• TT Linse

Christmas Chat with TT LINSE & Hazel Dains

Are you ready for Christmas?! Recently, fellow sci-fi author Hazel Dains and I sat down for a virtual chat. We talked about the upcoming Christmas season, our family's Christmas traditions, and what we love to bake or cook. We also talk about the short stories that we wrote for the Space-y Christmas short-fiction challenge. It was so much fun! I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!





Watch the video here.





HAZEL DAINS

Hello, everyone. Hi. Hi, I'm Hazel Danes.


TT LINSE

Hi, I'm Tamara or TT LINSE.


HAZEL DAINS

And we're gonna chat about Christmas and what we think about Christmas. So we're gonna go back and forth and ask each other some questions. So I'm going to go first. Tamara, what do you think about Christmas? Like, what comes to mind when you think about Christmas?


TT LINSE

Well, the first thing that comes to mind is, I was raised on a ranch. So I mean, I have lots of memories of Christmas. We would go out and get a Christmas tree every year. And we would alternate between a pine tree and a cedar tree because pine trees were my dad's favorite and cedar trees were my mom's favorite. Plus the cedar [trees] smelled really good, you know? And so we would go out and we lived right next to a mountain in a valley. And so we would walk up the valley and find a tree or we would driveway up into the mountains and find a good tree.



And that seems like it would be a good memory. But the reason why I remember those things is because I was always cold. So I was like a little five-year-old, like trailing along behind. But uh, but that was fun. And, and let me see, I was, I was thinking. So to be honest, I'm a little bit ambivalent about Christmas, because it is about family. And you know how families are! There are wonderful things about family. Like, you know, having kids around and stuff is so great. But then there are parts about family that are just really challenging. And so, to be honest, Christmas is wonderful. And you know, there are parts that are not so wonderful. How about you?


HAZEL DAINS

Yeah, I could I could share in that sentiment. I think that for me right now, Christmas is fun and exciting. I have small children. So my focus is on how they see Christmas and how I want them to see Christmas. And it's easier to ignore the adult squabbling when you have little children that you're like, well, they're happy. So we should all be happy, right?


TT LINSE

Oh, you can see the world through their eyes. And it's so amazing.


HAZEL DAINS

Yeah, exactly. So let's see. When I think of Christmas, I think of fireplaces and something hot to drink. I pretty much just like anything hot to drink. Like I like tea and coffee. I like hot chocolate. I like hot Apple Cider, anything at all that's hot. I will I will have it. And I like baking. So I think about spending at least one-day baking. And then. Yeah, like it's all about food and decorating. And, and I like Christmas carols. So like, Yeah, I'm a very Christmassy person.


TT LINSE

Very nice. I have a sister who loved Christmas. In fact, she would keep her Christmas tree up all year round. And her house always looked like Christmas just threw up all over it.


HAZEL DAINS

Yeah, just wonderful. That's what someone used to say [about my decorating]. When we were young, we had roommates in our house to help pay the mortgage. And one of the roommates said that I threw up Christmas all over. Yes, I tend to do that.


TT LINSE

Okay. Next question. Um, tell me about one or two of your family Christmas traditions.


HAZEL DAINS

So I remember when I was a kid, we used to do the Santa Claus parade. Okay, like most towns have a Santa Claus parade, I would think. I don't know if that can't be just a Canadian thing? No? I remember we lived like, it had to be an hour away from wherever the parade was. Maybe it wasn't but it seemed really far. Right? I remember it didn't really matter. We were okay with that. Because it was just exciting. My dad would pull us in a sleigh we'd have all our snow gear on and it was like an entire day of being out and getting candy; getting hot chocolate or whatever. And then my town also they do, the festival of Northern Lights, but it's not quite as like exciting as the actual Northern Lights are but there's like this, this big river that runs through my town and they set up these lit up lights like characters, like snowmen and reindeer, like it's just all over the city. So you just go through this path of lit-up stuff.




And it's great for kids. Adults, you're like, 'huh, I don't know.' But, it's a thing you have to do with your kids, at least once a year. I think we took Zach like, four times last winter or something. So I remember doing that. And it was really fun.


