The Fun of The Holiday Romance

image courtesy of Jill Wellington via pixabay.com

I’m not actually focusing specifically on my own work today, but I’m talking about how much I Iove a good holiday romance, especially one set around the winter holidays.

I love to see the novellas or anthologies appear on the holiday tables in bookstores and gift shops. Or in displays in the library. I gobble them up, even in the years where I’ve sworn off romance (either reading it or living it). I don’t watch a lot of holiday romance movies — I often get too far ahead of the plot and get impatient waiting for the characters to catch up. A good one will get me (I love WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING).

Yes, it’s often an unsustainable ideal. But I don’t care. I love snowy holiday romances, where people discover that love and hope still exists, and that there’s still good in the world. I don’t care that they’re unrealistic. I want the fantasy.

I do have criteria. The protagonists need to be smart and have a sense of humor — or at least grow into their senses of humor. They need to have kindness at their core, even if they cover it up at first. One partner too alpha and overbearing? Turns me off completely. If the only measure of a woman’s worth is child-bearing — goodbye, you’re not the story for me. Romance demands an HEA, and I want that even more during the holidays. But if one character demeans the other, or the ONLY goal is to land a partner in order to have kids, it’s a turnoff.

I also don’t want a lot of religion in the books. I realize that Christmas is a religious holiday, and a great time for religious inspiration in stories. For people who love them, good for them. I’m not trashing those storylines; I’m saying they’re not for me.  But there are more holidays in the winter season that Christmas. I enjoy Christmas-based romance, but I’m always happy to find books with other winter holidays, too, especially the Solstice.

I love a sense of magic, of possibility. That the season can inspire a moment of inspiration that is the catalyst for the protagonists to take actions that will lead to a happier life.

Holiday romances don’t have to be around the winter holidays: Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or any of the others. But that’s when I like to curl up in my chair by the lighted tree, bundled in my plushy throw, with a glass of wine, a good book, and a cat or three on my lap. Yes, the beasts can make reading difficult, but they’re worth it.

One of the plans for the Twinkle Tavern Mysteries (which have stronger romantic elements than a lot of my other work) is to use holidays that aren’t always used. Which is why “Plot Bunnies” focuses on Easter, and “Labor Intensive” focuses on Labor Day.  (Yes, I did some shameless self-promotion there).

I often write a short holiday piece in the newsletter (Devon’s Random Newsletter, which covers all the noms de plume). They are early-draft pieces, usually second or third draft, not yet ready for further publication. But there are a couple that I want to expand, especially one I wrote a few years ago that took place in a snowed-in diner. That will, eventually, be a book.

When it comes to writing, I write best about the winter holidays in the midst of them. Since submissions need to be made a good eight months ahead of a holiday, that means I submit a holiday piece usually two or three years after I’ve actually written it, so I have time to work on it. I sometimes thoroughly enjoy EDITING a winter holiday piece in the middle of a hot summer, but I prefer to WRITE it when I’m in the midst of the decorating and baking and card writing.

I’m first-drafting a new winter holiday romance this year. A genuine romance, not just a novel “with romantic elements” — although that could change, and it could switch back. I’m creating one of my fantasies of a perfect stretch from Solstice through the New Year — but not without sadness and conflicts.

One of my favorite parts of writing these stories is that I can build and decorate houses and create meals and party menus. I don’t necessarily use all of it in the final draft, but I love creating them.

Do you love holiday romances? What draws you to them? What’s your favorite?

One of my favorites is Rosamunde Pilcher’s WINTER SOLSTICE. My mother has all her books, and is the one who encouraged me to read it. I love the way the relationships grow in the book.

The journey is what I enjoy with these holiday romances. I like the security of knowing there will be a happy ending. I like to take the journey with them, and see how the characters make choices so they can CHOOSE to be together and create an optimistic future.

Next week, I’ll be talking about one of my favorite pieces I’ve ever written, “Just Jump in and Fly.” Which is set on Christmas.

Have a joyful season!

Welcome to Twinkle, Vermont!

