There is only one movie that I watch at least once every year and that is A Christmas Story, the 1983 comedy based on Jean Shepherd’s book In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash. For me, Christmas would not be Christmas without revisiting Ralphie and the other members of the Parker family. My favorite character is the father, generally known as the Old Man. In some ways, this character reminds me of my own father. Like Mr. Parker, my father sometimes seemed a bit on the gruff side, and he could easily match Mr. Parker in the swearing department. However, he and Mr. Parker both understood the importance of honoring family holiday traditions.
My father came from a long line of Polish Jews, so he did not grow up celebrating Christmas. My mother, however, came from an equally long line of Swedish Lutherans who always celebrated Christmas. For my mother, Christmas presented an opportunity to celebrate her Swedish heritage. My brother, sister, and I wholeheartedly joined in the Swedish merriment. We baked Swedish Christmas cookies, listened to Swedish Christmas music, and put Swedish decorations on our fourteen-foot Christmas tree. My father half-heartedly went along with our Swedish Christmas doings, but he must have felt a bit like the odd man out. Eventually, however, he found a way to make his own contribution to our family’s Christmas traditions.
Throughout my childhood, my father read aloud to us kids every night after we finished our homework. We had no television, so listening to Dad read was our main form of evening entertainment. One of my father’s favorite authors was Charles Dickens, and he read to us a number of Dickens’s novels. One Christmas Eve, he took Dickens’s A Christmas Carol off the shelf and read it to us. Usually Mom didn’t listen to Dad read aloud, but that night she joined us in the living room. The reading of A Christmas Carol became an annual ritual. Ever since then, I have taken an interest in Christmas stories. Thus, I am pleased to report the recent publication of several appealing and diverse Christmas stories by Charlotte writers.
Darin Kennedy, a Charlotte physician and author of a half-dozen fantasy novels, has just released a young-adult novel titled Carol. This novel has many connections to Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, but Darin takes the story in a new direction. I recently contacted Darin and asked him for more information about Carol. Here is what he sent to me:
Carol is the product of a seed of an idea that woke me from a dead sleep a few years ago, much like one of the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present, or Future. “A young adult version of A Christmas Carol!” I believe were my exact words before I’d fully even woken up. This book has been finished for years but, though near and dear to my heart, never found a publishing home. Then, 2020 happened and this story called out to me and said, “This is the year. Just make it happen.” With awesome editing and layout by the incomparable Melissa McArthur and a gorgeous cover from the extremely talented Natania Barron, I self-published my version of the Dickens’s classic under my own imprint, 64Square Publishing and it’s now available just in time for the holiday season.
Carol is the story of Carol Davis, a “mean girl” if there ever was one, who is surprisingly bitter for a seventeen-year-old who is about to come into a lot of money for reasons the book makes clear. Sharp-tongued and self-centered, she looks out for number one, and steps over or on anyone who gets in her way, be it her best friend, a boy she’s known forever, or the aunt and uncle who took her in after a family tragedy. Visited by the ghost of her mentor in the ways of ruling the school on the anniversary of her December drowning, Carol learns that a horrible fate awaits her on Christmas Eve if she doesn’t turn her life around in the three days left before Christmas Day. Each night, a Spirit of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come appear to help Carol find her way, but as her life spirals further and further out of control, one fateful decision will determine whether or not she’s too far gone to save from her terrible destiny.
Landis Wade, a former trial lawyer and founder and host of Charlotte Readers Podcast, is also the author of The Christmas Courtroom Trilogy. The third and most recent book in this trilogy is The Christmas Redemption. I contacted Wade and asked him for more information about A Christmas Redemption. Here is what he sent to me:
I have always loved Christmas, so when I decided to write the first book in The Christmas Courtroom Trilogy as a gift to my family, I combined my love of the secular holiday with my experience as a trial lawyer to find out what would happen if belief in Santa Claus was put on trial in the modern day. In each of the three books, the final verdict in the courtroom and for the characters is at the heart of the story, but I also had fun imposing modern day challenges for Santa’s enterprise outside the courtroom. The “what if” in book one relates to problems imposed by keeping the naughty and nice list on a stolen flash drive, the “what if” in book two relates to problems associated with an experimental but defective delivery system and the “what if” in book three–The Christmas Redemption–explores what could happen to the North Pole and the future of Christmas when there is an international conspiracy affecting the environment.