TT LINSE

Oh my gosh, so in our family, Santa would come on Christmas Eve, not Christmas day. The ranch was my family and my uncle's family who were partners on the ranch. And so we would go up to their house for an hour and exchange gifts and do that sort of thing. And then we would come back to our house. And by the time we got back to our house, Santa would have come. And it was so exciting because all the gifts would be there. And then we would open our gifts. And it was very exciting. My husband's family, however, does not open presents on Christmas morning. And so we sort of compromise between the two of us. We open the smaller gifts, all the gifts around the tree on Christmas Eve and then Christmas morning. Santa has come with usually a big gift. And then the stocking is always stuffed with candy and small gifts and things like that. So those traditions are great. The tradition that I really love. Now that I'm an adult, and in this job, I get two weeks off for Christmas. And I don't usually take a long time off from work. But that two weeks I get a whole bunch of writing done. It is so great. That's kind of my own personal tradition.


HAZEL DAINS

Yeah, my husband gets at least two weeks because he works in the trades. So like, they just give him two full weeks off and it's great. Okay, so what is your favorite thing to cook or bake at Christmas time?


TT LINSE

Oh my gosh, I love to cook. I cook all year! I mean, I just love to cook. I always feel bad for people who have to cook who don't like to cook, because it's a creative outlet for me. I remember one year, my daughter, I have twins and they're both fifteen [obviously,] and my daughter got me a cookbook of Italian pasta. And [the author is] an Italian chef out of Italy, it's called Shapes and Sauces. It's a great book. But anyway, that year, we had some bluegrass in the freezer. And so I made homemade linguini that turned out absolutely, just you know, kind of toothy. A little bit firm, but was really nice. And then I made Blue Grouse Ragu that cooked all day on the stove, and it was very rich and warm. And, that's one of the things I love about Christmas. We do the Christmas dinner, which is always the same every year. We do turkey for American Thanksgiving, and then we do roast beef for Christmas. And then we have the same dishes every year. But then surrounding that in the two weeks around that I just basically go crazy and cook all kinds of things. So how about you? What is your favorite cooking?


HAZEL DAINS

It's kind of hard to decide because I like cooking [too]. Yeah, so it's not just a Christmas thing to cook. Like my husband and I, both are foodies. We like our food. So something I learned to cook last year was a medieval pie. And so it's like I've done mincemeat pies before and I personally liked them, but some other people don't. So I'm like, is it worth it? I don't know. But so this pie was savory and it's like this thick [gesturing a two-inch thickness]. I don't even remember how I made the crust, but it was like some odd way that I've never done and then yeah, you stuffed it with like, bits of meat and like cinnamon and nutmeg and like sage and like these combinations that we don't use very much anymore. And I thought it was amazing. I love meat pies. I can eat meat pies all the time. Or soups, love a good soup. I think this year we're gonna make French beef stew. I don't know what it actually is called, but it's got red wine and balsamic vinegar and that's the key to the taste and it's so good.



TT LINSE

We have a recipe that we use for that. But we often make it with elk if we get an elk. So is there any- I have to follow up on that! Are there any weird dishes that just your family makes?


HAZEL DAINS

Um, that's a good question. I mean, I think I've come up with a few weird ones. Weird as in, they're known but people don't generally make them- like Yorkshire pudding. I love making Yorkshire pudding. People [in Canada] don't make that anymore. So I started making that last year. I think I went into this English cooking binge or something. I'm addicted to Yorkshire pudding. Now I need to make it all the time. And what else? We used to make sushi.


TT LINSE

We have a recipe. Remember those '60s recipes that you could get it? They often involve jello, that you could get out of magazines. I think this is where the recipe came from. But it's shrimp salad and it's just peculiar to our family. And it is nothing more than Iceberg lettuce chopped up, a can or two of canned shrimp [those little shrimps], and Miracle Whip. That's all it is. And it sounds weird, but it's like a family tradition. And then in my partner's family; one of the brothers-in-law had this recipe for Malone beans. And it was like this secret family recipe that went way back you know, and it was funny because when my sister-in-law and he were first married, he was talking about this great recipe, you know, and how it's got green beans and cream of mushroom soup and like these deep-fried onions and, and she was like, 'everybody has that! That's green bean casserole!' So we always have Malone beans as well. Yeah. I don't remember whose turn it is.



HAZEL DAINS

I can just go. Okay, so can you tell the viewers about a gift that you got for your kids in the past? That you were excited for them to open it?


