Snowglobe || A Magical Adventure through Worlds of Glass

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In an old house with an overgrown garden, many secrets are concealed. When motherless Clem sees the building for the first time, she is drawn to it – and dares to set foot inside. Upon entering, she is met with a magical place, full of miniscule worlds built inside snowglobes. Each snowglobe has an inhabitant – and one knows her by name. Determined to rescue this boy who knows her, Clem enters the magical worlds of the snowglobes, and sets off on an adventure – first to find the boy, Dylan, and then to unwind the other mysteries that grow out of her first entry. But as the story deepens, Clem begins to realise that there is more to this house then she realised – and her dead mother might be the key to everything…


The pages of this book are absolutely crackling with magic. It feels as if every chapter holds a different world, and yet, everything still flows into itself as one complete story. Whilst perhaps a little predictable, the story pulled me in, trapping me inside a snowglobe of my own and keeping me captive until the threads of the story had all come together in a final knot. This book was from the library, but it is certainly one that I would consider purchasing for myself, and read multiple times. The cover was beautiful, the story enchanting and delightful, and the worlds flew off of the page as I explored them.

Enter a thousand worlds…”

I loved the idea of thousands of miniature worlds being stored in magical snowglobes – and also, the thought that each inhabitant could design their own world inside the glass orb. This entire books was full of magic and adventure, and as I explored the world, I found myself completely and utterly delighted with how the premise was carried out. I’ll admit, when I first picked up the book, I didn’t anticipate just how much time would be spent inside the worlds of the snowglobes – but I’m not complaining! My head was spinning with a flurry of miniature worlds as I read on, and honestly – still is. I can’t stop thinking about how I’d design the interior of a snowglobe, if I happened to live in one!

“Something shifts anyway, something quiet and warm that flowers into the air and picks up all their broken threads…”

The magical aspect was an interesting one. Basically, the snowglobes were originally intended to trap any magic-wielder who abused their power – but spiralled out of control, and ended up containing every magic user that could be found. This left three magic users – the main character (Clem), and two of her aunts. The problems arose when Clem’s aunts took it upon themselves to abuse their power, and try to trap all magic. It raised a debate, in my mind, as it was easy to see both sides of the story as one travelled through worlds with Clem. Whilst some magic-wielders were kind and good, others were evil and malevolent – and therein lay the question. Is it better to lock away everything, in order to keep the bad contained – or do you let all free, and hope that good will out-balance bad? It was an interesting question to come across in a fantasy novel, but I appreciated the depth that it added – and will surely continue to consider the thought.

You are a wonder. You are a force of nature, magnified a million times.”


Pros

  • Snowglobe illustrations at the start of each chapter
  • Dogs and grumpy aunts
  • An endearing main character
  • Enchantingly magical
  • Beautiful descriptions

Cons

  • Somewhat predictable in places

The house is aglow with a mess of glitter and beads and bright golden stars…”

If you’re looking for a sweet fantasy read, full of adventure and new ideas, this may be the book for you! It’s simple enough to enjoy without putting too much thought into reading and deciphering, but allows material for further consideration if you so wish. Pick it up – travel through a thousand worlds with Clem and Dylan – and be entranced…


Happy reading!

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Guest Post || 10 Things to Include in Your Story

Today, I have a fantastic guest post from Grace Maples for you. Grace’s post is all about the 10 most important things to include in your story – and it’s a good one! Thank you, Grace!


I get so caught up in making my story, I tend to forget about things like plot, character arcs, and themes. I’m a dreamer, and sometimes I just want to follow the story and see where it goes.

As writers, we need to be intentional about sticking to the storyline, for the sake of our readers, and for the sake of our sanity. Not that we can’t be creative – I love adding elements to my story to make it interesting. Plot, character arcs, and setting can all have creative elements as well. But our stories have to have meaning and purpose behind them.

Here are 10 things your story should have to draw more readers, and give it more depth.


