Monday, December 22, 2014

Advent Calender - Day 22

Photo by Kovalevska licensed thru Shutterstock
"Mistletoe" by Walter de la Mare

Sitting under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
One last candle burning low,
All the sleepy dancers gone,
Just one candle burning on,
Shadows lurking everywhere:
Some one came, and kissed me there.
Tired I was; my head would go
Nodding under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
No footsteps came, no voice, but only,
Just as I sat there, sleepy, lonely,
Stooped in the still and shadowy air
Lips unseen - and kissed me there.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Advent Calendar Day 21 - EXCERPT

Today's final excerpt is from The Hell You Say, which is not necessarily what one thinks of as a Christmas romance. :-)  I mean...devil worshippers, for one thing. But still, the holidays are central to this story.

BLURB:
Adrien English isn't really a detective, he's a bookseller and
mystery writer who has a knack for attracting real life mischief and
mayhem -- much to the displeasure of his sexy, sometimes-boyfriend,
closeted homicide detective Jake Riordan.
When bookstore assistant Angus falls afoul of a Satanic cult, Adrien
falls afoul of Jake -- but despite the fact that his amateur
sleuthing is playing hell with his love life, Adrien can't help but
delving into this case of kooks, cults, devil worship, and human
sacrifice.




EXCERPT:
Bam! Bam! Bam!

I nearly dropped the can of salmon I was opening for my supper.

The shop was locked for the evening. That meant my visitor was probably one of two people -- and that didn’t sound like Velvet’s knock.

I set the can on the counter, wiped the fish oil off my hands. I opened the door. Sure enough, Jake stood there. Clearly this wasn’t a social call.

“What the hell do you think you’re playing at?” he said, brushing past me.

I was pretty sure he was not referring to the missing food groups in my evening repast. “Oh, come on,” I said. “Guy was just helping me --”

“Yeah, I know what that faggot Snowden is helping you with. What part of stay the fuck out of it don’t you understand?”

“This doesn’t have anything to do with your investigation,” I said angrily. Which was not true, although as far as I knew, Peter Verlane had not materialized on the cops’ radar so far, so technically I was not trespassing on Jake’s turf.

That’s what I told myself, but it didn’t fly as well with Jake.

“You’re not that stupid,” he said. “Then again, maybe you are. I go to the trouble of lying -- of falsifying police reports -- to keep you out of this shit, and you turn right around and walk back into it.”

My heart slipped into heavy, slow punches against my rib cage. “Give me a break,” I said. “You didn’t lie to protect me. You lied to protect yourself. You never asked me what I wanted. And I sure as hell never made you any promises about what I would or wouldn’t do.”

His finger jabbed the air, punctuating his words. “Stay. Out. Of. It. Or this time, bad heart or not, I will throw your ass in jail.”

“No, you won’t,” I said. “You wouldn’t want to risk anyone discovering the connection between us.”

His face changed, grew ugly, dangerous. “Are you threatening me?”

I hadn’t been, but like an ember in dry grass, a self-destructive impulse flicked to life in my mind.

“My existence threatens you.”

He shoved me back, hard. I crashed into the hall table, knocking it over, smashing the jar of old marbles I had collected. Glass balls skipped and bounced along the corridor. I landed on my back, my head banging down on the hardwood floor.

I lay there for a second, blinking up at the lighting fixture, taking in the years of dust and dead moths gathered in the etched-glass globe. The silence that followed was more startling than the collision of me and the table and the floor. I heard Jake’s harsh breathing and a marble rolling away down the hall -- which seemed pretty damned appropriate, since I’d apparently lost all of mine.

He bent over me. Probably safer to stay submissively on my back, but I got up fast, knocking his hands away. It was a protective instinct and maybe not a wise one. I hadn’t had time to inventory what, if any real damage, I’d sustained.

Weirdly, neither of us spoke. There was plenty to say, but no words.

Jake stared at me. In his eyes, I read the urge to knock me down again, to punch, to kick, to silence, to destroy. His hands were clenched by his side. I felt light-headed with anger and outrage -- and yeah, maybe a little fear. He could probably kill me by accident. My heart was tripping in my throat.

I was afraid if I tried to speak I would cry. From rage.

He swallowed once, dryly. He looked sick.

“I won’t tell you again. Stay out of it.”

