Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Sharing the Joy: Some Christmas Cheer from Erin at Oh, for the Hook of a Book #sharingjoy2015

Winter Wonderland: Christmas Always Gifts Us Memories
By Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi

As a child, I grew up with the forest as my back yard. I spent many hours running free, kicking up leaves and wading through foliage, jumping across a small babbling brook, and escaping through the various trees and a meadow all toward the river, with its high embankment too steep to climb. Deep in the woods, it was like I was lost in another world, where the only sounds around me were the chirping birds, singing insects, rustling leaves, and running streams.

To the right side of the forest there was a regal section of pines, with their calming evergreen aroma. Needles covered the ground, pine cones crunched under my feet (and covered my fingers in sap), and it was there I'd stop and seem to gather strength.

My favorite time of tromping through the copse was during winter, as in my childhood the season seemed to be cold, yet dry, and always warm enough for inches of fluffy snow. I'd pull on my blue snow suit and gray and pink moon boots, my red stocking hat and hand-knitted mittens, and feel nothing but rejuvenation by the chill as I ran around outside with my scarf wrapped about my neck.

It was during the quiet days of Christmastime in winter, when the vibrant green peeked through snow gently covering the pine boughs, that I found the most beauty. There was snow so pure it glistened and sparkled covering the landscape as the daytime sun's rays streamed through openings in the tall trees. Even if I leaned my head backward, I still could barely see the tops as if they kissed the sky. The snowflakes would fall on my nose and eyelashes (why, yes, and remind me of my favorite "Sound of Music" song which I'd sing if I wanted as no one could hear me) and I would stick out my tongue to feel the droplets melt away their hopes of being snowmen.

Cardinals, robins, sparrows, and blue jays all tossed around in the trees and thicket, chittering their warnings at me, then eventually, their majestic songs. The woodpecker's knocks echoed throughout the woods. Looking down I'd see their tiny footprints in the snow, as they hopped around picking up twigs for their nests. Beautiful color among the bleak bland colors of post-autumn dormancy came from bushes and plants like the wild holly with their waxed green leaves and bright red berries. I loved to see a bird hopping around with a berry between its beak. I always wanted to feed them more during the colder months. I had the desire to hang homemade birdseed pine cones, and strings of popcorn and cranberries, from all the pine trees! That would be the perfect winter wonderland Christmas tree, for all the birds and animals, like squirrels, chipmunks, or mice. Yes, I was a little fanatical about Snow White.

Photo Credit: Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi

It was such a beautiful serene environment and easy to envision it being what old crooners were referring to when they sang of a white Christmas. The hushed solitude, untouched or spoiled by man, was about as peaceful a place one could find anywhere. And isn't Christmas a time for Peace on Earth?

Now, I have three kids and I live near the downtown of our small city. My kids have always lived here. My parents still live in the same place, a woodland wonderland, but my kids don't have the opportunity to go outside and play every day in the snow as I did, and they don't much even when we visit. My kids love to go to the park, and we go hiking often, but they aren't the type that are used to spending hours outdoors in an unorganized fashion. Children today seem so much more overpressed and stressed than we did as kids. I don't remember being overscheduled in must-do activities or having the amount of homework pressure kids have today. I remember building igloos, sled riding down the big hill next door at my aunt's on the trail through the raspberry and wildflower field next to the woods, and creating igloos and snow angels. We had lots of snow during my childhood and therefore, lots of snow days! I remember spending hours with the birds in the coppice, as they busied themselves and chirped their life arias, before heading in to warm up with hot cocoa.

The birds still call to me. They remind me of those quiet moments where my mind was clear and my heart filled with joy. I want to teach my kids to make birdseed pinecones and hang them from the pine trees as a Christmas present for the birds. I recently read somewhere than when a cardinal crosses your vision of sight, it may be an ancestor or loved one come to call. I think that's a beautiful thought.

If I need an escape from the bustling city life, the noises outside my window of sirens or car horns, or the glowing street lamps, I close my eyes and remember my winter wonderland. That's where I find my Christmas peace.

Please enjoy my poetry below, inspired by my memories and thoughts displayed in this essay. If you like my work, feel free to comment!

Christmas Wonderland Memories

By Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi

Winter chill upon my cheek,
I traipse along the bubbling creek,
I smell the air,
damp and crisp,
invisible is my reach.