Pull Your Readers In

If I’m not immediately drawn to a character by the first chapter, I will put the book down. Writers have to be intentional about the way they engage your readers. First impressions are everything in the book world.

You must try your best to engage your readers from the first couple words of your story.

So, pull on your readers heartstrings a bit. Give them a character that is just so utterly pitiful that will make your readers cry. Give them a glimpse of a romance that gives them a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.

Make the Plot Twists Believable

No one loves plot twists more than I do, even if I have to stay up late into the night figuring out how to craft them to surprise and pull my readers in. Plotting is key for both the overall flow of the story, and for character development. Plot is the backbone of your story – without it the story would collapse.

I like to try to throw something in my stories that will surprise my reader, but not surprise them too much. There’s a fine line. Be creative, but also be realistic. Don’t randomly put ballet dancers in a war story. (Unless they’re tied to the story in some way)

Imperfect People

Ugh, this one really drives me crazy. Some fairytales (even contemporaries) have characters that are perfect. They always say the right things, wear the right things, and do the right things.

That’s not real life. We can fantasize about a perfect world, but it will never happen. We are all imperfect, so make your characters have flaws. That’s one of the best parts of a story; seeing your character realize those flaws and overcome them.

Obstacles Galore

Another element of plot is obstacles. In order for characters to mature and grow over the course of a story, you must throw difficult things at them. (Figuratively of course. But also literally if you want.)

Don’t make these problems easy to overcome. Make them difficult, make them scary, but make them something that helps your characters overcome their flaws and make them believable.

Strong Themes

Theme is probably one of the hardest, yet most rewarding aspect of your story. It can really resonate with and change your reader. Themes can be anything from “the world is imperfect” to “I need other people in my life”.

Themes are a wonderful way to help your readers realize deeper truths in their own life. I base most of my themes off of real life experiences and lessons I learned through them.

A Reasonable Villain

Villains are so cool, but also so hard! Although I have characters that are villains, I have a hard time creating believable motivations for their behavior. But having a believable motivation for your villain’s actions is a very key concept. Most people don’t just do evil for the sake of evil, they have to have a reason behind their cruelty.

So, create relatable and believable motivations for what your villians do. Are they connected to the MC somehow? Do they have a broken past? Was someone mean to them? Find out why they are evil, and then run with it!

Varied Characters

I’m not sure about you, but sometimes my characters end up all alike. Sometimes they have different hairstyles or different eye colors, but they display the same motives or the same flaws as one another.

It’s difficult to make them different, but in order to make a story more realistic, we need varied characters! After all, no one in real life aren’t exactly the same. (At least, I’ve never met two of a kind) I also like to use my characters to explore different angles of my theme. So, for example, if my theme is “I’m imperfect but God forgives me” maybe one person could believe “God could never forgive me” and the other could believe “I don’t need forgiveness”.

A Strong Contrast Between Good and Evil

Sometimes, the line of good and evil can be blurred. I try to stay away from movies and books where good and evil seem to be the same thing, because, this is a potentially dangerous concept . Evil is dark, scary, and foreboding, good is pure, lovely, and true. Yes, villains are needed for a story, but the good needs to win. The good needs to defeat the evil, not the other way around. Don’t let evil win.

Satisfying Climax

Climaxes are probably my favorite part of the story. The evil has come to head with the good, the MC is starting to believe the truth, and it’s one final showdown. Plus, usually a lot of flaws come into the light, and hard choices have to happen. Will your character believe the lie or live for the truth?

Make a climax that fits with your story, is believable, and satisfies your readers. Nothing hurts the reader more than a completely flopped ending. For instance, please don’t build up the final battle between your villain and MC, and then have them both call it a truce (that’s super annoying).Give your readers a climax they’ll want to read over and over and love.

Good Ending

Give your readers a great ending. Don’t make it too perfect, and don’t make it too sad. If your MC has lost something (or someone… ooh) talk about how he’s still grieving, but he’s also found some happiness. Tie up all the loose ends and leave your reader with something to think about for days to come.

