Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Blog is Moving!

My blog has been moved to Wordpress. Here's the new address: See you all over there!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

25 Days of Christmas: New Traditions, Same Family with Joselyn Vaughn

Merry Christmas! Today is officially the last day of 25 Days of Christmas. Awww. But it's not over yet! Please welcome Joselyn Vaughn!


When I saw that Brea would be posting my blog on Christmas Day, I panicked. What could I write about for Christmas Day?  I haven’t been looking forward to the holidays because this year all our celebrations will be different. My brothers and sisters and I won’t be able to gather at my mother’s on New Year’s for our traditional oyster stew, chili and chicken noodle soups because my mother has moved to a new place and the old place is completely gone. And so all our traditions will be a little new.

But the place isn’t as important as the people.  The same family will be able to search for seats around the tables and we’ll still have to count the plates and people a dozen times before we get the math to work. (You’d think that would be easier with the number of engineers and math majors in my family, but we always seem to be one seat or plate short.) The guys will camp out in front of the television, arm-chair reffing their favorite teams  and the girls will crowd around the table as Mom deals out the Flinch cards and complains about everyone stacking their deck.

We will still be able to enjoy the time no matter where we are because we are together.

Wishing you and yours all the best whether you are celebrating old traditions or new.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

25 Days of Christmas: A Ukrainian Christmas with Cesya MaRae Cuono

Merry Christmas Eve! 25 Days of Christmas is winding to a close. Today, we have Cesya MaRae Cuono, author of The Elemental series, visiting with us!

Hey all, Cesya here. Merry Christmas Eve! I’m so glad I got this spot on Brea’s “25 Days of Christmas” blog event. And what better way to kick off Christmas Eve than to share my family’s Christmas Eve tradition with all of you.
So, as all of you know (or don’t know) I’m Ukrainian, Italian, German, Russian, and Dutch but mainly grew up on the Ukrainian side of traditions. Before my time, our Christmas Eve wasn’t until January 6th but as the times moved on it was celebrated on December 24th with all other religions. Since the changing of our Christmas Eve, our Christmas celebration goes from December 24th-January 6th (Feast of the Epiphany). The Christmas Eve Supper or Holy Supper (Ukrainian: Sviata Vecheria) is a very family oriented time. It’s a time dedicated to God, family, and ancestors. Dinner doesn’t begin until the first star appears in the sky. This star is believed to be the Star of Bethlehem and symbolizes the trek of the Three Wise Men. The table is covered with two tablecloths, one for the ancestors of the family, the second for the living members. In the old days hay was laid out under the table as well as under the tablecloths to remember that Christ was born in a manger. The table always has one extra place setting for the deceased family members, whose souls, according to belief, come on Christmas Eve and partake of the food. This year our table will have two place settings, one for my grandfather and one for my grandmother.
Now it’s time for our twelve-course meatless meal. There are twelve courses in our Holy Supper, because according to the Christian tradition each course is dedicated to one of Christ's Apostles.
The first course is always unleavened (flat) bread and wine, which represents Christ’s body and blood. It’s the main dish of our whole meal. The next course is honey which represents a sweet year to come. Then on to garlic which represents the ending of an old year. We’ve combined the first three courses and eat our bread with the honey and garlic on top and drink the wine with it. The next course is our soups: Cabbage and Split-Pea. The foods to follow in the remaining courses are prunes, fish (crab, shrimp, and tilapia), mushrooms (cooked in onions and butter), pierogies (homemade), salt and pepper (yes, they’re considered a course), and our desserts are assorted fruits and nuts.
So now you have my Christmas Eve traditions. I hope you learned something new! And I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year!

Friday, December 23, 2011

25 Days of Christmas: Traditional Christmas Breakfast with Erin Danzer

Today we have Erin Danzer on the blog, sharing her traditional Christmas breakfast with us! It sounds--and looks--so yummy!

