constructs are just suggestions, aren’t they?”

“We have to do the calendar!” Gideon shouted happily. “It’s the last day!”

“He’s been saying that since eight this morning,” Kiaya said to Molly. “I don’t know what we’re going to do tomorrow morning.”

Old Man Winter set the two in his arms down, and then tumbled Lily over his shoulders. “Go on,” he said gruffly. “I need some tea.”

“The water’s hot,” Molly said, and guided everyone in to the kitchen.

As she passed Old Man Winter a cup, he said quietly, “Jade said to tell you everything is all set. And thank you.”

“Good,” Molly said, and felt the knot of concern start to loosen. “That’s very good.”

Drew, however, was looking strangely at Old Man Winter. “Did you forget something?” he said, and everyone turned to look at him.

Old Man Winter frowned, then brightened. “Oh, that’s right! Molly’s present!” He put his tea cup down and, to Molly’s surprise, went back outside.

“And why is Old Man Winter bringing my…” The words died as Molly saw who was coming back in with him.

“Molly, darling!” Phoebe came floating into the kitchen and enfolded Molly in her arms. “Merry Christmas!”

“But I thought you couldn’t come?” Molly said, confused. “Drew said you couldn’t make it!”

Drew’s grandmother winked at her. “Because I told him to. We wanted to make it a surprise.” She held Molly at arm’s length and looked at her. “You are happy, aren’t you?”

“I am!” Molly threw her arms around Phoebe and hugged her back. “I’m just surprised! This is the best Christmas present ever!”

“Now, where are the children?” Phoebe said, looking around.

“In the front parlour, with the Advent castle.” Molly led her down the hall and into the room where the Snow Queen’s palace sat on a low table.

“Gramma Phoebe!” Kaylee shrieked when the faery came in. “Molly, were you surprised??!”

“Molly didn’t know what to say, Kaylee-love!” Phoebe said, gathering her for a big hug. “But what is this lovely thing? Is this the castle you were telling me about, Gideon?”

“Yes! Come help us find the last number!”

Phoebe joined them in looking, and she was the one who noticed the number 25 climbing up the side of the main door. “Now what?” she said.

Touch it with your fingertip, Schrodinger said.

She did, and the front doors opened to show the grand hall of the Snow Queen.

In the center of the room stood Jade and Jack, clad in all dark green, with crowns of holly and ivy on their heads. “Thank you so much for all your help this year,” Jade said, looking out at them. “I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope you have a Merry Christmas!”

“This is the time to enjoy your families,” Jack added. “And one last gift. Take this castle outside into Molly and Drew’s back yard.”

The door closed and they all looked at Molly, who shrugged. “You heard the man. Get your coats this time, please, and we’ll bring it outside.”

Soon, everyone was out back, wearing coats and boots. Drew took the castle out with him and set it down in the snow at the edge of the woods. Then he backed up.

At first, nothing happened. Then the castle began to glow. It got brighter, and brighter, until everyone had to look away. When the light finally dimmed and they looked back…

“We have a play house!” Lily shouted in glee. “It became a play house!”

It had. The castle had grown, shifted, and now was a castle the size of a large shed. The children ran inside, and Molly could hear their happy shouts as they explored.

“Well, that’s that,” Zeke said, clapping Drew on the shoulder. “I assume we’ll see him when he’s 18 or so?”

They all laughed at that, and went back inside, leaving the children to explore this final present.

>Activity: Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you enjoyed this year’s Advent story. Today’s activity is easy – enjoy the day! May it be as magical as one in Carter’s Cove!

Originally published at The words of Valerie Griswold-Ford. You can comment here or there.


Dec. 24th, 2016


(advent) Day 24 – getting closer!

Saturday, December 24


“Where is everyone?” Molly asked, sticking her head out into the tea room. She had expected to see the children, Jack, and Schrodinger curled up in the beds next to the wood stove, but the tea room was empty except for Kiaya, who was writing, and Lucille and Stephen Dorr, who were reading to each other while she knit something.


Kiaya looked up and blinked. “Oh, the kids?” she said after a moment. “I don’t know, actually. They were here, and then…” She frowned. “Then they weren’t.”


“I’m sure they’re fine,” Molly said, trying to ignore the little thrill of fear that went down her spine. “Goldie’s not here either, so he must be with them.” She closed her eyes and thought, Schrodinger? Where are you?


