Author’s Roundtable: Christa Simpson

How did your family and friends feel when they heard you were writing?

A few of my friends were really excited about it; especially after I let them read my first book in The Twisted Trilogy. My family was totally shocked. Even though they believed in me, they really couldn’t imagine me self-publishing my stories. But guess what? I did it!!

What books or stories have you written? Published?

I’ve written three books, which comprise The Twisted Trilogy. To date I have published the first book, Twisted. The second book, Twist and Turn, is tentatively set to release on July 1, with the final book, A Twist of Fate, to follow later this year.

I have some other stories in the works, but they are all in the very early stages, and I’m not even sure which one I will pick up and go with next. There are two very different stories fighting for my attention; that is after I get The Twisted Trilogy out there as a whole.

Can you tell us a little about your books? What are they about?

Absolutely, Jason. The Twisted Trilogy is a sexy, sassy New Adult romance premised on a love triangle.

In Twisted, you follow the life of Abigail Jenkins, a sassy chick who works at a lawyer’s office and lives with her handsome ex-boyfriend Edwin Santora. Abby’s dating life is a mess and Edwin continuously reminds her that she needn’t look any further because he’s just what she’s looking for. Before long, Edwin lands a job at her firm as a junior lawyer, and she finds herself catching feelings for him again. The short of it is: A man and woman cannot be “just friends.”  And friendship isn’t what Abby is looking for. She wants babies.  Yes, babies. And yes she’s only 24 years old.

In Twist and Turn, after Abigail is forced to face a heart-wrenching truth about her relationship with Edwin, she sets out to find herself a suitable replacement. Right when she thinks she’s going to end up a lonely old bag, Cameron Clarke lands right on her doorstep. This hunky new lawyer is the man of her dreams and the man of Edwin’s nightmares. Edwin vies for her attention, but he’s unable to compete with this man; who also happens to have a rough past and a beautiful little girl to show for it. There’s a paranormal twist that starts to come to light and you learn that maybe Abby isn’t quite as crazy as you thought she was.

In A Twist of Fate, Edwin and Cameron will go head to head to fight for what’s their’s. But, in the end, there can only be only one. Who will Abigail choose: the love of her life or the man of her dreams? Either way, Abigail will get her happy ever after.

Twisted_500x750How did you get inspiration for the characters/books?

Reading inspired me to write my own stories. When I finish a story and feel like the secondary characters are deserving of their own story, I picture moulding those characters into my own to give them their happy ever after.

I like to play it by ear and go with the flow. When an idea strikes me, I get on the computer and just let it flow. Walking down the street inspires me. Listening in on people’s conversations inspires me. My husband inspires me. Life is truly the most inspiring of all.

What are some of the hardest things you’ve had to overcome as a writer, in order to be published?

I was impatient. I self-published before spending too much time dwelling on traditional publishing. I had read one too many articles about how new authors are not well received; especially when they didn’t have agent representation. I decided, “Why not do this myself?” I really had nothing to lose, but a couple of bucks for a cover and my beauty sleep, or so I thought.

Since then, time management has become a major sore spot for me. I’m working on it, and I’ll get there eventually (after The Twisted Trilogy is complete LOL). It’s tough being a mother of two active children, working a full-time job and keeping a functioning relationship with the hubs, all while trying to successfully edit, publish, promote and monitor my novels.

Do you think writing has any benefits, and if so what would they be?

It absolutely has benefits. I have to write. My sanity depends on it. Even if I never published, I would write. My brain won’t stop pumping out these ideas, and I can’t have them cluttering my mind. So I write, and I get to keep a clear head. Alternately, my kids think being a published author is cool, and I like to make them happy.

Was there ever a point in your life where you felt like giving up because nobody understood you? How did you overcome this time in your life?

I tend to tuck those not-so-nice times away in a little place that I don’t like to visit. I don’t know how I do it, but once I put them in that vault, it’s almost like they never happened; except that I never forget the lessons learned to prevent me from making those same mistakes again. I relied on writing poetry as a teenager, and fortunately I burned every last page of them a long time ago. Yeah, I was weird like that.