My Traditional Christmas Breakfast
By Erin Danzer
Every Christmas morning when I was growing up, my brother, parents and I would wake around 7, turn on Christmas music and take turns opening the gifts Santa had left us during the night. While we opened gifts, the meat pies my mom had made earlier in the season would heat in the oven. The sharp smell of sage mixed with the meat would permeate the house, making us salivate with anticipation. Finally, it would be time to eat. We would go to the table, cut the pies in quarters and dig in, always with a chilled dill pickle on the side.
According to my Aunt Sharon, a history teacher as well as family historian, meat pies have been passed down the female side of my dad's family for several generations, brought to the States by my great grandmother DeRosier. Correctly called TOUQUERES (pronounced like "two cares"), meat pies are the traditional French pastry eaten after mass on Christmas Eve/Day. That tradition is the one my aunt, dad and their family followed growing up. The meat pies would be baked during the day on Christmas Eve. Then after midnight mass, they would come home, heat up and eat the meat pies, open presents and then go to bed well fed and already knowing what Santa had brought them while they were at church.
Meat pies have been my Christmas breakfast for as long as I can remember. Now, I share the tradition with my husband and two sons. Someday (many years from now), I hope to pass on the tradition to my future daughters-in-law. But for now, I'm happy to share the tradition with all of you.

Meat Pies

You will need (for 3-5 Pies)
3lb ground pork
2lb ground veal
Enough pie crusts for top and bottom crusts for all pies
Salt, pepper and sage to taste
Brown meat until all brown. Drain just about all fat off. Add enough water until meat is slightly covered. Add seasonings (I’m not sure on measurements here. I put a few dashes of salt and pepper and about 2-3TBP ground sage) and let simmer 20 minutes.
Make pie crusts and line pie pans. Fill about half full or little more with meat. (I add a couple spoonfuls of water here to keep it moist while baking.) Cover with top crust and seal. Put hole in middle of top crust.
Bake in 400-degree oven until golden brown (roughly half hour).

For Freezing: Bake 15 minutes. Cool and cover with aluminum foil. Later bake in 425-degree oven for 45 minutes.

Thank you, Brea, for having me on your blog today and sharing my favorite holiday tradition and recipe. To everyone, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

25 Days of Christmas: Sinterklaas Kaopentje with Allie Burke

25 Days of Christmas continues with Allie Burke, author of the Enchanters series! I just have to add that Allie is one of my new favorite people and new favorite authors. Take it away, Allie!


I believed in Santa Claus long after I probably should have. Actually, when I met my husband somewhere around ten years ago, I tried to convince him that Santa Claus really did exist. I was, oh, I don’t know. Fifteen.

This fact, together with my love for the Christmas season, contributed to my fascination with a new Santa Claus I learned of when I spent my first Christmas with him and his family, somewhere around three years later.

My father in law is someone who I love very dearly. But he’s strange. Strange, like me, and as such, when I first heard him mumbling the words to a Christmas song I’d never heard before, I was intrigued. Intrigued, because I’d never heard it before, and intrigued, because I hate Christmas music. But you couldn’t hate this song. It sounded so innocent and so soothing sung from this Dutch-Indonesian man’s mouth, and I just had to know more about it.

I whispered to my husband as his father disappeared down the hallway, and with a disgusted look like he couldn’t believe my ignorance, he said, “Sinterklaas Kaopentje”. Like, of course I should know all about it, or something.

Needless to say, the song is quite well known in The Netherlands and in Belgium, and goes something like this:
Sinterklaas Kapoentje,
Leg wat in mijn schoentje,
Leg wat in mijn laarsje,
Dank je Sinterklaasje!

And for those of you who need a translation, like me:

Saint Nicolas Little Rascal,
Put something in my little shoe,
Put something in my little boot,
Thank you little Saint Nicolas!

I just find it terribly awesome that at eighteen, I, the Christmas fanatic, had something to learn about Santa Claus. I think we should remember that Christmas may not look or sound the same in every house, but it’s still just that. Christmas.

Merry Christmas to you, from our home to yours.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

25 Days of Christmas: The Gift of Miracles with Thomas Amo

Today, we have Thomas Amo, author of An Apple for Zoe and the new Let's Get Lade, visiting with us on the blog!

