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The Drive to Read

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All month long I’m going to be hosting the posts of other people as part of my 2015 Giftmas Blog Tour. All the guest bloggers are welcome to write about anything they’d like so long as their post touched on a December holiday in some way, no matter how tangentially. The blog tour extends beyond my blog as well, and I will do my best to link to each external post from the here and share them on social media using the hashtag #GiftmasTour.

But wait! There’s more!

We’re also giving away a whole whack of prizes (check out the list here) which you can enter to win using the Rafflecoper code below. Whatever December holiday you celebrate (or don’t) winning a stack of books will make it better!

The Drive to Read

by Nathanael Green

I was one of those teenagers who made the plan to get my driving permit the very day I turned sixteen, which, by the way, happened one December.

I knew even at fifteen and younger exactly how much freedom a drivers’ license would confer to a kid growing up in the country with nothing within walking distance but a river, woods, a cornfield, and some more woods but this time, woods on a hill.

And I was right about the freedom. But I didn’t realize how much less reading I’d get done.

You know—I’d have to keep my eyes on the road instead of on the climax of the latest Forgotten Realms book. I’d have to keep my hands on the wheel instead of curled around the worn cover of The Two Towers. And I’m reminded of this particularly around Christmas and New Year’s.

Even before I was married and moved away from my childhood home, I still had family a few hours’ drive away. And when I was little (well, younger, if not exactly little), my parents would load me and my sister into their Chevy Astro for a three-hour drive to visit my uncle.

My sister would take one backseat in the van and I’d take the other. And we’d both spend the entirety of the drive with faces submerged in books. Many of these trips took place after Christmas, and that meant I had a haul of books still perfectly shut like no human hands had even separated the first pages.

Three hours isn’t really that long of a drive. But to a kid of eight, twelve, fourteen, it was heavenly. The hum of traffic and my parents’ conversation rolled while I just dissolved into fiction for hours without interruption.

Then we’d get to my aunt and uncle’s house.

As an aside, this is the same uncle who bought me a copy of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style when I was about ten years old. He told me that if I knew everything in that book, I’d write better than my teachers.

I read every word that weekend.

Today, I don’t agree with everything old Strunk and White had to say (it’s a style guide, remember), but my uncle was absolutely right in his assessment of its value.

Anyway. Back to Christmas.

We’d get to my uncle’s house and eat amazing food and exchange gifts for a late Christmas. This, invariably and to this day, involves more books. Then we’d eat some leftovers and relax with the family.

And my uncle? He’s absolutely omnivorous when it comes to storytelling (I guess food, too). So not only did I read the new books Santa had brought on the ride to his house, but once there, he’d introduce me to even more books and writers like Heinlein and Walter Miller and then put on movie after movie. We’d have that kind of relaxing weekend where all of us could sit around reading books while enjoying the presence of our family also sitting quietly reading their own books or watching another movie.

Of course, weekends end. And these ended with more books and another read-a-thon on the drive home.

I sometimes wonder how much of that opportunity and the encouragement of my parents and my aunt and uncle turned me into a reader and writer. Not that it matters—if nothing else, they’re some pleasant memories that make me happy and thankful, and that’s valuable enough by itself.

Today, I drive. And here’s the thing about driving: it’s perfect reading time. Because as an adult, even when I’m not driving, I seldom have the opportunity to read for three hours straight. There’s always work to do (hello, freelance writing!) or a lawn to mow or a piece of your house to fix or a friend’s house to fix.

But every time I drive more than an hour, I remember the calm joy of sitting in my parents’ van and just reading without interruption or even the option to do something else.

This past Thanksgiving, when visiting my parents, my dad offered me an audiobook for the ride home.

Smart guy, that dad of mine.
36e1beb30de50f95b8e894bff1d8d4a8Nathanael Green is a writer of fantasy and historical fiction. Along with Evan Ronan, he is the coauthor of the Tomahawk and Saber series of historical adventure books set along the wild frontier of colonial America.

Nathanael is also a freelance marketing writer, feature writer, and lecturer of college students. You can find him, his books, and his blog at nathanaelgreen.com.

Enter the giveaway for some really cool Giftmas giveaways, including a grand prize of TWENTY books!
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Alcohol

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All month long I’m going to be hosting the posts of other people as part of my 2015 Giftmas Blog Tour. All the guest bloggers are welcome to write about anything they’d like so long as their post touched on a December holiday in some way, no matter how tangentially. The blog tour extends beyond my blog as well, and I will do my best to link to each external post from the here and share them on social media using the hashtag #GiftmasTour.

But wait! There’s more!

We’re also giving away a whole whack of prizes (check out the list here) which you can enter to win using the Rafflecoper code below. Whatever December holiday you celebrate (or don’t) winning a stack of books will make it better!

