Browsing the Advent Calendar category...

A very merry Christmas to everyone who has been following along with these entries since December 2. I finished the official “12 Days” yesterday, but this is a special Christmas entry to introduce you to some women you’re going to get to know very, very soon. They feature in the upcoming novels Gemini and World on Fire, both of which are due in early 2009. Be on the lookout here on my blog, and on my website, for more information. Enjoy, and happy holidays!

December 25 – April and Molly Page


The song my twin sister, April, and I always loved was the one, naturally, our parents hated the most. Nuttin’ for Christmas is kind of the anti-Christmas song. A little brat sings about how awful he’s been throughout the year, and ends up helping a burglar rob his house. As much as Mom and Dad rolled their eyes whenever we played it, they always put it on during Christmas parties and asked us to lip synch. I was the little brat (naturally) and April played the robber. She stayed out of the room until she was cued, then she would strut in, tug on her belt, snort and sneer, and the guests would applaud and laugh.


Ten years old, she was already cross-dressing and I was pretending to be a little boy. Mom and Dad should have realized.


Anyway, that would have to be my favorite Christmas song. If April was here, she would probably tell you the same. I hope all of you out there have been nothing but good, and I’m sure that your Christmas Eve guest will be jollier than the burglar from the song.


– Molly Page appears in the forthcoming novel Gemini, which will be available very soon! Keep your eyes on this blog for further updates!


December 25 – Alexandra Crawford


If anyone at the firehouse sees this, I’m dead. But it’s all about honesty, right? It’s not officially a Christmas song, but about ten years ago, a country band called Alabama came out with a song called Angels Among Us. It’s a very sweet, beautiful song about the people in our lives who bless us and make life a little better just by being there. This is going to sound very corny, but every time I hear the song, I think of how I met Rachel. I know, I know, I can hear you rolling your eyes. But it’s true. The way she just kind of stepped out of the corner of my eye and, from that day on, she’s been the centerpiece of my life.


So, sure, laugh if you want. But whenever that song comes on, I think about Rachel and how important she is to me. If that makes me a sap, then so be it. I’m happy to be sappy when it comes to Rachel. And I cannot believe I just said that. Merry Christmas, everyone. I’m going to go hide out in the corner and pray no one I know reads this!


Alex Crawford features in the forthcoming novel World on Fire, coming out early 2009! Watch this blog for further information!


December 25 – Rachel Tom


One of my earliest Christmas memories is sitting on the floor of my grandparent’s house in Alaska, everything white outside the windows. My back was to the Christmas tree, but I could see the lights twinkling on the glass. My grandmother, who I called Kuki, gave me a handmade drum that year. I couldn’t stop running my pudgy little hands over the stretched moose skin. At some point, my grandfather put on a record of The Little Drummer Boy and told me to beat the drum. I just pounded the thing, bam bam bam, and it was probably the most joyous moment of my life to that point.


Every year when I hear that song, I’m reminded of that joy. I lost that drum years ago, and Kuki passed away before I was ten, but Christmastime always sends me back to that little cabin in the middle of nowhere, with the postcard evergreens and the swirling snow outside.


I hope everyone else has a memory like that to make them smile, and someone they love to keep them warm on the coldest nights of the year. Merry Christmas and, as Kuki would have said, mnogaya leta (God grant many years)!


– Dr. Rachel Tom appears in the novel On the Air and also features in the forthcoming novel World on Fire, coming out early 2009! Watch this blog for further information!

December 24 – Kira McManus

I’ve never really liked Christmas carols. Nothing against them, though, I just don’t really like much modern music. Give me a violin concerto or an adagio in G minor by Albinoni and I’m a happy girl. Classical music carries my spirit in a way that rock or pop music just can’t. So those Christmas carols playing incessantly on the radio and in shops this time of year never really did anything for me. I enjoyed The Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky, and I usually played that in the watch shop to appease customers who expected Christmas music.


But I have to admit, there is one modern song that stops me in my tracks. Hannah, my friend, or… well, girlfriend, I suppose I can call her now (although it still sounds weird) introduced me to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Big, majestic instrumental carols that combine the best of the classics with the best of modern music. My absolute favorite is Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24. It’s dramatic, booming, and it really works for me. And most of all, it’s the best of both worlds. It’s a song Hannah and I can both listen to. It’s rock for her, classical for me.


