Monday, October 12, 2015

Christmas in October: Guest Post by Toni Allen

Christmas in October continues with this lovely guest post from author Toni Allen!

A Single Author’s Christmas with Toni Allen

Everyone celebrates Christmas in a different way. Each family is a different size, a different mix of male and female, young and old. I have a very small family, consisting of just one person, me: but that doesn’t stop me from celebrating Christmas and having a huge amount of fun.

A couple of weeks before Christmas I go out and buy a real tree. I love to photograph nature and have a deep respect for every living thing, so my tree is decorated with birds and woodland creatures, as well as shiny baubles and lights. I have lots of owls, and when people visit my home they love to see how many they can spot tucked between the branches, knowing that each year I add one or two more winged friends to my collection. As the evenings draw in and the big day approaches, brightly wrapped boxes begin to nestle alongside my wild boar and squirrels, all unlabelled, so that no-one knows whose present is whose.
On Christmas morning my partner Daniel comes over, along with my best friend David. This is my little family, the special people in my life. Do we rush and over and open our presents immediately? No we do not! That ritual is saved for later. Half of the fun of having the gifts unlabelled is so that the guys can start to tease each other, by pointing and saying, “I bet that big box is mine,” so that the other can reply, “No way, that must be mine.” But hey, they’ve both known me long enough to know that I often put the tiniest gift in the biggest box.
Daniel is our chef for the day - he’s the foodie and quickly makes a bee-line to the kitchen while David and I sit down to play cards. Our game of choice is Cribbage. In England it used to be played in every pub, the landlord traditionally keeping a cribbage board and a pack of cards behind the bar which you could use on request. In my early twenties I stood in many a pub watching a heated game of cribbage being fought out, the players counting their score, everyone holding their breath to see who would peg into the last hole first and win the game. It was my grandfather who first introduced me to the game, teaching me the rules and helping me count my cards up to fifteen to keep the best hand possible.
When David and I play it’s never a serious business. In cribbage you peg your scored points up the board, but to ‘peg’ into the last hole you must have the exact score, so many a time the man who’s been in front loses at the last minute. It’s a hoot. A few Christmases ago I was one point off scoring the highest score possible, and all three of us double-checked my hand, jumped on the internet to see if I’d beaten a world record, and dined-out on the story for weeks afterwards. You see, if one of us does well, we never gripe, we celebrate their success and cheer them on.
Mid-afternoon we get the five minute warning that our Christmas dinner is about to be served. It’s traditional, with chicken rather than turkey, loads of vegetables and thick rich gravy. Yum. Daniel basks in our compliments, his efforts in the kitchen well rewarded. As soon as everyone’s plate is empty all eyes turn towards the presents. It’s time to open our gifts.
We all give each other well thought out presents, but a few years ago I started a new Christmas tradition. Everyone gets the ultimate ‘boy’s toy’: a torch. I hunt high and low for the brightest torch on the planet, which usually ends up being an LED Cree torch with super powerful wattage. You should see their guy’s faces light up when they unwrap them. They shine them around the room, play with the SOS function, and point them out of the window at the neighbour’s cat. Meow!
That’s it. They can’t get their hats and coats on quick enough. Off we go into the dark, all three of us gripping our new torches. (Yes, I always buy myself one too!) It doesn’t matter whether it’s raining, snowing or bitterly cold, the fun of shining a super strong beam of light all around the neighbourhood, pretending we can see it reaching as far as the moon, is irresistible. I always take my camera as well, so that I can photograph everyone’s Christmas lights: Santa climbing up a ladder, reindeer, a nativity scene, maybe even some polar bears. Our antics with bright white lights get us talking to people out walking their dogs, or strolling round to visit friends. We laugh and chatter, and every guy we meet wishes his wife had put such a useful toy in his Christmas stocking too.
I hope your Christmas day is as much fun as mine, and that you share it with people you truly connect with. You may have noticed that with my little family we have one trick to keeping the day special…we don’t switch the TV on, we spend the entire day focusing on each other.


Toni Allen is the author of the Jake Talbot Investigates mystery series, which began with Visiting Lilly (2014) and continues with Saving Anna (2015). She is currently working on the third book, Finding Louisa, due out in 2016.  

Visiting Lilly

Why should a man at a Surrey police station go ballistic because someone tries to visit Lilly, his elderly grandmother?

Detective Inspector Jake Talbot is intrigued, and this little puzzle might serve to distract him from sorrows of a Christmas past. Soon he is entangled with Frankie, an odd young man who claims to have met Lilly in her youth. Talbot dismisses the notion of time travel, but then discovers the Ministry of Defence has been monitoring Frankie since his friend disappeared ten years previously. Forced to work with the MOD, Talbot unearths family secrets and betrayals. The families act ruthlessly to prevent him from discovering the facts, colluding to ruin him.

If Frankie is innocent, Talbot won’t let him be victimised. An uneasy understanding grows between them as they follow the evidence, for only the truth will allow Frankie to visit Lilly.

Visiting Lilly is available free on Kindle Unlimited

Toni is also a photographer of note, a columnist, and an acclaimed tarot reader and astrologer. She draws on her extensive experience as a psychic to bring personal awareness of the paranormal, from both the believer and non-believer's point of view, to her Jake Talbot Investigates series.

She has had numerous non-fiction articles published, and won awards for short fiction and poetry, including a first prize awarded in a competition judged by noted mystery writer P D James. She’s the author of two bestselling books on tarot, The System of Symbols: a New Way to Look at Tarot, which is now also published in Italian by Spazio Interiore; and Sex & Tarot.  

She lives in Surrey, England, where she happily includes pink grasshoppers in her macro-photography.

Visit Toni’s website
Connect with Toni at or Twitter: @Listansus and view her photos at
She maintains a Pinterest board for her novel Saving Anna -

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