Winter is Coming

giftmas_rectangle

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!

Winter is Coming

by S.L. Bynum

Strangely enough in North Carolina, where I live, it hasn’t gotten as cold as it usually does this time of year. By Thanksgiving, I’d barely taken out my winter coat. I didn’t even have to wear a coat in the daytime at the end of November, since it was still in the high sixties and seventies. Not that I’m complaining. I adore warm weather, the longer the better.

slow winter

But I know it’s still coming. It’s going to be time for wearing thick coats, gloves, and hats. Time for celebrating holidays, such as Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Hanukkah.

It’s also time for a break from working. For me, that would mean a break from my writing since I’m in the midst of completing the sequel to my book, Grim Crush. (I don’t get a break from my retail job…the only day I definitely don’t have to work is Christmas. I still have to work Thanksgiving and New Year’s.)

But winter always makes me think of traditions. Like baking Christmas cookies. Drinking eggnog. My mother recording “Rudolph: The Red-Nosed Reindeer” to our DVR for the 50th time. Wrapping presents. Putting up decorations. Drinking alcohol or sparkling apple cider on New Year’s Eve. Playing in the snow (if we get any) and freezing my butt off.

Now I want to hear from the readers out there. What does winter mean to you? What do you do to prepare for winter and the holidays?

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Santa Magic

giftmas_rectangle

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!

Santa Magic

by Jaylee James

When I was a little girl, Christmas was An Event, and Santa was real. My little brother and I would wake up Christmas morning to find the cookies we had left out were half-eaten, with a trail of crumbs leading to the fireplace. There would be bitten off pieces of carrots in the ashes – we always left carrots out for the reindeer, because they’d need a snack, too, after carrying a heavy sleigh all night! – and, of course, a pile of presents under the tree.

We wrote letters to Santa, detailing the gifts we wanted, and our mom would [quickly copy the contents of the lists for future reference] help us put them into envelopes, address them to Santa Claus, North Pole, and pop them in the mailbox.

One year, Santa wrote back, giving us a chore chart of specific activities guaranteed to get us on the Nice List – brushing our teeth, eating our vegetables, making our bed – with reindeer sticker to chronicle our progress. I worked diligently, mailed back my completed chart, and was rewarded with my greatest wish that year: an astronaut Barbie.

I even had an elaborate plan in place to stash pillows and blankets behind the couch on Christmas Eve, then wait until my parents were in bed. I would creep down to the living room and sleep there until the sounds of sleigh bells and a fat man crawling out of our chimney would wake me up, and I could catch him in the act. (Unfortunately, my parents stayed up too late that year and I fell asleep before they did. Mom was perplexed to find half my bedding behind the couch the next day.)

When I was seven, I was flipping through a catalogue in the passenger seat of my mom’s minivan, and I saw a Ralph the Mouse VHS. Somehow, the way my mother worded her sentence – “Yeah, we got that for you last year, remember,” – set off alarm bells in my first grade brain.

“No mom, Santa gave it to me,” I clarified.

But the look on her face… I knew she was lying.

It was like the clouds parted, a lightbulb came on… lots of things suddenly made sense that never did before. Like how on earth did Santa get down our chimney when the flue was always closed? How did someone described repeatedly as obese manage to squeeze through our flue anyway, closed or otherwise?

Mom explained the whole deal, and that I should be quiet about it, since my brother didn’t know. It was almost more magical than Santa himself. I was in on something, part of a grown up conspiracy to create magic for the younger kids. Magic that didn’t exist, but that we made real through trickery and games. It was awesome.

I faithfully fulfilled my end of the bargain, breathing not a word of it for years.

Until, at last, tragedy struck.

My mom had been to Macy’s, and their holiday shopping bags said something to the effect of, “Santa’s gift bag” on it. My brother was confused, asking my Dad why they would say that. Santa didn’t shop at Macy’s. Santa didn’t shop at all.

And to my horror, instead of coming up with a plausible lie, my Dad sat my little brother down and told him the truth.

No.

You don’t just tell a kid Santa’s not real! That was Adult Conspiracy Top Secret Club Rule #1!

Christmas was ruined.

I ran upstairs with all of my ten-year-old outrage and threw myself on my mom’s bed. “He told him! Dad told him it wasn’t real!” I was heartbroken. “Does this mean we can’t have Santa anymore?”

My mom gave me a weird look. “Just because we’re not doing Santa anymore doesn’t mean you’ll never get Christmas presents. You’ll still get presents from me and your dad and your grandparents.”

She was entirely missing the point. “But no more cookies? No carrots for the reindeer or coming downstairs to a tree full of gifts that were all hidden the night before?” No more magic?

Mom quickly de-escalated the situation and promised that we could do Santa, and could keep doing Santa as long as I wanted.

Books and movies share this in common with the conspiracy of Santa Claus… they all create magic out of thin air. They tell a story, a fiction, and it draws you in. We do this as writers, just like parents do with their kids at Christmas. With nothing but words and imagination (and maybe a little bit of conspiratorial cooperation), we can make a miracle.

And that, kids, is why I am 26-years-old and still leave cookies out for Santa. Because I believe, wholeheartedly, in the magic of make believe.


choosing-youJaylee James is a writer of science fiction, fantasy, romance, and variations thereof. She is most well known as the Senior Editor of the LGBT lit mag Vitality Magazine. Her work has appeared in Wings of Renewal, a solarpunk dragon anthology, and her time-travel romance short, Choosing You, was released in November. Visit her at JayleeJames.com to learn more about her upcoming projects.

Wings of Renewal: http://amzn.to/1IjjbOE
Choosing You: http://amzn.to/1QOVjFd
Vitality: https://readvitality.com
Website: http://jayleejames.com

 

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Hitman Claus

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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!

 

Hitman Claus

by Kristina Brooks

If you were anything like me as a child, you probably wondered why a single man like Santa Claus would be given so much power. In fact, you might lie awake on Christmas and imagine all of the good and bad things that he could do with this power. This happened so often as I child that I developed my own Santa mythos. This would later translate into a story.

So, sit back and enjoy the tale of a Santa gone wrong. Oh, and don’t forget to enter in the Giftmas prize giveaway!

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Hitman Claus

The reindeer’s hooves touched down on the roof without stirring a snowflake. However, the brightly dressed, albeit grumpy, Santa could have cared less.

A few months ago he had gotten in deep with some major players. Now, he was forced to spread more than a little good cheer with his Christmas tradition. He slipped out from behind the reins and grabbed two small bags from the back of the sled before tromping his way over to the chimney.

He sighed and wiped the sweat from his brow despite the cold weather. His cheeks may have been as red as cherries, and his smile permanently plastered to his face, but that was just a side effect of the job.

As he waited, Donner snorted and stomped his hoof.

“Oh, just cool it, would you?” Santa snorted back, looking into the charcoal black eyes as if he expected an answer. After a brief staring contest, he turned his attention back to the chimney and muttered the chant that would magically transport him from the roof to the living room.

