Tag Archives: Laura VanArendonk Baugh

Grimm, Grit and Gasoline Table of Contents

Two young women defy the devil with the power of friendship. The pilot of a talking plane discovers a woman who transforms into a swan every night and is pulled into a much more personal conflict than the war he’s already fighting. A pair of twins with special powers find themselves in Eva Braun’s custody and wrapped up in a nefarious plan. A team of female special agents must destroy a secret weapon–the spindle–before it can be deployed, but when they discover one of their number has betrayed them, things get messy. The daughter of a gangster is being held hostage on the top floor of a hotel and, now unbeknownst to her, the secret that had been keeping her safe has been revealed and her time is running out. These and over a dozen other dieselpunk and decopunk fairy tales can be found in this anthology.

Retellings of The Little Mermaid, Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, Cinderella, The Monkey King, Swan Lake, Pinoccio and more are all showcased alongside some original fairy tale-like stories. Featuring stories by Alicia K. Anderson, Jack Bates, Patrick Bollivar, Sara Cleto, Amanda C. Davis, Jennifer R. Donohue, Juliet Harper, Blake Jessop, A.A. Medina, Lizz Donnelly, Nellie K. Neves, Wendy Nikel, Brian Trent, Alena Van Arendonk, Laura VanArendonk Baugh, Sarah Van Goethem, Robert E. Vardeman and Zannier Alejandra.

That right there is the unofficial description of Grimm, Grit and Gasoline: An Anthology of Dieselpunk and Decopunk Fairy Tales. I think it does a really good job of describing what you can expect from this anthology but it’s missing one word. Awesome. Because this anthology is awesome.

Check out the Table of Contents:

Circles and Salt by Sara Cleto
Salvage by A.A. Medina
The Loch by Zannier Alejandra
Evening Chorus by Lizz Donnelly
To Go West by Laura VanArendonk Baugh
Bonne Chance Confidential by Jack Bates
늑대 – The Neugdae by Juliet Harper
The Rescue of Tresses Malone by Alena Van Arendonk
Daughters of Earth and Air by Robert E. Vardeman
Easy as Eating Pie by Amanda C. Davis
Accidents are not Possible by Sarah Van Goethem
A Princess, a Spy, and a Dwarf Walked into a Bar Full of Nazis by Patrick Bollivar
Steel Dragons of a Luminous Sky by Brian Trent
Ramps and Rocket by Alicia K. Anderson
As the Spindle Burns by Nellie K. Neves
Make This Water No Deeper by Blake Jessop
One Hundred Years by Jennifer R. Donohue

If you like fairy tales, I think you’re gonna love this book. Coming in September!

Cover Reveal: F is for Fairy

Check it out!

F is for Fairy, the sixth installment in the Alphabet Anthologies series, has got a cover! Yay!

As always with this series, the cover was designed by Jonathan C. Parrish.

“Anyone who believes that faeries are wee, golden-haired creatures with dragon-fly wings and sweet intentions has never met a real faerie.” –Suzanne Willis, “A Silver Thread Between Worlds”

Retellings of familiar favourites from new perspectives, and brand new stories share the pages of this fairy-themed collection. Within these offerings you’ll find fairy music and food, contracts (making and breaking them), changelings, circles and curses–these stories deliver all the things you already love about fairies and a few new tricks as well.

A dusting of dragons, shapeshifters and ogres accompany these tales which include feminist fairies overcoming trauma, Norse fairies breaking the rules to interfere in human affairs, intergalactic fairies hitching a ride to a new home, political satire featuring an idiot king and talking animals, a new Robin Archer story, fairy run nightclubs and so, so much more.

Altogether this anthology includes twenty-six brand new tales–one for each letter of the alphabet–from contributors Pete Aldin, Steve Bornstein, Andrew Bourelle, Stephanie A. Cain, Beth Cato, Sara Cleto, Cory Cone, Danielle Davis, Megan Engelhardt, Michael Fosburg, Joseph Halden, Lynn Hardaker, L.S. Johnson, Michael M. Jones, Jeanne Kramer-Smyth, Samantha Kymmell-Harvey, C.S. MacCath, Jonathan C. Parrish, Alexandra Seidel, Michael B. Tager, Rachel M. Thompson, Laura VanArendonk Baugh, Brittany Warman, Lilah Wild, Suzanne J. Willis and BD Wilson.

Though it’s not going to be available until May 7th, F is for Fairy is currently available for pre-order:

Amazon (US) (CA) (UK)





If you’d like to read a free advance copy in exchange for an honest review you can get a free review copy on BookSprout.

Whatever you choose to do, don’t forget to add it to your ‘Want to Read’ shelf on Goodreads!

Fire: Demons, Dragons and Djinns

This last weekend we launched Fire: Demons, Dragons and Djinns at When Words Collide in Calgary, Alberta and sold out of copies at the show.

