LinkedinTwitterThe DetailsConnectBlog Facebook Meet the TherapistHome For Writers

Friday, December 20, 2013

Dear Jeannie: Back in Two Weeks

The queue is empty, according to my books!

So if you have questions, now's the time to post 'em. I'm taking off until the first Friday in January, when I'll write my next Dear Jeannie column. Leave your questions anonymously below, using monikers like Sleepless in Seattle, and I'll get to them first come, first served.

Until then, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Merry Christmas vs. Merry Winter Solstice?

I'm intrigued by this flowchart I ran across on Facebook. I believe it was originally posted here, but don't hold me to that.

In this world of being politically correct, agencies are moving toward (if they haven't already made the full transition) to having "holiday parties" instead of Christmas parties. Some places are celebrating "winter solstice" instead of Christmas. It's frowned upon to sing Christmas carols and say "Merry Christmas!"

Here's the flowchart:

Click to enlarge.
I say Amen! to this chart! And besides, the last time I checked, on the actual calendars that are mass-produced by various companies world-wide, on December 25th, it says CHRISTMAS in bold letters in the box. Christmas is recognized as a paid holiday by organizations, even at the county, state, and federal levels.

Religion aside, wishing someone a "Merry Christmas" could basically mean the same as saying "Merry December 25th" (which most people have off from work to be frickin' merry!). So it's even rational.

Me? I buck the political correctness for religious reasons. Here's the door to my office:

And the banner in my home:

I just don't want anyone to question my preference for winter holiday greetings, but I always smile and acknoledge the gracious intent behind anyone's well-wishing. Just wish everyone could do the same.

Sorry for the rant, but I realized this is a pet peeve of mind after I sat through a meeting where someone suggested the wording in a newsletter be changed that referred to the literal 25th day of December as Christmas. Aggravation.

Let's Analyze

What's your preference for "holiday greetings?" What do you do if someone calls you out on your chosen greeting?

Friday, December 13, 2013

Dear Jeannie: A Family Divided and Arranged Marriages


Dear Jeannie,

Sean, Matt, and their family are newcomers to a tightly-knit, politically volatile community. The boys are all young enough to grow up with the neighbors, but old enough to still be considered transplants. When war breaks out, Sean and his brothers are pretty evenly split between joining one of the two sides--or abandoning both and falling prey to cowardice and greed, in Matt's case. Sean joins the "enemy" army, which had more of his loyalty before they moved. I'm thinking this is going to really tear up the family (there were 4 brothers, most of whom were very close to their idealistic mother). Sad, but workable. But what about their community? Since some boys joined "the cause" and others didn't, would they be completely booted? Attacked, either physically or verbally? And what about Matt's new criminal career? Will the family be able to maintain a life here, or are they going to need a new start, somewhere else?

Armed Brat in Arlington

Dear Armed Brat,

War definitely polarizes people in and of itself, much less if you've got a North & South-type thing going (great television series!). If the family is divided, I'd think the sons who joined the "enemy" side would definitely be unwelcome in the community that is predominantly for the other side. Would they have to hide out? And as to whether they'd be able to maintain a life there (I'm assuming after the war?), I'd think that would depend on a few things: 1) Does the family consider this place their home? Since you made a point to mention that they are still considered "outsiders," they might not want to. 2) Has Matt's criminal career made them lepers of society by their association with him? 3) How idealistic is their mom? I find it somewhat hard to believe she'd want them to be involved in this policital upheaval, but that all depends on what her stance in it is. If the brothers are close to her, then her opinion will hold a lot of sway over them.  Anyway, there were some parts of your question that were unclear, so if you want to clarify some things in the comment section below, I'll respond as soon as I can. Thanks for writing in!

Dear Jeannie,
When she was 15, Francesca's stepmother asked her to choose between raising her half-sisters or starting her own family. She thought hard about it at the time, but she's been a faithful surrogate ever since. The girls are close. But now they're in the New World, with new rules, new family, and new relationships. Francesca's been maneuvered into an arranged marriage, and her groom doesn't know she comes with a ready-made family. Between being completely up-ended by the move and having her control taken away from her, she has a sizable dose of anger. Where and how is she going to direct it? The girls? The groom? She's been making "adult" choices for a number of years, but they don't seem to have prepared her for any of the new dilemmas facing her. How can she learn to make decisions *with* someone, instead of *for* them?