 

A Season for Sensible, Sober Soirees…Hang on…What?!

by Rebecca Gibson

Alcohol.

I imagine by now you’ve all consumed a lot of it.

Perhaps you’re reading this with a woolly head, nursing your festive hangover with a small dose of denial…of course you can still handle your drink, you’re exactly the same as when you were eighteen (honest!)…

Yet, hidden in normal society, traversing this strange no man’s land between Christmas and New Year, there’s the anomalies like me.

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I don’t drink.

I don’t just drink on special occasions. I don’t just drink one every now and again because you told me to. I. Don’t. Drink. Like, at all.

Take a deep breath and compose yourself. What you just read is true. Your hungover eyes doth not deceive you. I don’t drink.

The first word that probably springs to your mind is one that, believe me, is pretty much more used in reference to myself than my actual name – boring. Yes, I suppose from the outside, not drinking is boring. All of our social gatherings, every single festival we have, is based around the consumption of alcohol. Heck, wine is even consumed at church.

There are a lot of reactions to telling people I don’t drink. As someone in their early twenties, meeting other people in their early twenties, the first reaction seems to always be disbelief. As if I’m going to turn around and say “only joking, I’ll have vodka please!” although, the look on their face always makes it clear this would be a joke too far. The next reaction is to question.

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“Why?”

“Is it a religious thing?”

Let’s cast our minds back to the wine in church thing for a second here…how could it be religious to not drink alcohol?

“How do you have fun?”

“What’s wrong with you?”

And my personal, least favourite response…

“Just have one…for me?!”

Erm…who are you? Why would I drink for you when I only met you five minutes ago? I don’t even drink for the friends I lived with for three years.

No.

Let’s contextualise this matter for a moment. Would you turn around to a vegetarian during your Christmas feast and hold a turkey leg in their face, urging them to just try a little bit. Just for them…pretty please.

No.

Society would be sickened to their stomach if you did that. You’d be chucked out the house and left in the cold.

If you slipped a slice of ham in a vegan’s sandwich and looked on with a smirk as they consumed it and then realised what you’d done when it was too late, you’d be shamed. So, why is it acceptable – funny even – to slip alcohol into my drink without my knowing?

I made an informed decision. Please let me honour it.

I don’t find not drinking hard. I hate drinking, for me it’s very easy not to partake. I find people’s reactions to it hard. I’ve not stood up in a bar and declared my sympathetic feelings for criminals, through the medium of interpretive dance. I’ve just made a dietary choice. I don’t like the taste of alcohol. I don’t like the feeling of alcohol. I don’t like the calorie intake and I particularly don’t like the price.

It isn’t like I refuse to go to social gatherings. I had a very normal University experience, as my personal Facebook photo albums will tell you (if they weren’t all set to private, sorry not sorry). I went out to nightclubs where you stuck to the floor and frequented the local bars until morning. I made shed loads of friends and was never stuck for something to do. I just did everything stone cold sober. I even went travelling between my second and third year of Uni. Probably with the money I saved from not buying alcohol.

xmas3I’m a normal human…see?

Trust me, this earns bragging rights. Whilst my friends were huddled on the sofa, cradling fast food and steaming mugs of tea, I could waltz on in as clear headed as ever I was. I’m also a lifelong designated driver, without there ever needing to be an argument about it (unless you refuse to give me some petrol money, then it hits the fan my friends). Wouldn’t that come in handy on New Year’s Eve?

So, why is it such an issue? Especially within this festive period, where alcohol centres around every gathering and is consumed by the gallon. Well, this is a question I would love the answer to.

Countless times I’ve told people my secret and they’ve simply walked off. I can see the darkening in their eyes as I divulge. I have resorted to avoiding the subject, telling people only when I absolutely have to. I’ve had friendships for months before the found out about my non-drinking ways, through fear they would suddenly feel alienated from me.

To clarify, if you want to drink, help yourself. I am not preaching the good graces of T-total living. My own parents drink wine more than they drink water. I am also not here to talk down to you from my pedestal of superiority or some pretentious bollocks like that. I simply want to understand why it’s such a big deal in today’s society not to drink. In this world of acceptance, where everyone has their thing, what’s wrong with me not drinking alcohol?

I’ve spoken to countless people who wish they didn’t drink, yet they do it to fit in. They don’t want to be that person left on the side lines. That’s not right in my eyes. In this generation we should be able to do as we please. If we want to have a T-total Christmas, a T-total New Year, why shouldn’t we?

Freedom of choice my friends. If you want to get plastered, get plastered. If you want to stay sober, stay damned well sober.

Do you have any thoughts on this? Are you feeling clear headed or muddy brained in the break between Christmas and New Year?

