Jane Austen and the Mistletoe Kiss: A Short Story

Jane Austen's World

This story was commissioned to appear in the Victoria Times Colonist newspaper on December 27th 2004 as part of a tradition of short stories during Christmas week. – Jo Beverly. Click here to read it.

Under the Kissing Bough

Sweet emblem of returning peace, the heart’s full gush and love’s release,
Spirits in human fondness flow and greet the pearly mistletoe.
Oh! Happy tricksome time of mirth, giv’n to the stars of sky and earth!
May all the best of feeling know, the custom of the mistletoe.
Married and single, proud and free, yield to the season, trim with glee:
Time will not stay … he cheats us so … A kiss? … ’tis gone … the mistletoe.

The poem above was written in December, 1826, and last line refers to the custom of plucking a berry every time a kiss was stolen beneath the kissing bough. Once the berries…

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Christmas carols Before the Mast


The story above doesn’t belong to me, but it is suitable. However, these below are a few known carols adapted during the years for the athmosphere Before the Mast – the Age of Sail RPG (ie interactive swashbuckling adventure story) we are writing together for 6 years and 5 months already:

Christmas in the West Indies

Christmas Season in the West Indies has its charm,
No matter if in the cities of in the pirates’ realm.
There is no snow the European mother country to remind,
But it’s closer to the athmosphere the Divine Child
Was actually born under the star in the Middle East.

On islands and on ships it’s an important feast.
Catholics are building rich scenes of Nativity,
Rhum and punch flow on the throats free,
A good luck coin is hidden in the King’s cake
If yours’, then choose your Queen, for party’s sake!

Pirates and colonists tonight will toast
With warmest season’s greetings BEFORE THE MAST!


I saw three ships

I saw three ships aboard the site
“Before the Mast”, “Before the Mast”
I saw three ships ready to fight
In the West Indies at war time.

And who was in those ships all three,
“Before the Mast”, “Before the Mast”,
And who was in those ships all three,
According to their prior agreement?

Captain Crawford and Raoul were there,
“Before the Mast”, “Before the Mast”,
And Sharky with his privateers,
In the West Indies at war time.

Pray, wither sailed those ships all three,
“Before the Mast”, “Before the Mast”,
Pray, wither sailed those ships all three,
In the West Indies at war time?

O they sailed into the straight
“Before the Mast”, “Before the Mast”,
Wanting the pirate ship to fight,
In the West Indies at war time.

And all the bells on earth shall ring,
“Before the Mast”, “Before the Mast”,
That gunned down the “Siren” sank,
In the West Indies at war time.
Then let us all rejoice again,
“Before the Mast”, “Before the Mast”,
That those we love did survive,
In the West Indies at war time.

(The peace is settled already for a while… and all the ships mentioned there got sunk in battles some years ago).


Deck the site

Deck the site with gimps and holly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
For the holidays to be jolly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

We have weddings, fun and contests,
Fa la la, la la la, la la la.
And witty negotiations,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

See the story grow before us,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Strike the keys and join the chorus.
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Follow us and write to measure,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
And you’ll surely get a treasure,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Fast away the old plot passes,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Hail the new, ye lads and lasses,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Let’s write joyous, all together,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Contests to win, story to further,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.


Doe, A Deer, A Female Deer: The Spirit of Mother Christmas

Gather Victoria

reindeergather-001Oh wondrous headed doe… Amongst its horns it carries the light of the blessed sun…” Hungarian Christmas Folk Song

Long before Santa charioted his flying steeds across our mythical skies, it was the female reindeer who drew the sleigh of the sun goddess at winter solstice. Today it is her beloved image that adorns Christmas cards and Yule decorations – not Rudolph. Because unlike the male reindeer who sheds his antlers in winter, it is the larger and stronger doe, who retains her horns. And it is she who leads the herds in winter.


It was when we “Christianized” the pagan traditions of winter, that the white bearded man i.e. “Father Christmas” was born. And so today we no longer remember the “Deer Mother” who once flew through winter’s longest darkest night with the life-giving light of the sun in her horns.

deer-crade-of-starlight-by-art-of-sekhmet Cradle of Starlight by Art of Sekhmet


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A Victorian Lady’s Christmas Gift Guide

Mimi Matthews

“A merry Christmas, with Love’s gifts for the young, Home’s comforts for the old, and Heaven’s bright hopes for all, is our fervent aspiration.”
Godey’s Lady’s Book, 1854.

