Decking the hall

Mostly, decorating for the holidays is about torturing the dog. But she DOES keep coming back to sit in the middle of my gift wrapping, so it can’t be too bad. When she gives me that long-suffering stare, she kinda looks like she has LED eyes. 😀 My poor borg dog! Hope your howlidays are coming along festively too.

12 Days of Halloween from Danielle Monsch

Note from Jessa: I love running into Dani at romance novel cons. Not only is she a cool, fun, sweet soul with a personal energy of the sort that is peaceful and welcoming to small wary animals and introvert weirdos like me, but she writes the kinds of stories I like to read. How fortuitous! So I’m thrilled to host her and her good cause today.


From about mid-October until Christmas was always a magical and much anticipated time when I was young.

Probably not an uncommon statement from a kid. My mom should have been a party planner, because our house was always decked out for the season. We were the house that people do that double-take with, because looking only once wasn’t enough to take it all in.

Mom’s favorite holiday was Halloween. Since I’m a fantasy/paranormal writer, it’s safe to say that rubbed off on me, and with kids of my own, I enjoy Halloween in a completely new way, with my kids excitement about dressing up and their enjoyment in the *fun* scares.

While her favorite might have been Halloween, Mom excelled in overall holiday planning. My mom was a generous lady. She never liked cooking, but she loved to bake the holiday pies and cookies and other goodies that come with the season, and everyone who knew us came away during the holiday season with loads of culinary delights. If you ask me to name my favorite food ever, it would have to be Mom’s pumpkin pie.

It’s probably because this time was usually so joyous that one memory sits there, lumpy and misshapen and not a fit with the rest.

Don’t ask me how old I was, but I came down the stairs one night – going to get some water I think – and Mom was on the couch, staring at the Christmas tree. The packages weren’t under the tree yet, which was odd since Mom tended to put them under as soon as the tree went up (Mom is not a last minute shopper – in fact, I’m pretty sure her shopping is done in July.) Now I haven’t believed in Santa ever, so it was no question in my mind about who presents come from.

What set this memory in my mind so sharply was my mother’s face the few moments before she realized I was in the room. At the time I didn’t have the words or the emotional knowledge to name what emotions were in play. All I knew was it wasn’t good.

Several years later we were talking, and in the way of conversations everywhere, somehow that night came up, and I asked Mom what was going on.

She confided that when I saw her, the reality of our situation was none of us kids were going to get Christmas presents. It had been a bad year with lots of doctor bills and not as much work as they hoped to get. Maybe they would be able to get a practical clothing item, but certainly nothing beyond that. Then she told me that a couple days after I saw her that night, her uncle heard about our situation. Without her or my dad asking, he went out and got presents for us kids and told her that it was his early Christmas gift to her and he would not accept any money or repayment.

Mom told me she cried while she wrapped them. She told me it was the best gift she’d ever gotten.

While my childhood would never fit in a Dickinson narrative, there were a few years there where we did with minimal, so hearing after-the-fact that no presents was a possibility didn’t surprise me. What did surprise me was the lurch in my chest at the thought of it as a near reality. That didn’t make sense – after all, we were several years past by then, and I was a grown person who understood economic realities.

That lurch, though, was real. And as time has marched on, I think I understand the reason for it, just like now that I’m a mother I understand the look on my mother’s face that night. The holidays were a safe and sacred time. The rest of the year – okay, it’s life, and life happened. But in my memory, the holidays were apart from that, not touched with the ickiness that could happen at other times.

If I didn’t get presents that year, I think that safety and warmth that the holidays (or the thought of) always caused would have disappeared. I wouldn’t have had that protective bubble anymore that helped get me through bad times, and the loss of that would have been a greater tragedy than not getting a doll under the tree.

So while Toys for Tots was not responsible for me getting presents that year, I recognize in a deep and personal way the very good work they are doing.Dani Toys-for-tots.jpg.

Toys for Tots is my favorite holiday charity. There are many excellent charities I celebrate and give to, but this time of year my thoughts and my wishes are for the kids who are not in the best circumstances and are in danger of not having a gift under their own tree. It’s not the material item that matters (though it’s always nice to get a great gift, right?) What I never want them to lose is that safe warmth that should categorize the holidays, a warmth that sometimes might be the only thing that gets them through the rest of the year.

Which leads me to the 12 Days of Halloween!

12 Days of Halloween is my (and many other excellent authors) way of having a great time and celebrating the beginning of this wondrous time of year – with giveaways and gifts and raising money for Toys for Tots!

What is involved?

Dani StoneGuardian800First! My novel Stone Guardian is on a very special sale. From now until Halloween, it is half-off with part of the proceeds going to Toys for Tots! So you get a book for cheaper than usual, and a chunk of the money will be going to an amazing cause! Huzzah!

And on the other side, I’ll be sharing lots of giveaways! Ebooks (donated by many generous authors) gift cards, swag sets, a Coach (!) bag, and finally…

An iPad Mini!