The Gift of Miracles

Christmas is in four days and so many people lose sight of what this day actually really and truly means. For the kids, it means toys, to the teens it means, an iPad, cellphone, laptop, money. To the parents it means, can I pay for all of this and not use a credit card?
But for me, Thomas Amo, it means in a world that has become sometimes not a very nice place to be, God is still God and a beautiful little girl named, Alyssa Mowrey will be spending this Christmas with her family thanks be to his mercy. Christin and I became friends via Twitter earlier this year. We spoke on the phone once and instantly she has that ability to turn a complete stranger into more than just a friend, she makes you feel like family. We tweeted and even came up with the hashtag #BNFF which stands for Best Nerd Friends Forever. Because we were nerds and nerds stick together. This caught on and others joined our nerd herd, but when the terrible accident that happened in October this year, when three little angels were hit by a car while crossing the street, Christin reminded me that her unwavering faith in God and her humble attitude towards the events that would put virtually any parent on a razor’s edge, she set the example to me of what a Christian is.
Sadly, Mia, one of three angels lost her life in that terrible accident. Some will feel if God is so merciful then why didn’t all 3 survive. None of us can ever know that answer and I won’t speculate on it. My heart aches for the loss of little Mia, because even though I did not know her, I am certain her smile was brighter than any star in the heavens. For her family this is a time that they will need all the support and love we can muster. Please include them in your thoughts and prayers.

Alyssa has come leaps and bounds from where her life was two months ago. This is not to say it’s an easy road ahead, Alyssa has a long way to go, but she has a mother who will be right there taking every step with her. Christin has never wavered in her faith and that is something we could all take a good lesson on. So I look at the presents under my tree with a different eye today than I did last year. Instead of saying, I want this or I want that, I can say, I’m so blessed to have this and have that. I thank the Lord for his mercy and letting us see Alyssa as the miracle and blessing she is and I thank Christin for showing me how to appreciate what Christmas really does mean.

Merry Christmas to all of you,
Thomas Amo

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

25 Days of Christmas: This Holiday Season by Lissette E. Manning

25 Days of Christmas continues with Lissette E. Manning!

This Holiday Season
By: Lissette E. Manning

I’ve always loved this season. Mostly because not only do I get to celebrate both my birthday and Christmas, but also because I get to share it with my sister. We’re not sure how Mom managed for us to be born in the same month, but it’s kind of nice to have someone close to my own age who understands me in the same exact way I understand her. Of course, my sister gets to have her special celebration so close to Christmas, too.

Amazing, isn’t it? That so many of us can share in such a joyous occasion and become even closer than we were before.

Did you know that the date of December 25th was one adopted by the Western Christian Church around the early-to-mid 4th century in order to depict the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ? Truth be told, our Lord’s true birth isn’t actually known. It’s been said it occurred between 7 and 8 BC. At least, that’s what historians say. Yet regardless of when Jesus was born, it’s still a cause of celebration.

Christmas has allowed us to come together and celebrate this fact. It’s allowed us to let bygones be bygones and to be thankful for the world around us. To be thankful for our loved ones and the things we’ve been able to accomplish. It’s a way for us to truly bond with those around us. A heart-felt celebration that can felt all around the world.

I’m thankful for my family. For my friends – those in real life and those I’ve met online. I’m thankful because I’ve been able to achieve part of my dream and share it with all of you. Most of all, I’m thankful for the fact that God has given me another day in which to breath and to sing His praises. My relationship with Him may be rocky, at times, but I think He knows that at least I’m trying.

So this holiday season, embrace those around you. Embrace the life you’ve been given and never look back on what could have been. Give God thanks for being there when we need Him.

Most of all, enjoy everything you do. Savor the moments as if they’re your last and always remember those who couldn’t be here with us to celebrate those moments and hold them close to your hearts.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year when the time comes!

God Bless and always the best to you all!

Book Blurb for Stuck:

A world too different from what we once knew . . . all we hold onto now is survival.

