giftmasblog-tour

Above and Beyond!

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Wow! You guys went above and beyond. My original goal had been $500 and you guys came through in such a phenomenal way that not only did we meet that goal, but we beat it! Thank you SO much! I am ecstatic to tell you that together we raised $521 for the Edmonton Food Bank. Because the food bank has some awesome buying power and is able to stretch each penny they receive to incredibly lengths that $521 works out to 1563 meals for hungry people!

This makes me so proud, I hope you feel it too.

Whatever you did to contribute — donate, spread the word, whatever — thank you. Thank you so much <3

As part of this blog tour I was offering a giveaway of a crocheted throw. Rafflecopter has chosen the winner and it is:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

CONGRATULATIONS REBEKAH K.!

 

I’ve emailed you, so if you didn’t get it, check your spam filter.

Everyone else gets a prize too though! I said if we reached our $500 goal I’d throw something else into the prize pot. After giving it some thought I’ve decided to give out a couple paperback books to two more random winners. I let the Rafflecopter choose them and it picked Emeryl and Leslie V. You guys should also check your email 😉

Thank you again to everyone who participated in or contributed to this blog tour. It’s the best Giftmas present I ever could have asked for. Thank you!

And those blog stops again, in case you missed them, are:

Christmas Baking and Gingerbread Bloodshed

Giftmas Bready or Not: Cake Batter White Chocolate Fudge (Microwave)

Food, Glorious Food!

Giftmas Tour 2016

Christmas Lunch 

Snowed in: A Giftmas Guest Blog from Jennifer Crow

Fruitcake and Christmas Wishes

A Place at the Table 

The Worst Thanksgiving Ever

The Weight of Christmas Dinner

A Nontraditional Foodie Christmas

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Last Day For Donations!

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Today is the last day to donate to our fundraiser to help the Edmonton Food Bank. That’s the bad news. The good news is that so far we’ve raised $426 of our $500 goal! Whoot whoot!

Because the Food Bank is able to buy food in huge numbers (and they are basically magic) they can turn every $1 into 3 meals for hungry people. That means so far we’ve donated enough for 1,278 meals! I’d really like to push it over to a nice even 1500 though — which is only $74 in donations away. Maybe it’s time to add an extra bit of incentive.

If we reach our $500 goal in addition to awarding someone a crocheted blanked from this:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I will… well, I’ll do something else. But I don’t know what. Let’s take a vote shall we?

  1. If we reach our $500 donation goal for this fundraiser I will make D IS FOR DINOSAUR free for the first three days after its release.
  2. If we reach our $500 donation goal for this fundraiser I will choose two extra winners from the Rafflecopter and give them a signed paperback copy of any one of my books.
  3. If we reach our $500 donation goal for this fundraiser I will [insert your suggestion here]

Leave your vote as a comment to this blog post. If When we reach our goal I will read through them and let you know what I’ve decided to go with in Wednesday’s blog post — which is also where I’ll announce the Rafflecopter Winner.

Please go here and donate to help!

 

Between now and then, however, we’ve got lots of food-tastic blog posts for you to check out:

Christmas Baking and Gingerbread Bloodshed

Giftmas Bready or Not: Cake Batter White Chocolate Fudge (Microwave)

Food, Glorious Food!

Giftmas Tour 2016

Christmas Lunch 

Snowed in: A Giftmas Guest Blog from Jennifer Crow

Fruitcake and Christmas Wishes

A Place at the Table 

The Worst Thanksgiving Ever

The Weight of Christmas Dinner

A Nontraditional Foodie Christmas

WOW! While I was typing up this blog post some anonymous awesome person made a donation to take us over the top! We’re at $501! Whoot whoot! So it looks like I WILL be adding something awesome into the prize pot (for lack of a better description), it’s just a question of what! So be sure and vote / leave a suggestion in the comments here. And do consider donating if you can spare even a little bit. Though we’ve met our goal for this fundraiser there are still a lot of hungry people out there who would thank you for your generosity if they could!