It’s one of the compromises I’m getting more and more comfortable making for Hannah. I’m not used to having someone else in my space, sharing my world. I never thought I would be willing to make the effort, mainly because I doubted anyone worth it would even look twice at me. But Hannah is worth the effort. Worth twice the effort I’ve put out so far. And she loved me. She really, really does. And if that means I have to listen to classical Christmas music with an electric guitar, then so be it. For Hannah, I feel like I can do anything.


Kira McManus appears in the short stories Everything for Time, Better Sorry than Safe and Peace in Rest.

December 22 – Nicole “Nick” Bronwyn

When I was little, I loved Snoopy’s Christmas just because it was about Snoopy. But when I was ten or so, my father sat me down and explained that the song was based on a true event. On Christmas Eve in 1914, during World War I, the German and British troops decided to call a truce. These men who were dragged away from their homes for the express purpose of killing each other decided the day meant more than their war, and they celebrated together. They gave each other presents, sang, and played football.


The superiors on both sides were, of course, against it and tried to make sure it never happened again. But why? Why not take a moment on that day of all days to acknowledge your fellow man? I’m grown up now, and I’ve photographed my fair share of battlefields. The Christmas truce was one moment when soldiers became human beings again. Civilized, compassionate people who didn’t hate the person across the field simply because of who or what he was. In my opinion, we need a lot more truces like that.


Every time I hear Snoopy’s Christmas now, I think about the possibilities of extending a hand to your enemy, if even for just one day. Merry Christmas, everyone. Peace to all the world and goodwill toward man. It’s nowhere near as hokey as it sounds, trust me.


– Nick Bronwyn appears in the short story Baked Goods and will also appear in the story In Every Port to be published in Khimairal Ink’s January issue.

December 20 – Patricia Hood

The past few Christmases have been wonderful for me, mainly because Jill understands how important tradition is to me. Nicholas believed our son should grow up with “American” Christmas, since we lived in America. But my Greek heritage is important to me. I don’t want to make Michael go door to door singing kalandas for dried figs, I just want a big Christmas eve feast with baklava for dessert.


I mentioned this to Jill, and she was very excited about it. So in addition to the regular stuff – Christmas tree, stockings, eggnog and candy canes – we’re also going to bake a loaf of vasilopita on New Years Eve. Whoever finds the coin in their piece will have good luck in the coming year. We’ll exchange gifts on Christmas morning, and also on the first of January, which is St. Basil’s Day (Michael, by the way, is very excited about this particular tradition).


All the accommodations she’s making, the excitement with which she’s going about planning everything, just makes me giddy. This is the woman I love, and this is why I love her. So, on Christmas Eve, I’m letting her carry out a tradition that always belonged to Nicholas during the divorce. Even if Michael is a little too old to really believe anymore, Jill is going to dress up like Santa and put the presents under the tree.


I’m looking forward to watching her, so we can live out my favorite Christmas carol: I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus. See, I bet you thought I’d forgotten the question. Jokes on you! Kala Christougena to you all!


Patricia Hood appears in short stories Doing Laundry on Valentine’s Day, Rounding Home, Patricia’s Portrait, Fairytales of Squire’s Isle, Too Many Once Upon a Times, Separation Anxiety, and Eating Out in Squire’s Isle.

December 18 – Kate Price

I’m admitting a lot of things with this answer. Sentimentality, my age, how easily I can be brought to tears, all sorts of things. But my all-time favorite Christmas song has got to be Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. But not just any version. It has to be John Denver and Rowlf the Dog from the Muppets special. For my money, there is nothing sweeter or more pure than a towheaded young country singer harmonizing with a bunch of Muppets, dreaming of a brighter future.


The song has always seemed kind of desperate hopefulness. And the first time I saw the special (as a little girl, but I’m not saying how little), it really spoke to me. Things may be tough, but there’s a whole new year coming up. New chances, a new beginning, and Christmas puts everyone into such an optimistic spirit that it’s hard to see how anything could go wrong.