And there were a lot of copies.

Like, a lot, a lot.

It set a new record for most number of books sold at WWC (or any single event) for me!

But, that’s not the point of this post. As much as I’d like to just dwell on that forever, life does move on and so must I… but I DO have good news.

Today is the official release day of Fire: Demons, Dragons and Djinns!

That means, if you pre-ordered it either it should be downloaded to your e-reader and ready to go or, if you got the paperback, it ought to be in your mailbox very soon.

Also? Reviews are starting to trickle in. Reviews like this one:

“Fire: Demons, Dragons, and Djinn is an incredibly eclectic and carefully curated collection of short stories… the entire anthology is a treasure of incendiary delights and terrors which deserves a permanent spot on your e-reader’s shelf.”

— Melanie S., Goodreads Reviewer


If you haven’t picked up a copy yet, or don’t even know what I’m talking about, all that information is below, and both B&N and Amazon have ‘Look inside’ features in case you want a little taste before you buy.

To everyone who pre-ordered already, thank you SO much for your support. If not for you I couldn’t do what I do (and I love what I do), so thank you, thank you. I hope you love the book as much as I do 🙂

The ability for people to control (to some extent at least) fire has long been held as one of the major events that contributed to human evolution, but when fire eludes or escapes our control it is also one of the most destructive forces on earth. Associated with passion, power, transformation and purification, fire is a ferocious element with an unquenchable appetite.

Discover the power of Fire and the creatures that thrive on it in these twenty-one stories, including: the true inspiration behind Jim Morrison’s songs; a special weapon used in World War II; the secret in the depths of a mortuary furnace; a fantastical card game; and a necromancer out on what may be his last job.

Featuring: Blake Jessop; Kevin Cockle; Lizbeth Ashton; Dusty Thorne; V.F. LeSann; K.T. Ivanrest; Hal J. Friesen; Laura VanArendonk Baugh; Krista D. Ball; Mara Malins; Claude Lalumière; Susan MacGregor; JB Riley; Damascus Mincemeyer; Heather M. O’Connor; Gabrielle Harbowy; R. W. Hodgson; Chadwick Ginther; Wendy Nikel; Annie Neugebauer; and J.G. Formato.


Get Your Copy Now!

Direct from the Publisher

Electronic: Amazon Kobo | B&N

Paperback: B&N | Amazon

E is for Evil Cover Reveal

E is for Evil contains twenty-six individual stories which each shine a different light on the multi-faceted idea that is evil. Running the gamut from lyrical fantasy to gritty horror in these stories possessed toys, hellish bureaucrats, scientists with questionable morals, abusive partners and even lingerie sellers all take their turn in the spotlight.

Featuring fresh new stories from Michael Fosburg, Lynn Hardaker, Stephanie A. Cain, Andrew Bourelle, Suzanne J. Willis, Samantha Kymmell-Harvey, Hal J. Friesen, C.S. MacCath, Michael B. Tager, Jonathan C. Parrish, Amanda C. Davis, Lilah Wild, Sara Cleto, Alexandra Seidel, Mary Alexander Agner, Cory Cone, Jeanne Kramer-Smyth, Beth Cato, Laura VanArendonk Baugh, Megan Engelhardt, Danielle Davis, Brittany Warman, BD Wilson, L.S. Johnson, Pete Aldin and Michael M. Jones.


I wanted this cover to represent ‘evil’ without relying on any one specific religion or mythology (satan & pentagrams, for example), which was tricky. To further complicate things I also wanted it to be black and white and grey. That made it difficult not only to find the right image (we went with a play on ‘See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’) but also to get the contrast right. It took a lot of finessing but in the end I think Jo nailed it. I can’t wait to see this one on physical books 🙂

If you’re going to pick up a copy of this please consider pre-ordering your copy here:


E is for Evil on Amazon

(US) (CA) (UK)


Pre-ordering is an awesome way of supporting the book and I really appreciate it. Thank you!

Cover design by Jonathan C. Parrish

Fire Table of Contents

I’ve been stoked (heh) about this anthology from the very beginning for all sorts of reasons. First, because it’s the first volume in what I hope will be a new and awesome series. Second, because it’s my first foray into working with Tyche Books. Third, because it’s a super fun theme with tonnes of potential. Fourth — demons, dragons and djinn. I mean, c’mon!

But despite how excited I was there’s this stage that happens with every anthology I work on where I’m absolutely, positively certain that things aren’t going to come together and I’m never going to have a table of contents and even if I do it’s not going to do the thing justice and blah blah blah blah. You know what I’m talking about, if not specifically when it comes to anthologies than about something. It’s like Imposter Syndrome and ‘It’s always shinier in my brain than it is on the page’ had a baby and that baby moved into my brain and is having a never-ending temper tantrum. Yeah. That.

