Reviews For Winter's Light
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Reviewer: SandraDee Signed [Report This]
Date: 19 Jan 2009 11:04:56 PM Title: Christmas Day

Penny, you do such a good job with making the characters so real. 

I read through this chapter a couple of times, and both times, I got a lump in my throat with the beginning--Stanley's Christmas morning memories and the new memories he is making with Mimi.  The loss of Bonnie is so palpable, and I feel it all the more through the details you provide of their past.  When I think of what Stanley has been through, my heart just breaks for him.

On a lighter note, I enjoyed the preparations for the Christmas party, the treasured chocolate, the pilfering of crayons from the church (overabundance of yellow not withstanding).  Naturally, the relationship between Jake and Heather was interesting to me, that they fall into an easy rapport when they are on the road with Hawkins but don't particularly spend much time together while in Jericho.  The mention of Jake being aware that he is constantly watched made me wonder if that had anything to do with it and maybe he feels like he has to put on a certain appearance.  Yet their situation also rings true.  I've had friendships in the past similar to what Jake and Heather have going on here.

The transmission had me absolutely riveted, as it did the occupants of Bailey's.  It must almost seem like a disembodied voice coming to them.  They have been cut off for so long, fending for themselves, fighting their own battles (literally), the address from the president must be disconcerting.  I imagine it would raise all kinds of questions in their minds, this message of hope. 

As always, you leave me wanting more.  Thank you for sharing your story with us.

Author's Response:

Thank you!

I'm really fond of so many of the Jericho characters so I loved having a chance to write about a bunch of them in this story.

I find Stanley and Mimi's relationship especially fascinating and touching, so I really wanted to explore the sense of loss and hope they'd feel on this difficult Christmas. This was the first scene I wrote for this story, and so it kind of set the mood for everything else I wrote after.

I had fun writing about the Christmas party, pilfered crayons (inspired by the yellow-heavy crayon buckets of my childhood Sunday School), and the chocolate (that I think changed hands five times). I guess it's the little things sometimes, that can have meaning to us in these times. Heather and Jake are in an awkward, somewhat transitional phase of their friendship, and I don't think either has exactly figured it out yet.

The transmission was a challenge for me to write, but I really wanted to remind the characters of the outside world, and the outside problems they have to face. You're very right about how they will take this message, coming from this power that seems to have no affect on their daily lives.

Thanks for reading and commenting!

Reviewer: SandraDee Signed [Report This]
Date: 19 Jan 2009 3:32:41 PM Title: Christmas Eve

What a lovely beginning, Penny.  This story strikes me as wistful.   Perhaps its beginning with Allison Hawkins longing for something as ordinary as her ice skates--long since obliterated--which is in essence a longing for life as she once knew it that, grabbed me.  Then there are the townspeople, carrying on the best way they can to make Christmas a special occassion in a post-Apocalyptic world with fewer resources and a greater appreciation for what they do have. 

Little Hailey, a child who has obviously been through a great deal more than any little one should have to, really struck me.  I enjoyed how Skylar, once a character that I considered so inane, tried to relate with her through the snow angel.

Things have changed, indeed, as seen from Sean Henthorn being a (gasp) contributing member of the community. 

Yet an interesting contrast to the wistfulness of this installment is the good cheer of the Taylor household and how, despite the weight that seems to be on everyone's shoulders, they manage to find joy even in adversity.  What a perfect Santa Jimmy would make!  I wonder who will take his place now that his back is out.

I'm off to read more!

Author's Response:

Thanks Sandra!

I definitely wanted to hit a few notes with this holiday story, and I wanted it to be hopeful but realistic. I was especially interested in how people would try to celebrate, and keep going, through holidays during such difficult times. I think it's something that happens to most of us at some point, having to do holidays differently when things in our lives change, sometimes for the worse, and figure out how to remain hopeful, and of course, the people of Jericho are experiencing that challenge on a much grander scale. But I think because they've lost so much, as you said, they have a much greater understanding and appreciation for the important things that they do still have.

I liked writing a Sean who grew, from the 'vibe' guy we once knew, and I really enjoy writing Skylar. I think she's a great dynamic character.

Poor Jimmy was really looking forward to playing Santa and spreading his good cheer around. I guess he'll get to do it the next year.

Thanks for reading and commenting!

Reviewer: Marzee Doats Signed [Report This]
Date: 11 Jan 2009 1:07:52 PM Title: Christmas Day

Ah, Penny!  This was a lovely conclusion to this story.  And such a nice, long read. :-)

To start, I must say that I really enjoyed Stanley's trip down memory lane.  It was strangely soothing to read about Christmas past with the orphaned Bonnie and Stanley, and how they both worked so hard to play Santa for one another.  Like Gail, I'm quite proud of Stanley for wearing the hat.  Mimi doing chores was a pretty nice Christmas present, too!  I'm rather struck by the change in her, here, more than usual.  It really expresses how much she loves Stanley that she would get up early AND go feed chicken and milk cows so he could keep sleeping.

