Why Mother Christmas?

In September/October of 2022, my new graphic novel, Mother Christmas, Volume 1: The Muse, will be released by Rosarium Publishing. It is a love letter to the winter holidays and the hope that they celebrate and inspire. Light in the darkness. Hope in times of uncertainty.

Now, more than ever, I wanted to write a story that celebrates hope. We live in difficult times, and fear is ever-present in many people’s lives all around the world: fear of the pandemic, violence, war, loss of basic rights and freedoms, fear of global warning and a collapse of so many things we have grown accustomed to. Fear of change, fear of difference, fear of being passed by, fear of being misunderstood, fear of being judged, fear of being forgotten. There’s a lot of fear.

The story of Mother Christmas is largely a story about fear and hope. In Volume 1, you meet the Kobaloi who literally feed off fear. You also meet the Muses, whose job it is to inspire.

How does this all come together for Christmas? Set around the Winter Solstice, so many of the holidays of this season recognize the primal fear of darkness and the unknown. Our ancestors worried that as days got shorter, the sun may never come back. Now, we have so much science and technology on our side, and yet we still do not know what the future holds or if we can survive what is happening all around us.

So we look around for the hope. We listen to stories that comfort and inspire us, that challenge us to do better and show us ways to try. What better way to look at hope than by looking at some of the archetypes that we hold dear, like Santa Claus?

Mother Christmas attempts to answer a question that first occurred to me back in 2003: “What is Mrs. Claus’s story?”

Most of my story ideas begin with a question. This question led to more: Where did she come from? When and why did she come on the scene? What exactly is their relationship?

Which led to still more questions: Why are they living such a long life? What’s the deal with the presents? Where does the magic come from?

I began digging into the biography and lore of St. Nicholas. We were living in Frankfurt, Germany at the time, so we were able to plan a trip to Turkey. With my baby strapped to me, we explored the cities of what had been Lycia the land where the historical Nicholas lived: Patara, Myra, and the surrounding areas.

That trip is a story all on its own (for another blog post). It allowed me to visit for myself the wonderful places that have come to feature prominently in the story of Mother Christmas.

When Nicholas was alive, the Roman Empire was populated by people practicing many different faiths. It’s at the intersection of those spiritual practices where our story begins.

I started writing that story 17 years ago but didn’t finish it until last year, when I began to work on it as a graphic novel, illustrated by Victória Terra, for Rosarium Publishing.

This month I wrapped up the script for our first volume, and Victória is finishing up the art. We are so excited to share this world with you, and what a world it is! All the images in this blog post are from the first of the three volumes story.

Volume 1: The Muse introduces us to Amara, and she’s probably not what you expect Santa’s eventual partner to be.

Amara is one of the Muses, from the House of Polyhymnia. She is assigned to Nicholas’s sister, Flavia, to inspire her in her life’s purpose.

In Volume 1, you get to meet some of the other Muses.

You also get introduced to the Kobaloi, creatures that feed on fear.

A glimpse from a children’s book for Muses:

This is just Volume 1. In the remaining two volumes will follow Nicholas and Amara all over this world and through other realms, from Turkey to Iceland to Germany to the UK to America and more. Eventually you’ll learn more about some of those longstanding questions about St. Nick: Elves? Flying Reindeer? Presents? Krampus? You’ll also meet some of the other historical and mythic figures who have played a part in shaping up the winter holidays we have today.

In Volume 1, we watch the relationship develop between Amara and Flavia and Nicholas, as well as Amara’s struggles as she tried to figure out what being a Muse means to her and how she can best use her abilities to help humanity.

By her side (most of the time) is the Guardian assigned to watch over and help protect Flavia from birth until death.

Then there are the others who seem to be helping the Kobaloi to cultivate fear and sabotage the work that Muses and Guardians and other are doing to help humanity.

I’m excited to share these glimpses of what’s to come. Mother Christmas is already available for pre-order online, and I’ll post more information as it becomes available.

There will be a launch party or two, and signings around the country (hopefully just in time for the Winter Holidays).

We’re going to try and do some fun promotions around this, so stay tuned, and please get in touch if you have ideas or questions about bringing Mother Christmas to your town.

New poem in Rust + Moth: “Ми тут (We are here)”

One of my poems, “Ми тут (We are here)” written in response to the war in Ukraine, has been published on Rust + Moth.
I am grateful to the editors for choosing it for the Summer 2022 issue, and I am happy to be able to share it with you.
Screenshot of the published poem”Ми тут” in Rust + Moth.

You can find all the poems in the Summer issue here.

Print copies will be available soon. I’ll update this page with a link.

My Father Taught Me About Hope

It is my father, Walter Dudycz’s birthday today. These past few weeks I have been thinking about a lot about what he taught me about hope. (In Ukrainian the word is надія….also my sister’s name.) I can see how hope shaped my father’s life, and his example of hope has shaped who I am.

When I was a teenager, I thought that I was just an optimist; but the older I got, the more I realized that was not true. Optimism is not the same as hope. Optimists expect good things to happen.

I’m actually not an optimist. What I am is hopeful. I was taught by my father that hope is the belief that when the bad things happen, you can work together to overcome those things.

That idea and all its parts have shaped everything for me:
It implies awareness that bad things that have happened and will happen.
It calls out that hope requires action.
It also implies that hope can be shared. Hope in community is powerful.
And at its heart, hope is a belief. For my father and for me, belief implies the mystery of something greater than us in the Universe. That belief means that hope and prayer are interconnected.

From my father, I also learned:
We need to keep practicing hope, or we can lose it. The more we use it, the stronger it becomes.
The memory of hope can help us to rediscover it.
Hope is a tool. We take it, and we do things with it. We need hope to make changes in the world.
Sometimes those changes take a long time. Hope can come in tiny steps.
Stories and songs about hope help it to grow and spread.
When we share hope, it gets stronger.

I thought about this when I was at one of the rallies in support of Ukraine last weekend. I saw that hope in my father’s eyes, and on the faces of the people around us holding signs and chanting, as well those passersby who honked and waved.

Someone asked me why we go to rallies, what good does it do? I think I have a better answer for them now after thinking about it.

The answer is hope.

Happy Birthday, Tato

(Photo by 8 Eyes Photography)