“If Mom says no, ask Grandma!” By Nicole Ciacchella

This Christmas season, I’ve decided to do something a little different. I’ve invited 24 authors to share some of their favorite things about the holidays. I hope you enjoy the 24 days of Christmas countdown with “These are a few of my Favorite Things.” Enjoy! ~Casey Hays

*Be sure to look for a Giveaway at the end of each post.*

 

“If Mom says no, ask Grandma!” 

2016 has not been an easy year for me. In the span of four months, I lost my last two surviving grandparents. While I feel fortunate to have had them in my life for as long as I did (let’s just say I have a good four decades under my belt), saying goodbye to two people who’ve formed such a cornerstone of my life hasn’t been easy.

Grandpa Ciacchella, my paternal grandpa, died when I was four, so I never really knew him. I lost Grandma Ciacchella, my paternal grandma, when I was in college. She was basically the quintessential Sicilian grandma. She was passionate, and not at all shy about sharing her feelings. When we ticked her off, she let us know in no uncertain terms. Yet she was also an incredibly loving and indulgent grandma who must have driven our parents nuts, considering how she would spoil us and coddle us when we got in trouble. At Christmastime, she would make so many cookies it was ridiculous. Even though that side of the family is large, we couldn’t possibly eat all of them. I think about her cookies every single year, the ones she called “Volkswagen” cookies—because they were rounded and had a brightly colored powdered sugar glaze—and her “S” cookies, in particular. They were my favorites, and more than once I made myself sick from gorging on them. My memories of those cookies are so vivid that I once tasted an “S” cookie in a shop and burst into tears because they tasted so much like my grandma’s cookies.

spoiledGrandma and Grandpa Luteran, my maternal grandparents, were a part of my life up until August of this year, when I lost grandma. After they retired, they moved to a house in central Michigan, surrounded by woods, almost three hours away from where the rest of us lived. To spend time with us, they hosted big family gatherings, often with my mom and all four of her siblings and their families camping out around various parts of the house. My cousins and I spent many happy weekends there as kids, building forts, running around like a colony of ants, and getting into plenty of trouble together. Before we would leave for the long drive back home to the Detroit area, Grandpa would pull out his “goodie bag” and load us up with plenty of candy for the ride home—bet my parents loved that!

This is the barest sketch of my grandparents and what they meant to me, and I include it here because my favorite Christmas memory involves all three of them.

When my brother and I were kids, we were serious about Christmas. I’m three years older than him, and even though we used to fight like cats and dogs, we were united in our determination to get up as early as humanly possible on Christmas Day, the better to tear into the gifts Santa would leave us. To achieve this, we would take turns spending Christmas Eve in one another’s bedrooms, one of us on the floor, the other in bed. We would talk excitedly late into the night, speculating about what we would get and wondering how early we dared try to pry our parents from bed. Eventually, our parents set a strict rule that we could not get them up before seven o’clock, and we were NOT to peek under the tree and spoil the surprise. This was like torture to us, so we would suffer through it together, counting the minutes until our alarm clock switched over to seven and we could demand that our parents get out of bed.

One year, all three of our grandparents stayed at our house on Christmas Eve. They always got along very well, and that Christmas morning was like a kids’ dream. They were all early risers as it was, so when my brother and I ventured out to see if our grandparents were awake, we found all three of them waiting for us. Grandma Ciacchella was making coffee with Grandma Luteran’s assistance, which was awesome, since our parents insisted we couldn’t start opening gifts until the coffee was made and they were both supplied with mugs. Grandpa Luteran was as gleeful as a kid himself. I can count on one hand the number of times I saw him in pajamas, but he was still in them that morning, what little hair he had standing on end as he urged us to go get our parents up. The problem was, it wasn’t yet seven o’clock, so my brother and I balked and said it was against the rules. Grandma Ciacchella was having none of that, and insisted that we go get them up. Grandpa and Grandma Luteran agreed, so, overjoyed, my brother and I went crashing into our parents’ room.

What could they say? Not only were their kids jumping on their bed, we were under our grandparents’ strict instructions to do so, and my mom and dad both knew there’s no saying no to your parents. It was pure bliss, ripping into our gifts while our parents sat, bleary-eyed, on the couch, and our grandparents whipped us into a frenzy.