I’m lucky to have a solid loving family. My husband is always there for me, even if I bore him to death with my book talk. My mother and sisters are always just a call or text away if I need them, and my little girls are always attached at the hip, so I’m literally never alone.  It’s hard to give up when you have so much support.

What are your goals as a writer?

Honestly, my goal was to be published. I’m published. Next, my goal is to publish book number two. I’m taking things one step at a time. Overall, I hope to become a better writer and engage a larger audience.

Any new challenges you’ve had to face?

The latest challenge I’ve had to face is dealing with scathing reviews. I knew that publishing sassy stories with sarcastic characters was going to rub some people the wrong way. I also knew that others would absolutely love it. Constructive criticism I can deal with, but I’ve learned that some people can be just plain old mean.

Thanks so much for having me, Jason. Isn’t this guy great??!!

Final note: If you read indie and like it, please do the author a huge favour by rating their book and writing an honest, thoughtful review on Amazon and Goodreads.

And like my mother always says: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” 🙂

christa3About Christa Simpson

Christa Simpson is a Canadian indie author and mother of two. She loves reading, writing, music, movies and dancing. She likes her men muscled, her music loud and her kids happy. She lives in a small town in southwestern Ontario with her two little girls and her husband of nine years.

She’s just published her debut new adult romance novel, Twisted. Books two and three of The Twisted Trilogy, Twist and Turn and A Twist of Fate, are coming soon.

Do you want to connect with Christa Simpson? You can find her on her blog, become a fan on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Rise up with Torri and Stop Bullying

Guys, I had to share this song with you by a beautiful soul and friend, Torri Melhart. Please let’s get this song around the world and take a stand for all the victims of bullying. There is no place for that in today’s society. Rise up and prevent this from happening to you or your children.

Angels Among Us

About a year ago, I featured the inspiring video and story about Becky Kelley’s “Where’s the Line to See Jesus.” A couple weeks ago I found out that she recorded a new song, “Send An Angel,” and Becky was gracious enough to share with me how the song came about and what the holidays mean to her. I hope everyone who reads this and listens to the video are inspired as much as I am. Welcome Becky, and thank you for sharing your amazing story and voice with us. 

I actually started this song almost seven or eight years ago. It was inspired by my friend who lost her mom at the age of 12 because of cancer. I don’t know what made me think of that to write about, but I had the chorus for years. Finally a few years ago, I came up with some verses and a tune for them that I liked, which for some reason is hard to do sometimes. 

beckyThe first verse is a true story about her mom dying, and the second verse I wanted to reach out to another group of girls (teen moms) and try to connect with them on where they are. Overall, I really just want to inspire anyone and everyone on where they are at in life to hold on for HOPE. We all hear stories about horrible things that people go through, and if this song helps someone get through their day, week, month, or year holding out for hope, then awesome.  I’ve already received messages from women saying how much “Send an Angel” has helped them deal with what they are currently experiencing in life. I want people to KNOW there is a God who is listening. The chorus and bridge are actually a prayer… “Could you send her an angel or two? She’s been dealt a rough hand and doesn’t know what to do.” Bridge: “Wrap your arms around her, fill her soul with love. Let her feel the hope that comes from above.” When we had to decide on which song to choose for a video off of my new album, I knew already. This one reaches people at the heart, and that’s what I want to be about. 

The holidays, for me, mean time with family and celebrating the birth of Jesus! We talk about Christmas being a birthday party for Jesus around our house 🙂 Merry Christmas!!

Check out Becky’s website, become her fan on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Rockin’ Out with Glitter Rose

How did your interest in music get started?

I’ve always loved music, and at 12 decided I wanted to start writing songs, although I didn’t play an instrument yet and had only sang in my school choir for a couple years. It was something already inside me and just manifested at that age; ever since I’ve been addicted to it. I learned to play keyboard first, then guitar to accompany my songwriting.

