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The Decorator (A Christmas Story)



by Cyn Ley


Boxes. So many boxes.

How on earth had she accrued all this stuff?

Janelle pulled out her latest find and sighed. She was an ornament junkie—she knew that. Beautiful things caught her eye and the next thing she knew, they were coming home with her. She figured she spent most of her Christmas budget on tree ornaments.

But how could she resist? These lovely jewels of light brought her joy in a way that emeralds and diamonds never would.

She remembered all those Christmases when, as a child, she got to help decorate the family tree. When she was little, it was making chains with construction paper and paste, chains of glittery paper that wound around the tree and decorated the entrance to every room. As she got older, she was allowed to place the soft ornaments on the lower branches, and bit by bit, as she grew, her decorating moved farther and farther up the tree. Until  one night, on the evening of her crowning achievement, she was allowed to climb the ladder her father held for her and place the joyful angel her smiling mother handed her on the topmost branch with the utmost care.

Then she would climb down. Her father would put the ladder away in the garage. Her mother would make cocoa with marshmallow crème on top. The fireplace would be lit, and they would sit together on the couch, admiring their family achievement. It was a wonderful moment.

Anything that followed was anticlimactic.

It’s not that her Christmases were failures in the gifts department. Quite the opposite, really. It was just that nothing came close to the magnificence of a twelve-foot  fir tree bedecked in seasonal splendor.

Her family had a tradition. Each year, each member of the family received a Christmas ornament in addition to other sundries. The ornament could be homemade (like the pretty God’s eyes she made when she was six, using two popsicle sticks and yarn) or store bought; it didn’t matter. But it had to be meaningful in some way.

“Mom, blue is your favorite color so I made you a blue one,” her six-year old self said.

A decade later, giving her a hummingbird.  “Because hummingbirds make you happy.”

“You make me happy, honey.”

And finally, a fine porcelain angel, given to her father to keep.“Because Mom is an angel now.” Her father held her close, and wept.

There were two angels there now.

Janelle knew holiday grief, but she knew holiday joy with an intimacy so profound that she found it hard to talk about. Even the loss of her beloved parents brought happy memories, along with a few tears. To her, Christmas had never been about presents and the anticipation thereof. It had always been about beauty. There was nothing that could brighten the heart more than a tree wrapped up in its regalia with a pile of gaily  wrapped packages underneath it. She saw Christmas as if it were a photo, a captured moment of light.

It wasn’t surprising that she did so. She worked as a freelance photographer and videographer. Her work had received critical acclaim. She was in demand. That very morning, a local news station called and wanted to hire her. The project sounded interesting, and she accepted. A video  which would be split into five segments and air over the evening news five nights in a row. She was to go into the poorer neighborhoods with a reporter for a day and see how poor families celebrated the holidays. How did they manage it?

Two hours into filming, she skipped lunch and went to the nearest craft store, buying up several pairs of scissors, paste pots, glue brushes, and every roll of glittery paper (green, red, gold, and silver) she could lay her hands on. She wrote up instructions on a card and wished the recipients a Merry Christmas. Every house, every family that she and her reporter Brian visited that morning received a bag of supplies for making Christmas paper chains.

The parents were always puzzled at first. “Christmas should be fun,” Janelle explained. “I loved making these as a child.”

A smile from the recipients, and often a hug. “Merry Christmas,” they all said to each other.

“Why are you doing this, Janelle?” Brian asked. “How do you know they’ll do it?”

“I don’t,” she said. “That’s not my business. I want them and their kids to have a chance at doing something fun, making something pretty, something they can all enjoy without worrying about the expense. A chance to relax and enjoy the moment.”

That afternoon, they visited different families, bags of glittery paper and paste in hand.

It was an afternoon of delight.


            Four days later, Brian came over and they went to the community center in the neighborhood where they’d been filming. They stopped at the craft store again. She bought piles of acrylic yarn and bags of popsicle sticks. When they came in, all the children clamored to know what was in the big box Brian was carrying. Laughing, Janelle and Brian found a free table, laid out everything, and once everyone had settled down, taught the kids how to make perfect God’s eyes. Perfect because of what they represented. Perfect because they had been made by a child.