The inside of this home wasn’t that different from the millions of others. The tree was well decorated, stockings had been hung on the mantelpiece, and a tray of milk and cookies sat on the coffee table. He could even feel the presence of the children asleep in their beds. Janey had been a near angel that year, while her brother Joey had been something akin to a demon, but according to his rules of operation they would both get at least one gift; Joey’s would just be smaller.

He hadn’t been able to leave coal for children since the late nineteen hundreds when some idiot child had used the coal he’d gotten to bludgeon his younger sibling. The higher ups had decided that incident was too much bad publicity for Christmas and had immediately forbid him from handing it out anymore.

They only spoke up when they were reprimanding him or changing something, he never heard from the big bosses when they were happy. Hence, any letter arriving with their special seal only caused him immense worry and stress.

Much like the deed ahead of him.

After he took a couple of the cookies and, since he was lactose intolerant, poured the milk down the drain before making his way to the staircase; the second bag weighing heavily in his left hand.

The door to the master bedroom was ajar and he pushed it open without so much as a squeak. Not that it mattered much; when he entered a house the occupants were put under a trance by the same chant that transported him into their midst. They couldn’t wake up while he went about his duties. It was one of the reasons the mobsters he owed had chosen this task for him.

He hadn’t meant to get into so much debt. He was only allowed two weeks of free time a year, and somehow he had lost so much money he knew there would be no way for him to reclaim it for the bookies in the time they demanded.

Sure, he could have robbed a few houses with his powers, but he wasn’t allowed to use the sled or cross thresholds unless it was in the predawn hours of Christmas Day, and they hadn’t been willing to wait that long without upping the ante.

He ran his hand across his brow again and was somewhat surprised when his white glove was immediately drenched by his outpour. Looking around the room, he noticed that it was covered in family photos and mementos that spelled out what a caring father this man surely was.

“It’s not my fault, really, if it weren’t me, someone else would be sent to deal with you, and they might hurt everyone.” Santa whispered as he set the bag on the dresser and pulled out a small vial. Inside was a silver powder that, when placed over someone’s eyes, would call the ferry master to curry their spirit back to the island from which all life begins and ends.

He’d won the vial from Death in a card game two centuries ago. The best thing about the powder was that it was a direct contract between him and Death, leaving the higher powers completely out of the loop. It was a small vial, eight grams at the most, but it must have weighed at least ten pounds. Part of that was because so little dust was needed. He could kill someone every year and it still wouldn’t be enough to drain his supply for a few more centuries, if he and Christmas survived that long.

The father may have been wonderful and supporting, but as in most things, it had been the wife that had messed everything up. According to the man who had made the arrangements, the mother, Andrea, had once worked for the bookie as a money runner. One day she had simply disappeared with the profits, walking away with over half a million dollars right before a major game.

They hadn’t been able to find her using traditional methods, but apparently when he’d been drunk one night with the girls Santa had divulged the fact that he knew where everyone who was living was, no matter what name changes or plastic surgery they’d undergone. It all came as part of the package. After all, he had to have a list of all the naughty and nice girls and boys. Most people thought that ended at some predetermined age, but in truth he kept up with them right up until the point of their deaths.

He sighed as he looked down on her sleeping face, knowing that he could walk away right now and that nothing would happen. In all truth, the mobsters he owed money to would never be able to find him, and he had all kinds of magic at his disposal. It wouldn’t take much to hide himself from them until long after their deaths. But that would mean he couldn’t use his vacations for the kind of pleasurable activities he enjoyed for another half a century or more.

And the thought of living with nothing but that frigid woman he called wife for fifty years before he was able to have wild, rampaging sex, was more than he could bear. He called up the face of his favorite girl and held it in the front of his mind as he sprinkled a small amount of powder on Andrea’s eyes.

She sneezed, sighed, and rolled over just as he heard the faint ding of the ferry’s bell. Death wouldn’t be instantaneous, but she would be gone before the New Year was celebrated in this house.

Her spirit had been promised to his colleague, and there was nothing he could do now.

Wiping his face once more with the back of his hand to keep the sweat out of his eyes, he packed up his supplies and headed back to the tree.

It wasn’t until he was halfway down the stairs that he realized Janey was awake. He could feel her staring at him from beneath the Christmas tree like Cindy Lou Who from that children’s book about the Grinch.

“Whatcha doin’ Santa?” she asked, stepping toward him. He shook his head and tried to think. She wasn’t supposed to wake up, the chant was supposed to keep her asleep until he was on the roof.

When he didn’t respond, she took another step.

“The tree is down here, and you were up there.” She pointed at the hallway just behind him, and in his mind he could feel the others stirring, waking up from their magically held slumber.

“Just spreading Christmas cheer, my dear.” He replied as he closed his eyes and whispered the words that would carry him back to the sleigh. He counted to ten and then opened them again, but nothing had happened. One of the rules to using the chant was that he had to be in a certain proximity to the tree before he could transport back to the roof, and apparently he was not close enough now.

He ran down the last few steps, nearly knocking over the little girl that had worked her way so close to him, skidding to a stop just between the tree and the coffee table. Once more he chanted the words he’d used for so many centuries, and once more nothing happened.

Now the entire family stood in front of him on the stairway. Plus one that had joined them from the shadows.

“I always thought the scythe was a little much, you know?”

Death laughed, his dry cackle vibrating through the air. “It was never my idea, you know that.”

“What are you doing here?” Santa asked, all thoughts of escape lost in the bizarre circumstances.

“That’s what I asked you.” Little Janey answered, giggling. “But you were trying to kill my mommy. Bad Santa.” She said, putting her hands on her hips and wagging her finger at him.

“What the fuck?”

“Language! We are, after all, in the presence of children.” Death scolded, his red eyes glaring from underneath his cowl.

Santa was so stunned by this new development that he couldn’t think of a reply. The silence was finally cut by Janey’s shrill laugh.

“I mean it, what is going on?” Santa asked again, his voice shaking.

“You’ve been promised to me, and it’s time we take a ride.” Death replied, reaching for Santa’s gloved hand with his own skeletal one.

Santa jerked back, “Not me, her. I put the dust on her.” He pointed up at Andrea, who also broke out laughing.

“Of course, and she’s promised as well, but not now, not until her time. That was the deal that the higher ups brokered with her when they realized what you were going to do. Unfortunately, you didn’t make that same promise.”

“But I didn’t put the powder on myself.”

“Oh, but you did.” Death reached up and pointed to Santa’s sweat-glazed brow. “And it still sits on your skin.”

Santa pulled back as he realized what had happened, how he had transferred the powder from his gloved hand to his brow and how the sweat must have carried it into his glands.

“But you can’t take me, who would do the job?”

“They already have a replacement. He’s in the sled right now, delivering the gifts you neglected.” Death replied, moving forward even more until the entire house seemed to be swallowed by his darkness.

Santa tried to pull away, but when he looked down he realized that they were already in the ferry, the isle of souls ahead of them.

“At least that bitch won’t be here.” He sighed.

Since he couldn’t really smile without lips, Death was fond of using his fingers to draw out a smile on his face, which he did now.

“That’s what you think. Where you go, she goes, that was always part of the deal. Hence, when you died, she died with you.”