I think about that Christmas every year. It was so obvious to me how happy my grandparents were to be with their grandkids, and how excited they were to watch us open our gifts. Plus, it’s always fun when your grandparents conspire with you against your parents—my own kids can attest to that.

That memory is precious to me, and it’s one I’ll hold dear for the rest of my life. Who knows, maybe some years from now I’ll be in that same position, and you can bet that if my grandkids hesitate to wake their parents up, I’ll be goading them into it, just as my grandparents did with me.

Know what another of my favorite things is? Books, of course! So to spread some cheer this holiday season, I’m offering up four of mine on Instafreebie. Feel free to snap them all up by clicking this link: https://www.instafreebie.com/author/nicole_ciacchella

Happy reading, and may 2017 bring you nothing but good things!

 

nicole-ciaNicole has progressed from scribbling in notebooks to banging on keyboards, but she’s never managed to stop daydreaming at inappropriate moments.
Born and raised in Michigan, Nicole lives there still with her husband and two wonderful children. When not answering the demands of her characters, Nicole can often be found curled up with a good book or spending far too many hours acting the hero in whatever video game is her obsession of the moment.
Nicole rarely meets a genre she doesn’t like, and as a result has written contemporary romcoms, fantasy fiction, fairy tale retellings, and dystopian/post-apocalyptic fiction. She’s the author of the Fairytale Collection books, the YA/NA crossover Contributor trilogy, and the Astoran Asunder series.
Website          http://www.nciacchella.com
Facebook       http://www.facebook.com/nciacchella
Twitter           www.twitter.com/nciacchella
Goodreads    http://www.goodreads.com/nciacchella

 

 

 

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“Missed him again!” by Zachary Chopchinski

This Christmas season, I’ve decided to do something a little different. I’ve invited 24 authors to share some of their favorite things about the holidays. I hope you enjoy the 24 days of Christmas countdown with “These are a few of my Favorite Things.” Enjoy! ~Casey Hays

*Be sure to look for a Giveaway at the end of each post.*

“Missed him again!” 

zach-1In today’s age, magic and hope are almost as bleak as the real world itself. People seem to lose touch with the wonders of life, being human, and the sheer awe of the world. It’s in this spirit that I think about these issues, and realize how lucky I was. I owe this luck to my grandparents on a large scale. They were the ones that made sure that no matter how things were going at home, my sister Cassie and I had a magical Christmas. 

The holidays are always a bit of a magical adventure for kids. I certainly was not the exception, and my grandmother made sure of this. Though there were many different things that we did over the years together, my family and I, the smallest one always springs to mind first (and also make me feel like a complete ditz as an adult).

Every year, we would all gather and eat a large meal that my grandmother would spend all day making. This would go on until the call for presents by the children was too much for the adults to handle. By “the children” I’m referring to my sister and I. Oh, did I mention that we always did Christmas on Christmas Eve?

Anyway, we would get the stir in us and start eyeing the bare tree. The adults knew it was time and that Santa must be on his way. Every year, right after dinner, my grandparents would tell the two of us that we needed to rush upstairs and clean up for when Santa comes. You better believe that we did. Teeth brushed, hair adjusted, potty utilized, and we were ready to go. 

Wouldn’t you know it, every year of my childhood, no matter how fast we were, we always missed the big guy. Though we always swore that this year would be the year that we caught him, we never were fast enough. I will always remember the magic of that man and never forget to wash up as quickly as I can after Christmas dinner. 

One year, I will catch him!

For a chance to win an ebook from Zach, simply comment below with your favorite Christmas song!

Zachary is a bow tie wearing, formal vest rocking, pocket watch using, sarcastic monster of a writer. Currently residing in Orlando, Florida, he spends his days working, writing, procrastinating and sweating off extremities he swore he would need in life (‘cause it’s hot in Florida). 
Zach has multiple college degrees, in the fields of criminal justice and criminology…because he wanted to catch ALL the bad guys. Now, coupled with being an author of young adult fiction he spends his days yelling at people for breaking regulatory laws. 
Zach is the author of the Gabrielle series, a young adult fantasy with a paranormal-historical-time traveling twist (try saying that five times fast).    

