I’ve finally finished all four stories in my “secret” project, a collection of dark Christmas stories which will be published under each of my writing names, Lucy Varna, V.R. Cumming, Celia Roman, and C.D. Watson, one story per name.
I conceived of this idea after stumbling across information on chapbooks, and had thought to produce four super short stories and have them published either individually or collectively as a chapbook. Now traditionally, chapbooks are rather small in size and length, so I planned to tell four complete dark holiday stories in under 1500 words each.
Ha, yes. It’s ok to laugh. Those of you who know me know very well that I write until the story is done, and sometimes that’s a lot longer word-count wise than I expected. Case in point: While developing A Mutual Feeling, I thought it would be no more than 7500 words long. The finished story weighs in at a respectable 19,117 words, a far cry from my original estimate.
So here I had this lovely idea, a short story collection featuring a tale told by each of my separate writing personas, and it was rapidly growing too cumbersome for its original medium. I do love my pivots, y’all. The easiest (and savviest) thing to do was continue with the project and simply publish it as I normally would. The result is my first holiday collection, Dreaming of a Dark Christmas.
The entire project is mine from start to finish, with two lovely exceptions. I did the cover, wrote the introduction and the stories, formatted the digital and print editions, and am slowly creating pages for the book on each of my pertinent websites. The first exception is, of course, Richard, my editor, who so far loves each of the stories. He’s about to read through the fourth and final one, and hopefully will love it just as much as the other three.
The second exception is Rebecca Winder, narrator of the Sunshine Walkingstick Series and, when I get it proofed, Intersections. I just handed the three finished stories over to her to narrate in between her other projects. She has a great voice and is awesome to work with, so I’m very much looking forward to her finished product.
As to the stories themselves, I developed each one around a particular day of the holiday season. That’s how the stories got their names, and it’s why they’re ordered the way they are, by the date of the holiday rather than the year in which the story takes place. There’s quite a range here, too, from the American Civil War (“Christmas Eve Gift”) all the way up to the modern day (“On the 7th Day of Christmas”).
Here’s a quick peek at each of the stories, given here in the order in which they’ll appear within the collection.
“Christmas Eve Gift” by C.D. Watson
The story I published under my own name was originally going to be an historic Krampus tale co-written with my son. Alas, his free time is so rare, we simply couldn’t coordinate enough collaboration time to finish that story.
Instead, I took a tradition from my own family, moved it back in time a century and a half, fictionalized a local character by the name of Old Bill (a woman, by the way), and twisted the story a little to suit the collection’s mood.
The result is the only story in the collection to meet my original word count criteria of being less than 1500 words in length. Fitting then that it should go first.
In “Christmas Eve Gift,” Old Bill is on her way to her niece Sally’s house to play a traditional Christmas Eve prank on Sally and her family when she encounters an unexpected darkness. I had a lot of fun writing Old Bill, and hope to share her with you again in future stories.
“A Dark Christmas” by V.R. Cumming
One of the hardest things about writing a series is not being able to share all the really interesting back stories of secondary characters. Readers of The Vampyr Series should be familiar with Alice, Eric’s creche mate and a full-fledged vampire, and Gregory, Jason’s teammate and friend.
The New Vampire contains some fairly heavy hints that Alice is uneasy about Eric throwing her together with Gregory because of something that happened in Gregory’s past. I’ve wanted to tell that story for so long, it’s been difficult not to blurt out what really happened.
Guess what? Now I don’t have to. “A Dark Christmas” is the beginning of Alice and Gregory’s story, but it’s not what you think. In fact, this one may surprise the heck out of you. For those unfamiliar with the story world, don’t worry. “A Dark Christmas” is easily understood without having read a single word in The Vampyr Series.
“On the 7th Day of Christmas” by Celia Roman
If you’ve been following along in the Sunshine Walkingstick Series, then you’ve probably been waiting for Sunny and David to have their party. It finally happens on a very special night, New Year’s Eve.
That’s the seventh day of Christmas, if you were wondering. Yes, I had to look it up, too, but research is the fun part of being a writer. That and the chocolate. Oh, the lovely, dreamy, melt in your mouth chocolate. Yum.
Anyway, on the seventh day of Christmas Sunny encounters a monster that she doesn’t have to kill, but the whys of that are clues to the next story in the series. As with Alice’s story, “On the 7th Day of Christmas” was designed for every reader whether familiar with Sunny’s world or not.
“Twelfth Night” by Lucy Varna
Finally, a short story from the Daughters of the People Series. “Twelfth Night” jumps back in time to the night Lukas Alexiou turns thirteen. This is also the beginning of his relationship with the Woman with No Face, which is no coincidence at all.
As with “A Dark Christmas,” I’ve been wanting to recount this particular encounter for a long time. When I first conceived of the idea for a dark holiday collection, it seemed like a no-brainer to include the night when Lukas must decide where his destiny lies, under his father’s heel, or in the future promised to him by a mysterious, ageless assassin.
Again, this one can be understood without having read the Daughters of the People Series. If you’re a fan of the series, definitely don’t skip “Twelfth Night” as it is a nice companion to some of the events in the final three books of the series.
I had a lot of fun with the four stories in Dreaming of a Dark Christmas, from brainstorming to writing to preparing them for publication, and on 15 December 2017, you can have some fun with them, too, as that’s when the collection will be released. You can preorder it now at Amazon, or wait until I announce it through one of my newsletters. Either way, you won’t want to miss these dark tales of Christmases past and present.