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Check back Wednesday when I’ll announce the winner(s?) 🙂

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$209 Raised

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So far, together, we have raised $209 for the food bank. That works out to over 600 meals! Whoot! But we’re not done yet — there are still just over three days left in this fundraiser so if you can donate even a couple dollars please

Go here to help feed hungry families this winter

and accept my sincere thanks 🙂

And then come back here and enter the Rafflecopter to win a crocheted throw by yours truly. As you can see, the odds are most definitely in your favour LOL

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The stops so far on the tour have really covered quite a spectrum. Our theme this year was food, and everyone touched on that but family is also a hugely recurring theme — go figure 😉

In case you missed them, check out these stops:

Snowed in: A Giftmas Guest Blog from Jennifer Crow

Fruitcake and Christmas Wishes by Eileen Bell 

A Place at the Table by Tiffany Michelle Brown

The Worst Thanksgiving Ever by Kara Reynolds

…and there’s more on the way!

 

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The Weight of Christmas Dinner

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Today, as part of the 2016 Giftmas Blog Tour I am hosting Barbara Tomporowski. Please enjoy her story which is ostensibly about Christmas dinner, but really is about family, and tradition, and shortbread 😉

The Weight of Christmas Dinner

Barbara Tomporowski

“The day that oven dies, I’ll smash it.”

My son perked up. “Cool!”

“Really?” My boyfriend asked mildly. “With what?”

Having never owned a crowbar, let alone used one, I knew I was trapped. “What I meant is that the day that oven quits in the middle of cooking our Christmas dinner will be the last day of its mechanical life.”

My dad cringed, probably at the thought of purchasing a new stove. My boyfriend shrugged and said, “At least it’ll be cheaper on Boxing Day.”

“I meant today.” They both winced. Neither would want to brave the press of last minute shoppers in any store Scrooge-like enough to sell major appliances on Christmas Day.

Heat blasted my cheeks as I opened the oven. The temperature was probably too hot, but at least the bird was cooking. I would be thankful if the unreliable thermostat in my parents’ stove, a relic from the ’70s, cooked the turkey thoroughly enough that no one got salmonella.

I peered at my daughter’s efforts to make our family’s traditional bean salad. Seeing her rinsing lentils and chopping celery, I offered Mom a wooden spoon. “Could you do the shortbread?” Since her stroke, Mom often seemed lost in a lonely and confusing fog, but that day she seemed happy to be with us in the kitchen. She nodded, I set her to creaming the butter, and the rhythmic, sloppy sound soothed my holiday dinner anxieties.tomporowski-christmas-table-at-government-house-2015

Nobody makes shortbread like my mother. Although the recipe is simple, mine never turns out. Mom claimed the secret was to cream the butter by hand, with a spoon instead of a mixer, but I suspect there was some secret ingredient she kept from me so I would have to come home.

My life changed after my mother’s stroke. Despite having children of my own, I never felt like more of an adult than the day I was solely responsible for the weight of Christmas dinner.

Christmas was – is – a big deal in my family. The tree, the lights, the singing. Parties and families and guests. As a child, the anticipation of Christmas Eve interrupted by Midnight Mass. I liked the carols and the figures in the Nativity scene almost enough to make up for the never ending church service. Afterward, I would help my mom make a midnight lunch: cheese, pickles, crackers; pepperoni and farmer’s sausage; cherry tarts, butter tarts, and of course the shortbread cookies.

On Christmas morning I would wake early, run to the tree and marvel at the presents. After ripping through my stocking to examine what Santa brought me and my brothers, I would fidget until it was late enough to wake my parents and open the gifts. Next would come Christmas breakfast and washing those dishes, just in time to dirty more as we sliced onions, peeled potatoes, stuffed the bird and boiled the dreaded Brussels sprouts. I could never figure out why Mom insisted on cooking a vegetable nobody liked, and we three kids slurped apple juice from wine goblets to disguise their bitter flavour.

As a grownup, wine replaced my apple juice and I helped my mom with midnight lunch. After banishing the kids to bed, I stuffed their stockings by the peaceful glow of incandescent lights and woke, as my parents must have, to gleeful shrieks from the living room. And then my mom had her stroke, and everything changed.

My dad survived an aneurysm a few years later, and every Christmas since has been in the care home where he now lives with my mother. That first year, I brought them a Christmas dinner wrapped in foil and packed on ice for the three hour drive. We had to borrow plates and warm the turkey, gravy and mashed potatoes in a stove that was, happily, newer than what we’d finally hauled out of my parents’ house. There wasn’t enough space for all of the food in the oven, and the turkey was cold by the time the gravy was steaming. No Brussels sprouts, though; even a Christmas cook must draw the line somewhere.

