“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:





“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

Release is coming January 2017!
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“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
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RITE OF REJECTION (December, 2014)

RITE OF REVELATION (December, 2015)


“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:

“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


“Granny and Grandpa’s House” by Mary Shotwell

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 GIVEWAY at the end of each segment.*

“Granny and Grandpa’s House”

mary-1I wasn’t quite sure what to write about. What could I possibly NOT like about Christmas? I love the Christmas season. Admittedly, every year I begin listening to Christmas music a little earlier than the previous. I believe I started sometime in August this year. Only instrumental though. That’s how I justify it.

When Casey was generous enough to think of me to contribute an article, I kept changing my mind on my topic. However, my grandmother passed away a few weeks ago, and my younger brother and I stayed up late one night discussing our memories of “Granny and Grandpa’s house.”

On Christmas Eve, my family and I would attend 4 o’clock Mass. I enjoyed the music and Christmas spirit, but couldn’t wait to get to Granny’s house. The winding fifty-minute drive through rural Ohio/Pennsylvania made it all the more special. The nine of us packed into our van, and just at that point we were aching to get out, we would arrive in Ambridge, PA—turn left up the hill after the sign with the duck, then right on the second street to the white house on the right. Looking back on the house as an adult, it was incredibly small for how many people fit in there during the holidays.

We would walk on the pebbled sidewalk around the back, down the hill to the basement door. We were always the last family to arrive, and everyone would cheer when we stepped through the door. Grandpa had an obsession with tropical birds, and a bird chirp would sound off whenever the door opened. The basement had a huge white basin sink to the left. The floor was carpeted with the thinnest blue carpet that couldn’t have had carpet padding, and if I’m remembering correctly, the floor had a slope to it as if a drain were placed in the middle of the room. A bench fit under the stairway to the rest of the house above (my spot to open gifts), and Grandpa’s workshop sat along the other half of the stairs.

The room was taken up mostly by a long table set up for the feast. The plates were the fanciest I’d eat on all year. The blue design on the white china somehow made the food taste better. My grandfather was Italian, and hence our Christmas Eve feast was one of seven fishes and homemade ravioli. The Italian tradition is seven fishes (I think) but I’m not quite sure we hit that number. There was fried fish, shrimp, calamari (?; I think I was too little to realize if this was true or not), and smelts. I would be so hungry during that Mass and drive, but I swear it only took five bites of food to be full. But there was always room for the M & M’s, Hershey kisses, and homemade Christmas cookies—pizzelles, door knockers, and you know, any of those rock hard Italian cookies that beg to be eaten with coffee.

After dinner we’d open presents, and as a kid, that was my favorite part. As I grew older, I appreciated the dinner more and more. Both my grandparents are no longer with us. I’ll always miss the giant sink, the blue carpet, the fancy plates, the smell of the fish and ravioli, and the cheerful greeting mixed with the bird chirp. I am grateful my mother has carried on the Italian Christmas Eve tradition, for it is my favorite part of the Christmas season. I hope it brings its own set of warm memories for my children.

Click the Rafflecopter button to enter Mary’s Giveaway!


mary-headshotMary grew up in northeast Ohio, so it was only natural for her to pursue a degree in marine biology. After studying dolphin behavior and estimating great white shark populations, she earned her Ph.D. in Biostatistics in Charleston, South Carolina. It was there, during the arduous dissertation process, where she had the idea to write a book.
With Alice and the crazy characters from Wonderland staring her down from her bedroom poster, Mary envisioned what that fantasy realm would look like in current day. Creative writing served as a natural escape from technical writing, wedding planning, pregnancy, and job hunting.
Mary is excited to debut Weariland (Merge Publishing, 2016), a novel introducing Lason Davies, a teenager who learns about her family’s past in a world once called Wonderland. She currently resides in Tennessee with her husband and three children.