 

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Calendars

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All month long I’m going to be hosting the posts of other people as part of my 2015 Giftmas Blog Tour. All the guest bloggers are welcome to write about anything they’d like so long as their post touched on a December holiday in some way, no matter how tangentially. The blog tour extends beyond my blog as well, and I will do my best to link to each external post from the here and share them on social media using the hashtag #GiftmasTour.

But wait! There’s more!

We’re also giving away a whole whack of prizes (check out the list here) which you can enter to win using the Rafflecoper code below. Whatever December holiday you celebrate (or don’t) winning a stack of books will make it better!

Calendars
by M Pepper Langlinais

I love calendars. I don’t know why, exactly, except that they bring an element of art into a room while at the same time are not stagnant. When you hang a calendar, you get a picture for a month, and then it changes. For someone like me who is easily bored (I change my hair color frequently), calendars are like a changing art installation. I’m sure a therapist would say something about “lack of commitment” but whatever.

The down side of calendars is you seldom need more than one or two. So each year I must pick from all the wonderful options. The one we keep in the kitchen has certain requirements—it must have enough space for me to write all the family appointments on. The one I hang in my office, however, need only look nice since it hangs right in my line of sight. Because my office is called Little London and is London themed, I usually pick a London or UK calendar of some kind. But remember how I said I get bored easily? While I really liked one of the London calendars I found, I instead felt drawn to the Kinuko Craft Women of Myth & Magic calendar this year.

On top of the two wall calendars, I keep one on my desk as well. It’s more of a date book, and I do get the same one each year: Llewellyn’s Daily Planetary Guide. In it, I write down any significant events that occur. Each year my date book becomes a record of all the good and bad news I’ve received. I’m not sure why I feel compelled to do this, except my logical brain wants to be able to tally whether there was more good than bad in any given year. Was it a “good” year or a “bad” one?

But the truth is I’m very aware that calendars are arbitrary ways of tracking time. Here we are, all looking forward to a new year. We talk about fresh starts, and we enjoy the feeling of freedom a supposed clean slate brings us. But it is incredibly arbitrary. One could wake up on any given day and decide to start over. A person could be sitting at his desk, or on her couch, and think, “I’m done with this. I’m changing things. Right. Now.” And then two minutes later, after eating all the ice cream in the house, they could do it again. (I’m not speaking from experience, I swear.)

And so there’s something about the mass mentality of New Year’s that bothers me. As if people think they only have one shot at turning their lives around. As if, should the year begin badly, they will be stuck in an annus horribilus with no way to change or fix it until another new year.

I’ll admit, though, I do all the superstitious stuff. We open all the doors at midnight. I eat black-eyed peas and greens. I don’t do laundry or take out the trash. I don’t eat chicken, either. And I try to wear new(ish) clothes. Of course I know it’s all silly. Part of it is just plain fun, but part of it is that I grew up steeped in Southern lore, and I can’t quite shake it.

That said, I don’t make resolutions. I set goals. And then work toward achieving them.

And if a goal hasn’t been met by the end of the year? Is it all over but the crying? No. As I hang my new calendars, I roll my goals over and/or adjust as needed. The end of a year isn’t the end of everything that came before. It’s a continuation. Our choices are to continue the way we’ve been going or to change direction. And we don’t need calendars or new years for that. We just need to make up our minds.

Maybe that’s what I love about calendars. They show movement, progress. They promise change if we want it and stability if that is what we seek. Mostly, they remind us we are not stuck.

About the Author:

Best known for her Sherlock Holmes stories, M Pepper Langlinais is also a produced playwright and screenwriter. She holds a degree in Radio-Television-Film from the University of Texas at Austin, where she interned on film sets and participated in the Shakespeare at Winedale program. She also earned a Master of Arts in Writing, Literature and Publishing from Emerson College. M now lives in Livermore, California. Learn more about her and her work at http://pepperwords.com. Find her books at http://www.amazon.com/M-Pepper-Langlinais/e/B008FBOSPE/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1. And join her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/mpepperlanglinais.

You can also enter to win a couple of M’s books (among others) below!

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Feel The Reason For The Season!

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All month long I’m going to be hosting the posts of other people as part of my 2015 Giftmas Blog Tour. All the guest bloggers are welcome to write about anything they’d like so long as their post touched on a December holiday in some way, no matter how tangentially. The blog tour extends beyond my blog as well, and I will do my best to link to each external post from the here and share them on social media using the hashtag #GiftmasTour.

But wait! There’s more!

We’re also giving away a whole whack of prizes (check out the list here) which you can enter to win using the Rafflecoper code below. Whatever December holiday you celebrate (or don’t) winning a stack of books will make it better!

