“Halfway out of the dark”

The winter solstice, which falls on Thursday, is one of my favorite holidays.

As a pagan, and one who’s quite fire-oriented, it’s a special day. It’s the day we start winning the fight against the darkness, the day the light starts to come back. Throughout my late childhood, teenage years, and early adulthood, I always spent the Longest Night with close friends, those with whom I shared beliefs. Many of those years, we stayed up all the way til dawn. I remember one chilly morning, three of us sitting on my parents’ back porch, wrapped in blankets, watching the sun rise.

As an adult, it’s a little harder to get folk together, particularly when Yule falls mid-week, but it’s a day I always mark with ritual. It’s a time to banish what’s troubled me in the past year — or try to, at least. Most importantly, it’s a time to look ahead, to focus on what I can nurture and bring to light in the coming year.

I am also someone who really, really hates long dark days and cold weather.

Winter is the worst time of year for me, and always has been. The sun may start coming back in December, but it takes the weather a long time to catch up, and the cold dark days of January and February seem to stretch on forever. And a lot of the reason it’s rough is because I feel so much more trapped in the winter. It’s hard to make myself go out when there’s a chill in the air. So when I think about a “writing cave”… it’s not a cheerful thought. It’s one that makes me want to curl up and not move until April.

I’ve never had the luxury of having a devoted place for writing. I live in an apartment and have ever since leaving my parents’ house. Currently, my writing desk is in the same room as my refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, sofa, tv, bookcases, bowls for the cats’ food and water, and half a dozen boxes I still haven’t unpacked since moving in August. The desk itself is a fairly recent upgrade; most of From Unseen Fire was written on a card table. It’s a crowded place to get work done, but it’s what I’ve got.

I’m not an introvert. I’m not someone who enjoys locking herself away to get work done. I’d much rather go out, celebrate with friends, drink in the energy of being around other people, then return home refreshed and buoyant. I’m a pack animal at heart, is the thing. It’s what I love about the holidays — and what I hate about time I have to spend in total isolation. True, a little bit is necessary; it’s hard to write with other folk about. But more than a little? More than a little makes it hard to see the way out of the dark.

So what do I keep near me when I write? Well, from where I’m standing, in among the other chaos and clutter, I can see the following things:

  • A stack of cards sent to me by my LDR gentleman, and some notes he’s left hidden in my apartment
  • Schuyler Sisters fanart, sent to me by one of my oldest friends
  • My altar, which features fans gifted to me by friends from across the world, votive statues made by someone I’ve known since I was 9, and a host of other items which remind me of those who mean something to me
  • My dice bag for tabletop gaming, embroidered by a friend and former intern, and which holds the dice I use to play my (mostly-)weekly adventures in the Star Wars universe
  • A Christmas-themed baby Groot, given to me by my sister
  • A pair of Funko figurines, gifted to me this past birthday by one of my dearest college friends
  • A House Targaryen notebook, gifted to me by another
  • A miniature faux Christmas tree that I’ve had since childhood, which will always make me think of the comfort and coziness of home

Even when I must be separated from those I love, I keep them near me. That seems even more important to remember at this time of year.

Find out how the people of Aven chase away the dark during the festival of Saturnalia! A major event in From Unseen Fire takes place during the midwinter revels, so pre-order now from Amazon, B&N, Google Play, Kobo, or your local indie bookstore.

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Cass Morris lives and works in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with the companionship of two royal felines, Princess and Ptolemy. She completed her Master of Letters at Mary Baldwin University in 2010, and she earned her undergraduate degree, a BA in English with a minor in history, from the College of William and Mary in 2007. She reads voraciously, wears corsets voluntarily, and will beat you at MarioKart. Learn more about the Aven Cycle and get a behind-the-scenes look at her work at patreon.com/cassrmorris.

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