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.

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!

Heyall, Cesya here. Merry Christmas Eve! I’m so glad I got this spoton Brea’s “25 Days of Christmas” blog event. And what betterway to kick off Christmas Eve than to share my family’s ChristmasEve 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 sideof traditions. Before my time, our Christmas Eve wasn’t untilJanuary 6thbut as the times moved on it was celebrated on December 24thwith all other religions. Since the changing of our Christmas Eve,our Christmas celebration goes from December 24th-January6th(Feast of the Epiphany). The Christmas Eve Supper or Holy Supper(Ukrainian: Sviata Vecheria) is a very family oriented time. It’s atime dedicated to God, family, and ancestors. Dinner doesn’t beginuntil the first star appears in the sky. This star is believed to bethe Star of Bethlehem and symbolizes the trek of the Three Wise Men.The table is covered with two tablecloths, one for the ancestors ofthe family, the second for the living members. In the old days haywas laid out under the table as well as under the tablecloths toremember that Christ was born in a manger. The table always has oneextra 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 mygrandfather and one for my grandmother.
Nowit’s time for our twelve-course meatless meal. There are twelvecourses in our Holy Supper, because according to the Christiantradition each course is dedicated to one of Christ’s Apostles.
Thefirst course is always unleavened (flat) bread and wine, whichrepresents Christ’s body and blood. It’s the main dish of ourwhole meal. The next course is honey which represents a sweet year tocome. Then on to garlic which represents the ending of an old year.We’ve combined the first three courses and eat our bread with thehoney and garlic on top and drink the wine with it. The next courseis our soups: Cabbage and Split-Pea. The foods to follow in theremaining courses are prunes, fish (crab, shrimp, and tilapia),mushrooms (cooked in onions and butter), pierogies (homemade), saltand pepper (yes, they’re considered a course), and our desserts areassorted fruits and nuts.
Sonow you have my Christmas Eve traditions. I hope you learnedsomething new! And I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a safe andHappy New Year!

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 Christmasmusic and take turns opening the gifts Santa had left us during thenight. While we opened gifts, the meat pies my mom had made earlierin the season would heat in the oven. The sharp smell of sage mixedwith the meat would permeate the house, making us salivate withanticipation. Finally, it would be time to eat. We would go to thetable, cut the pies in quarters and dig in, always with a chilleddill pickle on the side.
According to my Aunt Sharon, a history teacheras well as family historian, meat pies have been passed down thefemale side of my dad’s family for several generations, brought tothe States by my great grandmother DeRosier. Correctly calledTOUQUERES (pronounced like “two cares”), meat pies are thetraditional French pastry eaten after mass on Christmas Eve/Day. Thattradition is the one my aunt, dad and their family followed growingup. The meat pies would be baked during the day on ChristmasEve. Then after midnight mass, they would come home, heat up and eatthe meat pies, open presents and then go to bed well fed and alreadyknowing what Santa had brought them while they were at church.
Meat pies have been my Christmasbreakfast for as long as I can remember. Now, I share the traditionwith my husband and two sons. Someday (many years from now), I hopeto 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 forall pies
Salt, pepper and sage to taste
Brown meat until all brown. Drain just aboutall fat off. Add enough water until meat is slightly covered. Addseasonings (I’m not sure on measurements here. I put a few dashesof salt and pepper and about 2-3TBP ground sage) and let simmer 20minutes.
Make pie crusts and line pie pans. Fill abouthalf full or little more with meat. (I add a couple spoonfuls ofwater here to keep it moist while baking.) Cover with top crust andseal. 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 in425-degree oven for 45 minutes.
Thank you, Brea, for having me on your blogtoday and sharing my favorite holiday tradition and recipe. Toeveryone, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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!


Ibelieved in Santa Claus long after I probably should have. Actually,when I met my husband somewhere around ten years ago, I tried toconvince him that Santa Claus really did exist. I was, oh, I don’tknow. Fifteen.

Thisfact, together with my love for the Christmas season, contributed tomy fascination with a new Santa Claus I learned of when I spent myfirst Christmas with him and his family, somewhere around three yearslater.

Myfather 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 thewords 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. Itsounded so innocent and so soothing sung from this Dutch-Indonesianman’s mouth, and I just had to know more about it.

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

Needlessto say, the song is quite well known in The Netherlands and inBelgium, and goes something like this:
Leg wat in mijn schoentje,
Leg wat in mijnlaarsje,
Dank je Sinterklaasje!