“You mean she’s here?”

He nodded, “I picked her up shortly after you left, and boy was she pissed about you screwing up her immortality.”

For a moment Santa looked over the boat’s side and into the inky water, knowing that if he threw himself overboard he would be completely eradicated from the land of the living and the death, lost forever to the darkness. He thought about jumping, but knew he couldn’t do it.

“Hell has to be better than nothing.” Santa mumbled to the water.

“I guess you’ll have to let me know.” Death said as they docked the boat, Mrs. Claus was already approaching them from across the beach. “Remember, if you find you can’t take it, you can always wade into the surf.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Santa said as he got out of the boat, her high-pitched voice already reaching his ears as she half-ran, half-waddled, toward them.

“I’m sure you will.” Death laughed, pushing his boat away from the dock and back out into the open waters, “I’m sure you’ll think of it often.”

 

 

Christmas: Written

giftmas_rectangle

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!

Christmas: Written

by J.S. Watts

My first post in this Giftmas Blog Tour took a peek at my personal, real life memories and experiences of Christmas. This second post goes one snow encrusted footstep further and considers how those experiences have infiltrated my writing.

As you may have gathered from my previous post, I like Christmas, but I’m not really an uber-Christmassy sort of person: moderation in all things is my motto. I have fond, rosy-glow firelight and Christmas tree fairy-lights memories of childhood Christmases. I am quite content, however, for those memories to remain in the past and for current-day Christmases to be firmly curtailed by the monthly boundary of December. I inevitably look forward to the peace after the Christmas frenzy. It has come as something of a surprise, therefore, to realise just how often my writing has touched on the subject of Christmas.

In case you don’t know, I write poetry, short stories and novels: much, but not all of them, influenced by speculative fiction themes (SF, fantasy, magic-realism, horror).

If I review my back catalogue of poems, I find just four that deal directly with the subject of Christmas or the mid-Winter Solstice and one of those is more about a werewolf than anything else (it’s in my collection, Cats and Other Myths, should you be interested). The other three take a more traditional view of Christmas, based firmly around those childhood memories of mine. Not so many, you might think, but if I consider all the poems that contain Christmas or Winter Festival imagery, the total rises to over eleven. Still not many, you might reiterate, but compare that to just one poem dealing with Firework Night, two that touch upon Halloween and none in relation to Easter.

When I look at my short stories, the developing Christmas theme becomes even more deep and crisp and even. I have, to date, written three ostensibly Christmas stories: Christmas Traditions (originally published in Ethereal Tales) – a humorous and somewhat ribald take (with added fairies and boggarts) on the possible causes of a number of accepted Christmas traditions; A Christmas Story – For The Children – is a prose poem/flash fiction hybrid, due out from Three Drops From a Cauldron this month, which brings a note of historical horror to the Christmas story; and there is A Christmas Tail – a cat’s eye perspective on a sort of version of A Christmas Carol. Like the original story by Dickens, it is a mixture of dark and light. Once again, three tales may not seem like a big deal to you, but it’s three more than any other annual festival gets in my short story portfolio.

Witchlight SmallerAs far as I can recall, Christmas does not get a look-in in my first novel, A Darker Moon. The book is just too dark and mythic (having said that, if anyone who has read it does come across a festive reference I’ve forgotten, feel free to let me know). The timeline of my paranormal novel, Witchlight, however, cuts right across the Christmas period, so there is a whole chapter in the book dedicated to Christmas.

The Christmas that Holly, the novel’s main character, and her nearest and dearest experience is very much based on my contemporary view of Christmas, rather than the shimmering tinsel memories of my childhood. To be direct, it’s not the happiest festive season ever, as the stresses and strains surrounding Holly’s newly discovered and alarmingly developing magic powers begin to take their toll. Work and family commitments conspire to make it a difficult domestic Christmas for Holly in the first place. The fact that the Winter Solstice has special “significance to witchery in general and Old Magic in particular” just serves to create further difficulties for Holly in terms of her fairy godfather and her witch of a mother. The tensions ramped up over the Winter Holiday are going to result in some dramatic and life-changing developments in the New Year.

All in all, it would seem that there’s a fair bit of Christmas sprinkled throughout my writing and the two blog posts I have written for the Giftmas Blog Tour have just added to my Christmas canon. The festive season has clearly been an influence on me. It’s not just the primary coloured and sparkly Christmas of childhood that has left its mark, though. The darker notes of my Christmas experiences also echo in my work, which, I feel, is right and proper. However special Christmas is for you, it’s also a part of real life with its inevitable ups and downs.

I hope your Christmas, Winter Solstice, Saturnalia, Giftmas, Mid-Winter Festival, call-it-what-you-will, when it comes, is mostly ups, but downs have their role to play too, because that’s life.

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J.S.Watts websiteJ.S.Watts is a British writer. Her poetry, short stories and book reviews appear in a wide variety of publications in Britain, Canada, Australia and the States including Acumen, Mslexia and Popshot and have been broadcast on BBC and Independent Radio. J.S. has been Poetry Reviews Editor for Open Wide Magazine and Poetry Editor for Ethereal Tales. Her debut poetry collection, Cats and Other Myths, is published by Lapwing Publications, as is a subsequent, multi-award nominated poetry pamphlet, Songs of Steelyard Sue. Her novels, A Darker Moon – dark literary fiction and Witchlight – paranormal with a touch of romance, are published in the US and UK by Vagabondage Press.  She has a new poetry collection, Years Ago You Coloured Me, due out from Lapwing in 2016. For further details see her website: www.jswatts.co.uk

 

Giftmas 2015 Giveaway:

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The Ghost of Christmas Book Blast

I recently joined the Support Indie Authors group on Goodreads and agreed to participate in their holiday free book event. On Saturday, the 19th of December, forty authors will be offering more than fifty books in a wide variety of genres absolutely free! What better way to de-stress, decompress, and take a well-deserved break from the hustle and bustle of the holidays than to curl up with a good book? Once again, all of the free books will be listed on the official Book Blast website:

www.freebookblast.com

As is their tradition, each of the authors participating in the book blast has shared a little about themselves. Below are interviews for ten of the forty participating authors. At the end of this post are links to three other blogs with the additional thirty authors. Please be sure to visit each and thank you for continuing to #SupportIndieAuthors