An elegantly dressed couple walk arm in arm under an umbrella, 1905.(Wellcome Images CC BY 4.0) An elegantly dressed couple walk arm in arm under an umbrella, 1905.
(Wellcome Images CC BY 4.0)

Shopping for Christmas presents in the Victorian era could be quite tricky, especially if one was a lady choosing a gift for a gentleman. Luckily, newspapers, magazines, and etiquette books of the day were only too happy to offer advice on appropriate gifts for all the men, women, and children in one’s life. They also offered advice on such thorny issues as re-gifting gifts and keeping to a Christmas budget. In today’s article we look at a few of these recommended Christmas gifts for ladies and gentlemen, as well as at Victorian advice on re-gifting and living within one’s means during the holidays.

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The fantastic five NaNoWriMo winners


I think it is very important that NaNoWriMo endeavours made possible for all of us, the people in Bucharest interested in writing and in challenging ourselves to at least 1,667 words daily to meet. Our paths wouldn’t have crossed otherwise, given that we come from different generations and academic backgrounds and we are writing in various genres – some of us in Romanian, some of us in English. And I am glad and grateful we have met with this opportunity!

Many thanks to Raluca, our local municipal leader, for organising everything and making it possible! (She is the one who drew the portrait above too). She kept the group united and in permanent communication, so that we keep meeting regularly even when NaNoWriMo isn’t eating our souls anymore. Which means that our connections will deepen.

Yes, we are the five winners of a group of initially 8 or more Bucharest fans of writing. And I am missing from this photo below.


You may assume that I was taking it (even if I don’t really like appropriating credits which aren’t mine, for things someone else had actually done). And I like them portrayed as the castle ladies of a literary tower of dreams… (No, I don’t intend to confine them to the tower until they finish the actual novels, though, making them ready for publishing. Because if I did it, I would have to share their fate too…).

Congratulations for having persevered and having won NaNoWriMo! Congratulations for haing a story to tell and the patience and determination to actually tell it. We all know it was not easy, and we all have been there for each other in moments when feeling like giving up, or merely feeling tired and demoralised by the too little progress, or stuck with the plot in a point.

From this photo below, however, I am not missing.


This is a scene at one of our weekly meetings in a cozy tea house, peppered with writing right there and catching up with missing words, as the present laptops may witness, as well as with discussions  about writing methods, resources, inspiration sources, about our stories, characters, about publishing our stories when they will be ready and so on.

We have found a way to support each other and to forge new connections. Georgiana and Veronica are already classmates at Uni and writing together their story, so this is an older connection. But just after NaNoWriMo ended, Bianca invited Raluca to a TV show, where I am honoured to have been mentioned too. Another new connection. Bianca is my new friend and beta reader, and I invited her to literary events in my group of mature writers. Raluca told us all about a writing workshop to be organised, and Bianca and I attended it, in order to open up to new literary challenges.

Also I’d mention within the category of the Bucharest NaNoWriMo group that we have also given each other prizes for having won NaNoWriMo. I received, therefore, besides the group portraits above, including the drawn one, a pirate -themed room decoration set,


a pirate polar bear to hang in my Christmas tree, a Christmas card with an inspiring quote…

…and an audio cd with music to listen to while writing. Pirate-themed too, since I am the pirate of the group, Bianca the baby elf, Raluca the immortal mystery queen, while Georgiana is the Devil’s daughter and Veronica …just is (given that her novel is titled “I am“, definitely otherwise I couldn’t make such a statement).

We could and did turn it into a celebration that the official NaNoWriMo, too far from us and focusing more on receiving donations than on anything else, wouldn’t have granted. Next year I might be in charge of the trophies, making them even more meaningful than this year – but I loved everything this year too, and we had trophies somewhere too.

Eveniment caritabil: CRUXmas Fair & Party

Am fost la atelierul de confectionat povesti, am creat un Mos Craciun cam matol, in drum spre o strada din Rahova unde avea cadouri de impartit, si doi zei sa il ajute, Zeita cosarilor si Zeul penelor de curent… Ne-am amuzat copios cu totii!

Praf de stele

Editura Crux Publishing rămâne fidelă misiunii sale de a investi în comunitatea din care face parte și de a îi sprijini pe cei mai puțini norocoși dintre noi. Nu putem să stăm deoparte și să ne bucurăm de sărbători știind că există copii care și le petrec pe ale lor țintuiți pe patul vreunui spital, fără o șansă reală de a se bucura cum se cuvine de spiritul Crăciunului. De aceea, în pragul sărbătorii nașterii Domnului, editura Crux Publishing în parteneriat cu Epic Bar organizează pe data de 17 decembrie 2016, la Epic Bar din București, (Str. Colței nr. 50, București) între orele 12.00 și 20.00 evenimentul caritabil CRUXmas Fair & Party – târg de cadouri completat de activități interactive din sfera literară și artistică.