Memories of the dead remind Annie Page of the world she'd once known. Renegade forces are closing in, seeking to command the little that remains. Yet she refuses to stand by and watch the world crumble.

Her children’s love the driving force behind the choices that she’s made, she’s determined to make their world a better place. Yet their survival comes with a price – one that she never meant to pay. 

Purchase Links For Stuck:

Amazon: & Noble:

Short Bio:

Nancy Medina is an author from Connecticut who writes under the pseudonym of Lissette E. Manning. She has been writing since she was eight years old and spends most of her time trying to place her thoughts into order and giving life to the stories that are always brewing inside her head.

She enjoys listening to music, playing the occasional video game, watching movies, and spending time with friends and family. She's also a bit of a computer geek.

Her writing genres of choice are Science-Fiction/Fantasy, Romance, Paranormal, Short Stories, as well as Poetry. She's currently working on several projects due out sometime in the new year, as well as her finishing her NaNoWriMo project, The Corsicanth Princess.

Monday, December 19, 2011

25 Days of Christmas: Healthy Holidays with Felicia Rogers

25 Days of Christmas continues with Felicia Rogers!

Healthy Holidays

On December 25, 2008, something wonderful happened. It was the beginning of a lifelong journey. This was the day my fabulous thoughtful husband gave me Billy Blank’s Amped Tae-Bo workout set. No worries ladies, I asked for the gift.
On this day three years ago, I started eating healthier and exercising. Since then I’ve lost over sixty pounds. I’ve done things I never dreamed of doing such as hiking eleven miles (round trip) to Mt. LeConte in the Great Smokey Mountains, lowering my cholesterol, and dropping four sizes in clothing.
But even though I’ve enacted this change, I still struggle to maintain a healthy diet during the holidays. I’m an avid couponer and one site I frequent is Eat Better America. This site is great for more than just coupons. By joining I received recipes to try. And boy, have I! You mention a low fat cheesecake and I’m so there! From this website, I’ve tried Sweet Potato Casserole (, Healthified Creamed Corn (, and many others. So if you’re trying to eat delicious tasting, flavorful food this holiday season while maintaining your figure check out Eat Better America (

Now that I’ve shared some of my favorite healthy recipes I wanted to share one other. This is a family favorite.
Cherry Yum-Yum
~1 stick Margarine
~3 cups graham cracker crumbs
~2 cans cherry pie filling (yes, the big cans)
~2 envelopes of Dream Whip
~1 cup of sugar
~1 cup of milk
~8 oz. Cream cheese (room temp)
Melt the margarine and combine with 2 cups of graham cracker crumbs. Line bottom of 9x13 pan, reserving 1 cup of crumb mixture. Over this spoon, 1 can of cherry pie filling.
Combine in a mixing bowl:
Dream whip, sugar, milk, and cream cheese. Whip at high speed until stiff. Once stiff, spread over pie filling. Next, spoon in the next can of cherry pie filling. Garnish with reserved crumbs. Chill until firm, then serve.

I hope you enjoy my favorite recipe. And remember, if you’ve struggled in this area, I’m right there with you. And keep in mind, with perseverance lots of things can happen, even becoming a published author!

My latest work, There Your heart Will Be Also, a historical suspense with an inspirational twist.
Only daughter of an English lord, Sarra of Greenbriar, is used to getting her way. So when her father passes and the King begins sending suitors, she feels justified in taking matters into her own hands. Through a series of harmless pranks, Sarra works to keep the potential husbands at bay.
Cedric MacNeil is a Scotsman that has lost it all. Death claimed his parents and jealousy claimed his entitled position as Laird of his clan. Since his mother was a familiar of the English court, he leaves his native land and heads to England to fight on behalf of the English King. Tournaments are won, earning honor and glory for the crown. Cedric’s reward is the opportunity to gain what he wants most in this life, land.
But as he gets to know Sarra, he realizes he might get more than he bargained for.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