In other words, give the readers something to chew on. Make them wish they had more to read and want to know what happens next. If this is a series, you can even add a cliffhanger. Just make sure that you don’t leave them angry with not having another book soon enough!


I hope you enjoyed these points, and I also hope you put put them to practice. Everyone loves a good story, and these points can help yours grow into something that people will remember for years to come.


pasted image 0About the Author…

Grace Maples is a homeschooled high school student from Knoxville, TN living in East Africa. She adores traveling, writing nonfiction and historical fiction, playing piano and guitar, and reading great books. She and her family are serving on the mission field in East Africa. She loves Jesus, and seeks to glorify Him with her life. You can find her at Proclaiming His Excellencies blogging about her journey with her Savior and her current WIP.

 


 

 

17 Books for 17 Years

Today… is my birthday! And so, I wanted to share 17 books that I have loved throughout the 17 years I have lived so far. Books have always been a massive part of my life – I read them, write them, write about them, and love nothing better than to chat about them. So what better thing to celebrate on my birthday?

Now, of course, this isn’t every book that I love – if I made a post about that, I’d never finish it. But that list of 17 is a pretty good summary of the books that I love. They’re some of the ones that really stand out when I look back over my life. Of course there are more – there will always be more!

So, in no particular order – here are 17 of my favourite books – some new, some old. Some are favourites simply because of the story or the illustrations, some because of sentimental attachments – but they’re all books with fond memories, that I love to read again and again…


 

 

 


I’d like to thank my parents, for always supporting my passion for reading. They plied me with as many books as I could devour, and always encouraged and allowed me to read. Without them, I would never have had the crazy love for books that I have – and I am so, so thankful for every book they’ve given me. They give me a book at every occasion, and that, I think, sums up their support for my reading. Thank you, my fantstic parents! I really, really am so thankful for your constant support and love!


 

Broken Pieces – Will the Pain Ever be Healed?

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Catherine DeLacey lives in a world where mental and emotional traumas manifest as glass-like shards that grow inside of people’s chests. Faced with lives full of suffering, many turn to specialists to have their shards surgically removed.

Catherine’s shard is too large for even the most skilled surgeons to handle safely.

Unable to live with the agony any longer, Catherine plans to take her own life until a close friend tells her the story of a woman who had a similar shard removed successfully by a mysterious source. Armed with this new hope, Catherine sets out on her journey, but as her time runs out, that hope begins to die.

Will she find a way to remove her shard? Or will she give in to despair?

BUY IT HERE.


Tour Schedule

Tuesday, January 1st

https://www.linzauthor.com/ – Cover Reveal

Wednesday, January 2nd

http://sgwilloughby.com/ – Book Spotlight & Review

Thursday, January 3rd

https://www.linzauthor.com/ – ​Melissa Chan Guest Post

Friday, January 4th

https://aaablogfathersjoy.wordpress.com – Author Interview

Saturday, January 5th

https://litaflame.blog – Book Spotlight

https://kayleeskindofwrites.blogspot.com -Book Spotlight

Sunday, January 6th

https://mhelrich.com/ – Book Review

Monday, January 7th

https://thetreasurewithinblog.wordpress.com – Book Review


Review…

Broken Pieces is a story that explores what would happen if trauma manifested in a physical form – as a sharp shard piercing through the sufferer’s chest. It follows a young woman – Catherine – through her quest to save herself from her shard. For her, it’s life or death – unless she manages to remove the shard, she is not willing to allow herself to keep on living. It explores facing trauma, taking action to save oneself, and the consequences that can follow taking matters into your own hands – and it’s a powerful story. It pushes you to answer the question – what would you do if past events were tearing you up from the inside?

“There wasn’t anything she could do to erase her painful past, but it didn’t mean she couldn’t have a beautiful future… or did it?”