I get the feeling that this particular Christmas is a "between" Christmas for them; they'll never have another like it.  They've lost Bonnie and they haven't started their family...yet.  But they're thinking about it, if I'm reading the allusions right. :-) 

"You know, Mimi," he said as they broke apart. She raised her eyebrows. "You're right, we will have other mornings."

She nodded.

"But they might not be as quiet as this one. I don't think I'll get away with forgetting Santa."

She smiled. She shifted, swinging a leg over his lap and putting her hands around his neck as she leaned her face towards his. "Better enjoy this one while we can, then."

 I'm reading that as a hope for Richmond-lings, and sooner rather than later!

Next, I just have to say, go Dale and Skylar!  I love the description of their snow people, and I'm glad Dale was willing to make snow angels with her.  It's great to read about Dale/Skylar as a currently existent couple rather than as having (somehow) crash and burned.  Don't take that as a slam - it's totally not meant to be - but having read The Carol and Once Removed most recently, it's a nice change to have them together, and stronger for it.  I love the way you write them throughout this story and the party at Bailey's.  They work together, and it's good to see that.   I'm glad, too, that they were able to give Russell a little relief as he watched Hailey be excited by something - anything - for once.

I loved Heather's entrance with this line.

"I was right, they had them in the church! Thank God for over-stocked Sunday schools!" she said excitedly. "A lot of them are stubs, and there are a lot of yellow ones for some reason, but they'll still be good for colouring."


It's so true!  Sunday School crayon bins are always full of stubs and there's always extra yellow (and orange).  And all the crayons are naked.  I'm glad that they found some crayons for those water safety coloring books, though, and the kids will get to be kids for a bit at the party at least.

I was intrigued by the more serious Sean Henthorn who was on guard duty in Chapter 1, and what you've written about him here in Chapter 2 gives him a depth I never imagined he could have.  But, he was still Sean of "the internet will save us" mindset.  His interaction with Mimi was so sweet, but still Sean.  I love that he ordered the other guy to give up his seat for her.  Their loss is the same person, but not the same; still, there are only the 3 of them (Stanley, Mimi and Sean) who feel Bonnie's loss so keenly.  It's good to see that they worry about one another.

Going into the president's radio message from there was interesting.  The contact with the outside world is so spotty, and the president in Columbus - technically - is not their president.  It must be like being in German-occupied France and getting a broadcast from the Allied Forces urging the population to keep heart.  The speech was well-written, and I think really spoke to the times as I imagine them.  I thought this part perfectly illustrated those times.

"Some of you listening to this are living in occupied territories. Some of you are living under the threat of attack from Cheyenne's army. Some of you are on your own entirely. It is a cold winter, an unfriendly sky, and a dark night."
"I ask you today, my friends, to fear not. Though it is dark and cold, fear not. This is the darkest time of year, and yet it is the time for hope. Hope, because even when everything seems lost, the smallest things can start great change. Because when it seems we're almost at the end of our strength, we find parts of ourselves that we never knew existed. The smallest light in the darkness can spark a fire."

 I'm so glad you put it in, and I hope that the people of Jericho did find some solace in the words of encouragement.

I enjoyed the method you used here, moving from head to head around the room and people interacted with one another.  That's a great way to write a party scene!  This peek into Bill's head was so interesting, and expressed so well.  We don't usually see Bill as much of a thinker, but I'm glad you gave him his moment of depth (though, I'm sure I will keep abusing him).

Bill folded his arms. It was the same as always, really. Life since the bombs at least. It always seemed to follow a pattern. Low times, high times, and a lot of monotonous worry in between. And the simplest thing could bring on any of the three. One gun, one snowfall, one speech.

"Want a square?" she asked.

"What? No, that's yours," answered Mary.

Mimi shrugged, popping the square into her mouth. "I know where he got it," she said, her mouth full of chocolate. Both friends looked over to the Santa in the corner.

Mary smiled, not looking directly at Mimi. She hadn't been sure if Santa was even a good idea, until she'd seen him with the kids. Though he had nothing to offer them besides colouring books, the little guests at the party had seemed happy to play games with him, and even take turns sitting on his lap, though what they were whispering to him was anyone's guess.

"Nice work," continued Mimi. "And, since it's for a good cause and he seems to be having fun, I won't even hold the bribery against you."

Mary raised her eyebrows at Mimi. "Bribery?"

Mimi held up her chocolate bar. "Sure you don't want a piece? If you don't speak now I'll eat it all myself. I've been having this horrible chocolate craving all week, ever since I started thinking about those truffles my mom used to make -"

Mary shook her head as she interrupted. "Mimi, he didn't do it for the chocolate. I gave it to him anyway."

"What?" asked Mimi, another square of chocolate half raised to her mouth.

"I gave him the chocolate, and said he didn't have to play Santa, and he said he'd do it."

A softer look came over Mimi's face. "Really?"

Mary nodded silently and they both watched Stanley, in the red suit and fake beard, finish talking to Laura and Jamie Carmichael as their parents got them ready to go out in the cold.

"I didn't want to ask him, I didn't know if it was a good idea. But he said he wanted to. And the kids seemed to love him," whispered Mary.