“Christmas in Progress” by Jaci Wheeler

This Christmas season, I’ve decided to do something a little different. I’ve invited 24 authors to share some of their favorite things about the holidays. I hope you enjoy the 24 days of Christmas countdown with “These are a few of my Favorite Things.” Enjoy! ~Casey Hays

 

 

 

Christmas In Progress

christmas-in-progressFirst off, Happy Christmas Week! I can’t believe there’s only a few days left. Christmas has always been my favorite time of year. It was much more than just a Holiday in our family. My Papa was ALL about Christmas. He made not just the day but the whole month extremely special.  In our family, Christmas consisted of night time rides in our PJs looking at Christmas lights, The Nutcracker performance, a huge Christmas dinner and of course lots of presents. Santa was also a huge deal with my Papa. Every Christmas Eve we would hear the sleigh bells, and every morning, we would find that not only had Santa come and eaten all our cookies, but we would run out to see the deer tracks on the roof. Like I said, Christmas was a BIG deal. But it wasn’t the gifts that I remember as a child; it was the Magic of Christmas. Something about this month brings joy and giving. I don’t remember a single gift in all the memories I have of my family. It’s outings together that always made Christmas for me.

Fast forward to adulthood and now I have a family of my own and all these amazing traditions to uphold. The only problem is my sweet family is so much different than we were. Both of my kids are autistic, and my son has other special needs as well. They are the most amazing kids ever but not without limitations. My kids have a very hard time with crowds or groups of people. Any more than one or two people at a time can send them overboard. So, the huge family Christmas that has always been a staple in my life is terrifying for them. The idea of Santa and reindeer is completely lost on them. They’ve always hated gifts, like HATE them. Anything wrapped is a total trigger for my kids. I’m not sure if it’s the wrapping itself or the idea that they don’t know what’s inside that is so upsetting but gifts are just really not fun for them…or us.

So here we are in my favorite time of year with nothing but meltdowns and misery. The first few years we ended up leaving after only an hour or two, and I would feel so discouraged. Every year, we hoped it’d be better, but each year was the same until one year both kids came down with a really bad stomach flu, and we had to cancel Christmas last minute. We had no gifts, no food, not even a tree because everything was at my mom’s. We ran out to Walgreens, the only place that’s open on Christmas, and grabbed some pizza rolls, tater tots and chips. Then we rented some movies from the Redbox and spent the entire day snuggled in bed watching movies while my husband and I ate junk food. It was such a special time because my kids don’t like touch, they don’t like being in close proximity of each other, yet we all cuddled watching movies all day. It was the best gift I could have gotten.

I learned a valuable lesson that day. Christmas isn’t about trying to keep the traditions of your childhood. It’s about creating new ones that work for where you are at in life now. The magic of Christmas is still there. It’s not in the gifts or music or any other thing; it’s just being there. It’s about family and taking a few moments of calm to appreciate and give thanks. Our Christmases these days look much different. My little ones have made so much progress, and we take each year as it comes. This year picking out a tree was just way too much for them and was a horrible meltdown but my daughter spent an hour decorating it with bows. I cried because this was the first thing that resembled my traditional Christmas, and it brought her joy.

This year is all about progress for us. We have a tree with actual decorations on it, we take nightly walks past the Christmas lights, and the kids find a new unwrapped gift each week somewhere in the house. It works for us, and I feel the magic in it. So, have a cup of cider and may you find the magic in the season.

giveawayTo enter my Giveaway for a chance to win a set of my e-books, simply comment below with your favorite holiday breakfast! Mine? French Toast! Yum!

jaciJaci Wheeler lives in the Central Valley of California with her husband and two precious kids. Her love of literature began in Jr. High when she was introduced to Lowis Lowry’s books. Since then she has had a passion for writing Young Adult books, and creating strong female leads. When she’s not writing, she is advocating for Autism Awareness and involved in the deaf community. Her favorite things to do are play with her children, craft with her friends, sleep while her husband watches movies and indulge in her favorite addictions: Coffee, candy and shoes.
Find out more about Jaci at:

https://www.amazon.com/Jaci-Wheeler/e/B00L74P440/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2?qid=1482171732&sr=1-2

https://www.instagram.com/jaciwheeler1/

 

