06 The Christmas Promise

Blue, red, green, and yellow lights blinked on the tiny tree. Blink, blink, blink. Timmy sighed.

No ornaments decorated the little tree, only a few strands of blinking lights he had found in the dumpster while searching for food to feed his family. Timmy stepped back and gave the tree a once over. It was sparse and tiny this year, not like the Oregon Sliver Tip his family had last year when his dad were alive, but at least they had a Christmas tree.

Blink, blink, blink. With each blink of the multicolored lights he felt a flicker of hope. Timmy remembered what his Sunday school teacher had told him. “Blue is for faith, red is for love, green is for blessings and yellow is for trust.”

Timmy fell to his knees. The cracked concrete floor was ice cold. He didn’t notice the coldness of the room, only the warm glow coming from the blinking lights on the little tree. Blink, blink, blink. The lights sparkled on the tree. Timmy watched the lights as they faded into the tree. He prayed for a miracle. Timmy knew God would answer his prayers.

He prayed for a warm winter coat for his mother. Mama only has a tattered sweater and she’s coughs all the time Lord…

He prayed for a new dolly for his five year old sister Katie. Katie’s dolly has no hair and only one eye Lord…

For his little brother Stevie, Timmy prayed for a miracle. Lord, I am not asking for a toy for Stevie. Let Stevie walk again. Thank you Lord.

Timmy didn’t ask for anything. He didn’t think he needed anything. He loved his family so much he wanted them to have a very special Christmas. Blink, blink, blink. Timmy eyes grew heavy.

Faith and trust is what he had in God. Timmy knew God loved him and would bless his family with a Christmas miracle. Before falling asleep he checked on his mama , little brother and sister. He made sure they were warm. Timmy place another log on the fireplace ,crawled into bed with Stevie and fell asleep.

He dreamed of a magical Christmas. His daddy was there and tons of presents stood high under the Oregon Sliver Tip. The biggest angel stood atop the huge tree.

Timmy awoke to a loud noise. He looked around the room and didn’t see anything, only the lights on the Christmas tree. Blink, blink, blink. He snuggled closer to Stevie to kept warm and fell back asleep.

“Timmy, Timmy. Santa Claus has been here!” His sister jumped on the bed.

“Huh?” Timmy was still half asleep. Santa Claus?

He got up and went to put another log on the fire.

“Merry Christmas Timmy”, his mama wrapped her arms around him.

“Merry Christmas mama.”

“There’s a tree and presents under it too! It’s a miracle.” Her eyes misted.

Timmy ran to the tree and presents toppled from underneath it. His mama walked over to where he stood. Timmy reached under the tree for a present. Katie ripped open her present. Inside the pretty pink paper lay her doll. Timmy started to cry.

“Mama, your next,” he placed a present decorated in purple paper into her lap.

She opened her present. It was her winter coat!

Timmy placed the big box next to his little brother. What could be in Stevie’s box? Stevie ripped his present opened. Braces.

Stevie got braces so he could walk again. How?

Timmy didn’t see the last present under the tree.

“Here Timmy”, his mama handed him a present.

Timmy carefully opened the present. Nestled inside the white tissue paper lay a copy of Treasure Island. He couldn’t believe that somehow he also received a special gift; a copy of his favorite book. Timmy knew a special promise had been kept, not only by himself to his dad, but from the Heavenly Father to him.

Timmy fell to his knees, wept and thanked the Lord.

“Heavenly Father, thank you for the Christmas promise you kept.”

Critique: To make a fully developed story, you need to flesh it out more. We need more characterization and a better defined sense of place. We need to know more about why the family is in this situation. We need to know what promises were made, when, why. You’ve got plenty of word count left. Use it to add depth and originality to the story. You also need to work on how to designate dialog.

What I liked best: The blink, blink, blink of the lights.

Publication ready: No. Needs work.

05 Fishing Buddy

Bill pulled his sled through the darkness, his cleats clicking and crunching on the ice as he made his way across the frozen lake. Above, high cloud cover blocked out the starry sky. Up ahead, a small fire was a bright spot in the night, it’s light an unexpected beacon on Bill’s destination.

Well, thought Bill, I guess I’ll have some company out here. And maybe I won’t even have to make my own fire!

He aimed his headlamp at the distant bright spot and clicked his way through the gloom.

When he arrived at the fire he could see the other man’s set-up. There was a small folding camp-stool in front of the cheery little fire, with a pile of collected firewood lying on the ice next to it. There was a big, antique looking sled, the kind with runners, with the man’s equipment box attached on top of it. Lying on the ice in front of the sled was a gas-powered auger, and spread out across the ice in an X pattern were the man’s traps, each about 20′ apart from each other. Each one had a small light attached to it so that he could see when they went off in the dark.

Sitting on the camp-stool in front of the fire was a big man. Ok, Bill thought, he’s a fat man, but big is the PC term nowadays…

“Hello there, neighbor!” Bill called as he approached.

“Greetings and salutations, fellow fisherman!” the man called back, in a deep, jolly voice.

“Mind if I set up near you? This is one of my favorite spots.”

“Not at all!” came the booming reply. “There’s plenty of lake left, and if you pull up a chair I think you’ll find that even I can’t use all this fire by myself!”

The man rose ponderously to his feet, tall as well as wide, and came a few steps closer, his own cleats crunching on the ice. As he leaned forward to direct his gaze toward Bill’s equipment, his face came within the circle of light thrown by Bill’s headlamp. Bill could see that the man had a ruddy face framed by thick white hair and a matching bushy beard, and that while his body was clad in a red suit of state-of-the-art ‘Arctic Armor’, he had an old fashioned stocking cap on his head complete with a tassel!

“It’s getting late, friend,” the fellow said. “Why don’t you use my auger to punch some holes? It’ll be faster than your hand auger, and the faster you get those traps in, the faster we can settle in by that fire to swap fish stories. If you like, you just tell me where you want the holes, and I’ll punch ’em while you start setting up traps.”

Bill looked out at the dark ice where he intended to set his holes.

“Deal!” he said. He stripped off one glove and held out a hand.

“My name’s Bill, and thanks for the help.”

The big man in red also stripped off a glove, engulfing Bill’s hand in a paw the size of a catcher’s mitt.

“My name’s Chris, and I’m just thankful for the company.”

Working as a team they had Bill’s five traps in the water in about fifteen minutes, each with it’s own glow-stick waiting to pop into the air to announce that the trap had been sprung. They were sitting by the fire, Chris on his stool and Bill on the lid of his bait-bucket.

“Well! Thank you again!” said Bill “That was much faster!”

“Don’t mention it! Glad to help.”

Bill squinted at the power auger as it lay on the ice again.

“I do have to say, I’d love to have one of those augers. My hand auger is good, but once the ice is a foot or more thick it is a little slow… I’ll get one someday, but I just can’t afford it right now.”

He looked at Chris.

“…And, I have to say that I didn’t expect to have any company out here tonight, especially with it being Christmas Eve and all. I haven’t got any family around here, and I had nothing to do, so I decided to get some night fishing in out here at my favorite spot. What’s your excuse?”

Chris’s smile looked odd, lit from above by his headlamp like that, but it was undeniably broad.

“Oh, this is my busy time of year, so I try to take my breaks when I can get them. I had a few hours where I really didn’t need to be doing anything, so I snuck out here for some fishing. This is also one of my favorite spots, but I don’t get to come out here much at all.”