It happens every time.

And every time the baby eventually grows up and moves away and I realise that, actually, I’ve put together something special.

And each anthology is special in its own way.

The Fire baby (man I’m really milking this aren’t I? LOL) moved out quite a long time ago, actually, so I’ve had lots of time to really enjoy this anthology and really appreciate the things about it that make it special.

Fire is special to me for two big reasons.

First, the quality of the stories and their diversity in regard to tone, voice, point of view, theme and style is impressive. By my count, just off the top of my head and going by memory within these twenty-one stories six have demons, six have dragons and three have djinn. Some have all three. Some have none of those. Some are pretty subtle and others couldn’t be more in your face if they tried. There are fire critters I’d never heard of, and stories went in directions I never could have guessed at, and I love that.

Second, there is a fantastic mix between authors I’ve worked with before and those I’m working with for the very first time. Working with people I’ve worked with before is always a bit easier–we’ve been down this road, we know what to expect. It’s comfortable, familiar. We know each other. We might even be friends. And working with new people is exciting, scary and new. I never know exactly how they are going to take my edits, or my sense of humour. In some cases we’ll meet for the first time at a launch, or event. It keeps me on my toes. This anthology has a great mix of comfort and fear… sort of like fire itself.

So without further ado:

Fire: Demons, Dragons and Djinn


“Magnesium Bright” by Lizbeth Ashton
“Bait” by Krista D. Ball
“Strange Attractor” by Kevin Cockle
“The Midwife and the Phoenix” by J.G. Formato
“The Djinni and the Accountant” by Hal J. Friesen
“Midnight Man versus Frankie Flame” by Chadwick Ginther
“Cold Comfort” by Gabrielle Harbowy
“Aitvaras” by R.W. Hodgson
“The Hatchling” by K.T. Ivanrest
“She Alone” by Blake Jessop
“A Girl, Ablaze with Life” by Claude Lalumière
“Old Flames” by V. F. LeSann
“Light My Fire” by Susan MacGregor
“Double or Nothing” by Mara Malins
“Aladdin’s Laugh” by Damascus Mincemeyer
“Cilantro” by Annie Neugebauer
“Breath of the Caldera” by Wendy Nikel
“Phoenix Rising” by Heather M. O’Connor
“Ring of Fire” by JB Riley
“Permanence” by Dusty Thorne
“The Second Great Fire” by Laura VanArendonk Baugh
Fire: Demons, Dragons and Djinn will be launched at When Words Collide in Calgary, Alberta this August 🙂


Around my house Christmas is all about food, and while Mrs. Claus doesn’t spend all her time baking cookies that doesn’t mean she doesn’t know her way around a kitchen. Over the next few days I’d like to share some of Mrs. Claus’ favourite recipes with you! Each one of these recipes is written in the voice of one of the incarnations of Mrs. Claus from my latest anthology, Mrs. Claus: Not the Fairy Tale They Say.



From Mrs. Claus of “Wight Christmas” by Laura VanArendonk Baugh

Autumn is a time of change: a time when leaves turn and wildlife prepares to migrate or hibernate, a time of frenzied activity for the elves as they try to get Nick ready for his annual event, a time when women in wholly unnecessary activewear wax lyrical about spices cheaply available year round. (You people have no idea what it was like in the old days, when we traveled months to trade or… borrow spices.)

But the best part of autumn is gathering with friends to celebrate the rich harvest collected by that farm village you just relieved of its overstock. (No worries, bleeding hearts! We also relieved them of excess population, so they’ll be better able to survive on the stores they have left.)

One of my favorites is roast reindeer. Oh, don’t make that face. Yes, Nick has a team of eight which is quite the public face for the operation. They’re more famous than the Budweiser Clydesdales! But reindeer have always been a part of our culture and diet. Where do you think Santa’s fur trim came from? Uh-huh.

Besides, reindeer is good for you. It’s a very lean meat, so you don’t have to worry about fat and cholesterol and whatever else you people fret about this decade. And reindeer are free-ranging herds which serve a valuable ecological purpose, none of this disgusting feedlot business. Your reindeer probably roamed the forest eating lichen right up until its final day.

And finally, reindeer is tasty. It’s tender and milder than venison. It’s perfect for your guests. Remember, hospitality is important!

For an intimate gathering, I like to start with about 5 pounds (2 and a quarter kilograms) of reindeer haunch, which should feed two to three Vikings as a main course, but you can work with what you have available. You can certainly scale up if you have a shipful to feed, but remember that a whole reindeer takes longer to prepare than a small roast.