He went, shutting the door quietly behind him
 
 
 
****
Ah...those holiday memories! Jake and Adrien have a Christmas coda right here.

Today's giveaway is the full set of Adrien English audio books to one lucky listener/commenter. You can also gift this set to someone else.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Advent Calender - Day 20

Today is something simple. A poem and a couple of pictures. The poem is "In Excelsis"  by Amy Lowell. We have been focused on Christmas romance over the past few days and somehow this spoke to me. The photos are by Kati Molin and Morgan Studio (licensed thru Shutterstock).



You -- you --
Your shadow is sunlight on a plate of silver;
Your footsteps, the seeding-place of lilies;
Your hands moving, a chime of bells across a windless air.
The movement of your hands is the long, golden running of light from a rising sun;
It is the hopping of birds upon a garden-path.
As the perfume of jonquils, you come forth in the morning.
Young horses are not more sudden than your thoughts,
Your words are bees about a pear-tree,
Your fancies are the gold-and-black striped wasps buzzing among red apples.
I drink your lips,
I eat the whiteness of your hands and feet.
My mouth is open,
As a new jar I am empty and open.
Like white water are you who fill the cup of my mouth,
Like a brook of water thronged with lilies.
You are frozen as the clouds,
You are far and sweet as the high clouds.
I dare to reach to you,
I dare to touch the rim of your brightness.
I leap beyond the winds,
I cry and shout,
For my throat is keen as is a sword
Sharpened on a hone of ivory.
My throat sings the joy of my eyes,
The rushing gladness of my love.
How has the rainbow fallen upon my heart?
How have I snared the seas to lie in my fingers
And caught the sky to be a cover for my head? How have you come to dwell with me,
Compassing me with the four circles of your mystic lightness,
So that I say "Glory! Glory!" and bow before you
As to a shrine?
Do I tease myself that morning is morning and a day after?
Do I think the air is a condescension,
The earth a politeness,
Heaven a boon deserving thanks?
So you -- air -- earth -- heaven --
I do not thank you,
I take you,
I live.
And those things which I say in consequence
Are rubies mortised in a gate of stone.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Advent Calendar - Day 19 EXCERPT


From LONE STAR, part of the Men Under the Mistletoe holiday anthology.

Blurb:

Growing up in rural Texas, Mitchell Evans's ambition to be a dancer made him a target. Though he found success in New York City, Mitch is at a crossroads, and heads home for the first time in twelve years to figure things out. When what appears to be a reindeer jumps out in front of his car, he drives off the road and into the path of the one man he hoped to avoid.

The last person Texas Ranger Web Eisley expects to see four days before Christmas is his first love. He hasn't seen Mitch since they quarreled over coming out to their friends and family years ago. Though he's not in the closet now, Web has worked hard for the respect of his fellow officers, but he still regrets the loss of Mitch in his life. And his bed.

The attraction between them is as strong as ever, and it doesn't take long for the men to pick up where they left off. But is love enough to keep Mitch in town in the New Year?



 EXCERPT:

A lone star blazed in the midnight blue sky.

It looked like the Christmas star, which was appropriate seeing that it was four days till the holiday, but with Mitch’s luck it was more likely a crashing jet plane headed straight for him.

Incoming.

Yeah, that would be about right. On the bright side it would spare him driving any more miles down this long, dull stretch of memory lane. Texas looked only minimally better at night than it did in the day. Nothing but rugged, ragged landscape. Igneous hills of limestone and red rock as far as the eye could see—which wasn’t far, given the darkness beyond the sweep of the rental car headlights.

Mitch rubbed his bleary eyes. This was more driving than he’d done in years. He didn’t even own a car anymore. New York had decent public transportation and when Mitch wasn’t working he was—well, he was always working, so problem solved.

Prickly pear, yucca, and juniper bushes cast tortured shadows across the faded ribbon of highway. A mighty lonesome stretch of country, as they’d say out here. Cemeteries were more plentiful than towns. He wasn’t entirely alone though. Outside of Fredericksburg a pair of headlights had fallen in behind him and they continued to meander lazily along a few miles back. Some cowboy moseying on home, though not in any hurry to get there.

That made two of them.

It was six months since Mitch had got the word his old man had keeled over and he’d have happily waited another six months—or six years—before dealing with what his father’s lawyer euphemistically called “the estate.” But after the blowup with Innis, Mitch had desperately needed time and space. And one thing Texas had in plenty was space.

