A Holiday Break

season-of-promises-cover    Every year, I travel to a small town with friends for a weekend of girl-time (clarification-without husbands). You know the kind—where we hash out our problems, catch up on our families, delve into what’s new, discuss books we’ve read, where we’ve traveled. Life stuff.

But we go to this specific town for the Christmas Candlelight Home Tour. Many of the homes predate the 1850s and are designated historical by the state. The Historical Foundation picks four homes which are decorated with natural elements like cedar, magnolia, fruit, nuts. There’s also period ornaments and decorations, music, and candles. Docents point out items of interest and tell us facts about the homes. Some of the churches present choir performances. The Foundation sells Christmas trees as a img_00000246fundraiser. The trees are set up in the park and decorated.

After our traditional Italian dinner, we tour the homes and debate over which is best. Usually, we find something to like at each one. We return to our B&B, dress in our jammies, and share gifts. There’s lots of laughter and oohs and aahs. The next day, we shop at the various small stores and antique malls. Dinner at a fabulous restaurant follows. This year, we watched “It’s a Wonderful Life,” too.

I have written a lot of Christmas stories. Some were published in the True magazines. Others with another publisher. Over the last three years, my holiday stories have appeared in the Season of Magic, Season of Surprises, and Season of Promises. I’ve been inspired by ribbon candy, Grandmother’s tomato cake (anyone want the recipe?), family ornaments, and the fragrance of Christmas trees. Grumpy Grandpas, klutzy architect, a reformed high schooler turned attorney, a pretend plumber, and scam artists faking their way through a holiday baking contest. I take in the lights, the colors, the sounds, the smells and apply to my work. That makes it real. It’s easy to be inspired when the season surrounds one.

So I’m sharing three photos from the Foundation’s tree display. When you look them over, what do you see? What do you feel? Do you smell the tree’s fragrance? Are you ready for Christmas?

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And don’t forget:

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Why write short stories?

More importantly, why write holiday short stories?

I cut my teeth by writing short stories. I hadn’t tried until my RWA chapter friend and I joined forces to critique each other’s work. She asked me to read very short stories, like less than 1,000 words to sub to Women’s World magazine. Feeling a little out of my comfort zone, I thought can I do this, but said yes!

Am I glad I did!

I read six of her stories in a row and all of the sudden, a rhythm, a pattern developed in my head. I jotted down ideas and when back to them to explore. Some exploded into a story with the pattern there to guide it. Eventually, I created a few of my own shorts which came in over 1,000 words. I subbed to the True magazines and sold thirteen of them.

Here’s what my head knows:

  1. Beginning
  2. Middle
  3. Black Moment
  4. The End

We all know a bang-up beginning hooks a reader into reading more. The main characters and setting are introduced. In a short story, pretty quickly we reach a dilemma to be resolved.

In the middle, there’s relationship building if the story is a romantic one. Problems are created and lead the reader to…

The black moment. All is lost. The relationship. The problem is dire.

Then we have the scenes which resolve everything leading us to The End and a Happy Ever After.

Does this sound rather simplistic? Many people say they can’t write short. I found with the word count limitation, I learned how to write shorter. Which scenes really make the story move forward. Which adjectives and adverbs (yes, I use them) are the best. Or maybe there is something more appropriate to use.

Which leads us to…

My new holiday romantic comedy short story, “The Littlest Angel,” from the Season of Promises anthology. I have a tree-topper that is totally precious and I looked at her one day and said, “I want to write a story with you in it.”

So I did.

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Bright and early on Saturday morning, I walked along the aisle at my favorite flea market on the Sommerville fairgrounds, pausing to look at special goodies that caught my eye. I halted when I saw a woman ahead of me stoop in front of a table and drag a box to her feet. She reached inside the ragged cardboard container and pulled out something I knew deep within my heart was what I’d been hoping to find for several years—a little Christmas angel.

Please. Please don’t take her. Please don’t.

When I was a small child, my family’s next-door neighbor gave my mother an angel fashioned from a craft kit. The body was formed from a Styrofoam egg-shape. The hands and feet were smaller versions, cut in half. Her head was round. The limbs were attached to the body with furry, fleshy pink pipe cleaners. A round red sequin made her mouth. An even tinier one was pinned on for her nose. And silver lashes were glued in place for her eyes. White pincurls covered her head and silver wings were attached to her back.

For many, many years, I coveted this angel. When my mom switched to another tree-topper, I’d begged for the first, but she’d said no. I was disappointed, but thought, perhaps Mom’s sentiments, a letting go of her friend who’d passed two years prior, made her reluctant to give me the doll. I got that.

However, one day, I discovered she had given it to my sister instead of me. Saddened, my heart cracked in two, and when I asked Mom why, she said she’d forgotten I wanted the ornament and apologized.

I knew the angel didn’t mean as much to my sibling as she did to me. For a while, I resented my mother and my sister.

Such is life. And thus began my quest.

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Find Season of Promises at: https://www.amazon.com/Season-Promise-Merry-Holly-ebook/dp/B01LQUP9AS/

 

Happy reading!