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Chani Lynn Feener offers a Coloring Page

Hi everyone and Happy Holidays!

I hope everyone is enjoying the season! I love everything about this time of year (well, except the biting cold) and it always makes me think about snuggling up with a cup of hot cocoa and a good book by the Christmas tree. I live on the East Coast, so it's always a toss up whether or not I'll be able to spend any time outside during the month of December, or if it'll be freezing. Because of this, I always have to make sure I've stocked up on different sources of entertainment to keep me occupied throughout the winter! With that in mind, I tried to come up with something that might help you all from going stir crazy if you're in a similar situation.

So, I created a coloring page! I love these because you can do them in front of the TV, or while listening to music, or even just with a cup of cocoa and the quiet. They're a great way of relieving some of that holiday stress, and can provide a little "me" time. The drawing is of three of my characters from Amid Stars and Darkness (out July 18, 2017) being festive with Christmas themed hats.  Being that they're aliens, Ruckus and Trystan don't really know much about the holidays, which is probably why they got stuck being reindeer while Delaney got the Santa hat. Feel free to click on the image and download it straight to your computer, share it with friends, etc.


For more coloring pages and information about my books, please visit my blog The Window Seat.

Once again, I really hope you're all doing well and that you have a fantastic, and festive, holiday season!

Sincerely,

Chani Lynn Feener

~*~

Kate's Note:

Thank you so much for the coloring page, Chani! I'm definitely printing it out. Also, for the readers of this blog, Chani asked me to mention that she has a book coming out this Dec. 25, 2016. Make sure to check out Unhinged by clicking here. Happy reading!


Temple West's Snow Day

Today, I have a favorite Christmas memory from Temple West with pictures:

I grew up in the desert. Bare rock, carved by the wind, skies burnt by the sun. We had fake Christmas trees every year. Then, when I was 9, we moved to the Pacific Northwest. There were trees everywhere. We started buying live Christmas trees off the cornery grocery lots. And then, at some point, we started going up into the mountains to cut down our own (with a permit, of course). It wasn't any cheaper than getting it from Safeway, but it was a heckuva lot more fun. We'd scour the mountain for hours, getting stuck in the snow, having epic snowball fights, drinking coffee from those old-school travel carafes on the back door of the truck. When we finally found the one, my dad would saw it down and we'd strap it to the roof of the truck and sing Christmas songs all the way back down the mountain. We'd get home, change into our sweatpants and Christmas socks, and celebrate with hot chocolate and a fire in the fireplace. Pretty much the best way to get a Christmas tree, I highly recommend it. If you can't take your family, grab your roommates or your neighbors!


Don't you just love this memory? Living in the Philippines, snow isn't a thought here. But I remember my first experience of snow when my family and I traveled to Washington DC. It wasn't even in December. I had a ton of fun.

Thank you so much for stopping by today. Make sure you grab a copy of Temple's novel. It makes a great by-the-fireplace read. All the info are below:

After losing both her parents before age 17, aspiring designer Caitlin Holte doesn't feel like moving, starting a new school, staying with her estranged aunt, or…living at all really. But after a terrifying encounter with a supernatural force, she learns that the world is a lot more complicated than she thought. Also, her hot bad-boy neighbor, Adrian (who might have just saved her life) is actually a half-demon vampire.

Suddenly Caitlin is stuck with a vampire bodyguard determined to protect her. And Adrian has decided the best way to do that is for the two of them to pretend to be dating. Trouble is, Caitlin is starting to fall in love for real, while Adrian can never love a human. And then there's the supernatural threat that flung them together in the first place—Adrian's demonic dad!

Available Here:

Amazon ~*~ Barnes and Noble ~*~ Books-A-Million ~*~ IndieBound ~*~ Powell's ~*~ iBooks


Gingerbread Christmas with Kimberly Karalius

Winter is my favorite season in Florida. The wait is finally over – cold weather! Well, coldish weather. Maybe some frost on the ground, very early in the morning before the sun comes up and melts it away. But winter never truly feels like winter here. The seasons don’t change. Leaves don’t turn colors. Hot chocolate is sold every December, but no one wants to drink it because you’d only start sweating and peeling off your coat (the coat you only wore because it was getting dusty in your closet – not because you needed it).

One of the few places I go to really feel like it’s Christmas is Disney World. Without a doubt, the magic works no matter how hot or cold the weather is. The minute I step into one of the parks and spy a gigantic Christmas tree, the spirit of the holiday floods me. Lush green wreathes drape Main Street USA and parents and their children pose in front of gift boxes bigger than their heads.


