Selection box of Christmas stories for my handbag

Introducing author, Wendy Clarke, and her new collection of stories.

Dear Readers,

I am delighted to present my Christmas story collection, Silent Night and the extract I have chosen is from the story Project Christmas. It’s about a young man struggling to create the perfect Christmas for his young children after their mother dies and I chose it for its poignancy.

I hope you would like to place Silent Night in your handbag as the collection is a heart-warming read and perfect to dip into, while curled up on the settee with a drink and a mince pie.

My stories have been published in the Christmas editions of various women’s magazines. The extract is from the first story in the collection, ‘Project Christmas’. When it was published in Take a Break Fiction Feast they changed the name to ‘It Will be Perfect’. 

Festive wishes!

Wendy Clarke

Light the fire, make yourself some hot chocolate, with a hint of Christmas cinnamon, and peek at this extract.

Extract

Their first Christmas without Paula. The thought made his heart ache. He didn’t know how he was going to do it, but he’d made up his mind that, whatever happened, he would try and make it the same as it had always been. For the children’s sake… for all their sakes.

The only problem was that Christmas had always been his wife’s domain – just as the children had been. Apart from stringing the lights up under the eaves and carving the Christmas turkey, Paula had been happy for him to leave the bulk of it to her. Now it was down to him alone.

What I need is a list, he thought. It was a practical start. If he worked through it, methodically, and tried not to be sidetracked by thoughts of Paula singing to the radio as she stirred the pudding, or tickling him as he stretched up to put the star on top of the tree, he would be able to do it. He was a project manager, after all. Well, he used to be – now his days were spent taking the children to school and doing all the jobs Paula had once done to keep the family going. Yes, that’s what he’d do. He’d made up his mind – this would be his project.

More about the collection of short stories

Silent Night is a collection of short stories with a Christmas theme. All thirteen stories have previously been published in national women’s magazines. If you like moving tales with a satisfying ending, then this collection is for you.

Andrew and his children are grieving. Can he make this a Christmas his late wife would have been proud of?

Bella needs to get away from it all but her Christmas cottage by the sea holds more than a few surprises.

It’s Christmas Eve, the night is starry and two young men realise they have more in common than they realise.

The stories in this collection are a window into the lives of ordinary people at this special time of year. They offer hope, comfort and the knowledge that the spirit of Christmas is often found within ourselves.

These Christmas stories have been written over a number of years and it is exciting to finally be able to see them all together between the covers of one book. When you put together a collection of short stories, you have the privilege of entering the lives of a whole cast of characters in a variety of settings from all walks of life.

About Wendy

Wendy has written serials and a number of non-fiction magazine articles. She lives with her husband, cat and step-dog in Sussex and when not writing is usually dancing, singing or watching any programme that involves food!

 

 

It is exciting to offer Wendy’s gift of short stories to you.  A perfect choice if you want to indulge in some festive fun, or if you are searching for a Christmas present.

 

Scrooge Alive and Miserable at Tredegar House

A golden gateway to a Victorian Christmas framed the Tredegar House, located in Newport.  The walls surrounding the 17th century mansion concealed Christmas trees, decorations, presents and an odious gentleman.  “Bah,” said the angry gentleman, wearing a white nightgown and cap.

Scrooge sat in Tredegar House counting gold, and bringing a distinct chill to the room. The embers in the fire did not warm Scrooge’s welcome. He stared, in disgust, at his guests and did his best to make them feel unwelcome.

“I hate Christmas! There’s no point in all that nonsense,” sneered Scrooge at the suspicious children passing by.

A young boy stamped his foot on the oak floor.  “I like Christmas.  I’m getting a new bike,” declared the fair-haired boy.  He looked up at his father for reassurance.

Scrooge placed his arms lovingly around his piles of gold. ‘Humbug!’ he repeated constantly in his ‘grating voice’.

I heard the guests’ ‘laughter and good humour’, and this melted the frosty reception of Scrooge.  I heard parents retelling A Christmas Carol and explaining the character of Scrooge.  It was wonderful to observe literature brought to life through this interactive approach.