Andfor those of you who need a translation, like me:

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

Ijust find it terribly awesome that at eighteen, I, the Christmasfanatic, had something to learn about Santa Claus. I think we shouldremember that Christmas may not look or sound the same in everyhouse, but it’s still just that. Christmas.

MerryChristmas to you, from our home to yours.

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!

TheGift of Miracles
Christmas is in fourdays and so many people lose sight of what this day actually reallyand 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 payfor 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 placeto be, God is still God and a beautiful little girl named, AlyssaMowrey will be spending this Christmas with her family thanks be tohis mercy. Christin and I became friends via Twitter earlier thisyear. We spoke on the phone once and instantly she has that abilityto turn a complete stranger into more than just a friend, she makesyou feel like family. We tweeted and even came up with the hashtag#BNFF which stands for Best Nerd Friends Forever. Because we werenerds and nerds stick together. This caught on and others joined ournerd herd, but when the terrible accident that happened in Octoberthis year, when three little angels were hit by a car while crossingthe street, Christin reminded me that her unwavering faith in God andher humble attitude towards the events that would put virtually anyparent on a razor’s edge, she set the example to me of what aChristian is.
Sadly, Mia, one of threeangels lost her life in that terrible accident. Some will feel if Godis so merciful then why didn’t all 3 survive. None of us can everknow that answer and I won’t speculate on it. My heart aches forthe loss of little Mia, because even though I did not know her, I amcertain her smile was brighter than any star in the heavens. For herfamily this is a time that they will need all the support and love wecan muster. Please include them in your thoughts and prayers.

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

Merry Christmas to all ofyou,
Thomas Amo

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

25 Days of Christmas continues with Lissette E. Manning!

ThisHoliday Season
By:Lissette E. Manning
I’vealways loved this season. Mostly because not only do I get tocelebrate both my birthday and Christmas, but also because I get toshare it with my sister. We’re not sure how Mom managed for us tobe born in the same month, but it’s kind of nice to have someoneclose to my own age who understands me in the same exact way Iunderstand her. Of course, my sister gets to have her specialcelebration so close to Christmas, too.
Amazing,isn’t it? That so many of us can share in such a joyous occasionand become even closer than we were before.
Didyou know that the date of December 25thwas one adopted by the Western Christian Church around theearly-to-mid 4thcentury in order to depict the birth of our Lord and Savior, JesusChrist? Truth be told, our Lord’s true birth isn’t actuallyknown. 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.
Christmashas allowed us to come together and celebrate this fact. It’sallowed us to let bygones be bygones and to be thankful for the worldaround us. To be thankful for our loved ones and the things we’vebeen able to accomplish. It’s a way for us to truly bond with thosearound us. A heart-felt celebration that can felt all around theworld.
I’mthankful for my family. For my friends – those in real life andthose I’ve met online. I’m thankful because I’ve been able toachieve 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 inwhich to breath and to sing His praises. My relationship with Him maybe rocky, at times, but I think He knows that at least I’m trying.
Sothis holiday season, embrace those around you. Embrace the lifeyou’ve been given and never look back on what could have been. GiveGod thanks for being there when we need Him.
Mostof all, enjoy everything you do. Savor the moments as if they’reyour last and always remember those who couldn’t be here with us tocelebrate those moments and hold them close to your hearts.
MerryChristmas and a Happy New Year when the time comes!
GodBless 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: http://www.amazon.com/Stuck-ebook/dp/B005L7AMZKBarnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/stuck-lissette-e-manning/1105384718Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/72829

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.