“Brian, do you have any plans tonight?” Janelle asked as they packed up to go.

“No,” he said. “After such a wonderful day, I’m pooped!”

She grinned. They were both exhausted, but happily so. “Tell you what,” she said. “Drop me off, go home, catch a nap and food, and come by around eight? I’d love it if you could help me decorate my tree.”

He understood the gift she was giving him, and was touched to his soul. “I’d loved to,” he said.


            Two people, content, sat on the couch looking at the glorious thing they had created. Cups of cocoa with marshmallow crème on top in hand, they looked into each other’s eyes and smiled.

“Merry Christmas,” Brian said softly.

“Merry Christmas.”


            On a poor street where once only darkness dwelled, paper chains sparkled like stars, and God’s eyes called down the blessings.


(copyright 2016)




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Meet Romance author Anna Belle Rose!

It’s that time of year to cozy up to a warm fire with your favorite hot cuppa, and a great read.  If you like your romances sweet and saucy, characters who are real and endearing, and a plot that will keep you turning pages, you’ll love this premier novel by Anna Belle Rose!



Anna Belle (whose avatar in Real Life is K. Francouer) shares:

The Phone Call was actually the first full novel I ever wrote, the first draft written on an old Mac computer (with the old discs), then transferred to many other computers over the decades. I would work on it for a while, then put it aside while I worked on other things like grad school, being a mom, and working. Then I’d pull it out, work on it again, and the process would repeat.

In June 2017, the most incredible email arrived, telling me that Solstice Publishing wanted to publish The Phone Call. I have to tell you, when the notice came, first I sat and looked at it for a while, the news not really settling into my brain. I finally told my husband, burst into happy tears, and ran upstairs to wake up our youngest son with the news. Then started the really amazing journey of editing it with Cyn, cover design, proofing, and promoting. Along the way, my second novel, That One Small Omission, was also picked up by Solstice, and it made it to publication more quickly. Joy of joys, on December 12th, The Phone Call was published!

Now, my third novel, More Than I Can Say, has also been acquired by Solstice, and I am in the editing process again, while I write my fourth novel and a memoir.

In the rest of my life, I live on our small family farm in the most beautiful part of Vermont. Alpacas, chickens and bees surround us, we produce much of our food, and we enjoy all that Vermont has to offer. I also have an amazing husband who will read romance novels for me, great kids, and three amazing grandchildren. Often, I sit at my spinning wheel with fiber from my alpacas, and I spin and work on novels in my head – what a great way to live!

The Phone Call:

Kat meets Alex during Christmas break, her senior year of college. After a romantic night at the opera, the attraction between them is palpable, but both know that the timing is not right. They exchange numbers and promise to stay in touch, but events out of their control leave them both waiting on a call that never comes. When fate deals them a second chance, they must trust in each other to make their relationship work. A secret from Kat’s past threatens to destroy their newfound love. Is she strong enough to tell Alex the truth? Will he understand and accept it if she does?

I hope you will join my social media world, as I can be found at:, or on Twitter at @KFAnnaBelleRose

Both of my novels are now available through Solstice Publishing, on Amazon, and through other book retailers, but The Phone Call can be found at:

Thank you, Ms. Francouer!

Happy Reading, everyone!!!

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Thunder Roars & the Lightning Strikes

Thunder & Lightning completed cover art


Welcome to the release of a brand new psychological thriller from K.C. Sprayberry. Thunder & Lightning is a new adult story suitable for mature young adult readers. It explores the dark world of false rape allegations, how they destroy lives, and leave people wondering what is right and what is wrong,

Why did you decide to approach this subject?

