Ah, the magic of Christmases past… even those we want to forget…
Like spending an hour hanging up Christmas tree lights that don’t work when you plug them in.
Or imbibing in two much spicy eggnog at the office party while wearing a tipsy Santa hat… and then seeing your grinning face splashed all over social media.
Or digging through your closet for your favorite red Christmas dress to impress the new man in your life and you find out it doesn’t fit anymore.
Not our best holiday memories and ones we’d rather forget. But what about the holiday moments that make our eyes misty no matter how many years go by?
Memories of Christmases past race through our heads like sugar plum fairies on a triathlon this time of year… for me, I’ve turned three of them into Christmas stories that turn back the clock.
When I was stationed in Livorno, Italy, I worked in the US Army Service Club and every Christmas we hosted an event for the soldiers with the nuns and little boys from the local orphanage. I never forgot how the soldiers and little Italian boys had such a great time even though they didn’t speak the same language… except they did.
The spirit of Christmas.
I wanted to capture that lovely day in a story about a US Army captain in Italy during World War 2 who gets lost on the road to Rome right before Christmas Eve. He ends up helping out a beautiful nun and her charge of little boys and saves them from the Nazis.
If you like WW 2 romance, check out my holiday novella that takes place on Christmas Eve during the cold winter of 1943: A Soldier’s Italian Christmas.
December 1943 Italy
He is a US Army captain, a battle-weary soldier who has lost his faith.
She is a nun, her life dedicated to God.
Together they are going to commit an act the civilized world will not tolerate.
They are about to fall in love.
I was only six years old when I attended a strict parochial school behind a big iron gate in Philadelphia… at Christmastime, the nuns took us to see Santa Claus at Wanamaker’s department store, but we had to pass by the ‘poor house’ – an old limestone building with broken windows and no trees. Lost souls squatting. We gave them packages of food and the sisters told us kids we’d end up there if we didn’t learn our Catechism lessons.
It scared the heck out of me.
Years later when I saw ‘A Christmas Carol’ on TV and got a glimpse of Scrooge threatening to send the hungry and poor to a workhouse, I remember the nun’s warning.
I wanted to write my own version of Scrooge, but I fantasized him more like a tortured, romantic hero, so I created Nick Radnor… handsome, brilliant… and with a smartphone.
And one so close to my heart…
I grew up hearing my dad’s stories about how he met my mom during the war… the red coat she wore when she saw him off at the train station… the letters they wrote to each other. The strong feelings of hope and love that kept everybody’s spirits up till the soldiers came home.
When I wrote Christmas Once Again about a woman who goes back in time to save the man she loves, I drew upon those memories, especially for my heroine’s mother. Kate’s strong bond with Ma, her need to see her again (she lost her mother before the book opens), also reflects my desire to see my mom.
My mother passed away a few days before Christmas many years ago…
So, when I talk about Christmas Once Again, you’ll understand the joy and poignant feelings racing through me when I wrote those scenes when my heroine reconnects with her mother once again… if only for a little while.
What are your most emotional Christmas memories?
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone!
Happy December. I am excited to say I slayed my first NANO this year.
I’ve talked before about attempting to do NANO and my epic fails. This year, I made a decision and stuck with it. I am proud to say, not only did I do NANO, I hit the 50K word mark a few days ahead of schedule.
I kept a journal for the month. It was my way of staying on track. To summarize. My original plan was to take a few days off, but that didn’t happen. Instead, I wrote thirty days straight. There were a few days when I didn’t meet my word goal. Then there were days, when I got off of my writing schedule. I learned for the purpose of NANO, it was best for me to write in the morning. When I wrote in the afternoon or late in the evening, I got tired.
I also, learned some of my writing habits didn’t work during NANO. When I write love scenes, I usually write to music. However, during NANO, the music seemed to slow the love scenes down, but helped with the rest of the story. I think the reason some of my normal habits [music, the occasional glass of wine, writing at night] didn’t work was because I felt pressured to complete the task.