Feel The Reason For The Season!

by Diamante Lavendar

“Ding-a-ling!” “Ring-ring!” “Ring-a-ling-a-ling!” The sound of the Salvation Army bell! What feeling does it invoke in you? Happiness? Gratitude? Irritation? Guilt? (Trust me…I know the feeling…especially when I have no spare change!)

The holiday season does tend to be much too busy…and complicated…and tiresome. Tis the season to be jolly…and broke…and sometimes stressed.

Stop and take a breather! Take a deep breath…in…out….in….out….Then take a look around. What is important? Gifts? Hustle and bustle? Candy? Trees? Lights? Yes, those things are all wonderful in themselves as long as they don’t take on the meaning of the season!

Shut your eyes and think of long ago. A time when people wore robes and shawls. When people rode donkeys. A time when you had to travel to a well for water. Remember that as the beginning of the season known as Christmas. Yes, there were gifts. But there were also gatherings…gatherings to alight the heart and bring joy back to friends and family. Just to gather was the gift. Just to spend time with loved ones was the highlight of the season. And of course there was the manger scene…complete with lowing animals and swaddling clothes.

What would it be like to relive the manger scene? To remember love and joy, peace and goodwill as the focus of Christmas? To see the love instead of the expectations, the joy instead of the long gift list? To promote the peace instead of the stress of stringing thousands of lights around your home? Often I think of the song The Twelve Pains Of Christmas and I realize that that’s what Christmas has become to too many of us. It should be a time of hope instead of stress and anxiety.

This year, as you approach the stores where you happen to be shopping, hear those Salvation Army bells and think of the manger. Remember the gift of giving and the times as a kid when you could barely sleep because you wanted to catch a glimpse of Santa. Capture the memory of times past laughing with family and friends, going door to door singing Christmas carols and bringing smiles to your neighbors’ faces. That is the stuff of beautiful memories…and of Christmases to come. Feel the reason for the season! Slow down to appreciate the gift of love and life, sharing and caring!

Happy Holidays!

About the author:

Diamante Lavendar has been in love with reading since she was a child. She spent many hours listening to her mother read to her when she was young. As she grew older, she enjoyed reading novels of all genres: horror, fantasy and some romance to name a few.
She began writing in college and published some poetry in anthologies over the years. After her kids were older, she wrote as a form of self expression and decided she wanted to share her stories with others.
Most of her writing is very personal and stems from her own experiences and those of her family and friends. She writes to encourage hope and possibility to those who read her stories.
Diamante believes that everyone should try to leave their own positive mark in the world, to make it a better place for all. Writing is the way that she is attempting to leave her mark—one story at a time.

Visit Diamante here:
http://diamantelavendar.com/
https://plus.google.com/107370618346077894159
https://www.facebook.com/diamantelavendar.writer.artist/
https://twitter.com/diamantelavenda

Just in case you’d like to win a gift, (It’s okay! We all enjoy a gift now and then!) here’s the Rafflecopter code! Good luck!

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Not So Silent Night

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All month long I’m going to be hosting the posts of other people as part of my 2015 Giftmas Blog Tour. All the guest bloggers are welcome to write about anything they’d like so long as their post touched on a December holiday in some way, no matter how tangentially. The blog tour extends beyond my blog as well, and I will do my best to link to each external post from the here and share them on social media using the hashtag #GiftmasTour.

But wait! There’s more!

We’re also giving away a whole whack of prizes (check out the list here) which you can enter to win using the Rafflecoper code below. Whatever December holiday you celebrate (or don’t) winning a stack of books will make it better!

Not so silent night

by Mary Neighbour

The lovely story of “Silent Night” is that the world changed—was saved—by the birth of Christ during a silent and holy night. Millions have been soothed and reassured by the carol’s peaceful, hopeful message and harmonies.

But isn’t it interesting that in order for the song to have effect, voices must be raised—silence must be disturbed?

I’m an advocate of disturbing the peace, especially when so many endure misery and suffer hatred. In my blog I try to stir up conversations that speak to controversy and aim for informed, respectful dialog. Right now in America, millions live under the threat of violence, carry the burden of prejudice, and grapple with ways to make life better for all of us, but especially for the children.

If we look at the Black Friday protests in Seattle, San Diego, Chicago, Cincinnati, and other places, can we listen and learn? Can we constructively contribute? Many who speak for Black Lives Matter and those who are aligned with them are angry, but who can be surprised by that? This civil rights movement is addressing a legacy of slavery in America that has never been fully dealt with.

From our Constitution through all of our societal institutions of justice, law enforcement, education, housing, finance, health, and government, America as a nation has not been honest about its history of promulgating notions of European-descended people’s superiority. America as a nation has not been honest about its history of promulgating notions of African-descended people’s inferiority.

And America as a nation will never right its wrongs unless individuals come together to speak up, speak out, and speak right on about these deep fissures in our society and culture.

