When my kids were little, we didn’t have a lot of money, and many Christmases when there was nothing under the tree for me. It didn’t matter as long as there was something for each of my kids to open. To me, the joy of Christmas is in giving and making others happy. With twelve grandchildren, I haven’t always been able to do that, but this Christmas I was able to get a little something for my kids and for each one of my grandchildren. It wasn’t anything much, but it isn’t what I gave them that matters, as long as it puts a smile on their faces when they open them up on Christmas day.
This holiday is supposed to be a celebration of the birth of Jesus, right? When I was a girl, I believed that since Jesus is in heaven now, we couldn’t give him birthday gifts, so we gave gifts to each other instead. As I grew older, I found that giving gifts made me feel good inside. I came to understand that we give to each other in tribute to the greatest gift of all. The spirit of Christmas is about love, and kindness, and giving.
When watching the goings on that occur at this time of year, one can’t help but see that it has evolved into more of a commercialized celebration of materialism. The pre-Christmas hype starts even before Thanksgiving, as all the brands compete for our attention. Buy! Buy! Buy! We find ourselves competing with our neighbors to see who has the best and brightest decorative display in our yards, or give the most expensive gifts. We wait in lines through the wee hours of the night, just to ascertain that we get the best deals of the year on Black Friday, and some are willing to do bodily harm if necessary, in order to reach that goal. We’re all so busy keeping up with the Kardashians and emulating our favorite Hollywood icons that we’ve lost sight of the true spirit of Christmas.
We had a recent death in our family this past year, which brought together family who hadn’t seen one another in many years, and served as a reminder of how quickly things can change. It’s important to let those we care about know it while we can, because they could be gone from this life in the blink of an eye. We don’t have to give the latest video game systems or state-of-the-art tablets. We don’t have to buy the most expensive doll in the store or the deluxe gift box set. We can’t always be with all those who are dear to us on Christmas, but even a Christmas card with a lottery ticket inside, or a pocket knife, or a $5 gift basket, can let someone know that we are thinking of them, even if we can’t be with them in person. When they open it, they think of us and the knowledge that we love them and their feelings for us are what generates smiles, not the gift inside the wrappings. The love behind the gift always shines through, and that’s what gives us that good feeling inside. And that is the true spirit of Christmas.
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Dan Alatorre’s Santa Maybe is a delightful tale that will make you believe in the magic of Christmas at any age. This story is brief, but it will keep you smiling all the way through. A brief trip to the store and a bearded man in a red shirt lead a dad and his daughter to ask, “Could it be?” What they discover may not definitively resolve the existence of Santa Claus, but it proves that the magic of Christmas is real and everlasting. This is a great seasonal feel good story to brighten the holidays and capture the Christmas spirit in all of us.
Some stories you just judge by the way they make you feel inside. I give Santa Maybe five quills.
Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.
It was two nights before Christmas, a cold and cloudy day
When the Roundy Twins thought of a new idea for play
Into Sir Chocolate’s Chocolatier, the naught pair snuck
And found his sweet decorating tools; for them a bit of luck
They spent the long winter’s evening, having a lot of fun
And admired their handiwork, when they were quite done
They had painted the town with Sir Chocolate’s edible-paint
The tubes were all empty, they had painted without restraint
Pictures and graffiti adorned every house in town’s walls
They’d been to the local market and sprayed all the stalls
And the stage in the park, was full of paint and a mess
The twins were shocked at how it looked, I must confess
They felt some remorse, the annual play was on Christmas Eve
They’d painted all the props, not one did they miss and leave
Now that they had finished, they knew they’d been bad
The concert would be ruined, and their friends would be sad.
Bright and early the next day, Sir Chocolate heard a knock
He was hoping to sleep late, but could not the loud sound block
Mr Christmas Pudding and Miss Christmas Cracker were at his door
They were really upset, their tears made puddles on the floor
They’d been preparing for months, for this Christmas event
The invitations to the townspeople had already been sent
“We’ll have to cancel the show and it is such a shame”
“We can’t carry on now; without props it won’t be the same!”
