One Christmas Miracle

Today we have an excerpt from a work in progress by Writers Forum member Michael Brian Brussin titled For King and Kaiser, and novel set in the trenches of World War 1. This piece recounts a miraculous event that actually occurred in those trenches in 1914. Michael read this excerpt at the December Read Around in 2016, and it is a perfect Christmas Eve story.

Excerpt from For King and Kaiser

By Michael Brian Brussin

 

Cropped Michael Bussin 1Evening came and it began to snow.

“All right—just because it’s Christmas Eve doesn’t mean you can take it easy; that’s just what jerry wants, so stay alert,” Sergeant Wade said to Albert and Jim and the men standing with them.

“We’re on top of things, sergeant, don’t worry,” Albert assured the cautious Sergeant Wade.

“I just wish it wasn’t so perishin’ cold,” Jim said, clapping his gloved hands together.

“Stop your moaning, Jim, it’s Christmas Eve and we’ve got snow; what more do you want?” Albert teased the young cockney.

“Yeah, Christmas,” Jim sighed. “Ya know, it feels like Christmas, even aht ‘ere.”

“It does at that, even in this hellish wasteland,” one of the other soldiers remarked, watching the snowflakes drift onto the parapet and beyond.

It was nine o’clock in the evening and the snow continued to fall. Oil lamps lit English and German trenches, and drum fires burned that had the men taking turns to warm their hands over the flames.

Albert sat by himself with a mug of tea thinking of home. Jim Broadbent sat with another private where they talked about their families and what they would be doing at that moment if they were home. Sergeant Arthur Wade walked up and down in a casual gait, lost in his own thoughts; and Captain Duncan made an appearance, checking on his men and making sure the parapet was lined with watchful sentries.

Hey, what’s that? What’s jerry doing?” one of the sentries said, peering cautiously at the German parapet.

“What is that?” another sentry questioned.

Sergeant Wade jumped onto the fire step and peered over.

The Germans had acquired Christmas lanterns and placed lit candles inside and put them along the top of the parapet.

The silence was then broken by distant singing.

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht…

The entire carol of Silent Night grew louder and was sung in a beautiful voice.

The English trench was captivated and touched by the singing of this hallowed Christmas carol, and when the song was finished the English clapped and cheered.

“C’mon, lads, let’s give ‘em one back,” Jim Broadbent said. “What’ve we got?”

“How about O Come, All Ye Faithful?” Albert suggested.

Sergeant Wade came over to the men and led them in a song like a choir master.

At the end of O Come, All Ye Faithful, the Germans applauded and cheered, and they then entertained with O Tannenbaum.

Christmas Eve ended with an exchange of more songs and a few shouts across the parapets.

“Happy Christmas, tommy!” a voice called from the German trench.

“Frohe Weihnachten, jerry!” Albert responded on behalf of the British.

The men in the trenches woke to an extraordinary sight—two robins perched on the wire in No Man’s Land. One of the red-breasted birds was settled near the German trench, and the other close to the British.

It had stopped snowing, but a soft covering lay on the ground. The sky was a clear blue and a biting yet refreshing cold filtered in the Christmas Day air.

There had been no ‘morning hate’ this day. No shots were fired; both sides honored Christmas with indications of peace. Neither side, however, took a chance looking at his enemy’s trench without the use of a periscope, aware of the ever-ready sniper.

The quiet and stillness remained, then the British sentries picked up some German movement.

“What’s going on over there? Sergeant! Come quick!” one of the sentries called. There was no response. “Jim, go and fetch the sarge, quick,” the sentry directed Private Broadbent.

“What’s happening out there?” Albert asked, hearing the commotion.

“Jerry’s moving about; we can see them. Rifles ready!” the sentry responded; then clicks sounded along the wall with rifles aimed and ready to fire.

Sergeant Wade rushed out of the dugout and looked through a periscope.

Good God, will you look at that!” the sergeant exclaimed.

“What is it, sergeant?” the men wanted to know, still unwilling to look without the safety of a periscope.

“They’re holding up signs…Happy Christmas, and…Drink with us.”

“What’s happening here?” Captain Duncan asked, appearing on the scene.

“Look! They’re coming over the top!” another sentry called.  “They’ve got their arms up!”

Sergeant Wade peered over the parapet without the use of a periscope, as did several of the other men.

“I asked what’s happening here,” Captain Duncan repeated.

“It’s jerry, sir,” Sergeant Wade answered. “They’re all out in No Man’s Land. I don’t think they’re armed.”

