We interrupt our regular Monday Morning Musing “Look back” series to bring you this breaking news… Release day is tomorrow!!!
Jake Mistletoe is the North Pole's resident bad boy. Half elf, half human, he is the only child of a single mother who just happens to be Santa's head elf. Fed up with his wild, partying ways and lack of direction, his mother sends him to the real world for a dose of reality.
Lucy Prescott is all alone in this world. Since the death of the grandparents who raised her, she has struggled to keep their Christmas novelty shop running in a dated, dying Christmas-themed tourist town.
When Jake appears in town, magic seems to be in the air. For the first time in ages, life holds excitement, and Lucy finds herself wondering … what if?
She studied him as he sat up. Unconscious, the several days’ growth of stubble and mussed dark hair looked sloppy. But awake, that disheveled look gave him a devil-may-care aura. How had she missed the chiseled jaw line, the dark brows that framed eyes fringed with long, sooty lashes or the fact that he was drop dead gorgeous?
He looked around the room, wiped a hand over his face and turned a slow half circle on the couch, gaping at the racks of holiday ornaments, animated characters, motion-activated novelties and Santa figures that played Christmas tunes.
She cleared her throat to draw his attention. “Good afternoon.”
He yanked the Santa hat from his head and pulled a frown before tossing it aside.
For lack of anything else to say, she chose the standard, cheery greeting used by locals. “Welcome to Christmasville, where it’s Christmas all year long.”
He turned to her with eyes a startling shade of blue. “Let me guess. I died, and this is Hell.”
So I’ve talked a little recently about what happens when a character just sort of “moves in” to your head and starts talking. I am never sure where they come from, but some are quite persistent and can pester and prod for years before I finally stop in total frustration and demand “What do you WANT?”
Jake, the hero from Chocolate Chip Christmas Wishes, was one such character.
The seedling for the idea for this story came to me the first time I ever watched the movie Elf. I know it’s become a holiday classic but when I first watched it I was a little… unimpressed? I mean, Buddy, the Will Ferrell character goes from being a misfit at the North Pole to being a misfit in New York??? Cut to me scratching my head in confusion, this is not growth, this is simply a change of scenery. Okay so there is more to it than that and his childlike enthusiasm brings a love of Christmas to all he encounters (well eventually). But speaking strictly as a publishing purist, it was a little thin in the plot department. A great example of a character driven story, though, and that’s a huge plus and undoubtedly a huge part of that success. No one but Will Ferrell could have pulled that off so convincingly. In fact I would guess any other actor in the role, and it would have fallen flat.
But I digress. The “fish out of water” theme is a common one in fiction, especially with romance stories. So I guess that’s why it stuck in my mind for years and years. I didn’t give it a lot of thought, I tried to focus on it a time or two and come up with ideas, but nothing ever came into focus.
The as yet unnamed male character was pestering, me though. Every so often he could pop into my head, but I just couldn’t find a story for him.
And then two things happened. I found a muse, and I had an argument with my young adult son. And just like that, the pieces began to form.
The muse was a character on a show called Republic of Doyle. The character was even named Jake so as I began to work, I called him Jake, at least until I could come up with a better name. Well I never found a better name, it just suited him. In fact in every scene I kept picturing the actor who played Jake Doyle. There is something almost elfin-like in his appearance. And those blue eyes… don’t get me started.
I am getting ahead of myself again. Then I had a fight with my college age son. I don’t quite recall what it was about, I think it was his refusal to understand just how much his college schedule and reluctance to get his driver’s license was impacting my work schedule since I had to be available to drive him out and back each day –when you work from home, even an hour out of your day can throw everything off and this was more than one hour most days. I even uttered the words mama Merry Mistletoe says in frustration:
“You are not reliable, you are not responsible, you’re barely even a grown-up at this point!”
Well in all fairness Merry’s kid was closing in on 30, mine was quite a bit younger than that LOL. But I was pretty frustrated --and so was Merry!
I tossed and turned much of that night worrying and thinking, thinking, thinking. Somehow my muse and that argument combined in my head, and I got up in the wee hours, switched on the computer and wrote. The opening scene and first chapter just poured out.
I named my heroine Lucy, after the Sandra Bullock character in While You Were Sleeping, only instead of a train she saves Jake from a shuttle bus. I didn’t know much about her until that first opening scene and had no idea when I named her that she would do something similarly heroic to Sandra’s character.
But the story sat for a while. Every so often I would pull it up and tinker with it, but I wasn’t entirely sure where to go with it—after all contemporary fantasy stories were not my usual style. I was in new territory and just trying it on for fun at this point.
And then my publisher The Wild Rose Press announced their Christmas Cookies series. I had already worked into my story that Jake smells like chocolate chip cookies, it’s part of what gets Lucy’s attention when she is laying in the street alongside him. In hindsight maybe he should have smelled like gingerbread or sugar cookies, that would be more Christmassy—but I wanted something that would evoke happy childhood memories, as it does in Lucy. But by the time the series was announced, I was already married to the idea of chocolate chip. And in our house, we have always left chocolate chip cookies out for Santa. I decided we can’t possibly be the only ones who realize the Big Guy gets tired of sugar cookies with his glass of room temperature milk every year.
Now I finally had the motivation to finish my story. It took a lot of pushing myself, as it always does, because as any pantser will tell you, the minute you give in to one character, the other people who live in your head start talking to you. Write my story, I’m way more fun than he is. Why him and not me? Hey, it’s supposed to be my turn!
You will meet some of those characters in a few weeks after I wrap up this series and start talking a little about what’s to come.
But with a lot of help and prodding from taskmaster Kim Turner—and the realization that I had to finish this story so we could write our shared story, Christmas in the Wylder County Jail –I was able to push myself to finish it.
Chocolate Chip Christmas wishes is available tomorrow!! I hope you enjoy it!