Archive for 'Christmas'

Paying It Forward
by Annette McCleave on December 14th, 2010

Although kindness and generosity are values we can see evidence of any time of year, the Christmas season seems to nurture them.

I see people tucking twenty dollar bills into the Salvation Army kettles, adding brand new toys to Toy Mountain, and giving generously to the Food Bank…even when their own fortunes aren’t stellar. Recently, a friend of mine and her husband gave up their Christmas gifts to each other to help out a single mom down on her luck.

This time of year is inspiring.

I got my own little shot of inspiration just last week. I wasn’t feeling well, and to bolster my sagging spirits, I pulled into a Starbucks drive-through.

I ordered a gingerbread latte and a slice of gingerbread to sweeten my mood. Maybe the corners of my mouth were dragging, or maybe it was simply spontaneous, but when I got to the cash window, the barista told me the woman in the car ahead of me had paid for my order. No, she didn’t know me—it was a random act of kindness.

And it totally made my day.

It also made me want to do the same for someone else. I’ve given to the usual drives, but I’m looking for the perfect opportunity to return the latte favor.

It probably won’t surprise you to know the inspiring song that’s currently playing in my head is Clay Walker’s Chain of Love. I tried to find a legit video of it somewhere on the ‘net, but couldn’t track one down. So, here’s a link to the lyrics.

Have you had a pay-it-forward moment that you’re especially proud of? Has someone done something unexpected for you that made your day?

These are a few of my favorite things…
by Annette McCleave on December 7th, 2010

Christmas is my favorite time of year. I love everything about it, even the feverish shopping sprees. But there are few things I put high on the Treasured Items list:

1. Attending my daughter’s Christmas concert. She plays the flute in her school band, and I love listening to her (and the rest of the band!) play. Nothing like Christmas carols rendered by an 80 piece orchestra. :-)

2. Seeing my dog and cat cozied up together. In the summer months they rarely hang out together, but when it gets cold, they snuggle.


3. Family get-togethers and eating my brother-in-law’s deep fried turkey. I love the usual stuffed turkey with gravy, but since my BIL started deep frying the bird, I’ve become a convert. Crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside. It’s to-die-for.

4. Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark. I’ve already eaten two bags of these and it’s barely December. Part of the appeal is that it’s a limited edition chocolate available only at Christmas. Must eat before they are gone!


5. A festive house. The lights, the carols, the smell of warm gingerbread. It’s all fabulous. Naturally, I own a LOT of Christmas decorations. Boxes and boxes and boxes of them. But I sooo enjoy seeing the house decked in holiday cheer. It never fails to make me smile.


When I was growing up my mother hung glass toadstools on our tree. She got them (and numerous other hand blown glass ornaments) when our military family was posted to Germany. One year I spotted these in a store and just had to have them for MY tree.


How about you? Do you have a Christmas decoration that evokes special memories?

When I was a kid: Walking uphill through the snow both ways
by Jessa Slade on November 29th, 2010

Currently working on: Christmas
Mood: Elfish

The first Christmas lights are up in my neighborhood! When we walked Monster Girl in the coldrainydarkOMGwhowantedtogetadog tonight, one house had an illuminated candy cane lane running to the front door. The big picture window blazed with one of those miniature Christmas villages that make me want to shrink myself down to the size of a silverfish and scuttle through the fake-snow streets.

(I imagine a human-sized silverfish scuttling through the sleepy little village would terrify the carolers and the kid on the sled, but it’s a small price to pay for living in the Land that Christmas Never Forgot.)

This season brings out the kid in a lot of us, I think. The promise of gifts is part of it, of course. Also wearing big puffy coats and pants that make me walk like a snowman inspires seasonal cheer.

But now that I have to CREATE the holidays instead of just revel in them, it can get hard to maintain that child-like wonder. For example, I’m making jewelry for gifts this year and apparently a bead store vomited all over my workspace:

img_1339Hmm, looking at this, I realize this is a good visual representation of my creative mind: Pull out everything, scatter it everywhere, see what fits together. Vacuum leftovers. Repeat.

But being creative, creating the holidays, comes with a cost. Much like the marauding silverfish. In the case of beading, I usually shed at least a few drops of blood and the scars linger for days. See:

img_1337The combination of sharp wire, sharper Swarovski crystals, Superglue, and black thread (not all for the same project) is etched in my skin, despite multiple showers. What we suffer for our art.