Did you sing in church when you were younger? Did your family sing or play instruments? 

My grandmother was a singer, piano player and performer. So were some of my aunts and uncles. I never did get to see any of them perform, nor was I really influenced by them to play music. It’s in the family tree and is in my blood, so it manifested itself. 
Can you talk a little bit more about who have been your biggest inspirations, either other artists or your family? What lessons did they instill in you that you will carry with you on your singing career? 

Musically, I’ve been inspired by so many bands and songwriters. The first band really to spark my interest in songwriting was Counting Crows. Adam Duritz is an incredible lyricist, and the band brought so much feeling to his words. Also, I’m a big fan of The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash and Bonnie Raitt. In my teenage years, I played 80s influenced rock and was inspired to write in the style of Motley Crue, Guns n’ Roses and Blondie. I’ve tried to learn from all different styles of music and songwriters. In life and music, I’m greatly inspired by my sister and manager, Mary Louis. She has taught me about respect, gratitude, ethics and doing good business. She is the reason I am the woman I am today, and she also inspires my songwriting, always encouraging and helping me with ideas.

Can you talk a little about your family and how they inspired you?

The most influential people in my family have been my father, Peter, and my sisters, Mary and Niki. My dad was a very cool guy, and always believed in and supported my dream.  Unfortunately, he passed away on Christmas Day 2011. I wish he could have experienced with me the success that keeps coming my way, but I know he is looking out for me and making sure all my dreams keep coming true, as long as I work hard and stay focused, like he taught me. Of course, I talked about my oldest sister, Mary, earlier, and she is definitely my rock. She is always there for me and makes sure I’m taken care of, I am so blessed to have her in my life. My sister, Niki, is closer to my age, and over the years has done everything she can to support my music career and help how she can: sell merchandise, promote my music, was a dancer for my rock band, Hollywood High, babysits my dogs when I’m on the road. We have a very large Italian family, but these three people mean the most to me, and I feel very fortunate to have them.

Have you recorded any albums? How many have you released?

Yes. I recorded and released my first album at 13. It was the first group of songs I ever wrote and was an 11-track album, which was very country pop. I then started writing hard rock music and over the years released several EPs with my rock band, Hollywood High.  In 2007, I started a solo project and released my full album called “Southern Comfort.” For every album that was sold, one was sent to a soldier overseas. My most current full album release is brand new, just released in March 2012. It’s called “Dead or Alive” and is available on iTunes, CDBaby, Amazon and my website.

Can you talk a little bit about how your journey began and how it’s led you to where you are today?

My journey has been long, hard, beautiful and remarkable. It started when I was 13. I was born in the Mojave Desert in California. I moved with my oldest sister, Mary, to my dad’s house in Ft. Worth, TX. From there we dove into the music business, recording my first album, putting together a live band and starting to perform live. We were very green and didn’t know a thing about the music industry. Over the years, we learned many lessons, and met lots of people along the way who mentored us and taught us various aspects of the business. At 15 years old, when I was getting ready to turn 16, I decided I wanted to play hard rock music and formed my band, Hollywood High. My idea was a modern-day Motley Crue, with a female front. It was a crazy time! We recorded a music video for my song called “Rock n’ Roll Peep Show” and, from there, started receiving rotation on 97.1 The Eagle in Dallas/Ft. Worth. We started touring Texas, then the southwest, then on to Hollywood. After doing several Los Angeles shows, we relocated to Hollywood, were nominated for Outstanding New Artist at the 14th annual Los Angeles Music Awards and won. We also performed at the event and got some offers from labels. Unfortunately, those labels weren’t interested in me being a rock artist. They wanted to write my songs for me and make me pop, and I had to decline. I am a songwriter, first and foremost, so that means the most to me when considering opportunities. I moved back to Texas after the Hollywood High reign and started my solo project. I started writing a blend of country and rock, which has now developed into my current Southern Rock sound. 

