I’m not a very religious person but Christmas was a very important holiday for me growing up. My mother had been raised in the Church of England, but it wasn’t something that she had passed down to her children. She instead celebrated the pageantry of Christmas, the fantasy of it all. Sure, we had a nativity scene in the house, but Christmas was as much about Jesus as it was about Rudolph. We never went to church, but we had a tree and stockings and decorations and all of the pagan trappings of the holiday.
I don’t think I discovered Advent calendars until I started going to Catholic school, though. And I was instantly captured by them. I didn’t even know there was an Advent then, but I, like many other children, knew the joy of counting down toward the holiday. That this was codified somehow, and that there was some kind of surprise and mystery to be unveiled every day, was what I think I enjoyed most.
I think the earliest advent calendars I had just had a little printed picture behind the little perforated paper door. The pictures were probably religious, too. But it didn’t matter. It was yet another ritual of the season. Each day I looked forward to opening another door. What would be behind it? A star? A snowman? An angel? That was enough.
As I got older, I became aware of other advent calendars, the most common, it seems, having chocolate behind each of the doors. I enjoyed these, of course, but as my tastes changed, the chocolate no longer seemed to cut it. *
Last year, N bought us both advent calendars, reawakening my interest in the ritual. This year, I thought, I would seek out a truly great advent calendar and things would be grand. Only, well, I had a hard time finding one. I was excited discovering that Lego had one, but it turned out one was a Star Wars one (with characters from the prequels) and the other was an Xmas town scene, which I would have once loved, but which didn’t do much for me now. I looked all over and couldn’t find anything that didn’t seem lacking.
So, yesterday, as November ended, I decided to create my own Advent Calendar. Not one that was physical but something online. What I was ultimately looking for was something that each day would have a fun fact, or an inspirational message (though not in the cheesy way). Something intangible, but that would be a fun discovery for each day leading up to Christmas. I couldn’t find one, so I’m doing it myself.
I will endeavor, on this blog, to post, each say something like I mentioned above, below a cut, which hopefully will recreate the activity of opening one of the doors. I don’t know if anyone else will read these, but I’m doing it for myself. Anything more than that is a bonus.
If you find it interesting, though, please let me know.
I’ve been in a funk for the last couple of days. And not the George Clinton kind of funk. In examining it, I think some of it is circumstantial, and yet I realize that I felt like this last year around the same time. Which is no surprise seeing as it’s a little over a week away from the anniversary of my mother’s death.
This time two years ago I was watching my mother quickly deteriorate from the cancer that had spread to her brain. It’s interesting timing as, of the time of this post, my agent is getting ready to send a novel of mine out on submission. And yet, in a way, it’s entirely apt.
This isn’t the first novel I’ve written, but it is the first novel that seems to be ready. It’s a middle grade novel, a fantasy for kids, that I’ve described before as my homage to all the books I read growing up. And that is largely due to my mother.
She was a fan of stories. She would read to us when we were young. Then, when we were old enough to read on our own, she would encourage me and my siblings to read. She wasn’t critical, either. Unlike others, when all I wanted to read was science fiction and fantasy, she encouraged that as well, seeing, I like to think, the joy I experienced in those books. Whether it was Narnia or Lord of the Rings, or the subscriptions she bought me to comic books like Star Wars and Captain America, she supported whatever I wanted to read.
Later, when I began writing, she encouraged that as well. She was always my biggest fan, in whatever I wanted to pursue, and it’s that unwavering support that I miss the most now that she’s gone.
My novel draws on many of the influences I experienced as a kid – Narnia and Lord of the Rings, Watership Down, even Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery, a story I first experienced as part of the cast of my school’s production when I was 12*. That these are the stories that lodged in my subconscious is certainly a factor of who I am. But that I was able to explore these kinds of tales is certainly tied in to the kind of person my mother was.
If she were alive today, I would be on the phone with her right now, telling her how far I’ve come. And I know she would be excited, believing, even when I might not, that someone will buy it, that it will one day see print. And i know that she would be one of the first to want to have it. If that happens, I know I would want to call her up, to tell her the good news. But I can already hear her voice saying, “I knew this would happen.”
The year that she died, I had business cards made up for my writing career. I felt that it was time that I treated the writing life as a profession and I wanted to be professional about it. By the time I brought them home, she was already dealing with the worst of the cancer. But, at her wake, as people were putting things in her coffin, I put the card there, because she was always the one who believed. To her those words, Rajan Khanna, Writer, were already a reality. It may seem silly, but it was my way of honoring that.