“Well, you must get out somewhere,” Bill said. “You have some of the nicest gear for ice-fishing that I’ve ever seen. And you sure handled that auger like a pro.”

Chris smiled even more broadly.

“Oh, I love to fish. And where I come from, if you want to fish you learn to ice-fish!”

“Ah!” said Bill, raising one gloved finger in the air, “you must hail from up North, in Canada!”

Chris nodded.

“I come from up North, yes. But, tell me, you say you fish here often?”

Now it was Bill’s turn to nod.

“Well, let me just break out this thermos of coffee for us and you can tell me about the biggest fish you’ve taken out of here. Like I said, I don’t get out here often, and I’d like to hear how the place is doing.”

The evening passed, with Chris asking the questions and Bill supplying the fishing stories. They kept the fire going, passed the coffee thermos back and forth, and even caught some bass. Chris caught three while Bill only landed two, but one of Bill’s two was the biggest of the night. Each time they released their catch and returned to the fire. Eventually, Chris looked at his wrist, found that there was no watch, and asked Bill if he knew the time.

“Yep. It’s just going on 10:00.”

Chris’s eyes widened.

“10:00? Oh no! I was having such a good time I never realized that it was so late!I have to go!”
He jumped up and started folding his stool.

“Is something wrong?” Bill asked, worried by his new friend’s sudden alarm.

“Well, I… uh… I have some people waiting for me. I’m supposed to meet them, and didn’t know I was running late!”

He thrust the stool and his bait-box in to his sled, muttering “My wife’s gonna kill me if I keep the whole crew waiting…”

“Let me help,” said Bill. “I’ll pull the sled while you take out your traps, we’ll see if we can get you out of here quicker.”

“Thanks Bill!” said Chris, and he took off toward his first trap at a run, cleats crunching and clicking. Bill grabbed the pull rope on the big red sled and followed along behind. Chris got all five traps out in record time, pulled off a glove and shook Bill’s hand again.

“Thanks. I have to run, but it was great meeting you, Bill. We’ll have to do this again sometime!”

Without waiting for a response, he took off across the ice at a trot, clicking along at a good clip. Soon he was just a point of light in the distance, moving toward the boat ramp. Bill wondered about that, since he knew that he was the only one parked at the boat ramp.

But, he thought, who’s to say he’s not on a cell phone right now calling for a ride?

He watched the light get to the parking lot, and then it hung about for a couple of minutes. Suddenly, the light took off down the road paralleling the lake, moving at a really good clip. It was like Chris had been picked up by a car after all, but there were no headlights, just that one light from Chris’s headlamp. Just as Bill was wondering about this, the light flew up off the road and took off across the sky! It looped around and flew right over the lake! With the dark and distance Bill couldn’t make out anything but that light, but it was definitely flying as it disappeared in the distance… heading… north?

Shaken, Bill put out the fire and pulled out his own traps. He made his way along the same route Chris had used, eventually getting to the boat ramp and his pick-up truck, parked alone in the lot. As he pulled his sled along-side of his truck, he noticed a shape in the cab, on the seat. He beeped the door-locks off and opened the passenger-side door. And he stared.

On the seat, inside his locked truck, was a brand-new, still-in-the-box, Strikemaster Lazer-Mag power auger with an 8” bore. There was a bow stuck to the box with a note tucked under it. Bill pulled the note out from under the bow.

“Bill – Sorry I had to run out on you like that, but I REALLY have a lot to do tonight! Thanks for the company and the stories. Merry Christmas! – Kriss K.”

Bill swallowed hard, and looked at the bottom of the note.

“P.S. – Same time next year?”

Critique: You’ve got a few grammar and sentence structure issues, but not much. We need just a little more backstory for Bill. But otherwise, AWESOME!

What I liked best: I love that it is the Santa Incognito tale, but it’s not sappy or manipulative. Great story.

Publication ready: Yes! With a few minor fixes, it could be a great fit for the next Christmas collection.

04 Leopards of the Snow

Higher than all the surrounding mountains, Mount Snowtopia stretched into the clouds. The people who lived on the mountain were called Snowtopians. Everything in their mountain village was made of snow and ice. They lived in houses carved from great blocks of frozen water, which were plastered daily by heavy snowfalls. They sat in chairs and slept in beds hand-crafted from packed snow. For breakfast they crunched their frosty-coated cereals out of crystal bowls so cold you had to wear thick gloves to prevent your hands from freezing.

Direct sunlight on the mountain was banned, and no artificial heat was allowed. Any rise in temperature, Snowtopia’s scientists predicted, and the school, the church, the shops and the houses, all constructed from snow and ice, would melt. Consequently, all year round the mountain had one season only: winter.

To survive the low temperatures, the Snowtopians wore furry coats and hats woven from the wool of mountain sheep imported from the people who lived in the lower hills. Permanent winter on the mountain meant that no vegetation grew, and with no plants on which to feed, wild animals stayed away. Well, all except one creature: Ookpik, Grandfather Frost’s pet snowy owl. As his top scout, Grandfather Frost sent the owl on regular visits to the mountain to ensure all remained stable on Snowtopia.

Only one month to the Yuletide celebrations now and the snow-covered mountain looked like an elaborately decorated Christmas cake. Perched on the very top of the mountain, the ice palace hotel sparkled beneath the moonlight. The villagers depended on the visiting tourists, their income and the industry brought in by the hotel. But this year was the coldest anyone could remember. And, as no fires were permitted on Snowtopia, the weavers and tailors busied themselves with orders for clothes with thicker lining and extra wool.

For the mountain villagers, accustomed to extreme cold, the new woolly garments kept them almost as warm as snow leopards adapted to sheltering in caves during a fierce blizzard. Not so the tourists. The hotel catered for over five hundred visitors but with less than thirty days to Christmas, there were nine guests made up of one family and a newly wed couple. And both parties had informed Mikhail Alexandrov, the hotel owner, of their intentions to leave as soon as the latest cold spell lifted and a sled and dogs could be used to whisk them safely down the treacherous mountain path.

Like the hoary breath that had turned the snowfall on the mountain to a treacherous shroud of ice, panic gripped the mountain people, turning, it seemed, even their thoughts to frozen and impenetrable fear. People regarded each other through eyes that didn’t appear to register. They listened with ears that couldn’t hear beyond their own sense of impending dread. Only one man, the owner of the ice hotel, remained calm. Time to call a meeting, he decided.

Dressed in their extra warm coats, capes and hats, the Snowtopians arrived to the hotel meeting room. Those living close to the hotel trudged through the heavy snow on snowshoes; some on snowmobiles, while others came on sleds pulled by anxious huskies that yipped and yapped. Little conversation did they exchange together beyond how relaxed Mikhail Alexandrov looked. And, indeed, nobody could recall the hotel owner ever looking any way other than at ease with himself and the world in all the years they had known him.

The mummers petered out when Mikhail climbed the steps to the stage and stood before a microphone.

Without introduction or explanation, he opened with just three words: “The snow leopard,” he said, paused, smiled, stepped back from the microphone and let his eyes wander around the puzzled crowd. He then stepped forward. “The snow leopard is the solution to our problem, my friends.”

The Snowtopians turned to each other, shook their heads and frowned. “His brain has seized up,” said a mechanic who specialised in snowmobiles.

