Ice Fair

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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 blog tour’s main page 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!

Ice Fair

by Simon Kewin

This is an edited extract from Witch King, the third volume in the Cloven Land fantasy trilogy, a book I’m currently working on.

In the land of Andar they don’t have Christmas, but they do have Midwinter festivities. For three days between the end of the old year and the start of the new, the old rules are set aside and people celebrate the turning of the year with lights and games and joyous – even wild – celebrations.

At the city of Guilden, if the winter is cold enough, they have an Ice Fair on the frozen river An. It’s a place that isn’t really a place, being on the river, as well as a time that isn’t really a time, being the gap between the years. For that short period, control of the city is handed over to a Lord of Misrule and there is much merriment and craziness.

In this scene the heroine, Cait, a girl from our world, is in Andar attending the Ice Fair. She is deeply troubled and unable to enjoy the festivities. A terrible threat hangs over the city, and indeed all of Andar, because an invasion is coming across the frozen river. The nightmares from people’s fireside tales are coming. The problem is that most of the people are having far too good a time to listen to her dire warnings…

The following day, a procession of fire snaked its way across the ice from Guilden. A long procession of revellers walked onto the ice, many carrying smoking torches that filled the night air with scents of pine-resin and honey. Everyone was muffled up in layers of wool and fur, but their eyes were bright, reflecting the thousand lights of the torches and lanterns of the Ice Fair.

The people walked toward a line of unlit bonfires, rising like a small mountain range to one side of the bay. Each district of Guilden built their own fire, a competition to discover who could create the biggest and the most outlandish effigy for the top. The crowds cheered as the Lord of Misrule walked down the line, setting each bonfire alight. Flames licked up the sides of them. Some were truly enormous, fifty or sixty feet tall. More than one was crowned with an effigy of the Doge in a golden chair, but others had exaggerated monsters that were, perhaps, their builders’ idea of the undain.

Cait stepped back from the fires as they flames took hold, the raging yellow lighting up the faces of the assembled crowds. It was strange and troubling to be surrounded by so much merriment. She wished she could enjoy it. Wished she could lose herself in the fun and forget what was coming.

There had to be thousands on the ice now, people of all ages. A hubbub of voices filled the night air: shouts, laughter, the occasional scream. She wondered if they were screams of delight or terror. Each time, she thought it had to be the start of the attack, but each time it turned out to be nothing worse than drunken revellers chasing each other.

She walked through the fair, past jugglers keeping four, five, six flaming torches in the air, past stalls selling roasting chestnuts and meat from spit-roast animals. There seemed to be very little trouble, although occasionally a laughing youth weaved headlong through the crowds, pursued by some shouting, red-faced merchant.

She walked farther still, through swept drifts of snow that crunched and cracked beneath her feet. The crowds began to thin out and the stalls become more scattered. Overhead, the stars blazed down in the cold air, reflecting so perfectly in the swept ice that it felt like she was walking through the air, depths beneath her and gulfs above. She reached a line of iron braziers. In the distance, guards paced about for warmth, no doubt wishing they were having fun at the fair like everyone else. A chill wind had picked up, making Cait’s cheeks sting. She had to be nearly beyond Guilden Bay, out on the river proper, its vast waters surging beneath her feet.

She turned to survey the scene behind her. The twinkling lights from the fair and, beyond, the houses and palaces of Guilden, windows all glowing with candle fire. Some of the black powder had been salvaged for a firework display. Bright globes of stars blossomed over the scene as rocket after rocket was launched into the sky. She could hear the whoops and roars of delight over the background jumble of voices.

She turned away again. Westward, apart from the stars, it was fully dark. She walked for ten more minutes, alone on the ice, until she saw the line of bobbing, twinkling torches moving across the ice toward her. At the same moment, the mournful cry of warning horns from the sentries wailed through the night air…

 

 

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Cajun Christmas

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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!

Cajun Christmas

by Laura VanArendonk Baugh

Nottaway Plantation house

Let’s be clear, I am a Yankee. I was born north of the Mason-Dixon Line, I speak with a Hollywood-perfect mid-American accent, and my poor cat’s tongue cannot abide spicy food. I am a Yankee.