25 Days of Christmas: Gratitude with Sherry Gloag

25 Days of Christmas continues with Sherry Gloag!


Christmas is a time for celebrating, and while we are celebrating the true meaning behind the festivities I like to add a personal tradition of my own. Taking time out to look back over the previous twelve months and be thankful for*all* of it.
So one of the Christmas traditions I have set myself is Gratitude. This may seem like a strange and too personal a tradition for it to count, but it has become an integral part of my Christmas. I’ll try to explain why.
There comes a time when life appears to get on top of you and feels like it’s out to break you. I had such a year during 1992/3.
“Everything comes in threes.” So the saying goes. I heard that almost more often than I had hot dinners at the time. What no one mentioned was that threes also come in multiples of three! Suffice to say, it was a *bad* year! But, and I do mean ‘but’, tough as it was to get through, it was also a period of some of the sharpest and most numerous lessons I’ve ever experienced.
It may sound odd to say ‘thank you’ for such turmoil, but in retrospect it made me who I am today. I met people I may never have encountered if I hadn’t had to go to court because I’d been burgled. My marriage is stronger now because back then it was tested to the point of destruction. And I am more prepared to face my shortcomings :-) Yeah! I have shortcomings. So many of them, they all come out to party while I’m busy looking for the key to keep them locked in the cupboard! LOL.
Seriously, gratitude was something that hovered off on the periphery of my life. Yes I paid lip-service to ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Now I learned the true meaning of deep heartfelt gratitude for things and people I may never meet but play an integral part in my life.
I’m talking about all those people who ensure I am kept safe when out on the streets, and for the lights and heating I come home to every day. The people who deliver my mail, empty my bins every week. The night workers, who are rarely seen but help to keep things running smoothly during the dark hours.
I’m talking about the nurses, police, firemen and rescue crews who are prepared to put their own lives on the line for others, as well as everything else in my life.
So every year, I take time out to meditate on all these things.
I have often found that when I stop, really stop to list all the events in my life, the good far outweighs the bad, but more often than not I discover I’ve paid more lip-service to the bad than it deserves.
Every New Year I promise myself I’ll redress the balance, but like diets……

From Now Until Forever

For Prince Liam, families meant bad news, unwanted commitments, and the loss of his personal freedom. Love spawned white picket fences, slippers at the hearth with a wife and kids making demands, so why did those images disappear when he met Melanie Babcot?
Melanie Babcot fought hard to escape the horrors of her youth and vowed to remain single and free, so when paid to protect Prince Liam from insurgents why did her personal pledge fly out the window?

EXCERPT:Liam Fitzwilliam Gasquet stared in amazement at the blooming patch of red milliseconds before the pain exploded in his arm. Some trigger-happy idiot had fired in his direction. Indignation didn’t have time to take root before another bullet kicked the dust at his feet.
Not ‘trigger-happy’.
The rebels had found the fourth and youngest son of Jean-Phillipe Gasquet, ruler of the tiny kingdom adjacent to the Swiss border. When had they discovered his whereabouts?
With a reluctant sigh, he faced the truth of it. They hadn’t ‘found’ him at all. They’d followed him.

Buy Links:

About the Author:

Multi-published author Sherry Gloag is a transplanted Scot now living in the beautiful coastal countryside of Norfolk, England. She considers the surrounding countryside as extension of her own garden, to which she escapes when she needs "thinking time" and solitude to work out the plots for her next novel. While out walking she enjoys talking to her characters, as long as there are no other walkers close by.
Apart from writing, Sherry enjoys gardening, walking, reading and cheerfully admits her books tend to take over most of the shelf and floor space in her workroom-cum-office. She also finds crystal craft work therapeutic.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

25 Days of Christmas: There is a Santa Claus with Liz Botts

25 Days of Christmas continues with Liz Botts!


My husband and I fully encourage our children’s belief in Santa Claus.