A short while later, Constable Licorice joined them for tea
Everyone helping clean up, was the only plan he could see
He and Sir Chocolate walked about town, looking for clues
It didn’t do them any good, only wore out their shoes
Of the irresponsible trouble makers, no trace could they find
When discovered, they’d get a piece of Constable Licorice’s mind
Signs asking for information, were put up all around the town
Passersby read them with interest, then shook their heads with a frown
The towns people rallied round, and worked extremely hard
The culprits, once caught, from the concert would be barred
It took all day, and everyone was feeling really tired
There was so much to do, some extra help had been hired
Sir Chocolate was amazed at how the mess disappeared
The stage and props looked fine when the paint had been cleared
The town’s people sat down to enjoy a picnic on the grass
And to their great cleaning effort, they all raised a glass
Mr Christmas Pudding and his friends all the concert tickets sold
Miss Christmas Cracker performed and was a sight to behold
At the end of the play, the crowd gave a standing ovation
Which the performers on stage, received with great elation
The next day, Sir Chocolate was awoken early once again
Mrs Roundy had come to visit and her boys behavior explain
She had seen them mopping around, looking most upset
Their naughty and destructive actions, they both did regret
Constable Licorice and the boys had a long conversation
Sweeping the street clean of snow, became their obligation
In this way they made amends for their naughty silliness
They knew the results of their actions, had been quite serious
Each promised they’d never write graffiti on walls again
This was one form of art from which they’d always abstain
They spread the news to their younger siblings and friends
They felt it was the least they could do, to try and make amends
By Robbie and Michael Cheadle
About Robbie Cheadle
Hello, my name is Robbie, short for Roberta. I am an author with six published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with my son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about my mother’s life as a young girl growing up in an English town in Suffolk during World War II called While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with my mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton). All of my children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications.
I have recently branched into adult and young adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential my children’s books from my adult writing, I plan to publish these books under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. My first supernatural book published in that name, Through the Nethergate, is now available.
I have participated in a number of anthologies:
- Two short stories in #1 Amazon bestselling anthology, Dark Visions, a collection of horror stories edited by Dan Alatorre;
- Three short stories in Death Among Us, an anthology of murder mystery stories, edited by Stephen Bentley;
- Three short stories in #1 Amazon bestselling anthology, Nightmareland, a collection of horror stories edited by Dan Alatorre; and
- Two short stories in Whispers of the Past, an anthology of paranormal stories, edited by Kaye Lynne Booth.
I also have a book of poetry called Open a new door, with fellow South African poet, Kim Blades.
Find Robbie Cheadle
Goodreads: Robbie Cheadle – Goodreads
Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram
Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books
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I’ll Be (Writing) for Christmas
Every month, science fiction and horror writer Jeff Bowles offers advice to new and aspiring authors. Nobody ever said this writing thing would be easy. This is your pep talk.
The holiday season brings a lot with it. Presents, pie, turkey, presents. I like presents, always have. Not just receiving them, though when I was a kid, that was the absolute pinnacle. I also like to give, which is why in this month’s Pep Talk, I’m giving the gift of solace, a little thing called the holiday writer’s blues, or as you might know it in the common tongue, loneliness.
It creeps up on us when we least expect it. Christmas, New Years, Thanksgiving. Like a perfect trifecta of sadness and stress, unbidden yet punctual, the same time every year, and it can be a bummer for people who don’t have anyone special in their lives. Most fortunately, and thank God this is the case, I’ve never had to be alone for the holidays. I’ve got a very loving family, a loving wife, but even so, there have been occasions when I’ve had to do the one thing I don’t want to do when everyone else is decking the halls, drinking eggnog, and crushing into department stores to return those awful socks.
Writing is both a noun and a verb, and so, it turns out, is the word writer. If you consider yourself a writer in the subjective sense, you are perhaps the thing not doing the thing, potential energy instead of energy realized. In the active sense, though, you’re a writer who is, you know, as energized as a red-nosed reindeer. Regularly, it is to be hoped. If you follow the Pep Talk, you’re familiar with my attitude toward cutting yourself a break and taking time away from the craft whenever you need it. I hate seeing writers burn out, and I’ve seen it a lot.
If for the holidays you find you have to put the laptop down and decompress after a long year of hard work, I say go for it, no shame necessary. In fact, if a writer feels the need to take months or even years off, I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t. We practice a unique and distinguished artform, one which engages the intellect as well as the emotional center. Sometimes you need to feed your creative engine rather than letting it burn, and burn, and burn. If you can do that comfortably, while at the same time allowing yourself the freedom to recognize your desire to write is safe and sound right where you left it, then to my mind you really have the best of both worlds, because you’re the writer who writes, but only when your mind and emotions are strong, fresh, and ready enough to make it possible.
But sometimes we’ve got to work on Christmas, right? Or on any other holiday. If there’s one thing young writers learn pretty quickly, it’s that solitude is essential to the craft. But it can in fact get lonesome. Especially during a time of year traditionally reserved for friends and loved ones. So how do we work when all we really want to do is socialize and rest? How do we keep those words flowing, locked up in our writing spaces with the door closed, about as merry as a stocking full of coal?