Micromanaged in Micronesia 

Dear Micromanaged,

Francesca's biggest challenge will be the arranged marriage, not the move. He would represent the largest unknown. How was she maneuvered into the arranged marriage? She'll likely feel incredible resentment toward that figure. And if the husband-to-be comes across high-handed (or perhaps he's just a regular, chivalrous male), she's not going to appreciate that, either. You didn't mention how old she is when they make the move to the New World or if she's harbored hopes of a marriage of her own, so it would seem feasible that her anger could resolve fairly quickly as she journeys through her character arc and through marriage. It might be helpful to have her and her fiance butt heads early on as they join forces for some task. They can learn each others' ins and outs over this task, which they are both less emotionally invested in than marriage. Hope you write him with miles and miles of patience. :)


Maybe I've got some answers. Leave your question in the comment section below and I'll post my answer in a future Dear Jeannie column. Queue's empty!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Enter to Win a Romance Writer's Grab Bag for Christmas!

No hoops to jump through. Just want to share my love for all my readers with this unique Romance Writer's Grab Bag. I bought it some time ago from Winklenook's Etsy shop, and have been saving it for Christmas time. (And it was a one-of-a-kind the buck stops here!)

Click on the pictures below to enlarge.

It's handmade in rich green. with a burnt orange flap over.
It has ALL sorts of pockets inside. Very roomy interior.
No joke. Your own "Thinking Cap." Totally cute.
It comes chock full of story prompts, advice for romance writers, quotes, and craft info.
And this handmade drawstring bag comes with a strawberry timer, suggestions for using it, and a pencil sharpener.

Any writer would really like this, but I'd think a beginning writer would definitely love it. It would make a perfect Christmas gift.

So, I'm offering one lucky commenter the chance to win this bag, and I'll even holiday gift wrap it and ship it in time for Christmas to whatever address you give me. How's that for customer service?

All you have to do is LEAVE AN EMAIL ADDRESS for me to get in touch with you. I'll run the giveaway through Sunday and ship Monday. Share this on Twitter (@jeanniecampbell) or Facebook (tag me in the post) through the buttons below and get 5 extra entries. Blog about it and you'll get 10!

Can't wait to see who the lucky winner is. Good luck!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Dear Jeannie: Stepping Outside Comfort Zones

Dear Jeannie,
Cass' older sister is a prestigious figure in a military organization. Cass is one of twin sisters who have always been very close to their older sister, offering her blunt advice or telling her when she's being stupid, and receiving the same in return. Cass, unlike her older sister, has a flair and a skill for a more 'domestic' role - she's a very skilled cook in the organization's kitchen. Cass rules this domain and is a huge presence within it - but very rarely ventures into the world beyond it. First, is it realistic that Cass would stay so close by her kitchen despite her sister's position? Secondly, something tragic is going to happen to Cass' sister and she's going to lose her position. Is there a realistic way that Cass might then pursue the position her sister once held?
Lost in Lake Macquarie
Dear Lost,
Yes, I think it's totally realistic for her to stay in the kitchen despite her big sister's prominence. Association doesn't have much on comfort. Just because you know people in high places doesn't mean you want to join them. The answer to your second question is more difficult, because it depends on her motivation to do so, which in turn depends on your story world. If circumstances were such that she thought she was somehow serving her sister best by stepping up, perhaps. Or maybe she wants her older sister to be proud of her for not letting the position go to someone not related to them. Since you stated that they were close to each other, then some nudge from her sister to do this would go a long way. Exterior complications and conflicts (who else wants the position? would people accept the "cook" stepping up? - etc.) are going to be the key as to whether she'd give up her comfort zone or not. She'd be fully capable of it, it seems, but you'd have to figure out what would motivate her to exchange her apron for a gun (or insert appropriate term here from your story world). Best of luck as you figure it out!

