Heather Gray

Flawed...but loved anyway.

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Ariella Moon and The Christmas Surprise


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If you've been around me (or my blog) much at all, you know I love Christmas and everything that the holiday and season represent.

Today, I'm turning my blog over to Ariella Moon and her newest release, Spell Fire.  Please give her a warm welcome, enjoy her post, shower her with comments, and buy her book for all your friends!



Ariella Moon and The Christmas Surprise


When I was child, Christmas presents mysteriously developed revealing holes in their wrapping. Anything placed under the Christmas tree was shaken, its weight estimated, its shape scrutinized. Of the three children in my family, my older brother, Chip, was the most incorrigible. By Christmas morning, he inevitably had figured out the content of each gift box. Somehow always being right, led to always being disappointed. Not because he hadn’t receive what he had wanted, but because he had robbed himself of the mystery, magic, and anticipation.

I relished the anticipation. I fought (often unsuccessfully) the temptation to poke, jiggle, and guess. My worst Christmases were when my parents yielded to my siblings’ relentless begging and let (or in my case, forced) us to open all of our presents on Christmas Eve. Holding out and opening the presents by myself on Christmas morning was even worse. Either way, I felt my Christmas had been hijacked.

No wonder my favorite childhood Christmas was the one when my parents pulled off a huge surprise. I still remember how the Douglas fir perfumed the living room with its crisp woodsy scent. Multi-colored tree lights glinted against shiny ornaments hung half-hidden in the boughs. After church on Christmas Eve, we were each allowed to open one present — just one.

My brother eyed the remaining presents, calculating. If the potential haul seemed smaller, none of us complained. We knew we were lucky to receive anything.

“The sooner you get to sleep, the sooner Christmas will come,” Mom reminded us.

Chip headed to his bedroom. Our younger sister and I climbed into our twin beds in our room at the end of the hall. Under the covers, I silently recited “Twas the Night Before Christmas” and pricked my ears for the clatter of hooves on the roof. Delicious anticipation sparked along my veins. Sleep eluded me for what seemed like hours.

Christmas morning we thundered into our parents’ room and cajoled them into rising. We raced to the living room, towing them behind us. Like locusts to a grain field, we descended upon the presents, not noticing the beige accordion doors to the kitchen and dining room were closed.

After each of us had been dwarfed by giftwrap wreckage and our small stash of presents encircled us, my stepfather said, “I wonder who closed the doors to the dining room?”

My brother, sister, and I exchanged befuddled glances. Two seconds, maybe three, passed before realization hit us. We extricated ourselves from the torn wrapping paper and longed-for gifts and raced to the doors. Chip unlatched the bi-folds and pushed them open. There, in front of the counter overlooking the stove, stood three shiny new bikes — his and her two-wheelers and a tricycle. Ribbons streamed from the handlebars. Chip’s eyes lit with astonishment. We could already imagine the wind against our cheeks, the gravel spitting beneath the tires, and the adventures to come. Best Christmas ever.


Why did you set Spell Fire at Christmas rather than another time of the year?

The first book in the Teen Wytche Saga, Spell Check, takes place at Halloween. The second book, Spell Struck, takes up where Spell Check left off, and has Thanksgiving as the deadline by which the story must be resolved before the hero, Aidan, is whisked off. The Winter Solstice and Christmas provided a natural next step as the backdrop for Spell Fire. Also, the book deals with the potential divorce of the main character’s parents. I know from personal experience how complicated and miserable holidays can be when a family has been torn apart. I figured teens and parents alike would relate to the pressure and pain my protagonist, Ainslie, suffered.

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Tagline:  Can two people forge a future when their secret pasts collide?

Genre:  Young Adult

Back Cover:  New school. New friends. New reputation. High school sophomore Ainslie Avalon-Bennett works hard to hide her Crazy Girl past. But as long as her best friend’s disappearance remains unsolved, she can’t shake the depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder that once landed her in a mental ward.