Upstairs. His voice came back, louder than she was expecting. Why? What’s wrong?


Is everyone else with you?


Yes. His mental voice sounded confused. Do you need us to come down? Everyone was concentrating, and we didn’t want to be distracting. Goldie is with us.


Molly heaved a sigh of relief. “No,” she said out loud, so Kiaya could hear. “We just didn’t know where you all had gone.” Then she said to Kiaya, “They’re upstairs. I’ll go check on them now.”


She took a carafe of hot water with her, knowing that there were several people upstairs that might want refills on their tea. Her most popular tea bags she carried in the pocket of her sweater, but her gifts meant that if someone asked for something else, she could pull it magically to her from the pantry below.


Rounding the final corner into the main room, she saw that the children were all clustered around a chair in front of the fireplace. Seated in the chair was Pavel’s mother Ella, her dark hair wrapped in braids around her head, pale yarn in her lap that was rapidly becoming something lovely.


“Hello, Molly!” Ella said, as Molly came over to them. “Are you going to join us? The children are reading me stories.”


She had Schrodinger in her lap, along with the knitting, and Jack was lying on the hearthstone next to her chair. Lily was sitting in the chair next to her, with Gideon and Kaylee snuggled up on either side of Jack. It was a charming picture.


“I’d love to,” Molly said, sitting down next to Kaylee, who snuggled up to her. “What are we reading?”


After listening to “Twas the Night before Christmas,” Molly said, “Do you guys want to do the Advent castle now? It’s going to be time to close soon.”


As if her words had summoned her, Aunt Margie’s voice came over the loudspeakers. “Just a reminder, folks, we’re closing at noon today, which is in twenty minutes! DC and I are ready to check you out downstairs!”


“Let’s go. Come on, Grandma Ella!” Kaylee said, getting up and heading to the stairs, Gideon and Jack in hot pursuit.


Molly had left the castle out again, and so they gathered around the table, each looking for the number 24.


It’s on the smaller tower! Schrodinger said suddenly. Here!


He touched the side of the castle with one claw, where the 24 had twined around the corners of a window. The window opened to show a place that looked very much like the bookstore upstairs, except it went on forever, and in the center, with her paw holding open a large tome, was the Librarian.


She looked up at them, her green eyes calm and wise, and said Merry Christmas, children. I hope you have a wonderful night. Ella has your gifts for you. And then the window closed.


They all turned to Ella, who laughed. “I’m so happy to be part of this!” she said, opening her large knitting bag and pulling out wrapped gifts. “And this is my favorite part!”


Wrapping paper went everywhere as they tore into the gifts. It was, as Molly knew it would be, books.


Ella and Brynna had introduced them to the custom of giving books on Christmas Eve last year, and Molly had loved including it in their family traditions. Now, as she watched them exclaim over the new books, Molly realized how happy she was that the next generation clearly loved books as much as she and Aunt Margie did.


“Thank you!” Kaylee said, throwing her arms around Ella. “I love it!” Her book had ponies and rainbows on it, and Molly realized it was one of her favorite things: a coloring book.


Gideon also had a coloring book, filled with all sorts of odd creatures. Lily’s book was a leather-bound story book that she was already reading the beginning of.


Schrodinger’s book was one of maps, and he was thrilled beyond words. Jack’s book was detective stories, and he was settled in beside Lily, already reading.


>Activity: Exchange books! This is an Icelandic tradition that I love. Take this chance to give someone a copy of YOUR favorite book, and spread the love!


Originally published at The words of Valerie Griswold-Ford. You can comment here or there.


Dec. 23rd, 2016


(advent) Day 23 – The nutcracker dances…

Friday, December 23


“You,” Molly said, brandishing a wooden spoon at her husband, “are up to something.”


Drew gave her an innocent look. “What do you mean?”


She leveled a stern gaze at him. “I can just tell,” she said, taking the spoon to the quick bread batter she was mixing up. “You and Schrodinger both.”


You know, it could just be that we’re trying to be good for Santa, Schrodinger said. It could be.


“I don’t believe it,” Molly said. “You two are up to something.”


Drew looked over at Schrodinger and winked. “Well, you know, Christmas is coming up,” he said. “It’s the time to be up to something, if we were, which we definitely aren’t, by the way.”


