Due to a dreadful constant cough my energy has been at a low ebb so writing has taken a back seat as I try to get better. It is the worse possible timing over the festive season. Hopefully as I gradually get better my writing Muse will return.
Books: The men are in Spain and the war is affecting them, as it would. Back home things have changed but stayed the same. Relationships are strained and letters are infrequent. Beautiful writing and character development.
Christmas books have been added to my pile – 300 writing prompts and Sleeping Beauties. Now to consider which King book to read first as I still have 11/22/63 to start. I admit Beauties is calling me.
What books did you get for Christmas?
Holiday’s tend to reek havoc on our writing schedule but there are ways of grabbing writing time.
Keep track of the number of words you write instead of how long you wrote.
Relax your normal rigorous writing timetable – take time to chill and observe.
Make the most of “un-scheduled” time – waiting for a flight, children’s rehearsals, a break for coffee during shopping.
Wake up earlier (or stay up later) than usual to ensure that you spend some time writing.
How do you find time to writing during the holidays?
On Saturday I attended the last of my publishers events for the year. It was a packed venue, with numerous vendors and their fare. There were Christmas themed items of course and a plethora of gift buying possibilities. Although the day (a longer one than usual 9 am – 5 pm) was not too busy we did sell books and I even managed to write an additional 550 words on my YA novella while at this event.
It got me thinking about the ‘odd’ places I have written, including soccer games and practice, gymnastic classes, in hotel rooms on road trips, coffee shops and even on a plane.
Where is the most unusual place you have ,managed to write?
The war has started in this narrative and two of the characters are now stationed in England – parts of which are very familiar to me as I used to live near them. It gives me a greater sense of place I feel.
Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly. Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apostrophes, you won’t be able to stop.
If you’re using a computer, always safeguard new text with a memory stick.
(My tip set the auto save on your word document – it saves heartache. Believe me.)
Apart from the freelance project, I did have time to write a Xmas themed short story for my writing group’s Xmas party, which was held yesterday.
Letting my imagination take control and spin a story is always fun. I had thought the story would go in one direction but it veered off into another, again giving me a welcome surprise. I find this aspect of writing to be the most delightful and rewarding, as the characters or plot take control.
This was my story:
The heavy snow slowly slid from the porch roof, Joy watched its gradual cascade and delighted at the thump it made on the frozen ground. Her thoughts turned to childhood memories of building snowmen and snowballs fights with her brother and sisters. As the youngest she was often the brunt of the jokes and teasing but no matter what she loved them but of course there were plenty of times when she was cuddled and coddled by her older siblings.
Now many decades later they were spread out across the country. The older they became the more infrequent were the visits even on special holidays. Joy was sad that this Christmas there would be no family to celebrate with. Again she felt she should have married again after Arthur, she had been young enough to have started a new family but her heart had been broken and as the years past, she became accustomed to her solitary life. But now she realized, she always looked forward to those special days each year with Frank, Gail and Bobbie-Jo, they were her hope for next month or next year, it kept her grounded and forward thinking. She would plan for months ahead of time – planning excursions, cooking cakes and biscuits and making gifts. With no visitors this year the house felt as despondent as Joy.
A knock on the door brought her out of her musings. A dark figure loomed on the other side of the frosted glass door. Joy made sure the security chain was in place before she opened the door cautiously.
“Hello, I have a delivery for Miss. Dashing.”
“Well that would be me.”
“Can you please sign here, the box is rather heavy so do you want me to carry it into the hallway?”
“That would be very kind, thank you.”
Joy unlatched the chain and the man picked up a large box from the porch floor. He set it down beside the entry table and then turned away, while arching his back.
“Thank you so much, you should take care of your back. Have a merry Christmas.”
“My pleasure, yes it’s not easy work. Have a good Christmas.”
Once the front door closed and the cold evening air shut out, Joy looked at the box. A label showed her name and address and the return address was one she was familiar with. It was from Frank. Excited to see what was inside she went to the kitchen to find a pair of scissors. With the packing tape cut, Joy pulled at the box to open it. Inside was a lot of packing and Christmas wrap. Her heart leapt – he sent me several gifts for Christmas!
The sight of the gifts made Joy happy. She was determined that now she would decorate so they could be placed under a Christmas tree. Two hours later the front room looked festive and Frank’s gifts were in pride of place under the small artificial tree, placed in the bay window. She ate a late light supper and went to bed. Her dreams were of frosty mornings and the four of them opening their gifts on Christmas morning, she smiled in her sleep.
In the morning she read her brother and sister’s letters again asking not to send gifts to them this year as they were spending time with their children and grandchildren and would be away from home. Joy had been disappointed as she had spent several months creating their gifts. ‘We will get together in the New Year and exchange gifts then’ – was the footnote on all three letters. Joy wrapped the gifts with extra care and placed them in a basket on top of her crafting shelf. Another knock on the door brought her to open it to the same deliveryman, his grey beard frosted with icicles
“Well hello again.”