“It’s Not Always About the Tree” by SF Benson

This Christmas season, I’ve decided to do something a little different. I’ve invited 24 authors to share some of their favorite things about the holidays. I hope you enjoy the 24 days of Christmas countdown with “These are a few of my Favorite Things.” Enjoy! ~Casey Hays

 

 

 

“It’s Not Always About the Tree”

chrlie-brown-treeI have two memories that stand out. The first one is the year my husband and I decided not to go home for the holiday. We were newly married and living in Atlanta. Because we hadn’t intended to stay in town we purchased everything at the last minute—our meal, decorations, and even a Charlie Brown-sized tree. We swore it would be the last time we celebrated Christmas away from family. At the time, we had no idea that spending it with our loved ones in Michigan wouldn’t always be possible.

After a few years, we added animals and a daughter to our lives. We attempted to go back to Michigan for Christmas each year, but that became expensive and too hectic. One of the best memories I have is the family gathered in the living room of the home we were buying. We had a large tree and so many presents under it. The dogs walked around looking for their gifts and our daughter was busy playing. It was the first year I had gone all out, but it wasn’t the number of presents or even the dinner that made my day. It was watching the look on my daughter’s face and how happy the three of us were.

Time has passed and we haven’t always had a tree or even gifts. But what has never changed is the fact that the three of us are together. My daughter now helps prepare dinner for the holidays which is a great joy.

I know the year is coming when we’ll be back to just the two of us. So, I cherish these years that our daughter is able to be with us and isn’t distracted by obligations to a basketball team or a special someone in her life.

This Christmas I can be very thankful that I’ve accomplished my dream of being a published author with not one book but two books and three short stories included in anthologies.

sfSF Benson, a Michigan native, resides in Georgia with her husband and daughter. She has always wanted to be a writer, but she’s had a variety of positions ‘feeding’ her creative brain. SF is an avid bookworm who appreciates a well-written book regardless of genre. She writes stories that explore ‘what if’. Her stories tend to feature strong, diverse protagonists in dystopian, science fiction or paranormal worlds.
For more information, visit her site at: http://authorsfbenson.com/
 
 

Buy Links for My Books

Regress
 
Rescue
 
Release is coming January 2017!
 
Anthology Buy Links

“The Nearly-Jilted Quilt” by Sarah Negovetich

This Christmas season, I’ve decided to do something a little different. I’ve invited 24 authors to share some of their favorite things about the holidays. I hope you enjoy the 24 days of Christmas countdown with “These are a few of my Favorite Things.” Enjoy! ~Casey Hays

 

 

 

“The Nearly-Jilted Quilt” 

quiltI absolutely love Christmas and my favorite part about it is giving gifts, but…

I suck at it.

Yep, you heard it here first. I am complete rubbish at giving gifts.

No matter how hard I think about it or how well I know a person, I can never figure out just the right gift to give them. Then I see what other people chose and wonder why I didn’t think of that. Truly, my gift giving skills are the equivalent of getting a toaster for your birthday.

Except one year I nailed it.

And not just in a ‘oh what a great idea’ kind of way. I really hit it out of the park with a handmade t-shirt quilt for one of my sisters. She told my mom to toss a huge box of her high school t-shirts, but I snatched them up and made her a quilt that was a sight to behold.

It took me months to finish it, but the completed quilt was perfect.

I couldn’t wait for her to open it. Except it almost didn’t happen.

The day I was set to fly home, a blizzard hit Cincinnati. Not a snowstorm. A blizzard. The kind that shuts down an entire city, including the airport. My 8am flight didn’t leave until 11pm. Fifteen hours later than scheduled, a skeleton crew hustled us to Ohio in a brief storm break.

I got to Ohio in one piece. My luggage didn’t arrive. The luggage that contained all my Christmas presents, including an irreplaceable quilt.

The airline was sympathetic, but given the weather, they had no idea when or if my luggage would arrive. I grabbed a pack of underwear and a toothbrush from Walmart and hoped for the best.

For three days I sweated it out, until Christmas morning came. I got a call that my bag was in. We “rushed” to the airport. And by rushed, I mean we crawled at a snail’s pace for a 90 minute trip that would normally take us 30.

At the airport, bags were stacked everywhere. Well, almost everywhere.