Instead of “sleep in heavenly peace,” let’s speak in heavenly peace. What will you say to to help others find that peace?

51GxcTjE5tL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_Mary Neighbour is the author of Speak Right On: Conjuring the Slave Narrative of Dred Scott, a work of historical fiction that explores the story of Dred Scott and the history of slavery that has changed our cultural landscape. ABA Booklist described it as “nuances of slavery that provoke human emotions from nobility and loyalty to greed and selfishness,” and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said about it: “It’s a fine piece of fiction . . . reminiscent of Toni Morrison.”

Neighbour heard the voice of Dred Scott through the few quotes we have from him. She developed his character from researching the slave narratives and folklore of nineteenth-century America and of Africa. Through her book, Mary hopes to stimulate conversations about race and politics in our lives today. Please visit her blog and join the conversation.

And here’s a Giftmas offer for you, holiday reader:

This blog is part of a blog tour and raffle prizes, thanks to Rhonda Parrish’s blog site. Check out the complete list of prizes here http://bit.ly/1jkpUfa and enter to win!

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Night of Promises

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All month long I’m going to be hosting the posts of other people as part of my 2015 Giftmas Blog Tour. All the guest bloggers are welcome to write about anything they’d like so long as their post touched on a December holiday in some way, no matter how tangentially. The blog tour extends beyond my blog as well, and I will do my best to link to each external post from the here and share them on social media using the hashtag #GiftmasTour.

But wait! There’s more!

We’re also giving away a whole whack of prizes (check out the list here) which you can enter to win using the Rafflecoper code below. Whatever December holiday you celebrate (or don’t) winning a stack of books will make it better!

Night of Promises

by Fred Warren

Beneath soul-crushing darkness, a chill, silent shroud blankets the earth
We are alone, shivering, hungry, stalked by ravening despair among the barren trees
We glance upward and notice the stars, distant gems scattered across the inky abyss
One stands out, brighter than the rest—there, in the east!
And we remember an ancient promise that night will have its end

We hasten to fill our dwelling with brave little motes of light
Candles and lamps, shouting against the darkness, tiny echoes of the celestial vision
They flicker and dance, shimmer and shine
We feel a bit braver now, watching them
And we remember an ancient promise that winter’s death-grip will not endure

We wrestle a gnarled oaken burl from our meager woodpile and set it ablaze
Warmth overflows the hearth, searing cheeks, thawing fingers, toasting toes
Huddling around the fire, absorbing the heat of its growling, spitting defiance
We wonder why we ever feared the cold
And we remember an ancient promise that the frozen earth will live again

We raid the cellars, larders, and pantries for a feast–we will not stint!
Aromas fill the air, sweet and savory, cinnamon and nutmeg, sage and rosemary
They enfold us as we eat, drink, and laugh in fellowship generous and loud
We banish hunger from our midst this night
And, once more, we remember an ancient promise that we will not be abandoned

We gather close together–family, friends, and the wanderers among us
Sharing gifts of love, gaily wrapped, freely given, gratefully received
See here! Look at this! Thank you! How wonderful!
We feel our loneliness overwhelmed, melting away; we share a song of joy
And we wonder at promises made and promises kept

Afterward, tired and happy, we drift off into sleep
Caressed by candlelight’s soft glow, safe and warm, comforted, wrapped in love
Yes, on this night, of all nights, we will not despair
For we are here, all of us, together
And we remember

Fred Warren writes science fiction and fantasy, with over thirty published works of short fiction. His first novel, The Muse, debuted in November 2009 from Splashdown Books, followed by a collection of his short stories, Odd Little Miracles, in July 2011, and The Seer, a sequel to The Muse, in October 2011. He works as a military contractor in eastern Kansas, where he lives with his wife and three children. He’s probably shoveling snow by starlight right now. You can find him online at http://frederation.wordpress.com.
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The Gift of Hope

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All month long I’m going to be hosting the posts of other people as part of my 2015 Giftmas Blog Tour. All the guest bloggers are welcome to write about anything they’d like so long as their post touched on a December holiday in some way, no matter how tangentially. The blog tour extends beyond my blog as well, and I will do my best to link to each external post from the here and share them on social media using the hashtag #GiftmasTour.

But wait! There’s more!

We’re also giving away a whole whack of prizes (check out the list here) which you can enter to win using the Rafflecoper code below. Whatever December holiday you celebrate (or don’t) winning a stack of books will make it better!

The Gift of Hopeapple

by Jennifer Crow

“Hope,” said Emily Dickinson, “is the thing with feathers.” Fragile is the first thing that comes to mind after that. Maybe you’ve held a bird’s slight weight in your hands, felt the fast, faint beat of its heart against your fingertips, the grip of its tiny feet. I fill the feeder outside my kitchen window and watch the birds flit and dance on the wing, and I wonder how something so tiny can survive a Buffalo winter.