That’s the thing I didn’t get as a kid, that a lot of work went on behind the scenes to create the fantasies that delighted me.

But learning the coldrainydark truth — that somebody expended effort, love and blood to create — doesn’t ruin the fantasy. I’ll just take a moment to pause in my busy night and appreciate how the lights twinkle.

Got any tips for enjoying the holidays with kid-like abandon? Please share.

And check back here at Silk And Shadows. Marjorie Liu — eeee! — will be guest posting with us later in the week and giving away a copy of her latest Dirk & Steele book, IN THE DARK OF DREAMS.

Mistletoe and mayhem
by Annette McCleave on December 23rd, 2008

Like Jessa, my books involve battles with demons, and I don’t often think of my characters celebrating Christmas.

But some of them definitely do.

I have human characters as well as immortal characters in each of my stories, and the world in which they live is very much like this one. Christmas trees, presents, turkeys. The usual stuff. I can easily picture them sitting around the holiday table discussing Peace on Earth. More specifically, discussing how they’re intending to ensure it comes to pass.

I’ve also got angels, and let’s face it, those celestial beings see Christmas as a pretty significant event. I don’t see them doing a lot of caroling on high, though. Usually, they’re busy preventing demons from spoiling the celebrations.

As for the Soul Gatherers? Most of them have seen a few too many Christmases already and would much rather avoid the whole sordid mess. Besides, demons don’t take a break from stealing souls on Christmas Day, so taking time off to relax in front of the fireplace is really just wishful thinking.


Just just thinking about Christmas in Soul Gatherer country makes me grateful for the quiet moments I’ll spend with my family, the pleasure I’ll get in watching my daughter open her gifts, and the hugs I’ll get in return. Of course, if one of those hunky Gatherers needs some company over the holidays, I’ll be there for him, too.

How about you? How will you spend your holidays?

A season for writing. Or not.
by Jessa Slade on December 22nd, 2008

Congratulations to Zita Hildebrandt, winner of the unicorn gift from Sharon Ashwood.

The Silk And Shadows holiday gifting comment contest will continue after the actual holidays. Meanwhile, our topic this week is “Our characters at Christmas/Hannukah/Kwanzaa/Solstice/etc.”

Working on: Stuck on Chapter 10, having been derailed by said holidays
Mood: Restless

I haven’t been able to settle to my writing for the last couple weeks.  Distracted by the holidays, sweetie’s birthday, blowing snow, boarding a second dog, arranging for an author photo from some suitable body double, [insert additional excuses as needed], I can’t seem to get many coherent words on the page.

So why start now?

As I tried to imagine a holiday themed story for my characters, I choked.  My heroine fights demons.  She doesn’t have time to reapply her lip balm much less wrap presents or bake cookies.  So unless an incorporeal demonic emanation possesses the Christmas ham…

Sometimes I envy her.

Which is, of course, ridiculous, and not just because she’s a character in a book.  Her existence is dangerous and rife with conflicts both internal and external.  Still, it rings with clarity.  Her choices may be monumentally difficult and possibly fatal (‘cuz isn’t that more fun to read?) but she lives every moment to the fine edge.  So here are three lessons I’m trying to channel from my heroine this holiday season:

  • Don’t waste time.  The world is shopping days are coming to an end.  Make every second count.
  • When time is running out, remember what is important.  (Hint: It ain’t lump-free icing.)
  • Don’t forget to say I love you.

What lessons have you taken away from your favorite novels?

Where the heroes are dark & the holidays bright!
by Jessa Slade on December 5th, 2008
Today’s the last day to comment for a chance to win Jessa’s contribution to the Silk And Shadows author holiday gifting.  Scroll down to the NEXT post and comment, and you’ll be entered into a drawing to win a $10 Barnes & Noble gift certificate, a dark-but-not-too-dark chocolate bar from Dagoba, and “Possession in Pearl” earrings inspired by Jessa Slade’s storyworld — plus sample chapters from Jessa’s first book in The Marked Souls series.

This week's gift

Prod a friend into commenting and you both will have double the chance to win.  (Just make sure your friend mentions your name in the comment so we can credit you properly for your most excellent taste in friends.)

In the coming weeks of December and into January (with time off for Christmas and New Year’s) you’ll have more chances to win chocolate, gift certificates and autographed books from S&S authors.  So please stop by as your life allows.