Friday, December 1, 2017

A Christmas Mystery

Readers often ask writers where their ideas come from and, of course, the answer is "anywhere and everywhere." Bits of overheard conversation, a personality trait or a physical characteristic from someone we know. The list is endless. 

But what fascinates me the most about the writing process is when I find myself writing a scene based on something, long forgotten, from my childhood. That's exactly what happened as I was writing my Christmas mystery, Unfinished Business.

One year, I desperately wanted a Patty Play Pal doll for Christmas. I wrote my usual letter to Santa asking for the doll. But, as Christmas got closer and closer, I was impatient. I'm still not sure what made me decide to search my parents' closet but I did. And I found the doll. But it wasn't the thrill I thought it would be.

Here's the scene as I wrote it for the book when Ann's older sister, Marnie, and her boyfriend, Sam, come to Cincinnati for a Christmas visit.

As the kids went down the hall to their bedrooms, Ann said, “We’ll be lucky if it is light when they get up. Last year, Davey woke us up at three in the morning, insisting that we go open the presents from Santa.”

“In that case, maybe we should all turn in early,” Marnie said, yawning. “I know I’m ready.”

“You guys go ahead,” Ann said. “David and I have a little work to do first. We’ve got to get the milk and cookies out and,” she whispered, “the presents Santa is bringing out of our bedroom closet.”

“So that’s where you hid the presents,” Marnie said. “I was wondering.” She giggled. “Ann, remember the year we decided to look for our Christmas presents?”

“Oh, wow,” Ann replied, “I forgot all about that.”

Marnie looked at Sam and David. “Ann and I knew that, in addition to the presents Santa brought, our parents always got each of us one gift every year. We got curious one year and, whenever we had the chance in the days before Christmas, we’d go searching through closets, under our parents’ bed, anywhere we could think of that they might have hidden their gifts for us. Finally, one afternoon, we found them. In the master bedroom closet, along the base of the wall, there were these sliding panels with storage space behind them. We had quite an adventure that day, didn’t we, Ann?”

“We had an adventure but it didn’t turn out to be so good. I’d been hinting for weeks that I wanted a Cabbage Patch doll. I was so excited that day when I found her,” Ann told them. She frowned. “Unfortunately, when Christmas morning came, it just wasn’t the same. I’d ruined my own surprise. The worst of it though was that the tag on the doll’s box read, ‘From Santa’, not from our parents.” Ann glanced at her sister. “You tried to convince me that Santa had just left that present early but I didn’t buy it.”

“That was a bummer,” Marnie agreed. “I felt so bad for you because I knew how disillusioned you were. I guess that was the year you stopped believing in Santa.”

“Not exactly,” Ann said, grinning. “I still believe.”

And so do I! Merry Christmas!