Speaking of space, the star twinkling and beaming up ahead could have fallen right out of the state flag. It was the biggest star in a night field of stars. A beacon burning in the night. Mitch blinked tiredly at it. He hadn’t slept on the plane, hadn’t slept in nearly forty-eight hours. Not since he’d walked into his dressing room to catch Innis with his pants down. Not a euphemism, unfortunately. Innis’s excuse —


Up ahead Mitch caught movement in the middle of the road. Headlights picked out the gleam of eyes. A deer. A very large deer with a huge rack of antlers. An eighteen point—no, not a deer. Mitch’s eyes widened. A caribou. In Texas?

What the hell?

A caribou…in Texas…wearing a red leather harness with bells?

A reindeer?

He was asleep. He had fallen asleep driving.

Mitch wrenched the wheel. The tires skidded off the road onto the rocky shoulder. He tried to correct but over-steered. Instinctively, he slammed on the brakes, the car spun out. It did a wild fouetté across the highway, tipped over the side, and rolled once. The airbag exploded from the dashboard. The car landed upside down in the sand and gravel beneath the embankment.

Dust and powder from the airbag filled the interior. The engine died as the car rocked finally to a stop. The passenger door had flown open. Mitch could smell oil and antifreeze and cornstarch and singed juniper. The airbag hissed as it deflated. Or maybe that was the radiator leaking. Or the sound of four tires simultaneously going flat.

“What was that?” He wiped the airbag talc residue from his face. His eyes and skin stung.

It had happened so fast. So fast there hadn’t even been time to be afraid. And at the same time it had seemed to occur in slow motion. Like watching a film or seeing it happen to someone else. Really weird. Maybe that out-of-body sensation was shock.

In movies, of course, flipped cars promptly burst into flames. That didn’t seem to be happening here, which was good news. He took quick stock.

Neck and shoulders felt wrenched. No surprise. The web of seatbelts was cutting into his chest and hips. Other than that, he seemed to be unhurt. Shaken, bruised, but nothing serious. He could safely move without risking further injury; and probably the sooner, the better.

Reaching around, Mitch fumbled with the clip, and unlatched his seatbelt. He wriggled free of the shoulder strap, landing awkwardly on the ceiling interior. He crawled under the gear box and beneath the passenger side, scrambling out the door.

The dry, cold desert air was a jolt. Mitch drew in a deep lungful and it tasted as sweet, as fresh as his first ever breath. He was alive. Maybe his luck wasn’t as bad as he’d been thinking.

Climbing to his feet, he stumbled up the embankment to the highway. He was relieved to see the vehicle that had been tagging along behind him for the last thirty miles pulling to the shoulder, tires crunching gravel. Mitch waited in the glare of the headlights.

The door of the large white SUV swung open and Mitch glimpsed official insignia. Public Works? Parks and Wildlife? Highway Patrol?

But no, the man coming toward him wore a cowboy hat and a leather coat with a sheepskin collar. The headlights illumined his tall, rangy silhouette; it was too dark to see his features. He moved well, though. He moved like a cowboy—a real cowboy, not the movie kind—a long, easy stride with the little swing to it.

“Howdy, friend.” The cowboy had a deep, unhurried voice shaded by that familiar homegrown accent. “You need an ambulance?”

“I’m okay. I think my car’s a goner, though. Did you see what happened?” Mitch hugged his arms to try and stop his shaking. The temperature couldn’t be much above the low thirties and his jacket was somewhere in the wreck below.

“I saw you swerve and then lose control.” The cowboy was already sidestepping down the embankment to get to the crashed sports car. “Was there anyone else in the vehicle with you, sir?”

Not Water and Power, by the look of it. But not regular police. Even in Texas the regular police didn’t swagger around in jeans and boots and cowboy hats. Mitch might have forgotten one or two things about the Lone Star State, but not that much. Unless he was very much mistaken, it looked like he’d snagged the attention of a real life Texas Ranger.

“No. No one. I’m by myself.”

The cowboy wasn’t taking his word for it. He reached the flipped car and knelt, checking the interior. He rose and went around to the other side. Mitch lost sight of him for a moment or two. When the cowboy returned to view he had the rental car keys.

He scaled the ascent in a couple of long strides and returned to his own vehicle. The dome light flashed on and Mitch could see him speaking over the radio. He hugged himself tighter, waiting. He should have known what a mistake this trip would be.