The snow-carpenter agreed. “Mikhail’s head has finally turned to sawdust slush,” he said.
Before he went on to give them a short lecture on the snow leopard, the hotel owner drew his audience’s attention to a very special guest who had just flown in from the faraway and ancient woodland of Veliky Ustyung: Ookpik, Grandfather Frost’s pet snowy owl.

The crowd turned round to see Ookpik perched high up on the ceiling’s chandelier made from a thousand diamond-shaped ice-cubes. Mikhail Alexandrov invited Ookpik to join him on stage.
“Hooo-uh, hooo-uh,” Ookpik said, left his perch and sailed on silent wings over the heads of the Snowtopians and came to rest on a frozen tree-stump placed for that purpose next to Mikhail Alexandrov’s lectern.

The crowd applauded.

Now that he had their full attention, Mikhail Alexandrov told them of his ingenious plan to bring back the tourists to Snowtopia. The leopard, he explained, was perfectly adapted to a freezing mountainous environment, exactly like the conditions on Snowtopia. The animal’s body was stocky and its fur dense, its feet wide to distribute body weight on soft snow, and, most importantly, the cat’s tail was so round and thick, the leopard used it like a blanket to keep its face warm while it slept during particularly bad weather.

By the looks on some of the faces, Mikhail Alexandrov believed his plan already beginning to stick and whiten, spreading like fallen snow.

“It takes about six snow leopard skins to make a fur coat,” he said.

Around the hall the crowd exchanged looks of horror. They nonetheless applauded. For everyone knew how ruthless Mikhail Alexandrov could be in business, but the idea of killing the snow leopards was lunacy.

A wink from Ookpik in their direction, however, reassured them that Grandfather Frost would soon be aware of their troubles.

For now they didn’t dare show any disapproval. The livelihood of every man and woman on Snowtopia depended on Mikhail Alexandrov and his ice palace hotel. In the past a few Snowtopian’s had disagreed with him about the permanent ban on sunshine. Without discussion, Mikhail Alexandrov had banished these men to the lower hills.

So, for their future’s sake, the audience cheered, whooped and clapped their hands.
Mikhail nodded. “Yes,” he said. “You understand me. We can offer our guests coats, hats and moccasins fashioned from the animal whose fur is thick enough to live all-year round with Grandfather Frost, if he so decided.” He shifted his attention to Ookpik beside him and raised his eyebrows. Ookpik blinked his huge yellow eyes, but showed no emotion.

One of the tailors in the centre of the crowd, a normally quiet man, put up his hand. His bloated face seemed ready to implode.

“Yes sir,” Mikhail said.

“The tails,” he said. “The tails will make wonderful scarves.” The tailor had no intention of fashioning scarves from the animal’s tails. He just wanted to please the hotel owner.

“Exactly,” Mikhail said. “We’re driving in the same blizzard you and I.”

Not used to compliments, the tailor chuckled, pressed his hand to his mouth, and glanced about for further approval.

Mikhail Alexandrov then explained that he had learned from a guest one time that there was around three and a half thousand snow leopards left in the world – a sufficient number to fashion more than five hundred coats and other garments: plenty for his hotel guests. Getting hold of these leopard skins, he said, would be difficult. For one thing, there were no guns in Snowtopia. Without creatures to hunt, weapons were unnecessary. Besides, a single rifle report was likely to start an avalanche. So all weapons, like the sun, were banned.

He had considered purchasing the hunting equipment from the towns and villages in the lower mountains. But the Snowtopians were a private people and, beyond trading with outsiders and catering for their visitors, they kept their affairs to themselves as best they could. No, he had an alternative plan: the job of tracking down and capturing alive the snow leopards would be given to the husky trainers and handlers. The handlers were the only Snowtopians ever to move through the world outside Snowtopia. A necessity when they travelled to collect their dogs.

These men were experienced in the ways of animals. They lived with them, knew their dietary and physical requirements. They understood them. And if they could learn the ways of one creature, they could learn and master the ways of another.

Like everybody else, the dog trainers and handlers valued their jobs, and so agreed to carry out the hotel owner’s plan. Besides, as soon as Grandfather Frost learned from Ookpik Mikhail Alexandrov’s crazy plan to turn the snow leopards into fur coats, no harm could surely come to these elusive creatures.

Mikhail Alexandrov’s theory about the dog handlers and keepers’ knowledge of animals proved right. Within a few weeks, they returned from far-flung places like China, Afghanistan, Mongolia, Nepal and India, their sleds crammed with nearly three thousand snow leopards thrust up like deer with ropes made from sheep’s wool around their legs.

The meeting room in the ice palace they used as a temporary communal cage to await the arrival of the butcher from the lower mountains. No choice had Mikhail Alexandrov at this stage except to let an outsider know about the – up till now – very secret project. Off he sent by moonlight a dog musher, his sled and team for the lower hills, ensuring that he keep secret from the butcher the need for his services until his arrival in Snowtopia.

On his journey downhill and across the jagged hills and open tundra, the musher in his loneliness and guilt cried out for Grandfather Frost’s help.

From their beds of snow in their icehouses, the Snowtopians could hear the wails and growls made by three thousand snow leopards coming from the ice palace. They too, unable to sleep, awaited Grandfather Frost’s arrival. Filled with doubt, they imagined terrible possibilities: maybe Ookpik got caught up in a snowstorm and never made it home to Veliky Ustyung. What if Grandfather Frost’s beautiful daughter the Snow Maiden was ill and he had to stay by her bedside? And a million other tragedies they imagined through the long, dark night.

Just before dawn something strange began to happen. The dry coldness of their beds was replaced by a warming wetness; and from the ceilings fell droplets, at first intermittently and then steadily. Everything was melting. There followed shouts and cries around the mountain as people called out to neighbours their horror at the brightening mountains below them.

Overnight the snow had completely melted. The lower mountains appeared as they did in springtime: lush and green.

Baying dogs turned the Snowtopians attention to the dog handler and the butcher arriving at a slow pace through slushy snow.

Mikhail Alexandrov quickly informed the butcher as to why he had been summoned. But asked him even more speedily for his ideas on this strange phenomenon.

The butcher shook his jowly face. “Oh my word,” he said. “You’ve ruined us all. Oh my word.”

The hotel owner told the butcher to calm down, and granted him that he would accept responsibility for whatever harm he may have caused, but what exactly had he ruined and how?

“Winter,” the butcher said. “With most of the snow leopards removed from the mountains, Winter has been fooled. He believes it time for him to go on his holidays and has left to join his friend Autumn elsewhere in the world.”

But how could that be? Grandfather Frost controlled the seasons. The consequences, however, for Mikhail Alexandrov, were as stark as a whiteout. Springtime, confused too, seemed to have got excited and travelled on up in to Snowtopia where she must have heard the mews, hisses and growls of the snow leopards.

To all listening to the exchange between the hotel owner and the butcher, a realisation, like the North Wind’s breath laced with icicles, swept over them. Every head twisted towards the mountaintop and the collapsing ice palace, followed by three thousand snow leopards charging and bounding down the mountain.

Men, women, children and dogs, shouted, screamed, yelped and scattered while the leap of leopards sprinted, slipped and slid by them back to the freedom of their own lands.

When all had finally settled down, they watched a large figure and a smaller one approaching from the ruined ice palace: Grandfather Frost and his daughter the Snow Maiden. Dressed in his red and gold heel-length fur coat, Grandfather Frost stepped back to allow his daughter arrive before him.