I really liked Catherine as a character. She was a young woman living in a situation where she was expected to sit still and do nothing about her shard, but when she did take action – those around her intended to place her in an insane asylum. Rather then let that happen, she dared to escape – making her way to what seemed to be the most infamous city in her world. She was bolshy and determined, refusing to give up or take no for an answer. Though not the strongest person, she was brave enough to risk her safety in order to help others, and I found myself admiring her and her choices as I followed her through the story.

“You may live in a palace. But you are not a princess.”

The way everything wrapped up was really clever. My kindle was informing me that I had five minutes of the book left, and I could not see how everything was going to be resolved. I was wondering if there was going to be a sequel and I was going to be left on  a cliffhanger (XD) or if I’d missed something… and then, every little piece slotted together beautifully. The way that Lindsi McIntyre finished everything off worked really well – the swiftness of the conclusion felt, to me, as if it were exactly how it would have felt to Catherine – resolutions flying towards her, and making her have to quickly grab them and make a decision – just how it is in real life. And I loved the ending. It made me cry with how wonderful and emotional it was. I really do love a good ending in a story!

“The night flashed through her mind like the vestiges of a nightmare…”

Pros

  • Supportive cast of characters
  • Making own family
  • Fantastic ‘ultimate decision’ ending
  • Learning to accept past events and move beyond them
  • Wonderful ending.

Trigger Warnings (all are part of the story and move it forward)

  • Mentions of suicide
  • Drunkenness (supporting character)
  • Mentions of trauma

“the sun was setting, painting the grey an black clouds in brilliant shades of red, purple, and pink.”

So, altogether, I really enjoyed this book! I read it on the way to the beach on New Year’s Day – and it was a good read to start the year with! Lindsi McIntyre explored the sensitive topics that she chose with delicacy and care, and I felt that what she wrote about was well-researched and carefully approached. I loved the world and characters that she created (wouldn’t mind reading more! XD), and am thankful to have been able to join the blog tour for Broken Pieces. Thank you for sharing your novella with the world, Lindsi!


The Author…

Lindsi McIntyre is a linguaphile from Texas who hopes to use her words, both written and spoken, to bring glory to the Lord Most High. When not writing she can be found within the pages of a good book, or watching the latest episode of her favorite tv shows, and drinking way too much tea while doing both. Find her website HERE.


Giveaway (!!!)

For this giveaway, you have the chance to win a gorgeous wooden bookmark, plus your choice of a t-shirt from Literary Book Gifts, an online retailer that sells all sorts of bookish goodies. Enter HERE.


And Finally…

Lindsi, a little bird told me that tomorrow (release day!) is your birthday. (it’s actually mine, too – how exciting!) So, I hope that the release all goes wonderfully, and that you have a fantastic day – and I’d like to wish you a very…

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!


 

My Goals for 2019

I’m not super into resolutions – when they’re not kept up, especially. It’s easy enough to say that you plan to do something – but not so easy to actually do it, without setting specific goals around your dreams. So what I prefer to do is create goals. In the past, I’ve found that I work harder to meet goals – maybe because they’re more specific. You know exactly what you have to do in order to complete them. So, as the new year rolls in, I’m creating some writing, blogging, and reading goals for the year. I thought it might be a good idea to share them here – if you announce something publicly, you’ll be more likely to do it, right? (right…?!)

So, without further ado, here are some of my goals for 2019…!


Writing Goals

  • Write 3 Novels
  • Self Publish a short story
  • Get work published in 3 places
  • Win a writing competition

Reading Goals

  • Read 200 books
  • Review 48 books
  • Get 3 ARCs
  • Read 25 non-fiction books

Blogging Goals

  • Hit 150 followers
  • Guest post 4 times
  • Improve my engagement with other bloggers
  • Redesign my blog

I think that these goals are pretty achievable, if I’m honest! But we’ll have to see – life does have a habit of flinging things at one, in my experience 😛 I’m sure more goals will be born as the year moves along, and I’ll do my best to fulfil each and every one. I’ll keep you updated!


