BLOG: 6's & 7'S
By Stacey Roberts
My mother was in a state of high dudgeon.
“SSSSo,” she hissed. (I learned early in life that she was deadly serious when her sibilants extended). “You’re a TOKEN.”
“A token! You wrote a story for a Christmas whatchamacallit—anthology. What kind of word IS that? Sounds Yiddish. Anyway, nineteen Christmas stories from the goyim and one Hanukkah story from you. You’re a token!”
“Come on, Ma. That isn’t even remotely true.”
“Really, smarty pants? All these other authors in this collection – they’ve written great books! That Kristy Gamble – she’s on the USA Today Bestseller List!”
“Kelly, Ma. Kelly Gamble.” (My mother is no good with names).
“That’s what I said. Bestseller!”
“You would love her books. Her heroine whapped her husband in the head with a shovel.”
“If we’d had a shovel I would have whapped the crap out of your father, that son of a bitch.”
“I know you would, Ma.”
“There’s another writer in this book, this Justin Bog character. What kind of name is Bog? Is he from Scotland or something?”
“Actually, I think Bog is short for something unpronounceable. Possibly Eastern European.”
“He can’t be Jewish. He wrote a book of Christmas stories. Very well-received by the critics. Not like YOUR chazerai.” (‘Chazerai’ is the Yiddish word for ‘bullshit’. I didn’t even have to look it up. It was in the Amazon review my mom left about my first book).
“And I checked him out on the Tweeter—”
“That’s what I said. There’s no way he’s Jewish. He’s got German shepherds!”
“Ma, that’s ridiculous. Dog-ownership isn’t relevant to—“
“My point is that these are accomplished writers. That Kate Birdsall. I got one of her books. They’re so good. Mysteries. That’s what you should write. Or even that Claude Bouchard. Also a bestseller. Lotta violence, but ok. And Diane Byington? She’s won AWARDS, Stace. Awardssssss. What kind of awards do YOU have?”
“I got an honorable mention by the Recreational Vehicle Enthusiasts Society of Missoula, Montana.”
“Big deal. Nicole Evelina won three Book of the Year designations. Maybe she could give you some writing tips, since you’re so interested in concocting Christian stories all of a sudden.”
“Ciara Ballintyne wrote a non-denominational story about a winter festival. It’s got wizards and demons in it. Nothing Christian about THAT.”
“SSSSStace. ‘Winter festival’ is just another way to say Christmas. And goyim are all about demons. They’re everywhere in their heathen Bible. Piles and piles of demons.”
“Anyway, my reason for calling is to let you know that the book is available for pre-order—“
“Just send me a copy.”
“You should buy one. The proceeds go to benefit a great charity. It’s a really good cause—“
“These goyim. They should have asked your brother to write a story. He’s got a real way with words.”
“I’m sure he does. The charity is The LifeAfter—Visions of Hope Project. They spread awareness about suicide, substance abuse and domestic violence.”
“There would have been a lot more domestic violence in our house if I’d had me a shovel.”
“I’ll buy you one for Christmas.”
“We do NOT celebrate Christmassssssss!”
“Hanukkah then. But really, any occasion is good for a shovel.”
“Yeah, like now. You’re a lot like your father, you know.”
“So you keep telling me. Will you pre-order the book?”
“You should send me a copy. And get that Barbara Vicars to sign it.”
“That’s what I said. You could at least get it autographed by some real authors, couldn’t you? Even though you’re just their mascot or whatever you are.”
“I’ll see what I can do.”
“You should, Buster. I’m your mother.”
The good news is that none of you will have to go to all this trouble to get your own copy of Tangled Lights and Silent Nights: A Holiday Anthology. Some of the best writers in the business contributed holiday-themed stories based on the characters from their books. The proceeds from all sales will benefit a great cause. This will make a perfect gift to put under your own Christmas tree, if you’re into that sort of thing.
And, my mom wants you to know there’s a Hanukkah story in it.
ORDER Tangled Lights and Silent Nights
In 1872, Victoria Woodhull made history by becoming the first woman to run for president of the United States. But four years earlier she was still struggling to overcome her shameful past and establish herself in New York’s high society. She has finally secured an entre into that glittering world by way of an invitation to Christmas Eve dinner at the home of railroad and shipping magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt. But when her uncouth family crashes the party and threatens to send her social status spiraling, it will take a Christmas miracle to recover her reputation and keep her dreams on track.
My story is a tie-in to my biographical historical fiction novel Madame Presidentess. Victoria Woodhull may seem like an odd choice for a Christmas story, and I agree. Actually, she wasn't my first choice. I had two drafts of stories involving Guinevere from my Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy Arthurian legend novels. But given our strict word limit, I was having problems explaining the Celtic winter solstice rituals and telling my story in the allotted space. Anything winter solstice or even early Christian Christmas is so different from what we know today that I didn't want to risk not doing the stories justice. (For example, in fifth century Christianity, there was no Advent season yet and the Christmas celebration actually included three different Masses, each with their own symbolism and meaning.)