Un procent de 10% din fondurile obținute de Crux Publishing în cadrul târgului va fi donat Asociației Taxiul cu Bomboane în vederea derulării de către…

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Longing for a real community


I think I have always been looking for a group of friends to write a story together, and discuss it, and get inspired about it. Not more social than other RPGs; some are more social than I would have wished, as in mindlessly gossipping and socializing instead of writing. I can also accept and I don’t mind being a small writing community. It happens. What saddens me is when people stop talking one with the other, stop saying “Happy birthday!“, stop plotting together the next steps of the story. I am mostly disappointed in the lack of involvement, of interest, of enthusiasm, of a real writing community. This means that the community spirit is lost, and it makes me think that what I actually wanted for the community doesn’t exist and I failed. I have been living in a dream, or maybe in denial.

It seems that when people are involved in your own goals and they aren’t for yourself alone, the outcomes tend to turn out differently than you imagined, if at all. It also means reassessing what is possible to happen (and making it happen), while keeping everything else as my dream of an utopic group of friends which doesn’t exist in reality. I know other sites have this community: people who actually communicate, discuss plots, twists, play games, see movies together… I achieve partially this – I am talking to all those who want to talk at least a little, but no others actually do, and the feeling of a community doesn’t exist. This is exactly what I am missing and longing for.

Each of us has a different personality and a different life. But instead of looking at each other as extraterrestrial beings, we should focus on what unites us, then expand our knowledge about the other aspects which are less familiar to us.

Why would I care about someone else except myself?” some may ask. “Why should I be interested in building a community?”

Just because you are human, and this is what humans do. Loneliness is not good. We have been designed to live in groups/ packs since early Stone Age. And community is good. It means all these (and much more):


“Why should I be interested in making friends with the other writers? I am here just to write. I have friends by my side, from school/ work/ neighbourhood. I had friends who backstabbed me and I am shy about making new ones.”

It is possible to have bad experiences; but if you aren’t trying (with caution, of course), you will never find good ones. And if you already have friends by your side, what harm is it in having some in various corners of the world as well? They can offer you a different kind of support and sounding board than the ones who are closer to you, just because their life experiences might be radically different. You can discuss with them about different subjects than the ones usually discussed with your friends from school/ work/ neighbourhood. How many of your friends who are so close are into writing and can understand you in discussing characters and plots?

Moreover, you are a writer. And writers do care about other people’s lives, details and circumstances in order to find later inspiration for the most diverse characters. (Even when writing in genres totally different than contemporary life, they can still be adapted and twisted to fit).

And we all are writers too. This is what unites us into forming a community and what should give us enough subjects to talk about, even if some of us aren’t exactly twin souls. A writing community has as purpose writing a story together. When this purpose doesn’t exist, and when the people don’t talk as much either, aren’t much of a community.


A writing community has as purpose writing a story together. When this purpose doesn’t exist, and when the people don’t talk as much either, aren’t much of a community. Writing with others has a social aspect, and it needs communication even for those who don’t become best friends (even if it is nothing bad with making friends, but not everyone is compatible with everyone), at least in the writing field: from plotting and synchronizing ideas, to getting inspiration, headcannons, exchange experience on research and on different aspects of the writing process. Until now, this has functioned with most people… and exactly when they stopped communicating, misunderstandings arose, because nobody is a mind reader. They just fill in the blanks with what they would have thought/ done./… and they aren’t the other person, to think identically.

Yes, we are here to write, and writing together means planning together, analysing possible outcomes for various options and choosing the best one, not only for one character, but for the whole story. And by planning together we are getting further involved in the whole story, not only in one character’s life. We are also mobilizing ourselves to to progress steadily the story towards the next episodes, instead of waiting passively to be entertained by reading others’ stories.

I wish for a dedicated community of writers – as many or as few as they happen to be. The activity, the involvement (including the community feeling) and the number of characters actively written when they are needed, instead of being left to pickle somewhere in silence, are more important than the number of members.

I wish the members to be involved in the story they are writing together. To be willing to write THE STORY, seeing the whole picture, beyond a character or two. To share characters freely (be they NPCs or other shared custody characters) and to discuss in groups plots and twists, planning the next stories, agreeing on outcomes by meeting half-way after listening to the reasons why a thing should happen or not and how. To discuss literary resources and aspects of the writing craft, to actively exchange experience. Maybe also to read books or watch movies in the same field like the story and to discuss them together, including from the perspective of enriching our story (without plagiarising, of course. Borrowing basic ideas only, especially if twisted and spinned of, is NOT plagiarism!).

