The Christmas COVID Miracle


by Cynthia Reeg

            I pressed my face against the living room’s cold window pane. This winter my chin rested three inches higher above the cross piece than last year, when I was only ten. A frosty circle appeared as I sighed. Behind me, Mom and Dad stood huddled in the kitchen. They spoke low. I edged into the hallway and peeked around the door.

            “It won’t be much of a Christmas this year, Sonia.” Dad’s heavy words said more.  Somehow, he blamed himself for losing his job—even though COVID had shut so many things down already. 

He jammed his hands deep into his pockets, as though he expected to find forgotten treasure there. Like money, or jewels, or a Christmas miracle maybe. That’s the way the silly TV shows that my little sister Mia watched always solved their problems. With a Christmas miracle.

            “Don’t worry,” said Mom, pressing her hand to her heart. “We’ll make this Christmas special. You’ll see.”   

            I saw Dad shake his head. He pulled on his stocking cap and strode out the door. 

            I felt a tug on my jeans.

            “Come on, Tony. Play Christmas with me.” Mia stood with her hands on her hips, white paper wings masking-taped to her back. She always pretended to be the angel.

            “We’ve already played Christmas,” I said, squatting to her level. “Can’t you find something else to play—without me?”

            “You can be all three of the wise men,” said Mia. “And you won’t be lost anymore because I’ll show you the way to the manager.”

            “The angel doesn’t do that,” I said. “The star leads the wise men to Bethlehem.”

            “I bet the angel could if they asked her to.” Mia hopped in place, trying to flap her droopy paper wings.  

“Tony!” Mom’s call from the kitchen came just in time. 

            “Sorry, Mia. Got to go.” I flicked one of her floppy wings as I scooted past.

            The warm kitchen smelled of chicken and spices. My stomach growled. 

“What do you need, Mom?” 

            “Here’s some soup I want you to take to Mrs. Hosea.” Mom snapped the plastic lid in place. “She’s still moving pretty slow after her fall. Wear your mask and keep your distance.”

            “Oh, man! I’d rather play with Mia.” 

A visit with our neighbor, Mrs. Hosea, was like torture—in slow motion. But I tugged on my jacket and face mask and cradled the warm soup in my gloved hands.

            I knocked on Mrs. Hosea’s door. Her scratchy voice commanded me to come in.

            Once inside, I tried not to breathe the musty smell or spread any germs. “Here’s some soup, Mrs. Hosea. Hope you get to feeling better.” I put it on the old-fashioned table by the door and started sliding out.

            “Set it down. Here. Beside me.” She motioned to an end table stained with water rings. Her floppy hands reminded me of Mia’s droopy wings.

            As soon as I set the bowl down next to her, Mrs. Hosea’s hands flapped again.

            “I need you to help with one more thing.” She pointed toward the hallway closet. “Look in there for a red box.”

            A red box. What could Mrs. Hosea hide away in a red box? Would it a big or little box? Would I even be able to find it? Old people horded stuff like crazy. I’d watched shows on the Discovery Channel about that.

Slowly, I pulled open the creaky closet door, expecting mountains of stuff to fall. But the closet was mostly bare. I pushed aside a cobweb and spotted a few boxes behind a winter coat. I pulled out a dusty red box.

“That’s it,” said Mrs. Hosea, sitting up straighter in the worn brown leather chair. Next, she pointed to the scuffed-up coffee table before her. “Put it here. Yes, gently. Gently. It’s breakable.”

            Without a bit of a smile or a thank you, Mrs. Hosea waved me out the door.  

            I couldn’t believe it! She wasn’t going to let me see what was inside.  

            Fine. I shouldn’t stick around this maybe germy place anyway. I slammed the door behind me.

            The next day was Sunday. Dad still looked sad as we walked to church. But he tried to sing angel songs with Mia—who had finally taken off her wings. At church, we sat spaced far apart from the few others there. We all wore our masks, making our prayer responses sound muffled and sad somehow. 

After we returned home, Mom called me to the kitchen once more. “Mrs. Hosea asked if you could bring her lunch again today. I told her I’d be happy to come by instead.” Mom squeezed my shoulder. “But she wanted you.”

            “Why me?”

            Mom only smiled and pressed the brown sandwich bag into my hands.

            I slumped across the street. The bag seemed to weigh a ton. I knocked with a clunk on her paint-chipped front door. My mask hid a major frown. 