Dani apple-ipad-mini-2Yes, you read that right – an iPad mini with a special Entwined Realms designed cover set is the grand prize.

So if you are interested, please keep up with me at Twitter, Facebook, or my blog with all the ways to win.

Let’s celebrate the beginning to this great time of year, have a great party, maybe win some stuff, and most important of all – support Toys for Tots and make sure they can help a lot of kids this year!


Dani AuthorHeadshot

Born to the pothole ridden streets of Pittsburgh, PA, Danielle started writing in a time long ago, a time when there were not enough vampire stories to read and she had to write her own to fill the void. Yes, such a time of darkness did indeed exist.

Danielle writes stories full of fantastical goodness and plenty of action, but always with lots of romance (and a bit of woo-hoo!) mixed in. Vampires and Werewolves and Demons and Angels, Sword & Sorcery, Fairy Tales, Updated Mythologies and the like – if it’s out of the ordinary, it’s fair game for her stories.

When not writing, Danielle reads comic books and watches cartoons (though she says she reads manga and watches anime, because saying it in a different language makes all the difference.) She listens to music, plays D&D, follows XKCD, watches movies with the Rifftrax on, and is mom to two amazing little girls and wife to her favorite guy in the world. You can contact Dani by e-mail.

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Recycling Christmas


I’m kind of a stress-monkey at the holidays. I don’t really have a good excuse because I don’t have THAT much to do, but it’s enough to make me a little crazy.

<< This photo represents me at Christmas: I haven’t written enough words and mostly I’ve just beaten my head against the keyboard.

xmas dog

It doesn’t  help that my office looks like this. >>

And I can’t even blame the dog. She was happily chewing her bone. It was me, ripping through the wrapping paper and ribbons like a rabid squirrel.


One way I amuse myself during the Christmas wrapping season is reusing last year’s wrapping paper and ribbons.


Yes, I am that person.

But it’s not my fault. I live in Portland, Oregon, where we reduce-reuse-recycle EVERYthing. (You should see what happens to the chicken bones in my house.)

But I don’t wrap presents in the funnies section. Oh no. It’s much trickier than that. My family is really good about buying decent wrapping paper (not that Dollar Store tissue that rips at the corners before you can even fold it). So wrapping presents is like a game of Tetris, fitting each box to each usable scrap of paper and then finding a ribbon that matches. (I admit, one present in the photo is wrapped in a Powell’s Books paper bag, but that’s only because I love Powell’s and the recipient is a book lover too.) I think I did pretty good. There are a couple places that look a little worn (just a little!) but in the excitement of ripping through the wrapper, I think no one will notice.


Monster Girl is embarrassed by my thrifty ways >> But I explained that’s how we pay for her tasty bones. As for my family that receives the re-wrapped gifts… Well, it would help if they lowered the lights a bit.

Merry Christmas Eve Eve!

Christmas Chaos

Crossposted from Silk & Shadows

Currently working on: Christmas
Mood: Deck the freakin’ halls

Every single year, Christmas comes around*, and every single year I am shocked. Already?! Seriously? This year is no exception, although I did have the added bonus of turning my work calendar from November to December and being greeted by a 12×12 glossy of a tropical beach at sunset. The lounge chair was empty and calling my name. Thanks, calendar, I needed that little dig.

Every year, I tell myself, “Next year I’ll start earlier.” And every year… “Already?! Seriously?”

Because here’s my dilemma, and I’m sure you all face it too. My choices are:

#1. Sacrifice time earlier to do my holiday tasks. Take my sweet time to do the tasks well and without undue stress.

Or, #2. Hoard my earlier time, let the clock tick down, then do massive freak-out and get holiday tasks done as quickly as possible despite the need for late nights, cursing, and excessive chocolate consumption — because, please, who are we kidding, the last item — and probably the first two too — was going to happen anyway.

Is it my imagination, or does #2 just make more sense?

It all gets done, but in scenario #2, it gets done faster. I think this is why I DON’T get started earlier. I’ve seen what I do to any opening: I expand to fill available space. If I started in September, I’d be obsessed with finding “the right thing.” Instead, in mid-December, I say “Is that the thing? Right” and we’re good to go.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’d be happier (and more in tune with the alleged seasonal moods of peace, love and joy) if I didn’t indulge the freak out. But I’m not even sure I’d know how to start.

Probably with chocolate.

How do you handle the holiday rush? Or are you an expert at the hush? Please share! Anyway, I’m giving us all a Gold Star for trying.

*Apologies — or maybe congratulations — to those who don’t do Christmas. Happy Hanukkah, Merry Kwanzaa, Blessed Solstice, and many butter cookies to you all!

Where the heroes are dark & the holidays bright!

This is the first week of our Silk And Shadows author holiday gifting.  Comment at Silk And Shadows anytime this week, 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.