We encourage the belief because the magic of childhood is so fleeting. This year so far we have celebrated Santa arriving in town, visited with Santa, and mailed letters to Santa. And of course there is more Santa fun to be had. We will make reindeer food and track Santa on NORAD. This year Santa is leaving pages from his “Nice List” for the kids to discover on Christmas morning. Our kids know that Christmas isn’t all about Santa and presents, but it is a part of our holiday traditions.
I keep thinking that soon, too soon, one of their cousins will tell them Santa doesn’t exist, that we are the ones that leave gifts under the tree. And then what will we tell them?
One of my favorite responses to whether or not Santa exists is an opinion piece printed in 1897 in the New York Sun, commonly known as “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus.”
My favorite part is this: “Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.”
Read more of the original editorial here:
I think I will read them this, and reaffirm that believing is still okay.

When I was writing my Christmas novella, Believe, this editorial echoed through my head. My main character even shares the name Virginia.

Eighteen year old Virginia didn't ask to be the oldest daughter of the current Santa Claus, nor did she ask to be betrothed to a complete stranger. When the elf elders turn her world upside down by announcing that she must convince her fiance, Nick, not only to marry her but also to become the next Santa Claus, Virginia has no desire to have any part of the craziness.
From the beginning Virginia's interactions with Nick are filled with awkwardness, tension and disbelief. Despite Nick's love of the holiday he has no openness to the magical or the mythical. Still, somehow the two forge their way toward one another. Meeting a special little girl named Merry helps Nick and Virginia bond and focus on the true meaning of the Christmas season. Virginia quickly grows to love and trust Nick, with the only dark spot being his disbelief in all the things she tells him. Nick for his part must come to grips with meeting his real father, the King of Winter, and the fact that he does indeed possess magic.
Will the Nick and Virginia be able to overcome all of the exterior forces seeming to control their lives and fall in love with one another in time to save the future of Christmas?

You have to marry me.” My fists curl into balls at my sides as flames of embarrassment shoot through my body, consuming my face in bright red.
All amusement leaves Nick’s face. He frowns at me, but doesn’t move. “Look, I don’t know
what kind of joke this is, but I think it’s time for you to leave.”
No, wait, I…” I take another step forward. None of this is coming out the way I want it too. How can I explain this to him? No one has given me any guidance. I feel my skirt snag on a branch from the fake Christmas tree. Before I know what’s happening, I fly forward landing squarely on Nick’s lap.
He catches me, pulls me calmly down on one knee, and looks directly into my eyes. “What is it that you really want?”
The question hangs between us. I’m struggling with what to say when there is a knock at the door. A teenage elf girl pokes her head through and gasps.
When she recovers she says, “You are holding up the line.”
If it is possible for my face to get redder, it does. I scramble off of Nick’s lap, where I am barely perched, and flee out the exit door. That went spectacularly wrong. I’ve humiliated myself. And I have failed. What are the elf elders going to do to me? I shiver, trying to stave off the fear by thinking of anything else. Unfortunately my thoughts slide to the deep blue of Nick’s eyes and the joyful laugh that made me want to believe in him. Believe in him as Santa. I stop mid-stride on a sidewalk filled with kids, my mini-epiphany of little concern to them. What am I going to do now?

Buy links:

About the Author:
Liz Botts was born, raised, and still lives in northern Illinois with her husband and three small children (two boys and a baby girl). When not writing, she enjoys reading, sewing, trying new recipes, and hanging with her kids. She is proud to pass her love of stories on to her children, and makes several trips to the library each week. After working with teenagers for several years, she decided to write stories about them instead.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

25 Days of Christmas: Happy Holidays from Gracen Miller Exclusive Pandora's Box Scene and Giveaway!

Today we have Gracen Miller, author of Pandora's Box and Madison's Life Lessons, with us on the blog! She's sharing an exclusive scene from Pandora's Box that you can't find anywhere else! She's also doing a giveaway!

Happy Holidays, readers!  What puts you in the mood for the Holidays? For me, it certainly is not the commercial rush of the season. That aggravates me! What does it for me is putting up the Christmas tree with my boys, or decorating the mantel. It’s the simple things that put me in the holiday spirit. What about you, what puts you in the holiday spirit?  

For Madison and Phoenix, lead characters in my recently released book Pandora’s Box (book one in the Road to Hell Series), it’s something just as simple that puts them in the holiday spirit. Below is a taste into their world, an idyllic moment that is rare for their tumultuous lives. This snippet cannot be found anywhere and it’s not in my book, so enjoy, and let me know what you think and you will be entered to win!


