Friday, December 25, 2015


My readers all celebrate in a wild variety of ways--different holidays, different traditions. I imagine that my characters would all have their own unique observances as well:

 I know Aura, Nell, and Grace (from A BLUE SO DARK) would all be headed to a warm, sunny Florida Christmas, Aura and Grace with fresh sketch pads in their bags, ready to challenge each other to a sunrise drawing competition...

 Chelsea and Clint (of the PLAYING HURT series) are gearing up for their own first Christmas together, at the quaint snow-blanketed Lake of the Woods resort. Their guests are few this time of year, so Clint and Chelsea have plenty of time to spend together--Clint's introducing Chelsea to ice fishing, and Chelsea's challenging Clint to finally give her yoga a try. Romantic nights are spent in front of a roaring fire in the main lodge...

  Claire and her father (from FERAL) will have a quiet celebration in Chicago, now that Dr. Cain is back from his sabbatical at the university. Rachelle, Claire's best friend, will stop by to exchange gifts with Clair and to share some holiday treats. Rich will be on his way from Peculiar to spend New Year's Eve with Claire as well...

 Auggie and Gus (from THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY) are of course making each other creative gifts--no store-bought goodies for these two. And they're also in the midst of making Chuck, their minister, a fantastic new angel sculpture for the rebuilt community church...

 Innis (the Pekingese in FIFTH AVENUE FIDOS) is taking Mable and Jason on snowy walks through Central Park, merrily wagging his tail as Mable and Jason reach for each other's hands. They pause, letting fellow New Yorkers scratch Innis's head or compliment his new red and green sweater. And they all take time to marvel at the famed Fifth Avenue front window store displays...

 Natalie (from COME DECEMBER) is excitedly preparing her apartment to welcome the staff of Channel 27 News for an early, non-formal chili feast and gift exchange--mostly, she's preparing to spend the holiday with a new special someone...

At Casa Schindler, the celebration will include plenty of gifts and good food and usually a movie marathon (not to mention a dog walk or two).

...And of course, no holiday is complete without a few pics of family trees and goofy shots in fake beards and silly sweaters!
Check out the small tree leaning against the wall, to the right of the large one. It belongs to my dog Jake. Ya know--because ALL dogs deserve their own trees. 

Happy holidays, all!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Smack Dab OUT OF the Classroom by Dia Calhoun

School's out for the holidays. So let's get Smack-dab-out-of-the-classroom and spend two glorious weeks reading whatever we want to, whenever we want to. Keep reading, reading, reading--the flashlight under the covers shining on the page until we hear reindeer clap-clattering on the rooftop.

And don't forget to leave Santa a book with his cookies and milk. He probably needs a break.

Happy Holidays.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Gifts by Laurie Calkhoven

My two sisters and I used to wake up at dawn on Christmas morning like kids all over the country. Sometimes we didn’t even wait until dawn and my parents had to send us back to bed.

Whoever woke up first had the task of waking the others. We rarely agreed on anything, but Christmas was different. The first thing we did was race to the kitchen table to see if Santa had eaten his cookies and milk and taken the carrots we left out for the reindeer.  Then, of course, we checked out the stash of presents under the tree.

My parents had a rule—we could open the small gifts in our stockings, but we couldn’t touch anything wrapped under the tree until my parents were awake. And we couldn’t wake them until the little hand was on the seven and the big hand was on the twelve. Sometimes that meant filling as much as two hours with a pile of wrapped presents just sitting there, waiting to be attacked..

For my sisters that time was torturous. But not for me.  Because Santa (aka my mother) always left some unwrapped gifts under the tree—right out front. When we were younger, those gifts were coloring books and crayons or paper dolls.  Later on, those unwrapped gifts were books—glorious, glorious books.

My family didn’t buy things that we could get for free at the library, so getting a book from Santa was a huge treat. My sisters didn’t care about the books, but I loved them. I remember finishing a Bobbsey Twins novel before my parents got up one year and moving on to my older sister’s Nancy Drew. Sometimes I read aloud while my sisters crawled around, reading the tags on the presents and guessing what was in the packages.

I’ve been feeling overwhelmed with deadlines this holiday season. There’s one crazy-making freelance project I really want to GO AWAY, although of course it won’t until it’s done.  I haven’t had time to decorate and at this point I won’t bother (something you can get away with when you live alone).  I’ll spend Christmas with my sisters and their kids—they’re all getting books, of course—but the day after I’ll be back at my desk.

I hadn’t planned on doing anything for me, but then I remembered Santa’s Christmas tradition.  I’m going to give myself a book, a deliciously long novel.  And then I’m going to give myself the time to read it.

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Gift of Time (December Theme) by Kristin Levine

Of all the gifts I receive in December each year, the gifts of time are always my favorite.  Thank you for: 
  • the real estate agent who gave away Christmas trees to all his clients
  • the friend with a truck who came and helped me set it up 
  • the time to go on a field trip with my daughter to the National Cryptologic Museum 

  • the time to get out my holiday dishes 

  • the old friend who came to town and took me out for Ethiopian food
  • the new friend who invited me to the season 6 Downton Abby premiere 

  • my parents for inviting us all to a sing-a-long at the Kennedy Center
  • my kids for going with me to the Living Christmas Tree concert 

  • the friend who invited us over to light the candles for Chanukah
  • the friends who came over for wine and cheese and cookies
  • and since this is a writing blog, the gifts of comments on the second draft of my new manuscript (which I turned in yesterday - woo hoo!!)  I’m so grateful I had people in my life who were willing to read and comment on my work…even during this crazy time of year.  And some of it was even returned with little doodles! 

