Tag: Christmas anthology

SILVER MAGIC by CHERYL PIERSON

Classic Christmas True Stories of Holiday Cheer and Goodwill

Several years ago, I had just sold my first short story to Adams Media’s Rocking Chair Reader series. I was on Cloud 9! This story, SILVER MAGIC, was the 2nd story I sold to them and would appear in their first Christmas collection, Classic Christmas: True Stories of Holiday Cheer and Goodwill. I want to share it with you here. This story is true, and is one of the most poignant tales I could ever tell about my grandfather–he died when I was eleven. I never saw this side of him, and I don’t think very many people did–that’s what makes this Christmas story so special.

 

 

SILVER MAGIC by Cheryl Pierson

Did you know that there is a proper way to hang tinsel on the Christmas tree?

Growing up in the small town of Seminole, Oklahoma, I was made aware of this from my earliest memories of Christmas. Being the youngest in our family, there was never a shortage of people always wanting to show me the right way to do—well, practically everything! When it came to hanging the metallic strands on the Christmas tree, my mother made it a holiday art form.

“The cardboard holder should be barely bent,” she said, “forming a kind of hook for the tinsel.”   No more than three strands of the silver magic should be pulled from this hook at one time. And, we were cautioned, the strands should be draped over the boughs of the tree gently, so as to avoid damage to the fragile greenery.

Once the icicles had been carefully added to the already-lit-and-decorated tree, we would complete our “pine princess” with a can of spray snow. Never would we have considered hanging the icicles in blobs, as my mother called them, or tossing them haphazardly to land where they would on the upper, unreachable branches. Hanging them on the higher branches was my father’s job, since he was the tallest person I knew—as tall as Superman, for sure. He, too, could do anything—even put the serenely blinking golden star with the blonde angel on the very highest limb—without a ladder!

Once Christmas was over, I learned that there was also a right way to save the icicles before setting the tree out to the roadside for the garbage man. The cardboard holders were never thrown out. We kept them each year, tucked away with the rest of the re-useable Christmas decorations. Their shiny treasure lay untangled and protected within the corrugated Bekins Moving and Storage boxes that my mother had renamed “CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS” in bold letters with a black magic marker.

At the end of the Christmas season, I would help my sisters undress the tree and get it ready for its lonely curbside vigil. We would remove the glass balls, the plastic bells, and the homemade keepsake decorations we’d made in school. These were all gently placed in small boxes. The icicles came next, a chore we all detested.

We removed the silver tinsel and meticulously hung it back around the little cardboard hook. Those icicles were much heavier then, being made of real metal and not synthetic plastic. They were easier to handle and, if you were careful, didn’t snarl or tangle. It was a long, slow process—one that my young, impatient hands and mind dreaded.

For many years, I couldn’t understand why everyone—even my friends’ parents’—insisted on saving the tinsel from year to year. Then one night, in late December, while Mom and I gazed at the Christmas tree, I learned why.

As she began to tell the story of her first Christmas tree, her eyes looked back through time. She was a child in southeastern Oklahoma, during the dustbowl days of the Depression. She and her siblings had gotten the idea that they needed a Christmas tree. The trekked into the nearby woods, cut down an evergreen, and dragged it home. While my grandfather made a wooden stand for it, the rest of the family popped and strung corn for garland. The smaller children made decorations from paper and glue.

“What about a star?” one of the younger boys had asked.

My grandfather thought for a moment, then said, “I’ve got an old battery out there in the shed. I’ll cut one from that.”

The kids were tickled just to have the tree, but a star, too! It was almost too good to be true.

Grandfather went outside. He disappeared around the side of the old tool shed and didn’t return for a long time. Grandma glanced out the window a few times, wondering what was taking so long, but the children were occupied with stringing the popcorn and making paper chains. They were so excited that they hardly noticed when he came back inside.

Grandmother turned to him as he shut the door against the wintry blast of air. “What took you so long?” she asked. “I was beginning to get worried.”

Grandfather smiled apologetically, and held up the star he’d fashioned.   “It took me awhile. I wanted it to be just right.” He slowly held up his other hand, and Grandmother clapped her hands over her mouth in wonder. Thin strands of silver magic cascaded in a shimmering waterfall from his loosely clenched fist. “It’s a kind of a gift, you know. For the kids.”

“I found some foil in the battery,” he explained. “It just didn’t seem right, not to have icicles.”

In our modern world of disposable commodities, can any of us imagine being so poor that we would recycle an old battery for the metal and foil, in order to hand-cut a shiny star and tinsel for our children’s Christmas tree?

A metal star and cut-foil tinsel—bits of Christmas joy, silver magic wrapped in a father’s love for his family.

I know Christmas is over, but this is a fantastic little anthology you might enjoy any time of year. If you’d like to read the wonderful stories in this collection, here’s the link at Amazon. This is a true “bargain” at only $5.18 for a new copy!

AMAZON LINK: http://www.amazon.com/Classic-Christmas-Stories-Holiday-Goodwill/dp/B001QCX1NO/ref=la_B002JV8GUE_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1416118651&sr=1-3

Christmas horses

Range War Winner

Available in paperback and e-book

The dust finally settled after all the gunfire. Thank goodness for bandanas, huh?

The last owlhoot standing is…

Laurie Gommermann!

Congratulations, Laurie! That was one tough shootout.

I’ll email your e-copy of Wild Texas Christmas in two shakes. Enjoy the book!

Thanks to everyone who stopped by!

 

 

ARTHURIAN-WESTERN SHORT STORY IS NOMINATED FOR AN AWARD! by CHERYL PIERSON

Who likes the stories of King Arthur and his knights? I do! I have been fascinated with the entire legend of Camelot since I was a child. The Sword In the Stone, the Disney cartoon movie, was a favorite when I was young.