A child, called Beth, joined in the fun and declared, “Bah, humbug” to all the members of staff positioned in each room.  A toddler playing with a wooden train set, in the nursery, was reluctant to return it.  The cook invited everyone to stir the Christmas pudding, as she explained the glorious Christmas feast the family would have enjoyed. The quantities of food consumed in the grand house did make me wonder how that would have contrasted with the average Victorian Christmas. But the thought didn’t linger too long, because I was distracted by the sight dark-haired fellow, pacing up and down the court yard.  Later, I saw the gentleman at the writing desk. I peered in his notebook and it said, ‘Scrooge to honour Christmas’.

Many thanks to the National Trust, staff and volunteers for organising the festive experience.  Archways, gates, gardens and rooms were decked with Christmas cheer.  Not even Scrooge could freeze the glorious atmosphere at Tredegar House.

Following the visit, I decided it was time to decorate my own home.  I confess I watched Miracle on 34th Street, as I decorated each Christmas tree. I heard Valentine Davies say:

“Well, this is the Imagination. And once you get there you can do almost anything you want.”

I do hope the children visiting Scrooge found their imagination in that cold room, and will tell the story of their experience.

 

Please see all my adventures at Handbag Adventures and my blog at jessiecahalin.com.

 

A Christmas gift from a bright young star

Today, I am handing over this blog to talented, nine-year-old author, Ella Lopez.

Ella has co-written a book with her mother, Jennifer. C. Lopez, about their experience of home-schooling.  Entitled: ‘Thanks, But I’ll Teach My Own Kid’, the book explores fearless thinking and learning without borders. Their book has been honoured by their local library association, and featured in publications across the USA. Ella has also written her debut novel: ‘Legend of Beams’.

I challenged Ella to take me, and my handbag, on a Christmas adventure.  The young, innovative adventurer imagined a placed for the three of us to meet. Ella created a multicultural, celebratory setting and she is delighted to share it with you.

 

Ella’s Christmas Gift of Creativity

Jennifer, Ella and Jessie were having a good ole chat online about our writings, great books we’ve read and even cultural travels, when suddenly the internet line began to crackle. Their laptop screens went dark, but they could still hear each other faintly…they also heard some sort of bells ringing subtly from inside the screen and a jolly deep laughter- on both ends of the line. Jennifer, stared at the screen in disbelief as a faint image of Jessie grew larger out of the blackness. Suddenly, Jessie popped right out of the computer- and joined us. They were all together now, staring at each other in disbelief. Completely befuddled, they looked around. They heard bells and the sound of jolly laughter. They had all been transported through cyberspace when Ella pressed ‘escape’ on the laptop.

Thistle bushes, vibrant green shamrock plants and Noche Buenas of red adorned the landscape. The land appeared to be the most complex and unique combination of two distinct cultures: Mexico and Wales. It was an exuberant pallet of color, music and culture they witnessed unfold in front of us and beyond. Silvery snowflakes fell continuously, leaving a glistening canopy over the entire landscape.

They heard a faint voice echo beyond the grand red and green plants.

Voice of Christmas: Welcome, Bienvenidos, Croeso! You three have arrived in the land of Nadolexmas. This is the land of celebration where we merge experiences and cultures- a blending so unique and filled with pure beauty. You were transported here because the three of you have an immense appreciation of culture that encourages others to feel it too.  We want you to spread good cheer, and Nadolexmas beautifully blends both your loved cultures :Wales and Mexico. Please, sit down for your first meal.

The voice continued…as if closer now- but still there was no one visible within their sight.

A table and three chairs magically emerged on the landscape. Lights enveloped enormous trees that now surrounded our beautiful table. The table was adorned with a ‘Tapete’, hand woven in every color imaginable. Jennifer and Ella recognized it as from their favorite region of Mexico: Oaxaca. The table was set with gold placemats.  Each place setting had a Christmas cracker and some chocolate dragons dressed in festive costumes.  Tangerines and chocolate coins were also spread generously on the table and many plates of scrumptious plates began to appear.  Feeling grateful for this feast before us, Jessie reached for the plate of laverbread with cockles and bacon. She must have been thinking of  a Welsh breakfast.

