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When Your Thinking Cap looks a lot like Santa’s Hat by Beth Daniels, aka Beth Henderson, J.B. Dane, Nied Darnell

Here we are in December already.

I don’t know about you, but it always seems to creep up on me and jump out waving a list of things to be accomplished within only a few weeks.

So why, you might be wondering, do I want you to join me for a week of talking about writing fiction? Well, it’s because the holidays are ripe with opportunities for spinning stories.

 

There’s a reason that the Hallmark network produces all those holiday-themed made-for-TV movies featuring the holidays.

There’s a reason that some of the same holiday classics get remade over and over again, sometimes with a twist – like when the person who thinks everyone would be better off if they’d never been born suddenly gets to see how sad those loved ones lives are without them. In the classic movie, Jimmy Stewart thought that, but I’ve seen takes where it was a heroine who felt that way. There was a holiday episode of WAREHOUSE 13 where one of the agents was taken down that road. And this holiday season, Dr. Seuss’s Grinch is back, looking much like his animated self did in the past, but with Benedict Cumberbatch lending his voice to the holiday naysayer.

The reason the networks are loaded with holiday stories – and a few holiday themed movies show up as well – is that the public LIKES to wallow in the season. Yes, we’re rushed, but hey, we’re happy usually, too. The entertainment biz is simply giving us what we want…and that includes books with holiday themes or the holidays featured.

 

It isn’t just Christmas that comes at this time of year and that means the publishing houses could be longing for a holiday story that ISN’T quite like those with which many of us are familiar.

Personally, I love writing stories related to the holidays. I’ve had Christmas and New Year’s show up in more than one of my romantic-comedies and in my first 19th century historical and in the 20th century historical, too – actually it showed up TWICE in that one and incorporated New Year’s as well.

I’ve been working on a mystery that I hope will morph into a series featuring Santa as a sleuth. It got a spin off this season via a short story for a holiday anthology featuring the jolly old soul’s son Nick Claus who is tracking down a parcel of stolen puppies before the big delivery night on the 24th.

 

Because it’s easier sometimes to find movies that most of us have seen or seen advertised or heard about, let’s look at some of the other “borrowed” themes or twists given to family dynamics for holiday stories.

Charles Dickens’ “The Christmas Carol” was a short story rather than a book, but it has not only appeared in various viewing venues (plays, movies, TV programs) but it got used as the background production in the Bill Murray movie SCROOGED. DR WHO tends to have a Christmas special every year and frequently has worked some creepy plastic masked Santas into several the stories. They did a Scrooge send off one year during Matt Smith’s tenure as The Doctor but also a Narnia-ish one. In the old XENA, WARRIOR PRINCESS series, not only did they do a Scrooge take but worked in a toymaker in a red suit going down a chimney and gave a donkey to a couple traveling with their newborn and noted a new star in the sky. I loved that episode.

A backstory about how Santa merited sainthood (St. Nicholas) gave us some sibling rivalry in FRED CLAUS. I’ve also seen a made-for-TV show where Santa didn’t have a son to take over the route but a daughter who was set to inherit it.

 

We’ve had not only one BAD SANTA but two such movies.

Once upon a time there was no Santa, no Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, no elves making toys, no Frosty the Snowman, which simply means the season is open to new creations, too. Write a story that really grabs the public’s notice and Bingo! You just might have a Grinch…which is, of course, a variation on Scrooge, though once there was no Scrooge either.

THE NUTCRACKER is another classic that resurfaces as more than just a ballet. Disney has it retooled this season.

Mixing and matching with the holiday as background or as an intricate part of a scenario works, too. In one of the MISS FISHER MYSTERIES, Phryne and company headed to a mansion in the mountains to have a snowy Christmas in Australia (because December is summertime in the southern hemisphere, but Christmas is still in December) and because a storm stranded them there, the visitors were being killed off one at a time via a link to the “12 Days of Christmas” verses.

