Did you know I get my best writing done by hand? Not only that, but I can usually tell, reading my finished books, which chapters started their lives handwritten and which started their lives typewritten. The handwritten chapters just ring so much truer to the experience I was trying to craft for you.
For me, the details of a scene–from the fluttering of a leaf to a plot-shifting new revelation–emerge while I’m writing. The best way to let that happen is to physically slow the process down by hand-crafting every word.
Furthermore, I might have to re-write a typewritten chapter up to twenty times before I am happy with it. But a handwritten chapter? I might need only two to five drafts. One chapter in Mailboat IV (Chapter 27) made it into the final book in just one draft.
Ironically, slower is faster.
But handwriting does come with a few unique problems. Transcription, for one. I’m a pretty fast and accurate typist, but I still spent a total of 30 hours typing the various drafts that became Mailboat IV (and parts of Mailboat V). That’s time I could have been writing instead.
There is also that uncomfortable span of time, pre-transcription, when my most recent chapter exists solely on a fragile piece of paper. Every author knows that you should keep multiple backups of everything you write. But sometimes days would go by before I had time to transcribe what I wrote.
So I decided to pick up a new gadget: a little tablet that can both convert my handwriting into text and upload my new-written chapters to the cloud. The tablet I chose is called the reMarkable 2.
I’ve only had it for a few days, but I am completely in love with it! Its handwriting-to-text conversion is highly accurate. And I no longer have to worry about my hard-won words being lost or destroyed. Now I can focus more on the important part: Writing more books!
I’m loving every minute I spend on this tablet. In fact, I was struggling to focus while writing this article, so I wrote the first draft on my reMarkable, LOL.
So, the question I know you’re all asking: When will Mailboat V be out?
I have bad news: I am that person who starts playing Christmas music as soon as Halloween is over.
Actually, I lied. I start playing Christmas music in September.
To avoid being banished universally by everyone around me, I use a sneaky trick: I play music that no one knows is Christmas music. Such as “The Boar’s Head Carol,” “The Wren in the Furze,” and the unpronounceable “Don Oiche Ud I mBeithil.” (Other fun fact: Not only do I know how to pronounce that title in Irish Gaelic, I can actually sing the whole song.)
You see, I’ve always had a big thing for history. And so some of my Christmas music tastes go way back. I mean way back. “The Boar’s Head Carol” was written in the middle ages when a young Oxford student rammed his book down a boar’s throat when it charged him in the woods. The college then served the boar up for Christmas dinner, and wrote this song in the young scholar’s honor.
But I also listen to many of the oldies and goodies–which I carefully keep to myself until well in November.
Today, I thought I’d serve up a selection of my favorite Christmas albums–and to pay homage to my historical bent, I arranged them from “albums with everyone’s favorite” and worked my way backwards to “albums with the most ancient/unknown songs.” I hope you enjoy!
Note: The rest of this article contains affiliate links. If you click then buy, I’ll get a little kickback. Thanks for supporting a small business!
Home For Christmas
by Amy Grant
I’m hopeful a lot of you already know this one. I hear tracks from this album in stores and malls during Christmas all the time! Originally released in 1992, this collection of holiday music has already stood the test of time–and I think it will for many years to come. Amy’s soulful singing combines with amazing acoustics, orchestra, and choir to create an experience that takes you everywhere from a playful stroll through the woods, to a reverent moment in church, to sipping coco by the fire. This album never fails to transport me.
Hello, retro! I’m hoping some of you recognize this album, too! Brass player Herb Alpert released it in 1968, and I listened to it the old-fashioned way when I was a kid–vinyl on a good, old-fashioned turn table! (Is there any better way to get sound?!) The upbeat brass band music on this album will have you dancing in your kitchen all day while the pies and cookies are in the oven.
I promise you’ve never heard of this one! But if you like really old-fashioned acoustic instrumentals, this is definitely the album for you. We’re talking banjos, hammered dulcimer, bones, and even a hand bell choir! I’ve done a lot of historical re-enacting in the past, and this album really puts me back in the 19th century.
You fans of Irish music–you’ll know what band I’m talking about! The Chieftains are probably the most famous (and almost certainly the longest-running) Irish band ever. They’ve been active since 1962! This album was released in 1991 and contains some of the most ancient and unheard-of holiday music I know, including many traditional pieces with forgotten origins. This album is boisterous and full of Celtic spirit. It’s also a little hard to get ahold of these days! Amazon streaming isn’t an option, and as I write this, Amazon advises that the CD usually ships within one to two months.
But it’s worth it.
My favorite track? “The Wren in the Furze.”
And since I can’t link you to the track, I’ll instead provide you the fascinating history on this song. This was a kind of wassailing song–wassailing being the tradition of singers going house-to-house begging for food and money. Think Christmas caroling combined with modern-day Halloween.
In Ireland specifically, an ancient tradition took place on St. Stephen’s Day–the day after Christmas. Boys and young men would go out in the woods to kill a wren, then put it in a little box and sing from house to house, asking for food and money to give the wren a wake. “The Wren in the Furze” is one of the songs they would sing.
There are layers up on layers of historical tales I could tell related to this one song–such as why the boys kill a wren and why the wren is called “the king of all birds” in the song. But doing so would seriously bunny trail this blog post! Instead, I’m going to recommend that you simply shop for this rare album and enjoy it’s incredibly vast array of holiday favorites and little-known tunes!