As an artist, what are some of the things you’ve been able to do? 

I’ve been very blessed with some really cool opportunities. When I first started in music, I worked with a lot of teen organizations, and received awards from Girls, Inc. for my positive work for their organization and received a key for the city of Killeen, TX. I got to open for KISS and Aerosmith in my rock band, Hollywood High, in Dallas, TX. We also received Outstanding New Artist at the 14th annual Los Angeles Music Awards. In my current solo project, I received Honorable Mention in the Billboard World Song Contest 2010 for my song “Doublewide on the Backside.” I also have been asked two years in a row to perform at the NAMM Show. Another really cool thing was my recent five-month residency at the Hard Rock Cafe on Hollywood Boulevard for an event they created for my music called Southern Rock Brunch. I performed every Sunday morning. Now, I am nominated at two different award shows. The 22nd annual Los Angeles Music Awards has nominated me for Best Country Artist and Country Single of the Year for “Vodka Girls.” The 2013 Artists in Music Awards has nominated me for Best Rock Artist. I feel very blessed and honored to have had so many incredible experiences over the years.
Have you met any other artists? Who’d you meet, and what was the experience like?

I’ve gotten to meet a few great artists over the years, but the coolest experience for me was meeting Steven Tyler at Studio at the Palms in Las Vegas. I was recording my single, “Doublewide on the Backside,” and Steven came into the studio to check it out. I looked up from the sound board, and Steven was in the other room checking out my guitars. He then came into the control room and introduced himself, and said “I’m sorry to interrupt your session.” What a humble and gracious guy. He was very nice, and to get to meet one of my idols not as a fan, but as a peer, is an amazing feeling.
What advice did they give you? If you could give an aspiring artist advice about the music industry, what would it be?

I would advise artists getting into the music industry to first learn all aspects of the “modern music business.” Digital distribution, music licensing, how to make money with your music through these outlets. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to make money on touring/live shows anymore, it’s actually a huge expense. If you’re going to get into the industry, you need to start with a good amount of money, and every bit that you might make needs to go back into your career. It’s not an easy way of life, there’s a lot of challenges you face and heartache because music is an emotional experience, and when you add business to that, it’s a rough balance. Make sure you have good support from your family and friends, and that they want your success as much as you do, or it will break your focus.
Did you have to overcome rejection while making the climb to the studio? Did they make you a stronger person? In what ways?

Since I have played music and done it professionally for 14 years, I have experienced several different types of rejection. It’s impossible to please everyone, and starting as a kid, I grew up on stage and through my songs, so my teenage years were under a microscope. Every time I was rejected, I grew stronger and got better at my craft. If you can’t overcome, then you’ll fall backwards, and eventually your music will fade away. You have no choice but to grow stronger from rejection if you want longevity in the music business.

If you could pick one instance when you were rejected, how did that make you feel? Any lessons you could take from that rejection and tell to someone so they don’t get rejected?

If you are trying to make music professionally for any amount of time, you WILL get rejected.  No doubt about it. You have to take everything as constructive criticism (whether it is meant that way or not) and find the positive. You have to have no fear. Feel and express your emotions, but don’t dwell on it and keep moving forward.

I can imagine that as an artist, you’re away from home a lot. How does being on the road affect your relationship with your family?

I, myself, am very fortunate because my sister and I work together as a team, and I always have my family support by my side. But both of us miss our friends dearly. We are very blessed to have amazing people in our lives in both Texas and California, as well as other parts of the country. When in California, I miss my Texas peeps, and visa versa. We talk to all of them a lot, and sometimes they travel to where I am for special shows, etc. So again, I am very blessed. 🙂
How does being an artist affect the holiday season for you? Are you able to take time off to visit family and friends? What do the holidays mean to you?

The holidays are always crazy for us, being a big Italian family!! Even when performing through the holiday season, we always get the chance to spend quality time with our family and friends. We like to jam and play music together, share memories and eat lots of food!! It’s always a positive time of year.