What are your goals for 2019? Are they sensible, or completely crazy? Let’s chat!

New Year, New Writing

It’s here. The new year is here. And most of the world is setting new resolutions. Because, in our society, each new year feels like a new chance – the time in which to change your ways, make new habits, or improve your life.


This year, though, I have a suggestion for you. Go ahead and make your resolutions – write more, finish your novel, publish a book – whatever you want to do in 2019, but also, do something else. What? Well, I encourage you to try something new, writing wise. To put it simply, try writing something you never thought you would.

Maybe for you, that means writing a novel. Or it means dabbling in some flash fiction or poetry. It doesn’t really matter what you write, as long as it’s something that you haven’t written before.

Why?

Writing is about experience. Unless you do a lot of writing, you probably won’t be that good a writer. And expanding your portfolio of writing skills will not only spice things up and make them a little more exciting, it will also assist your main writing. Writing flash fiction will help you learn to pack in the necessary details neatly, and not waffle on. Poetry will assist your lyricality, descriptions, and word choices. And writing novels will help you build better plots and characters. Whatever it is you choose, there’s no way that it will be worthless. Any writing is good writing, and will give your brain a good workout. The brain is like a muscle – it needs to be exercised. What better way to exercise your brain than by stretching it beyond what it thinks it can do?

How?

When you’re used to one thing, it can be hard to step beyond what you perceive as your limits. So how can you experiment with new styles of writing? Well, I would suggest that you read them. They say that imitation is the greatest form of flattery, and I know for a fact that I’m often inspired by reading other people’s writing and styles. So, first of all, decide on a style of writing. It might be something you’ve always wanted to try, it might be something you’ve tried before and struggled with, or it might just be a blind selection. However you choose it, select something as the first new writing style you’ll try.

Then, find examples of it – maybe online, maybe in a book. And READ them. Sit down with a drink, and explore your chosen style of writing. And once you’ve explored it – whether that’s simply reading it, or learning how to write it, then get out some paper, and try it for yourself. Don’t judge your beginning attempts – just try out something new, and do your best to enjoy it.

Resources


The most important thing to remember when trying anything new is my last point – not to judge what you create. Simply enjoy the creative process – you can judge your later creations 😀

This year, try to employ what I’ve talked about in this post. Whether you’re writing or doing something entirely different, try your hand at a new craft, hobby or style – you won’t regret it!

In Summary || A Year of Blogging – 2018

My first full year of blogging has been a great one! I’ve achieved so much, and had a wonderful time to boot! I did Blogmas and NaNoWriMo, reviewed a bunch of books, and loved every minute of it! 

So, let’s sum up the year a little…


Blog-Related Achievements from the Year

First Physical Book (to Review)

This came only about a week ago, and I kid you not – I was so excited, I danced around the house with it for a good ten minutes. It was so cool!!! And there was a lovely note from the author enclosed (thank you, Karen Furk) – oh, it was such a magical feeling! It also felt like a really big achievement in my blogging – receiving a physical book because of my blogging has been a dream of mine ever since I started, and receiving this book was a really big deal to me!

First Blog Tour

I think I’ve actually done three or four blog tours this year – and it’s been great fun! I love being able to connect with authors, and flail about their work alongside them. All you published authors, you’re amazing – and I’m so happy when I’m able to work with you to promote your hard work!

I also participated in a cover reveal for a new version of one of my favourite writing-related books – again, so exciting! So this year has been one of connections for me – connecting with authors and their work and being able to share it with the world!

First Launch Team

I joined K.E. Stanton’s launch team for ‘An Irish Blue’ – and it was such fun! It’s a lovely story, and I was so thankful to be able to work with her for the launch of her new story. It was the first launch team, blog tour, or anything of the sort that I had ever taken part in, which made it even more exciting!