Skeletons of trees,
they dance around me,
I spread my arms wide,
look up and see,
a serene blue sky,
vibrant and free.

I breathe and see my soul emerge,
time stands still,
I have no concerns.

Ivy and berries,
color comes to the forest,
Does Christmas come here?
Do the nests gift their twigs?

A cardinal, starkly bright, flutters.
His tiny feet leave prints,
snow-covered longings.
An ancestor, I feel,
embraces my moment.

I reach straight out,
absorbing strength from a pine,
tall, majestic, and divine.
Its aroma transports me,
another universe is mine.

Snowflakes lightly touch my nose,
a gentle dusting.
I touch the flakes that fall,
and suppose...

The cold revitalizes all my bones,
it warms me in a way,
I feel at home.

Copyright 12/11/2015 Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi
This cannot be copied or reproduced in any way unless author is contacted.

About Erin
Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi has Bachelor of Arts degrees in English, Journalism, and History. She has been writing essays, stories, and poetry since she was a teen and has always been an avid reader of many genres. She has edited poetry anthologies, novels, fiction pieces, and other various non-fiction and journalistic pieces and has won awards for her essays and poetry. As a journalist, she’s written for various newspapers, magazines, media outlets, and online news sources. In advertising, she’s written so much copy she can write it in her sleep.

Erin is the owner Addison’s Compass Public Relations and Hook of a Book Media and Publicity. She has over 19 years of writing, communications, public relations, marketing, editing, fund-raising, event planning, blogging, social media, and copywriting experience and offers services in all of the above mentioned areas, but now she’s making time for her first love, writing poetry, fiction, and essays.

She is in the process of writing several books in the fantasy, historical, and horror genres and many short stories. She’s also busy putting together a compilation of her poetry to publish into several books. Yep, one day she’ll accomplish all the stories in her head! Erin is also the owner, operator and writer for the site Oh for the Hook of a Book where she features book reviews, interviews, articles, writing, and more. Besides being a semi-professional photographer, which is another passion, she is the mother of three very busy school-aged children and lives in Ohio, where she reads, writes, works, cooks, bakes, dabbles with photos and art, and probably has a million other things going on at once.

You can e-mail her at hookofabook (at) hotmail (dot) com and find her easily at She’s also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram , and Pinterest, all under Erin Al-Mehairi.

Thanks so much to Erin for her wonderful memories and poem! Merry Christmas!

Always in spirit...

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Old World Legends of Christmas: Santa’s Naughty List Helpers {Giveaway} #sharingjoy2015

A guest post by Matt Manochio, author of The Dark Servant and Twelfth Krampus Night

Krampus, slowly but surely, is weaseling his way into America’s Christmas subconscious, and this is a good thing.

For those unawares, Krampus derives from European folklore as Saint Nicholas’s dark companion. Saint Nick (our Santa Claus) would reward the good kids in days of yore, and he’d farm out the bad ones to Krampus, a giant cloven-hoofed devil who beats bad children into repentance (and those are the lucky kids).

There’s a Krampus movie that recently hit the big screen, although it’s not the first of its kind. There were a few lower-budget ones that preceded it. My first Krampus novel, The Dark Servant, similarly, wasn’t the first traditionally published Krampus book out there (but it was among the first, and I’m proud of that).

He’s appealing to me because even though Europeans know the big galoot well, he’s still a relative unknown in the U.S. pop culture—as are the other dark companions that populate Europe. One such dark servant is Frau Perchta, a belly-slitting hag from Bavaria (she appears in my new Krampus novella, Twelfth Krampus Night). If you’re good, you get a coin in your shoe. If you’re bad, you get disemboweled. There’s no middle ground there. There’s Knecht Ruprecht and Belsnickel in Germany, Black Pete in the Netherlands, and Schmutzli in Switzerland. All of these characters are, in some form, Saint Nick’s companions who administer discipline to the naughty.

These dark companions are hugely popular in Europe, where people dress as them (sometimes very elaborately) and parade around the streets to scare children. Follow this link immediately!

They’ve been doing this for centuries. Our version of Santa Claus takes on both roles of gift-giver and child-punisher, so why would we know about Krampus and his gang? We wouldn’t.