“You must be very popular with all these parcels. I have two for you today, just in time for the big day. Shall I carry them in?”
“Oh yes please, that is kind.”
As the man turned to leave, she stopped him.
“Wait one moment I have something for you.”
“I’m not supposed to take gifts, I’m afraid.”
“Really that is not a very festive outlook and it is only a day to Christmas. It is some of my special cookies; surely you can have a few?”
“Well, I wouldn’t say no, I will be delivering until late tonight. It is a busy time of year as you can imagine and I don’t usually get time to stop and eat anywhere.”
“That’s settled then one moment.”
Joy placed several different kinds of cookies and sweet treats in a small tin and gave it to the driver.
“I hope you enjoy them and drive safely, there is a weather front coming in. It’s a good thing you don’t need to drive out to me again, that track can be treacherous.”
“I’ll be careful and thank you so much for these they smell incredible. I only have one run left and can go home, it is a favour to my old boss. He was short handed so I volunteered.”
“At least you have sustenance now. Take care.”
Joy excitedly opened the two boxes to find more gifts and took them to the tree. It would be nice to open them on Christmas morning but she really wanted to have her siblings with her even more. With the house locked and the Christmas lights twinkling she sat to watch a movie. As the clock struck midnight she yawned and rose to go to bed. A tapping sound stopped her steps on the stairs. What is that? She looked around the front room, the kitchen and the hallway but the tapping had stopped. Joy shook her head and went to bed. She could hear the blizzard thundering outside, lashing the roof and trees. As she drifted off to sleep a nagging feeling gripped her but she knew she was alone on the side of the mountain, her house surrounded by fir trees and knew the track would now be under a lot of snow. She told herself to stop being silly and snuggled under the covers.
A loud bang brought her from her slumber. Oh my goodness is that a tree fallen on the house? Wrapping her toweling robe around her and putting her soft plush slippers on, she walked to the window. There was a sheet of snow obscuring everything. One after the other she went into each room fearing a damaged window or wall but there was none. What banged so hard then? As she crossed the hallway to go back upstairs she heard a thud on the front door. Oh no is it my lovely porch that is damaged? Joy unlocked the door fearing the worse. What she saw was a huddled dark figure covered in snow and crystals of ice on eyelashes and beard, and a pair of pleading eyes.
The man crawled into the hallway his breathing laboured and his whole body shaking.
“Goodness, where have you come from? Can you walk come into the front room I’ll light the fire again it will still have hot embers hopefully.
The man tried to speak but his lips were blue and his teeth chattered. He stumbled to the front room and collapsed on the sofa.
“Cold, so cold. Crashed on the track. Crawled back on the track, it took hours.”
“You poor man. Let me get some blankets.”
With several blankets heaped on top of the man, Joy stoked the fire. There I will make a hot drink and then call for an ambulance.”
After giving the man a mug of steaming coffee with plenty of sugar, Joy picked up the telephone but there was no dial tone. Oh no the line has most certainly come down in the storm, what do I do now?
“I’m afraid the telephone line is down I can’t call anyone.”
“I don’t have a cell signal up here either otherwise I would have called someone. I need to get warm and then maybe walk back to the highway.”
“You shall do no such thing! The storm is in full force out there and you will certainly lose your way. No you must stay here, once you are missed they will come to find you. Your route is on a schedule I assume?”
“Yes, my routine is tracked. I feel so bad imposing on you like this but your place was the nearest.”
“Quite understandable and I am glad you made it here, you could have frozen to death out there. I am going to run a hot bath for you and dry those clothes.”
“Thank you, I am so grateful. I am feeling a little warmer now.”
Joy ran the bath and guided the man to the bathroom. He slipped his damp clothes through the door for her to put into the drier then sunk into the warm water with a sigh. He could feel his flesh warm.
After putting the clothes into the drier, Joy made herself a drink and yawned. It was the early hours of the morning, in fact Christmas morning. She went to her craft room and unwrapped two gifts she had made for Frank, then put them outside the bathroom door.
“Your clothes will take some time to dry so I have put a dressing gown, pyjamas and slippers outside the door. I hope they fit.”
She heard the man thank her and returned to the living room to build up the fire again. After few moments later the man came down the stairs looking flushed but happy.
“I feel much more human now not an iceberg. These fit perfectly – thank you, are they your husbands?”
“Actually no I made them for my brother as Christmas gifts but as we will not see each other until the New Year I thought your need was greater. I can always make more. Come and sit the fire is roaring. Can I get you some food now?”
“I think I have imposed more than enough.”
“If I can’t offer a stranger a hot meal on Christmas Day when can I?”
“Oh my I forgot it is Christmas Day isn’t it. Well then I accept your kind offer but please don’t go to much trouble.”
“Nonsense the dawn should be breaking any moment, if we see it through that white out of course. An early, hearty breakfast coming right up, then I think we should both rest.”
Joy busied herself in the kitchen, smiling to herself as she thought how nice it was to have company on this of all days. With breakfast cooked and served, they both sat in front of the fire eating contently in silence.
