Saturday, December 17, 2011

Oh, Christmas Tree!

"I've been collecting ornaments for twenty years," I told my husband, "for exactly this moment!"

We'd just brought home the tree.  On our first Christmas together, my husband and I compromised on the Christmas tree.  He was concerned about the environmental impact of chopping down Christmas trees.  He wanted one in a pot, that we could replant.  I liked the idea until I actually saw one.  It was a Charlie Brown Christmas tree, a couple of feet high, lightly sprinkled with glitter.  It couldn't hold my string of lights without sagging.

So we compromised.  Then next year we'd get a chopped tree.  And we'd alternate.  Luckily, it turned out that the re-plantable tree was a joke.  It turned out that that tree could only be planted if you lived in a climate like Florida.  (The tree would never have survived our winter, even if we'd mangaged to keep it alive until the ground thawed.)

That was five years ago.  Since then we've gotten all our trees at a local tree farm where you tag your tree in the fall and come back to get it in the winter. 

This year our tree was beautiful.  We live in an old home, with ten foot high ceilings.  Our tree nearly touched the ceiling!
  

I unpacked the ornaments I'd been collecting for twenty years and passed them to my 3 and 4 year old kids to hang.  Christmas music played in the background as we trimmed our tree.  The only thing missing was a snowstorm (and I wasn't about to complain about that!)

I had a pomegranate ornament that I'd bought, probably fifteen years ago, hand-blown in Bavaria.  It was so precious that I'd never hung it before.  I was planning to bring it out when the kids were older.  When I was a child, we had four ornaments that had glitter flowers on them.  As I recall, two were pink and two were purple. Us four children loved these ornaments.  They were extra-special.  I wanted my kids to have ornaments like that.  So, this Christmas, I took out my special pomegranate ornament, then I changed my mind and put it away.  But then I looked at the tree.  It was perfect.  Tall and fragrant.  This tree deserved the pomegranate ornament.  I did hang it up high, for safety.
I have other great ornaments.  I have dozens of milagros sent to my from my former landlady in New Mexico.  I have armadillos, glitter stars, ceramic Santas with feet that dance, plus, several ornaments that my step-mother, who died earlier this year, has sent over the years.  I even have a ceramic dog that raises its leg to pee when you pull on a chain with a fire hydrant.  The kids have ornaments that they made at my daughter's preschool, and we have some new teddy bears that we made of felt earlier this month. 

My husband needed a chair to put the star on top, and we were done!  That's when I turned to my husband and said, ""I've been collecting ornaments for twenty years for exactly this moment!"  I was full of joy.  My husband, my children, my dog, and my 99-year old home at Christmastime.  This was the life I'd been dreaming of for twenty years. 

My husband left on some errands.  The kids went upstairs to nap.  While the house was quiet, I wrapped my husband's presents so we had something to put under the tree.  In a nod to his committent to the environment, I wrapped them in newspaper, but to make them look pretty, I made bows to match.

The only thing left was the candy canes.  I waited until the kids were back downstairs.  They were happily hanging the candy canes when I remembered we had another box we'd bought a few weeks ago.  Where was that box?  My little boy walked into the kitchen for a glass of water, and I followed, thinking that the candy canes were in our pantry.  I thought I saw them on the top shelf.  I had just gotten to the top step of my stool when I heard the sound of glass breaking.  A lot of glass breaking.  I was in the kitchen with my son.  My daughter was alone with the tree.  She hadn't made a peep.  I jumped off the stool and raced into the livingroom.
My four-year old daughter was standing next to the tree.  "What happened?" I cried. 
"It just fell," she said.  "I wasn't touching it."  Right.  Then she started crying.  "The ornaments broke!" she cried.  I could see that.  There were shattered ornaments all over the rug.  Water for the tree had spilled all over.  My daughter's cries increased to where she was hysterical.  Understandably, as our Christmas tree was now stretched across the floor in a pool of shatterered ornaments.  "It's okay," I told her, pulling her onto my lap.  After she'd calmed down, I put her and her brother in the other room, away from the broken glass, and started cleaning up.

First, I had to get our bear of a tree upright.  When my husband had carried it in, he'd said it was a "pig of a tree."  He was right.  Once I'd finally gotten it vertical, I began assessing the damage.  Among the broken ornaments was my pomegranate ornament, in a box for twenty years, on a tree for two hours, and then shattered, scooped up, and dumped into the garbage can. 

Other casualties were the first Christmas present we ever gave my daughter when she was just six months old, the first ornament my step-mother sent her, an ornament my sister had given me about eighteen years ago, and the star that went on the top of our tree. 

When my husband came home, my daughter, who'd forgotten the trauma, started crying all over again.  My husband tied the tree to the wall, and I put shoes on my kids and finished cleaning up all the broken glass.  The kids re-hung the ornaments that survived.  My husband turned to me and said, "Sorry, Baby."  Christmas with kids.  Life with kids.  I counted my blessings and went back to the kitchen to find the last box of candy canes and a container of glue.
Pre-fall picture of my daughter handing the first Christmas present we ever gave her. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Indie Authors and Exclusivity on Amazon

A few days ago, Amazon offered indie authors like me the chance to enroll in a new service, KDP Select.  Basically, it offers authors a chance to make more money and possibly get more exposure.  These are two really good reasons to go along, especiallly the exposure.  But here's the catch: your books can only be sold on Amazon.  That means I'd have to remove them from Barnes and Noble, Sony, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. 

I sell on all of these sites.  But nearly all of my sales come from Amazon.  The rest account for about 200 sales a month, combined.  I am indebted to Amazon for the way they've promoted my books.  I'd estimate that something like 75,000 of my books have been sold or downloaded for free off Amazon.  Even so, I don't think I'll opt in to KDP Select.

I am not of fan of monopolies. Amazon has been a tremendous force in selling my books, and I will always appreciate that. But I don't like the way they hang money in front of us to get us to cut off their competitors. The only reason I would do this is for the money and I believe that money should not be the main force behind what I do. I think that my first obligation is to my readers.  Even though I just sell a few books on other venues, I like the fact that different people can buy books different ways, not just through the all-powerful Amazon site.  Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Apple don't promote my books anywhere near as well as Amazon.  They are lame, actually.  But I still want them around, not put out of business by a company who seems to be trying to put every other store out of business. 

Besides, one of my biggest fans is a Nook reader.