“Uh-huh.” Her tone of voice conveyed just how much she didn’t believe him.


Drew decided to change the subject while he was still on safe ground. “So, what time is Aunt Margie closing tomorrow?”


“Noon, so we can do the Advent castle before we go home, and before Zeke and Kiaya have to leave,” Molly said.


Leave? Schrodinger said, dismayed. But that means Gideon won’t get to do the final day on the calendar!


“Why not? They’re coming over to the farmhouse for Christmas dinner,” Molly said. “Zeke couldn’t get the time off to go back to his parents’ for Christmas, so I invited them to join us, but they’re going to do their own thing Christmas Eve.”


Oh good! Schrodinger said. It wouldn’t be fun without him!


“I agree,” Drew said. “I hope they’ve had fun with it.”


As if on cue, Gideon himself came running into the kitchen, followed closely by Lily, Kaylee, Jack, and, to Drew’s surprise, Pavel. “Molly! Schrodinger! We have a surprise for you!” Gideon shouted.


Really? Schrodinger came to his feet. What kind of surprise?


Pavel winked at him. “A special surprise, but it has to wait,” he said. “Until we do the Advent Calendar.”


“Then let’s do it!” Kaylee said eagerly. “I want to share the surprise!”


Their enthusiasm was contagious, and Molly finished her quick bread while Drew went and got the calendar. She slipped the finished batter into the refrigerator with a layer of plastic wrap over the top, then joined the rest of them in looking for the 23.


Pavel found it, nestled almost in the snow on the ground of one of the outbuildings. The window opened into a darkened room, and for a moment, Drew wondered if something had gone wrong. Then candles began to glow, softly, and the darkness lifted, showing a single girl sitting at the feet of a giant nutcracker doll.


He heard Molly gasp as the nutcracker’s hand came up, and a silver ball of light rose from the darkness and landed in Pavel’s hand as a piece of parchment. “I hope you will join us,” he read, and looked up at Molly. “You will, won’t you?”


Drew turned and looked at Molly, whose eyes were wide. The Nutcracker was her favorite ballet, and even knowing what was coming, he was pleased to see the shocked look on her face. Then, as he’d known she would, she turned on him. “You knew!” she accused. “You knew! And you didn’t tell me!”


“All I knew was that there was something planned,” Drew said honestly, glad that she hadn’t guessed his other secret. “They didn’t actually tell me what they were doing.”


“They?” Molly turned and looked at Pavel. “Is that the surprise?”


“Come on, Molly!” Gideon said, running over and tugging on her arm. “Come on!” And he began to drag her towards the door. “Come on!”


They all followed him outside after pulling on their coats, where Drew was expecting to see Pavel’s sleigh.


Instead of the sleigh, however, there was a large carriage, and inside, the Snow Queen, dressed in shimmering white fur, was waiting, Jack Frost at her side. “Come on,” she called out. “We’re going to miss the show!”


It took only a few minutes for them to pile into the carriage, which was pulled by four white horses with holly braided into their manes and tails. Drew and Molly ended up next to Jade, who was grinning excitedly.


“Are you surprised?” she asked Molly. “Did we surprise you?”


“Of course!” Molly said, giving her a hug. “I had no idea!”


>Activity: Pop some popcorn and watch Molly’s favorite ballet, The Nutcracker! Or your own favorite Christmas movie!

Originally published at The words of Valerie Griswold-Ford. You can comment here or there.


(advent) Day 22 – Something in the air…

Thursday, December 22


Molly had decided to move the castle to the tea room early, so she would have some room to work in the kitchen. But also, she decided that it was too pretty to hang out in the pantry all the time. So she pulled one of the tea tables to the side of the room, and placed the castle on top of it. Schrodinger promised that he would keep an eye on it, so no one would accidentally bump it.


He was lying in his bed, one eye closed and the other on the castle, when a tall, slightly older man walked into the tea room. He was a stranger; not that surprising, considering how many travelers came through the Cove, especially around Christmas, but there was something about him that made Schrodinger come fully awake. Nothing threatening, but something…odd.


His long, greying hair was neatly combed back under a knit woolen cap, and his plain clothes marked him as a sailor, or at least someone from the dock area. His big boots were worn and old, and his jacket had seen some heavy use.