The Ghost of Christmas Book Blast

What is your name? Emma Woods
What genre or genres do you write in? Science Fiction, Fantasy, Dystopian/Apocalyptic, Teen & Young Adult
Have you been naughty or nice this year? Nice
Tell us a little about the book(or books) you are offering. Lea is a reluctant huntress. Tanner is her prey. When both get caught up in a war of the sexes, can they help each other survive?
What is your favorite underrated holiday treat? Homemade hot cocoa, as in made from scratch.
In the spirit of giving, tell us about your favorite charitable organization. The Red Cross. They were wonderful when I was the victim of a natural disaster. http://www.redcross.org
Where can readers find out more and connect with you?
Website: https://theemmawoods.wordpress.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/theemmawoods
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theemmawoods
Other: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/emmawoods

snowflake

What is your name? M.S. L.R./Stefany Rattles
What genre or genres do you write in? Fantasy, Romance, Erotica, Teen & Young Adult
Have you been naughty or nice this year? Naughty
Tell us a little about the book(or books) you are offering. I am offering my erotic romance books Bad Romance Part 1 & 2 free. I’m also offering the first book in my Darkest Nights series – Dark Night: Episode 1 free. So if you’re into both genre’s or one or the other, you can have these books free for your starter library!
What is your favorite underrated holiday treat? York Dark Chocolate Covered Peppermint Patties
In the spirit of giving, tell us about your favorite charitable organization. Salvation Army http://www.salvationarmyusa.org
Where can readers find out more and connect with you?
Website: http://www.stefanyrattles.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/StrlngGry
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Stefany-Rattles-628466587263459
Other: http://www.amazon.com/M.S.-L.R./e/B015TL1NBO

snowflake

What is your name? GG Atcheson
What genre or genres do you write in? Urban Fantasy
Have you been naughty or nice this year? Only a Sith thinks in absolutes.
Tell us a little about the book(or books) you are offering. The Legacy: Fate: An alien named LX crashes on Earth and discovers a new breed of humans who calls themselves vampires. When fate brings a group of renegades casted out of his own planet thousands of years ago, he enlists the help of the vampires to save Earth from total annihilation.
The Legacy: Destiny: Something ancient and evil lurks under the beautiful city of Los Angeles, and it’s waiting for the right opportunity to take over the world.
What is your favorite underrated holiday treat? Fruit jellies.
In the spirit of giving, tell us about your favorite charitable organization. When I was younger, the firefighters in my city would gather old toys, fix them, repaint them, and make them like new again. They put their heart in it. They thought no child should be without a present under the tree. So, in the spirit of the Holidays, any charity that has children in mind is my favorite.
Where can readers find out more and connect with you?
Twitter: https://twitter.com/GGAtcheson
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GGAtcheson/

snowflake

What is your name? Ellison Blackburn
What genre or genres do you write in? Science Fiction, Visionary/Metaphysical Fiction
Have you been naughty or nice this year? Only a Sith thinks in absolutes.
Tell us a little about the book(or books) you are offering. Regeneration X is a story about having choices and dealing with the consequences; creating new memories and letting others fade; and making sacrifices in pursuit of happiness.
What is your favorite underrated holiday treat? Terry’s Chocolate Orange
In the spirit of giving, tell us about your favorite charitable organization. The Non-GMO Project – an organization committed to preserving and building non-GMO food sources, educating consumers. www.nongmoproject.org
Where can readers find out more and connect with you?
Website: http://ellisonblackburn.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Ellis_blackburn
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ellisonblackburn/
Other: http://amazon.com/author/ellisonblackburn/

snowflake

What is your name? Shoshanah Lee Marohn
What genre or genres do you write in? Humor & Satire, Poetry & Verse, Art
Have you been naughty or nice this year? Only a Sith thinks in absolutes.
Tell us a little about the book(or books) you are offering. I wrote and illustrated two books. One is a comic travel memoir called, “Avoiding Sex with Frenchmen.” The other is a sinister and lovely book of haiku poems and pen and ink drawings called, “Coloring Inside the Dreams.”
What is your favorite underrated holiday treat? Glög- sweet Scandinavian mulled wine with nuts and raisins.
In the spirit of giving, tell us about your favorite charitable organization. It’s hard to choose, but Heifer International really helps people become independent and grow their own food. www.heifer.org
Where can readers find out more and connect with you?
Website: Dommn2703.blogspot.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/maddogmarohn
Facebook: Facebook.com/shoshanahart
Other: Shoshanah.space

snowflake

What is your name? Dwayne Fry
What genre or genres do you write in? Humor & Satire
Have you been naughty or nice this year? Naughty
Tell us a little about the book(or books) you are offering. I am offering two satirical novellas about intense and angry individuals.
What is your favorite underrated holiday treat? Mistletoe. So what if it’s poisonous?
In the spirit of giving, tell us about your favorite charitable organization. Discovery Living, Inc. – A non-profit organization in Linn County Iowa, providing housing for adults with intellectual disabilities. http://www.discoveryliving.org

snowflake

What is your name? Charles Hash
What genre or genres do you write in? Science Fiction, Fantasy, Dystopian/Apocalyptic, Horror, LGBTQ
Have you been naughty or nice this year? Naughty
Tell us a little about the book(or books) you are offering. Flawed characters. Tragedy. Blood, lots of blood.
What is your favorite underrated holiday treat? Those tiny little oranges that are easy to peel.
In the spirit of giving, tell us about your favorite charitable organization. Locks of Love, I’ve donated three times. www.locksoflove.org/
Where can readers find out more and connect with you?
Twitter: https://twitter.com/DecayingGoddess
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/The.Goddess.of.Decay

snowflake

What is your name? BR Kingsolver
What genre or genres do you write in? Science Fiction, Fantasy
Have you been naughty or nice this year? Naughty
Tell us a little about the book(or books) you are offering. The first two books in The Telepathic Clans Saga. The Goddess blesses Her people with 25 Telepathic Gifts. In addition to Telepathy, the Gifts include command over Air and Fire, Telekinesis and Teleportation.
What is your favorite underrated holiday treat? Banana pudding. It’s underrated for all occasions and should be part of the mandatory food pyramid.
In the spirit of giving, tell us about your favorite charitable organization. The Polaris Project, https://polarisproject.org/ This is an organization that works to disrupt human trafficking networks, helping survivors restore their freedom, preventing more victims, and leveraging data and technology to pursue traffickers wherever they operate.
Where can readers find out more and connect with you?
Website: http://brkingsolver.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/BRKINGSOLVER
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/BR-Kingsolver/329557003754305
Other: http://www.amazon.com/BR-Kingsolver/e/B007XDV5OW/

snowflake

What is your name? Rhonda Parrish (Oh hey! I know her!)
What genre or genres do you write in? Dystopian/Apocalyptic, Horror, Poetry & Verse
Have you been naughty or nice this year? Nice
Tell us a little about the book(or books) you are offering. White Noise is a collection of poems from the zombie apocalypse. Tim Deal, from Shroud Magazine described it as, “A collection of vivid scenes laid out in sharp and articulate verse, that when assembled, construct a grim narrative filled with tension, stark imagery, and unusual beauty. WHITE NOISE reaches in and evokes a visceral response— not always the one you’d expect.”
What is your favorite underrated holiday treat? Are any holiday treats really underrated? I dunno… Some of my favourites include my husband’s Bûche de Noël, the vegetarian tourtiere we enjoy on the 24th but my absolute tippy-top favourite are butter tarts. Om nom nom!
In the spirit of giving, tell us about your favorite charitable organization. I adore Fauna Foundation — http://www.faunafoundation.org/ They are Canada’s only chimpanzee sanctuary and do amazing work caring for our little cousins (and another animals as well). http://www.faunafoundation.org/
Where can readers find out more and connect with you?
Website: http://www.rhondaparrish.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/rhondaparrish
Other: http://www.rhondaparrish.com/about/newsletter/

snowflake

What is your name? Frances Smith
What genre or genres do you write in? Fantasy
Have you been naughty or nice this year? Nice
Tell us a little about the book(or books) you are offering. A brother and sister, who are estranged from each other, come to believe their sibling is in grave danger. Each works to try and save the other, one through battle, the other through politics, each believing the other in need of rescue. They are both right.
What is your favorite underrated holiday treat? Stuffing. I can’t get enough of it.
In the spirit of giving, tell us about your favorite charitable organization. The Fire Fighters Charity, helping injured fire fighters in the UK.
Where can readers find out more and connect with you?
Website: http://francessmithauthor.wix.com/frances-smith

Check out some of the other people hosting this book blast and find out more about the participants 🙂

~ Christina McMullenPatricia Loofbourrow ~ A.E. Hellstorm ~

Fergus the Wonderdog’s Cheesecake

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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!

