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The Story Behind the Holiday Story

Holiday movie season is now in full swing, which means I feel a lot less inappropriate about promoting my holiday novella, though I haven’t actually started watching the holiday movies yet. My DVR is filling up, though, so there will have to be a binge at some point.

So, anyway, I have a holiday novella that’s on sale now. You can get more info and the sales links here.

Twice Upon a Christmas cover

Hallmark gets all the press for these now, and it’s become such a thing for them that they start showing non-stop Christmas movies before Thanksgiving and even show some during the summer, but even before they made themselves the Christmas movie channel, there were others doing it (and doing it better).

The first one I can recall that fit the mold of “romantic comedy set at Christmas” rather than the kinds of movies that are more directly about Christmas — the Santa Claus movies, various versions of A Christmas Carol, etc. — was on the Family Channel (which has gone through a lot of names and owners over the years and is now known as Freeform) during the 90s. It was called The Christmas List and starred Mimi Rogers as a department store perfume counter employee who, on a whim, made a list of silly things she wanted for Christmas, as though she was writing a letter to Santa. One of her co-workers snatched it away from her and put it in the mailbox for letters to Santa — and then all her wishes started coming true in strange ways. One of the wishes coming true made her path cross a widowed doctor with a kid. I really loved this movie. It had all the pretty Christmas setting stuff, and the plot did tie into the holiday, but it had a lot of thought-provoking stuff in it, like how we sometimes don’t do a lot to go after the things we want. That was what was interesting, how getting some of her wishes gave her the courage to start taking steps on her own. Unfortunately, I don’t think this movie has ever been released on DVD, but it sometimes shows up on TV during the holidays (but beware: there’s an inferior Hallmark movie with the same title), and at one point it was on YouTube (I don’t know if it still is).

Then Lifetime got into the game, and they did a bunch of these — fairly low-budget, mostly filmed in Canada (so you recognize all those actors from various science fiction shows). I think the Lifetime ones tend to be more urban, compared to Hallmark’s glorification of small towns. Now Lifetime seems to have backed off somewhat and ceded the territory to Hallmark. Freeform’s barely in the game (though my favorite movies all seem to have been on whatever incarnation of that channel).

When I decided to write my own holiday movie, I think it was before I got Hallmark on my cable system, so I was going more on the Lifetime/Family model, which is a little urban and maybe a bit edgier while still counting as “sweet.” I’m not sure Hallmark would have wanted this story, but it would have been a perfect fit for Lifetime or Family back in the day. I tried to stick with the formula of what I saw. The plot was loosely based on a familiar story or movie — in this case, the Sliding Doors story of seeing the different paths life could take based on a seemingly minor difference. I mixed it up by having the heroine aware of both lives and able to use what she learned in one life in the other, with her alternating days. There was a lesson to be learned. I chose music for the less secure potential life because I noticed that they frequently cast former teen actresses whose careers didn’t quite take off when they transitioned to adulthood in these things, and a lot of these actresses come from the Disney sitcom factory, where they’re required to also do some kind of singing. I figured the role would be appealing to an actress with singing talent. Plus, that was around the time the first Pitch Perfect movie was really big, so there was more awareness of a capella singing, and I thought that would resonate. There was even a chance of doing a spin-off single to be released for radio airplay if the lead actress had any background there. There’s a group around here that specializes in Christmas caroling in Victorian attire and is booked solid during this time of year. I’ve heard some of their stories about having to get to events in hoopskirts, and I thought that would give the seasonal tie while also providing some fun visuals. Meanwhile, I noticed that there was always a role for an “elder statesman” type actor, usually someone who was really big in a sitcom during the 80s and whose career has leveled off since then, so I wrote that kind of role (basically, you can imagine that Tilly in my story is played by Shelley Long).

Unfortunately, right around the time I finished writing my screenplay, Hallmark really took off with these movies and the other networks mostly gave up, producing only one or two new ones a year. I wasn’t sure mine was a good fit for Hallmark — they haven’t used music as much as the other networks have, it’s in an urban setting, and it’s implied that the hero and heroine do more than kiss before the end. I also wasn’t sure I wanted to try writing more of those, and there wouldn’t be much point of trying to go through the effort of finding a screenwriting agent and dealing with Hollywood for one TV movie script. And so, when I re-read it last year and found that I still really liked it, I decided to turn it into a novella. I’m always looking for something like that to read around the holiday season, and I figured others might like that, as well. Short pieces are good when you’re so busy. It’s something you can sit down and read in one sitting.

While I do enjoy these movies, I have to admit that most of the parodies I’ve seen are pretty accurate. There’s this early draft of a Hallmark movie script. And someone I know created a randomized holiday movie plot generator.