All the books have a light, humorous side to the courtroom action, because it’s not every day that a verdict depends on belief in Santa Claus. That’s why my favorite review is the one that calls my books a cross between My Cousin Vinny and Miracle on 34th Street. And in The Christmas Redemption, I take the courtroom fight to three venues, a class action civil lawsuit over the most popular Christmas present in 50 years, a federal criminal courtroom and a trial before the Elf High Council. I also reveal the true character of the evil-doer, the little man with eyes as black as coal who sought in books one and two to undermine the lawyers who wanted to save Christmas.
They say a good trial lawyer never asks a witness a question if the lawyer doesn’t know how the witness will answer it, but for the writer in me, that was half the fun, putting witnesses on the courtroom witness stand and being surprised at the answers they gave. In the end, I became a True Believer all over again.
Gail Z. Martin and Nancy Northcott are both prolific Charlotte writers, and both of them have stories in Christmas at Caynham Castle, a collection of seven romance novellas connected by a holiday ball. Set in an ancient castle in a charming old town on the Welsh border, they’re laced with adventure, history, mystery, and ghosts, as well as romance. I contacted Gail and Nancy and asked them for more information about their contributions to this anthology.
Here is what Gail sent to me:
Crewel Fate was inspired by the many embroidery samples I’ve seen when touring historic homes. When Teag Logan and his fiancé Anthony Benton travel to England to celebrate their engagement, Teag’s magic and supernatural experience hone in on restless ghosts, an old scandal and century-old secrets that could turn deadly. Can Teag and Anthony solve the mystery and settle the ghosts before the Ball, or will more people join the ranks of the castle ghosts? Crewel Fate is part of my Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy series, and falls immediately after the newest novel, Inheritance.
Here is what Nancy sent to me:
The Last Favor, part of my Arachnid Files spy series, was inspired by my experiences and those of friends in dealing with loss at the holidays. Grayson Kane, the hero, comes to Caynham Castle to pick up an award for his late father. Dealing with his loss amid the families celebrating the holiday makes him question his solitary life as a covert agent. His partner, Laurel Whitney, joins him to protect Gray from an assassin. As the long-suppressed attraction between them flares anew and a killer closes in, she must decide whether she has the courage to seize what she has always wanted.
James (Jim) Nettles, who writes under the pen name of James P. McDonald, is a founding partner of Author Essentials, a Charlotte-based firm that provides marketing and other professional services geared to writers. He is also the author of numerous science fiction and fantasy books. He recently published a young adult fantasy novel titled The Krampus Clause. In this novel,he draws on the central European folklore about Krampus, a demon-like character who is sometimes seen as Saint Nicolas’s arch nemesis. I recently contacted Jim and asked him for more information about The Krampus Clause. Here is what he sent to me:
Ten-year-old Gabriella’s brother is a jerk, and his best friend and their neighbor is worse, Daddy just brought home a Nancy in the Nook doll that’s even creepier than her partner Ned, and all she wants is to protect her back-yard domain and survive gymnastics. Now, Grandmother is visiting from her Austrian village to visit for the holidays, bringing heirloom decorations, her famous stöllen recipe, and a family legacy. When her grandmother gives her a special gift, will she use it to save her brother, or follow an ancient power in a red suit?
Inspired by Victorian ghost stories in the spirit of A Christmas Carol and dark but fun holiday traditions like The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, The Krampus Clause is a fun young adult holiday horror to be read around the Yule Log as the days grow short, the nights grow cold, and the elves come to see how naughty you’ve really been.
The aforementioned Christmas stories both honor and deviate from the traditions and expectations that we associate with Christmas, and that is as it should be. In the conclusion of A Christmas Story, the Parker family is unable to have their traditional turkey dinner on Christmas since their neighbors’ dogs ate the turkey. However, the Parkers make some adjustments, and have their Christmas dinner at a Chinese restaurant instead. During this holiday season, many of us will have to make adjustments to our holiday plans on account of the current pandemic. We might not be able to share a dinner together with all of our relatives, but we can still share stories. Charlotte’s writers are serving some great new Christmas stories for everyone to enjoy as we celebrate the holiday season here in Storied Charlotte.