The decision to approach this subject wasn’t an easy one. I was bothered by the reports on social media about men being released from prison, after the woman who accused them of rape recanted many years later. I kept asking myself how a woman could make such an accusation if it wasn’t true. Did she not realize that she was about to destroy someone’s life? Didn’t she realize that eventually the truth would emerge? Mostly, how could any woman make a false rape report and get away with it? Why would they do such a thing? For every false rape report, many other women aren’t believed when they are raped. These women are creating a bigger problem than the men who actually commit rapes.

Are false rape accusations common? What has your research revealed regarding the  motives for doing so?

Only eight percent of rape accusations have been called unfounded. This means anything from a false report to uncooperative victims. Currently, the exact number is 1.7% of rape reports have been proven to be false, but there is speculation that number could be much higher. Some might say that’s not much so why make a big deal about it? I’m making a big deal out of it as a woman because even one false rape report can hurt women who have been assaulted, keep them from reporting the crime or the police from believing them easily.

Were there any real life cases to base them on, and also in how those cases were handled?

Yes, there were real life cases to base this story on. Those cases were handled as every other rape case has been handled, to include the assault kit, if the victim was cooperative. That sounds like laziness on the part of the police, but a sexual assault exam can be as traumatizing as the actual assault. Or the individuals doing this exam are sloppy. These people could be determined to make every man pay for some transgression a man did to her in the past. That transgression could have been ignoring her, putting her down, or not noticing how much she wanted him in her life.

One thing I have to say here. Most police officers involved in these cases, be they man or woman, works hard to insure the person reporting the sexual assault is telling the truth. But, if the person reporting the rape is determined to have an individual’s life destroyed for whatever reason, that woman will do everything in her power to be believed. Many of the women who make false reports have convinced themselves they were actually raped, shoving aside any qualms that their accusation will destroy someone’s life.

Do you think there is a gender bias at work here? As in, if she yells rape, everyone believes her, but if he does, no one believes him. The bias is something a certain predator seems to understand quite well.

I think more than gender bias, the false reporters are looking for attention. A rape victim gets a lot of attention from many people immediately following the actual reporting. They are treated gently, told it’s not their fault. In the “victim’s” way of thinking, this attention verifies in her mind that she was actually assaulted. Yet, in the back of her mind, there will be this nugget of information that she wasn’t actually raped. I believe it takes a certain lack of empathy to falsely report a rape. The person accused might not have done anything except ignore the alleged victim in a crowd or said something that offended her. It doesn’t take much but the consequences for the man accused are tremendous.

Anything from our conversations and beyond that you’d like to share.

You do know you have me on my soapbox now. Things like the areas on college campuses where students who are “traumatized” by real life events are training them to be dependent children rather than adults. Good grief, many people in my generation witnessed our sitting president murdered on live TV and while we were saddened, we still went on with our lives. A man is elected in a hotly contested election when everyone thought the woman would be and we had college students rioting in the streets, burning businesses, and basically throwing a massive temper tantrum without consequences. They were allowed to return to their lives, while being told it was their Constitutional right to protest. Those telling these unruly students that forgot one part of that right, as stated in the constitution – they had the right to a peaceful protest. Once these students blocked traffic, set fires, and otherwise interfered in a civil, organized march to express their feelings, they went from being peaceful protestors to criminals. Unfortunately, because the leadership of the areas where this happened decided not to force criminal prosecution, they now believe they can continue with illegal acts and call them peaceful protests when they are in fact acts of anarchy. Or a woman can decide all men are horrendous rapists and report one as her rapist.

For me, it’s a simple decision of obeying the law of the land. Therefore, a peaceful protest can include shouting, signs, and marching in the street if a permit is taken out before the protest. Anything else is illegal, and by allowing these criminal acts to continue, we are also encouraging other criminal acts to happen without consequence. This means is a guy pisses off a girl and she decides to get even by filing a criminal complaint of rape, someone’s life will be destroyed. More than likely the guy’s. Yes, we have evolved (devolved is the more correct term) to this point and it will take what we’ve lost as a country to change that – deciding our personal rights are more important than someone else’s personal rights. Until that happens, we are going to be in for a very rough ride.