But that’s changing. Krampus appeals to people for different reasons. Those who dislike the Christmas season or who are sick of Santa Claus now have the perfect anti-Claus to worship. For those who enjoy all aspects of Christmas, Krampus provides another outlet to explore how the holiday is celebrated (Krampus usually makes his rounds on December 5) in other countries. And those parents with naughty children who aren’t deterred by the threat of getting coal in their stocking might consider telling their bad child about Krampus. Who says Christmas can’t be a little frightening?

About the Twelfth Krampus Night
“This is a macabre, dark tale with a timeless quality about it. An atmospheric landscape, complete with Bavarian castle; characters that could have stepped out from your worst nightmares. It kept me thoroughly and enjoyably entertained in a dark, scary way. Full marks!” –Cat Cavendish, Author of The Dark Avenging Angel

Follow the tour with the hashtags: #TwelfthKrampusNight #TKN

Print Length: 121 pages
Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd. (December 1, 2015)
Publication Date: December 1, 2015

Dark servants clash!

Medieval maiden Beate, who’s grieving over the mysterious evisceration of her best friend, Gisela, must escape a Bavarian castle under siege by sadistic creatures.

Standing in her way—beyond towering walls and crossbow-toting guards—are Saint Nicholas’s demonic helper, Krampus, and Frau Perchta, a belly-slitting hag who prowls the countryside during First Night festivities to punish naughty teens.

Beate wants out. Krampus and Frau Perchta want in, determined to breach the castle to snag their prey. Beate has no idea why these monsters want her, but she must use her wits to save herself from horrors both human and inhuman—lest she wind up like Gisela.

About the author
Matt Manochio was born in 1975 in New Jersey and graduated from The University of Delaware in 1997 with a history/journalism degree. He spent the majority of his 13-year newspaper career at the Daily Record in Morris County, New Jersey, where he won multiple New Jersey Press Association Awards for his reporting.

He wrote about one of his passions, rock ‘n’ roll giants AC/DC, for USA Today and considers that the highlight of his journalism career. He left newspapers in 2011 for safer employment.

His debut novel, The Dark Servant, was published with Samhain Horror in November of 2014. His second novel, Sentinels, was release November 2015, just prior to Twelfth Krampus Night in December 2015. He currently lives in New Jersey with his son.

Praise for Matt Manochio
“Twelfth Krampus Night is an enjoyable read and a strong horror story. Manochio is a very strong writer and his talent is evident in this novel. I easily slid into the world that Manochio creates and was fascinated by Frau Perchta and Krampus.” –Minneapolis

“The Dark Servant is everything a thriller should be–eerie, original and utterly engrossing!” — Wendy Corsi Staub, New York Times bestselling author

“Beautifully crafted and expertly plotted, Matt Manochio’s The Dark Servant has taken an esoteric fairy tale from before Christ and sets it in the modern world of media-saturated teenagers–creating a clockwork mechanism of terror that blends Freddy Krueger with the Brothers Grimm!” — Jay Bonansinga, New York Times bestselling author

“Matt Manochio is a writer who’ll be thrilling us for many books to come.” — Jim DeFelice, New York Times bestselling author

“Matt Manochio has taken a very rare fairytale and turned it into a real page-turner. Matt has constructed a very real and believable force in Krampus and has given it a real journalistic twist, and he has gained a fan in me!” — David L. Golemon, New York Times bestselling author

“In The Dark Servant, Matt Manochio has taken the tantalizing roots of Middle Europe’s folklore and crafted a completely genuine modern American horror story. … I fell for this story right away. Matt Manochio is a natural born storyteller.” — Joe McKinney, Bram Stoker Award-winning author

“Could there be a dark side to Santa? And if so, what would he do to those kids who were naughty? Matt Manochio provides the nail-biting answer with The Dark Servant.” — John Everson, Bram Stoker Award-winning author

“If you want some pure escapism on a quiet afternoon and you don’t mind a little–okay, maybe a lot–of blood, SENTINELS is exactly what you’re looking for. Manochio is a talented author with a bright future and someone who’s work I will follow with great interest.” –Shotgun Logic

Purchase Twelfth Krampus Night

Enter to win an eBook copy of Twelfth Krampus Night by leaving a comment below telling us if you have heard of the Krampus legend, or any other legends surrounding Christmas. Be sure to leave your email address. Last day to enter...Monday, 12/21 at 11:59pm CST.