What I’m attempting to show is that whether it is Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza, or the winter solstice as a religious festival, the use of Santa Claus in any of his various manifestations (Father Christmas, Pere Noel, St. Nicholas, etc.), or a theme reworked (such as SCROOGED) or reimagined (FRED CLAUS) or a song or event (like a holiday bazaar or craft fair), or school productions or caroling or…

Well, we can get a really long list going here and, during the one-week workshop, LET THE HOLDAYS INSPIRE YOU, running December 10th through the 16th, that list can be personalized for the type of story YOU dream up.

As publishers usually begin looking for holiday stories six to nine months prior (or even earlier) to the next holiday season, merely coming up with a premise that appeals to you during this week-long workshop will give you something to launch into once all the hoopla is behind us.

 

In fact, it may have you looking at the events you attend, the things that transpire during THIS holiday season in a new light.

A light that says, “hey, I could use this in a story!” Because, you’re darn tooting you can use it to spin a story that sparkles like the lights on a tree or the candle flames on a menorah or those dancing in the fireplace. A story that is as warm as hugs exchanged, as tasty as decorated cookies, gingerbread folks and their houses, as savory as the roast goose/turkey or ham on the dinner table, as special as that special gift from someone special.

The nice thing about holiday stories is that, while the name may change, there has always been something special occurring as winter arrives, and chances are even in other dimensions, on other planets, in alternate universes or timelines, or what-have-you, a holiday story can take place. That means, whatever your genre or niche, a holiday tale can snuggle into it.

And you can snuggle into writing it, too.

So, this season, when you put your writer’s thinking hat on, why not picture it as a red stocking hat with a trim of white fur and a matching white ball at the tip.


Landing Fletch Layton

The text was a death threat. There was no doubt about it in Fletch Layton’s mind. Dominique, his slinky, bombshell girlfriend for the past two years had given him one week to decide whether he was marrying her or not.

It was enough to make a man panic. And so, like the master procrastinator he was, Fletch decided to put off making any sort of leap. On

one hand there was gorgeous but flinty eyed Dominique. On the other was freedom.

Brenda Burton wasn’t in the least surprised when Fletch turned up at her parents for the weekly Sunday barbecue uninvited. He’d been theboy next door, her hero as a girl and she had the scars to prove it. That dare to jump her bike across Hobson’s Creek having left one on her brow. She was his pal, the shortstop on the company softball team, one of the guys. His best friend, although her older brother was his best bud. But when in need, Fletch never went to Josh for advice. He came to her.

But how could she possibly tell him that marrying Dominique was in the cards when she dreamed of being in those cards herself? Had ever since she’d fallen in love with him a dozen years ago when she’d been thirteen and he’d been sixteen. It was a hopeless dream.

Until her soon-to-be sister-in-law handed her a self-help book: LAND YOUR MAN. Bren still wasn’t convinced she should interfere – until Dominique ticked her off. REALLY ticked her off and Bren decided she needed to save her best friend from the bimbo by LANDING FLETCH LAYTON herself.

Buy this book!

 

First published in the romance market in 1990 and went on to write 29 books under a variety of pseudonyms and subgenres (romantic comedy, historical [Old West] romantic adventure, YA romantic comedy). Beth Henderson wrote most of those, working with editors at M. Evans, Leisure, Harlequin Historicals, Silhouette Special Editions and Silhouette Your's Truly, a small e-book company (when e-books were really new) and gave Indie Publishing a try with a couple titles, though mostly for reprints. Reinventing myself for urban fantasy mystery comedy as J.B. Dane and The Raven Tales, the first book set for release from Burns and Lea Books the first half of 2019. Also do Weird West Steampunk and a Dieselpunk/urban fantasy 1920s comedy adventure as Nied Darnell. As Beth Daniels (real name) I occassionally turn former workshop into e-books -- and as I've been doing online workshops since before there was a Savvy Authors, that's a lot of workshops.