“Happy Christmas, tommy! Komm—have a drink with us!” a voice echoed in broken English.

“Let’s go, sarge! How about it?” the men elicited, with some of them already starting up the ladders.

“Stand where you are!” Captain Duncan ordered, stopping the men in their tracks. “There will be no fraternizing with the enemy. Now take up your positions!”

“Come on, captain, sir; it’s Christmas, peace an’ friendship an’ all that,” Jim Broadbent brazenly urged.

“What about a drink, tommy!” another voice rang out from No Man’s Land.

“Komm! We will meet you!” still another man called.

“What do you say, captain?” Sergeant Wade asked. “It is Christmas.”

Captain Duncan looked over the parapet and was amazed at what he saw. Scores of German infantrymen stood about in No Man’s Land, smoking and talking, and some were holding mugs of beer, having a jolly time.

Captain Duncan stepped down and looked at Sergeant Wade, then he turned to the men.

“All right…over you go!”

The men eagerly climbed up the ladders, but then they walked cautiously toward their enemy.

The Germans approached the British, and when the men of the opposing nations met in the middle of No Man’s Land, they shook hands and exchanged Christmas greetings.

Book Signing: Darbie Andrews

Darbie AndrewsLong time Writers Forum member and former WF Secretary Darbie Andrews had a book signing at the Redding Barnes and Noble this afternoon.

The event was for her new book, ¿¡HIM?!. The book is about fifteen-year-old Clarissa Cruz, her broken family, first love, and a Qinceañera. ¿¡HIM?! was released this year by All Things That Matter Press.

Darbie said that her book project took about five years from start to finish. She encourages diligence for new authors. Darbie sent her book to many agents without success before finding a home for her book at All Things That Matter Press, which is a small press, but is not self-publishing. She also pushed through some life circumstances that make completing a book project difficult. Darbie emphasized the importance of her writing group for feedback and accountability. She said that she could not have finished ¿¡HIM?! without their support.

Her success was there on the table at Barnes and Noble.

Congratulations, Darbie!

Darbie Andrews Book

Member Monday: Over the Hill by George T. Parker

Welcome back to Member Monday! Today we feature a story by Writers Forum newsletter editor, George T. Parker. Here’s little more about the piece from George himself.

Author’s Note: This fictionalized story is based upon a true incident on a trail crew in Yosemite. I didn’t see it happen. It was a campfire story we heard from the trail workers leading our crew of an incident that had happened years before.

Over the Hill

by George T. Parker

Hammers clanged on rock. A faint granite dust fog hung low to the ground. Miguel and Bear each worked his doublejack on the weak, weathered, and rotten granite rocks in the trail tread. Neither spoke. They didn’t need to. The borders of the causeway section were finished. All they had to do now was break down the decomposing granite rocks to fill the trail tread, cover the crushed fill with dirt, and this section of trail would be finished. Miguel had been working trails in Yosemite for over fifteen years, had been a trail boss for three of those years, and this marshy section would finally be crossed off his ‘to do’ list. This particular section had been annoying him for a couple of years. This year, this section of high-traffic trail between Yosemite Valley and the Merced High Sierra camp had climbed to the top of the priority list. The rest of the crew worked about a half mile above them, closer to the Merced camp. When Miguel and Bear finished here, they would bump up ahead of the rest of the crew to the next trouble spot on the trail.

It was a hot August day. Miguel and Bear worked shirtless, and their blue jeans carried a lot of Yosemite dirt around with them. Miguel glistened with sweat. A green bandanna around his head kept sweat out of his eyes. Bear’s hairy mass covered up any sweat. His head was bare, but he did occasionally have to wipe sweat out of his eyes with a bandanna he kept tucked into a back pocket. This was the perfect life for Miguel and Bear. They could not imagine any life better than working on Yosemite trail crews in the Backcountry.

As their hammers clanged, hikers rounded the corner below. They appeared out of the trees, three of them. Two guys and a lady. All three of them could have just stepped out of an REI catalog. They sported brand new backpacks and hiking boots. They hiked with the latest style hiking poles. (Ordinary people might call them ‘ski poles’.) Colored piping around the top of the lady’s socks peeking above her low top hiking boots even matched the color of her hiking shorts.

Miguel and Bear saw the hikers right away. They took a quick look around at their work site. Their rock bars, shovels, singlejacks, and other gear were all off the trail and out of the way. They stopped pounding granite and moved to the uphill side of the trail to let the hikers pass through. The first hiker, one of the guys, said “Hi.” Bear said “Hi” as he pulled his bandanna and wiped his face. Miguel said “Como esta?”