It comes down to this: ambition is costly, and sometimes, we must choose our dreams over our immediate desires. Again, if you’re seriously in need of a break, I say take one. In any other case, though, it’s for the best if you can produce every day, or damn near every day. This season is meant to be about love and a deeper kind of appreciation. So appreciate yourself properly. Follow your dreams whenever you can, as steadfast and as boldly as you can, because to do the opposite cultivates regret. I hate regret. It’s like opening a big box with a big bow only to find novelty gas relief pills inside. I did that to my brother one Christmas, by the way. He laughed. Sort of.
The most basic thing to provide yourself, not just in the month of December, but throughout the whole year, is a daily word count limit. Now, it may seem prudent to make that limit high. A lot of writers like to do a bare minimum 2,000 words per day. That’s a great habit to get into if you can manage it, but in the long run, depending on your proclivity for exhaustion, it might turn into a liability. For the holiday season, at least, I’d recommend dropping your daily word count goal to something more manageable.
For instance, in my general daily habit, I’ve started writing a scant 430 words per day. That’s nothing, a half-hour commitment at most. But at that pace, I can lay down just over 3,000 words per week, which works out to almost 157,000 words per year. Now I don’t know about you, but to me that’s a pretty good sum total. In other words, you could literally write two whole standard-length novels in a year if you write for just a half an hour every single day.
Now in terms of the holidays, an easy half-hour commitment allows you to enjoy the festivities and skip the Quasimodo act. Sanctuary! Sanctuary! You could even fit in some revisions or edits between that first football game and the precise hour and minute your uncle starts snoring on the couch. The other good news with such a low word count goal is that it’s common to overshoot the target, which means in a year’s time, you’ll have written far beyond that 157,000 word benchmark. If it suits your needs, just pull back a little. You can still be productive, be the writer doing the writing, the thing doing the thing, without behaving like a hermit.
I can offer another piece of advice here, ironically the exact opposite of what I’ve told you thus far. I know, that tricksy Bowles and his tricksy ways. Yet this might help you deal with unavoidable loneliness directly. I’m not the first guy to suggest it, and I sort of wish it weren’t the case, but it’s possible the only way to combat the holiday blues is to work even harder than you normally do.
Now I wouldn’t recommend this for someone with a lot of family obligations, but look, workaholism is a thing because it actually can be effective on some basic emotional level. To paraphrase the Christian aphorism, idle hands (occasionally) do the work of loneliness. Sometimes it does no good to stay stuck in your head. Maybe try expressing yourself and your feelings on the page. Pour that pent-up stuff into whatever you’re working on, and don’t be afraid to get real about it. As Ernest Hemingway said, writing isn’t hard. What you do is sit at the typewriter and bleed. Now, I’m not suggesting you bleed all over your nice, brand-new, Santa’s workshop custom Dell notebook, but look, people choose to soothe themselves in a lot of ways, some of which are pretty unhealthy. Writing a whole bunch? It’s not the worst thing you can do to yourself.
Loneliness sucks. So if you’re doing it to yourself by working too hard, or conversely, if you don’t have a choice about it because at this point in your life, you really do feel alone, adjusting your regular work routine may be the ticket to feeling a bit more jolly this season. Don’t overdo it. That’s all I ask. Look after yourself first and foremost. I really do mean that. And don’t forget that nice shiny sense of pride and fulfillment. This is a high calling, after all. Maybe not as high as buying Jeff Bowles some presents, but you know, pretty high.
By the way, that’s:
1234 Nowhere Street
Care of the Grinch living on top of the mountain
All right, everyone. Thanks for reading, and Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night. Now for some John Lennon! War is over, if you want it. The war within yourself, that is. Cheers!
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‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the garage
Not a creature was stirring, not even the Dodge.
The spark plugs were nestled all snug in their beds
While visions of sparks danced through their heads.
The inner tubes were hung by the chimney with care
In hopes that Saint Nicholas would fill them with air.
Mama in her kerchief and I, in my cap
Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap.
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter
I sprang from my bunk and missed the ladder.
Ran to the window, threw open the sash,
Leaned out too far and fell in the trash.
I stood and brushed off all the new fallen snow
And greeted St. Nick with a hearty “Ho! Ho!”
He was dressed all in fur, for it was a cold night
It must have been freezing on the sliegh while in flight.
A bundle of goodies flung over his back
He looked like a peddler as he opened the sack.
His eyes twinkled through goggles, his dimples so merry.
Then, he took off his cap, but my, he was hairy.
His hair flowed over his shoulders, so white
He reached into his sack and pulled out a flash light.