But I write this post from Cajun country, as I am spending my Thanksgiving holiday in the Mississippi Delta. And once Thanksgiving dinner was over, Christmas preparations began in earnest.

No, seriously, I mean once dinner was over. We had our turkey feast at midday, and at nightfall the first Christmas bonfire was lit.

Bonfires are a longstanding Delta tradition, brought by settlers from French and German Christmas communal fire customs. Children were dispatched to collect driftwood, and wood was stacked in efficient towers which would burn bright and hot. The children were told the fires guided Papa Noel to their houses, but these fires may have also helped to guide travelers along the river – always dangerous to navigate at night for many reasons – and to indicate a landing for family and friends.

bonfireLike many things, the towers grew as the years passed, until forty-foot and taller cones of wood were being lit in shared conflagrations and celebrations. Due to one collapsing structure, local towers are now limited to twenty feet, which is still a heck of a blazing pyramid. Some of the bonfire celebrants take weeks to build their neat structures of wood. Sometimes fireworks are tucked inside!

It’s a writer’s curse, but I am incapable of travel or even writing about travel without touching on local history and culture (this makes me either the most delightful or most heinous of traveling companions, depending upon your own preferences), so here’s just a bit of Cajun background. The very word Cajun is a corruption of Arcadian, French exiles from Nova Scotia who began arriving in the bayou country in the 1760s. They kept their French language and their French traditions well into the 19th century and remain a strong subculture in the Mississippi Delta region today.

By the way, what we call the Mississippi Delta region is actually an alluvial plain, not the delta itself, though that rolls a bit less smoothly off the tongue in local music. Levees and river control projects have (mostly) contained the mighty Mississippi and the regular floods which made this area so fertile are now decades apart, but the effects of millennia of floods remain, making this agricultural region famously productive and giving rise to the stereotypical Greek Revival plantation houses and endless fields of cotton or sugarcane, as well as the many smaller farms.

I write a lot in and about folklore and legend and history, and folk traditions fascinate me. But some are easy to understand – fire has long mesmerized us, warmed us, guided us, and protected us, even as it can endanger us. And let’s face it, gathering about fires in the dark is a fun departure from our sanitized, locked-thermostat-controlled lives. Fire circles have been a social bonding experience from the earliest caves to the latest Scout camps, and they’re not going to stop any time soon.

(By the way, the danger of spreading flame is pretty minimal in a region known primarily for its humidity and moist soil. Readers in California and other drought-stricken areas should heed the perennial advice, “Don’t try this at home.”)

So as Christmas approaches – and not just Christmas, as there is a long Jewish tradition in the Delta as well, another celebration of light – let your celebratory bonfires blaze, even if just metaphorically.bonfire at Nottaway Plantation house

Elemental-5252-webLaura VanArendonk Baugh was born at a very early age and never looked back. She overcame childhood deficiencies of having been born without teeth or developed motor skills, and by the time she matured into a recognizable adult she had become a behavior analyst, an internationally-recognized and award-winning animal trainer, a popular costumer/cosplayer, a chocolate addict, and of course a writer. Her holiday authorial achievement was bringing about a sweeping loss for The Little Drummer Boy game players by titling a Christmas book So To Honor Him, but she hopes it was worth it. Find her at http://www.LauraVanArendonkBaugh.com.

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My Favorite Drinks for December

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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!

My Favorite Drinks for December

by Joselyn

Well it’s December now, and with it we start decorating our homes and think about the food we will get on the 24th for Christmas Eve and all.

What I love more on Christmas will be to stay home with my family and the gifts, since I’m a book lover and a gamer I enjoy staying home reading thrilling books for xmas and playing cool videogames with my fiancé.

Something else I love is going to my brother’s house and drinking eggnog so let me give you a recipe so you can drink it with all your family members.

Dairy-free-Eggnog-1

Eggnog Recipe (from Bliss Mom blog)

Holiday Egg nog recipe from http://blissmomblog.blogspot.ca/2009/11/best-egg-nog-recipe-in-world.html

And for our vegan friends (from Antique Recipes):

Vegan Egg Nog Recipe from http://www.antiquerecipes.net/vegan-tofu-brandied-eggnog-recipe/

With these recipes I hope everyone enjoy your parties on xmas and new years =D and remember to come visit the blog for lots of reviews @ www.bookwormiespot.com

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And a Very Merry Krampus to You

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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!