As great as the parks are, my favorite tradition takes place in the Disney World hotels. Every year, the hotels put out their best holiday displays – and I’m talking displays made out of gingerbread and chocolate. 

The classic display is, of course, the gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian Resort. 


My parents, brother, and I ooh and ahh the minute we step off the monorail and look over the railing at the house. Each shingle is perfect. The icing always frosty white. The house is much larger once you make your way down to the lobby. It almost looks too impressive to eat! But such a sight usually inspires me to purchase a delicious-looking gingerbread shingle. If it’s not a shingle, it’s a cookie or a brownie – anything dusted with sugar-snow and blustery artwork. 

If you follow me on social media, you know how much I love the Boardwalk. That extends to seeing the displays at two of the hotels there: the Beach Club and the Yacht Club. The Beach Club has a gingerbread carousel that actually moves! My family always gathers round to watch the chocolate horses as they rotate on by – each one different than the other, different from last year’s horses, with names and personalities carefully crafted with confections. We always pick our favorite horses each year. It’s a must.  

The Yacht Club has my favorite display of all: the miniature town and train set. While not made out of anything edible, it’s a huge display that you can spend hours examining. Favorite Disney characters celebrate in this tiny winter wonderland, along with model train people scattered around – faceless and beautifully anonymous. 


Last stop is the Swan and Dolphin, my favorite hotels at Disney. Despite not having a giant chocolate/gingerbread sculpture, the sister hotels boast sugar art and a giant tree made of white flowers. My parents have never made a big deal out of taking family Christmas photos, so this is about as official it gets:


We posed in front of the Dolphin’s Christmas tree – my brother, me, and my mom. All wearing our fandom shirts (my dad graciously took the photo). That winter, it was totally still hot enough to wear shorts and t-shirts. But we still felt part of the holidays, just like every year before. 

It helps that we’re not the only ones ignoring the weather. Especially on the Boardwalk, where many guests are spending their timeshares, hotel room windows and balconies are covered in Christmas decorations that guests brought with them in their suitcases. It’s an amazing sight. 

Disney World during the holidays continues to offer a home to celebrate in. My parents had to make new traditions for us when we moved from New York to Florida when I was in junior high. Without a family gathering to go to each year, we decided to go to a much bigger one, in a way. 

It’s hard to miss the Christmas cheer when I’m surrounded by the effort and magic made by Disney cast members and guests alike. No matter how my Christmas traditions may change in the future, I will always make time to enjoy this special time of the year at Disney. 

~*~

Kate's Note:

Gingerbread is a quintessential part of Christmas. Cookies, houses, you name it. And I think Kim captured the magic of gingerbread on Christmas beautifully. That's what she does. If you've read any of her books you'll see that she's a master of capturing the magic. I also envy her life. If you visit her Instagram and Twitter feed you'll understand what I mean. She's definitely on my people to meet in person list as well.



Shani Petroff's Secret Santa

I love the holidays -- big ones, small ones, even ones I don't celebrate.

The excitement and holiday spirit this time of year always makes me smile.

So while I celebrate Hanukkah myself, I still love Christmas and have many wonderful memories surrounding the holiday.

One that I've been thinking about a lot lately takes place right after college. I was acting in a theater tour. We drove around in a giant van and moved from state to state, city to city, town to town, and every night we were in a different hotel/motel. Christmas was getting closer, but holiday festivities were getting lost with all the travel.

So I convinced everyone we needed to do a Secret Santa and have a Christmas party.

We each pulled a name out of a hat and then had several weeks where we got to surprise each other with little gifts, notes, etc.

Trying to find gifts, attempting to figure out your Secret Santa, not letting anyone know whose name you had (even though you were around these people practically 24/7) and planning the party wound up re-energizing all of us. There was a lot of laughter, jokes, and holiday spirit.

In fact, I loved that Secret Santa so much -- that the book I have coming out in October -- My New Crush Gave to Me  --  centers around a Secret Santa drawing.

While there's no theater tour in the book, that Christmas season will always stick with me -- the crazy gifts, the Christmas party, the inside jokes, the smiles, the pranks (like when we crossed paths with another tour group and snuck outside to decorate their van with Christmas paper, decorations and a Secret Santa gag gift or two), but most of all the friendships.

And that's what I truly love about the holidays -- getting to share them with family and friends.
I hope you all have a wonderful holiday!

~*~

Kate's Note:

It was a pleasure having Shani on the blog today. When I read her book when it was a submitted manuscript on Swoon Reads, I knew there was something special about her story. Since then she has been chosen and has become one of my Swoon Sister. She is effervescent and I look forward to the release of Romeo and What's Her Name. Make sure to check out her website too. I just love it. Thank you, Shani. It's a pleasure being a part of the Swoon Reads family with you.