It’s best when wrapped in pork fat to keep it moist. If you happen to be visiting North America, pick up some American bacon, as the strips are perfect. Use about half a pound to wrap the roast, lay some rosemary sprigs over the bacon on all sides, and tie everything in place. If you have any extra pork fat, lay it on top to cap it all off.

Combine lingonberry sauce—mmm, lingonberries!—with a few peppercorns, some onion slices, and whatever honey you saved from mead-making. Set the roast on this base and, well, roast it on a low fire until it bleeds clear. For those of you using an gas or electric cooker, this will be about 275 F or 135 C for two or three hours, depending on your roast.

Meat is not a complete meal, so fill a pan with your favorite root vegetables. Don’t be afraid to use some New World varieties such a potatoes; caribou are found in North America, too. And you’ll have time while it roasts to make some buttermilk flatbread.

When you pull it out, like all meats it will need to rest to reabsorb the best juices. But like all meats, it will likely be raided by hungry hands. Keep your short axe ready for a quick defense as necessary, and it should be ready in about twenty minutes. Alternately, place the mead and drinking horns at the far side of the hall, to distract the diners and keep them busy elsewhere.

Make sure you keep a healthy portion of mead for yourself! Slice the reindeer roast thin when it’s ready, and serve with the lingonberry sauce and roast vegetables. Enjoy!


Excerpt from “Wight Christmas” by Laura VanArendonk Baugh:

Lik and I sat companionably in the dark, waiting. It wasn’t awkward;. I was a Valkyrie, a Chooser of the Slain, and he was the slain. We had more in common than you’d think.

“So, you were a valkyrja.”

Am a valkyrja. I just don’t get called in to work as often these days.”

“And you married Santa.”

“Nicholas is what he goes by most often now. Yes.”

“But Nicholas was a Christian bishop, at least for a span of years.”


“Bishops…can’t have wives. Or sex.”

I nodded. “Frock-blocked.”

Lik’s explosive laughter boomed across the parking lot, shattering any pretense of concealment or stealth. He slapped his bare knee and threw his head back, laughing freely as any dead and drunk warrior in Valhöll.

Available Online:

Direct from the publisher


Barnes and Noble




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 – What I Celebrate

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

There are as many different ways to celebrate winter holidays as there are families and today I wanted to find out about what some of the blog contributors celebrate. You can join in the conversation by commenting here or using the #Giftmas2017 hashtag on social media — what do you celebrate? How do you celebrate it?

Our family celebrates a secular version of Christmas that I like to call Giftmas, hence the name of this blog tour. One of my favourite family traditions is advent. On December 1st we clear all the clutter off our fireplace mantle and replace it with a new kind of clutter — candle clutter! We put twenty-five candles out. Each night in December we light the number of candles that match the date, hang out together and enjoy a chocolate and some holiday music. Some years we’ve read books aloud, but mostly we just sit in the varying degrees of darkness and talk. It’s a lovely, restful way to count down the days toward Christmas. And not just because there’s chocolate, but also because there’s chocolate 🙂

What do the other participants celebrate? Let’s ask them!

“We don’t really celebrate anything anymore, but when I was a kid, we had a the worst fake tree ever made. We used to strategically place the tinsel to cover the gaps between limbs.”

Jennifer Lee Rossman

“We celebrate Christmas, though in a more secular way. (I grew up in the Church of Christ, and was taught that Christ’s birth was something to be acknowledged all year long.) For me, Christmas is about joy and good food and family and Santa Claus. This is what I’ve tried to impart on my son, too. He’s autistic, and we adapted our traditions for his sensory needs. He has always loved numbers and math, so from an early age, I started getting him advent calendars so he could count down the days to Christmas with chocolate. When I hit post-Christmas sales, I try to find one or two more advent calendars too so we can then do “January and February advent” for his numerical joy. We did a third extra advent one year, but since we live in Arizona, I found that the chocolates became too soft by March and we couldn’t get them out of the plastic!”

Beth Cato

“I celebrate Christmas as the birth of Jesus Christ. Not that he was born on December 25, of course; the Roman calendar at that time was a hot mess (leap months, seriously?), even if anyone had bothered to record the date at the time. But December 25 is as good a date as any other to acknowledge and honor the day. We exchange gifts because gifts are a nominal cultural remembrance of the gifts of the Magi to the newborn Jesus or a Christian rebranding of Saturnalia gifts—but mostly because it’s fun.”

Laura VanArendonk Baugh

“We have a very traditional Advent and then a long 12-day Christmas season until Epiphany. So we start from the 2nd of December lighting a candle on the wreath, we start creating the crib sowing the grass and hay, we soak our fruits in rum for Christmas cake and then start making sweets for the office. The kids all start doing the one-kind-deed-a-day decoration chains and we pull out the decorations. In addition to that, we start caroling at various places, work on the Church star and crib with the community, organize gift bags for the poor, make a retreat and confession. Finally, by Christmas week, the cake is baked, the decorations and lights go on and the merrymaking starts on Christmas day after midnight mass right till Epiphany.”