Christmas last year (2007) I was in… well, to call it a bad place would be an understatement. Suffice to say, it was less than a merry Christmas. But I heard the song on the radio and I knew that things would get better.


This year, I’m going to do more than ‘muddle through somehow.’ I’m going to get a big glass of eggnog, curl up on the couch with my girlfriend to watch some ridiculous cartoon on TV, and I’m going to toast to the great year I’m leaving behind while looking forward at the great year coming up.


Merry Christmas to everyone out there!


– Kate Price appears in the novel On the Air, as well as short stories Rounding Home, The Christmas Boat, Baked Goods, Fairytales of Squire’s Isle and Eating Out in Squire’s Isle.

December 16 – Kelsey Quinn

I’ve always loved the story of the first Christmas, Jesus being born in a manger surrounded by animals. Horses have always been my favorite animals and, even though the song doesn’t mention any horses, I’ve always felt a real connection to the song The Friendly Beasts. Every other Christmas song worries about the people. Joseph and Mary, the three wise men, and modern-day celebrants either gathering loved ones close or traveling to visit said loved ones. The Friendly Beasts shows how animals made that first Christmas possible.


Every Christmas morning, I go out into the stable and I play Christmas songs while I make the rounds. I admit, I sing along. But I always sing a little bit louder when The Friendly Beasts comes on, and I really think the horses understand and appreciate it.


This Christmas, again, I’ll bundle up and head out to take care of the kids while Christmas carols play. The only difference will be this year, I’ll force Andy to come out there with me. She hates the cold, so she tends to stay inside and make cocoa to thaw me out when I come back inside. But I’ve impressed on her that it’s an important tradition for me, and I think she’s willing to make the sacrifice to be with me. Maybe we’ll even open our presents out there… or probably not. Baby steps, baby steps.


From me, Andy, and all of our beasts, merry Christmas and a joyful new year.


Kelsey Quinn appears in short stories Alive Day and A Little Gossip, as well as the forthcoming novel Only Flame and Air.

December 14 – Cheryl Paxton


Growing up, I didn’t have the same Christmas experience as everyone else. I was born deaf, so I never knew what it was like to sing along with the songs everyone else knew. My mother signed some of them for me, songs like It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire, and Winter Wonderland. I understood the concept, and I could see how happy people were when they sang. Groups of people, getting together to be happy? Yes, I could definitely get behind that!


But I never really thought about picking one song as my favorite. All Christmas songs blurred into one big blur of joy and happiness. But one year, I learned the true joy of actually being part of a song.


I was away at college, out on a date with my girlfriend Fiona, when she spotted a Christmas tree lot. Her apartment was nowhere near large enough to accommodate even the smallest offering, but she wanted to try. I humored her. We split up to find the best tree, promising to meet up in five minutes to compare our findings. I was in the midst of this evergreen maze, smelling pine and sap, everything lit orange by the strings of lights marking the aisles, when I felt this deep, shocking vibration in my chest.


I stopped where I was and the music pounded me from all angles. It drummed on my chest and I spun in a circle to find out where it was coming from. I later realized that the lot was next to a church, and they were playing a very authentic version of Carol of the Bells. Actually bells, massive and antique, swinging to the tune of the song.


Fiona found me, and asked me if I was okay. I said I was, and told her I was listening to the music. Fiona took my hand and danced her fingers in my palms. Fiona the dancer, using her fingers as feet, showed me the subtle, tiny sounds of the music while the bells continued their assault on my body.


I’ll never forget that Christmas, or that song. I still sign for the Christmas program at a local church, and I always get a special tug whenever Carol of the Bells comes on. I’ve never felt it in my bones the way I did that first night, but sometimes all you need is the memory.


To wish a merry Christmas: tap your chest twice with the flat of your right hand, moving your hand in a slightly upward motion. Form a “C” with your right hand and move it to the right in a sideways arc, with the palm facing up. And a merry Christmas to you as well.


– Cheryl Paxton appears in the short story Vital Signs published in Khimairal Ink, and will appear in the future novel Silence Out Loud (nothing is written in stone, or even in plaster; stay tuned for updates on this title).