Madison gazed out the dingy window of Pancake Decadence, a pit stop located on the edge of Highway 69 to nowhere. A trucker maneuvered his rig with ease into the dirt-packed wasteland of trash and winter brittle weeds to the side of the café. Deep ruts and tire tracks proclaimed the tract of land a long running make-do parking lot.

Sipping coffee so strong it settled like cement in her belly, she peered over the rim at her six-year-old son, Amos, slapping the buttons on the old-fashioned pinball machine. A chip red-flagged the rim of the coffee mug and a stained crack along the side indicated the mug was long past its expiration date. Madison didn’t care about either, so long as it served up coffee. At this point in her journey, she’d take a dirty I.V. of the brew straight into her veins if possible.

Gouged out spots blighted the dirty linoleum floor. Like acne pock-marking a face with such severity it promised to scar the flesh forever. The aged flooring needed replacing. The dated table wobbled on the uneven floor and the vinyl booth held a ragged tear in the center of the seat. Comfort hadn’t been high on her priority list in a long while, so she wiggled a butt-cheek into the tear for a unique level of seating.

Christmas morning at four a.m. and she and Amos were stuck in a dive dining on an early morning fare of pancakes. Lonely and scared, she would call it a low point in her life if she hadn’t already lost her husband and her otherwise normal life.

Strands of Christmas lights bunched along the top of the windows resembled curtain swags. They twinkled on some random cycle, none of them in sync.Merry Christmas was spray painted with a can of snow on the window to her right, along with a painted ensemble of red and green use-your-imagination-ornaments. Or at least she thought they were supposed to be ornaments.

A spindly tree sat in the corner of the café near the entrance to the bathrooms. Madison felt pity for the thing. Leaning to one side, with several branches hanging low from the weight of the ornaments, it was definitely on its last leg. A light breeze would set it on its side.

Good thing, you’re not by the door, little guy, Madison contemplated with a skeptical eye.

Tacky decorations, but they lent the place a redneck kind of charm. She was southern, so she knew rednecks intimately.

Madison lifted her fork, cut out another bite of pancakes and swirled it in syrup. Closing her eyes on a moan, she savored the sweet taste and the fluffy texture hitting her tongue. Only orgasms compared to this self-indulgence!

Ha! Self-indulgence was her picking up the cell and calling Phoenix. After almost a year on the road, she’d give anything to see him. A friendly face. Someone that understood what she was going through. Not that Phoenix owed her anything, but she’d hoped he would answer her desperate call and agree to meet them for the holidays. Ridiculous really since she was a hard and fast devout atheist—or had been. Kind of hard to remain dedicated to that doctrine knowing what she now knew.

Foolish of her to expect more from Phoenix, but others in her life had already proven how naïve she was. Phoenix had a family to spend Christmas with and she and Amos weren’t part of that family. He’d helped her all he could with her supernatural pests and she had left him on her front lawn, declaring she and Amos must take this journey on their own. Loneliness was a hard companion and she was long overdue for some adult conversation.

The bell above the door dingled, announcing a new customer and Madison glanced up, expecting to see the trucker.

“Nix!” she exclaimed on a shocked breath.

Phoenix Birmingham in the flesh!  Wearing ratty low-slung jeans, a wrinkled black t-shirt that stretched like a second skin across his chest and his uncle’s hand-me-down leather bomber. To Madison he was the most exciting creation since the invention of the internet. And her heart agreed, racing faster than the tattoo of a jackhammer as he smiled at her, a slow, wicked grin that revealed his sexy dimples. Dimples she was sure had charmed the pants off a number of women.

A bevy of strong pleasure kicked her in the belly, snatched her breath away and yanked her along a joyride of emotions. None of which she wanted to dissect too closely.

He rounded the backside of the booth and instead of sitting opposite her he tugged her out of the seat and enveloped her in a fierce hug. Being in the man’s arms was better than an orgasm.