25 Days of Christmas: Healthy Holidays with Felicia Rogers

25 Days of Christmas continues with Felicia Rogers!
Healthy Holidays
On December 25, 2008, somethingwonderful happened. It was the beginning of a lifelong journey. This was the day my fabulous thoughtful husband gave me Billy Blank’sAmped Tae-Bo workout set. No worries ladies, I asked for thegift.
On this day three years ago, I startedeating healthier and exercising. Since then I’ve lost over sixtypounds. I’ve done things I never dreamed of doing such as hikingeleven miles (round trip) to Mt. LeConte in the Great SmokeyMountains, lowering my cholesterol, and dropping four sizes inclothing.
But even though I’ve enacted thischange, I still struggle to maintain a healthy diet during theholidays. I’m an avid couponer and one site I frequent is EatBetter America. This site is great for more than just coupons. Byjoining I received recipes to try. And boy, have I! You mention alow fat cheesecake and I’m so there! From this website, I’vetried Sweet Potato Casserole(http://www.eatbetteramerica.com/recipes/special-occasions/healthified-sweet-potato-casserole.aspx),Healthified Creamed Corn(http://www.eatbetteramerica.com/recipes/featured-brands/healthified-creamed-corn.aspx),and many others. So if you’re trying to eat delicious tasting,flavorful food this holiday season while maintaining your figurecheck out Eat Better America (http://www.eatbetteramerica.com/).
Now that I’ve shared some of myfavorite healthy recipes I wanted to share one other. This is afamily favorite.
Cherry Yum-Yum
~1 stick Margarine
~3 cups graham cracker crumbs
~2 cans cherry pie filling (yes, thebig 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 2cups of graham cracker crumbs. Line bottom of 9×13 pan, reserving 1cup of crumb mixture. Over this spoon, 1 can of cherry pie filling.
Combine in a mixing bowl:
Dream whip, sugar, milk, and creamcheese. Whip at high speed until stiff. Once stiff, spread over piefilling. Next, spoon in the next can of cherry pie filling. Garnishwith 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 therewith you. And keep in mind, with perseverance lots of things canhappen, even becoming a published author!
My latest work, There Your heartWill Be Also, a historical suspense with an inspirational twist.
Onlydaughter of an English lord, Sarra of Greenbriar, is used to gettingher way. So when her father passes and the King begins sendingsuitors, she feels justified in taking matters into her own hands.Through a series of harmless pranks, Sarra works to keep thepotential husbands at bay.
CedricMacNeil is a Scotsman that has lost it all. Death claimed his parentsand jealousy claimed his entitled position as Laird of his clan.Since his mother was a familiar of the English court, he leaves hisnative land and heads to England to fight on behalf of the EnglishKing. Tournaments are won, earning honor and glory for the crown.Cedric’s reward is the opportunity to gain what he wants most inthis life, land.
Butas he gets to know Sarra, he realizes he might get more than hebargained for.

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 festivitiesI like to add a personal tradition of my own. Taking time out tolook back over the previous twelve months and be thankful for*all* ofit.
So one of the Christmas traditions Ihave set myself is Gratitude. This may seem like a strangeand too personal a tradition for it to count, but it has become anintegral part of my Christmas. I’ll try to explain why.
There comes a time when life appears toget on top of you and feels like it’s out to break you. I had sucha year during 1992/3.
“Everything comes in threes.” Sothe saying goes. I heard that almost more often than I had hotdinners at the time. What no one mentioned was that threes also comein 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 alsoa period of some of the sharpest and most numerous lessons I’veever experienced.
It may sound odd to say ‘thank you’for such turmoil, but in retrospect it made me who I am today. I metpeople I may never have encountered if I hadn’t had to go to courtbecause I’d been burgled. My marriage is stronger now because backthen it was tested to the point of destruction. And I am moreprepared to face my shortcomings 🙂 Yeah! I have shortcomings. Somany of them, they all come out to party while I’m busy looking forthe key to keep them locked in the cupboard! LOL.
Seriously, gratitude was something thathovered off on the periphery of my life. Yes I paid lip-service to‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Now I learned the true meaning ofdeep heartfelt gratitude for things and people I may never meet butplay an integral part in my life.
I’m talking about all those peoplewho ensure I am kept safe when out on the streets, and for the lightsand heating I come home to every day. The people who deliver mymail, empty my bins every week. The night workers, who are rarelyseen 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 onthe line for others, as well as everything else in my life.
So every year, I take time out tomeditate on all these things.http://sevennightwriters.blogspot.com/2011/12/when-you-meditate-upon-star.html
I have often found that when I stop,really stop to list all the events in my life, the good far outweighsthe bad, but more often than not I discover I’ve paid morelip-service to the bad than it deserves.
Every New Year I promise myself I’llredress the balance, but like diets……
From Now Until Forever

For Prince Liam, families meant badnews, unwanted commitments, and the loss of his personal freedom. Love spawned white picket fences, slippers at the hearth with a wifeand kids making demands, so why did those images disappear when hemet Melanie Babcot?
Melanie Babcot fought hard to escapethe horrors of her youth and vowed to remain single and free, so whenpaid to protect Prince Liam from insurgents why did her personalpledge fly out the window?
EXCERPT:LiamFitzwilliam Gasquet stared in amazement at the blooming patch of redmilliseconds before the pain exploded in his arm. Some trigger-happyidiot had fired in his direction. Indignation didn’t have time totake root before another bullet kicked the dust at his feet.
The rebels had found thefourth and youngest son of Jean-Phillipe Gasquet, ruler of the tinykingdom adjacent to the Swiss border. When had they discovered hiswhereabouts?
Witha 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 isa transplanted Scot now living in the beautiful coastal countrysideof Norfolk, England. She considers the surrounding countryside asextension of her own garden, to which she escapes when she needs”thinking time” and solitude to work out the plots for hernext novel. While out walking she enjoys talking to her characters,as long as there are no other walkers close by.
Apart from writing, Sherry enjoysgardening, walking, reading and cheerfully admits her books tend totake over most of the shelf and floor space in herworkroom-cum-office. She also finds crystal craft work therapeutic.

