Category Archives: Blog Tour

Bright Spots — Dorianne Emmerton

When Brian Hades and I were discussing themes for Nevertheless (Tesseracts Twenty-one) one of the possibilities he suggested was optimistic speculative fiction. I pounced on that idea for two reasons. First, because I’d just recently become aware of solarpunk (largely through Sarena Ulibarri) and was excited to work on an anthology that might include some and second because I’d become convinced that we were living in the darkest timeline.

That was in 2016. I had no idea how much darker it could become.

Still, despite a very difficult couple of years, I manage to find reasons for optimism. Lights in the darkness. And I’m not alone in that.

In the coming weeks I will be hosting a series of blog posts I’m calling “Bright Spots in the Darkest Timeline”. Each will be written by a Nevertheless (Tesseracts Twenty-one) contributor and I think they will serve the dual purpose of giving me an excuse to talk about the anthology, and shining a bit of light into people’s lives.

Today we continue with this contribution from Dorianne Emmerton about how today’s youth keep her optimistic.

 

Optimism

By Dorianne Emmerton

Optimism does not come easily to me. It’s possible I did this to myself, reading dystopian science fiction from my parents’ book shelves when I was young and impressionable. I’ve been worried about environmental devastation since I read The Sheep Look Up at some sort of tender age, and that concern has certainly not lessened over the years, as climate change becomes an increasingly clear and immediate danger. And there is no dearth of other things to worry about, on either side of the personal-political coin.

As an anxious kid, and an insecure teen, I felt powerless in the face of everything awful on earth. I wasn’t smart enough, rich enough, or politically influential enough to save the world. As a hard-partying twentysomething I had my period of youthful idealism, showing up at protests to shout slogans in a voice hoarse from cigarettes and lack of sleep. I remember the moment that stopped.  On a bitterly cold day in February of 2003, I froze my ass off protesting the American invasion of Iraq. Thirty-six million people around the world protested. But it happened anyway. I knew it was going to happen anyway. It didn’t matter, nothing we did mattered.

But the kids these days aren’t just marching. The kids these days give me hope. The kids these days aren’t standing around in the cold; they’re lawyering up.

I’m talking about the youth all over the world who are suing their governments for policies that contribute to climate change. Some of these litigants are literal children.

There’s a seven year old in Pakistan.

A nine year old in India.

A group called Nature and Youth in Norway.

And a group of 25 children and young people won their court case in Colombia!.

On October 29th, 2018, the “Trial of the Century” is starting in the United States.  Twenty-one Americans ranging in age from eleven to twenty-two have filed that their government’s actions that cause climate change have violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, as well as failed to protect essential public trust resources.

If it can happen south of the border, it can happen up here in Canada. The American kids are represented by lawyers from the legal non-profit organization Our Children’s Trust, who are partnering with other attorneys and youth around the world to file more lawsuits – and they have a page with our name on it.

I’m currently raising a kid of my own, and he’s already doing ground-level advocacy work in his kindergarten – though it’s a necessity, not a choice. He has to explain to his classmates that it’s possible to have two women as parents, because that’s what he has. He has to explain that some people use they/them pronouns, because those are people in his life.

And if he ever wants to sue the government over fossil fuels, he has my full support.


Dorianne Emmerton grew up in the woods on the North Channel of Lake Huron and currently lives in the metropolis of Toronto. She loves both of those environments, but wishes the drive between them didn’t take so long. She has recent publications in the Ink Stains Anthology; Friend. Follow. Text #storiesFromLivingOnline; and Issue #1 of Beer And Butter Tarts, as well as a personal essay in A Family By Any Other Name: Exploring Queer Relationships. She is currently working on a space opera novella in collaboration with Ottawa band
Saturnfly, and a novel about occult magic in Northern Ontario. She has a wonderful chosen family, an adorable son, and a black cat.


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Bright Spot — Jerri Jerreat

When Brian Hades and I were discussing themes for Nevertheless (Tesseracts Twenty-one) one of the possibilities he suggested was optimistic speculative fiction. I pounced on that idea for two reasons. First, because I’d just recently become aware of solarpunk (largely through Sarena Ulibarri) and was excited to work on an anthology that might include some and second because I’d become convinced that we were living in the darkest timeline.

That was in 2016. I had no idea how much darker it could become.

Still, despite a very difficult couple of years, I manage to find reasons for optimism. Lights in the darkness. And I’m not alone in that.

In the coming weeks I will be hosting a series of blog posts I’m calling “Bright Spots in the Darkest Timeline”. Each will be written by a Nevertheless (Tesseracts Twenty-one) contributor and I think they will serve the dual purpose of giving me an excuse to talk about the anthology, and shining a bit of light into people’s lives.

Today we continue with this contribution from Jerri Jerreat how she stays optimistic.

 

Why I’m Still Optimistic

By Jerri Jerreat

I think a writer needs to be drenched in the real world, not holed up in a garret or mansion, separate from life swirling around. I am terribly curious, nosy, my sister says, about everyone. I enjoy chatting with the person beside me on the bus or plane, the waitress, the logger, the cashier. These small connections give me hope. I’ve learned that ordinary people are resourceful and hopeful. They’re all trying to create good lives, make wise choices. They are capable of learning new ways.

I support a variety of kick-ass charities, including Ecojustice, Greenpeace, environmentaldefense.ca, Friends of Clayoquot Sound, Help Lesotho, Women for Women International, etc. They are each accomplishing amazing things. I sign petitions, walk in marches. Martin Luther King taught us.