The hikers carefully picked their way through the rubble in the trail. After they passed through, Miguel and Bear stepped back down onto the trail, preparing to start swinging again.

The lady hiker turned back to them and asked “Are you guys inmates? You know, like a chain gang?”

Miguel and Bear had been dealing with that question since they were Corpsmembers in the CCC. People often confused them with state prison inmates as they worked alongside California’s highways or state parks. Miguel and Bear were used to hearing that question. This time, though, Miguel had already planned a different sort of response.

Miguel dropped the head of his doublejack to the ground and said “Yeah. Didn’t you see the guard with the shotgun down there around the corner?” He looked at Bear. Bear grinned.

The three hikers stopped. The lady said, “A guy with a shotgun? No.”

Miguel said to Bear “You hear that?” Miguel threw down his double jack and ran up the hill. Bear was right behind him.

The three hikers stood frozen in place and watched the two men disappear through the trees.

A Note from the Webmaster: If you’re a Writers Forum member in good standing and would like to be featured on Member Monday, please send your submission to writersforumwebmaster@gmail.com. Submissions should be 75-750 words, appropriate for all ages and error free. Please include a short bio, a headshot and any related links. The author retains all rights and gives permission to Writers Forum to publish their submission on the website and/or in the newsletter. Thank you!

Special Writers Forum Workshop…

Writing for Children: Anyone Can Do It, Right?

Special Writers Forum Workshop: Saturday, March 12 from 10:30-2:30 (1/2-hour lunch break at noon) $10 for members, $15 for nonmembers

If you have ever read a book to a child and thought, Hey, I can do that…how hard could it be? then this four-hour special program presented by Writers Forum is for you. A skilled and accomplished panel of speakers representing the genres in children’s literature will share insights, experiences, and advice from their journeys as authors and illustrators.

Discussion will include what differentiates children’s literature from other types of literature; tips on pursuing a career in this rewarding industry; and an introduction to the premiere organization of the children’s book world, SCBWI, The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. The program will include audience participation as attendees are divided into groups to practice writing a query letter to an editor or agent, how to deliver an elevator pitch for your work-in-progress, or how to write a clear synopsis for your manuscript. Each group will be moderated by one of the panelists.

Presenters are Jessica Taylor, Elizabeth Stevens Omlor, Ellen Jellison, Cynthia Saye Kremsner, and Linda Boyden. To cover expenses for our speakers, there will be a minimal charge of $10 for members and $15 for nonmembers. Our customary refreshment table will be available; however, attendees are welcome to bring a brown bag lunch if they desire.

Pre-registration is not required. Attendees may pay at the door. The event takes place at All Saints Episcopal Church, 2150 Benton Drive, Redding, CA 96003. For further details, contact Writers Forum Program Chair.

Is Your Story Short???

Rcvd this as email this morn…

 

Fellow writers,

One of the best ways to gain credibility as a writer and build your writing resume (especially if your publishing credentials are currently thin) is to win a credible writing competition. And right now, through Writer’s Digest you can do that with just 1,500 words of fiction.

That’s right—Just 1,500 words! Here’s how:

It’s time to enter our 16th Annual Short Short Writing Competition. Whether it’s a story you’ve been working on for years or one you write tonight, all you need is a short work of fiction that is 1,500 words or fewer to submit it right away. It’s that easy. Prizes for the winner of this competition include:

  • $3,000 in cash
  • Your short story title published in Writer’s Digest magazine’s July/August 2016 issue
  • A paid trip to the ever-popular Writer’s Digest Conference (where I’d love to meet you)!
  • A copy of the 16th Annual Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition Collection
  • A copy of the 2016 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market
  • And more!

Plus, all entrants will receive access to our February 23, 2016, webinar “Short Story to Story Collection: How to Craft a Collection of Short Fiction That Gets Published and Sells,” a $49 value at no extra cost.

I’ve helped judge this competition for years and, I admit, it’s one of my favorites to read through. Being able to write a good short (short) story can be a challenge, but if you have a fun idea and run with it, who knows what can happen. But you can’t win unless you enter. The deadline for this competition is January 15, 2016, so enter now before it’s too late!

Take care of yourself and your writing,
Brian
Brian A. Klems
Senior Online Editor, Writer’s Digest
Author of OH BOY, YOU’RE HAVING A GIRL: A DAD’S SURVIVAL GUIDE TO RAISING DAUGHTERS

To enter visit: http://www.writersdigest.com/writers-digest-competitions/short-short-story-competition

 

Note: There is a $25 entry fee.