People!

Image courtesy of Angela Yuriko Smith

It’s that time of year again! the snow is falling on my blog, the Christmas tree pics are all over Facebook, and this year’s edition of our fabulous charity anthology, Christmas Lites 3, is now available on Amazon!

Some links are:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

and the paperback is currently available from Createspace

More sites are going live as we speak so if you prefer others, please do search in case it’s live and we just haven’t had confirmation of it yet!

Having had a sneak peek myself, I can tell you there are some absolutely stunning stories in there – and for those who knew the lovely and much-missed author C.S Splitter, there is a page of tributes to the man who was first to suggest that we should put together an anthology, and suggested that the charity we donate the proceeds to should be one that dealt with domestic violence.

Once again, all funds from the three Christmas Lites anthologies go straight into the bank accounts of the NCADV, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which acts as an umbrella organisation providing training and funding to all the smaller DV-related charities in the US.

I know I’ve told you this before, but when we were setting up the first Christmas Lites anthology, Splitter told us a story of how, one year, he was nominated Santa for his office party. He hired the costume, bought a bag of candy canes and headed off for the place where the party was; but he got a bit lost along the way, and ended up at an odd little building. He walked in, and there was a fair amount of fuss. How he’d got in he didn’t know, because there is normally a lot of security around a safe-house, but he apologised profusely.

During the course of the discussion he found out that all these women had fled violence in the days preceding, and were living in terror of being found by the people who should most care for them in the world. They had fled, in some cases with nothing other than their children and the clothes on their backs. For them, Christmas would not be a magical time of loving togetherness, of snuggling on the sofa watching TV in that fairly terrible sweater Auntie Ethel knitted, or of laughing over a criminally large turkey dinner. For them, Christmas was huddling together in a strange house, too numb to even wonder how to put the pieces of their lives back together.

It was very quiet. The building was full of children, but children who had learned the wisdom of being as quiet as possible. All of them knew – KNEW – that Santa was not coming down the chimney that year – and yet, Splitter realised that even though all he had in his sack was candy canes and sweets, at least  there was one thing that he could do for them.

And so they took him into the main lounge where everyone was sitting, and he boomed “Ho ho ho! A Merry Christmas to one and all!” and was besieged by delighted kids who all got a candy cane. It wasn’t much, but to them that solitary piece of stripy peppermint was a little bit of Christmas, and it meant a lot to them.

All of them wanted to talk to Santa, and he ended up stopping for a couple of hours, rather than the twenty minutes he had imagined. By the time he got to the office party, it was pretty much over. Drinks had been drunk, the mistletoe had been thoroughly invoked, and there wasn’t much of the evening left; but the boss had noticed his absence and was sober enough to enquire. He told her the story, and she went quiet, very quiet.

The following day was Christmas Eve, and Splitter was somewhat unimpressed to get a call from his boss asking him to come into work, but  she was a Jewish lady and didn’t celebrate Christmas so there was no particular reason for her to take time off either. Besides, he had been thinking he might be in trouble for being late to the party, so he didn’t quibble. He arrived at work to find the boss waiting in the carpark with the boot of her car full of toys. She apologised for interrupting his Christmas, but explained that she needed him to show her where the shelter was so that she could make her delivery. Splitter went with her back to the shelter, and helped her to unload sack after sack after sack of toys. They asked the pair to come in and help distribute them to the children, and from the way he told the story, the way those kids’ eyes lit up stayed with him for a long, long time afterwards.

So this is why we put together our anthology every year. For everyone who has ever been the victim of violence, or the survivor of it: this is for you. For every mother who has had to grasp the remnants of her shattered courage in two hands, and walk out of the door into the great unknown because it was the only way she could protect her children: this is for you. For every child who has lain awake listening for heavy footsteps and raised voices and the terrible slap of fist on flesh: this is not how it should be, and this is for you.

This is our attempt to make something which will help all of you, by helping to keep the shelters open so that there is a place you can run to, by helping to train the people so that they know how to help you, by helping to fund the organisations so that they can provide you with another set of clothes, a travel ticket to another place, whatever.

For us – or certainly for me – Christmas is a time of joy and laughter, of relaxing with loved ones, and enjoying the togetherness of cooking and eating, and of watching really old films or falling asleep on the sofa, of giving silly presents and useful presents and clever presents and apt presents, and of using this time to really appreciate the wonderful people with whom I am surrounded, and my incredible good luck in the places and circumstances in which I live.

This being the case, I wish just such a fun, goodnatured Christmas to all of you.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’d better get back to ODS.  But I might have a little re-read of a couple of the stories in the anthology first.. just one, or maybe two. Well, maybe three…

Catch you later peeps!

JAC

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