How important do you think down time is for an artist?

I think when you work hard and throw yourself into the business, there’s a point when you have to take a few days off. Stop worrying about your Twitter and Facebook page, and take a second to breathe, enjoy your surroundings, and live “normal” for a bit. It’s the little things that you sometimes forget to recognize when you’re always looking for the next gig, job, big break, etc. The music business is a revolving door, and you have to continuously stay on top of it to stay in the spotlight. So, those few days of recovery are necessary to refresh and get re-inspired.
If you could perform anywhere in the world with anyone in the world, who and where would it be?

Gosh, there’s SOOO many artists I’d like to perform with!! But, the ultimate would be the Rolling Stones in London, I think that would be off the chain amazing! My ultimate fantasy would be to play with John Lennon in a little bar or coffee shop somewhere off the map, just me and him and two acoustic guitars. Jammin’ tunes and maybe write a song together. Maybe in another life. 

About Glitter Rose

She’s got a Southern heart, and a Rock n’ Roll soul. Outlaw Southern Rocker, Glitter Rose is from Ft. Worth, TX. This left-handed guitarist owns the stage with her amazing charisma and defining Southern Rock sound. GR is endorsed by TELEFUNKEN Elektroakustik, Fishman Acoustic Amplification, WARRIOR Guitar, BAE Audio, Rotosound Music Strings, Moody Leather and Guitar Hands Hand Care. She’s also a preferred artist with C.F. Martin & Co. Acoutic Guitars and Strings. 

GR is a veteran in the music industry, starting professionally at 13 years old in 1998. She is an accomplished guitarist, a simply genius songwriter, and has vocals packed with power, grit and originality. Her live show is that of legends, captivating the audience with her high-energy performance and her passionate presence. GR has great love and admiration for her fans, saying “They are the reason I make music. If I can evoke emotion and excitement in one person in the crowd, I’ve done my job. It brings me great satisfaction to touch people with my songs and my performance.”

GR is currently in Hollywood, CA, where she held a five-month residency with the Hard Rock Cafe on Hollywood Boulevard for an event they created for her music called Southern Rock Brunch. She is a highly respected performer at The NAMM Show and the Dallas International Guitar Festival. She received Honorable Mention for her quirky, tongue-in-cheek “Doublewide on the Backside” in the Billboard World Song Contest 2010. Her new album “Dead or Alive” was released in Spring 2012 and is making waves in the music industry. She is nominated for two Los Angeles Music Awards in 2012 including Best Country Artist and Country Single of the Year with her song “Vodka Girls.” She is also nominated for Best Rock Artist at the 2013 Artists in Music Awards. With the perfect blend of country and rock GR brings to the table, she will be a pioneer in modern Southern Rock, defining a new generation.

Check out GR on the Web

Right Place, Right Time

A couple weeks ago I got a comment from a reader who loves the fact that most of my pictures seem to be spontaneous. I hadn’t really thought about that, but in a big way she’s right. I just look for the perfect shot and sometimes they present themselves when I LEAST expect them. I’ve truly been amazed how great some of my pictures have turned out, especially this one I took yesterday at a lunchtime concert on the Square a couple blocks from my office. I was walking around taking pictures of the singer and the crowd when something told me to look across the Square. I saw this beautiful, blonde goddess working on her tan and grabbed the camera. The rest, as they say, is history.

If you like this one, stay tuned tomorrow. I got another one, that’s even better 😉

DIY Photography

Sometimes when I’m out taking pictures and I want to get my picture taken, or someone asks me if they can take a picture with me, I have to take the picture myself, which doesn’t always work. I end up cutting our heads off or they turn out really blurry…

I met a woman yesterday while we were listening to a local band, one of about six located around the festival we were at. She asked me if I could dance in the chair and the next thing I know, my calendar was booked the rest of the afternoon practically 😉 Life is GOOD!!