As well, I teach a classroom full of students under the age of 13. They have anxieties. My 9 year olds came to school in a panic after Trump was elected and I had to soothe them, explain that that was not our country. We were safe. But are we? We have to fight for our safety, our Human Rights and our right to clean air, water and land. Throughout the year, in class, we read newspaper articles together that inspire us all with hope. There were those kids in Yellowknife who wanted to be a sledge hockey team to play with their friend with cerebral palsy; the clever off-grid tiny houses built by the Secwepemc people to protect their alpine meadows; shaggy haired Boyan Slat, with an invention to use the ocean currents to remove plastic; and the Malawain lad, William Kamkwamba, who built a wind turbine out of scrap metal bits and an old textbook. I read them the book, “And Tango Makes Three”, to which one lad responded, “Well why can’t penguins be gay? People can be!” We heard Malan, a local teen, recently a refugee from Syria, chat to us about her life, and we played with her baby sister. My class ate a gorgeous lunch with Muslim Canadian families.

People are creative! We can unlearn prejudices. We can learn to repair our excesses. We can rein in those negative leaders, and work to halt the world’s warming.

I am optimistic, but I am also a fighter.


Jerri Jerreat’s fiction has appeared in The New Quarterly, The Dalhousie Review, The Antigonish Review, Fireweed, Canadian Storyteller Magazine, and won a Room fiction competition. She has a Masters degree in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia and has taught a variety of writing courses at St. Lawrence College, in Kingston, Ontario. She now teaches younger students, and each year, mentors a class to create a play together, then directs it. She read A Wrinkle in Time and other fine books aloud to her own kids, Tanner, Adan and Haven, walking them to school, and is proud to say she can still walk and read at the same time. When her family canoe trips somewhere like Algonquin Park, they all stuff massive books secretly into their packs.


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Bright Spots — Natalia Yanchak

When Brian Hades and I were discussing themes for Nevertheless (Tesseracts Twenty-one) one of the possibilities he suggested was optimistic speculative fiction. I pounced on that idea for two reasons. First, because I’d just recently become aware of solarpunk (largely through Sarena Ulibarri) and was excited to work on an anthology that might include some and second… because I’d become convinced that we were living in the darkest timeline. That was in 2016. I had no idea how much darker it could become.

Still, despite a very difficult couple of years, I manage to find reasons for optimism. Lights in the darkness. And I’m not alone in that.

In the coming weeks I will be hosting a series of blog posts I’m calling “Bright Spots in the Darkest Timeline”. Each will be written by a Nevertheless (Tesseracts Twenty-one) contributor and I think they will serve the dual purpose of giving me an excuse to talk about the anthology, and shining a bit of light into people’s lives.

Today we begin with this contribution from Natalia Yanchak about shifting how we think and approach things.

 

How to Repurpose a Diss

By Natalia Yanchak

I’ve been mostly self-employed throughout my life, so taking a part-time job was a big change. The decision set my work-life balance askew — or, I considered, the regular pay cheque might recalibrate my life-life balance. Not to say my decades-spanning career in rock and roll wasn’t work, it just never really felt as such.

Now I’ve committed to going in to an office, and managing said office, several times a week. I ride public transit with commuters and have to run errands on the weekend—along with the crowds and everyone else. I promised myself this would be temporary. My band would be making another album and have to tour again in a few years. But for now, I can be normal-core.

At risk of sounding like clickbait, you won’t believe what happened next! The show that was coming to the gallery (did I mention the office was situated in a non-profit art gallery in Tiohtià:ke/Montreal?) would put my optimism to the test.

Part of my new job is being available to visitors of the space. I have to greet them and be able to answer their questions about what is being displayed or presented. This generally requires learning about the work via a walkthrough with artists and curators, or a group reading. In the case of nènè myriam konaté’s curatorial residency “yes, and… also”, gallery employees were invited to a closed reading and discussion of Naomi Klein’s Leap Manifesto — a call to action for economic restructuring and basic equalities for all Canadians.

Part of nènè’s residency included a challenge to only converse in positive terms. Their residency was partially an experiment on how to effect positive change. How intersectionality and improvisation can lead to radical openness, requesting that we “stand firmly in our yes’s + that we ask ourselves why.”

When chatting in the space, nènè would kindly reminded me to reword negative language. It was harder to “stand firmly in my yes’s” than I thought. When wanting to challenge a point in our group reading of the Leap Manifesto, I would begin to speak, then pause and reflect: “How do I criticise with something in a positive way?”

It is doable, but requires forethought. To be positive and optimistic we must defy our innate training towards cynicism. We lean too much on our competitiveness. We puff ourselves up by denigrating others, where this exercise curated by nènè planted the seed that it was possible to speak positively about, say, even the hugest asshole. Those negative thoughts only help to cast an outward, negative vibe.

The inspiration behind my story, “Lt. Andrewicz Goes Apple Picking” is simple: as I waited to pick up my son from daycare, I looked over the photos from a recent field trip to an apple orchard. I couldn’t spot my boy in any of the shots, but I knew he was there: he came home with a sack of apples that day! So where was he? Enter my imagination.

Enter, also, the concept of parenthood, enter the primal bond one develops with their children. Enter the terror of thinking that one day your child might not need you. Then the doubt: Have I done my best? Have I given them the emotional and critical tools they might need to handle whatever life throws at them?

This is where positive vibes come in handy, where the simple task of equipping the people around you — young and old — with a sense of purpose effects positive change. Take pause to work out how that would sound. Come up with something inspiring about someone, even if it’s behind their back, even if you never tell them.

Could you imagine, a day without sending or receiving a single microaggression? Try it for an afternoon. Judge and disagree in solely positive terms: express what would you like to see, instead of ranting about what you didn’t like. Reframe that negative idea, repurpose that diss, and manifest the future, the yes’s, that you want.