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Sunday, December 6, 2015

Sharing the Joy on St. Nicholas Day - The Bishop's Wife by Robert Nathan {Giveaway}

Bishop HENRY BROUGHAM doesn't know how he will find a capable archdeacon to help raise money to build a "great" cathedral for his overcrowded parish. Though his beautiful wife JULIA fulfills her marital duties, their relationship has no passion. To fill the void, she heaps affectionate praise on their four-year old daughter JULIET, embarrassing the proper Bishop. Meanwhile, the Bishop prays for help, and it comes in the form of MICHAEL, a handsome goldenhaired angel, who takes the position of archdeacon. Michael exudes love which draws new and unexpected emotions from Julia. Michael's pure limitless capacity for love is stifled by his mortal duties of manipulating money from wealthy religious patrons, including MRS. LANYARDE and MR. COHEN. With the holidays approaching the Bishop senses the mutual attraction between Julia and Michael. His intuition is right as Julia almost succumbs to Michael before her sense of marital duty ultimately prevails. During a conversation with the scholarly PROFESSOR WUTHERIDGE, Michael learns that an angel can't fulfill "mortal love" as it is unrelated to the divine version. With that, he returns to Heaven after completing his fundraising mission. Julia, realizing she will never have a passionate relationship with the Bishop, decides to have another child with whom to share her love.

"Mr. Nathan's method of approach is the way of the goldfinch with the thistledown, or of the unconcerned robin guilelessly cocking his head before the peck. Moreover the words that he uses are as cobwebs that catch the dew of his thought delicately patterned filaments exactly adequate to the burden glistening upon them. In short, to say that 'The Bishop's Wife' has beauty, charm, wit, and wisdom is not to over praise the book." --Grace Frank, Saturday Review of Literature

About Robert Nathan
Author of such revered books as PORTRAIT OF JENNIE, THE BISHOP’S WIFE, THE RIVER JOURNEY, and STONECLIFF, Robert Nathan was born in New York City in 1894 and was educated at private schools in the United States and Switzerland. While attending Harvard University where he was a classmate with E.E. Cummings, Nathan was an editor of the Harvard Monthly, in which his first stories and poems appeared. While at Cambridge, Nathan also found the time to become an accomplished cellist, a lightweight boxer, and Captain of the fencing team. After leaving college, Mr. Nathan devoted his time exclusively to writing until his passing in 1985. Early on, Nathan’s work strengthened his reputation with both the public and peers. F. Scott Fitzgerald once referred to Robert Nathan as his favorite writer. During this period, the legendary Louis B. Mayer contracted him to Hollywood to become a screenwriter. Nathan ultimately didn’t enjoy the experience, though the movie industry continually craved his work. Five of his novels have been made into films. The aforementioned “Portrait of Jennie” and “The Bishop’s Wife,” as well as “One More Spring,” “Wake Up and Dream” (from the novel “The Enchanted Voyage”) and “Color of Evening.” Robert Nathan was the author of over fifty volumes of novels, poetry, and plays, and from this body of distinguished work he acquired a reputation as a master of satiric fantasy unique in American Letters. In the twilight of his career he was known as “The Dean of Author’s,” since many prominent writers including Irving Stone and Irving Wallace sought out Nathan’s guidance. A member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters for fifty years, Mr. Nathan called both Cape Cod and California home. Happily, his last fifteen years were spent in the companionship of his wife, English born actress, Anna Lee.

Learn More About Robert Nathan 

Purchase the Book

5 complimentary copies of THE BISHOP’S WIFE to e-book winners. Please leave a comment for your chance to win and be sure to leave your email address. Last day to enter is Sunday, December 13 at 11:59pm CST. Good luck!

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Saturday, December 5, 2015

Sharing the Joy: The Gift by Rhonda Hopkins...For a Good Cause! #sharingjoy2015

From November 15th through December 30th, half of all eBook royalties for THE GIFT will go to the Union Gospel Mission of Tarrant County. THE GIFT is only 99 cents and can be found at several online retailers.

Sometimes, the best gifts are unexpected…

When workaholic Robert Chalmer’s wife leaves to take care of her sick mother for two weeks, he is left with all the responsibility… including his seven-year-old daughter. With Christmas fast approaching, Robert must find a way to reconnect with what is most important in his life, or risk losing it forever.

THE GIFT is a 7300 word heart-warming short story set in Fort Worth, TX about family, love, and second chances.