Where there wasn’t a bag, there were people. People lounging on benches, filling the restaurants, and camped out on the floor. People who would be spending their Christmas day at the airport instead of with their family and loved ones.

Long story short, I got my bag, quilt intact and my sister loved it.

But the best part of that Christmas wasn’t finally nailing my gift giving. It was spending it surrounded by my family. Not everyone is that lucky, and that Christmas I saw the faces of those who wouldn’t be making it home.

No matter how many wonderful gifts I receive or how many awful gifts I give, my favorite part of Christmas will always be spending it with my family.

 

sarah-nSarah Negovetich knows you don’t know how to pronounce her name and she’s okay with that.

Her first love is Young Adult novels, because at seventeen the world is your oyster. Only oysters are slimy and more than a little salty; it’s accurate if not exactly motivational. We should come up with a better cliché.

Sarah divides her time between writing YA books that her husband won’t read and raising two beautiful little girls. Her life’s goal is to be only a mildly embarrassing mom when her kids hit their teens.

Find out more about Sarah here:
Sarah Negovetich
Author, Agent, & Marketing Lady
www.sarahnegovetich.com
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RITE OF REJECTION (December, 2014)

RITE OF REVELATION (December, 2015)
RITE OF REDEMPTION (June, 2016)

 

“Find Joy. Be Joy. Spread Joy.” by Caroline A. Gill

This Christmas season, I’ve decided to do something a little different. I’ve invited 24 authors to share some of their favorite things about the holidays. I hope you enjoy the 24 days of Christmas countdown with “These are a few of my Favorite Things.” Enjoy! ~Casey Hays

*Be sure to look for a Giveaway at the end of each post.*

 

“Find Joy. Be Joy. Spread Joy.” @writesuntildawn

washOne word: Optimism. Ridiculous, Enthusiastic, Get-out-of-Bed and Go-Even-When-Life-Sucks attitude. The one that you can only harness if you start out by sheer will faking it. That same glow that surrounds people who are in the midst of trials, the mark of their inner joy.

No one is truly happy. No one is completely free. We live in a frail, fragile mortal world.

These things hold us to each other, these heavy responsibilities and duties, rules, and manners, they are the ropes that bind us down or the self-same ropes that pull our hearts up when guided by steady hands.

Optimism is not based on wealth, health, society, or gender. It is literally the product of mankind’s search for meaning in a corrupt world. Optimism is the bright light of hope that shines across the gray and confusion. When you see someone freely sharing cheer and kindness, hope and joy– you can’t help falling in love with them a little bit.

When the season’s cold and festive holiday atmosphere leaves you isolated, alone, displaced in the middle of a crowd, it’s in those darkest moments that optimism’s light shines the brightest. In the simple smile, in a moment of compassion, in one person full of hope that can ignite a room, that can change a human heart.

Here is the real secret: Optimists do not measure the cup by the water in it. They don’t care if it’s half-full or half-empty. They are grateful for the cup and want you to drink with them. They don’t expect life to be easy. They embrace the temptations, the trials, the pain, the sorrow because those things teach patience.

What’s the point? You ask. Why expend the energy? Endurance. That is the end product of Hope and Optimism. The understanding that like every other season in life, this storm will also pass eventually. But that ducking your head down and shouldering through isn’t the only way to weather a storm. Isolating and withdrawing are the easy ways to push through the muck of life….  But optimists choose to dance in the mud, in the rain, with or without umbrellas.

There is something to be said in the darkest of places for throwing off the duties that chain us and taking a chance. Embracing vulnerability. Expecting to look foolish and choosing not to care anyway. Throwing caution to the wind and dancing like no one’s watching. Because no one is– Except the other brave souls who are also looking with wonder at the power and might of the raging storm and jumping in every rain puddle they can find.

Admit it: the best part about being in the midst of a flood is driving fast enough through the puddles that the water sprays into the air under your tires. You marvel at the sheer force of nature that surrounds you. And realize that you are that very same force.

Find joy. Be joy. Spread joy. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

 

Unusual stories attract me, ones in which the reader cannot easily see the ending or most of the journey. carolineVisiting Rome during university studies, I found a simple truth sitting on buses, traveling all over the ancient city: the joy is in the Journey, in the people I meet, not in the destination. So, I write for you. I write for sanity. I write for chocolate and really good pizza.

