Reflections on Christmas Past

The Truth Hurts

My roommate in college had a great story from the holidays. He’d gotten a gift, a large box, not too heavy, but there was definitely some weight to it. He was young (probably 8 to 10 years old I believe), so while his spidey sense was there in regards to what the shape of the box might contain, this one didn’t trip any alarms. Finally, it was time, and he dove into this gift, tearing the wrapping paper asunder, he popped his fingers under the gaps in the box and ripped the tape… only to reveal clothes. Clothes, clothes, and more clothes. So he turned to the person the gift was from, and spoke (in a voice as loud as he could make it given his youth):

“Clothes AREN’T gifts!”


A Cruel Trick

Growing up a Jehovah’s Witness meant that a part of my family didn’t celebrate Christmas, but, because my parents were divorced, I still got gifts from my Aunt, Uncle, and grandparents. Which meant, I was making my own list of all the items I could never afford. And for much of my youth, that meant Transformers figures. You see, back in the day, they had two different-sized figures. The smaller ones (like Bubblebee) were around $5 or $6 (if I’m remembering correctly). They were just the right amount that maybe, just maybe, if your parents were in a good enough mood on your visit to Wal-Mart, you could convince them to spring for a new one. The other group was the larger ones. This would have been the Megatrons and the Optimus Prime sized figures and I have no idea how much they cost, but it seemed like they were in the $30s.

Something that expensive was definitely out of my reach.

So I would make out a list (after scanning through the Sears Catalogue) of all the Transformers I wanted so that when I was asked by my dad, I would have them ready to pass along to my relatives. And I was very reasonable, normally only asking for one or two of the more expensive figures (OK, maybe like five or six of them, but still), knowing that if I put a few different names on there, the better the chance they would have to find them in Albany. And then I waited until the promised day. The packages were ready to get opened, and I could only imagine which toys I’d actually gotten. I opened that first one and saw a smaller package… hey, no big deal. A Transformer is a Transformer.

Except, it didn’t have a Transformer label. It had a Go-Bot label. For those not in the know, the Go-Bots were like knock-offs of Transformers. They were a little cheaper in price and generally all the same size. And they “transformed” which I’m assuming a bunch of out-of-the-loop adults took to mean they were Transformers.

A cruel trick from the rival toy companies.

Image by Pawel Grzegorz from Pixabay

You’ll Never Guess

As I said above, my mother’s side of the family were Witnesses, which meant Christmas wasn’t observed (nor were birthdays, ugh), but we did do a sort of “Gift Day” over the years where we exchanged presents, but we didn’t do any of the other stuff. There were no stockings or trees or decorations or any of that stuff. Sometimes Gift Day occurred in January, other times it was more convenient to have it on December 25th.

After I went off to college, it was the longest time I was away from home. I flew up for Thanksgiving, and then come December, it was time for Winter Break. Maybe a week or so before it was time to drive up to Richmond, I get a call from my sister.

“You’ll never guess what is sitting in our living room right now.”

After playing 20 questions, I still didn’t have a clue, so my sister blurted it out.

“A Christmas Tree.”

I thought for sure that she was making a joke. Figured that she’d have a good laugh once I walked in the front door and saw nothing out the of the ordinary. But when I arrived at the house, I walked into the Living Room and sure enough, a huge tree, covered in ornaments and decorations and anything else you could think of. Even with the foreknowledge, I was floored by this.

(And there has been one up every year since.)


John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at


Let Me Sleep, It’s Christmas Time

I find myself listening to A Perfect Circle at some way too late part of the night (morning) staring at a blank screen. Maynard can’t help me out here, though. The icon flashes at me, mocking me with my lack of inspiration.

This is a problem.

That 5 weeks or so between Thanksgiving and Christmas are a tidal wave of events and responsibilities. It is the slowest and fastest month of the year. I feel like at times everything blurs together and before you know it I am in the car traveling to family (which is obviously great, but they don’t live very close…). Then I blink again and it is all over. I’ve somehow made it through another December of crazy to that magically week where I’m lucky enough to take off from the day job in order to reorient myself a little bit before we get to do it all again with the new year.

During this month, my wife stretches herself even thinner than I do (heck more than many people I know). She is a machine when it comes to giving her time to others, but also just in the day-to-day things that normally come up, she’s always got everything planned out. But the calendar begins to fill up with each new event. And it begins to stress her out. How can she fit this friend in or that obligation into the month where apparently EVERYTHING happens. To reduce that stress, products like CBD Oil can come really handy.

Her being stressed out stresses me out, but…

She was talking to someone over the course of the month and said something that nearly made me choke on whatever I might have been drinking at the time. She said something to the effect that she loved this time of the year because of the whirlwind of activities. That seeing all these friends and coworkers made it great. And even the other obligations didn’t dissuade her of those thoughts.

Funny Cat Work From Home Office Meme

I could scarcely believe that this was the same woman speaking these words into existence. And while I gave her a ton of grief over those statements, I sometimes forget that just because we all might be stressed out doesn’t mean we aren’t having a good time. She is definitely more extroverted than me, so she needs that activity, whereas I would be happy with just a non-stop series of “Bed to Couch” days.

This brings me to this week. I have to make sure to enjoy the week, the calm moments. I’ve been adding things to the To-Do list for the past six weeks (“oh, I’ll handle that during the week between Christmas and New Year). If I’m not careful, it will all begin to blur as well, and I’ll get the not so much fun version of Time Travel to the future where I’m sitting at my desk at work again on January 3, 2022, wondering where all the free time went.