December 12 – Hannah Talbot


I work real estate, so I don’t just have to find that “Christmas”-y feeling for myself. I have to find a way to make empty houses feel warm and inviting. Otherwise, it’s just a wide open, empty building with cold rooms and naked walls. So I stretch the truth a little. I put up a little Christmas tree next to the window, I bake some cookies in the oven and let the scent waft through the house, and I put a Christmas CD on repeat. I usually go for something modern like some big musician’s latest Christmas album, without thinking too hard about who it is or what they’re singing.


Most years, that was enough effort for me. I was happy enough to go into some stranger’s house and put up the set dressing, make the place look like home sweet home, then go to my little apartment and maybe sip eggnog while I watch Rudolph on TV.


This year will be different, though. Thanks to Kira. I’m going to be spending my Christmas with a woman I really care for. This could be the start of something really, really big. And for the first time, I got weepy listening to a Christmas song. It was an old standard: I’ll be Home for Christmas. For the first time since I was a little girl, I’m going to have a home. Not just a house, not just a place to keep my stuff, but a real home.


I’m at a total loss for how I’m supposed to decorate for keeps. I’m mainly only good at the quick and easy way to fool people for a half hour at a time. But Kira will help me. We can figure it out together. We’re actually getting pretty good at this ‘learn as we go thing.’


I wish everyone out there a happy holiday with their loved ones,


– Hannah Talbot appears in the short stories Everything for Time, Better Sorry than Safe, and Peace in Rest.

December 10 – Miranda Powell


Nadine is going to murder me for admitting this, but I figure if you can’t be honest about Christmas songs… she hates for me to admit in public the kind of music I listen to. Oldies are great, I love ’em, listen to them all day at work. But I like to have a little something different when I get home. And it drives Nadine absolutely insane that my favorite Christmas song is “Fairytale of New York” by the Pogues.


Sure it has foul language, but it has a kind of gritty beauty. Kind of like New York City. I’ll never regret moving to Squire’s Isle. It gave me a job I adore, it brightened my life, and it introduced me to Nadine. I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. But sometimes when I get homesick or nostalgic, start to think about back home, this song really brings it to life for me. The image of drunken fools leads to memories of those dark little bars I used to frequent. That brings to mind the dark streets, little flurries of undaunted snowflakes swirling down between the skyscrapers. That’s Christmas to me, and this song brings all those great feelings back.


This year, Nadine and I are going to sit in front of the couch in our pajamas, eating milk and cookies while we wait for Santa, and I’ll cover Nadine’s ears while I play this song on the radio. I don’t mind; it gives me an excuse to put my arms around her and hold her close.


So happy Christmas, everybody, and may all your dreams come true.


– Miranda Powell appears in the novel On the Air, and short stories Workwoman’s Wages, The Christmas Boat, Fairytales of Squire’s Isle and Eating Out in Squire’s Isle.

December 8 – Amy Wellis

I don’t have a lot of happy memories of my childhood or my family. Getting kicked out while you’re still in high school tends to throw a pall over the good times. But there is one memory that I’ll never be able to forget, and I’ll never want to forget it. Every year right before Thanksgiving, Mom would start to pester me about my wish list. Not that she had to pester too hard, understand. I, like most kids, started making my list while eating my trick-or-treat candy.


It was our little joke that I would ask for a hippopotamus every year. Anyone can ask for a pony. Such a cliché. But my request had a whole song to go along with it. One Christmas holiday, my parents took me to a zoo on the mainland and I saw a real-life hippo for the first time in my life. After that, I wasn’t quite so serious about wanting one of my very own. I still liked the song, though!


Now that I have a bakery, every Christmas I put this song on the rotation and I make great big hippo shaped cookies. Kids twelve and under can come up to the counter, declare they want a hippopotamus for Christmas, and they can have one for free. And I don’t care what Kate says, they’re far more popular than the vanilla-frosted wafers I’ll hand out if a kid says all he wants are his two front teeth.


Whether it comes with teeth or hippos, I wish you and yours a very, very merry Christmas.


Amy Wellis appears in the novel On the Air, as well as short stories Prison Grove, Rounding Home, The Christmas Boat, Baked Goods, Fairytales of Squire’s Isle, and Eating Out in Squire’s Isle.