Last year, my boyfriend persuaded me to be easier on myself by ordering supper. My  shortbread still isn’t as good as my mom’s, but I compensate with caramel squares and my father doesn’t notice while I bring him his favourite butter tarts.

A couple of weeks ago, my brother announced that he will fly home for Christmas, and Dad’s anticipation of the holiday meal is surpassed only by his joy at the prospect of having us together. So I’ll make Christmas dinner again, but my boyfriend suggested assembling plates of food at my house and driving them to my parents. Meals on wheels, family style. Still packed on ice, of course, and no Brussels sprouts. But what would Christmas be without shortbread and butter tarts?

Maybe this year I’ll try the wooden spoon.

 

Barbara Tomporowski writes fantasy, justice-related nonfiction, and Christmas blog posts. She chairs a writing group in Regina, Canada, and was recently chosen as an apprentice in the Saskatchewan Writers Guild Mentorship Program. You can find her on Facebook.


A big part of this blog tour is us attempting to raise money to help the Edmonton food bank. If you haven’t already, please click here or on the image below and donate to help feed a family this month — whether it’s a dollar, ten or more every little bit helps! And, as a bonus, all these donations are in Canadian dollars so if you are American, for example, your $10 donation might only cost you $8 (I don’t know the exact exchange rate). Also, if you use PayPal to donate they will add 1% to your donation. Once you’ve donated come back to enjoy the recipe I have to share and enter my rafflecopter to win a cozy prize!

giftmasblog-tour

Thank you so much for helping!

And if you can’t help monetarily, there is still something you can do — help us spread the word about this fundraiser. As with donations, every little bit — every tweet or Facebook share — helps. We can’t reach our fundraising goal without you!

To thank you for all your help I’m also hosting a giveaway. The winner will get a cozy crocheted throw (homemade by me!) in whatever colour(s) they choose. I will ship it anywhere in the world, and though the odds favour those people who donate to the fundraiser (even $1!), you can also earn entries by tweeting about the giveaway or just by showing up because everyone gets one free entry as my gift to you 🙂

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

 

 

 

2016 Giftmas Blog Tour

The Worst Thanksgiving Ever

2016 Giftmas Blog Tour

The Worst Thanksgiving Ever by Kara Reynolds

People have strong, emotion-filled memories associated with the holidays, especially with the food we eat at those special times. It’s why I make sweet potato casserole every Thanksgiving—it’s my mom’s recipe, and making it reminds me of her. Every time I add a full cup of sugar instead of three-quarters of a cup I laugh inwardly as I imagine her cringing at how much delicious sugar goes into the dish. I am sure (I hope, anyway) that you have similar fond memories of holiday food.

For the first Thanksgiving that my husband and I spent together (before we got married), we went to visit my family on the East Coast. For weeks leading up to our trip, I regaled him with stories of my family and different holidays we’d spent together. I think my nostalgia started to make him miss his own family, because a few days before we left he suggested we eat dinner at a Country Buffet, like his family used to do when he was a kid. As buffets go, it wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t good either. I couldn’t wait to get home and eat my grandma’s food.

Later that night, my husband starting having stomach cramps. He spent the night on the couch in my living room. When I came back upstairs in the morning to check on him, he was in the bathroom. He had full-blown food poisoning, and it was kicking his butt. I helped clean up the mess (from both ends, people. It was BAD).

He recovered enough by the time we had to fly out, so we went on our trip. My dad’s family picked us up in Baltimore and took us to my aunt’s house in Pennsylvania. By the time we got there, my stomach was starting to gurgle…

I spent the next two days on the toilet at my aunt’s house, while my sister laughed her head off at me every time she walked down the hall and heard me spewing into the commode. My poor husband spent those days making small talk with my family, who he’d just met, and force-feeding me Gatorade.

It was a terrible trip, but I have fond memories of it because that was the week I realized I wanted to marry my husband. Because I could clean up his bodily fluids (and he mine) without being repulsed, it was clear to me that we truly cared about each other.

We’ve had nine Thanksgivings since then, and every time we sit down to eat we share a grin and remind each other how thankful we are that we can actually eat the meal that year—and that we’re thankful that we’re eating it together.