Find out more about Mary at:



“Celebrating Us Again” by Courtney Ruggles

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 GIVEWAY at the end of each segment.*


“Celebrating Us Again”

ugly-sweater-gingerbreadHow can I pick one of my favorite things about Christmas? From my decorations, which make me feel like I’m partially living in a winter cottage on the North Pole, to watching my son run around in his awesome Yeti pajamas, moving that ridiculous elf around and watching my baby boy believe in its magic, driving around and looking at the neighborhood decorated in beautiful twinkling lights, the family gatherings, the food, the time together, and the giving. I could go on and on about all the things I love about this season, the anticipation building and the excitement to watch my son on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning after he realizes Santa secretly came to visit. This is going to be such a fun year for my family and I can’t wait.


But I want to focus on another family of mine in this post. This part of my family isn’t connected by blood and none of us look alike, yet some of us have been together since we were young. My husband and I built our house three years ago, and we just hosted our third annual Ugly Christmas Sweater Party. In those three years, it has been a tradition that feels it’s always been embedded for us and our friends. We drop our kids (some with a lot of hair and slobber and others who talk and walk like little elves) off with their babysitters and gather in our tackiest sweaters, laughing at each other’s attire as we greet one another. We hug and quickly catch up, some of us not seeing each other for months, others just a few days. We sit around eating delicious dips, laughing about old times in college and enlightening those who weren’t with us almost a decade ago about how amazing we were as college students. We laugh about old stories and the shenanigans we used to pull in the old haunted house that once stood across the street and the ridiculous beer pong games, remembering our old selves before we matured, before we married and willingly signed away to mortgages and started raising kids, both those who slobber too much and the ones that look like elves.

We sit around and partake in the hilarity of the gag gift passing game, tears streaming courtneydown our faces from the obscene and completely inappropriate gifts (except mine, I made coal out of rice krispie treats. I can’t mention the others). And I love every minute of it. Because here is my family whom I don’t see every day, nor do I talk to these people every day. But one of them was one of my first friends when I moved to this college town, who introduced me to my husband, and has been one of my best friends for the last decade. Two of my best girlfriends cry-laugh with me, reminding me of all our crazy stories and the love we have for each other. I was there the night two of my friends started dating and are now engaged, and I’m taking their engagement and wedding photos. One of the other guys is pretty much a second uncle to my son, and another one I met before my husband and cried at our wedding, “Everything is going to change, isn’t it?” (He was drunk, but still freaking hilarious. We adopted him as our man-child). We assured him it wouldn’t.

But the thing is, it did. Everything changed. We grew up as much as we didn’t want to, we matured despite our resistance. We’ve watched each other get married, get divorced, lose friends, gain friends, have children, move away, and move back. And every year we gather together in ridiculous outfits celebrating a holiday. But really, we’re celebrating us again and that’s one of the things I adore of this season. Celebrating with a family I chose and will continue to choose over and over again. And will always make lumps of tasty coal for.

In the holiday spirit, I want to give you all the award-winning beginning to The Domicile Series, The Sixth Domicile. All you have to do is click on the link and sign up for my newsletter for your free copy: https://www.instafreebie.com/free/X9Rmw

Happy Holidays!!!

courtney-rugglesCourtney’s love for writing dates back to short stories on a word processor (What?? Word processor with floppy disks?). Oh yes, she literally had a card filing case full of floppy disks. Now she continues her writing (she upgraded to a laptop) while living in Southern Ohio with her husband and son.

Although Courtney has always lived in Ohio, sometimes closer to the Ohio River and sometimes further away, she dreams of the mountain ranges out west and the sandy Florida beaches. She married the man of her dreams and had a beautiful blond haired blue eyed boy. Before she sought publication for her first book The Sixth Domicile: Book One of the Domicile Series, Courtney worked as a social worker in a mental health agency where she counseled and provided therapy. After she left full time work, she taught social sciences at a local university and began a photography business. The “extra” time gave her the ability to focus on writing again.

Courtney’s background in social work fuels the grit in her stories. When Courtney isn’t writing her next book, you can find her doing homework (drag) and sipping flavored coffee, reading young adult and new adult books (because social work text books are only so interesting), or daydreaming about all the future beach houses she intends to buy.

Find Courtney’s complete series here: https://www.amazon.com/Courtney-Ruggles/e/B0189ANC2K/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1481771722&sr=1-2-ent