When the cowboy had finished his report he ducked out of the cab and started back toward Mitch. “You have your license with you, sir?”

“Yes.” Mitch added – because he felt he had to say something and the cowboy didn’t seem to be the chatty type, “Did you see the deer?”

“The deer? Is that the story? You were avoidin’ a deer?”

The story? Mitch glanced at the empty road. “ That’s what happened. I saw the deer and swerved. I…It must be someone’s pet. It was a wearing a—a—”

 “A what?”

Mitch wasn’t quite sure how to answer that. He hedged, “A collar, I think.”

“A collar?” The cowboy repeated politely as he reached Mitch. Mitch was six feet, tall for the average dancer, but the cowboy was taller by a few inches. It was a very long time since Mitch had needed to look up at someone to speak to them.

“Er, yeah.” He wished he could read the other man’s face.

 “You thought you saw a deer in a collar? What kind of collar would that be, sir? A rhinestone collar? A fur collar?”

Great. Maybe you couldn’t always find a cop when you needed one, but there was never a shortage of assholes. “There’s a deer farm around here, right? There used to be. It could have escaped from there. It was wearing one of those—”

“Collars.”

“No. Actually, it was a harness. For pulling a…” Self-preservation kicked in. “Something.”

“A somethin’?” Mitch could see the gleam of the cowboy’s eyes. He had a suspicion he was going to be providing belly laughs around the old bunkhouse that night. The cowboy’s tone was still perfectly polite. “I see. Did y’all maybe have a drink or two this evenin’, sir?”

“Of course not. I don’t drink.” Although maybe he’d make an exception tonight.

“Uh huh. You were takin’ this stretch of highway at a mighty fast clip.”

“I…I guess so. I was in a hurry to get where I was going.”

“And whereabouts is that, sir?”

“The old Evans place off Highway 16.”

In the silence that followed his words, Mitch could hear the ever-present wind whispering over the sand like some ghostly oracle. The cowboy went so still he seemed to stop breathing.

“Mitch?” he said at last in a flat voice. “Mitch Evans?”

Mitch stared back into that faceless shadow.

It couldn’t be.

It was.

The muscles in his neck and shoulders locked so tight he wasn’t sure he could move his mouth, let alone his head. Any time he had envisioned this encounter, it hadn’t gone like this. As a matter of fact, it had gone with him managing to avoid the encounter.

How had he failed to instantly recognize—? But in twelve years a boy’s voice deepened considerably and a boy’s light frame filled out and even the way he held himself changed. Mitch found his own voice. “That’s right. Web Eisley, is it?”

“I’m flattered you recollect.” Web didn’t sound flattered. Mitch couldn’t blame him for that. The last words they’d spoken to each other had not been kind ones. But that was twelve years ago and grown men didn’t hold grudges. Or if they did, they tried not to show it.

“I remember.” His voice sounded as toneless as Web’s. He made an effort to sound more personable seeing that he was standing at the scene of an accident with a Texas Ranger who he’d once called a “fucking gutless coward.” Among other things. “Well. It’s been a while.”


* * * *

Christmas coda here.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas Coda 33


Ryo and Kai from Blood Red Butterfly

 

 

Ryo had probably had worse Christmases. He couldn’t remember one though.

First, he had to work. That was a drag, but he was new man on the totem pole at Barton and Ross Investigations, so fair enough. He was the guy pulling stakeout duty on Christmas morning. Somebody had to be. Too bad because it was his and Kai’s first holiday as a couple, but he could wait a few hours to see what goodies Santa brought him. Except what Santa had brought seemed to be strife and unhappiness.

Ryo shifted position behind the wheel of the sedan. His butt ached from sitting for hours. Though not as much as his heart ached.

You were supposed to be honest with the people you loved, right? You didn’t tell them lies to keep the peace or make life easier on yourself. So when Kai had started in about how Laurel and Ojiisan were forcing Kenji to spend Christmas with them, Ryo had intervened.

“Dude, you have to think about what’s best for Kenji,” he had said.

“I am thinking of that!” Kai had snarled. He was pacing up and down the living room floor, past the towering Christmas tree piled with gifts and toys for his little son. “It’s our first Christmas together.”

“Yeah, so you’ve said about a dozen times now. But if Kenji wants to be with his mother and Oji--”

Laurel’s lying!”

“Dude.”