Okay, I realize it's a giant quote, but I couldn't figure out anything to cut.  This part left my heart pounding, but in a good way.  I LOVE how your Mimi and Stanley worry about one another and care for one another.  And, I love that Mary takes the time to explain everything to Mimi.  She needed to hear it, as I think it gives her desperately needed hope that they will, eventually, heal well enough to continue their lives in happiness, though of course Bonnie will always be missed and mourned.  But the wound can scab over at least. 

Also - since I didn't mention it earlier - I enjoyed your Gail and Mary moment.  They have a lot of "stuff" between them, but I'm glad that they're both trying to reach some kind of accord.

Finally, I loved the end.  Heather joining her former students in pelting Dale and Skylar with snowballs was just too funny.  I'm intrigued by her involvement in Jake's and Hawkins' activities, and I hope that we eventually learn more about this particular aspect of your universe.  Plus, did I see a glimmer of Jake/Heather re-starting here? ;-)  I always enjoy a good Jake/Heather moment, so I for one thank you for ending with one that is full of such potential.

Author's Response:

Thank you!

The Richmonds' Christmas morning scene was the first I wrote for this whole story, so my jumping off point, I suppose. It's definitely a painful Christmas for them, but also a hopeful one. I will say you are fairly accurate with some of your guesses about their future. And you are right, they will never have another Christmas quite like this one.

I did enjoy giving Dale and Skylar a positive storyline together in this one. I do think they're a great pair to explore, with an interesting dynamic. It was especially fun to write them in a Christmas story, at a time when they might let their playful sides out a bit more than the rest of the year.

I'm glad serious Sean worked for you. I think the Sean of this story was affected by the death of his first love (or one of his first serious loves), and he has a great deal of respect for the Richmonds, especially Mimi, perhaps more than they realize. I'm also glad serious Bill worked for you too. Another unexplored territory I enjoyed working with in this story!

The speech from Columbus was a challenge for me to write, and I wanted it to play a few different notes. Hopeful, since it is news from the outside, and strange, since it is so removed from the day to day survival of our favourite townspeople. I'm glad you enjoyed Gail and Mary's moment as I enjoyed writing it. I liked exploring how these various characters with such different relationships and dynamics would be trying to help each other through this somewhat difficult Christmas.

Your long quote was one of my favourite scenes to write in this story. I wanted to give Stanley and Mimi that hope, despite all the hardships they've had to face in the year before this Christmas. And I think they will be okay, since you're right, they do care for one another so much. I'm glad the end worked for you, especially since you're such a Jake/Heather fan. And you may just be right about that glimmer.

Thanks again for taking time to read and for all your wonderful comments!

Reviewer: Marzee Doats Signed [Report This]
Date: 24 Dec 2008 6:11:10 PM Title: Christmas Eve

Oh, Penny, I love this, and can't wait to see even more of Jericho's 2nd post bombs Christmas!  I love the moving from person to person and place to place.  :-)  A few of the highlights were:

Stanley picking between a tea towel and a screwdriver for Mimi's present.  Stanley does strike me as the type to put off his shopping 'til Christmas Eve, and I'm sure the bombs didn't change that!

Skylar making her snow angel and encouraging Hailey to do the same.  I felt so bad for Hailey, the (I imagine) traumatized child from New Bern.  Your Russell seems stuck somewhere between the friendly guy we first met in Season One and the beaten down, almost feral man we encountered in Season Two, and I think you got it just right.  But, oh, I do feel for his little girl. 

Allison's reverie as she looks at the river and leads the Hawkins/Taylor offspring's expedition to hunt for a tree.  I just love how you get into her head, and I was quite glad to see the closeness of the two families - such improbable friends - is growing.  There Christmas Eve together was just wonderful.

And, Skylar again, this time with Dale.  I find your Dale more nuanced than the one we saw on the show.  Your Dale carries the burdens of his responsibilities and they still make him kind of old and crotchety before his time, but he isn't quite the jerk he was on the show.  (The benefits of unlimited time to spend with a character in fanfic!)  But with your Dale, I can see the influence of Skylar's presence in his life.  He definitely needs her, and I do so hope he follows her into that snow on the lawn!

This was a lovely treat for Christmas Eve.  Thanks for sharing!

Author's Response:

Thanks, Marzee!

This was a lot of fun to write. I love exploring the many characters of Jericho, and their interactions with each other, so it was a great chance to include a bunch of them together in this story.

Stanley definitely put off his Christmas present shopping, and I think was even more reluctant to do it this year. I always found Russell, the only really sympathetic face of New Bern we are ever presented with, to be very interesting, and liked being able to include him here.

I enjoyed writing the Hawkins/Taylor celebration, since this was a friendship between families we heard about but didn't see usually, and one I haven't really explored before. I think they're a great seemingly mismatched set of friends.

I love writing Skylar and Dale, with all the contradictions inherent in them since they're orphans, essentially, having to grow up before their time, and young people in an adult world they're not quite prepared for. And Dale was my first character I ever explored, in a Christmas story, so it was fun revisiting him here. And letting him have a more fun Christmas this year, with Skylar by his side and a bit more hope.

Thanks for reading and commenting!

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