He paused next to the castle, looking at it with a strange mix of pleasure and pain. Schrodinger, now fully awake and intensely curious, slipped from his bed and went up to the man.


It’s a gift, he said quietly, when the man noticed him and looked down. From the Snow Queen and Jack Frost.


“It’s lovely,” the man said. “Is it her castle?”


Yes, Schrodinger said. Have you been there?


“Not in a very long time,” the man said, and then gave him a sad smile. “I’m not sure I could remember it all, but this seems very familiar.”


I’m Schrodinger, the CrossCat said, tilting his head as he looked up at the man. I don’t recognize you.


“My name is Perry, and this is my first time in the Cove,” the man said, offering him a weathered hand. “I’m doing some traveling around, seeing where my heart takes me.”


That sounds like what CrossCats do, Schrodinger said. But normally we are younger than you.


“Everyone must make that journey in their own time,” Perry said, looking back at the castle. “Some of us realize it later than others, that’s all.”


Very true, Schrodinger said. Would you like some tea?


Perry shook himself, as if the question had startled him. “I…yes, that would be nice,” he said. “If it’s not an imposition…”


“It’s not,” Molly said from the doorway of the kitchen and Schrodinger wondered how long she had been standing there. “Do you have a preference?”


“I don’t know,” Perry admitted. “I’m not very versed in tea.” He gave her a wan smile. “I’ve not had many occasions to try more than simple black tea.”


“There’s nothing wrong with simple black tea,” Molly told him, and smiled back at him. “I certainly have that, and if you decide you want to try something else, I can do that too.”


“What is your favorite tea?” he asked her.


“I have a black spiced tea that I enjoy,” she said. “It’s a Christmas blend. Have a seat, and I’ll bring you out a mug.” She looked at Schrodinger. “Would you like a cup of your usual?”


Yes, please, he said politely, and then switched to their private mental channel. I think he should have some food, too, although I don’t think he’ll ask.


I agree, Molly said, and then told Perry, “Please, take a seat anywhere you would like. I’ll bring some tea out to you.”


Schrodinger waited until Perry selected a chair, and then he said, You don’t mind if I join you, do you?


“No, of course not,” the man said.


Molly came back with a tray containing not only the two mugs of tea, but a plate of orange-cranberry scones and sugar cookies dusted with green and red sugar crystals. “Let me know if you need anything else,” she said, setting them all down.


Perry looked at the tray, and then looked after Molly as she went back into the kitchen. “She really does treat everyone the same, doesn’t she?” he said quietly, almost to himself, as if he’d forgotten Schrodinger was there.


Yes, unless they give her a reason not to, Schrodinger said, cocking his head to look at Perry closely. You’ve heard of her?


“Very few people can come to Carter’s Cove and not hear of the kitchen witch at the tea shop in CrossWinds Books,” Perry said, taking a sip of his tea.


Oh. Schrodinger hadn’t thought of that. Well, yes, I guess not.


Perry didn’t say much more, but he and Schrodinger shared a companionable tea and silence. Then, as he got up, Perry looked once more at the castle, and then down at the CrossCat.


“If you do see the Snow Queen, please tell her that Perry the Wanderer hopes her Christmas is good.”


Of course, Schrodinger said. I’d be happy to.


“What a strange man,” Lily said later, when Schrodinger was telling them what happened. “I wonder who he was.”


-Maybe he was someone who started the Cove with them?- Jack suggested. He looked at Schrodinger. Maybe?


He didn’t look that old, Schrodinger said. And I remember what he smelled like. Perry smelled – well, not like fire and anger. He shook his head. Maybe he was just a traveler who knew her from before. She’s been around a long time.


Gideon and Kaylee had already lost interest in the conversation and were over at the castle, looking for the next number. The other three joined them just as Gideon said, “Oh, here it is!”


The 22 was perched on the top of one of the towers, and the window opened to show row upon row of gleaming ice skates, hanging next to a glassy surface where a single skater was spinning. Her skate edges kicked up icy shards that flew around her, and one of them came through the window, landing in Gideon’s hands as a curl of paper.


“Skating is flying over ice,” he read, and looked at the others. “Are we going skating? I’ve never been skating before!”


“Then you’re in for a treat,” Lily said. “Indi’s is amazing!”


>Activity: Go skating!