“It doesn’t matter. It’s my turn. I’ve waited and waited for this.” Kai’s fox-brown eyes glittered dangerously in his pale, furious face.

No wonder the kid was scared of him.

But Ryo did not say that. There were some truths you could not ever share. Instead he said, “Look, what do a few hours matter? He’ll be here the day after Christmas, right? He’ll love it. He gets two Christmases for the price of one.”

“It’s not the same! This was our first Christmas. You’re not going to be here. Now Kenji’s not going to be here.” Kai whirled away again and started another lap of the festively decorated room. 

He’d gone all out. It looked -- and smelled -- like Santa’s Village in there. Garland and candles and a couple of life-sized reindeer statues. Whatever. If it made him happy, it made Ryo happy.

But then disaster. Laurel had called to say Kenji now wanted to spend Christmas day at home. He was worried that Santa might not find him at his father’s or some such excuse. The thing was, Kenji didn’t really need an excuse. Not in Ryo’s opinion. If he was happier waking up Christmas morning in his own bed, well, he was the little kid after all. Kai was just going to have to swallow his disappointment.



But he had not swallowed his disappointment. He had been ranting and raving for nearly an hour when Ryo had made the mistake of trying to reason with him.

In Ryo’s opinion, not only was it not fair to blame Laurel and Ojiisan for this change in plans, it wasn’t healthy. Yes, it was Kai’s turn to have Kenji spend Christmas -- more than his turn -- and yes, Kenji would have had a great time. He usually ended up having a great time, even if he always arrived shy and uncertain and a little reluctant. But that was beside the point. The kid didn’t want to be there. And that wasn’t anyone’s fault.

Or even if it was partly the fault of Laurel and Ojiisan for those years of keeping Kai from his son and creating this unnatural tension…there wasn’t any point dwelling on what couldn’t be changed. Right?

“It seems to me like you’re more concerned with what you want than what Kenji wants,” Ryo said.

Kai had gone perfectly silent and perfectly still. When he turned, his face was bone white and his eyes were red and glowing. Okay, not literally red and glowing, but if Kai had been drawing himself for a manga -- Blood Red Christmas -- his eyes would surely have been red and glowing.

“What?”

Ryo said, “All I’m hearing is how disappointed you are. You’re not five years old, Kai. So next year, maybe he’ll be ready to spend Christmas Eve over here. And in the meantime you’ll have the day aft--”

“Get out!” Kai had yelled. “Get the fuck out of my house.”

Gee, it was practically like old times.

Except… “It’s my house too,” Ryo had pointed out. Loudly. “So you get out.”

“Fine! I’m going.”

And he had. Stopping only to grab his car keys, he had flung out of the house and driven away into the rainy gray afternoon. Without so much as a jacket.

“Good!” Ryo had yelled as the front door slammed shut.

Peace and quiet at last.

Ryo got a beer out of the fridge and made himself a sandwich. Maybe after lunch, he’d have a nap. He would be working all night and it would be wise to take advantage of this lull in the storm. But he couldn’t sleep. Every time he glanced at that giant Christmas tree sparkling and alight, the embodiment of all Kai’s anticipation and hopes over these past weeks, his heart felt heavy.

He hated Kai being so hurt and disappointed, and maybe that was one reason he hadn’t been patient enough. He couldn’t fix this and so he wanted it not to matter so much to Kai. He wanted him to be reasonable and wise. But Kai was not reasonable and wise. Well, sometimes. But he was also headstrong and impulsive and emotional.

Kai did not call and he was not home by the time Ryo had to leave for work.

Ryo didn’t think he was in the wrong, but he did think he could have handled things better. Anyway, he hated quarreling with Kai, and quarreling during the holidays added a special level of awfulness to it. So he scrawled SORRY xoxo on a post-it-note and left it stuck the fridge door.


 

Rain drops hit the windshield. A gray Toyota splashed past Ryo and parked half a block up. The taillights went out.

That would be Ellison, Ryo’s relief. He checked his watch. Nine thirty. Shift over. And not a peep out of his phone all night. He checked his messages to be sure. But no. Nothing. Not a word from Kai.

He started the engine. He could always drop by his mom’s and spend Christmas morning there. If Kai wasn’t home…well, that was going to be pretty damned depressing. Or if Kai was there but still wanting to fight, that would be worse.

 For a few moments he sat watching the rain, car engine idling, then he drove home.

