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 become 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 came 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.
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 and 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.
Mary 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.
One 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 keep 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.
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–