When I stepped inside, it was the same fluttering hands and the same bossy voice, this time coming from behind a pink-polka dot mask. But what made my eyes open wider than wide was the coffee table.

            A colorful ceramic nativity spread across it. A wooden stable sat in the center with Joseph, Mary, and the most joyful baby Jesus I’d ever seen. Shepherds, sheep, a donkey and a cow joined the holy family. They snuggled close like old friends. Three fancy wise men stood a foot away, but they looked eager to reach the stable. 

“Oh, wow” I said, pointing to an angel more beautiful than Mia could imagine. It hung proudly above the stable doorway. An angel with an attitude just like my little sister. “Mia should see that! She’s all about angels.”

“Is she now?” Mrs. Hosea paused and tapped her masked chin. “Go,” she said, pointing down the dark hallway. “Look under my bed. For a gold box.” 

I rolled my eyes, another mystery quest. But an excited quiver zipped through my belly. This detective work was sort of fun. 

 With the virus lockdown, I knew Mrs. Hosea was more alone than ever. And more crippled after her fall. I rarely saw her standing at her front window anymore. For a whole month at least, she hadn’t once yelled at us neighbor kids when our soccer ball kicks sailed wide into her bushes. Yep, she was probably enjoying bossing me around for a little while. 

            I gulped in a breath of air behind my mask and tramped down the hallway. The musty smell seemed worse back here. When I turned on the bedroom lights, I discovered walls covered with photographs. Three children, two boys and a girl. A man in a military uniform. A smiling bride and groom.  Could that possibly be ancient Mrs. Hosea? But where were all these photo people now?  Was it only because of the lockdowns that none of them were here with her—bringing her lunch and looking for her silly boxes? 

            I peeked under the metal bed. The light barely shown there, but I saw it. The gold box. Not as big as the red one. Nor as heavy. I glanced at all the photographs one last time and switched off the light.

            “Here,” I said, dropping it on Mrs. Hosea’s lap. I turned to go. 

“Wait.”  Mrs. Hosea’s cold hand grabbed me. “Do … do you want to see?”

“Nah.” I shook my head. “I better get back.”

Mrs. Hosea’s wrinkles bunched up under her watery eyes. I could tell that beneath her mask she grinned. “Are you sure?”

            Unable to resist, I nodded and stepped closer than I should. She handed me the box. I lifted the lid and pulled back the tissue paper. 

            “Wow!” I gasped. A brilliant golden star, studded with fake sparkling jewels. Red, green, gold, and blue.  

            “It’s a Christmas tree star,” said Mrs. Hosea, her voice not as scratchy this time. Ever so gently, her knobby finger traced the shining star. A soft moan escaped her mask. “I don’t have a tree to put it on this year.”

            Or anyone to put it up for you. I thought of all those photos. A feathery flutter tickled my stomach again.

            “Here,” she said, pushing the open box against my chest. “Take it. For your tree.”  

            “No.” I shook my downcast head. “No, thank you.” I blinked hard and set the box down on Mrs. Hosea’s lumpy sofa. In a huff, I rushed for the door. 

Outside, I ripped off my mask and gulped in a breath of air. I couldn’t tell Mrs. Hosea we didn’t have a tree this year either—or much hope of getting one. 

            My dad sat glumly on our front steps, staring into space. He looked as lost as the three wise men must have. Without a star—or an angel—to guide him. His big hands lay clenched in his lap. 

A huge sigh formed in my chest. It pushed hard against my heart. I tried to breathe the hardness out. But the ache stuck firm. 

Until I saw it. 

           The tree. 

Right beside my dad. Hidden in plain sight. The scraggly evergreen tree that grew in front of our house. And in plain view for Mrs. Hosea to see as well. It was a Christmas miracle—or close enough.

With a yell, I waved my mask in the air. “Dad!” I cried, not waiting a second to tell him my brilliant Christmas Miracle Plan. 

“Wow.” Dad’s almost forgotten laugh made me laugh too. “That’s some plan for sure. All we need now is for your Mom and Mia to help us.”

Stirring up a mini-cloud of dust, we scrounged through the battered basement boxes. Only snarled tinsel and chipped ornaments lay hidden inside. 

“These can still work, right?” I said.

My dad nodded. “We’ll make them work.”

“Popcorn will pull it all together,” said Mom, with a wink. “Help me, Mia.” In a flash, they were stringing fluffy white popcorn. 

I taste-tested a few kernels. “The birds will love it.”

Mia giggled. “Don’t eat all our decorations.”  