Pamela Q. Fernandez

“As an atheist, I celebrate my cultural roots: I celebrate that there is glühwein (mulled wine) again and that it’s the time of the year to make feuerzangenbowle (a very German thing), which contains wine, rum, and fire as the main ingredients. Since it is the end of the year and the very tipping point of the dark season, I do have the sense of a coming together with those you hold dear (because drinking glühwein alone is just sad), of reflecting on the past year and setting out to tackle the new one, of a sense of quiet.”

Alexandra Seidel

“I’m not really in the Christmas spirit right now—I’m in the Advent spirit. Advent is a Christian season of hopeful anticipation, of waiting, of expectation. It’s a time to reflect on the darkness in the world and to look forward to the coming of a savior, a messiah who will show us the right way to live and lift us out of the darkness. I think in that way, it has a lot in common with the Winter Solstice—and maybe that’s part of why the early Christian church decided to place Christmas so near to the solstice. Over the past several years, I’ve made an effort to place emphasis on Advent until Christmas Eve—the day my parents and I have always held our own private celebration of Christmas.”

Stephanie A. Cain

“My family has always celebrated Christmas. At least we call it that, but it is really a secular celebration, rather than a religious festival. At times, I have somewhat flippantly been known to draw on the mid-winter and Roman heritage of my home country (I’m British) and offer felicitations for the festival day of the risen god, Sol Invictus.”

J.S. Watts

“My holiday traditions are a muddle! We go Yule singing door-to-door in the days leading up to Christmas. On Christmas Eve, we sing carols and go to church. We open gifts on Christmas morning, and eat a supper that includes a cake shaped like a Yule log. Next, we celebrate the changing face of Janus on December 31st by ushering out the old year and welcoming the new. Lastly, I celebrate Imbolc on February 1st, lighting candles and lanterns to welcome the coming of spring. ”

Barbara Tomporowski

“Not a holiday sort of dude. I like the excuse to give presents or hang out with people, but there’s no one holiday that I adhere to. Again, the cynic in me grumbles, but stays quiet for the most part during the month of December. I like the cold, the lights, and the mountain of baked goods that accompany this time of the year. It’s the only chance to watch my favorite version of “Christmas Carol” with Alastair Sims.”

Doug Blakeslee

We celebrate a secular version of Christmas. I was raised on a farm, and that definitely coloured how I celebrate the season. We baked multitudes of fantastic cakes and cookies. We went to the back forty and cut down our own Christmas tree. Then we decorated it and the rest of the house. It was wonderful. But one of the big events that signalled (to me at least) that Christmas had really truly arrived was watching Alastair Sim’s version of “A Christmas Carol” on CBC on Christmas Eve. Now, in my own house, we decorate a tree (sadly, we have moved to artificial, but digging it out of its box and putting it together is just as good as slogging through the snow to cut down a real one. Right?), and bake a bunch of different cookies for the season, but I have developed a variation of “the movie before Christmas.” Now, we watch the “25 movies of Christmas.” We start with “Die Hard” on December 1st, and watch (at least) one movie with some sort of a Christmas theme an evening until Christmas Eve. That’s reserved for… (if you guessed Alastair Sim’s “A Christmas Carol,” you’d be wrong!) “Love Actually.” Because my husband gets to pick movies too, and this is one of his favourites.”

E.C. Bell

Another Giftmas tradition I enjoy is exchanging gifts and it really is true what they say about giving being better than receiving — I love a good gift, don’t get me wrong, but I really love the feeling that comes with finding and giving someone else that perfect something.

Which is an elegant little segue to the fact that if you love books or art I might have the perfect gift for you. Two people will win awesome prizes from this Rafflecopter right here. There are honestly too many prizes for me to list them all here, but you can check out the list by clicking here.

Everyone gets one free entry each day and you can earn more by helping us signal boost this tour and fundraiser, or by donating.

Thank you, and good luck!

Giftmas 2017 – Why I Give

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 today’s post I asked the contributors to talk about why they give, and I intentionally left the question of what they give completely open because I wanted to see how each individual would interpret the question. Because we all give in some form or another — we give money, or time, objects or of ourselves. What motivates that giving?

Personally, I want to talk specifically about why I give to the Food Bank — why that is the cause I choose to support with this blog tour. The answer is very simple, really. I give to the Food Bank because the Food Banks have given to me. I live a privileged life these days and we never struggle to put food on the table but that wasn’t always the case. When I was younger and my mom was a struggling single mother of three we didn’t go hungry but the local Food Bank’s Christmas hampers were a huge factor in our Christmas celebrations. Without them our season would have been far less bright. And when Dani was a toddler and I was the single mom a Christmas hamper meant I didn’t have to pick between having a holiday feast or putting a great present under the tree for her. Supporting the food bank now that I am financially able makes sense to me and it feels good too.