And a Very Merry Christmas Krampus to You

by Eileen Wiedbrauk

Krampus - in search of delinquent children, approaches a little boy during Krampusnacht in Neustift im Stubaital, Austria, on November 30, 2013.

For the past two years, whenever my friends, family, or the authors/editors I work with at World Weaver Press see a Krampus related article online or hear a Krampus bit of news, they immediately send it to me. My social media accounts floweth over with Eileen, have you seen this? Krampus links. But in early 2014, when editor Kate Wolford (Enchanted Conversation, Beyond the Glass Slipper, Frozen Fairy Tales) pitched to me the idea of World Weaver Press publishing an anthology of Krampus stories, I admit, I had no idea what she was talking about.

But a bit of Googling and a few conversations later, I was in love. Okay, I wasn’t quite in love—yet—but I was fascinated.

Krampus (also called Perchten or Tuifl) is a monster out of the Germanic Alpine tradition, and he’s been around for at least a thousand years—some sources say well over two thousand years—and specifically as a companion of St. Nick since the 16th century (or so the internet tells me). “His name comes from the German word krampen, which means claw. Some say he is the son of Hel from Norse mythology. Others say his physical features or even the chain and rusty old bells he wears come from other demonic-like creatures of Greek mythology” (source). Called by some “the Christmas Devil,” he’s not actually demonic in the religious sense of the word, at least no more than any other monster, troll, or yeti, or other pagan-roots creature from folklore. Although Krampus certainly has the horns and chains and sometimes hooves associated with depictions of the devil. He’s also coated in shaggy fur and his most defining feature after the horns is a very, very long tongue. Take a quick look at any Krampus and you have to wonder what sort of influence this critter had in the design of Orcs in Lord of the Rings. In fact, the differences between Orc cosplay and Krampus cosplay are subtle.

Yes, I just said Krampus cosplay.

There’s a tradition in Europe—particularly in Austria but it’s done elsewhere and is catching on in North America—of holding Krampuslauf or “Krampus runs” on December 5, also known as Krampusnacht, or Krampus Night. Here’s my favorite YouTube video of a Krampuslauf, this one is from Graz, Austria, in 2010:

You’ll notice that there are literally dozens of grown men and women dressed in head-to-toe Krampus costumes, there are even Krampus troupes (announced by the signs they carry). They growl, they hiss, rattle chains and clang cowbells, shake torches, and strike the crowd and each other with bundles of sticks. My favorites are the ones dragging oil drums, presumably with something burning inside given the amount of smoke they’re throwing off. Most notably, they interact with the crowd: scaring children, harrying adults, sneaking up and startling the unsuspecting, attempting to haul away kids and adults—whomever strikes their fancy. Yes, this parade of orc-like Christmas devils is something to bring your children to.

Krampus - Krampusnacht on November 30, 2013 in Neustift im Stubaital, AustriaYou want your kids to behave in the weeks before Christmas? No need to bribe them with Elf on the Shelf, just take them to a Krampus parade, and let them witness the monster that’s going to come take them away if they’re not well-behaved.

Having the anthology Krampusnacht: Twelve Nights of Krampus on our list and selling it while working the World Weaver Press table at conventions, I’ve see two reactions to the book: people who’ve never heard of Krampus and don’t understand why someone would want to use Christmas as a horror setting, and people who know and love Krampus like he’s part of the family. There’s no in between. The former group has given me the opportunity to refine my this-is-Krampus elevator speech:

Krampus is St. Nick’s counterpart. Where Santa gives out gifts to good kids, Krampus comes and deals with the bad kids. They don’t get lumps of coal—that’s getting off too easy—instead, Krampus comes and terrorizes them, maybe beats them with the bundle of birch sticks he carries, and if they’re really, really bad, he pops them into the basket he carries and hauls them away.

Usually, people get it at that point. I tend to leave off the part where he carries a bundle of sticks and a chain for the beatings. People tend not to react as well to that.