I miss her more than I ever thought possible. I lost my rock, the one immutable thing that existed in my life. But if this novel does one day see print, it will be in large part because of her. And I will always be grateful for that. Already, in my mind, this novel is for her.
* She wasn’t only supportive when it came to writing. When I was younger and flirted with theater, she was my biggest fan in that as well. She used to tell me that I should audition for soap operas because she thought I was better than many of the people on the screen (this from someone who watched a lot of soap operas).
I will be attending the World Fantasy Convention in San Diego from October 27-30. For those interested, I have a solo reading scheduled on Saturday, October 29 at 11:30 AM. I will also be participating in a group reading for The Way of the Wizard at 2:00 PM on the same day. If you’re at the convention, I’d love it if you would come by. Either way, it would be nice to meet new people and reconnect with old friends.
Now that I have the signed contract, I can mention that I recently sold my story, “The Last Gorgon,” to the wonderful online magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies. I had BCS in mind when I wrote the story – I’ve been wanting to break in there for a while – so I’m really happy about this. I’ll post an update when the story goes up.
I found out this morning that my short story, “Doors”, which first appeared in GUD Issue 6, is now up, in podcast form, at PodCastle. This is now the second of my stories to appear there and I’m very happy to see it, and hear it, there. As much as I enjoy narrating for them, I enjoy having my stories up even more.
That being said, I have to say that I find it hard to listen to narrations of my stories. I have to listen to the narrations that I do – for editing purposes at the very least – but hearing someone else read my fiction produces a strange kind of dissonance. PodCastle always does a great job in selecting readers – this has nothing to do with that – I think it’s just hearing my own words which is the problem.
I am a little heartened, though, that this is something other people deal with. At a recent agency retreat I heard that other people have issues with it as well.
On the other side of the microphone, there are some other narration projects that I’m working on to hopefully announce soon.
I promise that this blog is not going to be me promoting my own stuff, but there were a few things I wanted to mention from the past month or so.
First of all, I mentioned this on Twitter, but my story, “Card Sharp”, received an Honorable Mention in the Year’s Best Science Fiction (28th edition) edited by Gardner Dozois. This makes “Card Sharp”, without a doubt, my most popular story to date.
In addition, The Way of the Wizard, the anthology that “Card Sharp” originally appeared in, was just nominated for a World Fantasy Award (along with editor John Joseph Adams). I was so happy to be a part of that anthology and I’m glad that John is being recognized for putting it together.
I think that’s everything for now. Next up I have some writing from other people that I want to mention…
I got word late last night that my story, “Holes” (formerly “The Burning Bridge to Heaven”), is now online in the latest issue of Abyss & Apex. I wrote “Holes” a while ago, and it’s nice to see it finally seeing “print”.
This comes as I’ve just begun contemplating another story of Damon Hawking and Julia Sinclair in the Unusual Circumstances division of MI5.
If you take a look, let me know what you think.
Like every year since 2009, I am doing the Clarion West Write-a-thon this year. The idea is simple – you sponsor me and my writing goals, and the money goes to support the Clarion West Writers Workshop. Clarion West made me a better writer and every year it makes other people better writers. The way I look at it, it’s a way to invest in better fiction in the future. Participants of Clarion West do pay tuition, but much of the money that supports the workshop comes from efforts such as this one.
This year, because I have a diverse set of projects I’m working on, I’m committing to writing five hours a week. This writing will likely be devoted to revising short stories in an effort to get them out, writing new short stories, and working on novels.
I know that there are plenty of places that you can donate to, and never enough money or time to go around, but if you love science fiction and fantasy, if you read genre fiction, please think about investing in the writers of tomorrow.
I have some writing-related news from the past few weeks.
First off, my story, “The Case of the Wounded Heart”, which I enjoyed the hell out of writing, is now available in the anthology, A Study in Lavender: Queering Sherlock Holmes from Lethe Press. I’ve mentioned the anthology here before, but it takes characters from the Holmes mythos (including, of course, Holmes and Watson) and imagines them (or reveals them, perhaps) as gay. I haven’t had a chance to read it, but I’m dying to get my hands on it. It’s available now here or at Amazon .
Second, while the story was accepted a while ago, I finally signed the contract for my story, “The Burning Bridge to Heaven”, which will be appearing in Abyss & Apex next quarter. I will, obviously, link to it when it’s up. It’s a kind of British 60′s X-Files story and was also a lot of fun to write.
Finally, I also signed a contract for my story, “Doors”, which will be narrated as a podcast on Podcastle. “Doors” was originally published in GUD Issue 6 and, though I usually don’t have favorite stories, is probably one of my favorites.
That’s all for now.