Then I remembered that one of the scenes I deleted from Madame Presidentess took place at Christmas. (It involved Cornelius Vanderbilt asking Victoria's sister, Tennie, to marry him, which really did happen. She had to say no because she was already married to a gambler who abandoned her. Seriously, history is stranger than fiction.) This was a much better choice because the Victorian period is when some of our most beloved Christmas traditions became popular: Queen Victoria made Christmas trees a widespread thing, Christmas cards began being sent in the mail, and Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol.
As it turned out, the story I submitted was totally different from the scene I started with, but it got me on the right track. And I had a lot of fun researching what was served at Victorian Christmas dinners, what people wore and what the decor would have looked like. If you want a sneak peek into my brain, check out my Pinterest board on the story. (That hideous plaid dress is what Victoria's mom wore to the party.)
I ended up placing the story right when Victoria and Tennie were starting to become comfortable in their life working with Cornelius Vanderbilt. Victoria is ambitious as always and she sees her coveted invitation to Christmas Eve dinner at Mr. Vanderbilt's mansion as a way for her to get a foot in the door with the New York elite, whom she longs to be a part of. But as happened so many times during her life, Victoria's low-class family comes along and nearly ruins it by inviting themselves to the dinner. You'll have to read the story to find out how, but it involves a brawl, a fire and some stolen Christmas gifts...
As usual, when Victoria's family is around, trouble is sure to follow.
Purchase Tangled Lights and Silent Nights!
Last March, while I was coming down from my Valentine’s Day-induced sugar high and anticipating an Easter basket full of peeps, I was also finishing my third book, Call Me Cass, in the Cass Adams series of novels. I was in what I like to call a writing frenzy, a wrenzy, if you will, and wrote scenes with my characters that would never fit in the book, but were just fun to write. I wrote some that were funny, some that were completely inappropriate, and some that were so bad they could have been examples in creative writing classes of “How to Do Everything Wrong”. But one scene, which takes place almost twenty years ago, showed Cass and her husband, Roland, madly in love. This scene made me realize two things about my own series: 1) Roland is the character everyone loves to hate in my books, even though he is dead from the first sentence of the first book, and 2) Cass and Roland had an entire life, together, way before They Call Me Crazy came along.
So I started writing a scene, which turned into a short story, with Roland and Cass, just living life as a married couple, and I decided to set it during the one time of the year when everything is about peace, love, understanding, and charity: Christmas. I figured that would give my readers a chance to see a good side of Roland and maybe understand a little more about Cass’ state of mind before she decided to bury him in their yard. When I finished, I realized two things: 1) It was impossible to show Roland in a good light because he was a real ass, and 2) I’d written a really good story that I wanted to somehow share with my readers.
I began asking other authors if they thought about how their characters spent Christmas, and that led to “can you write a short story about it?” I mean, if my readers would like to see the Adams’ dysfunctional Christmas, then why wouldn’t they want to see other characters experiencing the holidays in their own way as well? The detectives, the single moms, the LGBT teenagers, the bankers, the wizards, the dragonslayers, the psychic dogs, the trail mom and the first woman to run for president? Regardless of genre, they all share one thing: they celebrate December, in one way or another. As the Google Maps in my head often does, one thing led to another, and the result was twenty authors, all writing stories about characters from their books during whatever winter holiday they celebrate. The result was the creation of a holiday anthology, Tangled Lights and Silent Nights.
As I said above, Christmas to me is about peace, love, understanding, and charity, and even though Roland and Cass had a hard time with that, a group of writers didn’t. We decided to donate all the proceeds from the book to the LifeAfter-Visions of Hope project, which has a primary mission to bring awareness to three topics prevalent in our society: Suicide, Substance Abuse, and Domestic Violence. In one way or another, these issues have affected each one of our lives and being able to help LifeAfter with our stories was an easy decision for all of us. Using what we do best to help others become the best they can be? No-brainer.
So I hope you will pick up a copy of Tangled Lights and Silent Nights to see how Cass Adams and her multi-genred friends spend their holidays and help us support the LifeAfter -Visions of Hope project. Because what could be better than spending the holidays with your favorite fictional characters, meeting some new ones, and raising money for a charity that helps others?
Visit my website at www.kstonegamble.com and check out my books, The USA Today bestseller They Call Me Crazy, Call Me Daddy, and Call Me Cass (coming in 2019 from Red Adept Publishing). Also connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, because I love hearing from you!
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