As for why some of the other contributors give? Let’s ask them:

“Last year was the first time I took part in the Giftmas tour hosted by Rhonda. And I honestly didn’t think much of it until we met and surpassed the 500$ mark and I was amazed at the generosity of fans. We’ve been blessed abundantly in a way that we can write, share stories and become a part of people’s thoughts long after they’ve finished a book. It feels wonderful to be able to share with others who’re finding the going tough. If there is something that we can do to help others have a better Christmas it would be awesome. ”

Pamela Q. Fernandez

“I support the Giftmas Blog Tour because our friends, families, and community members should not go hungry in this great country.”

Barbara Tomporowski

“I give because I can, and because I hope that it will give the gift of happiness, no matter how brief, to someone else who needs it. I also think that if we all acted kinder and more giving toward one another and the other beings sharing this planet with us, we would find more happiness ourselves.”

Alexandra Seidel

“I give my time and energy because I don’t feel like I’ve done enough to “earn” the good things in my life.”

Jennifer Lee Rossman

“I give for a lot of reasons—first and foremost because I’m a follower of the Jesus way, and one important tenet of that way is to give to others, to love other people as much as I love myself. I won’t get all preachy on you, but I’m a firm believer that every gift I give to another person is also a gift I offer to Jesus. For another reason, my forty-one years have been a roller coaster of both need and plenty. There have been times I’ve had a thousand dollars in my checking account and had plenty to give someone in need. There have also been times I’ve just bounced a check and needed someone’s help to buy groceries. I know what need feels like. I know how crippling and shameful it can be to have to ask someone for help in a culture that seems to idolize self-reliance. And I know just how big a tiny gift can feel.”

Stephanie A. Cain

“I’m cynical by nature. Slow to trust or warm up to people. It’s part of my past that I work to get past. One of the ways I do that is support things that I do believe in. As a kid I devoured science fiction of all types. Science was my passion and while I didn’t go that route, it’s something I believe in. It gives us hope that there’s something better or we can become something better. When I got the offer for the blog tour, I took up the cause, because it’s passing along a bit of hope. A recent sci-fi anthology just arrived and it’s full of stories that embody the hope that sci-fi brings to me. That’s why I’m offering it to the blog tour. Maybe it’ll kindle someone else’s hope.”

Doug Blakeslee

“To paraphrase 1 John, “We give because he first gave to us.” I participate in this blog-hopping fundraiser because it’s a fun way to simultaneously connect with colleagues and support a cause outside of my local sphere of influence. I support a number of local non-profits, but here are two charities which work around the world and which you can support from anywhere:

IJM (International Justice Mission) fights slavery—not “I’ve got student loans” but real, chattel slavery which still exists in much of the world and probably touching you. (It’s why I highlight fair-trade chocolate when I blog about chocolate.) Several of my writing projects feature slave characters, but I want to be sure I don’t romanticize this concept, and I’ve used books as fundraisers to support IJM and will again.

World Vision provides education, resources, supplies, and support in all kinds of conditions and needs. They have a great record of using donations directly to aid, rather than diluting in marketing, fundraising, salaries, slush. They also have a child sponsorship program, if you want to connect personally.”

Laura VanArendonk Baugh

“I give to this fundraiser and other causes because I know what it’s like to need. My family often struggled as I was growing up. There were a few months where we got by on a bare minimum of ramen noodles, cereal, and milk. We didn’t get assistance from a food bank, though our plight would have warranted it. And even though we didn’t have much, we always gave.  My mom encouraged me to donate to food or toy or pet-supply drives, emphasizing that there were always people who need help. Those lessons have stayed with me.”

Beth Cato

Short answer? Because I have been incredibly lucky most of my life, and this blog tour is one way I can give back. It’s not the only thing I do, but it is special to me, because it happens at Christmas time. I love the trappings, and the baking, and the lights, and the food, and the celebrations I can join around the city if I choose—and did I mention the food? That’s the biggest reason why this blog tour is close to my heart. Food is the lynch pin of all my celebrations around this season, and I can’t imagine not being able to afford it. (Actually, I can, because I wasn’t always lucky. And that’s another reason why I give.)”

E.C. Bell

“I fall into the category of cash-strapped writer. I don’t have the money to donate to heaps of good causes, as much as I might like to. I do, however, have my writing and performance skills. When a good cause comes along that enables me to volunteer my time and my skills, I jump at it. It’s my way of giving back.”

J.S. Watts

One of the themes I see running through those answers is ‘I give because I can’. Related to that is the Rafflecopter you see right here.