 

**********

Kara Reynolds is a stay-at-home mom of three who likes to spend her nearly-non-existent free time writing novels. Her weaknesses include James T. Kirk, lightsabers, and anything TARDIS-blue. She writes contemporary and light speculative YA novels. She is clearly a gigantic nerd, and if she could go back in time, she would tell her teenage self to embrace her inner geekiness. While Kara lives in Wyoming, she is not of Wyoming. But it’s growing on her.

Kara blogs about writing every week at Operation Awesome (http://operationawesome6.blogspot.com). You can follow her on Twitter @reynoldstribe.

 


Edmonton food bank. If you haven’t already, please click here  and donate to help feed a family this month — whether it’s a dollar, ten or more every little bit helps! And, as a bonus, all these donations are in Canadian dollars so if you are American, for example, your $10 donation might only cost you $8 (I don’t know the exact exchange rate). Also, if you use PayPal to donate they will add 1% to your donation. Once you’ve donated come back to enjoy the recipe I have to share and enter my rafflecopter to win a cozy prize!

 

Thank you so much for helping!

And if you can’t help monetarily, there is still something you can do — help us spread the word about this fundraiser. As with donations, every little bit — every tweet or Facebook share — helps. We can’t reach our fundraising goal without you!

To thank you for all your help I’m also hosting a giveaway. The winner will get a cozy crocheted throw (homemade by me!) in whatever colour(s) they choose. I will ship it anywhere in the world, and though the odds favour those people who donate to the fundraiser (even $1!), you can also earn entries by tweeting about the giveaway or just by showing up because everyone gets one free entry as my gift to you 🙂

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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13% of the way there…

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Thank you, thank you!

Because of your generosity we’ve raised $66 for the Edmonton Food Bank — that’s just over 13% of the way to our goal!

The Food Bank was in touch with me yesterday and they said that they can turn every dollar that is donated into three meals for hungry people.

$1 = 3 meals!
If you can spare enough to provide three meals to hungry people in Edmonton this month, they — and I — would really appreciate it.

Go here now to help

And then enter the Rafflecopter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

But wait! There’s more!

Mine is far from the only blog involved in this tour. Check out some of the other Giftmas Blog posts I’ve come across today 🙂

Christmas Baking and Gingerbread Bloodshed with Stephanie A. Cain from Tiffany Michelle Brown

Giftmas Bready or Not: Cake Batter White Chocolate Fudge (Microwave) from Beth Cato

Food, Glorious Food! from Eileen Bell

Giftmas Tour 2016 from Pamela Q. Fernandes

Christmas Lunch with Pamela Q. Fernandes hosted by Barbara Tomporowski

I’m thinking about adding something to the Rafflecopter if we reach say, 20 donors, and something else once we reach $250 (or half our goal). I’m kind of stumped as to what to add though. What would you like to see? Books? Crafty things? Critiques? Gimme a shout and let me know what you’re thinking.

giftmastourschedule

 

 

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2016 Giftmas Blog Tour

Money was tight when I was a kid–for several years my mom was raising three of us on a waitress’s salary and you’ve gotta know that wasn’t easy (I talked about it a bit here). Things are better for me these days, but not everyone is so lucky:

“In the wake of the plunging global price of oil, Edmonton’s unemployment rate grew from 4.9% in March 2014 to 6.9% in March 2016. This translated to a massive 31% increase in food bank use in the city. Edmonton is not alone… What sets Edmonton apart is the thousands of people who flocked to the city in May to escape the wildfires further north. This short-term crisis and dislocation, combined with a severe lack of affordable housing and an inadequate safety net for jobless Albertans, have pushed the city’s charitable sector to the limits.”

[Source: http://bit.ly/2gdzODj ]

I want to help. So this year my annual Giftmas Blog Tour is going to be food-centric and raise money to help the Edmonton food bank. Myself and a handful of awesome women have come together to share recipes and raise money to help feed hungry families this season.

Please click here or on the image below and donate to help feed a family this month — whether it’s a dollar, ten or more every little bit helps! And, as a bonus, all these donations are in Canadian dollars so if you are American, for example, your $10 donation might only cost you $8 (I don’t know the exact exchange rate). Also, if you use PayPal to donate they will add 1% to your donation. Once you’ve donated come back to enjoy the recipe I have to share and enter my rafflecopter to win a cozy prize!

giftmas-1

Thank you so much for helping!