An Irish Blue by K.E. Stanton

First Guest Post (and Second)

Many thanks to Julia Nelson and Bella Putt – who were kind enough to allow me to guest post on their blogs. Girls, I really appreciate your allowing me space on your platforms to share my words with the world! (The links to my posts can be found HERE.) For me, this also felt like a big achievement – other people were willing to allow my articles on their blogs! It was great to connect with both Julia and Bella – and you should totally go and check out their blogs – Bella HERE, and Julia HERE.


In the New Year…

  • I’m going to be focusing much more on networking and blog hopping
  • I’ll be sending out my work to some large platforms and websites, in hopes of publication
  • I’ll be reaching out to bloggers and authors for interviews
  • I’ll be sharing a lot more about my writing journey
  • I plan to at least look into starting an email list
  • I’ll be revamping The Treasure Within – new layout, graphics, etc.

Thank you for joining me this year! I can’t wait for the next…!

A Year of Reading – The Final Count, Favourites, and my Best Book of 2018

Welp. The year is (nearly) over. And, being me, I did A LOT of reading in 2018. Ask any of my friends what I’m most likely to be doing, and the answer will probably include a book. Whether it was for leisure, studies, or information, I have read many, many books this year – I think I passed the 200 book mark in-mid November?

Anyway, today’s post is going to be a bit like an award ceremony for the books of this year – the best, the most read, the most surprising…

Let’s do this!


Firstly – the Final Count

So, this isn’t quite the official final count – as I’m posting it a few days before the year officially ends, I may be able to squeeze in another book or two. But, as it stands right now, I have read…

219 BOOKS!!!


2018’s Favourites

There are many, but I’ll try to bring it down to just a few… (like… one less than 20 :D)

 

  • Six of Crows + Crooked Kingdom (Leigh Bardugo)
  • Wing Jones (Katherine Webber)
  • Life in Motion (Misty Copeland)
  • The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
  • Moonrise (Sarah Crossan)
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Mary Ann Schaffer & Annie Barrows)
  • The Plastic Magician (Charlie N. Holmberg)
  • Do Hard Things + Start Here (Alex & Brett Harris)
  • A Thousand Perfect Notes (C.G. Drews)
  • The Serpent King (Jeff Zentner)
  • The Riddle-Master of Hed Trilogy (Patricia McKillip)
  • Illuminae, Gemina, Obisido (Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff)
  • I Am the Messenger (Marcus Zusak)
  • The Light Between Worlds (Laura Weymouth)
  • Out of my Mind (Sharon M. Draper)

2018’s Favourite Re-Reads

  • The Cooler King (Patrick Bishop)
  • The Blue Castle (L.M. Montgomery)
  • Voyager (Jan Mark)
  • RULES (Cynthia Lord)
  • Howl’s Moving Castle (Diana Wynne Jones)
  • The Island at the End of Everything (Kiran Millwood Hargrave)

2018’s Quickest DNF

Floored (Assorted). This may be one of my only DNF’s for the year – I don’t really DNF books all that often – I think because I read them so fast that I don’ t have time to get bored?! But… I was not going to read this book any further than about seven pages in. Why? Well. I picked it up thinking that it was going to be a sweet story about new friends and meeting people – and maybe it was, under the distasteful parts, but I was NOT going to stick around to find out. One character’s voice was really crude, and, in my opinion, disgusting and offensive. I found it very distasteful, and decided not to read the book almost as soon as the character was introduced. Shame.


2018’s Most Surprising Book

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This one definitely has to go to ‘The Serpent King’, by Jeff Zentner. I picked it up at the library expecting it to be a fantasy, and when I realised that it wasn’t… was tempted not to read it. The premise didn’t appear to be quite as enticing as it had first seemed. But – I gave it a try. And OH MY WORD, it was good. I cried, I laughed, I cried a lot more… and I wound up with pages upon pages of quotes from reading it. Seriously, it was nothing like I had expected it would be, and I do not regret reading it in the slightest.