For the last few weeks, I’ve talked about the process of writing SAVASANA AT SEA, the firs Nautical Namaste Mystery. I’ve talked about choices, decisions involved in character, setting, location, plot, ensemble, where I chose to break rules.

This week, I switch to a few weeks of talking about some of the shorter pieces I write under the Delectable Digital Delights banner.

The first of these is “Plot Bunnies.” It’s a comic, romantic, short mystery set in the fictional Twinkle, Vermont. It’s the start of the Twinkle Tavern Mysteries.

Here’s the blurb:

Someone killed the Easter Bunny – so who’s dancing around the Village Green in his suit? 

Welcome to Twinkle, Vermont.  When her husband is killed in a car crash after a rendezvous with his mistress, Gloria Dunkirk and her teenaged son move in with her mother-in-law. Gloria goes to work at the historical Twinkle Tavern & Green Gate Inn. When her son and his friend discover the body of the man who dresses up for holiday events, they wonder who’s impersonating him at the town’s Easter Egg event at that very moment? The upside is that Gloria gets to spend time with the sexy Dean Eastlake, Twinkle’s favorite detective. The downside is stopping the killer before he strikes again – in minutes.

It was originally written for a contest, several years ago, using a twist on a typical holiday. I wanted to do something wacky with an Easter Bunny. The story was deemed too “cute”  with too much romance for the contest, but I liked the story and characters. I hadn’t read Donna Andrews’s mysteries at the time, but re-reading this now, the tone reminds me of her work.  I don’t classify it as a romance, but as having romantic elements. There’s hope for Gloria and the man she’s attracted to by the end of the story, but no promises.

As much as I loved the stories and the characters, trying to expand it into a book hurt the pace and the sense of fun in the piece. So I chose to keep it as a short. It’s gotten a positive response, and I’m working on more shorts to explore different relationships between Gloria and other characters, and the town. The plan is to set them around different holidays, starting with holidays used less often in fiction, and then moving toward more commonly-used ones as plot ideas present themselves. There’s no set timetable for these pieces.

One of the elements I want to explore in the stories is Gloria’s relationship with her mother-in-law, Violet. Gloria is a widow. Her husband died returning from an illicit rendezvous; the mistress produced a forged will, leaving her everything. Gloria and Violet don’t intend on letting her get away with it. In this story, it’s hinted that Violet gets along better with Gloria than she did with her own son. I plan to explore that in future stories, although they won’t always have an easy time of it.

Violet, Dean Eastlake’s mother, and the mother of another character, Parker Sullivan, were all friends growing up. They were smart, independent, hell-raising women in a small New England town. They’re not going to roll over and submit to anyone. Their friendship will be explored, both in contemporary times, and earlier in their friendship, in future stories. Dean’s mother died when he was a teenager, so in contemporary times, only Violet and Rose are left.

The mother-in-law relationship isn’t easy, and it will be fun to explore how Gloria and Violet work together, and, sometimes, how they disagree. Instead of clichés, I want to explore how they build their relationship, especially since so much is at stake with Gloria’s son/Violet’s grandson, Max.

If you’d like to learn more about “Plot Bunnies” you can visit the Delectable Digital Delights page on my website or direct purchase on Smashwords, Kobo, and Nook.

Just Jump in and Fly

“Just Jump in and Fly” is a short story, a fresh take on some of my favorite holiday myths (turning some of them inside out). mixed with comedy and a little romance.

Susanna Wright has a problem. The attractive Kris Teague crash- landed his sleigh and eight not-so-tiny reindeer in her driveway. His uncle Nick happens to be THAT Nick – as in Claus – and they need Susanna Wright’s help to turn back the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse at one of the Universal Gates not only to save Christmas, but keep Earth turning. A fresh, romantic comedy turn on Yuletide myths and traditions!

It’s only 99 cents on Smashwords here.

It’s a fun little piece. I’m fond of the characters, and thinking about doing more with them.

If you’d like to read an excerpt, you can hop over and read one here.