Hope seems like that sometimes: beautiful, but too easily startled. Too delicate to endure the rough handling of time and fate. At times, I’ve felt like I was holding nothing but a lifeless bundle of feathers, the world’s small and large disasters too much for hope. And yet somehow, when ruins-excavation-coverI’ve reached the point of despairing, it always stirs, lifts its wings, and hops a little to show me it’s too soon to give up just yet.

This month I’m blogging about gifts, in particular things that make my life better which I can’t stick a bow on. And having struggled with depression for the better (or maybe worse) part of the past decade, it seems to me that hope is one of those things that none of us—especially the creative types—can live without. That sensation beating like wings in my chest, that flutter where it seemed life had been extinguished, makes the cold, shadowy times bearable.

It seemed appropriate to talk about the gift of hope right after the longest night of the year. It gets dark so early in western New York. On the gray days, it hardly seems as though the sun’s come up at all. From this point on, though, it gets brighter. The cold will still seep down to my bones for a few more months, but the worst will pass. I’ll bundle up, fill the bird feeder, and the chickadees and nuthatches will keep me company.

Last year a four-day storm dumped more than 80 inches of snow in my yard. The year before that, temperatures dipped below -20 Fahrenheit for what seemed an eternity. Through all that, the little birds fluffed up their feathers and found a way. Just like hope.

Check out Jennifer’s work in The First Bite of the Apple and Ruins Excavation.

Enter to win the Giftmas Giveaway!

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The Curse of the Perfect Holiday

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All month long I’m going to be hosting the posts of other people as part of my 2015 Giftmas Blog Tour. All the guest bloggers are welcome to write about anything they’d like so long as their post touched on a December holiday in some way, no matter how tangentially. The blog tour extends beyond my blog as well, and I will do my best to link to each external post from the here and share them on social media using the hashtag #GiftmasTour.

But wait! There’s more!

We’re also giving away a whole whack of prizes (check out the list here) which you can enter to win using the Rafflecoper code below. Whatever December holiday you celebrate (or don’t) winning a stack of books will make it better!

 

The Curse of the Perfect Holiday

by Jay Wilburn

I write a lot of horror. You might be surprised how often horror publishers are looking for holiday related stories each year. Usually these involve ghosts or some species of monster wreaking havoc. The true horror though is usually found in the ghosts we invent to haunt us from our own pasts or the monsters we create within ourselves.

While Moby Dick is about the obsession of endlessly chasing the White Whale, our curses might be chasing the White Christmas. The captain at the beginning of that story talked about getting the desire each year to knock people’s hats off and to cause other mischief in response to others’ joy upon the land. This was his signal that it was time to return to the sea. Even in this early part of the novel, the symbolism of self-destruction is used to describe this desire. It may describe out unease as the holidays approach.

Our desire for the perfect holiday season may be the same alien feeling in our lives that the captain felt stuck on land. We know in our hearts that no family is perfect, but we desire to capture perfection within our own family for a little while. We want this perfection for ourselves or for loved ones that we have let down or that we sense see us as a let down. We might want to spare our children from holiday disappointments we fear in our own lives. There are kernels of memory surrounding moments through the years that hint at the perfection. They draw us deeper into that desire and then the cold reality of all our imperfections plague us through the holidays.

Let me tell you what you already know. There is no perfect family and no perfect holiday. If there is joy in the world to be found, it is found despite and through our imperfections. Others may live in disappointment no matter how much we come to embrace this truth, but we can still find joy in that imperfection as well. Peace is often associated with rest and rest is a gift we can either grant or deny ourselves at all times. The act of wanting to show love to those that don’t deserve it in your life is a beautiful thing in all its pain and imperfection. The act of forgiving someone that does not warrant such a thing is freeing, but never easy. Finding a bright moment when there is so much darkness to be seen in our lives and in the world is divine.

The depression that can take hold of people this time of year reflects the magnification of our emotions around the holidays. The imperfection of our imperfect lives can be magnified as well. It is further intensified by those we do have around us during these emotional times and those we don’t have around.

Give yourself permission to find joy and rest despite the imperfection. Allow yourself to enjoy small moments of light and happiness even when darkness seems to be winning.

Your holiday does not have to be perfect in order to be perfect. So, I wish you and yours a joyfully and restfully imperfect holiday season.

Enter the Rafflecopter for a ton of prizes connected to the tour. Do it!