I have to be honest. I wrote fifty words during the month. Actually, it was 51,000+. I could have ended the story at 50K. However, it would have been a major cliffhanger and I promised my readers I wouldn’t give them another cliffy with this series. I think somewhere around the 30K mark, I realized the story wouldn’t be done at the end of the month. I did however know I’d make the 50K word challenge without a problem.
Do I like the story? Yes. I love the story. The only problem I’m having is that if I don’t get a hold of the characters, another book will pop out. I really want to end the series with this book. I never intended for this series to go beyond three books. When I wrote the first novella, I intentionally left it with a cliffhanger. I never expected, the second novella to end with a cliffy, but it did.
When I started writing book three, last year’s NANO attempt, I assumed it would tie up all the loose ends. The joke was on me. When I got to the last couple of chapters, it became obvious another book was on the way.
When I got inspired to do NANO, I knew this was the perfect push I needed to write book four. I also had a few thousand words to start with. I understand the point of NANO is to write a book. I wasn’t sure if it was a new story or complete a story. I asked around and got great feedback. In the end, I basically started from scratch. I think I may have used a couple hundred of the original words I carried over from book three. The rest were all new.
What’s the status of my NANO book? I’m approximately 20K words away from the end. I’m trying hard to end the series with this book, but if I don’t, I look forward to hearing what these characters have to say.
Will I do NANO again? Yes. And to make sure I do, I’m adding it to my production schedule for 2021.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
“All stories are about wolves. Anything else is sentimental drivel.”
That’s a strong statement—lots of ways to interpret it. I love it because to me, it says that all stories should have a villain. And I agree. How can you have the good without the bad? Where would the tension live? If something has to be overcome, you need a villain to vanquish. And if the plot needs redemption the story needs a villain to redeem. (A Christmas Carol without Ebenezer’s reform? Unthinkable.)
The villain isn’t always a person. It can be an institution,or an illness, or Mother Nature. All those ‘larger issue’ villains work for some magnificent tales, but my favorites are the really awful, mustachet wirling, gloating, cackling, venal bad guys.
Good villains, the kind we love to hate, are never one dimensional tools included just to make the protagonist work hard to overcome something. A well-drawn villain is a fully fleshed out character with attributes, history, and purpose strong enough to motivate and justify the hero’s tribulations. We’re so fully shown who and what Mordred is that his relentles spursuit of King Arthur is entirely credible—and because Arthur is beautifully depicted
—it’s personal to the reader. Now that’s an enthralling story.
Whether redeemable or irredeemable the villain is often the best part of a story. No one can think of Oliver twist without Fagin popping upwith his “…face obscured by a quantity of red hair” as he beats and betrays the children he has enslaved. We don’t forget Oliver, but we don’t dream about him either (or is that a nightmare?). When a character is that memorable it’s because something, if not everything about him, is relatable.
To develop a really badass villain, one whose actions the reader can understand and accept, the character needs some face time. Not as much as the hero certainly, but enough to lay the background for future actions, enough to make him real and fathomable. There is nothing more boring than a serial killer who is seen only through the gruesome details of the killing. If he is complex, as real people are, if he is exceptional in some way that supports an evil bent, then all the more disconcerting—like the jolly neighborhood butcher whose cutlets may not all be beef.
Some of the best villains have sterling personality traits. Perhaps they’re charming, or witty, well mannered and gracious. Traits contradictory to the villain’s actions make those bad actions all the more frightening. Showing the bad guy through contradictory traits is a powerful tool but if you work at it you can spin evil traits to appear benign—until they’re not. That’s chilling.
A well-developed villain written as an authentic character will give any story the spice it needs. Who will your next villain be?
I’m trying to think of something to write about. So far no luck.
I can write about anything I am familiar with, but that would take the fun out of this particular exercise.
This writing will be on something I am not familiar with, so I’ll go to the internet and see if there is something I’m interested in.
Well after looking at the internet for a bit I got bored and started to see what was happening on Face Book. This is where I spent the next hour or so looking at what my friends were doing. Not much, but I still checked out their pictures and stuff.
Oh yeah. I’m supposed to be looking for something to write about. I brought up Word and stared at the curser: nothing happened. I write about ghosts and stuff like that, I know something is supposed to happen. I minimized it and checked on my emails. Nothing interesting there.