Mom hummed carols. Dad and I decorated as best we could with the ratty tinsel and shabby ornaments. Mia and Mom wrapped their popcorn strands around and around. Somehow the scraggily tree didn’t look so lost and droopy anymore.

             I sprinted across the street and knocked on Mrs. Hosea’s door. “Look,” I said, all out of breath. “I found a tree for your star.”

She leaned against my arm as I helped her onto the porch. I pointed to where my family stood, surrounding the newly decorated tree. Now it was her turn for a surprise. Above the mask, her cloudy gray eyes opened wide.  

            “Oh my!” Mrs. Hosea’s wrinkles crinkled into a hidden smile. She motioned inside to where the star still lay on the sofa. “Go get it,” she said. “For our tree.”

            I grinned from one side of my mask to the other. 

            But before I could move, she squeezed my shoulder, halting me in mid-step. “You should bring her over. Your little sister. To see my manger.” She held up a knobby finger. “If she promises to wear her mask and stand back. Absolutely no touching.” This time, though, her raspy command was sprinkled with a dusting of Christmas cookie sweetness.  

            “Okay,” I said, too surprised to remember to thank her. 

With careful steps, I carried the boxed star across the street. 

Mia danced in place, flapping her angel wings. “I told you. I told you. Tony’s all three of the wise men in one. See. He even brought a gift.”

Dad laughed and wrapped me up in one of his famous bear hugs. I handed him the star. Mom waved to Mrs. Hosea—now watching us at her window. I waved too. We all sang Angels We Have Heard On High, as Dad held up a winged Mia. My little sister ever-so-carefully placed the star atop our new found Christmas tree.

            With a sigh, I stepped back. Amid the gray December dusk, the decorated tree suddenly stood triumphant and hopeful in our front yard. 

Mom was right. Christmas was special this year. Who knew Mrs. Hosea—or especially us—had any hidden treasures? And who knew we’d end up sharing them with each other to make our own COVID Christmas Miracle.   


This story is dedicated to my mom, Marjorie. 

Mom died this month amid the COVID pandemic, forcing us (like so many other families) to mourn our loved one from a distance. 

Even as children, Mom taught us about sharing and caring and being good neighbors. 

My mom was a wise woman who knew the greatest gift of all is the gift of LOVE. 

Mom will always be our family’s special treasure. 

Sending Wishes

for a Merry Christmas

& a Happy and Healthy New Year

to All of You!

FROM THE GRAVE Earns a Finalist Spot!!!

Such exciting news: FROM THE GRAVE is 1 of 3 finalists

for the ZIA AWARD presented each year by the New Mexico Press Women for outstanding literature. I will be reading from my book at the awards luncheon in Las Cruces, NM on April 22, where the winner will be announced–and I will be signing books there as well.

I am extremely honored to have my book chosen for this literary achievement! In fact, I’m feeling as awesome as this breathtaking shot from Ojo Caliente in northern New Mexico–a land of  amazing vistas and endless possibilities!

Monster Update!!!

Exciting Stuff…

Whew! It’s been a hectic couple of months for me with final edits and rewrites, but I’m thrilled to say:

Monster or Die, Book 2:


is off to the copyeditor and very soon will have its Cover Reveal!

October 10, 2017 is the release date for the new monster adventures–just in time for plenty of Halloween mayhem. Please put it on your To Be Read list!

Next up for this author is the MISSOURI ASSOCIATION OF SCHOOL LIBRARIANS conference in St. Louis next week–March 26-28. I will have the opportunity to share FROM THE GRAVE with all the awesome librarians there. I’ll also be on panels talking about Authors Helping Teachers and Monsters & Mayhem. Click on the link to get an idea of what my fellow author, Stephanie Bearce, and I will be presenting.

Stay tuned for more upcoming author events where I’d love to meet you! Questions or comments–please contact me. I’d love to hear from you.

Scary on!




ALMOST PARADISE by Corabel Shofner

A fun contemporary middle grade (9-12-year-old) story coming July 2017!


I had the privilege to read an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this entertaining and endearing novel. The story opens with Ruby Cylde Henderson being spirited away (on her twelfth birthday) on a road trip by her mother’s awful boyfriend, Carl—or as Ruby refers to him, Catfish. Her mother is along for the ride as well. Ruby’s sentiments toward her mom can be summed up as, “Mother was no help at all, but don’t hold that against her.” She’s a loving but ineffective mother, which means Ruby often needs to step in to run the show.