2018’s Best Book

 

It’s really hard to decide.

But…

We’re going to go with…

SIX OF CROWS!!!

six-of-crows-series


What were the best and worst books you read this year? Let’s chat!

Short Story || The Most Important Thing of All

The amazing author and blogger, Kellyn Roth, is running a contest to celebrate having reached ONE THOUSAND followers! (Congratulations!!!) You can check it out HERE.

Thank you so much for running this contest, Kellyn! It’s all very exciting! 😀

 So, here is my entry – The Most Important Thing of All…


Christmas in the trenches was never going to be fun.

But Christmas in a prison camp is going to be worse.

And right now, it’s looking like I’ll be spending my Christmas in solitary confinement. Which, statistically speaking, is probably going to be even less fun than any of the aforementioned options.

You see, if you think a trench is the least joyful place on earth, you’d probably be right. But a prison camp – that’s hell. So I thought I’d try and at least get out for Christmas – celebrating huddled up in a muddy ditch somewhere sounded preferable. That’s how I wound up trying to escape this joy-sucking hole – cutting through the wire in the dead of night.

Unfortunately, my calculations were off. Dogs, guards, guns, and soon I was being hauled to the cooler for the night. Instead of improving my situation, it would appear that all I did was make it worse.

I sit, hugging my knees for warmth, back pressed against rough stone as the minutes of the night tick by. I didn’t think that there would be any sign that Christmas day had come, but there is. Through the walls, I hear metal clatter against metal. Men cheer in the day, and guards shout in an attempt to restore order. A smile creeps over my face. Even here, they can’t steal our joy. They can’t stop us from celebrating the beginning of the most precious day of all.

Sometime during the night, I fall asleep. I wake to torchlight in my face and a stiff neck, blinking as I prop myself up on one elbow and squint past the light to the guard in front of me.

“Kommandant’s given you a day’s respite from solitary confinement – in the spirit of Christmas. You’ll be back in tomorrow, mind.”

My jaw drops. This guard’s voice may be gruff, but those are the sweetest words I’ve ever heard. I practically skip past him and into the main compound, greeted by the cheers of soldiers from all over the world. The dismal air of the day before is completely gone, replaced by cheering men and the smell of food wafting towards me.

“The Russian workers found a few dead pigs in the forest,” an American informs me, clapping me on the back. “We’ll feast today.”

I can already taste the food – the best I’ll have had since going to war, I’m sure. For one day, maybe we will be able to transform the horrors of the camp into something entirely different.

A noise buzzes overhead. It only takes me a second to realise what it is – but as I do, so does everyone around me. Men scramble for cover, ducking under tables and sinks, dashing into buildings, and covering their heads as the whine of engines rips through the sky. War doesn’t stop for Christmas – why should these planes?

But instead of bombs or bullets, thousands of boxes cascade through the sky as the planes fly over us. When we recognise the boxes, a great cheer arises. The Red Cross has delivered.

Men start to grab the boxes, throwing them to one another.

I step out from under a row of sinks, spinning around in a shower of heavy boxes. They thud to the ground – some bursting open and scattering chocolate, cigarettes, and coffee over the frozen ground. A bar of chocolate comes skittering over the ground to lie at my feet, and I grasp at it – rip open a silver corner, and sink my teeth into the goodness within. I haven’t had chocolate for a whole year.

A man wearing a flying jacket pushes a full box under my nose. “Trade your fags for my chocolate, mate?”

I nod, tear open the box, toss him the packet. He hands over the bar, and I slip it into a pocket, along with the one I just took a bite out of. For me, chocolate is worth more than smokes, coffee, or anything else hidden in these boxes. I’d give up anything for it.

When the frenzied tearing of boxes has died down, and the swapping and trading have finished, most of the men have a cigarette hanging from their mouth, or are digging into a bar of chocolate. I have a box that holds nothing but six bars of chocolate. And I’m very pleased with my spoils. They can have all their fags and coffees – I’ve got enough chocolate to last me until next Christmas, if I’m careful with it.