I took this picture MYSELF and am amazed how great it turned out. I didn’t even have to take two 😉 Hope you like it!!!

Re-post: Lonely Valentine

Well, another Valentine’s Day has come and gone, and your’s truly is still sadly single. But that’s okay, I’ve got the greatest, most amazing friends in the world and a loving family who is always in my heart. I hope you enjoy this poem I wrote last year. Happy Valentine’s Day, wherever you are.

Lonely Valentine

See that blonde over by the bar
Staring at me from afar
Sitting alone in the corner
Does she know how much I adore her?

Eating fries and chicken fingers
The image of her still lingers
Every time she smiles, she’s so hot
How long I’ve been here, I totally forgot

Does she know I exist?
To ask would be a big risk
Happy hour’s over
My courage sinking lower

Over by the jukebox stands her man
My poor heart’s broken again

On the Road With Mary Sarah

1. How did your interest in music get started? Did you sing in church when you were younger? Did your family sing or play instruments?
I began singing at 10 with my piano instructor, who told me since I loved singing so much to sing at the upcoming recital. I did and got a huge ovation singing “The Yellow Rose of Texas.”  I then started singing with my dad in church, and my piano teacher recommended a vocal coach.

My dad is a musician by hobby who accompanies me and sings backup for me sometimes. He played saxophone and sang in high school and college, and four years ago started to play guitar. I play guitar, piano and am learning fiddle/violin. I’ve always been a singer first but LOVE guitar.

2. Have you recorded any albums? How many have you released?

Yes, I recorded one full-length CD called “Crazy Good” when I was 14 and an EP of four songs I wrote when I was 12. “Crazy Good” has nine songs, five of which I wrote, most with my sister Emilee who is an AMAZING piano player and few years older than me.
3. Can you talk a little bit about how your journey began and how it’s led you to where you are today?

At 12 I was selected to be a lead/ensemble performer for KidzBop World Tour, for a 40-city tour, which lasted six months. We traveled and performed all over the upper Midwest and East Coast. I got hooked performing for big crowds and knew I wanted to do that for the rest of my life. I did try L.A. for a while thinking it would be great to be a Disney kid, but I was too homesick. I have been performing all over Texas in the local and regional Opry’s. I’m writing, singing and recording new music.
4. As an artist, what are some of the things you’ve been able to do? (i.e. sing National Anthem at ball games, open for other artists, go on tour…)

The KidZBop World Tour, National Anthem for opening day of the Houston Astros, the College World Series and most recently the Houston Texans. I’ve been helping homeless people, raising charity money for the American Red Cross and doing worship for my youth group and church. I am currently working on a new project, which has put me with some really wonderful artists in Nashville…but I can’t let too much out too soon! Maybe the next interview…
5. Have you met any other artists in Nashville? Who’d you meet and what was the experience like?

I met Joe Bonsall and Duane Allen of the Oak Ridge Boys, and they actually asked me to sing a cappella at their concert in Galveston, Texas. It was incredible. I hope to do it again. I have met quite a few others, but I have to keep a lid on it until we finish the project…so sorry! I met Jimmy Wayne at the Grand Ole Opry and Jaci Velasquez at the Sound Kitchen.
6. What advice did they give you? If you could give an aspiring artist advice about the music industry, what would it be?

Most told me to always be true to yourself, write music from your heart and WATCH OUT for boys! Jaci Velasquez said enjoy each day and have fun. The Oaks just love me and are like my uncles :). They said don’t be in a hurry!! 🙂 I think that’s good advice for everyone!

I think if I had to give advice, I would tell them what I live by, which is some basketball coaches inspired saying. “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” My mom and I figured out that everyone wants to be Cinderella, but not everyone wants to mop the floors or answer to wicked people…they just want the glass slipper. Be willing to work hard and the timing is not in your hands.
7. Did you have to overcome rejection while making the climb to Nashville? Did they make you a stronger person? In what ways?