* * * *

Kai’s car was in the garage, so Ryo knew he was back. That was a relief. More of a relief than he wanted to admit, in fact.

The house was so quiet, he thought Kai must still be sleeping. And that could either be a good sign or a bad sign. There were no lights on, no music. The Christmas tree was a dark form in the gloom.

Ryo tiptoed through, heading for the bedroom, stopping only to plug in the Christmas tree lights. In the sudden dazzle of blue and red and green and gold he was startled to spot Kai huddled on the sofa. Kai looked straight at him. His eyes were dark in his haggard face. He said nothing.

“What is it?” Ryo went over to him, sitting down on the sofa, pulling Kai to him. He was thinking death and disaster at the least. Their earlier quarrel was forgotten.

Kai shook his head, but he leaned into Ryo. He was not crying, but there was something so sad, so heartbroken in his silence, that tears would have been a relief.

“Tell me,” Ryo said softly.

Kai moved his head in negation again, but he said into Ryo’s chest, “If you’re not on my side, then I have no one.”

“I’m always on your side. Always. You don’t want me to lie to you, do you?”

He felt Kai swallow. Kai said in that same smothered voice, “I don’t know. No. Only sometimes.”
Ryo smiled faintly.
Kai said, "I do want what's best for Kenji. But if I don't push this -- he's my son. He doesn't know me. I don't know him."
"I know. But you can't force it." Ryo kissed the top of Kai’s head. He smelled like he had been out in the rain for a long time. He felt chilled. His own Ice Princess. But now he knew the ice was a thin and too fragile shell. “I am always on your side. I guess the truth is, I can’t stand it when anyone hurts you. I didn’t want it to matter so much to you because there isn’t anything I can do about this situation.”

“I don’t need you to do anything except…"
"Except what?"
"Be the one I matter to.”

Ryo’s heart squeezed. “Kai-chan. You do matter. You matter more than anyone or anything.”

And that was the truth. Ryo wasn’t even asking for it to be true in reverse. Because if that wasn’t what love was about -- putting someone else first -- what was it?
He held Kai quietly, safely in the soft, prism of many-colored lights, and it was enough.

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Advent Calendar Day 17

Today's Advent Calendar is another photo that I hope will inspire you to write something of your own. It can be a jokey try or a serious try. That's up to you. You can use my characters (GULP) or your characters. Whatever inspires you is fine by me on this rainy December morning.
 
On offer is the "winner's" choice of audio, print or ebook from my backlist. But the real giveaway is simply the pleasure and satisfaction of taking a few moments to do something creative during this hurried, harried time of year.

So here we go again, Write a paragraph or so about what you imagine is in that box. Who is giving? Who is receiving ....?




Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Advent Calendar - Day 16

I'm working on another couple of codas, but I decided I probably needed a couple of health and welfare days where I did not put my creative brain to use. So today's calendar is again looking at Christmases past. Only instead of childhood, I'm thinking of adolescence.

How did Chrismtas change once you were in your teens?

When you're a small child, it's all so simple. People know exactly what to get you, and you are in the delightfully uncomplicated situation of not needing to reciprocate. Ever. At all. It is enough to merely show your delight. Even showing disappointment is still acceptable in very small child cases. And of course most of us still believed in every holiday-related fantasy. Not only believed, were untroubled by thoughts of unlicensed flying reindeer, small foreign peoples forced to work in a sweatshop with only gumdrops for payment, and strange bearded men observing us while we were sleeping and waking. We were immune to calories and indifferent to alcohol.

Even from a religious standpoint, well, it's all about Baby Jesus. The promise and not the pain.
But then came adolescence.

In adolescence we know some hard truths. Starting with the Fat Man. And what is worse, if you're a kid of my generation, were the advertisements that began to skew our expectations and understanding of what Christmas should and could be. We began to compare our holidays with those of friends. We began to measure our real life against the life on TV and the movies. We began to want and wish for things that Santa could not deliver: friendship, popularity, romance...etc.

Maybe our family didn't celebrate Christmas.

Heck, sometimes we had to WORK on Christmas.

We began to reject traditions and it was still a bit too soon to have anything to replace them with.

Or was it?

What was Christmas like in your teens? Were the holidays full of teenaged angst? Or were they still merry and bright? Share a holiday memory or two.

Today's randomly selected commenter wins their choice of story or collection from my audio backlist.