A writing community should have been like NaNoWriMo all the time – in respect to the community atmosphere, not in number of words/ competition, neither in number of members. In the smaller sense of a community group of writers, who actually talk about their characters, plots, support each other. And I know RPGs which are a community too, smaller or bigger. I hope to find a way to enhance community spirit on mine too.

Where the Past Haunts the Present

M.C. Tuggle, Writer


At REH: Two-Gun Raconteur, Charles Gramlich argues that heroic fantasy, far from being merely “juvenile” entertainment, is literature that deserves our respect and attention. It continues to fascinate and entertain because it illuminates human nature:

Heroic fantasy is, and always has been, a literature of myth making and myth exploration. As such, it may well be the most important type of literature ever attempted. The tales in this genre are not about telling things the way they are, or even how they were. They’re about telling, or at least hinting at, the deepest mysteries and truths of human existence. …

But whether we speak of 200,000 year old sapiens or 50,000 year old ones, the fact remains that our mind is their mind, with a lot of culture and a little bit of rational science as icing on the cake. Both the roots and the trunks of our myths…

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Desperate longing

“I’ve been to paradise

But I have never been to me”

These verses from Mary McGregor’s song characterize me lately, even if there might have never been exactly a paradise. I try to keep everything inside, but I am not sure how effective it is  since failure, fear, worries, uncertainty, tiredness, anger, depression are piling up inside, overwhelming me and suffocating me till my body starts giving the wrong reactions.

I don’t have patience anymore. Everything stresses me out. Everything annoys me. I need quiet of mind and happiness and creativity, but I can’t find them anywhere. I feel as if everyone wants a slice of me and I can’t share the pizza in so many slices.

I want some (good) answers and problem solving. At least if my efforts path to achieve them was clear and streamlined, I would breathe alleviated and start planning. But there are too many uncertainties, too many things outside my control and diligences which could go wrong and I am terrified by this process.

I won’t get, of course, any answers, any reassurance (except maybe empty words). And I am too tired. Still I have older and newer responsibilities and all are weighing on me.

NaNoWriMo conclusions


NaNoWriMo ended ten days ago. I had time to rest, to think, to decide what I learnt from the experience of fully participating in it.

Last years, while I knew about it, I didn’t register on the site and I had no novel to announce. I was a rebel, counting for myself the words I was writing for Before the Mast and other RPGs I might have been a member of in one or another year. Usually they amounted to a little over 40,000 words. I was availing myself of the opportunity of the writing sprints and prompts organised by RPG-Directory and they helped me further the story we were writing interactively. In November it was time to catch up with character journals, to write those threads between my own characters I had never time for in the previous months, and the story went on.

This year I have been an official NaNoWriMo participant, starting a novel in my mother tongue with the characters I have Before the Mast. The setting is the same – the West Indies – just 2 years before the site’s, and the story is not exactly the same. For being only my characters, the pirate crew of the “Arrow” has components who had belonged to the privateers Before the Mast, as here we have no privateer ship to follow. Other characters’ roles and allegiances were changed too.

This is good, because the story is different, but still circumscribed to the setting I had researched a lot for. The alternative would have been to have written the sequel of my already published book, but that hadn’t been researched enough yet, and this would have blocked my productivity.


So, what have I learnt by doing NaNoWriMo in high conditions of stress, working overtime for 3 weeks, with the week-ends between them included and being confronted also with health problems?

  • If in those given conditions I succeeded, anybody can succeed, with some ambition, determination and writing discipline.
  • Writing in your mother tongue isn’t any easier than writing in English, especially when you have written more in English about certain subjects and you realize you are lacking the appropriate terminology in your mother tongue. Dictionaries are suddenly your best friends…
  • The local NaNoWriMo team’s support is essential, and also the forum’s general support. One can ask a question and find answers to get unstuck and go further, one can find the lost determination to finish and to win.
  • The support of the family and friends to whom you have confessed your goal is also needed. Warmest thanks to my husband and my mother, who had accepted my goal and had actively helped me by relinquishing most household duties from me and asking stimulating questions. I thank my work colleagues too, who rooted for me and let me write during the last days, when things were quieter on the office front, and who celebrated winning with me. I thank also to my writing partners Before the Mast, who encouraged me and supported me in this endeavour.
  • Word sprints and prompts are helpful too. This year I got only 2 days of writing sprints on RPG-Directory. I could do none on the NaNoWriMo site, since they were timed always for USA only. And it showed in the less productive days than last years, when sprints were common every day.

There is only one more NaNoWriMo aspect to be mentioned in another post, maybe tomorrow, maybe another day next week…