“…quite touching, in a very traditional family orientated way. Humorous and tearful…” ~~ Amazon Reviewer

“A sweet Christmas read that reminds us of what is most important, at Christmas or at any time of the year.” ~~ Amazon Reviewer

“… Ms. Hopkins’ story is the perfect way to kick off the season and get into the Christmas spirit. I found The Gift to be a refreshing and delightful reminder of what Christmas is all about…family. Her writing style is easy to follow and engaging. I highly recommend The Gift. It will make you feel good.” ~~Amazon Reviewer

Why I chose The Union Gospel Mission of Tarrant County:
UGM-TC really helped a lot of my clients during the twenty years I worked in the social work field. They always went above and beyond. I can't remember a single time that they didn't find some way to help. So this holiday season, I want to give something back to them for all the times they assisted me in helping others. And you can help give back by just buying a copy of THE GIFT for yourself, a friend, and/or a loved one. It's a sweet, heart-warming short story, that would be great for anyone on your holiday list.

About the Author
Rhonda Hopkins writes fiction in several genres. She is the author of the SURVIVAL series and the award-winning paranormal, THE CONSUMING. She has also written a non-fiction book, NAVIGATING FAMILY COURT: IN THE BEST INTEREST OF YOUR CHILD, to assist those involved in custody litigation. It will be available January 2016.

Having spent twenty years working with the best and the worse that society has to offer, Rhonda's imagination is filled with story ideas. While she may write dark fiction, she always remembers the light in the darkness.


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Thursday, December 3, 2015

Spotlight on Holly Maholm's Brave in Ribbons {Giveaway} #sharingjoy2015

In her contemporary take on the holiday classic, Brave in Ribbons, Maholm revisits the original Dickens’ classic to set the stage for a new host of characters and a contemporary holiday story. Readers will recognize the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future and will quickly find themselves attached to the colorful and heartfelt cast of Brave in Ribbons, including a recently deceased brother, his three daughters and his transgender sister, Connie.

About the author
Holly Maholm is a transgender woman who was born John S. Oney. She is a graduate of Yale University and The Ohio State University School of Law. She worked as a senior attorney for a major sports marketing agency until she retired in 2004 and went into private practice. She has been married twice and actively co-parented her three daughters from her first marriage. Maholm began her transition to living full-time as a woman in 2013. She is the author of several stage and screen plays and two novels: When Once I Lived (2011), and Brave in Ribbons (November, 2015). She lives in Cleveland, OH and is an active member of the local LGBTQ community.

Brave in Ribbions is available on Amazon.

Paperback: 130 pages
Publisher: Angry Rabbit Enterprises LLC (November 1, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0981809022
ISBN-13: 978-0981809021
Price: $12.95

One copy of Brave in Ribbons to one lucky winner! Open to U.S. entries only. Leave a comment telling me which of Scrooge's ghostly visitors is your favorite. Last day to enter is December 12 at 11:59pm CST. Good luck!

Always in spirit...

Sharing the Joy...It's late, but here once again! #sharingjoy2015

It's that time of year again! Time for us to share the joy of Christmas. It's not just the presents and what people deem to be the commercial side of things. If we can look past all that, we can recognize the truth of giving, sharing friendship, the love of our families and spending time with them and all the fun that goes along with it. The sights and sounds of don't have to be rich or spend a lot of money to enjoy them. There's free holiday music on the radio and on the online stations and there are plenty of free Christmas light displays in our local neighborhoods to marvel upon. Seeing my sons' eyes light up at the sights (even though they are in their cynical teen years now) is enough to make my season bright! Every year, I try to do my small part in spreading the spirit around with Sharing the Joy here on The Christmas Spirit.  I really hope you enjoy it this year!

What do I have in store for you this year?  Giveaways, guest posts, book reviews, movie reviews, recipes, poems, literature, music, crafts...if it's Christmas, it will be here! Also, my Christmas Around the World posts will be back this year to continue sharing Christmas traditions and customs of foreign countries.

I invite any authors or bloggers out there who love Christmas to contribute a guest post, if you would like.  It can be anything Christmas-y...a story, poem, top ten lists, favorite things, share pics of your Christmas decor, etc., etc.  If you would like to contribute, please contact me via the form which can be accessed at the top of the right sidebar.

I'm kicking off today with special spotlight and giveaway of the Christmas novel, Brave in Ribbons by Holly Maholm. Check it out here.

Always in spirit...