 

Fergus the Wonderdog’s Cheesecake

by E.C. Bell

I love baking, especially in winter. I bake cookies, mincemeat pies (really), Christmas cakes (really!), and often, for the Christmas meal, I bake a cheesecake.

This recipe comes from a recipe book my Mom used (a lot) while we were growing up. I didn’t even realize it was fairly complicated until I checked out other recipes online, but it is still one of the best tasting cheesecakes I’ve found.

Fergus the Wonderdog’s Cheesecake
1 (6oz) package zwieback (graham crackers to most people)
1/4 c soft butter
1 c plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
1 pound cream cheese
1 cup light cream
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 teaspoon grated lemon rind

Topping
I use cherry pie filling, with a touch of grated lemon rind warmed into it. Cranberry sauce is good, too.

Roll or grind the zwieback. Mix with the soft butter, 2 tablespoons of sugar and the cinnamon. Grease a 10×21/2 inch spring form pan generously with the butter and pat the crumb mixture on the bottom and up the sides of the pan.

Soften the cream cheese and stir in the cream, add the remaining sugar which has been mixed with flour and salt. Beat egg yolks until thick and light. Fold these in carefully and flavour with vanilla and lemon rind. Beat the egg whites to soft peaks and fold in. Pour into the crust.

Bake in a moderately slow oven, 325 degrees, for an hour, and then leave in the oven another hour with heat off. Cool thoroughly, but under no circumstances place it on the frozen water barrel outside your back door in the middle of winter to hurry the cooling process.

Once it is cooled, top with your favourite berry topping, and enjoy!

Okay, now the story.

It was Christmas Eve, 1983, and I had this dog, see? (Do you know how many of my stories start this way?) Fergus was a red boned hound that we got from the SPCA the year before, and he was a wonderful dog. (That wasn’t why we called him Fergus the Wonderdog, though. We called him that because he’d managed to live through a bout of Parvo he came down with one month after we got him. But that’s another story.)

Since we lived on a farm, he was mostly an outside dog. (We let him sleep inside most winter nights, but the rest of the time he spent in the great outdoors.) So, Fergus was outside, and I was prepping the dessert for the Bell family Christmas Eve meal, traditionally held at my parent’s house.

I had decided to make cheesecake, from a recipe I’d found in Mom’s best cook book. It was the first time I’d ever tried the recipe, and of course I didn’t read the whole thing before I started. I nearly lost it when I realized I was supposed to let it cool for at least two hours before plating. I had barely an hour before we had to leave.

So… I set the cheesecake outside, on the ice-filled water barrel by our back door, to cool it quickly. It was really cold that year, and I figured that just a few minutes would do the trick.

Five minutes later, I opened the door to check and caught Fergus, up on his hind legs, leaning against the water barrel. Steam billowed from his cheesecake-covered muzzle. The remains of my beautiful cheesecake was a white volcanic eruption in a spring form pan between his front paws. He smiled as only a dog can smile, then blinked twice and broke for safer ground when I started to yell.

I don’t remember what I took to replace the cheesecake at the family Christmas Eve meal, but the story more than made up for the lack of dessert. And from that moment on, this has been known as Fergus the Wonderdog’s cheesecake.

Happy holidays!

Bio: Eileen (E.C.) Bell’s debut paranormal mystery novel Seeing the Light (2014) won the BPAA award for Best Speculative Fiction Book of the Year, and was shortlisted for the Bony Blythe Award for Light Mystery. The second book in the series, Drowning in Amber, was released into the wild at the end of October, 2015. Her short fiction includes the Aurora Award winning Women of the Apocalypse and The Puzzle Box. When she’s not writing, she’s living a fine life in her round house with her husband and two dogs.

Website: www.eileenbell.com
Twitter: @apocalypse woman
Facebook:www.facebook.com/eileen.bell.90

Giftmas 2015 Giveaway:

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Mom’s Lemon Meringue Pie

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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!

Mom’s Lemon Meringue Pie

by Suzanne van Rooyen

Want to know one of the most confusing things about my childhood? Christmas.

I grew up in South Africa which meant that December was one of the hottest months of the year. Despite this fact, all the Christmassy stuff in shops – which inevitably made its way into our home – involved snow and reindeer (I thought they were misshapen wildebeest for a long time) and a fat man trussed up in far too much clothing for the summer heat. We were bombarded with European imagery of Christmas to the point where I remember making snowflakes in school – you know, by cutting out shapes in folded paper – and not even really understanding what it was. In my child-mind, snow in the movies looked a lot like balls of polystyrene. I just didn’t get it. I also didn’t understand why my mom would struggle in the sweltering kitchen to deliver a roasted ham and turkey dinner no one wanted to eat because everyone wanted to be in the pool.

While my childhood Christmases did end up being variations on the traditional European theme, there was one exception when it came to dessert. We eschewed fruit cake – only my dad liked it, my siblings and I just ate the icing – and opted instead for my mom’s signature and singularly delicious lemon meringue pie. My mom still makes this for every family occasion and we all still fight over the last slice! I have very generously shared the recipe for this below as I remember it from making it with my mom.

For the crust

  • A packet of Tennis biscuits (no other biscuits will do)
  • A generous helping of butter

Crush the biscuits until you have crumbs, mix into melted butter, press into pie dish, then lick the remnants from bowl and spoon with relish.

For the filling

  • A tin of sweetened condensed milk
  • 2-3 egg yolks
  • lemon juice

Beat the ingredients together taste-testing regularly to make sure the mix is tart enough. It shouldn’t be too sweet, then lick the tin of condensed milk clean without cutting your tongue on the sharp edges. Pour this mix over the biscuit base.

For the meringue

  • 2-3 egg whites, room temperature
  • a lot of caster sugar
  • Slowly whisk the egg whites gradually adding the sugar until stiff peaks form. Lick remaining meringue from whisk before your sister does! Spread the meringue over the top of the pie and pattern as you wish giving the pie a few fluffy peaks.