The guards stand around, languid. Most lean on walls, watching our joy with half an eye as they fiddle with rifles and bayonets. Thank the Lord, they allowed us to keep the boxes.

I glance down at my collection of chocolate as a sudden thought hits me – piercing like a bullet. The guards have no Christmas boxes – nothing to give them even a somewhat pleasant Christmas – nothing at all. But… I can’t give away this chocolate. It’s the only thing that will help me survive the trials of this camp.

I hug my box to my chest – but some of my pleasure is gone. The nagging feeling that to share would be the right thing to do refuses to go away. I shake it off, and try to join in with the festivities – but nothing feels quite as it should. Yes, I’m in a prison camp, but I should still be able to enjoy myself. And yet, my conscience is pricking me so hard that I can concentrate on nothing else.

After a few hours of stabbing guilt, I know that there can only be one conclusion to this turmoil. I look around at the guards, sigh, and then strip the wrapper from the first bar. There are too many of them for a bar apiece – I’ll have to settle for giving a square to every guard that I can.

When I approach the first man, he snaps to attention, grabbing at his rifle as if I’m holding a grenade out to him. I hold up a hand in fear.

“Hey, hey! It’s just chocolate! Would you like some?”

Confusion flits across his face for a moment, and then he accepts the dark square, grunting his thanks. I smile at the look of enjoyment on his face as he pops it into his mouth, face melting along with the candyhocolate.

I continue around the compound, handing a square of chocolate to every guard I meet. The pangs of giving it up are soon overtaken by the joy of giving – something so small, but yet so precious – something that brings pleasure to the face of every man I give it too.

Before long, I only have a bar and a square left. I’ve given chocolate to every guard currently in the camp – every guard, that is, except one. I cling to the bar for a moment, and then make my decision. In the spirit of Christmas, I’ll give it up.

I march into the Kommandant’s office, interrupting him halfway through a cigarette. He sits upright sharply, hand shooting towards a whistle that lies on his desk. I don’t speak, just hold out the chocolate. He looks at me with suspicion splashed across his face.

“A present, Kommandant. A Christmas offering, from one man to another,” I say with a smile, placing it on his desk and making my exit. As I walk, I gaze at the single square of chocolate that remains and pop it into my mouth. It seems to taste all the sweeter for the kindnesses that have surrounded it.

My foot hits something, and I stop to pick it up. The New Testament – a small, brown book that must have fallen from somebody’s Red Cross box. The book sparks an old memory – a younger version of me pacing the floor of my room, repeating a verse over and over again to prepare for church; For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

For a second, my small gifts seem to pale in comparison of the greatest gift of all – the one that Jesus gave, so many years ago. But then, I see how glorious it is in God’s eyes – for me, just a few moments of kindness, but for him, something that matters more than anything. And as the last taste of chocolate melts away, and someone, somewhere, strikes up a Christmas carol, I stand alone, gospel in hand. Maybe the chocolate wasn’t the most important thing about this Christmas, after all.

Blogmas 2018 (Day 25)|| Happy Christmas!

Well, Christmas day is upon us – and with that, this Blogmas is over. It’s been great fun – and, amazingly, I managed to blog EVERY SINGLE DAY! Seeing as, just a few months ago, I was struggling to post even bi-monthly, I feel that it’s quite a cool achievement. Thank you for following along with me as I undertook this crazy journey – I hope you’ll stick around and see what comes next…! I really do appreciate every one of you – followers and readers alike!


What’s Next?

In the next week or so, I’ll be gearing up for the new year – summing up the past and preparing for the future. I have a lot of plans for next year – but I’ll begin to disclose them in later posts, so you’ll have to be patient! More will be said… soon…


And with that, all that’s left to do is to wish you a very, very…

HAPPY CHRISTMAS!!!