TT LINSE

Well, you know, what jumps to mind is actually not a Christmas gift. So one Christmas I got my kids when they were about five or six, I got her this huge dollhouse [for her]. It was like all these things. I think Santa sorry, Santa. Santa got this huge dollhouse with all these different things and you know, very expensive, and got my son a dragon castle that had was like a lego dragon Castle, which was very expensive once again, but it had all these pieces and dragons and stuff. And I just thought it was the coolest thing. And they never played with either of them. So I was excited about that one. But the present that they really liked was when they got a little older before they had cell phones. I got them those knockoff iPods. They're not actually iPods. But they're just, you know, the cheap version. And I went and I got a whole bunch of songs. And it was so fun to go and find those songs like, I don't remember if you ever saw the album called goofy greats that are all the silly songs in the '60s like itsy bitsy, teeny, weeny, yellow polka dot bikini and George of the Jungle, all those silly songs. So I put those on there, plus some contemporary songs and stuff like that. And I loved it. And they loved it. They were going on a trip at that time. And they just listened to it the whole time there and back and it was good. How about you?


HAZEL DAINS

Um, well, there hasn't been too many years of Christmas' yet as a parent where my son understood Christmas. I think last year was really the first time and so last year he was three and even then it was like, um, I think you get that you get some presents. But not much else. But this year, he totally knows what's happening and why and he's learning how to get other people presents and not just, you know, think about himself in his presents. So he loves dinosaurs. He's like into dinosaurs right now. So we got him a dinosaur Lego set. I mean, how could he not like that? And then we got her, [she's, she's not even two] these tiny, tiny little like mouse doll things. And then you can get like a cottage for them. So like, throughout the family we're all getting like these accessories to create like a little, little mouse land for her and it's gonna be like, completely adorable. She just loves like, anything that's an animal is a kitty. So she'll just call it a kitty.


TT LINSE

I just love it because it gives you an excuse as a parent to go relive your childhood. You know, you're like, that is so cool. And if they don't like it-


HAZEL DAINS

Yeah, yeah, I don't know. Like, I feel slightly lost with a girl still where I'm like- I just know exactly what the boy wants and likes. And she's too small to tell me what she actually likes right now. But I don't know.


TT LINSE

Well, and I had the same problem. I don't know why it was easier to buy boys' toys than it was girls' toys. But now, my daughter is an artist and she loves art stuff. So it's easy to buy for [her] now because you just get anything art-related. And she just loves it.


HAZEL DAINS

Yeah, that helps. When they get older, and you can see what they really like instead of just, they like stuffed animals because every child likes them.


TT LINSE

Exactly, yeah. So Alright. Alright. So if you are going to tell a short story about Christmas in Space, what would it be? Give us a snapshot of the plot, characters, timeframe, et cetera?


HAZEL DAINS

Whoo. That's a big question. So I actually did write one-


TT LINSE

Did oh, so are we telling the full story? Are we just giving a teaser?


HAZEL DAINS

I think definitely a teaser. Because then I mean, they have to read it. Right?


TT LINSE

Yes. Tell them about why. Why Christmas stories in Space? Tell them what we've been up to?


HAZEL DAINS

Well, okay, so we thought of something fun, in a contest form where we can get some stories from other people and not just be writing them ourselves. Right? So we're participating, but we also thought, like, we're both authors, [we] both love writing. What would Christmas in Space look like? And that's not really something that's touched upon a lot. So we thought, let's go there and figure out some stories and hear from other people. So yeah, the contest, I think it's almost closing, but be sure to send us your submissions if you have any Christmas in space stories. Submit here.





So, let's start with your story. Give us a teaser.


TT LINSE

Okay. Well, you know, I was, first of all, I was thinking of the Christmas Truce of 1914. But I was like, oh, gosh, I don't write military, sci-fi, and second of all, I don't know if I could, I mean, write a story like that. I didn't know if I was emotionally prepared for it. And then I came up with another idea, which I'm glad I don't have to tell the ending because I always tear up when I start telling the ending. I was telling my daughter the ending of the story this morning. So it's called "Starlight Barking."





And it's about a little boy who lives on a space station. It's 150 years in the future, [in the year] 2163. And the rich people now live on Earth. They've preserved a bunch of vast parts of Earth through nature, and all that kind of stuff. So we have, you know, places to grow things. And so the poor people live in space. The International Space Station, it's grown into a huge city that sort of encompasses the whole planet, but on the edges are the poor people. And so they live in these ramshackle hubs that are sort of loosely connected. You can fly in spaceships, spacesuits between them or they have little rickety walkways that you can sort of pull yourself along to get to the different halves. The little boy is named Show, and he wants more than anything, a puppy for Christmas. He's got a big rambling family as well that lives in this hab and they are Junkers. So they go around, and they collect space junk, and that's how they make their living. And so he wants to be a biologist when he grows up, and in the meantime, he wants a puppy. And so he does everything he can to try and get a puppy. He talks to his dad and his dad says, 'Ask your mom.' Then he talks to his mom and his mom says, 'Ask Santa, put it on your Christmas list.' And he talks to his grandpa and his grandpa says, 'You should start your own business and save up the money so you can buy a puppy.' And so he goes around to all his family members, and Christmas is getting closer, and they're doing all the Christmas things. And then you have to find out whether he gets a puppy or not.