Ainslie’s tenuous control over her life shatters when her warring parents ditch her at Christmas. While they take a cruise to “work things out,” Ainslie must spend the holiday in Palm Springs with her aunt and uncle, owners of a struggling Mystery School and occult store. Plunged into the world of fire fortunes, dragons, entity eaters, and an ailing spell book, Ainslie is well beyond her comfort zone. Then she meets a boy who spikes her pulse and calms her OCD.  But will she lose him once he discovers her past? Or will his deadly secret, hidden in plain view, be their undoing? 



I found a patch of sunlight where I could sit with my back against the wall and pulled out The Scarlet Letter. I kept my head down while Uncle Esmun arrived and took his seat. Years before Sophia's disappearance and my descent into the rabbit hole, I had sat in on a few of Dad's business meetings. I knew the protocol. Be quiet and inconspicuous. Don't interrupt the adults; they have important business matters to discuss. Only these adults were discussing the tarot cards they had drawn from a deck in the center of the table.

I tried to concentrate on Hawthorne's book, on Hester's vengeful husband who'd practiced medicine under an assumed name. But Hazel was telling the rest of the group she had just returned from Cornwall, England and had brought each of them a gift. I wondered what it could be. Seashells? Photos of quaint cottages?

ʺI have a pixie for each of you.ʺ

Right. Like you could get those past customs.

ʺHow nice of you, Hazel,ʺ Aunt Terra said.

I thought back to what I knew about pixies. Weren't they supposed to be a) extremely troublesome and b) not real?

Hazel sashayed up to each Board member, starting with Cerelia, and acted like she was putting a pixie in their hands or on their shoulder. As she progressed around the table, some members oohed and aahed as if she was a three-year-old showing off a crayon drawing. When she approached Evie's grandmother, the tote vibrated, rattling the glass table. Hazel faltered, her expression uncertain. She dropped back, and the rattling stopped. Brimstone smells hissed through the closed zipper. Cerelia shrank back.

Evie's grandmother pointed a warning finger at the tote. ʺStop it. Don't be rude.ʺ

My jaw dropped. Thor glanced at me, then flicked his gaze back to the tote. It stopped emitting smoke.

Uncle Esmun rubbed his nose. Hazelʹs head wobbled as if she were figuring out her next course of action. She still cupped her hand as if she carried an invisible pixie.

Hello! Did you not notice the real magical object in the room?

Seemingly unable to drop the pretense, Hazel advanced toward the alientologist. He ignored her and scribbled in his little notebook. Thor politely rebuffed her. Both rose at least twenty degrees on my Guy Approval Meter.

I checked my watch. The meeting had started forty minutes ago. Nothing had been accomplished. No one had addressed the tote situation. My face warmed again. I shifted position. Instead of sitting against the wall with my legs straight in front of me, I sat cross‑legged and hunched over my book. A tugging sensation rippled between my shoulder blades.

Thor glanced my way.

The more I thought about how much Aunt Terra and Uncle Esmun must need every cent the store and mystery school could generate, the more energy swelled behind me. Warmth radiated from my face. My whole body felt as if it was glowing. I tried to distract myself by flitting back to my book and my lengthy 

homework assignment list.

I couldn't concentrate.

Hazel had reached Aunt Terra and delivered what I hoped was the last pixie. She pivoted and spied me. The energy behind me compacted. It crackled with huge warrior/ninja/dragon chi — alert and ready to strike. The thought of straightening up and backing into it set the fine hairs on my forearms and nape on end.

Thor's eyes met mine. Our gazes locked, and I swear he did a Zen mind meld. Soothing waves of chi — energy — flowed through me. The brimstone stink evaporated, replaced by the calming scent of lavender and sage.

Hazel's gaze swiveled from me to Thor, then back to me. Looking buffeted by an unseen wind, she silently returned to her seat.

The corners of Thor's full lips curved upward. Two urges warred within me — the desire to leap across the room and kiss him, and the urge to arch my neck and breathe fire.

Thor's smile widened.


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Merry Christmas!


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Beautiful recollection of one of your Christmases!

What an awesome Christmas surprise. And I enjoyed your excerpt too.