Though we really want to use this blog tour to raise money for the Food Bank we recognize that not everyone can contribute financially and that’s okay. You can still help by spreading the word, by boosting our signal. And if you can’t do that… well, everyone deserves a chance at some holiday goodies. So in addition to giving you extra entries for boosting our signal we’re also giving everyone one free entry each day.

You can check out the full prize list for the Rafflecopter by clicking here but suffice to say it includes books, original art, books, Tuckerizations (that’s when someone names a character after you!), books, critiques, and did I mention books? There are a lot of books!

Enter to win now, and good luck!

And don’t forget to support our fundraiser to benefit the Edmonton Food Bank if you can. It’ll give you some extra entries into the Rafflecopter, let you claim some awesome rewards and put a smile on your face. That’s pretty tough to beat!

Equus Battle Royal Winner

It was a very long, difficult battle, but after more than two months of slugging it out, round after round, the Equus Battle Royal has a victor:

Congratulations to Nova and Reaver for making it all the way through the tournament to come out on top, and congratulations also to Peregrine the damned soul who gave the war unicorn team some strong competition!

Please enjoy the short excerpt from each of their stories:

Excerpt from “Rue the Day” by Laura VanArendonk Baugh:

There was a small group gathered on the beach, half-ringed about a woman of perhaps forty, dressed in fitted skirts with her hair drawn back severely. Trainer Isabel, stablemaster and head of all the royal trainers, stepped close to speak with her, and Galyne thought they might have been sisters.

Then Trainer Isabel stepped back to join the half-circle. “We are ready when you wish.”

The sun dipped against the ocean. Rue stepped close to Galyne, keeping his eyes on the sorceress as if he did not trust her. Sorceresses had that effect on people, especially at first.

The woman spoke strange words in an awful voice and raised her bare hands against the wind and sea. She stood immovable on the wet sand, deliberately weaving her hands as if to pull the wind like wool or candy.

And then, as another wave rolled to break against the shore, Galyne saw a horse’s form in the waves, its mane rising and falling with the waves’ crests, though there was no flesh-and-blood horse there. The dread woman on the sand called again, and the head broke above the water, an ivory horn piercing the air.

The unicorn was the color of night upon the ocean, its mane and tail like foam lit by moonlight. It rose majestically from the waves and stepped onto the packed sand, arching its thick crest as if aware of its own powerful beauty. It paused before the woman who had summoned it from the elements and raked the sand with one magnificent hoof.

“Reaver,” said the sorceress simply, and the beast bowed its head in gracious acknowledgment. Trainer Isabel stepped forward, extending a halter of worked silver and gems, and the unicorn tossed its head, sending spray over the women, and then extended its neck to accept the halter.

“How does she do it?” Rue whispered.

“It’s a request,” Galyne said. “She invites a unicorn from the elements, but it is always the unicorn’s choice. She grinned. “You don’t argue with a creature of magic who has agreed to fight on your behalf.”

Reaver, gleaming with seawater and his new silver halter, walked away with Trainer Isabel. Galyne’s eyes followed them. “I hope I have a chance at him,” she said. “He’s gorgeous.”

“Like everything to do with unicorns,” Rue said, and there was a note in his voice which should not have been there.

Galyne looked at him, but he was watching the sorceress and Trainer Isabel, and she did not ask him to explain.

Excerpt from “Riders in the Sky” by V.F. LeSann:

The storm shook the tavern as it descended into the valley, drowning out most conversation between the women. Jovial whoops mingled with the wind and the distinct sound of iron hooves within the thunder. The hissing crack of a whip. Her shoulder ached fiercely.

The cacophony persisted for what seemed like hours and Delia eventually got to her feet, peering out through the boarded window.

“Should’ve been done by now,” she murmured. “Clouds are dipping low. Looks like we’re in the middle of the warpath.”

Her voice trailed off as she peered closer, her eyes widening in shock, oblivious to the boards bowing near her face.

Hennessy leapt to her feet, pushing Delia to the ground as the wood splintered. Delia’s scream was punctuated with another shout from within the tavern. She stayed crouched low, guiding Delia to the door as the storm whipped through the broken window.

“Delia?” someone bellowed, followed by the sound of snapping wood and another scream from a neighbouring room.

Hennessy kept Delia shielded as dusky wisps of cloud seeped into the room. She heaved the door open and launched them both onto the landing, slamming it closed behind them.

“We’re alright, Sergei!” Delia yelled, finding her voice. “Damn it.” She fumbled to tear the hem of her dress with shaking hands.

Instead, Hennessy pulled a handkerchief from her pocket and dabbed the blood dripping down the side of Delia’s face.

“I thought I saw a boy in the storm. West Osmond.” Delia winced at Hennessy’s touch, and took over, pressing the cloth firmly against her temple. “You can’t believe what you see. Sometimes the storm shows you things. Things to make you come out and get caught in it.”