 


 

Natalia attended Concordia University’s Creative Writing program. After graduation, she toured  internationally as keyboardist and singer with The Dears. She writes speculative fiction in Tiohtià:ke/Montreal, where she lives with her husband and two children.

 

nataliayanchak.com

twitter.com/nataliayanchak

instagram.com/nataliayanchak

facebook.com/natalia.scifi

 

Author photo credit: Richmond Lam

 


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Candas as Mentor

We recently celebrated the release of Prairie Starport: Stories in Celebration of Candas Jane Dorsey but some of the contributors wanted to do something a bit more. And so for the next few Fridays my blog is going to feature more stories about Candas and the anthology in the form of guest posts for a mini blog series I’m calling:

Candas as Mentor

“I referred to someone as my mentor for the first time the other day. I thought you should know, since I was talking about you.”

I told Candas that as we were sitting in her car outside my house. We’d just come from having sushi and were, to paraphrase Candas, stuffed full as snakes. It was wintertime but the sunlight coming through the windshield warmed the car to a comfortable level. I was not comfortable, however, I was nervous.

It’s weird the weight that the word ‘mentor’ can carry.

I met Candas when I took one of her workshops. I went into it not knowing anything about her at all–I’d signed up primarily to buy myself some deadlines to get some writing done, any feedback I got in addition to that would just be a nice bonus.

Well, I got a lot more than I bargained for.

At that time I was in the midst of putting together a Niteblade anthology (I think it was Nothing to Dread) and I had questions. Questions I thought Candas might be able to answer. So during the breaks in our class I would follow her to the hot chocolate machine and pick her brain. And I found that in addition to knowing things I wanted to learn from her, I also liked her.

So, once the workshop was done I asked if I could take her out for sushi. And a friendship was born.

By the time we were sitting in her car and I was shyly confessing to referring to her as my mentor, Candas and I had been friends for a few years which made it feel a bit weird, like I was saying, “Hey, I know we started out as student and teacher, and then evolved into friends but, uh, I still feel like we’ve got a student/teacher thing goin’ on here…”

In retrospect my shyness was ridiculous, not only because I know that relationships are complicated and layered and stuff… but also because teaching isn’t just a thing Candas does, it’s a big part who she is (in my defense I’ve got a pretty big ego and there’s a certain amount of repression of that ego which comes along with acknowledging someone else as your mentor LoL).

Over the years Candas has taught me things. Here are just a few of them:

  • Get the words on the page however you need to get the words on the page. If your usual system isn’t working change it.
    • My first drafts are usually written long hand and then I do my first editing pass as I’m typing them up on the computer. One day, Candas and I went for lunch and I was complaining about how stuck I was. I had the ideas, I knew the story, but trying to get the words on the page was worse than pulling teeth. Candas asked me about how I wrote my first drafts, I told her and she said, “After lunch we’re going to get you a new pen.” We finished eating and hit up the store for a new pen. It sounds ridiculous, but it worked. I was so excited to use my new pen that I broke through my paralysis and got the words on the freaking page. Sometimes even the smallest changes can have a huge result.

 

  • When editing, or critiquing, you need to consider intent.
    • After the workshop Candas ran where I first met her, she taught another, slightly more advanced, class. I signed up. As part of the course each participant was expected to critique every other participant’s work. I was struggling with one submission in particular. I kept trying and trying to come up with some encouraging, constructive feedback, but no matter how many times I read it I just couldn’t find anything that worked about it. Finally, in desperation, I emailed Candas and was like, “What do I do? It’s just so bad…” I could hear her smile in her email when she replied and said, “Read it again and look for her intention. What was she trying to do when she wrote this?” That helped. Not just in that critique, but any time I come across a story I’m really struggling to critique or edit.

 

  • It’s all about doggy dominance.
    • One of Candas’ dogs was a timid little thing. In an attempt to socialize him, whenever I went to visit she had me spend time with him, and we had a lot of conversations about doggy dominance, and (basically) faking it until you make it. When I was writing my very first ever anthology pitch I showed it to Candas. She took her red pen to it, crossing out all the places I was the least bit hesitant or tentative and wrote ‘Doggy dominance’ across the page. I’ve never forgotten that and now anthologies are kind my thing. Who’s to say how much of that has to do with doggy dominance?

 

I could get into all the things I’ve learned about writing from Candas too… but that’s a whole blog post of it’s own. Maybe next time 😉

 

 

Download it for free at:
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Also available at Amazon

Paperback available at Amazon:
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And add it to your shelves at Goodreads

All profits from this collection will be donated to the Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society in Candas’ name.

 

 

And the Winners Are…

As part of this year’s Giftmas Blog Tour we had a raffle. And the prizes for the raffle were pretty epic. There were two of them. Yesterday afternoon I let the Rafflecopter choose our winners and sent them emails to let them know.

Second Prize is:

  • Beth Cato will send you a signed copy of a Chicken Soup from the Soul book containing one of her essays
  • Signed copy of Vacuia Magia by L.S. Johnson
  • Themed packet of journaling/scrapbooking ephemera
  • Mini hand-bound leather journal by Lynn Hardaker
  • eBook copy of Bait by Laura VanArendonk Baugh

The winner, as determined by Rafflecopter is Anna P.!