Place pie in the oven at medium-high heat and watch impatiently for the meringue to turn a golden brown. Remove from oven, wait impatiently for it to cool a little before cutting it into slices. Serve with vanilla ice cream or just eat it as it is. This pie is delightful warm or cold, not that it ever lasts long enough to turn cold.

Now that I live in Sweden, Christmas makes a lot more sense what with the snow and cold and darkness and reindeer and all. While I have adapted to the new traditions of living here, one thing no holiday of mine will ever be complete without is my mom’s lemon meringue pie! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Author Bio:

SuzanneThe author of THE OTHER ME, I HEART ROBOT and the forthcoming SCARDUST, Suzanne is a tattooed storyteller from South Africa. She currently lives in Sweden and is busy making friends with the ghosts of her Viking ancestors. Although she has a Master’s degree in music, Suzanne prefers conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters. When she grows up, she wants to be an elf – until then, she spends her time (when not writing) wall climbing, buying far too many books, and entertaining her shiba inu, Lego.

Author Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Suzanne-van-Rooyen/304965232847874
Twitter – https://twitter.com/Suzanne_Writer
Pinteresthttps://www.pinterest.com/SuzanneAuthor/
Websitehttp://suzannevanrooyen.com/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5306442.Suzanne_van_Rooyen

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Winter In Words

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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!

Winter in Words

A Guest Post by Doug Blakeslee

I wrote a novella, Fire and Frost, featuring a character associated with winter and related elements. I’ll admit have a character that embodies Fire and one associated with Cold is a cliché. In my defense, the story started with a superhero theme and changed along the way. Alexia grew from a background character to being a strong partner of the main character over the four or five revisions that I made to the story. She’s appeared in a couple of short stories, plays a major role in my current novel project, and mentioned in passing in related stories. Scenes have been rewritten to include her or shift to her point of view. She’s one of my top picks if I’m writing urban fantasy and the story requires female voice.

Alexia is the daughter of Yellusia [a Fae] and Alfonso [a mortal occultist]. They made a bargain, which resulted in a child whom the mother left in care of the father. She’s smart and well-educated thanks to her father’s teaching. Her looks and strong ties to winter come from her mother. I wanted her to be an equal to the main character of the novella. Truth be told, it took the last two revisions to bring her to that point. Alexia does get kidnapped, but she’s not the quiet prisoner, assists in her own escape, and takes control of situations when her expertise is required. She’s not a bystander and will not allow herself to be shunted to the side.

Her mother’s domain is, as one might guess, referred to as the Winter Realm. Vast plains of ice and snow with frozen rivers running through them. Stands of evergreens dot the landscape and provide shelter from the near constant wind that whistle down from the mountains. Rare is the day where snow doesn’t fall. Alp-like peaks surround the realm to form an impervious barrier to the other realms. The Winter Queen likes her privacy. Her fortress sits in the middle of the realm, rising out a frozen lake with minarets of ice. The blue-skinned elves that serve as her army aren’t the cheery kind that makes toys and there’s no jolly fat man in a red suit. Snow faeries, yeti, ogres, along with wolves, rabbits, and reindeer inhabit the “wilds” of the realm. Yellusia’s rule is lax for one of the Fae, owing to her association to mortals for the past few centuries.

My short story, Winter’s Daughter, is set in a “remote” area of the realm. It seems obvious now, but the connection wasn’t intentional as I wrote. This does mean I can use the two protagonists as they’re now connected to my fictional world. The realm also features in my current novel where I fill out more details of the realm, Alexia, and her mother. Winter’s going to remain a theme in my stories for the near future. I might even try to work in Santa, Krampus, and an animated snowman in future stories.

Here are a couple excerpts from stories featuring Alexia:

This is from my novella, ”Fire and Frost”. Theo and Alexia along with allies are trying to stop a minor incursion of Fae into the real world.

The noise rose as the surface tension of the large bubbling mass broke. Three, frog-like heads bobbed in the air on long necks that rose from a tank-like body. A toad, grown to twice the size of a killer whale. It waddle-hopped on all fours, letting out a thunderous croak, spitting out a mass of water and slime that drenched the first of the invaders and the priest. He shouted something unintelligible in the din of noise.

“That’s a big-ass frog,” Squire Greene said.

“Hydra,” I replied. Gold and white lettering traced down the gun barrel. Enchanted pistols, another trick for the modern age. The fairy tales tell of magical swords and daggers. They give weight to the legends and that means power. Modern times require modern methods.

“One of them anyways,” added Alexia. Her training shown through. She spoke and wrote in a dozen languages and carried an encyclopedic range of magical lore in her sharp mind. Poised and precise, a voice of reason and deliberate thought to my impulsive nature. My uptown girl.

“One of them?” His voice rose a bit.

“Welcome to Mythology 101. Don’t always believe popular fiction. They miss on many of the details. That’s why Theo keeps me around.” She gave me a smirk and a wink.

This is from “Here There Be Dragons”, a short story. Theo and Alexia are taking a room at an inn.

“Ye youngin’s heading towards the market? It is to be a grand thing.” Her tread on the stairs reminded me of bowling balls slammed together.

“We are,” I said. She led us up two flights of stairs and down a tiled hallway. “How long does the coach ride take?”

“A month of Sundays and an hour,” she said, pulling out a ring of keys, then pushed open a door. “Room with a bath. No sharing of facilities for ye kids.”

The chamber’s interior resembled the finest suite of a four star hotel. Wall to wall carpeting, king sized bed, and a bathroom complete with a hot-tub. Theo whistled at the sight.

“Leave the clothing on the hamper for the house elves, a complementary service. No room service, but meals are always available. We have our own grandmother in the kitchen.”

“It’s wonderful. Please, take your pick of a gift for the hospitality of this fine inn.” I fished out a leather cloth from the pack and unrolled it on the side table.

Her eyes narrowed at the array of objects. A silver hand mirror sans the reflective surface. Dreamcatcher of silk, gossamer, and the hair of a madman. Three strands of uncooked spaghetti wrapped by black thread, sealed with a drop of red wax, then wrapped around a spindle. The diary of a young girl, pierced by a paring knife. A vial of boiling sand. Her hand fell upon the last item.

This will suffice. A pleasure to do business with those that respect the traditional way.”

“We’ll be down shortly for a meal,” I said.

She winked at Theo, then closed the door.

“I don’t remember you packing those.” He dumped the pack on the floor and began to strip.

I paused to watch, admiring the toned body. He worked hard to keep fit and it paid dividends in eye candy. “They don’t take credit cards or cash here. You were too busy with the guns and camping gear.”

This is from “Strings of the Dead”, a short story. Alexia is investigating a cursed lyre and its connection to a murder.

Small rooms lined the hallway, large enough for a bed and nightstand. At the end of the hallway, two shared bathrooms with iron tubs and stand-alone sinks. Relics of the time when the saloon was first built. Alexia opened the door to room six and took a step back. Screams of ethereal energy infused the room, spewing forth to twirl and spiral across the walls and ceiling. Colored ribbons writhed as they danced to a tune that only they could hear. The source lay on the bed; a lyre of oak and vines resting on a velvet lining inside an open instrument case.