Originally published at The words of Valerie Griswold-Ford. You can comment here or there.


Dec. 21st, 2016


(advent) Day 21 – Shopping!

Wednesday, December 21

“So, what do you think the Advent castle will have us today, Mom?” Gideon asked, as they walked through downtown Carter’s Cove to CrossWinds Books. It was a clear, sunny day – not too cold, but the fresh breeze coming in from the harbor smelled of salt and promises, he thought.

Carter’s Cove had been the most magical place he’d ever lived in, he had decided. He still missed his friends and cousins but he couldn’t imagine living somewhere that didn’t have Schrodinger, and Jack, and the others he’d met.

“Gideon, look at that!” Kiaya had stopped and now tugged on his hand. “Over there!”

He followed her pointing finger to a small man who was walking a dog that towered over him. The dog had a dark coat, and his eyes were dead black, except for red flames that danced in place of his pupils.

“What is that?” Gideon asked her, as they watched the man and dog walk towards them.

That’s Mr. Grey! And Spot! Let’s go say hi!

Gideon jumped and let out a little cry of surprise at Schrodinger’s voice. He hadn’t even noticed the CrossCat coming up beside them, he’d been so focused on the man. Now, he watched Schrodinger hurry over to the odd couple.

“Do you want to go?” Kiaya said quietly, as Gideon considered his options. The great dog could probably eat him with little to no effort, but Schrodinger (who looked tiny next to him) was apparently talking animatedly to him. And if Schrodinger said it was a friend, it couldn’t be that bad.

“Yes,” he said, walking over slowly.

And this is my new friend Gideon! Schrodinger said, as they came up to the others. And his mom Kiaya, who’s a writer too, Mr. Grey! They’re helping us with the Advent castle this year! He turned to Gideon. This is Mr. Grey, and his puppy, Spot.

“It’s very nice to meet friends of Schrodinger’s, especially a fellow writer,” Mr. Grey said, offering a hand to first Gideon, and then Kiaya. “Are you enjoying Christmas in the Cove?”

Gideon nodded, but he couldn’t take his eyes off Spot. This close to the great dog, he could smell a faint aroma of something smoky, and there was a palpable heat coming off him. “What kind of dog are you?” he whispered.

Spot turned and looked down at him, his flaming eyes kind. I am a hell hound, young master, he said, and his voice was deep and pleasant. And I am very pleased to meet you.

“A hell hound?” Gideon said, and then remembered his manners. “Pleased to meet you.”

“A hell hound is a magical dog,” Mr. Grey explained. “Spot can do some interesting things, and as you can see, he’s pretty big.” He laughed softly. “He’s my protector.”

“I can imagine,” Kiaya said, holding out her hand to Spot, who sniffed it politely and then angled his head down.

He likes his ears scratched, Schrodinger told them.

Kiaya and Gideon complied, and Gideon found the dog’s skin warm and soft to the touch. Spot’s eyes half-closed in pleasure, and the dog rumbled happily.

“Come on, Spot, we’ve still got shopping to do,” Mr. Grey said finally, chuckling a little. “Maybe we’ll stop by the tea shop on the way home, so you can get some more attention. Not that you need it.”

I always need attention, Spot said, but obediently raised his head (after giving Gideon a playful nudge with his warm nose against his cheek, which made the boy giggle) and they started off down the street.

Aren’t they cool? Schrodinger said, watching them go. I adore Spot.

“I wonder how he got a hell hound,” Kiaya said. “That must be a story in and of itself.”

No one knows, and Mr. Grey hasn’t said, Schrodinger said, falling in beside them as they started walking again. He just showed up with him one day. That’s the way of the Cove, you know. People just show up.

Gideon thought about that on the rest of the walk to CrossWinds Books. If people just showed up here, did that mean that they were needed here? Or was it just coincidence that they ended up here?

He nearly walked into the door, he was thinking so hard, but he hadn’t come to a conclusion by the time they entered the tea room, and then Kaylee was shouting his name, and the thoughts flew from his head.

“We met Spot!” he told her eagerly. “He let me skritch him!”

“I love Spot!” she said. “He’s adorable! But Mom says I can’t have a hell hound.”

They’re a lot of work, Jack said, ambling over. Trust me, Kaylee, you don’t want one right now.