I’m from a little town in southern California called Coronado. I grew up surrounded with waves, beaches, and the Navy. A daughter and grand daughter of navy pilots, the wonder of flight has always been strong in my heart. Attending UCLA BFA and Northern Illinois University MFA, MA, I learned so much of the wisdom of creative people. There have been so many mentors, so many friends.

A Home Manager, unpaid driver, cook, and crayon consultant, I started writing again when I was 36. I wrote a thousand pages before I started on Flying Away. Before Iolani Bearse took over a bit of my world. And then Valen Kildrake showed up. And Adelinde. And Rora. And Kyrie, and Cheesie. They just keep knocking on the door of my imagination, and I keep answering that summons.

Find out more about Caroline at:
http://www.authorcarolineagill.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Author-Caroline-A-Gill-545423068830114/

“The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” by TK Carter

This Christmas season, I’ve decided to do something a little different. I’ve invited 24 authors to share some of their favorite things about the holidays. I hope you enjoy the 24 days of Christmas countdown with “These are a few of my Favorite Things.” Enjoy! ~Casey Hays

 

“The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

christmas-ornamentChristmas – just that one word holds a multitude of meanings and brings a flood of emotions in two syllables. Some people squeal with delight; others throw their heads in their hands and groan, and most giggle like children with excitement while a silent minority just wait for this season to pass.

A blanket of anticipation and magical bliss drapes across the shoulders of the world, and the spirit of joy wraps around the body of Christians and non-believers alike. Colorful lights, silver bows, trees adorned in collections of ornaments and memories from years gone by, soft music, and the smell of Christmas goodies are only a few of the traditions that I look forward to during this holiday season. For one month out of the year, we get a temporary reprieve from life already in progress and get a chance to experience the season of joy. Retailers go to great lengths to create an air of happiness and warmth in their stores; people look at each other a little longer, smile a little bigger, and hug a little tighter. Communities pull together to bless underprivileged children and families with gifts and meals they may otherwise not have had.

This can also be the toughest, most stressful month of the year as parents struggle with weighing price tags against the hope-filled eyes of their children and wonder how they’re ever going to pull this off. Families celebrating the season with one empty chair left by a loved one who died or left the family home try to find a way to make the season normal when it feels so foreign to even celebrate. Hearts are tugged a little harder during this season of joy.

But there is so much more than the secular traditions in this holiday season. The foundation of the Christmas season came to us in the form of a miracle baby named Jesus – a baby conceived by a normal woman who submitted herself to the will of God, who was trusted and empowered by God on the throne to carry and raise the child who would become the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. Scriptures from the Old Testament were fulfilled with the virgin-birth of Jesus, and it was undeniable that God’s word was true, and He was faithful to His people. Everything prophesied about Jesus’s birth manifested on that night in Bethlehem. Our Savior was born. That’s the majestic power and proof of God’s unfailing love for His children. That’s the gift that keeps on giving as day after day, we continue to have His love poured over us. That’s the Spirit that manifests as we remove our life’s blinders and see with His eyes what He sees year-round. Love, compassion, joy, peace – none of these things are brought on by twinkling lights and nostalgic carols; it’s His Spirit touching us in ways we may not allow during other times of the year.

Perhaps the best gift of all is knowing we don’t have to wait for one month out of the year to experience God on that level. His gifts, His promises, His mercies are available to us every day, every hour, every minute, and His love for us is unending no matter what.

 

tami-headshotTK Carter is a Southern born-and-bred middle child with all the complexes that accompany this birth order. Tami, as she is casually known, was raised in mid-Missouri and now lives in Centralia. She has two children, two dogs, a mortgage, and a dream. She loves the color red, anything shiny, and has an unnatural love for peanut butter Snickers, Diet Coke, and Dubsmash mixed with a bitter relationship with workouts, a Fitbit, and weight loss. To accommodate the mood swings, she writes contemporary humorous women’s fiction, dramatic fiction, and dystopian suspense novels.
In response to her chaotic, single life as a divorced mother and head of household, she started a hilarious blog called My Ms. Adventures where she holds nothing back as she tells exactly what it’s like to be her.
She loves her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and thanks God every day that in her darkest times, He never gave up on her.
For a complete list of her work, visit tkcarter-author.com