“Happy Christmas,” she said to Mikhail Alexandrov, and held out to him something small and white.

Mikhail accepted the gift.

Everybody gasped at the thing given Mikhail by the girl.

Never had they seen anything so wondrous. Such perfection. Like a snowflake before it came to rest and bled into a thousand others, but what was it?

“It’s a snowdrop,” the Snow Maiden said. “I guess it’s been sleeping under the snow forever, just waiting to wake up.”

Mikhail Alexandrov let his head droop into his own chest. “I’m so sorry,” he said to Grandfather Frost. “My need to save the hotel and the livelihood of all of Snowtopia left me snow-blind to the rights of other creatures.”

Grandfather Frost touched Mikhail’s shoulder with his magical staff. “There are those who make mistakes and learn nothing,” he said. “You have learned well. Now, come. It’s Christmas. I have a gift for you and your people.”

A piercing whistle screeched from the air, pulling the Snowtopians’ gaze skyward.

“An eagle,” Grandfather Frost offered without being asked. Ookpik, on his shoulder crouched and clacked his beak as a warning to the eagle.

Hearing the eagle’s cry, the Sun stirred and pushed aside the grey clouds.

The rays from the Sun on the people’s raised faces caressed like a mother’s touch.

By nightfall Winter, a little embarrassed at being duped by Grandfather Frost, had returned to Snowtopia. As he passed the retreating Springtime, both seasons were too ashamed to acknowledge the other with even a glance.

But, following Grandfather Frost and the Snow Maiden, Mikhail Alexandrov and the mountain people were already nearing the lower hills to live a new life and celebrate their first Christmas where the Sun shone, flowers bloomed, the eagle soared, and where the snow leopard, wearing his beautiful coat, roamed free and let the seasons know their time to shine.

Critique: The story moves too slow at first. The narrator and Mikhail tell us too much that would be better revealed in dialog and action. The part from the capture of the snow leopards through the end goes way too fast. Need more time spent on the appearance of Grandfather Frost and his daughter and more details on Mikhail’s character change.

What I liked best: A story line I’ve never seen before. That’s good. I like the imagery of the frozen village, the greed, the repentance. The little dialog you do have is fun.

Publication ready: No, but it has potential. Could be a nice picture book.

03 The Village of Santa’s Elves

Here we are again, the end of summer, fall is just around the corner.Before we know it, Christmas will be here.

I have been requested to write a Children’s Christmas story.

As I worked on this story, I was reminded of a little girl, with only one wish for Christmas…..
(She wanted an Elf of her own.)

Now being an Elf, working all year long on toys, gifts and goodies for all children of the world, I have decided that this year you will all receive the story as to how we Elves came to live with Santa and Mrs. Clause.


Box 11
1rst Street
North Pole
H0H 0H0

A wise person once said, “If you need help, just ask and you shall receive”

Well years ago, the world as we know it was not as populated as it is now, there were not as many families with children, as there is now at Christmas time.

Santa and Mrs. Clause, built all the toys themselves, as the years went by , Santa became increasingly busier and busier. Toy making was being started as early as New Years day, just to make sure all the children would have their Christmas wishes come true.

Every year, more and more families had children, making it harder , for Santa to keep up.
Until one Christmas eve, he was so tired. He actually missed a tiny village on his midnight run around the world.

Santa had returned to the North Pole without realizing his mistake, and had directly went for a nap.

Dasher one of his trusted reindeer, Mrs. Clause and Ralph a stable hand were cleaning up the sleigh when they discovered some magic left in the Santa sack.

Well now we will have to wake Santa up, and let him know what has happened.

Comet in all his glory stood up and suggested that they do the delivery, and let poor old Santa sleep.

However try as they might, they could not get the sleigh off the ground without Santa at the reins. Even Mrs. Clause, tried but her hands were to small to hold the reins properly.

Well, this is a fine pickle she announced, I will just go and get Santa up from his nap.

Mrs. Clause went into her kitchen, and began whipping up Santa’s favorite foods. There was chocolate cake, Sundays, Gingerbread and four different kinds of Cookies, she knew as soon as he smelled the treats , he would wake instantly, and want to snack on them.

To her surprise he not only woke up , he was so hungry he ate everything she had prepared. While Santa was filling up on goodies, Mrs. Clause hurriedly explained what had happened on his flight around the world. Santa was shocked, how could he completely forget a whole village.

Now in the stables there was a commotion going on……Ralph the stock hand and the reindeer knew Santa was getting way to busy to keep up with all the toy building and a one night flight , to ensure all boys and girls would get their Christmas wish.

The reindeer and the stalk hands reached for the radio, and even though it was the middle of the night and all hope seemed lost, they put out an emergency call that was heard around the world by the ears of all who were awake to hear it………….


Well at the time of the night there are no that many people awake in the world.

The night sky was dark and the wind whipped around the sleigh, making it hard for the reindeer to stay on course, using a little of the magic, to keep them flying straight.

As they were flying a message came across Santas radio. It was Mrs. Clause informing Santa , that a little village just outside the south pole had heard of their request for help.

Now this really upset Santa , for this was the same small village he had forgotten on his first flight of the night.

The winds were up and it was so cold that ice was forming in front of them , making it hard for them to see. Almost there he calls out, as the reindeer, start their decent , veering a little to the right so as not to land on a polar bears head.

The ground was frozen , the reindeer, practically slid down the lane into the village, stopping in front of the town hall.

Santa knew the village well, his gift to them every year was wood and coal to keep their houses and families warm. Jumping out of his sleigh, he realized that he was much to jolly to enter the front door of any of the buildings. He grabbed his sack and with some magic, he was able to go down the chimney, onto a cold bed of ashes.

Once inside, he looked around at all the tiny faces,

Before Santa had a chance to speak, an elderly elf stepped forward, with an outstretched hand , introducing himself as Tony , The Toymaker, Town Mayor. This is my wife Estella he said proudly , and my children, Eva, Elgin, Everett, Ellouise and the twins babies Evelyn & Eliotte. Stepping aside the rest of the villagers came up and introduced themselves and their families.

Now Santa being a bit upset over his own mistake, knowing that this little village was the one he missed on his earlier flight, walked across the town hall to the door…….he needed time to think, and went outside , settling his rump in a snowbank.

Ralph his stable hand, then informed that this tiny village, had been the ones to answer the emergency call.

Santa immediately jumped to his feet, went back into the town hall, as he approached Mr. Toymaker, he said…..Tony there is a way to we can all help each other.

I seem to need more and more help each year,, just getting all the toys built and ready for Christmas. I would like for you and your village to come back to the North Pole with me.

Now Tony did not think this was such a good Idea, for the Elves could only live where it is cold and snowy all year round, and the North pole, well he did not know anything about it.

As elves we have special diets, of candy, cookies, snow cones and sweet sugary syrup. It keeps our energy up and going and we are able to withstand just about any storm the winter can throw at us.

Santa was not discouraged, he assured the Elves , the north pole , covered in snow, would be ideal for their village, as for the sweet and tasty diet you need , that too is not a problem.

All the villagers crowded around Santa, and Tony , wanting to go to the north pole, with a few well placed pleases and excitement on every little elves face…………Tony gave in and accepted Santa’s offer.