The other group of people—the Krampus fans—tell me all sorts of interesting things. They want to talk to me about the Krampus Ball they went to last year, or if I know where the nearest Krampus parade will be this year, or about how their German teacher did a lesson on Krampus, or—and this is my favorite—there’s the guy who picked up a copy of Krampusnacht from our table, and I asked him, “Are you familiar with Krampus?” and he says nothing, just pulls up the sleeve of his shirt revealing a Krampus-head tattoo complete with looong red tongue covering his bicep. He shrugs and says, “I’m a December baby.”

Krampus - Perchten festival in the western Austrian village of Heitwerwang, November 23, 2012And they ask me if I know about the Krampus movie coming out in December. There have been many Krampus movies, but most of them are low budget, cult horror flicks. This one appears to be a large budget, main stream horror flick. While their Krampus looks pretty cool—a huge, hulking horned shadow—the troubling thing is that Krampus is called “the shadow of St. Nicholas.” We’ll have to wait to see the film when it comes out, but I suspect it’s going to be a Krampus-as-antiSanta portrayal. Which isn’t really what the Krampus mythos is about. (Unless you follow the doctrine shouted at me by some I-am-Santa-Claus Twitter account in a barrage of Tweets claiming that he was not friends or co-workers with Krampus, in fact his job as part of the Holy Trinity was to oust the devil, i.e. Krampus. What I wanted to know—but knew better than to ask an already angry guy on Twitter—was if Santa Claus, a saint, was now part of the Holy Trinity, who did he bump out, the Holy Spirit or Jesus? But I digress.)

If you’re a fan of fantasy fiction, you know that all magic comes with a price. For every good or evil piece of the supernatural, there is a counterbalance. A universal ying and yang. Santa and Krampus are that way. The rewarding of good and the punishing of evil divided into two entities. This is what makes the Krampus mythos so cool to me—Krampus himself is not evil, but his job is dispatching evil by whatever means necessary. Just like Aragon, or the Knights of the Round Table, or any superhero or monster-slayer you can think of. He doesn’t go around taking random victims. He does only what is necessary to police society. What is disturbing, perhaps, is that through Krampus, we are admitting that there are human-monsters not just among adults, but among our children. If there weren’t children-monsters, we never would have come up with Krampus. But folklore and fairy tales are at their best when they disturb us and make us think.

Although I know no one who has to dig too far into their memory to come up with the image of a child-monster—insolent, cocky, cruel, harassing, full of sugar and spite, wanting more, more, more, demanding and criticizing in the same breath—who couldn’t use a visit from Krampus. Child-monsters who believe there is nothing in the world that can hurt them or rein them in, not parents, not their teachers (whom their parents will “talk to” should they dare discipline their child); they believe in the bloated, saccharine version of Christmas that disgorges great bounty evenly among the deserving and undeserving because that is fair. I may have been acquainted with a few of these over the years. Mostly teenagers who should have known better. It couldn’t hurt for any of them to be introduced to Krampus’s version of fair.

But if you’re a well-behaved, good person, you have nothing to fear from Krampus’s visit on December 5. In fact, he’s totally the kind of guy I could see sharing a drink with. If you can’t stay up that late, maybe leave out a beer and plate of sausage for him—seems more his style than milk and cookies.

KRAMPUSNACHT wrap around cover

Eileen Wiedbrauk (eileenwiedbrauk.com) is Editor-in-Chief of World Weaver Press and Red Moon Romance as well as a writer, blogger, coffee addict, cat herder, MFA graduate, fantasist-turned-fabalist-turned-urban-fantasy-junkie, Odyssey Workshop alumna, designer, tech geek, entrepreneur, kdrama devotee, avid reader, and a somewhat decent cook. She wears many hats, as the saying goes. Which is an odd saying in this case, as she rarely looks good in hats. She writes creepy fairy tales like this one and can be found on Twitter @eileenwiedbrauk.

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2015 Giftmas Blog Tour

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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!

Blog Tour Schedule (all dates are in December):

1st – Introduction to the Tour
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6th – Day Off 🙂

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13th – Day Off 🙂

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20th – Day Off 🙂

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25th – Day Off 🙂

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27th – Day Off 🙂

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I will update this post to add direct links above as they become available and will be sharing them on social media using the hashtag #GiftmasTour I invite you to join in the fun and sharing, including sharing/using some of these awesome Giftmas Tour graphics Amanda C. Davis created for us:

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