“That was a most enjoyable meal, thank you once again for helping me and showing such kindness. It has been a long time since I has such a meal with good company.”
“Well it is my pleasure. May I ask why you have not enjoyed good food? If I am prying please forgive me.”
“I think you are owed more than an explanation for your hospitality. I am a widower and to be honest find myself eating TV dinners most of the time. Rachel was the cook that was my wife. She has been gone now fourteen years and I never remarried. You become accustomed to being alone but it is still lonely.”
“I feel exactly the same I’m up here alone in my parents old house and like you I lost someone fourteen years ago. I delayed making a decision on his marriage proposal maybe a little too long and then he was gone. Working across the country and we lost touch. There have been moments of regret of course but you just get on with life – right?”
“Yes I agree, I could not sit at home alone all day. That’s when my old boss suggested the part time shifts as it turned out those shifts gave me a reason to get out of bed in the morning.”
Joy stifled a yawn the heat from the fire and a good breakfast filled stomach made her tired. The man looked at her and smiled.
“I need to sleep too I am happy to sleep here on the couch.”
“Well maybe a couple of hours and then we can decide what to do about getting you home.”
Joy locked her bedroom door although she felt quite safe in the man’s company. It was odd but he had not offered his name and she had not asked, as she fell asleep she told herself to ask upon waking.
The smell of coffee and toast woke her, for a moment it disorientated her and then she remembered her visitor. She quickly dressed and went to the kitchen.
“Good morning, I hope you don’t mind I made coffee and toast. Let me pour you a cup.”
Joy sat at the kitchen table enjoying the attention.
“Thank you, you make good coffee. I forgot to ask your name all last night.”
“Oh that is funny yes I should have introduced myself properly, my name is Blyde, it means Joy. I’m always asked.”
“It is? Well what a coincidence my name is Joy.”
They laughed together and a chink in the clouds sent a ray of bright sunshine across the table.
“I think the storm has finally passed us by, I might be able to get a cell signal now.”
“Of course but please finish your coffee first, its nice to have company.”
“It is isn’t it? Yes there is no hurry. I’m sure the snow ploughs are busy clearing the main highway but I don’t suppose they come up here do they?”
“Actually my best friend’s husband drives a plough and he swings by after his shift so I can drive back and forth. He will be up later this afternoon I should think.”
“Well plenty of time to chat then.”
A year later Joy and Blyde married, her brother and sisters attended the wedding and everyone joked about Joy’s Joy. To Joy she had met her joy in more ways than one. Blyde was kind, generous and loving and best of all was happy to live in her house rather than his small townhouse. Days were no longer empty, Blyde had been her very best Christmas gift.
Do your stories stay on track or do they morph into something else?
My hope is to finish my YA novella by mid January so I can send the manuscript to my illustrator with suggestions for the chapter header images. I will also submit it to my publisher for editing and review. This story is set on another planet with four friends discovering and battling an intruder. I’m not sure why this YA novella and my previous one, Clickety Click both have ‘aliens’ in them but that was where both stories took me. There are similarities but also totally different settings, one on earth and the other on another planet. Both narratives have a message to young people, which I hope will encourage them to accept and care for each other and their environments.
Books: I am enjoying this novel set in Edmonton and have come to know the characters easily in the first few chapters. I am looking forward to following their journeys.
Create a inspiration list and find images for your story’s setting and characters. Make up a board, either physical or digital that you can have in front of you as you write.
Don’t edit as you write – let the process flow. There is plenty of time to edit and revise later on. For now let your imagination take control and write without a filter.
As I mentioned on Friday, tomorrow is my writing group’s Christmas party – it is an opportunity to share our current projects, reflect on the past year and reconnect with members who have been away. Part of the celebration is for everyone to read a seasonally themed piece of prose or poem. There are always a variety of interpretations to this prompt, which makes for an interesting evening. My submission this year is:
It sat under the Christmas tree tantalizing me
Its shiny wrapping paper and bright gold bow
Perfectly folded corners and sealed up tight
On the label written in script my name
As I pass, my eyes fix
Under the decorated Christmas tree
Its lights twinkle and baubles dangle
The box reflected a hundred times
When alone I sit beside the box
Smoothing its surface and guessing
The gold ribbon fastened tight
No tears or gaps through which to peek
Carefully I pick up the box
Giving it a gentle shake
There is no rattle or jangle
No noise to give a clue
The days pass slowly
My impatience grows
When will I be able to open the box
And find out what it holds?
Christmas morning arrives
My excitement wakes me at dawn
I creep down the stairs
To find the box gleaming
At last the family assembles
I burst with excitement
As the box is handed to me
I feel its weight again and gasp
With shaking hands I unwrap
The paper and bow discarded
A cardboard box revealed
No clue given still
Prizing open the flaps
Tissue paper rustles
Underneath my Christmas, wish
A perfect treasure for me to keep
Why not share your Christmas themed poem or prose here?