And if you can’t help monetarily, there is still something you can do — help us spread the word about this fundraiser. As with donations, every little bit — every tweet or Facebook share — helps. We can’t reach our fundraising goal without you!

To thank you for all your help I’m also hosting a giveaway. The winner will get a cozy crocheted throw (homemade by me!) in whatever colour(s) they choose. I will ship it anywhere in the world, and though the odds favour those people who donate to the fundraiser (even $1!), you can also earn entries by tweeting about the giveaway or just by showing up because everyone gets one free entry as my gift to you 🙂

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And now, the recipe 🙂

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Butter tarts are a thing my family takes very seriously. My grandmother’s in particular are kinda famous — no really. My grandmother used to run a the Northside Restaurant in Nanton, which is a small town about an hour out of Calgary.

Once, when my mother was in the hospital in Calgary my grandmother came up to visit her and brought her butter tarts. After my grandmother had left the nurse came in to check on my mother, saw the butter tarts and said, “Oh, those look just like the butter tarts from the Northside Restaurant in Nanton — have you ever had them?”

After Mom stopped laughing she and the nurse chatted about them — it seemed the nurse and her husband would always stop at the Northside anytime they went anywhere near Nanton just for the butter tarts.

…or so the family legend says 😉

This recipe isn’t my grandmother’s, it’s my mother’s. I thought about sharing Grammy’s but figured that might be more than my life is worth… and besides, Christmas really makes me think a lot about my mom (who died a few years ago now). She was never actually a big fan of Christmas, but she faked it pretty well for the sake of us kids LOL And she liked the family aspect that saw us all come back “home” and spend time together. More or less 😉

…back to the recipe!

For the pastry, both my mother and grandmother tweaked their recipes a few times over the years, but for the most part they always seemed to come back to the same one — the standard pastry recipe from the side of the Tenderflake container so if you’re not sure where to start, that’s a great jumping off point 🙂

I hope you enjoy this recipe and check out the rest of the blog tour to see what everyone else is offering — it’s gonna be something special, I can tell 🙂

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Tour Schedule:

December 5th — Introducing the tour 🙂
December 9th — Kara hosts Tiffany 
December 11th — Jennifer hosts Diamante 
December 12th — Final day for donations!

 

2016 Giftmas Blog Tour

2016 Giftmas Blog Tour Information & Sign-up

2016 Giftmas Blog Tour

When I was a kid money was tight but the food bank was there to help make ends meet–especially during the time my mom was a single mother of three. We were lucky in that we didn’t need to use it regularly, but every year we received a ‘Christmas hamper’ and they really made the holidays shine. There was always a big turkey, for starters, and then the rest of the contents were like an amazing surprise bag of food. I still remember the excitement I felt pulling things out of the box with my mom and either cheering or groaning. “Yay! Candy!” or “Eww… escargo? Who eats snails?” (Give me a break, I was a kid).

These days I’m in a much better position financially, but that’s not true of everyone. In fact, given the fire in Fort Mac, the current economic state in Alberta and the influx of Syrian refugees, I’d guess that more families than ever are going to need help from the food bank to make their holidays awesome. So this year, I’m dedicating my annual Giftmas Blog Tour to food–sharing favourite family recipes and collecting donations for the Edmonton Food Bank.

Although my fundraising page is open to donations now, at this point I’m primarily looking for people to participate in the blog tour.

What Is Required:

Participants will be asked to write two blog posts — one to appear on their own webpage, blog or social media page* and one to appear on another participant’s webpage, blog or social media.

  • Blog posts will be between 200 – 750 words long and include (at a minimum)
    • a story about food during the holidays and/or a favourite family recipe from the holidays.
    • a Giftmas Blog Tour graphic
    • a link to the Edmonton Food Bank fundraiser page for this event
  • Including a short biography with links to your website or work is encouraged.

Participants will be asked to host two blog posts — one that they have written themselves and one that another participant has written.

  • I will need your permission to give your email address to the person you will be hosting so they can email you their blog post.
  • Posting days will be determined ahead of time. You will absolutely get to provide input on when you post.

Timeline:

Sign-ups will be open until November 23rd.
The posting schedule will be determined by November 30th.
Guest blogs will be due to their host by December 3rd. (Participants are encouraged to write these early. Especially since December tends to be a busy month for many people.)
The blog tour runs from December 5th – December 12th.