Dear Jeannie,
Jude has a magical ability which his parents have forced him to hide due to the public image of those with magic as antisocial and dangerous. The government is also thought to forcibly take custody of any magic user considered dangerous. He has little control over it due to lack of practice, but it sometimes appears as a multicolored glow around him when he feels threatened. Given the stress his parents have laid on secrecy and his own fear of what would happen to him if his magic was discovered, how would he react to this obvious sign of his ability? Would he try to avoid threatening situations, or try to overcome fear?
Confused in Chicago 

Dear Confused,

What kind of boy is Jude? Does he run headfirst into whatever he's doing, only pausing to consider ramifications after something goes awry? Is he a planner? Not taking a step until he knows the outcome? Is he rebellious? If his parents said not to do something, would that be like an invitation served up on a silver platter for him to do that very thing? These core personality traits will answer your question for you. Both of the scenarios you presented (avoiding threatening situations that might instigate magic use or overcoming fear associated with not being able to control it) are very feasible. Since I don't know much about Jude from your thumbnail sketch, you'll have to actually make this call. Personally, I think it'd be more anxiety-provoking for the reader if he was scared of what would happen if people figured out he had magic, so therefore would want to avoid situations that could trigger it. Readers will tensely flip pages to see when, inevitably, this choice fails him. But that's just my opinion. Hope you figure it out....let me know what you decide. Good luck!

Got Questions?

Maybe I have answers. Leave your anonymous comment below using monikers like Sleepless in Seattle. I'll post my response in future Dear Jeannie columns. Queue's empty, so get those questions in!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Dear Jeannie: Time Travel and Emotional Intelligence

Dear Jeannie,
Byron met his future wife when she was on a time-traveling spree. He met the "real" younger version of her later that year in school. He became friends with her easily, but who he really wants is the adult version of her. The story hinges on Byron not pursuing a relationship with her when they first meet, but is that believable? Is it further believable that Byron would make decisions/assumptions about his future based on wanting to meet the woman again? Given the choice, for example, between a financially sound job offer and a government job he wouldn't like as much (but would put him in close proximity to the girl/woman), would a man let "what if?" be more important that "what now?" 

Over-Dramatic in Darlington 

Dear Over-Dramatic,

What kind of man is Byron? Is he ruled by his heart or his head? Is he romantic or practical? Type A or B? Depending on these answers, he would either pursue her with passion waiting for her to blossom into the "adult version" of herself, or he'll rationalize his involvement with her away (i.e., too many variables could shake up the ultimate outcome). If he's totally snowed by the adult version, I'd think he'd grit and bear it (even though he does like the younger version) and hold out, waiting for her to morph. He'd also take that job he doesn't want so much so that he could be near her...if he's ruled by his heart. That image of her adult self will motivate him to do things he normally wouldn't do. Maybe not what you wanted to hear, but he would be looking for that spark he saw to confirm his actions. In Back to the Future, Marty McFly wanted to make sure that his mom and dad ended up together, and everything had to line up exactly right for that to happen. Depending on your sci-fi version, could something in the present affect how she winds up in the future? Your third question was a bit convoluted to answer in this column, but his perception of Marty McFly's concerns makes a huge impact on the answer. Thanks for writing in!

Dear Jeannie,
Helen had a retired, eccentric crusader for a father, who made sure she was well-educated in a time when many women couldn't read. But now he is gone, and her young step-mother has ambitions for her own children. Book-smart is not the same as people-smart, though, and neither has much to do with land management. Both Helen and her step-mother need the crusader's lands for their plans--the step-mother for the cash to fund her goals, and Helen to take back her lands/people. Since Helen has grown up with her head in the clouds, she is woefully unprepared for both her duties and her step-mother's manipulation. How can she build her "intelligence quota" so that she can successfully cope with this conflict? Is that even possible? There's an odd mix of idealism and prejudice in her background that don't auger well for a well-balanced adulthood.
See-Saw in Santee

Dear See-Saw,

I believe that you are referring to Helen's emotional quotient rather than her intelligence quotient. She lacks emotional intelligence (EI), given that her studies centered on book knowledge. Unfortunately, EI has to be learned. If her father didn't teach her, then she'll have to learn by doing...and fall flat on her face when she naively trusts someone to do what's in her best interest, or doesn't follow-up on something she should have. She seems destined for the school of hard knocks, and that's okay. She'll have to learn from her mistakes. EI is about identifying, assessing, and controlling (sometimes) the emotions of yourself, others and groups. Emotions are in the people realm of things. However, with some tutelage, she might be able to pick up on some of these basic people skills through her reading. I think of reading books to my young clients...I have them identify emotions the characters have and try to have them identify when they have felt the same. Learning to read people like this, and understanding the push-pull of emotional interactions, is a valuable trait to have. Best of luck!


Maybe I have some answers! Leave your comment anonymously below, using monikers like Sleepless in Seattle. I'll post my answers in future Dear Jeannie columns.