Again I maximize Word. The curser just sits there doing nothing. I hoped it would do some writing on its own like in all the paranormal shows. But no, my curser only stays at the beginning of a line.
I minimized Word again. And change over to the internet once more. Nothing there either, but I see I have an unfinished game of match the pictures on Miss Fishers Murder Mystery site. It’s something to pass the time while I try to think of what to write about. After another twenty or thirty games.
I maximized Word again, still nothing.
I’ll go to the living room and watch some television. A good game show followed by a car repair show. I guess then another car show, maybe two.
I have an idea. Maybe since it is October I’ll write something about Halloween. Where at the end of it, the vail between the living and the dead thins.
It is said that ghouls and demons along with other creatures of the night escape from their dimension to walk freely amongst the living. There might be a story there, nah.
I do enjoy sitting on my front steps handing out candy to children wearing their costumes of super heroes and arch nemesis. The kids do not realize that the costumes are a disguise, making them safe from the evil.
I know, throw in some ghosts. I’ll ask Spirit, she’s my muse and hates being called a ghost. If she can’t help me, no one can.
Okay. Now I’m ready to tackle that super short story. Sitting down at the computer again, I maximize Word. But I am greeted by the lonely curser, the only thing on the page. This is getting frustrating. I know that if I wait long enough some ghost or spirit will type a message or at least unintelligible words on the screen. But still no.
I’m getting to the point of helplessness. What can I do to remedy this situation, go back to see what’s on the internet or maybe read a good book for inspiration? It appears that Spirit is not going to help me.
I have run out of ideas. There seems to be only one course to follow. I maximize Word, watch the curser, still staring at me. I folded my arms and stare back at the screen. This is a staring contest I intend to win.
Ralph Hieb grew up in New Jersey. After spending time overseas serving in the military, he returned home to New Jersey. While attending college he met his wife Nancy.
During the time he spent stationed Europe he didn’t miss an opportunity to travel around. Sightseeing and enjoying the culture are things that he still loves to this day.
Both Ralph and Nancy enjoy traveling to places that they have never been to, though sometimes they like to revisit former destinations. They want to visit Australia and New Zealand someday.
Ralph enjoys reading paranormal novels. He decided that he should try and write one. He is currently writing short stories, but a novel is in the future.
Sometimes, you get it right….
When I saw this review of my Titanic love story THE RUNAWAY GIRL, it tugged at my heart.
Yes, it’s a wonderful 5 star review, but more importantly, my story has captured the interest of a young girl who wasn’t much of a reader beforehand.
Reviewed in the United States on September 23, 2020
Two women hold the keys to his heart. Only one will survive that fateful night…
When Ava O’Reilly is wrongly accused of stealing from her employer, she has no option but to flee Ireland. The law is after her, and she has only one chance at escape – the Titanic.
Aboard the ship of dreams, she runs straight into the arms of Captain ‘Buck’ Blackthorn, a dashing gentleman gambler who promises to be her protector. He is intrigued by her Irish beauty and manages to disguise her as the maid of his good friend, the lovely Countess of Marbury. Little does he realise, that the Countess is also in love with him.
As the fateful night approaches, tragedy strikes further when Ava is separated from Buck, and must make a daring choice that will change her life forever…
A sweeping historical romance set aboard the Titanic, from the author of Her Lost Love (Christmas Once Again).
Praise for Jina Bacarr:
‘A delightful holiday romance that has all the charm of a classic Christmas movie. Christmas Once Again is perfect for anyone who loves a holiday romance brimming with mistletoe, hope, and what ifs.’ Andie Newton, author of The Girl I Left Behind ‘A breathtaking holiday romance that is sure to stay with you long after reading’
‘A mesmerizing holiday romance that is sure to sweep you off your feet and take you away to another place, another time.’
‘A fabulous book you won’t want to miss’ https://youtu.be/S-33oEM4DlI
THE RUNAWAY GIRL e-book, print and audio book:
This book is incredible a truly remarkable story, Sylvie diary, notes photo's and recordings are inspiring. the real story of glamourous Sylvie Martone has to be solved and told. She will never be forgotten. I loved it
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