The Grand Prize is:

  • Paperback copies of the first four books in the Amethir series by Stephanie A. Cain
  • Beth Cato will send you a signed copy of a Chicken Soup from the Soul book containing one of her essays
  • Signed copy of Vacuia Magia by L.S. Johnson
  • Copy of Three-Way Dance signed by Brian Rosenberger
  • Sensitivity read or poetry critique by Lisa Bradley
    • Will read and respond to up to 50 pages of fiction from her perspective as a queer USian Latina with chronic illnesses and depression OR critique up to two pages of poetry (one long poem or two shorter ones)
  • Paperback copy of The Stars in My Door signed by Doug Blakeslee
  • Signed copy of Monsters in my Mind by Ada Hoffmann
  • Paperback copy of Heavy Metal by Andrew Bourelle
  • Small piece of art by Lynn Hardaker
  • eBook copy of the Witches of Doyle three book set by Kirsten Weiss
  • Paperback copy of The Songweaver’s Vow by Laura VanArendonk Baugh
  • Tuckerization by Laura VanArendonk Baugh
    • Name if it fits the world and characteristics if it doesn’t, or Laura will substitute another world to keep the name
  • Custom cross stitch (6″ square or smaller) by Jennifer Lee Rossman
  • Art print from Barbara Tomporowski
  • Signed copy of Dying on Second by E. C. Bell
  • Download code for a free copy of He Sees You When He’s Creepin’: Tales of Krampus courtesy of Jude Tulli

This was won by Heidi B.!

Congratulations ladies, and thank you for supporting our fundraiser by boosting its signal. We really appreciate it. And if you didn’t win, I’m sorry — but the good news is we raised over $1,000 for a really good cause and you were a part of that. Thank you!

And thank you also to everyone who donated a prize to the pool. I couldn’t have done this without you 🙂

More details about the book I’m giving away and such will come in the following weeks.

Congratulations again, Anna and Heidi!

 

 

Giftmas 2017: The Aftermath

WE RAISED $1,089!!!

Ahem. I mean:

Our fundraiser was an amazing success! Thank you so much to everyone who participated in the blog tour, donated to the cause, signal boosted our efforts or took part in any number of other ways. You are all amazing and together we did something crazy awesome.

We raised $1,089 to benefit the Edmonton Food Bank. Since they can stretch that money so that each dollar equals three meals that means we raised 3,267 meals!

Whoot whoot!

If you donated to the fundraiser don’t forget to use the ugly form over here to claim your awesome rewards:

Ugly form to claim awesome rewards

Just because the blog tour is over doesn’t mean the posts don’t persist though. It was a crazy few days so I wanted to bring all the posts together in one place just in case you missed something 🙂


 

All. The. Blog. Posts:

December 4th:

Introduction to the Blog Tour (Me)

Giftmas Goals (Stephanie A. Cain)

How it Works (E.C. Bell)

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Giftmas (Jennifer Lee Rossman)

 

December 5th:

Why I Give (Me)

Why I Give (E.C. Bell)

 

December 6th:

What I Celebrate (Me)

Giftmas Tour Details (Pamela Q. Fernandes)

 

December 7th:

Dear Santa (Me)

Through the Fog (Beth Cato)

Light Defeats the Dark (Stephanie A. Cain)

Shining a Light to Bring About Change (E.C. Bell)

Shine a Light (Jennifer Lee Rossman)

Shining a Light (Laura VanArendonk Baugh)

Shining Lights I (J.S. Watts)

December 8th:

Lighting Up the Lives of Others (E.C. Bell)

Light of Christmas (Pamela Q. Fernandes)

Belief and Fantasy (Stephanie A. Cain)

Working Together to Help a Stranger (Me)

Shining a Light and SAD (Jennifer Lee Rossman)

Shining a Light During Hard Times (Beth Cato)

 

December 9th:

Shining Lights II (J.S. Watts)

Doing Something Together (Barbara Tomporowski)

Tolkein, Mars and Christmas (Laura VanArendonk Baugh)

The Opposite of Light (Me)

 

December 10th:

Stories in the Wintertime (A.J. Wells)

Do We Need the Holidays? (Alexandra Seidel)

Shining a Light (Doug Blakeslee)

White Wine in the Sun (Me)

 

December 11th:

No Capes! (Me)

No Capes and No Action Figures (Stephanie A. Cain)

No Capes! (E.C. Bell)

Oh! And also, I said on social media that if we raised twice our original goal I would add a stretch goal that was my giving away my ghost story collection, “The Other Side of the Door” (which I haven’t even announced yet) for free. Well, our original goal was $522. Twice that would be $1,044. We raised $1,089. So guess what I’m giving away? More about that later though, for today I just want to focus on what we managed to do together.

$1,089.

Whew! It’s kind of mind-breaking.

Thank you again. Everyone.

I’ll announce the raffle winners tomorrow!

Giftmas 2017: No Capes!

2017 was very difficult for a lot of people in my world, myself included. Over the past months I’ve occasionally felt like I was floundering in all the bad news, tragedies and crises. The thing that has helped me out of those dark spots was to make a concerted effort to seek out and focus on positive things going in the world — things are are far too often overshadowed by the bad.

WIth that thought at the very forefront of my mind I decided to make the theme for this year’s Giftmas Blog Tour ‘Shining a Light’.

By sharing our stories and raising money to help feed hungry families, my hope is that this blog tour will be a light as well.

Our fundraising goal is $522 (that’s one dollar more than we raised last year!). Because the Edmonton Food Bank can stretch every donated dollar into three meals if we reach our goal we will have contributed 1,566 meals to families this season, but we can’t do it without you.

If you are able, please donate to our fundraiser for the Edmonton Food Bank. Every dollar counts and, in addition to the warm feeling that comes with helping others, we are also offering a whack of goodies to every person who contributes. You can check out the details and claim your rewards by clicking here but those rewards include ebooks, holiday cards, stickers, Tuckerizations, handicrafts and more!