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Check out Jay Wilburn’s excited apocalyptic series. Dead Song Legend Dodecology Book 1: January from Milwaukee to Muscle Shoals
Start the series here  http://amzn.to/1CvxbST

Dead Song Legend Dodecology Book 2: February from Vicksburg to Cherokee
Continue the series here  http://jaywilburn.com/book-2/

Check out the first soundtrack to the series, The Sound May Suffer: Music from the Dead Song here  http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/thesoundmaysuffer6
or on Spotify. The hard CD is also available on Amazon.

Visit: http://jaywilburn.com/

Jay Wilburn lives with his wife and two sons in Conway, South Carolina near the Atlantic coast of the southern United States. He has a Masters Degree in education and he taught public school for sixteen years before becoming a full time writer. He is the author of many short stories including work in Best Horror of the Year volume 5, Zombies More Recent Dead, Middletown Apocalypse, and Truth or Dare. He is the author of the Dead Song Legend Dodecology and the music of the five song soundtrack recorded as if by the characters within the world of the novel The Sound May Suffer. He also wrote the novels Loose Ends and Time Eaters. He is one of the four authors behind the Hellmouth trilogy. Jay Wilburn is a regular columnist with Dark Moon Digest. Follow his many dark thoughts on Twitter, Instagram, and Periscope as @AmongTheZombies, his Facebook author page, and at JayWilburn.com

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A Corny Holiday

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All month long I’m going to be hosting the posts of other people as part of my 2015 Giftmas Blog Tour. All the guest bloggers are welcome to write about anything they’d like so long as their post touched on a December holiday in some way, no matter how tangentially. The blog tour extends beyond my blog as well, and I will do my best to link to each external post from the here and share them on social media using the hashtag #GiftmasTour.

But wait! There’s more!

We’re also giving away a whole whack of prizes (check out the list here) which you can enter to win using the Rafflecoper code below. Whatever December holiday you celebrate (or don’t) winning a stack of books will make it better!

 

A Corny Holiday

by Brenda Stokes Barron

Normally, I shy away from blog tours because I’m so strapped for time. But when Rhonda asked if I wanted to be a part of this project, I had to say yes. It’s the holidays and sharing in the fun and festivities while celebrating being writers and being a part of this awesome community was just too appealing to pass up.

While the temptation to wax nostalgic is strong this time of year, I’ll resist and offer a recipe instead. It’s simple and tasty, though full of butter. So, it’s not healthy at all. But…umm…yum?

Corn Casserole Souffle

A weird name for a recipe, I know, but it’s really a combination of my mom’s recipe (corn casserole) and one I found online (corn souffle) that I’ve been making for several years now. It’s rich, filling, and I could eat it pretty much forever.

Ingredients 

4 oz butter (one stick, melted)

1 egg

8 oz sour cream

1 can of whole kernel corn (drained)

1 can of cream style corn

1 pkg of corn muffin mix

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Combine butter, egg, corn, cream style corn, sour cream, and corn muffin mix in a bowl.
  3. Grease 9″ x 9″ baking dish and pour mixture into it.
  4. Bake for 45 minutes or until you can poke the center with a toothpick and it comes out clean.

Simple, easy, and super delicious. It ends up with the consistency of pudding and bread, is sweet and savory, and a great complement to other holiday dishes.

The Giveaway

There’s a seriously impressive list of prizes for this giveaway, which includes tons of books like Seeing the Light by E.C. Bell, I Heart Robot by Suzanne van Rooyen, and signed copies of Fae, Corvidae, and Scarecrow–all of which are edited by Rhonda Parrish. Plus, there are other nifty goodies in the giveaway, too, like art prints, electronic copies of books, and a coffee cup cozy knitted by yours truly. See the full list here.

Entering the giveaway is super easy. Just use the form below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks for reading! It was fun to be included in the tour and thanks to Rhonda for hosting me. 🙂

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Advent Ghosts 2015

For the past few years I have enjoyed participating in I Saw Lightning Fall’s Advent Ghosts. It used to be that ghost stories (or just creepy stories) were a part of the holiday tradition, and Advent Ghosts is just one way to re-embrace that tradition, if only in a small way. The rules are that you’re supposed to write a scary/creepy/unnerving drabble and share it on your blog on the 19th. A drabble, for anyone scratching their head right now, is a story that is exactly 100 words long.

As with every year that I’ve participated my story this year is not a drabble–though I think it’s the shortest one I’ve ever shared for this event so who knows, maybe someday I’ll hit the mark 😉

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Trying to be Brave

by Rhonda Parrish

Though she could no longer hear it, Wren knew the beast was still out there somewhere, somewhere near—skulking, still and silent, among the cedars. She pressed her back harder against the tree trunk, praying it was wide enough to hide her, and tried to be brave.

She slowed her breathing—in, hold, out—and exhaled through her woolen mittens—in, hold, out—to keep feeling in her fingers and diffuse the cloud of breath that would give away her position.