When the troop rolls into Little Rock, Arkansas, Ruby and her mother try to rescue a performing pig, Bunny, from the IQ Zoo. Catfish fires rounds from his new gun to implement Bunny’s breakout. As they approach Austin, Texas—and a reunion with her mother’s estranged twin sister, an Episcopalian nun—the trio stops at a gas station. Unbeknownst to the mother and daughter, Catfish proceeds to rob the store at gunpoint. Her mother is waiting in the car while Ruby is walking Bunny, when “Sirens whipped around, churning my heart so hard I grabbed my chest to hold it in.”


Catfish is caught and Ruby’s mom is arrested as well. Ruby manages to stay hidden and proceeds to search for her aunt. With some help from friendly locals, Ruby finds Aunt Eleanor, a mostly reclusive and silent nun, living at Paradise Ranch and growing peaches. After a number of weeks living together, Aunt Eleanor and Ruby begin to communicate. Ruby has finally found stability in her life. She no longer must function as the adult. Even though Ruby misses her mother, she and her pig Bunny have truly found paradise.


But soon Ruby discovers that her aunt is battling cancer. Her aunt takes Ruby to Austin to visit her mother and the lawyer representing her. On this trip Aunt Eleanor faints and must be hospitalized then undergo surgery. An anxious Ruby waits by her beloved aunt’s bedside in the hospital. “Time keeps moving regardless of how you feel about it,” she notes. Ruby feels “as wiggly as a snake on hot rocks.” As she contemplates her circumstances, Ruby gains some perspective on her bittersweet life. “You have to love what you get.”


Aunt Eleanor recovers from the surgery and, with her benefactor’s help, bails Ruby’s mom out of jail. Aunt Eleanor decides to “un-nun” in order to better help Ruby’s mom know how to mother. Ruby watches as her mother learns how to cook and drive and better care for her. The two adult sisters, distanced by time and circumstances, come to a new understanding and a renewed love. “Sometimes we are faced with impossible choices and that is life.”


I don’t want to spoil the surprising ending, so I won’t divulge it here. But I will say how much I loved twelve-year-old Ruby Clyde, who’s “as flat as a pancake” and looks like a boy and hates to wear dresses. I loved her determination and her outlook on life. “Love begets love, even if it is in small flawed pieces.” The author mixes a cast of quirky characters with an engaging plot and colorful prose to create a stunning contemporary middle grade debut novel. The characters and tone remind me a bit of one of my favorite contemporary authors, Kate DiCamillo. So now I’ve added Ms. Shofner to my favorites list as well. Although this is her debut novel, I’m sure she will be penning many more awesome reads in the years to come, and middle grade readers will truly be in “paradise.” This would be a great read aloud for classes or at home. Don’t miss it!

Winter Reading List

The Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators has a great list of titles for young readers from Picture Books–Young Adult.

It’s back! The SCBWI Winter 2016 Reading List is available for download on the website at

This is our second list and we’re very excited to have over 1,100 books from 328 publishers created, by our PAL authors and illustrators located in 15 geographical regions. They have created some of the best children’s books around from picture books to YA fiction to nonfiction and more. The list is comprised of books by writers and artists from around the world, and from right near your hometown.

We hope that you, your families and friends download the list and discover a book that makes the winter months more enjoyable. And please share the good news with others. Here’s some sample language to use in a social media tweet or post. 

Find a great book for a kid or #youngadult on the Winter 2016 #SCBWIReading List. #kidlit #middlegrade

And look for the new Summer Reading List coming in 2017! 

FROM THE GRAVE is listed on p.36 under the Mid-South!

Download your copy today and START READING!!!



Frankenstein ALIVE

Who wouldn’t love a face like that?

Okay, so I’ve been hanging around with monsters for much too long–and I LOVE IT!

AUGUST 30 is Frankenstein Day!

So you still have time to put on your costume and monster mash the night away!


FRANKENSTEIN FRIGHTFACE GORDON from my upcoming MG fantasy novel FROM THE GRAVE (October 18, 2016) is not a typical Frankenstein–he’s blue, prefers a crisp white button-down shirt, and the quiet life.

Still he’s full of surprises, the best of friends, and can certainly pull his weight in a tough situation. BLUE is COOL!

Preorders are happening right now–and an amazing giveaway! Don’t miss your chance to win a MONSTER OR DIE T-shirt.