And here is the most important link in this whole blog tour:

Please donate to our fundraiser for the Edmonton Food Bank

You’ve heard the saying, “Not every hero wears a cape” or something to that effect, yeah? Well, in the spirit of that and our theme of ‘Shining a Light’ I wanted to spend a portion of this blog tour highlighting those cape-less crusaders whose actions make other people’s holidays just a little bit more special. For this post I asked the blog tour contributors to share a brief story about the time someone did something to make their holidays (or just their day) better.

The story I want to share in response to that happened a long time ago. Dani was very little (2 or 3). I was a single mom, working full time and going to school, and money was very freaking tight. I’d managed to get some presents under the tree, though, and (probably thanks to the food bank, though I’m not 100% on that) there was plenty of food in the house. It was a good Christmas.

Then, when we turned up at my grandmother’s place for the big family Christmas dinner, it turned into a great Christmas. Apparently Santa Claus had made a mistake when it came to addresses and in addition to the Teletubbies he’d left for Dani under our tree, he’d also left something at Grammy’s for her. It was a huge bubblegum pink Barbie van with all sorts of cool features (it even transformed into a stage with working speakers!). Dani, who was all about Barbies then, loved it. And more than the present I loved the fact one of my uncles had gone pretty far out of his way to get a present and credit Santa Claus for it, just to make sure Dani didn’t just have a good Christmas, she had a magical one.

“There are a couple of specific times I can remember when, despite the fact I was working forty-plus hours a week, I was also hungry. Nearly fifteen years ago I was working at a Big Ten university where the pay was above minimum wage, but just barely. I was drowning in debt and trying to pay for grad school as well as work full time. At my lunch break, I went out to my car and tried to scrounge up enough money for a meal. When I got to Taco Bell, I ordered my bean burrito and didn’t have enough for a drink. Something in my face must have told the guy behind the counter just how much I wanted that Dr. Pepper, and that I wasn’t lying when I said I didn’t have the money. That guy, who was probably a college student trying to make ends meet himself, bought my drink for me. Was it a huge expense? No. Would it solve all my problems? No. But just by showing me a little human kindness, that guy shone the light of hope into my day. And when I give to others today, I hope I’m honoring his gift to me.”

Stephanie A. Cain

“This may sound cheesy, but I’m grateful every single day. I say “thank you” more than a dozen times a day, for big things and small, to everyone from my husband to a cashier to my dog, and I really think it helps all of us.”

Laura VanArendonk Baugh

“After working out-of-province for a week, I recently came home to find Christmas lights coruscating outside and the pubs, markets, and row houses of my “Dickens Village” glowing within. One of my best friends had put up the lights, and my daughter arranged the miniature Victorian village. The pulsing jewel tones outside and the gentle colours within warmed my heart and welcomed me home.”

Barbara Tomporowski

“My grandma is like a superhero to me. She adores Christmas. She has never lost that child-like joy for the holiday. She collects Santa Clauses, and squeals with joy when she gets new additions for her collection. One of the major lessons she imparted on me early on is that good things should not be confined to any one time of year. Her favorite Santas stayed on display all the time. Christmas music that you love doesn’t need to wait until after Thanksgiving–if you feel like listening to it in July, crank it up! The same with food. Tuck away favorite holiday treats in the fridge, and enjoy then in April or July. My grandma is in her 90s now, so this lesson of “enjoy now, don’t wait!” is even more important than ever.”

Beth Cato

“Once upon a time, when I was a wee lad, the family would make the pilgrimage from our home in Maryland to New York for the holidays. I respect that my parents for making that slog 2-3 times a year for to visit relatives. During one such trip, where it was pretty much a blizzard, we ended up into a snow bank in the middle of nowhere. Fortune smiled on us pretty hard when a tow truck arrived about 30 minutes later leading a line of cars. It saved us from spending a night there. Saved us from a ruined trip.”

Doug Blakeslee

Hands down, one of the nicest things anyone ever did for me was when my husband put Christmas lights on the thirty foot evergreen in front of our new-to-us house. My dad used to light up the evergreens on the farm, and I loved how they welcomed us when we drove up the highway to visit at Christmastime. My husband worked long and hard on our tree, and it looked spectacular. It absolutely made my Christmas that year. It also started the Christmas decorating challenge with our next door neighbours, (which they have won for ten years in a row, darn it anyhow) but that is another story. “

E.C. Bell

“One Christmas, a few years back, my heroes were the staff of Central Middlesex Hospital and The London Ambulance Service. Dad was in hospital over Christmas. Mum and I had been in to see him on the day and had come home again, but the stress of the experience affected my mother’s health. Cue emergency call and a visit from a wonderfully professional but supportive ambulance team, who coped with our needs and the vitriolic abuse of at least one driver, because the presence of an ambulance in our road meant that he had to drive an extra one minute detour. I ended up with both parents in hospital, in separate wards, over Christmas, but all turned out well in the end, as they say.”

J.S. Watts

“The tiniest things can make a normal day extra special. I got a warm fuzzy feeling once when a student of mine gave me a fruit basket, just because. The best thing about this was that she managed to completely surprise me with this, and I love being surprised in a good way. This was in summer, not winter, but it did make my day.”

Alexandra Seidel

“Two years ago, my brother and I were fighting about the cooking for Christmas. I didn’t want to do anything. We argued while putting up our tree and star. And I just wanted to make a simple meal. I was quite unhappy at work. Every Christmas before that had been the same, lonely and without family.  That year was not going to be any different. I returned home from a long day at the clinic and an even longer commute. The house was a mess and I was ranting at my brother, when I went to the bedroom only to find my parents, especially my dad with tears in his eyes, standing behind the door. I leaped on him. It had been the first Christmas in 10 years that my family spent together. Two years later he was gone. So I always cherish that Christmas. He made that decision for some reason to travel to see us for Christmas from Kuwait and it was the best thing he ever did! Heroes don’t wear capes!”