Happy holidays to all! 

Friday, December 18, 2015

"Her Gift Is Better Than Mine!" by Claudia Mills (December theme)

My mother believed in iron-clad fairness when it came to gifts. My younger sister and I are one year apart, and we always got identical gifts on Christmas morning. When I grew up and had my own two boys, my mother gave them identical gifts as well: "Two of everything" was her motto.

But as a writer, I've learned that we all have gifts, but we don't all have the same gifts. Lately it's become hard not to notice that, well, some of my friends' gifts are better. These writers create more memorable characters and place them in more challenging and provocative situations; their prose shimmers on the page. They have the kind of gifts that earn their books not one, not two, not three, not four, but FIVE starred reviews.

As the writing year comes to an end, and their titles appear on "Best of 2015" lists, it's hard not to feel a teensy-weensy bit jealous. I find myself envying the prodigious gifts that led them to such abundant and well-deserved recognition.

Wrestling with this ugly emotion - envy is one of the seven deadly sins - I hit upon this way of valuing anew my own distinctive gift as a writer. For I do have one gift nobody else has, even though in some sense it's the one gift everybody else has.

I have the gift of being me.

Others may write better books, but nobody else can write my books. Nobody else can tell my stories, the ones that come from my memories, my struggles, my sense of humor, my hard-earned wisdom, my soul. If I don't write those stories, they will stay unwritten. And I do believe the world would be poorer for that. Some child somewhere will read one of my books and love it fiercely and it will change her life at least a little bit.

The gift-giving fairies gave that to me, and they gave that to you, and it's a gift worth keeping.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Writing Gifts by Bob Krech

I’ve always liked the tools of writing and I’ve received quite a few gifts over the years that were just that. Writing tools. My wife still buys me writing books as gifts as well as books I want to read. All tools for a writer. But my most memorable writing gifts were the real physical tools of the task.

The first writing gifts I remember getting were yellow ledger pads and pencils my father would bring home for me from his office. They were much more interesting to me than the big-lined school paper or 3-hole punched notebook paper we had to buy for school. Yellow ledger pads seemed more “adult,” more “professional.” I saw people on TV, newspaper reporters and lawyers, doing real “business,” real writing on these kinds of pads. I

When I was twelve my father brought me home another writing gift from the office. A Royal manual typewriter. Manual was the operative word. It was like a manual transmission versus an automatic transmission in a car. You had to have pretty good finger strength, but it was very impressive when your words came out in that Times font almost like in a real book. I was all hunt and peck with two fingers, but I quickly learned where all the keys were. Along with this I was given a ream of typing paper so I could really go to town. I wrote my first big school report on that machine. It was about Al Capp, the creator of the Lil’ Abner cartoon strip.

Soon after, I received a Christmas gift of a Cross pen and pencil set.  Gold tone in a silk lined black velvet case. These instruments were only for special writing occasions like signing the back of birthday checks or the bottom of official letters I would write to people like Mickey Mantle or the company that failed to send me the stamps I requested.

The Royal lasted me all through high school where I took a typing class and learned how to use all my fingers. In my junior year in college I finally got the gift of the ultimate writing machine; an IBM Selectric typewriter. It too was used, but it required no special pressure on the keys. You just touched them and bam! There was a letter on the page. It had a ball you could change with different fonts. Many a term paper and short story was written on that baby. That particular gift kept me going through school, work, and my first published fiction, till I bought my first used Mac in 1987.  A big gift for myself. It’s been Mac’s ever since. I wonder what will be next?

But, maybe the best writing gifts of all though, are those less physical writing tools; time, support, and encouragement. Many thanks to all of my family, friends, editors, and fellow writers for many years of those!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Lightness as the Winter Solstice Approaches

Even in the sunshine state as the winter solstice approaches darkness seems to arrive much too soon. A few holiday seasons ago when we were first acclimating to this region, my husband shared a 2012 video of Matt Harding (of Where the Heck is Matt) dancing with people all around the world. Maybe you’ve seen it. It’s one of my favorite videos to watch. It’s filled with so much joy! In addition to the wonderful dancing people, the song lyrics are inspirational. I’m especially drawn in by these words:

“And in the morning light I’ll remember

as the sun will rise,

We are all glowing embers

of a distant fire.”

When I read what Matt’s up to now – another video in 2016 – I feel more inspiration. So many people in so many places around the world joyfully working together next year to create something for the world. On these short winter days and long nights, I wish you  joy – and dancing.

Tamera Wissinger writes stories and poetry for children including Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse, This Old Band, and the forthcoming There Was An Old Lady Who Gobbled a Skink and Gone Camping: A Novel in Verse. Tamera is a big fan of light, music, joy and dancing. You can connect with Tamera online at her website, on Twitter, or on Facebook.