Thank you for sharing this with us. It’s an important subject, wrapped up in a good read.

Thunder & Lightning blog post banner



About the story…

The gridiron rivalry between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Auburn Tigers runs deep. Auburn has a knack of ruining Georgia’s perfect season at the worst possible moment…

The same can be said about Tarit ‘Lightning’ Berenson and his twin, Taren ‘Thunder’ Berenson. Tarit’s a running back for the Dawgs; his speed is legendary. Taren prefers online gaming; her skills are awesome.

Brad Weaver seeks justice for those falsely accused. He’s attempting to make up for his brother’s false arrest and subsequent “suicide” that evidence points to being a murder. Yet, proof of someone else’s involvement is hard to come by and he’s soon running at full speed to rescue Tarit from the same fate.

It all begins at a game, a win and revenge against a tough rival for University of Georgia Bulldogs.

“Dawgs, this is for you!”

Tarit’s words set up a mighty cheer on the night of the SEC Championship football game. His rejection of a girl’s advances at a party later that night turns the last half of his senior year of college into a nightmare without end.

Taren does her best to help her twin despite a lack of support from everyone, even their own parents. Her allegiance to him never wavers, nor does she stop searching for answers no matter what she has to do.

Time is running out…

Evidence mounts against him…

Until Taren makes a startling discovery…

Is it too late to save Tarit?




“We’re in the last quarter of the SEC final game of this season.” The announcer’s voice is barely audible over the roar of the crowd. “Tarit ‘Lightning’ Berenson prepares to receive the ball. Auburn’s Tigers are all over this talented running back, ready to stop him. But nothing has stopped Tarit all season. Will tonight be when ‘Lightning’ learns he’s not invincible?”

The voices echo in my head, reminding me the night that should have been my greatest triumph. The memory is the only thing I have left of what was once a stellar college career. Since the after-game party, when I turned down her advances and walked away alone, I’ve had to justify my every action. Juliana Mullins has been treated like a queen, given all kinds of sympathy and brought horror to my family.

“What can I do to stop this?”



About the author K.C. Sprayberry

Born and raised in Southern California’s Los Angeles basin, K.C. Sprayberry spent years traveling the United States and Europe while in the Air Force before settling in northwest Georgia. A new empty nester with her husband of more than twenty years, she spends her days figuring out new ways to torment her characters and coming up with innovative tales from the South and beyond.

She’s a multi-genre author who comes up with ideas from the strangest sources. Those who know her best will tell you that nothing is safe or sacred when she is observing real life. In fact, she considers any situation she witnesses as fair game when plotting a new story.


Find out more about my books at these social media sites:


Twitter: @kcsowriter




Book Goodies:


Google +:


Manic Readers:


Readers Gazette:

Instagram: @kcsowriter








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Angels and Demons and Fun Fantasy

One of my favorite authors, Rebecca Frencl, has just released a new title in her fabulous “Fallen” series! The stories are thought provoking, and gobs of fun, frequently laugh out loud funny. Give her a try, if you haven’t already!

Ascent Reader's Favorite 2
Ascent of the Fallen: 
Free will is ever our blessing and our curse . . .
Rue has stood over human souls in judgment as a guard at Hell’s Gate for millennia. He has seen the worst humanity has to offer. In response to his harshness, Heaven’s Princes have sentenced him to life among humanity until he regains his compassion. He finds not only compassion, but love. Now he must choose: his new-found life with humans or return and share his compassion with his brother judges.
He has been dropped feet first into a game between the powers of hell and the might of heaven. He’s a pawn who must choose—temptation or righteousness, mortal love or immortal indulgence? A war is about to begin with earth as the battle ground and the souls of humanity as the counters. Rue is the first of heaven’s chosen soldiers, if only he chooses the right path.
First of the Fallen
First of the Fallen: 
The world is changing. Monotheism is rolling across the world like a wave, driving the old gods into hiding; their followers converting the world by fire and sword.

