A true Christmas story

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By Seb Kirby

Here is a true story that took place on a snowy night some years ago….

It’s Christmas Eve. My son Ben is 5, soon to be 6. He still believes in Father Christmas. I’ve convinced myself that the time has come to tell him ‘the truth.’

Harsh, you might think. But for the best. It’s not going to be much good if he goes on believing when all his school chums know ‘the truth’. They could end up thinking he’s a wimp. And I’m recalling the quandary I was in when I was Ben’s age when one of the kids in the street had taken delight in telling me ‘the truth’. I wanted to spare him that.

So, I’m standing next to Ben and we’re looking out of the window, out onto the street from the little terraced house in Swansea, South Wales. It’s snowing; one of those rare white Christmas things. And I’ve plucked up the courage to tell him.

‘You see, Ben, there is no Father Christmas. It’s just something grown-ups invent…..’

Ben’s not saying a thing. I’m beginning to think that I’m doing this well. But something has caught his attention further down the street.

Just then, right on cue, Father Christmas comes walking along, picking his way through the ankle deep snow. Dragging a small sleigh with a big white bag full of presents on it. As he comes closer, he sees us at the window and gives a wave and a cheery smile. I wave back.

Ben still says nothing. He’s a thinking child and he’s trying to weigh this up. Dad’s saying there’s no such thing as Father Christmas. Father Christmas has just come walking up the street dragging his sleigh and has just waved and given a cheery smile. Dad has waved back. Finally, Ben waves back and just says, ‘OK, Dad.’

The guy who’s just walked past is Brian, a teacher friend of the two girls who are our next door neighbours. He’s volunteered again this year to be Santa at the local primary school, just round the corner. He’s good at it. He has the full red and white Santa suit, portly gait and believable white beard. And the sleigh and the big bag of presents. I’m rubbing my eyes as he braves the steps to the house next door. He’s come to wish the girls a Merry Christmas in his usual exuberant way. I don’t know him well but I’ve spoken to him a few times, enough to give him a wave.

That was the best part of  forty years ago. I don’t think that Ben has ever wholly believed a word I’ve had to say since that day. How could you blame him? A lesson for us both in truth and reality, perhaps.

And the proof, if proof was ever needed, that you shouldn’t listen to anyone who tells you that Father Christmas doesn’t exist.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Thanks to all those who’ve taken an interest in my writing during the year……

Seb Kirby

was literally raised with books – his grandfather ran a mobile library in Birmingham, UK and his parents inherited a random selection of the books. Once he discovered a trove of well-used titles from Zane Gray’s Riders of the Purple Sage, HG Wells’ The Invisible Man and Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities to more obscure stuff, he was hooked.

He’s been an avid reader ever since.

Other inspirations include Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis and The Trial, George Orwell 1984 and Animal Farm, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Boris Pasternak’s Dr Zhivago, Arthur Koestler’s Darkness At Noon, Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov, Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley …

He is author of the James Blake thriller series, Take No More, Regret No More and Forgive No More, which were recently republished by Canelo; the science-fiction thriller, Double BindEach Day I Wake; and Sugar for Sugar. His latest book is another psychological thriller, Here the Truth Lies.

Seb can be found:

BestSelling Reads author page  |   Amazon  |    Facebook   |   Twitter   |    Goodreads   |   LinkedIn   |    Website & blog 

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Thursday teaser: Things That Are Just True

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A frightful fragment from

Corinne O’Flynn

I was nine years old when the darkness claimed my daddy. I watched it happen with my own two eyes. I know what you’re thinking; I can see it in your face. But you can file that under the heading of Things That Are Just True.

It happened right over there, just across the other side of the cemetery. It was summertime and that magnolia tree was in full bloom. You can’t tell it now, what with it being winter and all, but believe me when I say the smell of those flowers filled the air so thick it was as if the good Lord above had thrown open the Pearly Gates to welcome my grandpa, spilling the heavenly scent over his funeral like a blanket. I was just a kid back then, but God as my witness; I will never forget the smell of the flowers on that tree. 

The funeral ended and everyone milled around—tossing flowers into the grave, and giving my daddy condolences as he stared down at my grandfather’s coffin. Most people shook hands with the pastor from the next town over who had come to stand in for my father, who was a pastor himself but wasn’t expected to preside over his own daddy’s funeral. I was a shy child then, so I hung back, content to watch from a distance instead of being in the thick of any activity. 

Photo by Scott Rodgerson on Unsplash

And that’s when I saw it. 

The darkness slithered right up out of the grave. It spread across the too-green sheet of fake grass covering the dirt pile they would later dump on top of Grandpa’s coffin and tamp down flat. Eventually real grass would grow over it, leaving the world to think that Grandpa had always lived right there in his hole.

The darkness pooled like a smoky black cloud for a moment near the base of the dirt pile and then it moved in my direction. I remember holding my breath as it slinked across the top of the tidy neighboring graves, snaked unseen through the legs of the mourners, and covered a patch of dandelions as it coiled up over the tips of my newly shined shoes. One of my laces had come undone, and as my feet turned icy I worried if my untied laces had acted like an invitation, an open door to let the darkness get inside.