It was fun to write this. I haven’t seen how well it’s selling, so I don’t know if it would be worthwhile to write another one, but it might be something fun to do as a “break” while my house is still decorated for the holidays.

My Books

Christmas at Halloween

Happy Halloween! I’m not really doing much for the holiday because I’m leaving on a trip in a couple of days and I have so much to do. I do have some candy and some little toys I can give out, but as it’s supposed to be cold and rainy during Trick-or-Treat time, my porch light is burned out and I haven’t gotten around to replacing it, and I never get trick-or-treaters because you can’t see my front door from the street, I suspect the candy will be all mine.

I’m actually already thinking ahead to another holiday, since a week from today, my first Christmas-set romantic comedy novella will be released. I know it seems early, since I refuse to do Christmas stuff before Thanksgiving, but hey, Hallmark has already started their non-stop Christmas programming. I figure by releasing after Halloween, that gives people time to become aware of this book in time to read it during the season. It’s an e-book only (but you can find apps to let you read all the major e-book formats on your computer) because it’s really too short for a print book.

Long-time blog followers may remember when I tried to write a script for a holiday movie a couple of years ago. I think it was a pretty good script, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to go through everything it would take to find a screenplay agent and sell it, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to do more of them. Since I loved the story so much, I rewrote it in prose form, and now it’s a holiday novella. If you like the Hallmark Christmas movies — or, really, more the Lifetime, ION, or what used to be the Family Channel movies, since it’s got more magic than you tend to get with Hallmark — then you might like this. It’s short enough to read in one or two sittings, so it’s perfect for that busy time of year when you have just a moment to yourself to curl up with a cup of hot cocoa, turn on the Christmas lights, put on some seasonal music, and relax with a fun book.

Twice Upon a Christmas cover

The story is kind of a holiday spin on the Sliding Doors concept of exploring two possible life paths, only in this case, the heroine is aware that she’s experiencing both possibilities, so she can take what she learns in one life and use it in the other. Eventually, though, living every day twice gets confusing and frustrating, especially when that means she’s spending half her time away from someone she’s come to care about. Twice Upon a Christmas is now available for pre-order. You can buy now and have it ready for when you’re ready to get into the holiday spirit. You can get more info and links for buying it on the book’s page.

And if this one turns out to be a success, maybe I’ll write another one for next year. I already have an idea … And if I do more of these, I may put them together in a collection in print.

My Books

Once Upon A Fairy Tale

I’ve found myself taking a journey down memory lane the last few days, thinking about the origins of my least-appreciated series, the Fairy Tale books. It was at about this time in 2009 that I took my research trip to New York to prepare to write the first book. I guess I started thinking about that this week because there was all the talk in the news about a tropical storm approaching (now it’s a hurricane), and a tropical storm hit New York while I was there. The first day of my trip was gorgeous — warm and sunny. I spent the afternoon wandering Central Park. It rained the rest of the time I was there, something that found its way into the book. I didn’t mind so much because I love rain, but it did get heavy at times, and one downside of rain is that it doesn’t offer many opportunities to sit down and rest while you’re outside, unless you want to sit in a puddle on a wet bench, so my feet and legs were killing me by the end of the day.

A Fairy Tale

I do hope to write more books in that series. I know some character arcs I want to do, but I’m not quite yet clear on a big-picture plot, and since those books make the least amount of money for me, and they take me a lot longer to write, they’re lower on my priority list.

Still, I really do love them. I think part of the reason that they’re hard to write is that they come from a dreamlike place in my brain, and that makes translating them into words difficult. The character of Sophie came to me in a dream around the time I was right out of college. She had a different name (the name she had in the dream ended up being the name of a main character in a TV series that I saw not long before I started writing the book, so I had to rename her), and she didn’t have all her traits, like being a dancer or having an unusual heritage, but the personality was what was in the dream. I’d been auditioning that character for a leading role in every story idea I came up with, but she wasn’t quite right until I had another dream of a woman in a floaty floral dress walking a bulldog down a city street and disappearing into the mist. This woman was the character who’d been living in my head all that time, and I wanted to figure out the circumstances of where she went and what was going on. I woke up in the middle of the night one night and wrote down the scene in which Sophie wakes up, realizing that something has happened to her sister and she needs to go to her aid (before I knew what happened to her sister). Another night, I woke up and wrote down an early phase of what would be the back-cover copy. The book changed a lot after that, but the central concept was a Southern belle queen bee type taking on a fairy queen. From there, I started researching fairy folklore and related literature. There was the Tam Lin story about rescuing a lover from the fairies, but I also loved the Christina Rossetti poem “Goblin Market,” which was about sisters. That’s probably what influenced that midnight waking scene about having to rescue a sister. Other story fragments, like the elderly sisters with a shop, attached themselves to that image, and then it took me ages to tease the plot out of all these pieces.

