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.

Mother Christmas: Coming in 2022!

In the spirit of the season, I would like to announce that I have a new book coming out this year!

Image of a woman with wild, flowing hair in a winter landscape. She is carrying a bag filled with toys and has what look like glowing horns on her head. Her warm, winter cloak is a brilliant blue and covered with stars and she holds a drum in her hand that is adorned with an image of the sun.

This project is what I’ve been putting much of my time and energy into for the past year, but the story has been living in my head and heart for much longer, beginning in 2004 with a trip to Turkey to do research. Almost 18 years later, I finally get to share the characters and their story with you!

A little background:

For those who follow the Julian calendar, today (January 7th) is Christmas. I’ve written about the Ukrainian celebration of the holiday and its traditions in previous blog posts about Sviat Vechir and the twelve symbolic dishes.

Sviat Vechir/Christmas Eve is one of my favorite holy days, centered around family and ritual and food. In my home today, we celebrate several different winter holidays. Growing up, it was “American” Christmas on December 25th and “Ukrainian” Christmas on January 7th. As an adult, my blended family also celebrates the Winter Solstice, as well as Hanukkah.

I love all of it: preparing the twelve traditional dishes, honoring the ancestors with their place setting at the table. Our white tree adorned with its collection of ornaments, the living room transformed by multi-colored lights in the window. Household altars dressed for the season. Eight nights of candles until the menorah is fully illuminated. What a blessing to have several days to celebrate this time of yearthe magic of light in the peace of winter’s darkness.

My love of the holiday and this magical time of year are the inspiration for Mother Christmas. I am so excited to be creating this graphic novel for Rosarium Publishing along with the brilliant Brazilian artist, Victória Terra. What’s it about?

MOTHER CHRISTMAS, VOL. 1: THE MUSE
By Valya Dudycz Lupescu and Victória Terra

It’s the one story of magic and wonder everyone thinks they know—yet the most epic part of the tale remains shrouded in mystery. What actually happened 1,700 years ago to transform a starry-eyed young priest named Nicholas into a winter wizard who circles the globe on a sleigh of hope? Now, the secret is revealed: SHE happened. She is Amara, an immortal Muse with a rebellious streak, trying hard to inspire dreamers in a world full of broken humans, invisible guardians, and ravenous Kobaloi, creatures who feed on fear and chaos. In Nicholas, Amara thinks she has finally found a partner to help light the earth through times of darkness. But binding her fate and her magic to Saint Nick will mean breaking the laws of the Muses themselves—and risking their eternal wrath…

Mother Christmas recasts the myth of Santa Claus as the epic fantasy saga it has always deserved to be. In the first volume of this exciting new graphic novel series that spans centuries, author Valya Dudycz Lupescu (of The Silence of Trees and Geek Parenting) weaves a tapestry of mythic fantasy through the actual historical truth of Saint Nicholas, creating a lush world of supernatural adventure that’s brought to life by the stunning comic debut of Brazilian artist Victória Terra.

This will be the first of three volumes whose story spans two millennia. Volume 1: The Muse will be released at the end of 2022.

We watched a movie at home last month, The Man Who Invented Christmas, a fictionalized account of Charles Dickens writing A Christmas Carol. What I enjoyed about the movie was the way they portrayed Dickens’s process, because it’s pretty close to what it feels like for me when I writethe characters inhabit my imagination and my life in a very real way. I’ve been living with Nicholas, Flavia, Amara, Brother Theo, the Muses and Guardians all this time; and to see them appear on the page by Victória’s skilled hand is such a thrill.

We can’t wait to share Mother Christmas with you. I’ll be providing more information and teasers as we get closer to publication. Until then, I wish you warmth and safety, health and peace. 

The Mail Goblins in Winter

I’ve written before about how much I love getting mail and adore hand-written letters. Because of this, I’ve always paid particular attention to mail that arrives damaged, and when I was a girl I concocted an elaborate story in my head about the goblinny creatures who live in the post office and delight in damaging packages and letters. (Come to think about it, THAT’S what the Box Trolls reminded me off).

My most recent crop of mail seems to have been handled by a particularly exuberant gaggle of mail goblins–even taking what look like bites out of my New Yorker​ cover. Why today? Why this crop of cards and letters?

Problem with being a writer is that now my imagination is concocting the story, even though I’m just trying to drink my coffee and pay bills. 🙂

May the mail goblins skip your house this holiday season.

Photo on 12-23-15 at 10.21 AM #2