Podcastle, a weekly fantasy podcast, annually features a Christmas story by Tim Pratt and Heather Shaw. (I enjoy listening to podcasts while doing Christmas baking.) Below is a chronological list of these imaginative stories for the Christmas season. (And keep an eye on Podcastle; if they do a Christmas story this year, it’ll probably be later in the month.)
I just recently discovered Habitica. I’d seen mention of it somewhere, but since I’m not a gamer I didn’t pay any attention. But this is in many ways not quite a game because it’s a productivity tool that makes developing good habits (and getting rid of bad ones) fun, as well as motivating you in silly ways to work your way down your ever-growing To Do list. I’d noticed on some writing sites that getting badges for goals or streaks were insanely gratifying, and Habitica has all kinds of little cheesy icons that pop up as well as graphs and color-changing lists (Habits, Dailies, To Do). Their FAQ and Overview For New Users is great for getting started and the Habitica Wiki has been a excellent resource for getting me oriented — without sucking away huge amounts of time. Even though I’m on a writing break in December, I’ve set up a small list of things to do Daily, Habits to do often, and moved my To Do list into it. I’ve gotten a stunning amount done, without feeling like I’m doing anything much and I’m just waaaaay too pleased about my tasks. LOL (BTW, they have just released a new app which is very nice, with more advanced features to be added soon.) I know right before Christmas is not a good time to start new things like this, but there’s a option to set certain Dailies to begin at a point in the future. My writing-related Dailies go into effect in January. You can also set certain “Dailies” to be done, not daily but on certain days of the week. Which is helpful for things you want to do weekly. You can even set your dailies to not be in effect on weekends. Or you can “rest in the tavern” which means that your “character” in the “game” is inactive, neither gaining nor losing points until you “check out of the inn”. Click on over to Habitica, and look over the info links above. Then set up a couple of small things as Habits, add something simple like “load/unload/run dishwasher” for a Daily, or “stretch”, or if you’re a writer, set a small word count goal, just to start, just to get the feel of how Habitica works. Add more stuff after you get oriented, maybe after Christmas is over. There are Challenges set up by Habitica members which you can join (I joined the Read A Christmas Carol challenge, and Writer’s Health challenge) which will get you points. Some are open ended, some have a set end time. There are also Quests and Parties, which you can join (I haven’t yet). You’ll get random drops of eggs, hatching potions, and food for your pets/mounts. I haven’t hatched anything yet, but I’m acquiring rewards and leveling up at a good rate, so I should start working on becoming a Beastmaster (or something like that). Even if you’re not into gaming at all (like me) the little popups telling me I’m advancing with each click, the line graphs, and the tiny icon rewards are very gratifying and motivating. There are Guilds you can join so you can find like-minded people who share some of your same goals and interests, so there’s some very nice peer support too. So far, everyone has been very nice and helpful. Since this is a “game” that aims toward self-improvement, helping people better their lives and reach their personal goals, it isn’t too surprising that it’s such a supportive environment. And it absolutely is the most fun you’ll ever have implementing New Year’s Resolutions! 🙂
After I got the hang of Habitica I did a series of short posts about using the site.
More fun for the holidays! The Truth, a radio-drama podcast, has released a new episode, Santa For President, a little humorous look at what happens when Santa is approached by two political operatives about running for President. You can listen or download from the link. This is kind of a sneak peek because it will be aired on NPR on Christmas Day. You heard it here first. 🙂
There’s some nice free and wonderful goodies out there. I’ve already done a couple of posts, but the hits keep coming! Neil Gaiman reads A Christmas Carol from Dicken’s own performance copy and NPR has a First Listen for It’s a Holiday Soul Partyby Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings if you want to try before you buy. The Gaiman reading is available for download via iTunes or your podcatcher app. Search for New York Public Library podcast. It was originally posted last December.
Merry, merry, happy, happy Everything to Everyone! Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All!
Lots of things are popping up online either free or on sale cheap for the holidays. This isn’t a definitive list, but I just thought I’d share some fiction (ebooks, audio books, podcasts) and music. (All but one are holiday-themed.)
Podcasts: I like science fiction and fantasy. However, when one looks at a list of Christmas-themed stories or ebooks what one usually finds are romance and mystery. I like romance and mystery just fine, but if you want SF/fantasy here’s some to brighten (or maybe I should say “enliven”) your holidays. Podcastle, the excellent fantasy podcast, for the past few years has featured a holiday story by Tim Pratt and Heather Shaw in December. (Note that the podcasts are rated; most are G or PG, but one is an R.)
Keep an eye on Podcastle to see if there’s another story this year!
More Fiction: Also….not a podcast, but….“Overtime” by Charles Stross. Fantasy/horror/comedy which is part of his Laundry series, but can be read as a stand-alone story. Free to read on the Tor.com site. (Ebook short story 99 cents Nook and Kindle.)
Music: “Christmas Time Is Here” played by Michelle Shumann Trio live in studio 1A, from KUTX’s Song of the Day podcast. You can listen in the player below (for most browsers) or click through and download the song.
Ebooks: One of my favorite children’s book, Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree is on sale for Nook and Kindle, $1.99 right now. It’s a short illustrated poem. Charming.
A Christmas Story by Jean Shepherd is a collection of the essays that were the original basis for his screenplay A Christmas Story. A nice treat for fans of the movie. $1.99 for Nook and Kindle.
Audiobooks: This isn’t Christmas-y — unless you embrace the tradition of ghost stories at Christmas — but M. R. James’ classic story, “Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come To You, My Lad”, read by David Suchet, is free from Audible.com right now. (Not sure if you need an Audible account to get this. Some freebies are accessible to all and some are not.)