Pamela Q. Fernandez

And now maybe it’s our turn to, if not be a ‘hero’ at least make your holiday a wee bit more special if you win this Rafflecopter. Check out the full list of prizes by clicking here (there are too many to list in this space) and enter. You get one free entry every day and you can earn extra ones by donating to our fundraiser or boosting our signal 🙂

Giftmas 2017: Stories in the Wintertime

2017 was very difficult for a lot of people in my world, myself included. Over the past months I’ve occasionally felt like I was floundering in all the bad news, tragedies and crises. The thing that has helped me out of those dark spots was to make a concerted effort to seek out and focus on positive things going in the world — things are are far too often overshadowed by the bad.

WIth that thought at the very forefront of my mind I decided to make the theme for this year’s Giftmas Blog Tour ‘Shining a Light’.

By sharing our stories and raising money to help feed hungry families, my hope is that this blog tour will be a light as well.

Our fundraising goal is $522 (that’s one dollar more than we raised last year!). Because the Edmonton Food Bank can stretch every donated dollar into three meals if we reach our goal we will have contributed 1,566 meals to families this season, but we can’t do it without you.

If you are able, please donate to our fundraiser for the Edmonton Food Bank. Every dollar counts and, in addition to the warm feeling that comes with helping others, we are also offering a whack of goodies to every person who contributes. You can check out the details and claim your rewards by clicking here but those rewards include ebooks, holiday cards, stickers, Tuckerizations, handicrafts and more!

And here is the most important link in this whole blog tour:

Please donate to our fundraiser for the Edmonton Food Bank

Today I am hosting A.J. Wells on my blog and making an appearance on hers. Please enjoy her thoughts on stories in the wintertime 🙂

Stories in the Wintertime
A.J. Wells

The song, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” contains the lyrics:

There’ll be scary ghost stories
And tales of the glories of the
Christmases long, long ago

The Christmas season is the perfect time to remember the value of storytelling. It’s a value that doesn’t stop when the snow melts off the ground, and it doesn’t begin with the season. But when Christmas comes, it’s (hopefully) time to relax for a bit, which means everyone has the chance to tell stories, rediscover new stories, or if they’re writers who have too much time on their hands, to create their own.

Why do we want to? Why do we tell stories? We do it to entertain. We do it just to enjoy making something happen. But many of us don’t want to keep their stories to themselves. There are entire industries of people telling stories to each other, or to the public, or teaming up to make their own stories together. While profits are the main concern of mass media, and a lot of subpar material gets churned out every year, even the most trashy material proves that people want to share stories with each other.

But we need to share our stories, not just for bonding, for self-expression, or for profit, but because they allow us to share truths with each other in a secret language, and to expose new truths to each other. This happens to storytellers, too, as through the act of storytelling they will discover new things about themselves.

It’s complicated to exchange truth in this way. Creating a story with a message in mind often cripples it, makes it mechanized and predictable, but on the other hand, stories can’t help telling truths. They might only be the truths the author believes in, but, those are still something. Even when all creativity might be stomped out of a work by executives, even when a story is extremely simple or simplistic, most stories try to say something, and stories can change a person.

When it comes to stories showing truths, the example most appropriate to the season is Christmas stories, whose stars achieve success only after they learn to follow Christmas’s values of charity and companionship, to demonstrate how good it is for real people to hold those same values.

This holiday season, remember the power of stories, and aim to create some of your own. By donating to the Edmonton Food Bank, you will help make sure that others are free to do the same things.

A.J. Wells is an Edmonton writer and member of local writer’s groups The Scruffies and the Smeerps. She works for On Spec: The Canadian Magazine of the Fantastic, and runs a freelance writing and editing site at www.wellsaj.com. Her novel, “The Doll and the Dragon”, is currently in the works.

Giftmas 2017: Shining Lights II

2017 was very difficult for a lot of people in my world, myself included. Over the past months I’ve occasionally felt like I was floundering in all the bad news, tragedies and crises. The thing that has helped me out of those dark spots was to make a concerted effort to seek out and focus on positive things going in the world — things are are far too often overshadowed by the bad.

WIth that thought at the very forefront of my mind I decided to make the theme for this year’s Giftmas Blog Tour ‘Shining a Light’.

By sharing our stories and raising money to help feed hungry families, my hope is that this blog tour will be a light as well.

Our fundraising goal is $522 (that’s one dollar more than we raised last year!). Because the Edmonton Food Bank can stretch every donated dollar into three meals if we reach our goal we will have contributed 1,566 meals to families this season, but we can’t do it without you.

If you are able, please donate to our fundraiser for the Edmonton Food Bank. Every dollar counts and, in addition to the warm feeling that comes with helping others, we are also offering a whack of goodies to every person who contributes. You can check out the details and claim your rewards by clicking here but those rewards include ebooks, holiday cards, stickers, Tuckerizations, handicrafts and more!

And here is the most important link in this whole blog tour:

Please donate to our fundraiser for the Edmonton Food Bank

Today I have the pleasure of hosting J.S. Watts and appearing on her blog. Please enjoy J.S.’s take on shining a light 🙂

This is the second of my two blog posts for the Giftmas Blog Tour 2017, which is raising funds for the Edmonton Food Bank (that’s Edmonton, Canada if you are reading this in the UK). The link to the fundraiser is here: https://www.canadahelps.org/en/pages/giftmas-blog-tour-2017-supports-the-edmonton-food-/

Big thanks to the generous Rhonda Parrish for hosting me and for setting up the Giftmas Blog Tour in the first place.

In my first post, I admitted to my love of shiny lights and the glittering indulgence of year-end. In this one, I thought I’d share some more thoughts about the shiny visuals of Christmas.