Hennessy steadied the other woman and hustled down the stairs. A prickle of fractured memories made Delia’s suspicion feel true.

“I’ll be fine,” Delia assured. “We’ve got a bunker beneath the floor, but Sergei isn’t going to let you in after how the two of you got off.” Wind whipped through the exposed bar, slamming doors and shaking rafters. “There’s a tunnel, under the last table on your right. It leads over to the church. Father Monaghan will let you in. He can’t say no if you ask for sanctuary.” She gave a wry smile. “Old custom, but useful for us shadowy women.”

Delia quickly unfastened her cloak and tossed it to Hennessy before standing on her own strength.

“Take this and stay outta that storm, you hear?”

Hennessy clasped the cloak around her neck, running across the empty bar, and hauling chairs aside until she found the entrance to the tunnel. Slamming it closed above her, she fled into the earthy darkness.

‘Are you safe?’ Peregrine’s panicked thoughts flooded her mind. ‘Has the wind blown you out to them? You are very small, with only two legs…”

In a blatant and transparent attempt to get more votes I’ve also been giving away a book to random voters. This week’s giveaway was complicated by the fact my blog was down for a bit on Saturday and to fix it we had to roll it back to a previous version of itself. A version that didn’t include most of the votes that had been cast. Thankfully I had a physical tallysheet showing what the scores were, but not the individual voters.

I wanted to thank those voters who came back and commented to re-add their name into the draw, so this week I had Siri choose two random winners.

Sarah Miller and Rachel, Siri has chosen you as the winners of this week’s draw. Please drop me an email at rhonda.l.parrish@gmail.com to choose your prize and tell me where to send it.

On a related note, some of the other prizes have not been claimed and were won by people who didn’t leave an email address. So, if you happen to know Tobin Elliott and/or Sylvie Stulic give them a nudge in my direction, would you?

If you’ve enjoyed the excerpts from the anthology I’ve been providing through this competition, or hell, even #EquusFight itself, please consider pre-ordering a copy of Equus today. I’d really appreciate it — pre-orders are important.

Pre-order Equus now:

World Weaver Press
Barnes and Noble

Equus Battle Royal Finals

Fourteen Equus contributors have agreed to pit the equine in their story against all the other horse-like creatures in the anthology and fight it out until only one is left standing. That victor shall win bragging rights… and maybe I’ll make a little ‘I won!’ graphic of some sort 😛

How it Works:

Each Tuesday the competitors will be announced and voting will open. Every vote a story receives counts as one point.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday the competitors will each roll a twenty-sided die. The resulting number of points will be added to their own score. I will update the scores via a comment on the blog post and social media.

Voting closes on Sunday at midnight MST.

Monday the winner (the story with the highest score) will be announced and move on to the next round.


Story Title: “Rue the Day”

Author: Laura VanArendonk Baugh

Equine Combatant’s Name: Nova & Reaver (they’re a team)

Species: Unicorn

Strength: 18

Dexterity: 17

Constitution: 16

Intellect: 11

Charisma: 18

(per Pathfinder stats w/ D&D mod)

Special Attacks: Goring Horn (+8), Striking Hooves (+4)

These specially-trained war unicorns are skilled in the “airs above the ground,” or in RPG terms Acrobatics, and thus can Rogue their way across a battlefield to stomp you dead while simultaneously stabbing your buddy. And there’s not a thing you can do about it.

Special Defences: Magic Circle Against Evil, Too Damn Pretty To Die.

Evil Alignment creatures have difficulty closing distance against a unicorn. They also are a natural example of Reynolds’ Law, being Too Damn Pretty To Die.

Story Title: Riders in the Sky

Author: V. F. LeSann

Equine Combatant’s Name): Peregrine

Species: Damned soul

Strength: 18

Dexterity: 15

Constitution: 16

Intellect: 13

Charisma: 12

Special Attacks: Iron hooves that get red-hot for kick attack. Stubborn horse-logic. Flame mane and tail for striking. Occasionally bursts into flame and moves at ghost-speed. He will bite. Plus when fighting demons.

Special Defences: Soul-bound and telepathically linked with a fully-armed and generally cranky Rider. Shared health pool with the Rider. Can look in someone’s eyes and judge the weight of their souls. He is not considered a living creature (damned/undead)

How to Vote:

Comment on this blog post with the title of the story you are voting for.

For example, if this week’s competitors were:

Star Wars vs. Star Trek

and you wanted to vote for Star Trekyou would leave a comment that said, “I vote for Star Trek.”

You may vote once each round, and each vote enters your name into a draw to win an awesome book (details here) so you could win alongside your favourite equine!

It’s just that easy.


Cast your votes now, and may the best equine win!