Some yes. Some record people are like, “She’s too young” or “Wait three years.” When I hear those things, I’m hurt a little at first but it always just makes me work even harder! I have realized they are right because I love being able to be a regular girl at my high school and performing on the weekends. I did a couple contests when I was younger, and I won a few and lost a few. It was hard to lose, but it was great experience. I really have never had anything but constructive criticism on my voice or guitar…I have great teachers!

8. I can imagine that as an artist, you’re away from home a lot. How does being on the road affect your relationship with your family?

Some, but we always skype, and we try super hard to have everyone come visit when we are on the road. We are so close – my sis Emilee and I write music together, my brother Chris does my website stuff. Dad writes, plays guitar for me and does business and social media for me, and mom is the best mom ever with hugs!! And if we are traveling by van, she is the tour bus driver!

9. Now that the holidays are here, do you have any special holiday memories or traditions with your family?

We have gone skiing. We always go out on Christmas Eve, pool our money and totally bless a hardworking waiter or waitress with a HUGE tip! Mostly Christmas to us is about giving back to others for all the blessings we have had the previous year. We once totally helped a family that had nothing for Christmas by giving them everything. It was an amazing time!

10. How does being an artist affect the holiday season for you? Are you able to take time off to visit family and friends? What do the holidays mean to you?

We are traveling to Nashville the next week for some music meetings and to visit Dollywood, so I’m pretty excited. The holidays are VERY special to me spiritually and for family stuff. My parents used to pastor a church, where I sang a lot, and we had Christmas Eve services, so it is a very special time for us!

Sweet Music Man

Sunny Marie Hackman of Lakewood, Colo., tries to stay organized, since she’s a popular speaker, writer, traveler, volunteer and hostess. But each year as Christmas approaches, even she feels overwhelmed by all the extra activities. That’s why, a few Novembers ago, Sunny Marie concluded that she could indeed “handle it all” if her family agreed to one condition. “No extra people here on Christmas Eve,” she warned her husband and three kids. “I want just our family, Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle Bill and Aunt Mickey—something low-key and relaxing.”

The family shrugged. Sure, if that’s what Mom wanted.

Sunny Marie planned every detail of their Christmas Eve feast. That evening the table sparkled, and wonderful aromas drifted through the house. All the cameras were loaded and musical instruments tuned, in case anyone wanted to pick out a song. It was going to be perfect as soon as Victor, their college-age son, arrived. Then the phone rang.

“Mom.” It was Victor. “Is it okay if I bring home a guy I met on the bus?”

Sunny Marie wanted to scream. Hadn’t everyone promised to let her have one evening just the way she wanted it? The stranger was probably down and out, someone who would cast a grim shadow on her happy plans. 

But it was Christmas Eve. “Bring him home,” she told Victor, sighing.

John was in his mid-forties, nondescript and shy. Conversation was a little stiff, at first, Sunny Marie admits. Hardly the warm and intimate evening she’d planned. But when dinner ended, John went over to the guitar and played a few Christmas carols. Then he switched to the piano and began a medley of “Jesus Loves Me,” and “Amazing Grace,” done with a sweetness she had never heard. Slowly the realization dawned. She had done the right thing tonight, making room for John. But there had been no love in her heart.  And wasn’t love the meaning of Christmas? 

She looked up and John’s eyes met her’s. In his gaze was everything—awareness, tenderness, yes and forgiveness, too. He knew, she realized. But how? 

The song ended, and John stood. “That was my gift to you,” he told her quietly, and picked up his jacket.

Sudden tears flooded her eyes. “Wait!” She grabbed her camera as did the other guests.  “Can we take some pictures of you?”

John smiled. “You can, if you want to,” he said, “but they won’t turn out.”

Sunny Marie understood. She had been given a glimpse of Christmas in another place, and it could never be the same again. “I think I’ve seen an angel, “she told her husband later that evening, still in awe.

He wasn’t sure she was right. But later, when everyone’s photos were developed —and John’s image did not appear in any of them—he had to agree.