Letting everyone know that this decision cannot be changed, as they rushed from house to house, each packing a suitcase.

Ralph the stable hand stuck his head in the door and announced that the moonlight would soon be gone and the reindeer were worried that the flight back, may not be safe in the daylight, for the brightness of the rising sun could hurt their eyes, which means they may have to alter their flight plan, Taking the long way home would mean they would need more magic for the reindeer to fly the sleigh.

Santa and Ralph lifted every child into the sleigh and created room for all the adults, and were soon on their way, having enough time before the moon started setting. The headed due North.

What a shock for Mrs. Clause when the sleigh pulled up on the snow covered driveway, weaving a bit to the left , and knocking down the snowman she had just finished building.

All the Elves scurried down off the sleigh and set to fixing the snowman, while Santa explained what was happening.

Well then , lets see if we can make room for our guests then , said Mrs. Clause, as she set about producing little beds, linens and preparing dinner for all of them.

As Santa had promised, we found the north pole perfect for us, we built our village and a huge toy factory. We work all year long with Santa, making all the newest and best toys for all the children of the world to enjoy every Christmas.

Critique: First the bad news. Punctuation, spelling, grammar, POV, characters, plot, structure all need a lot of work. But the good news is, I think it has potential. I’ve sent extensive notes to the author and if rewritten, it could be a really cute picture book.

What I liked best: The idea of Santa needing help and the elves coming to the rescue.

Publication ready: No. This needs work before it’s ready to publish, but it has a whole lot of potential!

02: Savanna’s Christmas Miracles

by Kasey Eyre

Savanna Clark winced as she flipped through the stack of bills on her desk and compared them with the amount available in her checking account. The numbers didn’t add up. Clicking her mouse a few times, Savanna reluctantly transferred money from their dwindling savings account to cover the bills. After writing the checks and getting everything stamped and ready for the mailbox, Savanna pushed herself up from the desk and then wandered into the kitchen.

Looking at the calendar above the phone in the kitchen, Savanna noticed it was only ten days until Christmas. Usually, Savanna had Christmas planned out months in advance; the gifts were all purchased well before Thanksgiving, hidden away in her closet where her curious boys couldn’t find them. But the past two years had changed all that. It had been difficult with all of the pay cuts her husband had received at work and this year wasn’t looking any better. Last Christmas had been small with simple gifts, but the boys hadn’t seemed to notice, thankfully. Savanna was worried about this year, though. She still hadn’t bought any Christmas gifts because there was no longer extra money at the end of the month. Savanna felt tears of frustration prick her eyes as she thought about her three boys waking up Christmas morning to no gifts under the tree.

Savanna shook her head and took a deep breath, determined not to cry. She wasn’t going to let herself get down. Despite their financial troubles, Christmas was still the family’s favorite time of year and she wanted to make sure everyone enjoyed it as much as they could. She knew her and her husband would figure out something for gifts for their boys. In the meantime, Savanna started humming a Christmas carol to try and put herself more in the spirit of the season as she put away clean dishes and tidied up the kitchen. When she heard the front door open a few minutes later Savanna frowned. It wasn’t time for the boys to come home from school yet.

Savanna walked through the kitchen into the living room to find her husband slumped over on the couch, his head resting in his hands. She walked over to him, placing a gentle hand on his shoulder.

“Michael, why are you home so early? Are you sick?”

Michael looked up at Savanna and with pain in his eyes replied, “I got laid off today.”

After dinner that evening Michael and Savanna sat at the kitchen table while the boys were in their bedroom playing a board game. They had papers scattered on the table, a calculator in the center of the mess.

Michael wrote something down on a piece of paper and then punched some numbers into the calculator. “We have enough in savings to pay the mortgage and bills for the next two months, but that’s it. We can’t spend even a penny on anything extra.”

“But what about Christmas?” Savanna’s voice trembled as she tried to hold back the tears.

Michael shook his head. “We can’t afford gifts. We can barely afford groceries. Hopefully I can get some handyman jobs until I can find something permanent. But with the way things are now, I might be out of a job for a while. Let’s just pray the boys understand.”

Savanna felt fear and uncertainty creep into her. She was scared about what was going to happen, but she wanted more than anything to give her boys a good Christmas. They deserved at least a little Christmas joy. But it seemed hopeless. She and Michael didn’t even feel right asking their parents for help. It seemed everyone was struggling this year.

Michael placed his hand over Savanna’s and smiled weakly at her. “We’ll figure out something. We just need to have faith.”

Savanna nodded and smiled back. Faith. With it being Christmastime that should be something that came easily, but it seemed like the more faith she tried to have the worse off they were.

The boys came running into the kitchen then. Savanna wiped her eyes and smiled while Michael picked up the papers and calculator and cleared the table. The boys were hungry and wanted a treat, but Savanna looked through the almost-empty cabinets and couldn’t find anything to give them.

“I need to go grocery shopping,” she admitted, thinking of the small amount she would have to spend on food.

Michael clapped his hands together. “Well, I’ve got something for you. When I was little your grandma would make something that we always thought was a special treat.”

The boys sat at the table while Michael busied himself at the kitchen counter.

“Dad, what are you making?” ten year-old Brad asked, craning his neck trying to see around his father’s large frame.

Michael grinned as he came to the table with three plates. He placed the plates in front of each boy. “Here you go! This is Grandma’s special recipe for sugar cookies.”

The boys looked at the slice of bread on their plates with doubt.

“It’s just bread and butter and sugar,” Will frowned and poked the bread with his finger.

Trent took a bite. “Mmmm. It’s good Dad! Grandma was a good cook.” His wide smile showed off his two missing front teeth.

Everyone laughed. The boys ate their treat while Michael told them stories about growing up on the farm and Savanna made hot chocolate for everyone. After the stories they played a game and then got the kids off to bed. Savanna stood at the doorway to the boys’ room and felt a swelling in her chest. Earlier that day she had felt so dismal, their financial worries taking over. But now, looking at her boys all snuggled in their beds sleeping peacefully, she had joy in her heart. She was going to have faith that things would work out. For these boys she had to.

Savanna was about to leave for the grocery store when Trent came bursting through the front door.

“Mom! I found a dollar!” He waved the green bill in his hand and ran up to her. “I was walking back from the park with Dad and Will and I found a dollar on the street. Dad said I could keep it. Can I go to the store with you and spend it? Please?”

“Calm down,” Savanna said holding up her hands. “Yes, you can go to the store with me. What are you going to buy?”

Trent twisted his mouth as he thought. “Maybe a candy bar or a pack of gum. Then I can share it with Will and Brad.”

“Go get in the car. You can figure it out on the way there.”

When they got to the grocery store, Trent skipped through the parking lot chattering on and on about what he wanted to buy. He stopped suddenly when he saw a man dressed as Santa standing outside the entrance to the store ringing a bell.

“What is that Santa doing, Mom?” Trent asked.

Savanna pointed. “See that bucket? People put money in there and Santa gives the money to people who need it so they can buy food for Christmas dinner.”

“You mean some people don’t have money to buy food?”

Savanna nodded, feeling a knot in her throat. “Some people don’t.”

Trent took the dollar bill out of his pocked and looked at it carefully in his hand. Then, he marched up to Santa and put the bill in the bucket. Savanna felt her eyes fill with tears as she watched her son give up something he wanted to help someone else. Savanna reached into her purse. She didn’t have very much money for groceries that day, but she knew she had more then some people. Pulling out a few bills, Savanna placed them in the bucket as well.