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

25 Days of Christmas continues with Liz Botts!


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

Weencourage the belief because the magic of childhood is so fleeting. This year so far we have celebrated Santa arriving in town, visitedwith Santa, and mailed letters to Santa. And of course there is moreSanta fun to be had. We will make reindeer food and track Santa onNORAD. This year Santa is leaving pages from his “Nice List” forthe kids to discover on Christmas morning. Our kids know thatChristmas isn’t all about Santa and presents, but it is a part ofour holiday traditions.
Ikeep thinking that soon, too soon, one of their cousins will tellthem Santa doesn’t exist, that we are the ones that leave giftsunder the tree. And then what will wetell them?
Oneof my favorite responses to whether or not Santa exists is an opinionpiece printed in 1897 in the New York Sun, commonly known as “Yes,Virginia, There is a Santa Claus.”
Myfavorite part is this: “Not believe in Santa Claus! You might aswell not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men towatch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, buteven if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would thatprove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is noSanta Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neitherchildren nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on thelawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there.Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen andunseeable in the world.”
Readmore of the original editorial here:http://www.newseum.org/yesvirginia/
Ithink I will read them this, and reaffirm that believing is stillokay.

WhenI was writing my Christmas novella, Believe,this editorial echoed through my head. My main character even sharesthe name Virginia.

Eighteen year oldVirginia didn’t ask to be the oldest daughter of the current SantaClaus, nor did she ask to be betrothed to a complete stranger. Whenthe elf elders turn her world upside down by announcing that she mustconvince her fiance, Nick, not only to marry her but also to becomethe next Santa Claus, Virginia has no desire to have any part of thecraziness.
From the beginningVirginia’s interactions with Nick are filled with awkwardness,tension and disbelief. Despite Nick’s love of the holiday he has noopenness to the magical or the mythical. Still, somehow the two forgetheir way toward one another. Meeting a special little girl namedMerry helps Nick and Virginia bond and focus on the true meaning ofthe Christmas season. Virginia quickly grows to love and trust Nick,with the only dark spot being his disbelief in all the things shetells him. Nick for his part must come to grips with meeting his realfather, the King of Winter, and the fact that he does indeed possessmagic.
Will the Nick andVirginia be able to overcome all of the exterior forces seeming tocontrol their lives and fall in love with one another in time to savethe future of Christmas?

You have to marryme.” My fists curl into balls at my sides as flames ofembarrassment shoot through my body, consuming my face in bright red.
All amusement leavesNick’s face. He frowns at me, but doesn’t move. “Look, I don’tknow
what kind of joke this is, but I think it’s time for you toleave.”
No, wait, I…”I take another step forward. None of this is coming out the way Iwant it too. How can I explain this to him? No one has given me anyguidance. I feel my skirt snag on a branch from the fake Christmastree. Before I know what’s happening, I fly forward landingsquarely on Nick’s lap.
He catches me, pullsme calmly down on one knee, and looks directly into my eyes. “Whatis it that you really want?”
The question hangsbetween us. I’m struggling with what to say when there is a knockat the door. A teenage elf girl pokes her head through and gasps.
When she recoversshe says, “You are holding up the line.”
If it is possiblefor 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 wentspectacularly wrong. I’ve humiliated myself. And I have failed.What are the elf elders going to do to me? I shiver, trying to staveoff the fear by thinking of anything else. Unfortunately my thoughtsslide to the deep blue of Nick’s eyes and the joyful laugh thatmade me want to believe in him. Believe in him as Santa. I stopmid-stride on a sidewalk filled with kids, my mini-epiphany of littleconcern to them. What am I going to do now?


Aboutthe Author:
LizBotts was born, raised, and still lives in northern Illinois with herhusband and three small children (two boys and a baby girl). When notwriting, she enjoys reading, sewing, trying new recipes, and hangingwith her kids. She is proud to pass her love of stories on to herchildren, and makes several trips to the library each week. Afterworking with teenagers for several years, she decided to writestories about them instead.

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