John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at


Closing Threads for the End of the Year

A Grab Bag for this week (also known as Random Thoughts from John).


December becomes a mad scramble for me every year. Not because of Christmas parties or because of fighting the people at the Mall over the last whatever it is I’m at the Mall to get, and not because every day ends up having something “to do” if left up to the wife.

OK. It is a mad scramble exactly for all those reasons… plus one other one:

Trying to get random bits and pieces of writing in order by the end of the year. You see, every year I write a blog post that lays out the year – what I want to accomplish, what I expect to accomplish, what I could accomplish if I cloned myself… but it is a little pie in the sky. I mean, I put everything on it (because you should dream big, right?), and since I started doing it 3 or 4 years ago, I find myself entering December with unfinished business.

Suddenly I have to squeeze a year’s worth of wants and goals into 31 days of crazy.

Yeah, it never works out.


Die Hard is one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time.

I believe this, somewhere deep in my soul.

Yet, we had a potluck lunch this week and end up putting it on as the holiday movie. And while it takes place at Christmas, John McClain does write “Ho Ho Ho” (now I have a machine gun) on the dead guy’s shirt… maybe (and this is only a maybe), maybe it isn’t something that everyone else agrees is a great Christmas movie.

I mean, they are wrong, but it is very odd to hear rapid gunfire and cursing while celebrating the holidays with co-workers.


I once had an interview that took place during a Christmas party. I’d just graduated from college and the interview was right around 1, and the company was in the middle of exchanging gifts. So I had to sit there and smile and not focus on how awkward the whole situation was. I mean, just reschedule the interview for an hour later or an hour earlier or something.

To top it off, I didn’t even get an offer from them, which if they were trying to figure out how I might “fit in” with their group – my thinking would be to say that maybe, just maybe, there would be a better way to do it.

And if you are going to bring an interviewee into the gift exchange, maybe give him/her something. It’s bad enough that we’re there, at least then we’d leave with something.


Random Thoughts Done for now. Back to wrapping up Kickstarter business and watching odd movies at the “wrong” time!


John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at

Don’t trip Tiny Tim!

I didn’t grow up with Christmas for a portion of my early life. Being raised as a Jehovah’s Witness (yes, I probably knocked on your door at some point) meant that when it was time for the Christmas party at school, I went home instead. When other people were decorating their houses in lights and trees, I didn’t really think much about it.

Note, I’m not saying any of that because I’m sad about it. We still got gifts, just normally it would be in January instead (our “Gift Day” where I might have gotten extra gifts due to the post-Christmas sales… sneaky Mom there). And it just was how things were.

As I’ve gotten older and married Christmas seems to have grown up around me as well. But sometimes little traditions are completely lost on me. For example, I was probably 17 before I knew that Noel was another word for Christmas. Honest. I’d never even seen the word before and then suddenly it was everywhere I looked.

Songs… yeah I know some of them, I can probably tell you the names of most, but I don’t know that I could sing you more than a couple of lines of Rudolf the Rednose Reindeer or name the others who pulled his sleigh.

I can’t wrap a gift to save my life. Though that could also be due to the fact that I’m a guy.

Even Christmas lights… we don’t put them up at my house (much to my wife’s chagrin) because while I think they are neat enough, they don’t equate to the holidays like some people.

That said, there have been a couple of things about the holidays that have become my own traditions over the years in a way to get into a more “correct” mood about it.

leg lamp

Who wouldn’t want that lamp!

The Christmas Story

Yes, it is run into the ground by TBS showing it on a loop for a full day. Yet somehow I always end up on that channel watching the kid stick his tongue to the pole for probably the 100th time in my life. I never had a Red Rider B.B. gun because I probably would have shot my eye out.


I am not a fan of Charles Dickens. A Tale of Two Cities is one of the few books in high school that I ended up not reading at all and somehow managed to score just high enough on the test we had for it (I still don’t know how I accomplished that since I didn’t read the Cliff Notes either). I read somewhere that the more words he wrote, the more money made its way into his pockets… and I believe that 100%.

I’ve never had a desire to read his Scrooge story… and I’ve seen versions of it over the years that tell me I’m not missing much of anything…


They are going to do the Curly Shuffle Next!

Until Bill Murray showed up in Scrooged. Maybe Bill Murray just makes things better and I’m blinded by my love of him, but I love everything about that movie. But the Ghost of Christmas Present is my favorite. She’s like something out of the WWE, beating Murray’s ass.

The Small Town Decorations

Yes, I know I said the thing about the lights, and I meant it, BUT when I was younger my Dad would come to Waycross, Georgia and take me to Dawson, Georgia. The trip was about 3ish hours long, but the route you take forces you to go through every small town in Georgia. And each town puts up their own decorations. And those little touches were what really told me that Christmas season was here.


Not a picture of a tree, but Clark’s expression matches my own when we finally get the dang thing to light up.

The Christmas Tree

Don’t tell my wife this, but I do like the tree. Having it up. Seeing all the crazy decorations from over the years. What I don’t like is bringing it down and setting it up. This year was the first year that the lights all came on with the first try. Normally we spend all this extra time trying to find cord A to stick into outlet Z or some such nonsense.

Seriously, could it be anymore complicated?



John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. Each episode is only $0.99. But you can go ahead and purchase the full novel (all 6 episodes) right now for $4.99 with the above link!

He also has a short story in the recently released anthology Beyond the Gate, which is free on most platforms!

He can also be found at