Santa rang his bell and smiled. “Thank you and Merry Christmas!”

Five days before Christmas Savanna was in the kitchen making dinner when Brad came in from outside.

“Did you finish pulling weeds in Mr. McGill’s yard?” she asked her son.

Brad nodded grabbing a clean cup from the dishwasher and filling it with water from the tap. “Dad is still over there. He had a leaky pipe or something so Dad’s fixing it.”

Michael got home just as Brad was setting the table for dinner. Savanna pulled a casserole dish of macaroni and cheese out of the oven.

“Brad, go tell your brothers that dinner is ready.” Savanna placed the casserole dish onto the table.

Michael was washing his hands when the boys ran into the kitchen and tumbled into their seats. Michael sat down, but before saying a blessing over the food he turned to Brad.

“What did Mr. McGill say to you when you went in the house to get a trash bag?”
Brad shrugged. “Just that is was nice to have some company.”

Michael shook his head. “I think he’s been awfully lonely since his wife died. He talked non-stop while I fixed that pipe.”

Brad jumped up from the table. “We should take him some dinner. We should all go over there and eat with him.”

Savanna started to protest. The macaroni and cheese, frozen peas and canned peaches wasn’t much of a meal to share with someone. But the determination on Brad’s face stopped her. “Let’s get this food packed up and head over.”

The boys shouted and laughed as they put foil over the food and grabbed something to carry. As they walked down the street to Mr. McGill’s house they were full of cheerful chatter. They reached the old man’s house and Brad proudly knocked on the door. When Mr. McGill answered there was a surprised look on his face as he saw the entire Clark family on his porch holding dishes of food.

“We wanted to bring you dinner and thought we could all eat together,” Brad said.

Mr. McGill gasped, his hand covering his mouth. “What a wonderful surprise,” he replied. Opening the door wide, Mr. McGill ushered the family in.

After dinner that evening, Mr. McGill pulled Savanna aside as the boys and Michael cleared the table. “Thank you. This is the first home cooked meal I’ve had in a long time. You were an answer to my prayers.”

Savanna reached up to give Mr. McGill a hug. “You are welcome for dinner any time,” she whispered and Mr. McGill could only nod his reply.

On Christmas Eve, Savanna stood in the living room and stared at the blank space under the Christmas tree that was usually full of gifts. What surprised her most of all was that her three sons had not once asked why there were no gifts under the tree this year. She wondered if they would be disappointed the next morning. She wished there was something she could do to give them at least one gift to open.

Savanna’s thoughts were interrupted when she saw Will rummaging around in the hall closet.

“What are you looking for?” Savanna asked.

Will stuck his head out of the closet. “Where is that Christmas wrapping paper from last year?”

Savanna’s heart leaped. “What do you need it for?” she asked carefully.

“I was over at Jake’s playing and he told that for Christmas this year their family was taking gifts to the kids at the women’s shelter tonight. I thought I could give some of my toys.”

Savanna walked over to the closet and found the paper high on a shelf. “What are you going to give?”

Will shrugged his shoulders. “I have lots of toys. I was thinking maybe I could give my baseball and mitt or one of my board games.”

Savanna gave her son a hug. “I think that’s a good idea.” She handed Will the wrapping paper and watched him run off to his room. Savanna went into her own room and closed the door. She knelt down beside her bed and started to pray. Even though her boys seemed to be fine, she was still the one running low on faith.

Christmas Eve dinner was usually ham and scalloped potatoes, green beans, homemade rolls with cranberry jam, Will’s favorite Jell-o and pumpkin pie for dessert. This year Savanna made rolls and placed them on the table along with fixings for ham sandwiches made with cold cuts she found on sale at the deli. She did have a pumpkin pie, even if it was store bought. It was cheaper to buy an already made pie then get everything she needed to bake one herself. She hesitated calling the boys for dinner, but was surprised when they came to the table excited at the prospect of making their own sandwiches.

“Can we eat on the floor in the living room with just the Christmas lights on?” Trent asked.

The family settled on a blanket, their sandwiches on napkins and cups of water sitting on the coffee table that had been pushed aside. As they ate they told stories of past Christmases, the boys reminiscing about their favorite gifts. It was next that Trent finally told the secret he and his brothers had been keeping for the past two weeks.

“We didn’t write letters to Santa this year,” he blurted out, getting dirty looks from Will and Brad.

“You weren’t supposed to tell!” Brad shouted.

“What’s going on?” Michael asked. He looked from Brad to Will to Trent. Brad, the oldest of the three spoke up.

“We heard you talking one night about not having money for gifts. So we decided we wouldn’t ask for anything, even from Santa.” He shot a look at Trent who started to frown.

“We thought because Christmas was for Jesus’ birthday we’d do nice things for other people, instead of being sad about not getting new toys,” Will added.

This time Savanna didn’t stop the tears from falling. She grabbed her sons and pulled them into a hug. “You’re my three little miracles this year.”

Michael stood up from the floor and clapped his hands. “Let’s go caroling!”

“What?” Trent asked raising his eyebrows.

Savanna laughed, “You hate singing,” she teased.

“Well, these boys have put me in the Christmas spirit. Everyone grab your coats and shoes. We’ll make our way down the street and then stop by Mr. McGill’s and invite him over for pie.”

When everyone was bundled in their coats the Clark family walked outside and started singing Christmas carols. They walked to their neighbors on either side of them and then across the street. At one house they were handed a plate of homemade goodies as a thank you for the caroling. At another home, the neighbor handed Savanna a bag of old toys she had been meaning to bring over for the boys. Her kids no longer played with them and she thought the Clark boys would like them. By the time they made it to Mr. McGill’s house Savanna’s arms were full of things from their neighbors.

Michael knocked on Mr. McGill’s door and the boys started to rambunctiously sing “Jingle Bells”. When Mr. McGill came to the door he was laughing.

“I could hear you when you were all the way down the street,” he chuckled.

Savanna invited him over for pie and Mr. McGill happily accepted their invitation.

They stayed up late that Christmas Eve, eating pie and the treats from their neighbor, drinking hot cocoa, singing songs and telling stories. Before Mr. McGill left for the evening and the boys went to bed. Michael read the story of Jesus’ birth from the Bible. As she drifted off to sleep that night, Savanna felt peace for the first time that Christmas season. Her three boys, her Christmas miracles, had reminded her that Christmas was more than having a pile of gifts under the tree; it was about giving.

The next morning Savanna woke up to the excited whispers of her boys. She shook Michael and together they stumbled into the living room to see why their boys were up so early. Michael and Savanna found their three boys sitting in front of the Christmas tree, the lights casting a warm glow on their faces. Under the tree was a small stack of gifts. Savanna gasped and turned to Michael. He just shrugged.

“I have no idea where those gifts came from,” he whispered to his wife.

Savanna knelt down in front of the Christmas tree to examine the boxes. There was one for each of member of the family.

“I guess Santa brought gifts, after all,” Savanna said.

Trent reached for the gift with his name on it and shook his head. “I think this year our gifts came from Jesus.”

Critique: Watch out for passive voice. Give us a little more personality in the family and for Savanna, deeper characterizations. Both of those issues could be helped with a little more dialog. Needs more sensory imagery. A couple of plot issues but has potential.