To Sign-Up:

 

**Sign-ups are now closed. Thank you!**

*This is a new thing I’m trying out. Your chosen media platform will have to allow for blog-length posts so, for example, while Goodreads or a Facebook Page could work, Twitter most certainly would not

 

 

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Giftmas Giveaway Winners

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I think it’s fair to say that the 2015 Giftmas Blog Tour was a rousing success. Thank you so very much for helping make that happen! Whether you participated directly by writing or hosting a blog post, donated prizes, signal boosted us on social media or threw your name into the hat to try and win the amazing prizes we’re giving away, you totally helped. Thank you, thank you!

There are links to of all the blog posts (in case you missed some) right here –> 2015 Giftmas Blog Tour  but I bet you’re actually here to see who won our prizes.

What are those prizes again? Well let me tell you —

2015 Giftmas Giveaway Prizes

Grand Prize (shipped anywhere)

Slay Ride* by Simon Kewin
Seeing The Light by E.C. Bell
Language of the Bear by Nathanael Green
Through the Narrows by Nathanael Green
ARC of The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller* by Manda Pepper
The K-Pro by Manda Pepper
Odd Little Miracles by Fred Warren
Knitted Coffee Cup Cozy from Brenda Stokes Barron
Grim Crush* by S.L. Bynum
Dream Vision* by S.L. Bynum
Vitality Magazine subscription* from Jaylee James
Choosing You* by Jaylee James
The Naughty List edited by Cori Vidae
I Heart Robot by Suzanne van Rooyen
Touching Spirits by Kevin R. Hill
Art Print from Barbara Tomporowski
So To Honor Him* by Laura VanArendonk Baugh
Con Job* by Laura VanArendonk Baugh
Guarding Angel* by S.L. Saboviec
Set of 4 Bookmarks from Joselyn
Fossil Lake (featuring Doug Blakeslee)
Fossil Lake 2: The Refossiling (featuring Doug Blakeslee)
Signed copy of Fae edited by Rhonda Parrish
Signed copy of Corvidae edited by Rhonda Parrish
Signed copy of Scarecrow edited by Rhonda Parrish

Second Prize (shipped anywhere)

Slay Ride* by Simon Kewin
Seeing the Light by E.C. Bell
Touching Spirits by Kevin R. Hill
Guarding Angel* by S.L. Saboviec
Aphanasian Stories by Rhonda Parrish
Signed copy of Metastasis edited by Rhonda Parrish
A is for Apocalypse edited by Rhonda Parrish
B is for Broken edited by Rhonda Parrish

Third Prize (shipped to US)

Slay Ride* by Simon Kewin
Guarding Angel* by S.L. Saboviec
The First Bite of the Apple by Jennifer Crow
Touching Spirits by Kevin R. Hill
Book 1 of the Dead Song series by Jay Wilburn
White Noise* by Rhonda Parrish
Waste Not* by Rhonda Parrish

*these are electronic copies

My personal goal was to get 500 entries and in the end there were 509! Yay!

Now without further ado, the winners are:

Grand Prize – Ray Smith
Second Prize – Danielle Davis
Third Prize – Alicia Cole

Congratulations!

I’ve already emailed the winners so if you see your name there and you haven’t got an email from me check your spam filter. If you STILL don’t have an email from me, contact me right away.

We’ll be doing the Giftmas Blog Tour and Giveaway again next year, but with a few changes. We’ll be running it over 10 days instead of 31, for example, and also aiming to try and help those less fortunate than us. But there’s lots of time between now and then to go into all those details. In the meantime, congratulations winners, and to everyone I hope your holidays were awesome and that 2016 is full of great things 🙂

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The Drive to Read

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

But wait! There’s more!

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

The Drive to Read

by Nathanael Green

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I read every word that weekend.

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

Anyway. Back to Christmas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Alcohol

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

by Rebecca Gibson

Alcohol.

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

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

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

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I don’t drink.

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

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

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

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

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“Why?”

“Is it a religious thing?”

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

“How do you have fun?”

“What’s wrong with you?”

And my personal, least favourite response…

“Just have one…for me?!”

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

No.

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

No.

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

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

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

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

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

xmas3I’m a normal human…see?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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