Christmas Movies

Christina here. It’s December and the countdown to Christmas has started in earnest. For my younger daughter and me, that means watching seasonal movies. It’s part of our traditions and we try to fit in at least one a day. Finding them isn’t hard – there are entire channels devoted to them here in the UK (is it the same where you are?), so there’s plenty to choose from. Some of the streaming services have their own offerings too, so the difficulty is usually agreeing which one to watch.

The knightThe quality does vary though, I have to say. We started this year’s movie marathon with The Knight Before Christmas, which starred Vanessa Hudgens (of High School Musical fame) and Josh Whitehouse. It’s about an English knight from the 1300s who is magically transported to present-day America. (Why there? Who knows!) There he meets a high school teacher who is disillusioned by love since her ex cheated on her. Their meet-cute is that she almost runs him over, so she thinks he’s hit his head and is therefore imagining himself to be a medieval knight. She takes him in until he regains his memory, and of course, they fall in love. I didn’t have very high hopes for this film, which is just as well because OMG, the anachronisms! Not least of all, the fact that he can speak to a modern woman and they understand each other (apart from the odd “egad!”). As someone who writes time travel stories, I would have liked him to be a little more surprised by some of the things he comes across in the modern world, but he takes everything in his stride. I really hope no children watch this and think it’s based on proper historical details, but apart from that, it’s a bit of harmless fun and quite charming.

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Christmas Stories

Cat 243 Doverby Mary Jo

I adore Christmas stories.  This is the season of the year when we can be as gooey, sentimental, and over the top as we want, and IT’S ALL RIGHT! 

We all know the original Christmas story with no room at the inn, the birth, the adoration of shepherds, sheep, and kings.  (And if you like amusing Christmas stories, here’s an interview with the Nativity Innkeeper from the Whatever blog by science fiction writer John Scalzi.) 

Christmas stories have become their own genre, and in recent years it’s A Christmas Carolbecome common for bestselling authors to write short Christmas novels.  There are lots of Christmas movies, of course, including beloved ones that are played over and over and over at this time of year:  It's a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Story, and at least four versions of A Christmas Carol.  (My favorite is the George C. Scott version.)  Obviously Charles Dickens was a pioneer in the short Christmas novel category. 

And the Christmas music!  Musicians across the whole spectrum of music from country to gospel and all points in between have recorded Christmas album—and I’ve bought a ton of them.  <G>  An early favorite was Joan Baez’s Noel, which surprised me when it Joan Baez--Noelcame out because she was known more as a protest/folk singer then.  But it was, and is, exquisite.

Christmas stories deal with reconciliation, returns of the prodigal, unexpected blessings, and finding love and happiness. 

This is a terrific fit with romance, of course.  The first romance Christmas anthology I remember was from Harlequin, and it made a huge splash.  A year later there were lots of Christmas anthologies, and they are still the most popular type of anthology. 

A Regency Christmas !!The Signet Regency Christmas anthologies were popular for years and years.  (By the way, it was only a couple of years ago that I learned that an anthology is multiple authors and a collection is several pieces by one author.  I used the terms interchangeably for years.)

All of the Wenches have written Christmas novellas and other short works.  Pat Rice Christmas Surprisesand I have written enough that we can now e-publish whole collections of earlier stories, like Pat’s recently released Christmas Surprises and my Christmas Mischief.  (I have enough more Christmas stories that when I have time, I’ll e-pub a second collection of them.) 

And you don’t even have to be Christian to play.  Our much missed Wench, Edith Layton, was Jewish and she wrote some of the Best. Christmas. Novellas. Ever.  She wrote enough for four or five collections of her holiday stories, and I hope someday they will be available in e-book form.

Christmas Revels MJPMary Balogh is another master of the form who has written many, many Christmas novels and novellas.  She has one collection of five of her Regency Christmas stories, Under the Mistletoe, which is still available in print.  I like to take credit for the collection.  I’d come up with the idea of packaging five of my Christmas stories together as Christmas Revels, and I persuaded my contemporary romance publisher, Berkley, to publish it. 

Not long after, I was talking with the Signet Regency editor who worked with Mary Balogh and me for years.  I forget the context, but I suggested she do an all-Balogh Christmas collection, and she jumped on the idea, with Under the Mistletoe the happy result. 

Christmas Mischief LargeOne of my favorites among my own stories is “The Christmas Cuckoo,” now available in my Christmas Mischief collection, and it contains all the holiday tropes, plus the kinds of characters I write about over and over because I love them. 

A weary soldier named Major Jack Howard comes home from the wars just before Christmas, steps off a coach, and is intercepted by a representative of his distant family who gives him orders about how to make himself presentable.  Not in the mood to be bossed around, Jack gets on the next coach leaving the inn, not caring where it’s going.

Riding on the bitter cold top of the coach, Jack drinks some very potent spirits to Christmas Wedding Belles--Nicolakeep from freezing, and falls asleep in an inn during a short stop to change horses.  Meanwhile, a warm-hearted young lady named Meg Lambert comes to the posting inn to collect Captain Jack Howard, the best friend of her soldier brother, whom she’s never met.

So she goes home with the wrong Jack Howard because he doesn’t know who she is, but he’d follow her ANYWHERE. And then he wakes up sober, and doesn’t want to leave because he is discovering the warmth and happiness he’s never known.

“The Christmas Cuckoo” is outrageous.  It is shameless.  It is schmaltzy.  It is the one of the Mayhem Consultant’s favorite stories, and one Christmas he had me read favorite scenes out loud to him. 

Is there a happy ending?  Do we even have to ask?   <G>  Here’s a very short Christmas story, "Sarah's Sister," also by science fiction author John Scalzi. The story is not science fiction, it’s shamelessly emotional and I loved it.

A_Christmas_Fling--MJPSo what are your favorite Christmas stories?  Ones you’ve read, or ones you’ve lived?  I’d love to hear!

Happy holidays to all from the Wordwenches.  From Christmas to Twelfth Night, the Christmastide period, we'll be posting little holiday favorites  of various sorts, so stop by for some fun. 

May you have a holiday of warmth and laughter–

Mary Jo