What I liked best: The sweet Christmas feeling. The children being so willing to give to others and to go with the spirit of the holiday and the family bringing their elderly neighbor into their celebrations.

Publication ready: Not quite yet. There are some characterization issues that need to be worked out and it needs to be tightened up. But overall, it’s close.

01: Waiting for Grandfather Frost

Snow had been falling for two days, transforming the dark and gloomy December streets to a dazzling whiteness. Wrapped up in thick winter coats and scarves, men and women shuffled passed glowing shop windows, while children slid along icy patches on the pavement and threw snowballs at the slow moving cars and busses.

In early afternoon the snow stopped falling and the sky cleared to a cobalt blue, revealing a bright star that burned from the east. Those who stopped in the street and raised their heads to admire the Magi’s legacy all saw flash by what looked like a silhouetted sleigh.

“It’s him,” said a small boy, his forehead a fierce frown. “It’s Father Christmas. Look.”

His pal, who had been too busy compacting a snowball round a stone, squinted upwards.

“No it isn’t,” the taller boy said. His body seemed longer than his legs, and his head too small for his body. “There’s no such thing as Father Christmas.”

A third boy, younger than the two pals, who’d been left outside the entrance to the town church a long time ago, in his hands a sheet of paper rolled up to make a kind of begging cup, stared hard into the darkening sky. “Father Christmas,” he whispered, and he tried to smile. But the freezing weather had chilled him beyond chillness and it felt as though his cheeks cracked. He brought his numbed hand to his face. But just then a snowball slammed into the side of his head.

The beggar boy slumped forward into the snow, which turned slowly pink in a halo about his head. Next to him, the unrolled paper cup danced like a leaf on the wind, and the spilled coins given him by passers-by burrowed into the soft snow.

The first two boys, who, strangely, had only now noticed the beggar boy, looked at each other and then around the streets. Nobody had seen what had happened.

“Quick,” the taller boy said. “Get his money.”

The smaller boy hesitated, but his pal pushed him forward. The two scrabbled in the snow, working their dirty fingernails beneath the coins. Before dashing off, the older one heaved the beggar boy over onto his back and searched the boy’s trousers’ pockets. Apart from a curious looking pen made from a feather, they were empty.

In the tiny church garden behind the beggar boy, there perched a robin redbreast atop a single holly tree. Helpless, the little bird watched the child lying in the snow. From its throat came a trembling, high-pitched, warbling lament. And into its breast bled a deep crimson.

Another bird had also witnessed the scene in the street. On a white-capped gargoyle that sprouted from a flying buttress, a raven cawed his deep-base caw after the two boys melting into the distance.

Slate-grey now was the sky and the snow had begun again to fall. Like a billion sheerie, those tiny, evil fairy spirits of dead, unbaptised children, the snowflakes whirled and chased each other round the street lamps.

Spiralling upwards, though, through the blizzard, was a giant snowflake, the white page used by the beggar boy as a cup, which might have been a goblin disguised, intent on causing misfortune or fatality to the living.

The robin and the raven watched the corpse-coloured snowflake climbing skyward until it disappeared into the blackness.

Unseen by mortal eyes, the sheet of paper transformed first into a snowy owl and flew on silent wings until it could go no higher. It then took on the shape of an eagle, its plumage blacker than black, until it too reached its flying limitations and contorted into a thunderbird, powering on towards its destination.

When the thunderbird could make out in the farthest distance what it had been seeking, the sleigh moving across the night sky, it revealed itself as that creature of seasonal peace and calm, the halcyon bird.

Too late, however, did the halcyon bird realise its mistake. The sleigh did not belong to the genial one known to many as Father Christmas, and to others as Grandfather Frost. And the sleigh was a chariot, its owner the Goddess of Winter, the Snow Queen.

The Winter hag, the Snow Queen, her hair a blizzard and her blue eyes colder than an iceberg, reached out of her chariot and grasped the halcyon bird by the neck. At the Snow Queen’s petrified touch, the bird became what it had been in the beggar boy’s hands, a sheet of paper.

The Snow Queen read the header written in black at the top of the page: ‘NAUGHTY AND NICE’. And in small print: ‘Final Report by Alabaster Snowball December, 2010.’

“Hah!” the snow queen said, the death rattle of her icicle necklace sounding like a million souls gurgling and fluttering for release from imprisonment in her throat. “Grandfather Frost and his elves have saved me time.”

She dragged her frozen fingers down the page until she came to the last names and addresses on the list. Quicker than a lightening crack, her winter-chariot twisted in the night-sky and sped towards the earth and the street where two ragged boys, one crying the other laughing, rounded a corner.

She brought her chariot to a halt before the boys so suddenly, the two slid and slipped into the gutter.

The snow queen recognised at once the one destined to be hers.

“You,” she said to the taller boy. “Come with me.”

Mesmerised, the boy obeyed the snow queen’s order and beckoning finger, and climbed into the carriage. The smaller boy backed away and shook his head. The woman, to him, appeared the way a perfect mother should: striking, tall and scary. Never having met his mother, he decided then that the strange woman in the carriage was how she would have looked – beautiful and terrifying. Her skin, whiter than the freshly fallen snow, seemed to glow in contrast to her mouth as red as the berries on the holly tree in the church garden. But for him her eyes showed no interest. As blue and uncaring as the sky he awoke to that midwinter morning where he’d slept the night in a doorway, her eyes were filled with indifferent cruelty.

A jingle jangling in the sky turned the heads of the two boys and the snow queen upwards.

“Father Christmas,” a voice called from up the street.

The small boy turned round. Running in his direction from the church he recognised the beggar boy. But he ran in strange short steps, as though his legs were shorter than other boys’ legs, and his clothes were different. On the beggar boy’s shoulders perched a robin. Then over their heads and into the carriage flapped a bird darker than a moonless night. The raven.

“Away,” the snow queen commanded, and her chariot carved from ice took off and sparkled as it rocketed through the sky.

The beggar boy and the small boy watched from the street the snow queen’s chariot shrinking among the stars. But just as it shrunk to a dot, it appeared to grow again and was zooming back to earth. But was it?

The jangling and jingling of reindeer bells peeled through the night sky before the boys in the street saw the silhouetted reindeer, behind the animals’ splayed antlers the bulky figure seated in his sleigh.

Quicker than a streaking comet, Father Christmas reached the earth and brought to a halt his sleigh in the same place the snow queen had parked her chariot.

“Whoa there Dasher, Prancer, Vixen,” he called to his reindeer team.

The reindeer, excited after their long journey, pawed the snow with their hooves, lifted and raised their heads, plumes of steam snorting from their nostrils.

“Alabaster,” Father Christmas addressed the beggar boy. For that is who he was, Alabaster Snowball, in charge of Father Christmas’s Naughty and Nice list. “Your work here is almost done, my little friend. Take the boy home.” And over them he sprinkled stardust. Within seconds the small boy was in a single-roomed house with an old woman shivering in a tatty armchair.

“Grandmother,” the boy said.

“Oh,” the old woman said, tears streaming from her swollen eyes. “You’ve come back.”

There blew through the room a gust of wind as the elf departed through the chimney, and in the empty hearth blazed a fire that would burn till springtime.