Then to my surprise, what he pulled out of his bag
Was a 345 Hemi, ready to drag.
Then he pulled out some headers that looked really sweet
And to top it all off, a set of big meats.
He pulled out a tire iron, a hammer and wrench
Before I could grasp it, he pulled out a tool bench.
When all the tools were layed out in a nice, neat row,
He turned with a wave and said, “Ho! Ho! Ho!”
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight,
Merry Christmas to all, may you win tonight!
By Greg and Kaye Booth
I can remember as I little girl going to the mall with my mother and my grandmother to do our Christmas shopping and sit on Santa’s lap. All the stores played Christmas music, the buildings were all lit up with beautifully colored Christmas lights and there were Salvation Army Santas on every other corner shaking their bells. It was a happy time, but not any more.
These days it seems like everybody is in a hurry, and Christmas spirit is often hard to find. People in the stores will run you over, or snatch an item right out of your hand. A minor bump in the aisle is likely to result in violence. Christmas shopping is no longer a pleasant experience, if you’re not too timid to venture out at all. Christmas is supposed to be a time of peace on Earth and good will toward men, but folks won’t hesitate to deck the aisles with anyone who gets in their way.
The other day I was in the store, and I saw an older man bending down to get a case of soda from the bottom shelf. A kid came barreling around the corner with a shopping cart and plowed right into the man, knocking him to his knees, pops splaying out of the case and scattering across the aisle. The man reacted, turning to say, “Hey, watch it!” Then, the boys mother came around the corner and told the man he was rude. Store employees appeared, offering to help the man up and cleaning up the mess in the aisle, and the lady and her son disappeared into the crowd.
The boy’s actions were disrespectful, not even offering an apology, but the mother’s response, to my view is incomprehensable. If I had done something like that as a child, or for that matter, if my children had done something like that, there would have been apologies, not only from the parent, but the parent would have made sure the child apologized as well and there would have been a couple of reddened butt cheeks when we got home. The woman didn’t see anything wrong with what her son had done, she felt no regret or guilt seeing the man on his knees in the aisle. She didn’t even take the time to see if he was alright. That’s not Christmas spirit. I’m not sure that’s even human.
Later, same store, same shopping trip. I watched a disabled woman with a pronounced limp move down the aisle leaning heavily on her basket. As she passed behind another lady, who was standing in the aisle examining the products on the shelf in front of her, the disabled woman jerked, causing her to bump the other woman lightly. She passed on by, apparently not realizing she had bumped the other woman, but the other woman jumped at the contact and glared after her. But it didn’t stop there. The woman turned and headed toward the disabled woman, coming up behind her. I don’t know what she planned to do, but it appeared that she might even mean the disabled woman harm. The disabled woman had no idea the irate woman was behind her or how close she had come to finding out the hard way. Fortunately, she looked up and saw me watching, and turned, heading back down the aisle the other way. Yep, Christmas spirit just oozing there.
These days everyone is angry and distrustful. We don’t trust our fellow man. How can we when road rage is common place, as are mass shootings and bombings of public events? You have to take care when opening emails or answering robocalls, because scammers are everywhere, trying to get your personal information to take your money or steal your identity. And mothers are afraid to let their kids sit on Santa’s lap for fear there might be a child molester hiding under that beard. This is the social climate that we live in today and it’s very different from the simple world that I grew up in. And it just doesn’t feel like Christmas anymore.
Through all the changes, it seems that many of us have lost sight of what the true message of Christmas is. Christmas is about giving; not about getting the best deal, or buying the most popular toy. Jesus was God’s gift to mankind because he loves us. That’s why the first word in Christmas is Christ. It’s sad to think the term isn’t deemed politically correct these days, because that term is meant to remind us of why we celebrate Christmas and what it’s all about. It’s about Love, plain and simple.
I have to smile when I see stories on the news of Secret Santa, the man who goes around giving money to complete strangers each year, or the man who drives around with a trunk full of basketballs, which he gives to needy kids, not just at Christmas time, but year round. Not all of us have forgotten what Christmas is about. There are those out there who still know about the spirit of giving and love for your fellow man. I think those folks were more abundant when I was growing up, but they can still be found if you look.
So this holiday season, I challenge all of you to renew your Christmas spirit: go out and do one nice thing for someone you don’t know, say ‘thank you’ when someone shows you a courtesy, or just give a smile to someone who looks like they’ve had a hard day. Call up a friend or releative you haven’t seen or heard from in a while and wish them a Merry Christmas. It doesn’t have to be much. Just enough to make you aware that you’re still a part of the human race and let you feel the love.