HAZEL DAINS

Cute. That's cute!


TT LINSE

All right, what about you?


HAZEL DAINS

Um, mine is called "Christmas Invasion." Okay, let me just tease this in a way. Literally, I just sat here in my office and thought of a story. One minute, I have no idea and the next I had this. It wasn't very detailed in my head. So there's this boy who is a preteen, I'm thinking like 13 to 15, something like that. And he's an orphan. And he lives in his parent's house on some sort of Moon, which is an unidentified moon of some kind somewhere. So he's not on Earth anyway. He actually doesn't know anything about Christmas. It's so far in the future and so far gone from Earth-culture. That is, they don't know what it is anymore. So in the beginning, it's not a thing. But of course, it is [set] around Christmas time. And the colony is in a state of evacuation because they're imminently going to be invaded by some sort of alien race. So the boy is in line to get on the spaceship. But then last minute, he decides that he doesn't want to, he's just going to go and live in his parent's house. And he's thinking, it doesn't really matter to me if I am invaded. He doesn't have a family, he'd rather just stay in his house where his mom was. So it's kind of sad. But it's also kind of brave. So he goes back to his house, and in a couple of days, the colony people are all gone. And then the invaders come. But there's a twist.






TT LINSE

Are you going to tell us the twist?


HAZEL DAINS

Maybe I shouldn't tell you the twist? Because I mean, like at this point in what I'm telling you, it doesn't sound like a Christmas story, but it will. It's just that you have to read the ending.


TT LINSE

There you go. Excellent. Oh, my gosh, it sounds like Island to the Blue Dolphins. Have you ever read "Island of the Blue Dolphins"? Oh my gosh, it's about a little girl who's abandoned on an island in that way. They come and pick up the people who live there. And she decides to stay.


HAZEL DAINS

No. Wow. Yeah. quite similar. I've never read it.


TT LINSE

No, no, no, but I mean, it's a totally different story. But it's, it's a really good one. Just like yours is, I'm sure.


HAZEL DAINS

Yeah. Well, it's, it's interesting. And, I think something that I love about writing is that I can come up with it, and then it's interpretable. So like, you don't know if the author meant something in the writing, or if they were just having fun. Right?


TT LINSE

Yeah. So yeah. And you can do allusions to things. And sometimes they're on purpose. And sometimes they're just in the back of your mind, and you don't realize that they're allusions to something.


HAZEL DAINS

Exactly. And it's like, there's a complexity to writing and I like that.


TT LINSE

Yeah, for sure. For sure. I like creating worlds and aliens. When we were talking about your aliens. I know. It probably involves the ending, so I don't want you to tell me but I was like aliens. Who are the aliens? Tell me about the aliens!


HAZEL DAINS

The aliens play a huge part in the twist. So-


TT LINSE

Okay, yeah, that's what I was thinking. Yeah, for sure. Yeah, cool. This is fun. We should do this again.



HAZEL DAINS

And remember that you've got some upcoming events coming up!




gif


TT LINSE

Yes, we've been doing a lot around here, haven't we? We did a cover reveal, and I announced that my book, The Language of Corpses was named amongst Kirkus's Top 100 Indie Books for 2021. And of course, you have a book coming out soon too right?


HAZEL DAINS

Yes, I do have a book coming up. It's called "Danger of Exposure" and it is also sci-fi, but in a completely different sense than The Language of Corpses (which I loved by the way). Mine is set in the future after the world as we know it collapsed. It is centered around a feisty 18-year old boy named Malcolm. There are government conspiracies, robots, end of the world themes, and of course, there is also some romance. If you want to check it out click here. It will be a while before it will be in stores, but it's coming!


TT LINSE

Yes, yeah. Yes. And to write a novel, you have to have patience. Yeah. Yeah. Excellent.



HAZEL DAINS

Yes. That's right. Well, we are going to sign off now. So, Merry Christmas. Happy New Year.


TT LINSE

Yes, Merry Christmas! And thanks for watching! Be sure to like us on Facebook and subscribe to our newsletters!



Meet the Authors





Thanks for reading! Be sure to check out the video of our Christmas Chat.


Merry Christmas Everyone!



Huge hat tip to Hazel for doing the work to put this together. She's amazing! Make sure to check out her work.