And Jack would know, Schrodinger added.

Lily was writing in her journal, but as Kiaya settled in with her computer, she shut her book and joined the others as they went into the kitchen to see Molly and do the Advent castle.


Molly watched them look for the number 21, enjoying the momentary calm of the tea room as they did. It was now, in the last few days before Christmas, that she valued these moments of peace more and more, since they were fewer and fewer.

Even though her part in the Christmas holiday was done, now that all the gingerbread houses were delivered, there would still be frantic people calling her and asking for last minute cookies, pastries, or tea. There was already one such box in the pantry, filled with vanilla shortbread and waiting for Lisa Cohen to pick up on her way home, and Molly knew there were going to be more.

Which was why she was planning on working in the tea shop until Christmas Eve. Her shopping was done, and everything was wrapped and ready to be put in stockings and under the proper trees, so she had let Aunt Margie know that she’d be there. Aunt Margie had been thrilled, to say the least, since the store was busier than ever.

“Oh, here it is!” Lily said, pointing to the 21 that was marching along the side of one of the towers. She touched the golden letters, and the window next to it opened onto a flurry of activity.

“Is that Santa’s workshop?” Kaylee asked, as the scene showed them a virtual army of people wrapping and tying bows and writing tags. A large bag in the center of the room was being filled, and Molly had to admit it certainly LOOKED like it could be in the North Pole.

Well, it wouldn’t be that surprising if Santa had a room at the Snow Queen’s, would it? Schrodinger said, as one of the tags slipped out the window and floated towards Lily.

“No, I guess not,” Molly said. “What does it say, Lily?”

“Are you done shopping? Are you sure? Perhaps you should go and check,” Lily read, and then looked up at Molly. “But I know I’m done!”

“Me too!” Kaylee said, and Gideon nodded.

“Then you guys can help me, because I am very, very behind,” Pavel said, coming in with Drew and Goldie. The pirate was dressed in a green coat with lacy cuffs, and his big black hat had holly pinned to the brim. “Do you think you can do that?”

“Who do you have to buy for, Pavel?” Molly teased. “Don’t you just give money to your mother and have her do it?”

“Usually, yes,” Pavel said, without a trace of embarrassment. “But this year, she told me that since I was in port, I was perfectly capable of buying my own presents. Although she did promise to wrap any that weren’t for her.”

Molly laughed, knowing full well who would wrap those gifts. “So you’re going to bribe me to do that, huh?”

“Bribe is such an ugly word,” he chided her, grinning. “I prefer to think of it as trading services.”

“Uh-huh,” Molly said, chuckling. Then she looked at Drew. “And you? I thought you were done.”

“I plead the Fifth,” Drew said, winking at her. “Also, I have been tasked to make sure this reprobate buys something nice for his mother. Apparently she didn’t like the wool socks he bought her for her birthday, and he was threatening a vacuum cleaner or something.”

Since Molly knew Pavel would do no such thing, she immediately suspected something, but she let it slide. “Just make sure you don’t end up taking these children into somewhere you shouldn’t,” she said, picking up the castle.

“That’s why I’m here,” Goldie assured her. “Capt’n won’t take them anywhere they shouldn’t be with me.”

“At least I can trust one of you,” Molly said, and put the castle back into the pantry.

When she came out, they were gone, and the tea room was quiet again. She went out to find that Kiaya had decided to stay. “I’m trying to get Zeke’s present done,” she explained. “It’s almost done. I write him a Christmas story every year, and I’m almost done.”


Are we going to get it today? Schrodinger asked, as they walked back downtown. The CrossCat was full of excitement. Did you get notice that it’s coming in?

“I did,” Drew said, chuckling. “And Pavel has agreed to hide it for us until Christmas day.”

“What are you getting Molly?” Lily said. “What did you order her?”

“You’ll see.” Drew refused to say any more, but led them down to a carriage that had been waiting around the corner from the bookstore, out of view of the tea shop.

They all piled in, and the carriage whisked them off to the Gate Station. “Now, you have to promise me that you can keep a secret,” Drew said, and they all swore.

“Come on in, then,” he said, and led them inside.

>Activity: Christmas is about doing something nice for others. Why don’t you see what you can do that’s nice for someone else today?

Originally published at The words of Valerie Griswold-Ford. You can comment here or there.


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