She felt a cool touch run across her neck, the light brushing of ethereal fingertips. “Spirit, please show yourself.”

Her breath fogged in the air as a swirling mass drifted down the hallway and coalesced into the hazy figure of a thin man. His eyes reflected a great fear, his mouth turned down in profound sadness.

“Go. Flee,” he whispered.

“Explain,” Alexia said.

“It hates you.” The spirit’s eye morphed between bright points of light and deep wells of darkness.

“Me?”

“You threaten it and the shade that follows. They’ll be your doom,” the ghost whispered, “a revenant of misfortune and greed and hubris.”

“Thank you, spirit,” she said.

“Run, girl. Run.” The old man’s face melted, ectoplasm streaming away in wisps, fading to nothing.

Alexia whirled around, taking the stairs two at the time, and skidded to a halt half way across the ground floor. Beyond the storefront window, an ethereal scarecrow-like figure stood on the sidewalk. A featureless face stared at her, radiating streams of envy and hatred. A void opened where the things mouth should have been and a soul-rending scream echoed up and down the street.

She pressed against a nearby column, seeking cover behind the wooden beam as the windows shattered, spraying shards of glass inwards. A piece lacerated her arm, sending a thin stream of blood splattering onto the floor. She dug into the side pocket of the courier bag, ignoring the stinging pain. Her fingers wrapped around a copper disk.

“Signs of old, strength of old. Ward and guard, bend and mold.” The patina on the copper disk flaked away, exposing the bare metal and the intricate engravings along the edge. Glamour pulsed out with her words, a white tinged flow of energy.

She heard another wail, laced with fear from behind her, then the rustle of cloth. Silence. Alexia glanced around the corner of the post. Car alarms whooped and wailed on the street. No sign of the malevolent spirit.

*  *  *

In real life, Doug buys games for a living and eat. His free time is spent writing to get the voices out of his head and playing RPGs. He’s managed to sell a number of short stories and working on his first novel. He can be found on Facebook, Blogspot [The Simms Project], and Twitter [@simms_doug].

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Christmas From Scratch

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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!

Christmas from Scratch

By Virginia Carraway Stark

My Mom loved Christmas. She loved the music, she loved the lights, she loved the tree, she loved the baking and most of all, she loved decorating. She adored making arts and crafts and she funneled all her extra creativity into making her family an entire Christmas from scratch. She didn’t do it alone though, the whole family was conscripted to pitch in.

We had a few ‘store bought’ glass globes that were ancient works of art from the fifties and forties. If one of those glass globes was to break my mother would mourn it as though it were a lost child and cradle the bits of broken glass in her hands. They were hand-painted and had carefully portrayed scenes of children mid-way through a snowball fight or a couple snuggling on a sleigh ride. Each one was unique and a little miracle master-piece. Little fake feathered birds with wires coming out of their feet perched on the branches inquisitively.

dough artMost of the ornaments were made fresh every year. My mother was a play dough wizard.

Many of the ornaments were two dimensional cookie cutter pieces of art but some of them, mostly the ones my mom made were honestly pieces of gorgeous folk art.

She would start by making a batch of dough, she would boil the water and mix in the salt so that it wasn’t grainy and lumpy and after that add more and more flour until we had an enormous batch of pale white dough for the whole family to begin creating with.

Nobody was immune from making Christmas decorations, and the dough-art was only the start. Even my smallest brother who was only a toddler at the time was shown how to carefully roll out the dough and push in the cookie cutter. A metal paper clip was pushed into the top of the decorations so that later on we could tie ribbons to them to attach them to the tree and then they were ready to be baked. After they were cooked in the oven at a low temperature they would be removed and allowed to cool while we went on making more trays of artwork.dough art 2

Once the cooked Christmas trees, sleighs, reindeer, Santa, stars and a plethora of other designs were cooled the painting would begin.

The painting was a miracle all in its own to me. A few drops of food coloring would be added to a little bit of evaporated milk and voila: paint! We were allowed to mix our own colors and had fun learning how the different colors combined to form new ones. Dozens of different colored little paper cups of evaporated milk would cover the kitchen as the whole family would sit down and create. For the larger, coarser sections we would use q-tips and for the delicate parts of faces or trim we had little paint brushes that we would pass between us.

My mother was the master at the art of dough. She rarely used the cookie cutters, she was the queen of three dimensional dough art. I swear she could make anything out of dough, In her hands little balls of dough would transform into dolls with angel’s wings. Turtle doves would spring out of her fingertips. She would use a garlic press to make materials to build nests for her birds or hair for her dolls. She made so many works of art.

dough art miceShe would use little bits of this and that to make the little incarnations as realistic as possible and draw on little smiling faces.

Whether it was one of my mother’s works of art or one of my tentative and slightly lopsided attempts to make an angel doll or even one of my baby brother’s barely recognizable Christmas trees they would be sprayed with lacquer to shine them up and keep the color vibrant and bright. A lot of my Mom’s decorations ended up being given away as gifts and we only saved the best of our efforts for the next year so that we could do the process all over again the coming year.

Dough-art wasn’t the only thing to go on our tree either. We would make huge bowls of popcorn and thread needles, put on A Christmas Story or some other movie on and make popcorn garlands with dried cranberries interspersed for color. Threading the popcorn on a needle was harder than it looked but since most of the popcorn ended up getting eaten anyway, it wasn’t the most strenuous of chores.

We would also take construction paper and cut it into short strips. Some of these would be decorated with glitter or markers and others would be plain, but whatever the case they would be looped together in long chains that would be wrapped around the tree along with the popcorn.play dough popcorn garland

It wasn’t a fancy looking tree in the end. It wasn’t in matching colors, it wasn’t a designer tree but we had a lot of fun decorating it and every year it was different. We had little lights that looked like candles and it looked like a tree that was loved. Every year the same angel sat on top of the tree, overlooking our hard work with a pleasant little smile on her face.

Under her benevolent gaze we made gingerbread cookies and houses. We played Christmas music on the piano and sang loudly and enthusiastically while we waited for our sweets to come out of the oven. Sometimes we couldn’t wait for them to cool and with evil indulgence we would dip them into the bowls of multicolored icing and make sweet, warm goopy messes.

We didn’t spend a lot of money on presents but that wasn’t the point of those Christmas’. Not then, the gifts were often handmade and when they weren’t they were rarely expensive. That wasn’t the point. My Dad would often say, ‘If you need something we’ll buy it for you and if I want to buy you a present, I’ll do it anytime of the year that I want.’

Things changed over the years and those sorts of Christmas’ broke apart with my parent’s divorce. My Mom stopped making dough-art and my stepmother decorated the Christmas tree in matching designer decorations that I wasn’t allowed to touch. Christmas presents became more expensive and less important and we didn’t make paper or popcorn garlands for the tree. Nobody sang anymore as a deep self-consciousness crept into the divided family, the piano was long since gone.

My mother is gone now and I don’t have any of her dough-art creations anymore, but I certainly have the memories. We were far from a perfect family, but in the dark of winter with the warmth of the wood stove and knowledge that in the darkness we formed a circle of light kept us together.