In…

Hold…

Out…

She was trying to be brave—trying so hard to be brave—but Jack’s screams lingered, echoing inside her like the ding, dong, dong of the church bell. It would be ringing soon—the bell—but there was a frozen lake between her and it, and the beast was near.

But help wouldn’t be coming. She’d sneaked away, tip-toeing past her parents door while they still slumbered. Danced from shadow to shadow through the village, across the lake, to meet her love beneath the treetops to steal kisses and play at magic. Help wasn’t coming, because it didn’t know it was necessary.

And now, even the sun was retreating, soundlessly creeping across the sky to hide behind the treeline. She could stay and wait for the end—the sneaky, silent, forever sleep offered by the cold, or the screaming, struggling, steaming death of the beast—or she could run.

Wren took a couple good deep breaths—in, hold, out. The village needed to be warned. Needed to know what waited in the woods, what she and Jack had awakened.

With a whispered prayer Wren leapt from her hiding place and tried to be brave.


 

You can also read my past attempts at Advent Ghosts stories:

Come In (2013)

A Million Pieces (2014)

or check out the rest of this year’s entries at I Saw Lightning Fall.

 

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Hot Buttered Rum

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All month long I’m going to be hosting the posts of other people as part of my 2015 Giftmas Blog Tour. All the guest bloggers are welcome to write about anything they’d like so long as their post touched on a December holiday in some way, no matter how tangentially. The blog tour extends beyond my blog as well, and I will do my best to link to each external post from the here and share them on social media using the hashtag #GiftmasTour.

But wait! There’s more!

We’re also giving away a whole whack of prizes (check out the list here) which you can enter to win using the Rafflecoper code below. Whatever December holiday you celebrate (or don’t) winning a stack of books will make it better!

Hot Buttered Rum

by S. L. Saboviec

Hello, everyone! My name is S. L. Saboviec, and I’m a SFF author. I’m excited to be part of Rhonda’s Giftmas blog tour, and I’m so glad to be here today on her blog.

When I was growing up, my mother used to bake all the time. For Christmas, we had gingerbread houses and sugar cookies; for birthdays, we had homemade cake; for Thanksgiving, we had pumpkin and blueberry pie.

It’s a tradition I’ve continued. Although my daughter is only a year old, I’ve been baking my own treats around holidays for much longer than she’s been alive. And I love making new things.

Of course, I’m a grown-up now, or at least, that’s what people say a mortgage means.

Last year, I was listening to Christmas music, and I thought to myself, “Self, what is this ‘hot buttered rum’ of which the carols speak?” It sounded a bit old and fuddy-duddy; however, that’s also what I thought about Star Wars until I was forced to watch it in high school and therefore discovered its awesomeness. So, not wanting to be that girl that won’t try new (or, in this case, old) things, I googled “hot buttered rum recipe.”

Oh. Em. Gee.

Do you like sugary goodness? Do you like butter? Do you like easy-to-make alcoholic beverages that everyone’s going to be impressed over?

WELL, HOLD ONTO YOUR FANCY, OLD-FASHIONED HAT BECAUSE I HAVE A DRINK FOR YOU.

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Image by Dennis Wilkenson

The original recipe is from the Food Network, so you know it’s good. I halved it because, well, it is a lot of sugar/butter/rum. But you can make the mix ahead of time and keep it in the fridge for up to two weeks, so go ahead and quadruple this sucker if you want. Take it out, have a nip here and there, ya know, to warm you up when you come in from the snow.

Hot Buttered Rum
(Prep: 10 minutes. Makes 5-6 servings)

½ stick butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch ground cloves
Pinch salt

Also:
Rum
Boiling water

Cream together butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Refrigerate until almost firm. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the butter mixture into each mug. Pour about 3 ounces of rum (about 2 shots—yep, you read that right) into each mug, filling about halfway. Top with boiling water to fill the remaining half. Stir well. Serve immediately.

If you want to get all Martha Stewart on it, you can garnish with cinnamon sticks, whipped cream, and/or cinnamon sprinkles. But there’s a reason I didn’t pick the Martha Stewart recipe: I’m not that fancy.

And now you know what you’re making for tomorrow’s holiday party.

About Me:

fa7c28f1c29e422fe98df2d61fedc998I’m an author whose dark, thought-provoking science fiction & fantasy contains flawed, relatable characters and themes that challenge the status quo. My first release, Guarding Angel is available at several major eBook retailers and on Amazon in paperback: Kindle | Kobo | Nook | Google Play | Paperback (Amazon) | Goodreads. The sequel, Reaping Angel, will be released in spring 2016.

You can also follow me on social media: Twitter | Pinterest | FaceBook | My newsletter (No spam!).

Thank you, Rhonda, for having me here today!

Enter the Giveaway:

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