Follow the link and learn how to make a FRANKENSTEIN CAKE–perfect for today’s celebrations or anytime you want to Monster On!!!


And if you want to make your Frankenstein cake look like my character FRANK, just switch blue icing for the green. Remember, BLUE is COOL!


Oftentimes When I Start Writing a Story…

There will be a good guy versus a bad guy. My fantasy FROM THE GRAVE seemed pretty straightforward in this respect with Frankenstein Frightface Gordon—a less-than-monsterly monster—as the good guy. Malcolm McNastee—a true blood troll on a mission to end misfits—seemed the obvious bad guy. But then, as I dug deep (please forgive the obvious cemetery allusion) into the story, my characters started revealing who they really are. Their quirks and shortcomings. Their fears and failings. And of course, I love them all the more for it.


Looking Deeper

While Frank maintains his good guy persona, he’s not without his numerous shortcomings. He has a quick temper that he’s tried to put under wraps, which sometimes causes him to be too cautious. He doesn’t initially lead the charge to stand up for exiled misfits. Rather he must be convinced by Georgina—a dragon without a trace of fire—and by his dear, departed granny—from the grave!


Malcolm, on the other claw, isn’t a totally tough creature. He has a big soft spot for his little sister, Nelly, who exhibits some disturbing misfit traits. Plus, Malcolm has his own secrets to hide—secrets that would destroy his perfectly gruesome image. One of Malcolm’s favorite sayings is “Less thinking and more monstering.” But that is not always easy to do. In fact, being a monster is far from easy but wonderfully entertaining, as I hope you’ll discover in FROM THE GRAVE coming October 18 from Jolly Fish Press.


 More Monsters!from-the-grave

For more information on creating characters and details on FROM THE GRAVE, visit these What’s New blog posts:

Monster Writing Prompts: Creating Characters

1/29 Friends

1/21 Family

1/17 Appearance

1/8 Likes & Dislikes



An Original Valentine’s Day Story

by Cynthia Reeg

Theodore Kong III, a young gorilla of few words, lived in the deep, deep jungle. He loved swinging from tippy-top branches, stamp-stomping mini-earthquakes, and pat-a-tat-tatting his chest. He was an exemplary young gorilla.

Until one Valentine’s Day when he found SOMETHING quite astonishing and wore it to breakfast.


“T…T…Teddy?” stuttered his parents. “What is that?”


Mmmrrrgg,” Teddy rumbled.


“A LONG pink scarf!” said his father with a pat-a-tat-tat.


“Black is the ONLY color gorillas need.”


Teddy’s mother touched the scarf’s heart-shaped spots.


“Why! They’re the shades of misty morning sunrises… BUT gorillas don’t need colorful hearts.”


Mmmrrrgg,” Teddy grrrrrrrumbled louder.

“I don’t care how… ahhhhh…soft it is!” said Teddy’s father.

Mmmrrrgg,” Teddy grrrrrrrrrrumbled even louder.

“Or how splendid the hearts are,” said Teddy’s mother. “Gorillas do NOT wear soft, pink, heart-dotted scarves. Ever!


With that, Theodore Kong III, sss…pun the scarf from his neck.


Up to the tippy-top branches, he swww…ung with it!


Into the fallen leaves, he stamp-stomped on it!



Finally, with a grrrrr…roar louder than ever before, he zzzip-ripped the long, soft, pink, heart-dotted scarf into pieces!


Into THREE pieces.

Mmmrrrgg!” Teddy roared sweetly. “One for each of us! Happy Valentine’s Day!”


His proud parents smiled back.

Then Teddy scrunch-crunched them both in a hairy hug—and that said it all.

Microsoft Word - Red Valentine.doc

Fenway and Hattie

Dog Adventures to the Max!

Author, Victoria J. Coe, has created a canine main character with wonderful charm. Fenway is a Jack Russell terrier who adores his short human, Hattie.

Things seem to be going well in this dog’s life, when suddenly he and his human family are uprooted from the familiar city to the suburbs. Fenway faces the supremely slick Wicked Floor (where his food bowl resides) and too many bad squirrel dreams, all while trying to keep Hattie happy. But Hattie is lured away from her best bud by a neighbor girl with a baseball mitt. Hattie’s snuggles are few and far between.

Can Fenway master his obedience class? Can you he overcome the Wicked Floor? Can he regain Hattie’s companionship? A laugh-out-loud “tail” with an adorable furry hero! Don’t miss out on these doggone great adventures.