At that very moment, far away in the Land of Permafrost, the Snow Queen’s chariot had arrived. Out of her palace of snow and ice rushed her goblins. They seized the tall boy and brought him to join the countless others that had gone missing that Christmas Eve, destined to suffer forever the unbearable misery of perpetual winter.

Critique: You mix too many myths into one story—Magi, elves, Santa with modern reindeer, Grandfather Christmas, Snow Queen. I’d recommend you drop all but the Snow Queen and keep the tone eerie and gothic for a truly luscious and dark holiday story. It wouldn’t work for this collection, but I bet you could find a home for it somewhere.

Watch out for sentence structure. Deepen the characterizations. Use your extra word count to give us smoother transitions, a more satisfying ending, and more of that wonderfully creepy imagery.

What I liked best: The gothic tone.

Publication ready: No. Needs reworking and tightening up, but it has potential.

Christmas Story Posts Starting Today

I’ll start posting the Christmas stories for this year’s contest in just a minute. I’ll post them two a day—in the order they were received—or more frequently as submissions increase. So far, I have 6 submissions but if this contest follows the course of the others, I’ll get more throughout the week. Keep them coming!

A few quick reminders:

DO TELL YOUR FRIENDS ABOUT THE CONTEST! There is still time for them to submit their stories—and we want lots of readers.

DON’T TELL PEOPLE WHICH STORY IS YOURS! We want the stories to win based on merit, not on personal popularity.

VOTING STARTS SEPTEMBER 26th. Feel free to leave comments any time, but comments made before 9/26 will not be part of the voting tally.

SUBMISSION DEADLINE IS SEPTEMBER 24. That means you still have plenty of time to get your story in. See Submission Guidelines here.

Okay, here we go…

P.S. I’ve been re-sending the 2010 Christmas Story Evals, as requested. The Book of Mormon evals will have to wait because they’re on a computer that I won’t have access to until October 1st. Sorry.

Send In Your Stories!

Next week, the plan is to post all the Christmas story submissions…

So far, I only have TWO.

I guess that’s what happens when you take an extended hiatus from your blog and then jump right into a new contest.

Please, please please—help me spread the word. And get those stories submitted!

There’s still time to submit your Christmas short story to the 5th Annual LDS Publisher Christmas Short Story Contest!

Deadline is September 24, 2011.

I’ll start posting submissions on Monday, September 19th.

Details here.

Need a Writing Prompt?

Why not write a Christmas short story and submit it to the 5th Annual LDS Publisher Christmas Short Story Contest!

I know some of you have been working on your stories all year because you’ve asked me about the contest.

Well, it’s time!

Details here.

LDSP 2011 Christmas Short Story Contest

It’s that time again! Announcing the 5th Annual LDS Publisher Christmas Short Story Contest.

I know I said this would post on Monday, but I just realized I’ll be out of town then. So here we go!

And, YES, we’ve done five of these contests. I can’t believe it.

The best stories of the first two years were compiled into a collection, Stolen Christmas and Other Stories of the Season.

I’m hoping we’ll have enough great stories this year to add to those from 2009 and 2010 to produce a second collection.

Submission Rules:

  • FOLLOW rules carefully! I hate it when I have to reject a story because the submission rules were ignored.
  • Write a short Christmas story in any genre. Stories should be positive and family friendly. I reserve the right to refuse any story I deem inappropriate for this blog/book.
  • Maximum word count: 3,000; no minimum.
  • Story must be previously unpublished. Stories published anywhere other than your personal website or blog are ineligible. (That includes books, magazines, e-zines or other contests.)
  • Stories submitted for previous years’ contests are also ineligible for this contest. (But may be selected for publication in the book.)
  • Paste entire story into an e-mail. NO ATTACHMENTS, please.

    —Put “Contest: Title of Story” in the subject line of your e-mail. (Example: Contest: A Christmas Gift for Mary)

    —At the top of the body of your e-mail, type your name, mailing address, phone number, e-mail address, word count and whether you are a published or unpublished author (defined below). (Example:

    LDS Publisher

    123 My Street

    My Town, ST 00000



    word count: 1990

    published author

    —Skip a line, then put the title of your story

    —Skip a line, then paste in your story.

  • “Published”—as in published author—is defined as someone paid you money or comp copies (in the case of magazines) for any story or book written by you. (So either a publisher paid you, or you self-published and people bought your book.)
  • If you are a published and/or agented author, check with your publisher and/or agent before submitting. They will want to know the information listed under “Book Details”.
  • You may submit more than one story. Send each submission in a separate e-mail. Include all your info, as outlined above, with each e-mail/story.
  • SUBMIT your story any time between NOW and Saturday, September 24, 2011.
  • I will post the stories beginning on September 19th, in the order that they arrived. Comments will be turned off on these posts until time to vote.
  • We will have Reader Voting for the best stories, as we have done in previous contests. The winner is guaranteed a spot in the book. Voting will take place September 26–30th. I will post voting rules then.
  • You may tell your friends that you’ve submitted a story and to please go vote, but DO NOT tell them which story is yours. We want the stories to win on merit, not personal popularity.

PRIZE: Publication in the next LDSP Christmas Anthology

  • There will be four winners:

    Readers’ Choice/Published Author

    Readers’ Choice/Unpublished Author

    Editor’s Choice/Published Author

    Editor’s Choice/Unpublished Author

    These four winners are guaranteed a spot in the anthology.

  • As usual, I reserve the right to not award one of the Editor’s Choice awards if I feel none of the stories deserve it.
  • Other stories in the anthology will include my choices from this and previous Christmas contests held on this blog, selected based on providing a variety of stories and book size.
  • Anthology will probably be published for Christmas 2012, depending on the number of quality submissions received. All authors to be included in the book will be notified before publication.

Book Details (Read Carefully):

  • By submitting a story to this contest, you are agreeing to all the conditions below.
  • Authors shall give LDS Publisher One-Time Publishing Rights for inclusion of story in the as yet untitled Christmas story compilation. This is the non-exclusive right to publish your story in this compilation, in various formats, and to retain your story in the compilation until LDS Publisher takes the compilation out of print.
  • Authors shall retain all other rights and copyrights to their stories and may sell this story to any other party with a publication date after release of the compilation.
  • Compensation for use of story in this compilation shall be: one free e-book copy of the published book sent to author upon publication; author’s name listed in the Table of Contents and on the first page of the story; and rights to use this compilation as a publishing credit. No royalties, advances or other monetary compensation will be given to any author. Author may not print or sell the e-book files.
  • Compensation exception: If sales of the book exceed costs to produce it, LDS Publisher shall notify authors and arrange an equal royalty split between all authors, illustrator and typesetter. Conditions and terms of royalty and payment shall be determined at that time.
  • LDS Publisher shall assume no rights to any future works by author.
  • LDS Publisher shall have full editorial rights to the stories included in the compilation, including, but not limited to, title changes, editing for space and content, design and layout of book, title of book, and book cover.
  • The compilation will be available for purchase online in both print and e-book formats at a TBA future date.
  • The compilation may or may not be made available to bookstores at discounted pricing, but in any case, no marketing will be done by LDS Publisher to guarantee placement in any bookstore.
  • Authors agree to help spread the word about the contest and the book by any or all of the following methods:

    —Word of mouth to friends and family

    —Website/blog buttons, links, posts, etc

    —Facebook, My Space, Twitter, or other networking sites or forums

Help spread the word! Post about the contest on your blog, in your forums, and e-mail all your friends.

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