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Dear Santa

A GiftEvery year I like to take a moment and write a letter to Santa with a wishlist of gifts. This is not an actual wishlist that I want my friends or readers to buy me things from (with the exception of those I live with LOL), it’s just meant to be fun.

Dear Santa,

I have been REALLY good this year. Truly. And I’ve worked REALLY hard. I’m very confident that I’ve earned a spot on your ‘Nice’ list and so I don’t feel particularly bashful at all about presenting my wishlist to you 🙂 This year for Giftmas I would like:

  • I really need a new big, comfy sweatshirt. My Margaret Atwood one is about 12 years old now, and it looks it. I’ve kinda got my eye on this one from Fauna (white, XL, thx!) because it’ll also support one of my favourite charities. Win/win!
  • I broke my FitBit beyond repair when I was in Washington last year. I thought I’d just live without it, but now apparently FitBit has like, challenges and stuff, and I think that could be really motivating so I could really use a new one.
  • I love watching the birds around here, and especially watching them play in puddles (and in the wheelbarrow when it fills up with water), so I’d really enjoy getting a birdbath. I’m not super picky about the design but I’d definitely prefer it not be one of those cheap plastic types that everyone seemed to have when I was a kid. That thing wouldn’t stand a chance of surviving beyond a year in our yard. Also? New bird feeders would be the bomb. The neighbours down the street have WAY more birds than I do, and I’m a little envious.
  • I’m running low on cool notebooks. These days my favourites fall into two categories: the super cheap sparkly kind from the Dollar Store and the fake leather journal kind from Winnable.
  • Jo will probably get this for me, because he’s awesome about making sure I’m always well-stocked with tea, but just in case Santa I’m almost out of my favourite Chai.
  • I feel like the need for charitable donations are at an all-time high this year, Santa. Usually I pick a charity or two I’d really like you to support on my behalf, but this year I just don’t even know where to start. I’m thinking The Red Cross, Fauna, the Edmonton Food Bank and Plan Canada are all fantastic valid options. And truly, I would be content if this were the only item on my Wishlist I received this year.

…and while that’s true, there is one last item I’m going to ask for:

  • Four years ago I said, “I could also really use some baseboards and riser thingers for my bathroom and kitchen. If we don’t finish them up soon they are just going to blend into the background and we’ll never get them done.” Well… that’s still a thing. >_<

Thank you Santa 🙂

Sincerely,

Rhonda

 

And now I’d like to share one of my very favourite songs of the season. Tim Minchin, everyone:

…I’m not crying, YOU’RE crying!

Also, though I’m not a Christian I sure do love a lot of Christmas carols. Here is another one of my favourite holiday songs 🙂

The Christmas Army

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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 Christmas Army

Barbara Tomporowski

November 30, 2015

Barbara and the Three Foot Nutcracker 2013 smLast year, on December 24th, I danced with a soldier.

My cheek pressed against his cool, creased jaw. My left hand grasped his firm shoulder, my right encircled his waist, and my fingers reached the hollow in his rigid back.

One-two-three, four-five-six. One-two-three, four…I twirled around my living room, rising onto the balls of my feet and falling back to the floor with the rhythmic motion of a ballroom waltz. My daughter, Morgana, applauded, while my boyfriend, Lynal, smiled and hefted his camera.

And my dance partner? Well, he never laughed. Never sighed, never relaxed. Never even embraced me back, for he was one foot tall and carved from wood, and his painted features will never change as he stands at attention with his uniform eternally pressed. He cannot enjoy the grace of my step any more than he can hear the notes emerging from the music box beneath his boots. For my partner was a Nutcracker, and the latest addition to a collection that’s been massing in my house over many Christmases.

I can’t remember when I started collecting them. Probably, like many little girls, I was fascinated by the glamourous ballerinas in The Nutcracker ballet. Surrounded by toy soldiers and menaced by Mouse Kings, they leaped through a silvery realm where fog and glitter made magic become both fleeting and possible.

As a young woMarzipan Nutcrakers at Le Macaron smman, my interest turned from the elegant ballerinas to their soldierly companions, and I began buying Nutcrackers. At first, I got one a year, but that was before my friends and children started finding them for me. I now have more than enough to cover the top of my china cabinet, and the Nutcracker Army continues growing, for my troop welcomes all recruits from three foot tall riflemen to frog princes and Victorian dandies.

Last Christmas, three brave sentries guarded the frosty hill crest, peering through the darkness at the snowy plain below – that is, they stood in the windows of my front porch, overlooking the drifts on the lawn. Inside, my cat crept between gift-wrapped parcels, attempting to ambush the lion-taming Nutcracker rolling about the living room on a wheeled base. Meanwhile, a soldier in 17th century dress guarded a tiny gondola, patiently waiting for a pair of masked lovers to emerge from their Yuletide revels.
A few days ago, while hurrying along the ramparts of Old Quebec, I halted at a window with frosted glass ornaments, glowing colours and a wooden sign above the shop’s evergreen doors: La Boutique de Noël. And nestled amid the shimmering ornaments and candy cane lights: Nutcrackers.

A Nutcracker chef with a cupcake hat and a gingerbread cookie dangling from his pudgy hand. Santa Claus Nutcrackers, with matching perpetual grimaces as if they pondered the absurdity of Christmas. A fireman Nutcracker, no taller than my hand, who embraced a hose as if it alone could keep him from falling beneath the heels of eager shoppers.

Nutcrackers at the Willows Saskatoon smOf course I brought one home. My newest captain wears a sparkling peppermint coat, but what got him past the interview was the way he held a gold staff topped with an enormous snowflake. His firm grip on the burnished haft belied a plaintive expression which suggested he’d be heartbroken if I sent him back to the ranks.

But my favourite is still the one I waltzed with last year, with his white hair bristling beneath a scarlet hat as he taps a drum with his wind-up arms. Lynal had taken me to McNally Robinson to check out the books and giftware, and I was perusing a set of ruby goblets when Morgana ran over and thrust herself into my path, blocking the aisle to the till. While I could see Lynal buying something, I would never have guessed what was inside the box they presented to me on Christmas Eve.

With the exception of La Boutique de Noël, I’m disappointed in this year’s selection of Christmas decorations. Lambs, squirrels and foxes peep from burlap wrappings and plaid-covered boxes; cute, in a rustic way, but hardly suitable for my neo-Victorian decor.

There were only three or four nutcrackers at Pier 1 last weekend, but I spied one I liked. “That one,” I told Lynal. “Will you take a picture and show my kids? And if no one buys it for me, I’ll come on Boxing Day and pick it up myself.”

“Don’t worry,” he said. “I’m pretty sure you’ll get one.”

Bio: Barbara Tomporowski writes, dances, and does photography. When she’s not doing that, she’s organizing events for arts, culture and justice organizations at the local, provincial and national levels. She publishes academic articles, speaks at justice and community events, chairs the Cathedral Village Arts Festival, and organizes the Phantasts, a writing group in Regina devoted to science fiction, fantasy, horror, and alternative history. Follow Barbara Tomporowski on Facebook.

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