As I got older, I couldn’t get enough of the movie musical, Camelot, with Vanessa Redgrave, Franco Nero, and Richard Harris in the starring roles. I valiantly tried to struggle through T. H. White’s “The Once and Future King” but finally had to admit, it was too heavy for a twelve-year-old. As an adult, I enjoyed it, along with Mary Stewart’s series of the Arthurian legend as told from Merlin’s POV—a “must read” set if you’re a Camelot fan.

So, the story I wrote for the “Six Guns and Slay Bells: A Creepy Cowboy Christmas” anthology is one that is dear to my heart in many ways. Even the title, “The Keepers of Camelot”, was not something I had to think about for long. This story has just been nominated for the 2013 Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Awards in the Short Story Category. I am beyond thrilled.  It also received a specific mention in Publishers Weekly when the anthology came out. Here’s a bit about the story itself.

Legend says that Arthur will rise once more when the world needs him the most. But in my story, something goes awry, and Arthur has returned in many times, many places, throughout the centuries since his final battle.

The story opens with Arthur on a stagecoach in the American west—Indian Territory—of the 1880’s. But in this life, he comes across two people he’d never thought to see again—Lancelot and Guinevere. Why are they here—and how will it all end…this time?

The stage is attacked by Apaches minutes before the driver gets the passengers to the safety of the next stage station. Though they’re safe for the time being, a nerve-wracking Christmas Eve is in store as the Apaches wait for them outside.

Arthur has a plan. He’s seen the fearless leader of the Apache—the man they call “Sky Eyes”, a man he knew as Lancelot du Lac a hundred lifetimes ago.

Will Lance’s prowess as a warrior combine with his legendary arrogance to seal the fate of the people inside the station—including Guinevere, the woman he gave up everything for in the past?

One young boy in the group unknowingly holds the key to Lance’s decision. But will the glorious legend of Camelot be remembered?

I have to wait until June 1 to know the outcome of the decision, but no matter what, I feel like I’m a winner to be in such wonderful company of the other nominees, Troy Smith, Jim Griffin, Wayne Dundee, and C. Courtney Joyner.

There are some excellent stories in this book by many great western writers, including Troy Smith, Courtney Joyner, Robert Randisi, L.J. Washburn, James Reasoner, and many more. They’re all paranormal in some way, and they all take place in a western setting—it’s not just for Christmas! I will be giving away an e-copy of SIX GUNS AND SLAY BELLS to one commenter today! Please remember to leave your contact info in your comment.

Here’s a short excerpt for you:

In my story, Arthur, and Guinevere have come back during the 1880’s to the western frontier. They are under an Apache attack, and Arthur has recognized the leader of the Apaches as none other than Lancelot du Lac. He knows that Guinevere has recognized him, as well. Guinevere is married to the stage station proprietor, and Arthur finds himself on the stage headed for New Mexico . They’ve each lived a thousand lives since that last fateful day they spent together, when Lance rescued Ginny and then fought with Arthur. The legend says Arthur will return, but why are Lance and Ginny here, too? Here’s what happens:

“Come now, Ginny. Let’s have done with this pretense, shall we? We both know Lance is leading that band of savages.”
Her gaze faltered, and she looked away from him, not answering.
“Do you really believe he’ll harm you?” The note of gentleness crept into his tone, in spite of his resolve not to care.
“I—I don’t know, truly. He was—so angry when we last spoke. When I told him I’d made my decision to go to the convent—”
“You haven’t seen him since—since we fought?”
She shook her head. “Not really…Oh, I’ve seen him, during these attacks, but never spoken to him. Arthur, I’ve lived a thousand lives, but not fully. I seem to just wake up in another time, another place. Somehow, I—” She stopped herself, then went on in a controlled tone. “I believe it must be the same for you. And for Lancelot. We’re all trapped in this circle.”
“How do we end it, Ginny?”
She moistened her lips in the nervous gesture he recalled so well. “I’m not sure. But I—I wonder if maybe it’s not somehow connected to…forgiveness.”
Anger flared quickly in Arthur’s heart. She dared ask him to forgive? Forgive her treachery? Forgive Lance’s betrayal? Forgive her causing the death of the dream he’d held so dear? A cold smile touched his lips.
“You ask much, my lady. Especially after all you’ve taken.”
 
She nodded, the stricken look in her eyes almost too much for him. Even in the near darkness, he could see the pallor of her flawless skin.
“Yes. You were always a much better person than I, Arthur. You had a generous heart. A loving soul.”
“Make no mistake, Ginny—I am first a warrior. A ruler.”
In the gathering darkness, she laid a hand on his. “No, Arthur. You are first a man. And a good one.” The softness of her skin on his in the shadows brought a flood of memories that he’d thought were carefully locked away.
“You know Lance won’t attack now.” His lips curved caustically. “He loved Christmas-tide more than the rest of us put together.” It had always been Lance who suggested they find the biggest Yule log in the forest, spearheading the effort to organize the men and making it a festive occasion. It had been Lance who sang the Yule songs with such fervor, his deep baritone booming through the stone hallways of the castle.
 
Ginny’s eyes filled with sudden tears. “Arthur—when I see him as he was today…I wonder if he even recalls the things we remember. It seems he’s become absorbed in the ways of the Apache. The look on his face is so intent, so—cruel. I don’t believe he’s the person we knew.”
“He was never the person I thought I knew, Ginny. Never.” At her quick look, he smiled. “Yet, there’s a part of me that, even now, wants to call him my brother, as I did before—before everything fell apart.”

Ginny nodded “I hope that same part of you remembers me in another light as well, Arthur,” she whispered.

All my other short stories, anthologies, novels and novellas can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/author/cherylpierson

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