As a writer, I try to evoke all the five senses to bring my words to life: touch, taste, sound, smell and sight. I like to think if used correctly they can prove extremely evocative.

My last poetry collection, “Years Ago You Coloured Me”, is all about memory and things that leave their mark. I therefore spent a lot of time trying to write evocative poetry. The collection includes several winter or Christmas themed poems. Over the years, I have also written a number of other wintry or Christmas focused poems. Collectively, they have referenced all of the senses and include, “prickly soft boughs like arms”, “aromas of Christmas, / flavours of a childhood past” and a “sound like jasmine”, but when I consider them dispassionately the sense I find I’ve drawn on most is that of sight, the “festive, / kaleidoscopic lights” of the Christmas period.

If I think about my childhood Christmases, it is the glittery, colourful, nature of them that comes to mind first: the glow of firelight, Christmas tree fairy-lights shining in an otherwise darkened room, the glint of that light on tinsel and wrapped presents. It’s the lights that get me every time.

To illustrate the way the shining lights of Christmas can take me back, I thought I’d share a poem with you. It’s from “Years Ago You Coloured Me” and it is a brief look at how lights, even after Christmas is over, can transport me to a place I thought I’d lost.

Christmas Lights – Ware, January Third

I thought Christmas had gone,

faded back into mid-winter night

and the acid-burn aftershock of New Year.

But, driving through the town centre

after dark, I found the lights,

primary coloured, electric ribbon lanterns

strung along the High Street

in brazen, gaudy delight,

the exact bright shades

of the cheap paper chains

I stuck together as a child,

painstakingly licking each rainbow strip

to form a piecemeal rope of coloured dreams

strong enough to draw Old Christmas down,

bright moon balloon of kaleidoscopic glass,

loudly reflecting entire colliding spectrums,

as well as simpler echoes

of childhood’s undarkened joys.

J.S.Watts is a UK poet and novelist. Her poetry, short stories and book reviews appear in a wide variety of publications in Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the States and have been broadcast on BBC and Independent Radio.  

Her poetry collections, “Cats and Other Myths” and “Years Ago You Coloured Me”, plus a multi-award nominated poetry pamphlet, “Songs of Steelyard Sue” are published by Lapwing Publications. J.S. performs her poetry all over the UK and runs workshops on both poetry and prose. She has been Poetry Reviews Editor for Open Wide Magazine and Poetry Editor for Ethereal Tales. 

Her novels, “A Darker Moon”, a work of literary dark fiction, and “Witchlight”, a paranormal tale, are published by Vagabondage Press. For further details see: www.jswatts.co.uk and, of course, her Goodreads Blog: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6620930.J_S_Watts/blog

 

Giftmas 2017: Lighting Up the Lives of Others…

2017 was very difficult for a lot of people in my world, myself included. Over the past months I’ve occasionally felt like I was floundering in all the bad news, tragedies and crises. The thing that has helped me out of those dark spots was to make a concerted effort to seek out and focus on positive things going in the world — things are are far too often overshadowed by the bad.

WIth that thought at the very forefront of my mind I decided to make the theme for this year’s Giftmas Blog Tour ‘Shining a Light’.

By sharing our stories and raising money to help feed hungry families, my hope is that this blog tour will be a light as well.

Our fundraising goal is $522 (that’s one dollar more than we raised last year!). Because the Edmonton Food Bank can stretch every donated dollar into three meals if we reach our goal we will have contributed 1,566 meals to families this season, but we can’t do it without you.

If you are able, please donate to our fundraiser for the Edmonton Food Bank. Every dollar counts and, in addition to the warm feeling that comes with helping others, we are also offering a whack of goodies to every person who contributes. You can check out the details and claim your rewards by clicking here but those rewards include ebooks, holiday cards, stickers, Tuckerizations, handicrafts and more!

And here is the most important link in this whole blog tour:

Please donate to our fundraiser for the Edmonton Food Bank

 

Today I’m hosting E.C. Bell on my blog and making an appearance on hers. Please enjoy this post from her about lighting up the lives of others:

When I see Christmas lights I think charity, and I thank my parents (and grandparents) for that.

On the farm, back in the eighties, my grandmother would start knitting mittens “for the kids” a month before she started making Christmas gifts for us. (Yeah. She made our gifts. And they were amazing.) The kids she was knitting for were teenagers who were going to spend Christmas at YESS, a local emergency shelter for teens.

While she was busy at that, my dad would get the outside evergreens prepped to light. He ascribed to “The Christmas Story” theory of Christmas lighting. (He used a tractor with a bucket, not a ladder, to get high enough to decorate them, but the theory still holds.) He’d add strings until breakers blew, and then he’d back off one string. All of it would have blown the mind of every safety officer in the known world if they’d seen, but hey, it was a different time, and that was the way he rolled.

In mid December, he’d light the trees. Then, he’d buy a bunch of frozen turkeys and take them and the mittens in to the shelter, so those kids would have warmth and food, at Christmas.

I imagine those trees were a beacon to him, calling him home to the warmth and laughter that was the farm, after his Santa run.

My father and grandmother are now gone, but their tradition isn’t. It just looks a little different at our house.

One December a few years ago a kid knocked on our door. He was half frozen because it was (surprise surprise) bitterly cold and he was NOT dressed for the weather.

“Nice tree,” the kid said. He was talking about the huge evergreen in our front yard that my husband had decorated with Christmas lights. He’d done it for me soon after we’d moved into the place, because I’d so loved the trees out on the farm.