Ella and Jennifer looked a little dubious at the green laverbread, but always willing to try new things- they placed some on their plates.  Jessie tried to think of something served by her Spanish sister-in-law then presented some additional prawns, with the shells on, cooked in garlic and chorizo. She was thrilled with the scrumptious holiday dishes she’d dreamt into reality, but was still looking for the turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce.

Ella BEAMED with joy and closed her eyes then, thinking of her favorite dishes during Navidad (Christmas) in Mexico. A simple few of her favorites came dancing through the air to the tune of ‘Feliz Navidad’. First was Ponche, filled with bubbly sweet fruits. Then, came Chiles Rellenos filled with rice, meat and cilantro. As the dishes gently settled themselves onto the table, Ella reached immediately across the table for a chocolate dragon.

Ella: Mama look! It’s Beams! It is the dragon in my story.

Jennifer: Ella it sure does look like Beams, but you are forgetting your table manners and also- you know we save the dessert for after the main dishes.

Ella: But Mama, it’s the holiday and a special time with Jess. I’m only going to eat just this one now- in honor of Beams. And I’d like to try some Welsh cakes.

Mama: Well, since there definitely doesn’t appear to be a land where rules apply… I suppose just the one Beams Chocolate can’t hurt.

Ella: Jessie, I think the prawns are my favorite. I didn’t know the Welsh loved Chorizo too. We have that in common! Please…you need to try Los Tamales de maíz, fresa y canela now (corn tamales with strawberries and cinnamon).

Jessie: You bet, Ella! I can’t wait. I love how they’ve been prepared inside of the corn husks and wrapped as if they are a gift. Just beautiful.

Jennifer and Ella: ¡Feliz Navidad Jessie!

Jennifer and Jessie raised their glasses to toast this most magical celebration with Sparkling Pear Juice. Jessie smiled.

Jessie: Nadolig Llawin. Now, we have all wished each other a Merry Christmas.

Ella: We have some gifts to share Jessie and it seems there is no better time than now in this special place. It just feels so Christmas-like here.

Jessie: I agree sweet Ella. Might I ask you to open mine to you- first? You know the gifts we share are never material in nature, and I’m awfully excited to see what you think of yours.

Ella: That is really sweet of you to want me to open mine first Jess. I’m just as excited as you are, to find out what is inside!

Jessie: Great, let me grab it out of my Handbag sweetie. I can’t believe my HANDBAG somehow traveled here with us through Cyberspace- but who am I to question the beauty of this mysterious experience!

Ella examined her gift from Jess. Inside was a red velvet bag. She opened it up and bright light immediately illumined the space around Ella and spreads across her face as she smiled. They were the most vibrant sparkles in all shapes and colors.  Ella stared, speechless.

Jessie: I give you the gift of imagination, sweet Ella.

Ella hugged Jessie tightly.

Ella: ¡Gracias! Actually, I’d like to say, Diolch (thank you in Welsh)! I know this gift will help me tremendously.

Jennifer and Ella: We have something here for you now, Jess.

Jennifer and Ella handed Jess a bag of multi-hued golden silk. She looked at us smiling and then down at the bag in her hands.

Jessie: Oh, my goodness- this will go beautifully with my holiday handbag. It almost looks like pieces of iridescent Abalone! How in the world did you make these Ella and Jen?

Ella: Well, Jessie it’s the gift of continued growth in creativity. I think we had similar thoughts on sharing something with each other that we’d always be able to keep with us. You probably won’t be able to guess what these are- that give you the continued growth in your amazing creativity so let me tell you. . .

They are the scales from a most magical dragon. There’s only one of her kind and they can only be found in the Realm of Castelina, where this growing dragon, Beams lives. As she grows, so does her magic and her iridescent wings shed scales during the growth spurts. They will give you much happiness and encourage your creative side to continue to fly. Here, you can read my new novel: ‘Legend of Beams’.

As Ella spoke, the beautiful shiny scales started to rise up out of Jessie’s handbag.

 

Please see my blog at jessiecahalin.com.