Nathanial, an angel of vengeance and fire has been appointed the lord of Hell’s Gate, the angel in charge of the judges who weigh those souls in doubt, but he’s not convinced that he is right for the job. Nathanial abandons his newly appointed post, preferring to walk the earth as a mortal instead. He meets Iya, the priestess of a dying religion and falls in love. Semiazas, another angelic judge, steps into Nathanial’s place. He revels in power and longs for recognition and the souls he judges suffer as a result. As punishment for his lack of empathy and his lust for power, the Archangels strip him of his wings and send him to earth hoping he will find his compassion. The demons Asmoday and Mammon see this as their chance to gain control of the lord of Hell’s Gate and jump in to meddle with their lives. Though they seek the same end, their demonic natures keep them at odds even as they work to ensnare the wayward angels. Two angels. Two mortal lives. Two demons vying for control of the master of Hell’s Gate and a world in flux. Heaven, hell and the mortal realms between will never be the same.

Flames of the fallen-001
Flames of the Fallen:
Ethan Hawke, entertainer, lady’s man, magician and treasure hunter extraordinaire is having a very bad day.

Tricked by a rival magician, he unwittingly tears the veil between worlds releasing an artifact of enormous power that could consume the world. Left for dead in the desert he gets one last chance at life. Tasked by the angel Naya’il to correct his wrong and redeem himself he must find a way to return the artifact to its true home – the realm of fire.

Atar Avesta, a being of power and flame, steps through the portal to retrieve the artifact. Will she succeed in her mission or will she burn the world to ashes? The immense power of this artifact also calls to the demonic lords of hell who vie against each other to claim it as their prize.

In a world beset by flame and darkness, what’s a poor mortal wizard to do?

She has written two novellas as part of The Fallen series.
Shades of the Fallen: 
Mankind is about to remember why they fear the dark… on Halloween night, when the veil between the worlds is thinnest, the powers of hell can open a gate to the mortal world. Hordes of sadistic ghosts are clawing at the gates of hell with the unslakable thirst to torment and prey upon the living.

One woman volunteers to stand alone as guardian to the human world. Asha, an Ascended mortal, will pit herself against the forces of hell in a desperate effort to banish the shadows of her own soul and make one last attempt at redemption.

Meanwhile, the child stealer demons have been let loose from their hell to torment the world. Sowing grief and despair, they search for one child in particular.

On a Halloween, when the dead return to feed on the living, can one woman stand alone against the ghosts of her past, to save one innocent’s future?

Gifts of the Fallen:
Another Christmas. Another reminder of everything he’s lost. As Thorne tries to bury his despair yet again, the Archangel Michael shows up with some much needed distraction. Muriel, the elderly Lorekeeper of the Ascended has seen her own assassination in her visions and Michael sends Thorne to keep her and her precious books safe. Can Muriel, a survivor with her own ghosts and regrets keep Thorne sane…or possibly even heal the holes in his heart?
Forthcoming: Redemption of the Fallen. Redemption follows Asha from Shades of the Fallen. You get her whole story while a serial killer stalks the streets of Chicago and the demons Asmoday and Mammon are forced to work together to try to gain political control of the city. I’m also planning on three novellas. I’m half done with the last one–Trials of the Fallen. It picks up after Flames of the Fallen. It’s Jannes’ trial from Naya’il. He and Magen are racing a pair of demons through a trapped Egyptian tomb to free Anubis and earn a feather of Truth, an artifact that can force everyone and everything to speak the truth.
All of the stories can stand alone. They make a more complex whole if you read them all, but you can read them on their own. They were written that way purposefully, rather like Sherrilyn Kenyon’s DarkHunter’s series. It’s a lot of fun playing with all theses storylines that will eventually weave together to form a whole. I also get to play with all sorts of mythologies. There’s so much fun to be had by releasing all of these creatures on an unsuspecting world!
Thank you, Rebecca!
Happy reading!