I will never forget him sitting at our kitchen table calculating exactly how many strings of lights the outdoor electrical outlet could take, (he’s an electrician, so that’s the way he rolls) and then developing a tool (with duct tape, of course) so he could get the lights to start exactly at the top. Nothing like the way my dad lit his trees, but the effect was the same. It looked wonderful.

“Thanks,” we said. And then we waited, because we knew the kid was going to try to sell us on donating to his cause.

“I know you won’t want to make a donation,” the kid said, waving a sheaf of papers at us. “Nobody on your block does. But at least you opened the door. Would you mind if I came in for a second? Just to warm up?”

The wind was howling and he looked miserable, so we said yes. And we let him give us his pitch, even though we donated to local charities and had hit our financial limit for the year.

He warmed up, thanked us for listening, and went on his way. My husband and I watched him trudge off into the darkness, and for a second I wished I knit mittens, because that kid could have used ta pair. Then, my husband said, “Hell, he’s only asking for $35. We can afford that much.”

So we called him back, signed up to be foster parents, and gave him the money. We actually did it for him, more than for a kid from Haiti, but now we are helping a little girl who was caught in a bit of hell not of her own devising. My husband was right. The money isn’t much, to us.

Last year we fostered a couple more orphans. Two young elephants from Kenya, caught in hell. It’s not much money, but—I hope—we are making a difference in their lives, too.

And we turn on the Christmas lights before we donate, so our house looks as warm and welcoming as my parent’s farm did, so many years before.

About E.C. Bell:

My debut paranormal mystery, Seeing the Light  (2014)  won the BPAA award for Best Speculative Fiction Book of the Year, and was shortlisted for the Bony Blithe Award for Light Mystery. The 2nd and 3rd books in the series are out now (both shortlisted for awards, look at me go!) and the 4th will be available in October, 2017. Which means I’m hard at work on number 5. My short fiction includes the Aurora Award winning fantasy anthologies Women of the Apocalypse and The Puzzle Box.  When I’m not writing, I’m living a fine life in my round house with my husband and our two dogs.

Giftmas 2017: Dear Santa

2017 was very difficult for a lot of people in my world, myself included. Over the past months I’ve occasionally felt like I was floundering in all the bad news, tragedies and crises. The thing that has helped me out of those dark spots was to make a concerted effort to seek out and focus on positive things going in the world — things are are far too often overshadowed by the bad.

WIth that thought at the very forefront of my mind I decided to make the theme for this year’s Giftmas Blog Tour ‘Shining a Light’.

By sharing our stories and raising money to help feed hungry families, my hope is that this blog tour will be a light as well.

Our fundraising goal is $522 (that’s one dollar more than we raised last year!). Because the Edmonton Food Bank can stretch every donated dollar into three meals if we reach our goal we will have contributed 1,566 meals to families this season, but we can’t do it without you.

If you are able, please donate to our fundraiser for the Edmonton Food Bank. Every dollar counts and, in addition to the warm feeling that comes with helping others, we are also offering a whack of goodies to every person who contributes. You can check out the details and claim your rewards by clicking here but those rewards include ebooks, holiday cards, stickers, Tuckerizations, handicrafts and more!

And here is the most important link in this whole blog tour:

Please donate to our fundraiser for the Edmonton Food Bank

For the past six years I’ve written a letter to Santa on my blog. This is not an actual wishlist of things I’d like my friends and readers to buy for me (unless we live together LoL), it’s just supposed to be fun. This year I decided to incorporate it into my Giftmas Blog Tour. In part because I wasn’t sure when else to schedule it (my blog is pretty busy this month) but in part because while I’m not shy about asking Santa for things I want, I also like to ask for things for others… so I think that means it fits the theme of ‘Shining a Light’. 🙂


Dear Santa,

Remember last year when I started out my letter by saying how tough 2016 had been? Well, dude, I had no freaking idea what was waiting for me. 2017 has pretty soundly kicked my ass butt. But I’ve tried to be good, to do good, despite all that, so hopefully I’m on the Nice list. Actually, I met one of your elves at the All Is Bright festival and they told me I was on the Nice list so here is this year’s wish list 🙂

  • I’d really like a new printer. This one is still working (barely) but it’s getting touchier and touchier every day. I guess I don’t blame it, it’s over ten years old now I think — what is that in human years? Like eighty? I’ll probably be pretty cantankerous when I’m eighty too… Still, I’d really like a printer that I didn’t have to coax into working each time I needed it.
  • Could you help the Oilers win a few games? Does that fall within your purview at all? Because that would be sweet. Right now it’s not looking like we’re even going to make the playoffs and though that’s a rather familiar feeling, it’s not one I’m fond of.
  • I’d love to adopt a chimp from Fauna Foundation. The good news is that the chimp doesn’t actually come live with me, but the money that goes into ‘adopting’ them helps pay for their care (and that of all the other animals) at the sanctuary.
  • A mysterious package! They all look so cool. The one I’m most intrigued by is Filigree in Shadow, but I’m pretty flexible really. These are kinda pricey but the Curious and Conundrums thing that I subscribe to from the same company is pretty sweet so I expect these to be too.
  • There’s also this bourbon I’d like to try. Not just because John Wick drinks it, but admittedly, also because John Wick drinks it.
  • Remember six years ago when 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, as it turns out, apparently I could see the future…

Thank you Santa, Merry Giftmas!

Best,

Rhonda


Those of us who have donated to this blog tour are not Santa Claus, but we might have a gift for you just the same! See this Rafflecopter here? Well, the prize list for it is so big I can’t fit it all on this page. Seriously. You can check it out by clicking here but first place comes with original art, poetry critiques, books, books, uh, more books… You get the idea.

Everyone gets one free entry each day and you can earn extra ones by donating to our fundraiser or boosting our signal.

Good luck!