The night before, my daddy had shown me how to polish my leather shoes. He seemed nervous and a little distracted but soon fell into the familiar rhythm of daubing and buffing, daubing and buffing. I sat across the kitchen table from him, each of us with a shoe over one hand and an oily brush in the other. He showed me how to rub the black polish into the leather and buff it with a rag until it gleamed. The air in the room had filled with the tangy smell of gasoline and wax that was both delicious and sickening as he explained the procedure and told me with a wink to file that under the heading of Things Every Man Should Know.

The mourners continued to disperse from the graveside as the darkness wafted away from my cold, cold feet and found its way to my daddy. I watched and waited for it to pool around his shiny black shoes and turn his toes icy before moving on to someone else. 

But instead, it stopped. 

Then the darkness just seeped right up into him as if his feet were a thirsty sponge and the darkness was a cool, wet puddle. 

My father turned to me at that moment and smiled. It was a good smile, a real one with kindness and truth. But it was his eyes that stopped me cold. The dad-ness had gone from his eyes, replaced by something not-my-daddy.

Sometimes, when the light shines through glass just right, it breaks into slices of color so bright and pure you could almost forget about the darkness. And sometimes the darkness is so strong it conceals the true nature of everything so completely you could forget the light even exists. That was the kind of darkness I had felt in my feet back then and had seen in my daddy’s eyes when he smiled at me all those years ago. You can file that under the heading of Things I’ve Never Told Anyone.

About the story 

Believe it or not, the genesis of this story came from a real event. While the true story did not entail a seeping darkness creeping from the grave nor any missing persons, it did have to do with an evil spirit that possessed someone, and impacted their family in disturbing ways. Of course, my mind exploded with the possibilities of how to develop this as a fictional story, and thus Things That are Just True was born.

Where to get it

Readers can get this story for free by subscribing to my newsletter (they actually get three stories, and this is the third) or they can grab it online in the anthology Dead Night: Four Fits of Fear

Corinne O’Flynn

Corinne O’Flynn, romantic fantasy

is a productivity geek, graphic designer, ghostwriter, and the author of an ever-growing list of fantasy and mystery novels and short stories.

Married, raising four kids, she is the founder and executive director of a non-profit organization, and a professional napper. She also serves on the board for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (RMFW).

You can check out all of her books on her website or on Amazon.

Anyone interested in staying connected can sign up for her emailsWhether you’re a fan of mystery or fantasy stories, or a fellow busy human looking for ways to build your own productivity systems, Corinne O’Flynn invites you to join her as she shares what she learns on her adventures.

“I believe in doing things with intention, and making sure those intentions are good. :)”

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Be a Better Reader, by Shannon Mayer

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ShannonMayer

Shannon Mayer

Be a better reader? What the heck does that mean, you ask? This is not a blog about speed reading, or learning big words (Antidisestablishmentarianism comes to mind). This particular blog is about you, reading a book, and understanding why it worked for you and why it didn’t, and in that way, you can be a better reader.

Ask yourself this question . . .

Have you ever got to the end of the book and thought, “Jeebus, that is a pile of dog poo!” But then, when you tell your friend, you couldn’t say why exactly? Or, have you ever gotten to the end of a good book and said, “Best damn thing ever!” But again, couldn’t figure out why the book worked for you?

That, is what I’m going to show you. The top three WHY’S of a good book.

1.       Characters: You, the reader, feel a connection for, or perhaps, couldn’t care less about them, either way, this is top of the list. The characters can be good or bad, but your empathy for them , and the ability to FEEL for a fictional character is a HUGE part of why a book will or won’t resonate with you. The character needs to be able to grow, and change, they should have multiple sides, which for you should make them feel more real. Even if it’s a book set in an alternate world. Even if it’s an alien or a monster, a good character makes you want to get to know them better. Maybe sit down and have tea and cookies with them.

2.      Story: This might seem obvious, but often goes overlooked both by readers and authors. Is the story line something that caught you by surprise(I mean this in a good way)? Did it flow smoothly or jump around like a jackrabbit on crack? Did you find yourself lost halfway through the book? A story should be easy for you to Priceless FINALfollow, even if it’s complicated. That is the sign of a good book. It should also leave you wishing the book were longer. Not have you chucking the book (or your kindle) across the room in frustration.

3.      The world: The place where the character and story live, the world the author has created for you, no matter how fantastic should be so clearly defined that if you close your eyes, you can see it, smell it, even taste it if they’ve built it right.

Can’t see it, can’t feel like you could reach out and touch the world? Not so well done.

Okay, that is three parts of WHY a book is good or bad. So HOW does that play into you being a better reader? The more you understand why you do, or don’t like a book, the more discerning of a reader you become.

With discernment comes great power, and with great power comes great responsibility. As a reader now who knows WHY a book works or doesn’t work, you not only have become a better reader, you have the ability to help a writer become a better author. Which leads us into my next blog post . . . “Reader to Reviewer”.

§ § § § § § § 

Shannon Mayer is the author of the bestselling urban fantasy Priceless which has sold over 20,000 copies in its first two months. On her down time, she hangs out on the farm coming up with ideas for her next books, herds old people to the local cribbage club, and in general makes a nuisance of herself.

Connect with Shannon on Amazon  Facebook  Twitter  or of course on her Blog

Stop in Friday, February 22 for an original short story entitled “Horse,” by Stephen Woodfin, bestselling author of Next Best Hope.

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