A Christmas Memory: Danika Stone

I started this Christmas post the day after Thanksgiving. In many places in the world, autumn is sunny and warm, the first hint of fall colours painting the trees in red and gold. Not in Canada. Here in so-called “sunny Southern Alberta”, this was the scene that greeted me when I woke up this morning.

Yes, that’s right. Heavy snow with more falling, and no end in sight. But rather than bemoaning the tragedy of Canadian seasons – Winter-Is-Coming, Winter, Second Winter, and Road Construction – I decided to write about what I love about the snowy time of year:

Christmas!

My favorite memory of Christmastime is from early childhood. Each December our family would head out to the mountains to find a tree, a tradition that lasted until I was in my teens. I recall my father driving up winding backroads to the best “Christmas tree spot”, an open slope on the westward side where pine trees could get enough sunlight to be lush, but were protected enough to be sturdy and straight. The group of us: my mother and father, brother, sister and I, would bundle ourselves up in hats, gloves and boots, then set off to find that year’s perfect tree.

In movies, it seems easy to climb a snow-covered hill, but the truth is, hiking through snow is slow-going, sweaty work. You’re either too cold from the inclement temperature or too hot from exertion. Snow melts on your hat and slush falls down your neck. You can barely move from all the layers. Searching for a tree, my legs would tire and my toes would get cold. My enthusiasm would wane. I’d find every excuse to stop as we hiked what felt like forever. And then finally we’d find “the right tree”.

My father would let us kids chop it down. In my memory, the axe was always too heavy, and in the end, he did most the work, but the effort was what mattered. The scent of sap and pine needles, stuck to woolen mittens, is a smell that takes me back. When we were done our turn at pummeling the bark, Dad would take over, and the tree would be down in seconds. Success! My father would tie a rope to the trunk of the tree, and the kids would start to pull.

If getting up the mountain was hard, going downhill – three unruly children with a tree in tow – was twice the ordeal. The bound tree either went down sideways on its own trajectory or refused to budge at all, caught on a snarl of brush or embedded in a snowbank like an arrow. I remember my mother laughing as we tried to get it going. Sometimes one of us would climb on top and try to “ride” the Christmas tree down the hill back to our vehicle. (That never worked.) But it didn’t stop us from trying.

Eventually one or both of our parents came to our rescue. The tree was hauled back to the road by adult hands and the three of us kids watched as my father and mother tied it to the roof with a complicated web of rope. Then came the long drive home as we slowly defrosted in the backseat, the tree bouncing merrily atop us. The sky was never as dark, the stars never so bright as in my memories of Christmastime, and the sweet sound of carols was a fitting soundtrack.

Reaching the city and our house, we’d head inside, and my mother would set out our sopping clothes to dry before bundling us into pyjamas. The last tradition of that night was always a mug of hot chocolate in front of the fire. I’d want to decorate the tree immediately, but my parents would always insist the Christmas tree had to “defrost” in the porch for the night, or the needles would fall off. (As an adult, I now realize this is just adult-speak for “I’ve been out in the woods with three little kids and I’m too tired to deal with this right now”, but in my childhood, that statement held a magical warning.)

Cup in hand, I’d sneak into the porch to check on the branches. The smell of damp wool, taste of cocoa and mingled scent of pine and home are forever woven into my memory.

The adventure of chopping down a Christmas tree is the pinnacle of many wonderful Christmas events I recall from those long-ago years. In it family, laughter, and fun are bound into one. So tell me: what are your favorite memories of YOUR childhood Christmases? Put your answers in your comments below. I’d love to hear them.

~*~

Kate's Note:

Danika is an author I admire. Her positivity is absolutely catching, even though miles separate us and I've only met her via the web. I'm definitely putting her on my list of people I must meet in person. She may not know this but even during my toughest moments all I have to do is visit her Twitter feed or scroll through her Instagram pics and I feel better. That's the kind of person she is -- shines from within. I'd like to thank her for taking over the blog today. It was a wonderful post indeed. Make sure to visit her website and grab a copy of her books. Them is good reads!




Hello, December!

Admit it, you're ready for this year to end. 2016 has not been our friend, people. Just one more month and we can all put this earthquake of a year behind us.

But before you start putting your New Year's resolutions together, I have a treat for all of you. For the rest of December, the blog will be featuring special holiday-themed posts from my Swoon Sisters. They are all amazing and I can't wait to share them with you. So tune in every day for a new post. Get to know these amazing writers.

Happy Holidays!
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