Before I took that trip to New York, I already knew about the dual worlds, but the weather helped me with that because it really was like two different worlds, the park I saw my first day when it was warm and sunny and the park I saw the second day when it was dark and pouring rain. The colors were different. The first day, the park was full of people, and later it was almost deserted. The sounds were different. I noticed the lampposts, since the lamps were all lit, and that made me notice things around the lampposts that I hadn’t seen on a sunny day.

I think I was in the middle of writing the book when I first heard a song that I felt perfectly described Sophie, and I took a detail from the song to add to the character — the mismatched eyes, which ended up being a perfect metaphor for her nature. The song is actually supposed to be anthropomorphizing the month of August, on the cusp between summer and autumn (well, in northern Europe — here, it’s the height of summer), but it still seems to fit this mercurial character.

Hmm, I may have to bump up brainstorming another book on my priority list because I’ve realized how much I miss these characters.

My Books

New Story!

Now that I’ve survived music and art camp, it’s back to my normal schedule, more or less. Today was a late start because I got up early and it was cool and rainy, and then the rain passed, so I decided to take a walk and take advantage of the cool. So, yeah, I managed to get a late start by getting up early.

If you’ve been missing the universe of the Enchanted, Inc. books, I’ve got a treat in store. There’s a new novelette (longer than a short story, shorter than a novella) set in that universe coming out tomorrow, “Criminal Enchantment.” This is another Sam the Gargoyle case, but the fun thing about this one is that it’s a prequel to Enchanted, Inc. It sets up the events at the opening of the first book, including showing how they happened to notice a certain person who seemed to be immune to magic.

Criminal Enchantment

“Criminal Enchantment” will be coming as an e-book tomorrow, for only 99 cents (in the US). At this time, there’s no print or audio, but what I’m planning to do is write a few more stories like this, and then when I have enough to put into a book, I’ll do a collection, and that will get put into print and possibly into audio and some foreign translations.

The page for this story has more info and the links to buy at various retailers.

My Books

Status Update

I’ve had some reader questions about when we’ll be getting new installments in various series and what I’m working on. So, here’s an update on what I know about now. Of course, it’s subject to change, based on inspiration and reality.

What I’m working on now:
I would like to find a publisher for my young adult books. Those don’t seem to sell as well as independently published books, and school visits and library visits are a little easier to get with books from traditional publishers. So, I’m working on a new concept for a potential YA series, and because I want it to be a book that has publishers getting excited enough to actually remember that they’re publishing it, I’m taking the time to make sure it’s just right. So that’s getting the bulk of my writing time right now.

I’m also working on a fun little treat for the holiday season. I love those made-for-TV Christmas movies, particularly the ones with little fantasy elements. A few years ago, I wrote a screenplay for one. I figured that romantic comedy with some magic in it was right up my alley. But selling a screenplay is kind of an ordeal, and I wasn’t even sure how to start. I did love this story, though, so I’m turning it into a holiday novella that should be coming out sometime in November. It’s not related to any of my other series, but maybe it’ll be just the thing if you want a light, shortish romantic comedy read with a touch of magic and some holiday spirit. Stay tuned for specific release date, title, etc.

Now, for the series status updates:

Enchanted, Inc.
I’ve got a new Enchanted Universe short piece coming out August 15. It’s another Sam story, but this one is a direct prequel to Enchanted, Inc., giving some insight into what was going on with the magical people before Katie became aware of the magical world.

I also have a rough outline for a ninth Enchanted, Inc. novel that I hope to start writing when I finish that YA book. We’re looking at a tentative release date in March of next year, but I haven’t written a word of it, so this is all subject to change.

Rebels
There will be a fourth Rebels book. I have some general ideas for it, and I think that will be my fall writing project after I finish the Enchanted, Inc. book, which means a release maybe in late spring or early summer, depending on how long it takes me to write it.

Fairy Tale
I do want to write more books in this series, since I haven’t finished all the character stories I want to tell. But these don’t sell quite as well as my other books and are much more difficult to write. I’m thinking of trying a new approach with them, but at the moment I don’t have a firm plot in mind. I’m hoping something will come to me by the time I finish these next two books so I can do more. I really love this series, but the effort/reward equation is so out of whack that they tend to fall lower on the priority list. Since I do this for a living, I need to focus on work that will earn money. If you love this series, you can help change that by telling people about these books, reviewing them on the various retailer sites, etc.

Meanwhile, I have a lot of other ideas I want to play with but that I’m not ready to talk about. So I guess I’d better get to work so I can get all these ideas written before I get even more ideas.