“I’m your gift from Amos,” he said low against her ear.

Dear God, what a loaded statement!

Bizarre how the simple things in life—like having Nix with her on Christmas morning—meant so much more to her than a designer label, a nice house or a fancy car. Oh, how drastically her life had changed and how meaningless it had once been.

Nix kissed her forehead and Madison knew this Christmas would officially go down as her best one ever!


Want to read more of Madison and Phoenix’s exploits?  Well, you can in my novel, Pandora’s BoxBook One in The Road to Hell Series, out now from Decadent Publishing.

Wait!  Don’t run off yet!  Leave a comment and you’ll be entered to WIN an e-copy of Pandora’s Box!  As an added bonus, every person that leaves a comment will receive an e-copy of Madison’s Life Lessons (prequel to Pandora’s Box) by leaving me their email address with the format they prefer the book in (Kindle, Nook or pdf). The first three chapters of both books can be read on my blog listed below.

Where you can stalk me—not really!—but I would love to meet and interact with you:

Thanks so much for having me with you, Brea!

Gracen Miller

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

25 Days of Christmas: New Traditions and the White Elephant with Shannon Mackay

Today, we have Shannon Mackay, author of the upcoming Raenara Bradley series, visiting with us! Welcome Shannon!

New Traditions and the White Elephant

Some traditions are from our childhood, and some are made out of accident (like when our favorite restaurant closes early and we have to go somewhere else) or necessity.
My favorite new tradition was started two Christmasses ago, and I look forward to it the most this year. Its unfortunate that this tradition started because of ecoconomic downturn. My dad lost his job soon after my step-mom quit hers to go back to school, and they got married. My husband and I had a second child, and I quit my job to stay home because daycare expenses would have been more than my monthly paycheck. Its a little needless to say that Christmasses since then have been strained.

My step-mom's brother (Is there such a thing as a step-uncle?) loves Christmas. Like, he loves, Loves, LOVES Christmas and he hated the idea that no one was able to afford presents to give like we had done in past years, plus my family was officially IN the family now, and that meant more kids, and more people to buy for.

This man is a creative genius and is constantly thinking of different ways to do something entertaining. He currently has old broken dolls dressed up in kids clothing sledding and skiing down a ramp from the roof of his house as his Christmas display. Instead of doing a Secret Santa, or a pick a name, or spend less than such and such amount, he thought of something so much more fun. He decided that we should do a White Elephant Christmas. Each year, we bring something that we no longer care for but is still in good shape all wrapped up so no one can see what it is. Then we draw numbers from a hat and the first person picks whichever package they want and unwraps it. Then the next person either picks a new present and unwraps it, or takes what the first person chose. If they do that, then the first person picks something new, and the third person goes. We continue like this until everyone has something, and then the first person gets one last chance to trade what they have with something else because they're the only person who didn't get the swap option. It really pays to draw the number one!

Last year, my husband and I added a light up cottage to our ceramic village from the White Elephant Christmas. My dad got another bird house for his collection (complete with a fake 'dead bird' in the bottom) and my son even joined in the usually all adult event and auctioned off two of his Hot Wheels for five bucks (the kids still get a regular Christmas). 

I can't even choose which present was the funniest, though. One year we had the entire inside of a gift duct taped with the sticky side up and a bazillion pennies stuck to it, along with a piggy bank; there was a tailgater's gift basket complete with a six pack of beer, six pack of batteries, six pack of frozen buffalo wings, and a six pack of ketchup (don't ask). The point of the White Elephant isn't to save money, even though that was the catalyst to starting this tradition, but its to have fun and be creative with your giving.

At first, I hated this tradition. It felt more like a reminder of how much we don't have than of being able to give. Its so much fun though, that I don't care anymore. I enjoy watching people trade the same gift over and over and scouring my house for something that I don't love or need and can give it to somebody who will want it. I have no idea what I’m going to give this year, but there’s still a little time and I’m sure I can find something. My daughter does have a few pairs of shoes that she's outgrown...they could make the toes of those sledding dolls nice and toasty...hmm.