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Friday, November 26, 2021


In her youth, Kassandra Lamb had two great passions—psychology and writing. Advised that writers need day jobs and being partial to eating, she studied psychology. Now retired from a career as a psychotherapist—which taught her much about resilience, perseverance, and the healing power of laughter—she spends most of her time in an alternate universe populated by her fictional characters. Learn more about Kassandra and her books at her website.

The Fun and Challenges of Writing Holiday Stories

I’ve always loved reading holiday stories, especially Christmas ones. They put me in the mood for that holiday. And I’ve discovered in recent years that I also love writing them. They’re a lot of fun.


There are, however, a few unique challenges to penning a story set at Halloween or Christmas or any other holiday.


But first, the fun!


Descriptions of settings

Descriptions become a lot more fun to write when you can dress them up with sparkly Christmas lights or spooky Halloween decor or red hearts for Valentine’s Day.


The first holiday novella I wrote was for my Kate Huntington mysteries. It’s set in St. Augustine, Florida, where Kate’s parents live. 


In real life, St. Augustine goes way overboard when it comes to Christmas. The town, its businesses and residents put up millions of tiny white lights to create a wonderland. Every palm tree and light post is swathed in garlands, lights, and ribbons. And even during the day, the decorations are spectacular, like the gazebo in the town plaza.


The descriptions of those decorations help readers be right there with Kate and her family as they prepare for the holidays and solve a mystery while they’re at it.


And as the plot is unfolding in The Legend of Sleepy Mayfair (in my second cozy series), the town’s riding stable is gradually transformed into a haunted house, with witches and giant spiders hanging from the rafters and a room full of creepy dolls. 


A little lighter

The holidays themselves tend to lighten things up. And in my holiday stories, which are all novellas, the stories are shorter, so I have to keep things a bit simpler. 


Little or no subplots, for example. But that’s okay, because the holiday itself becomes a subplot—the preparations for it, the anticipation, how the characters feel about that particular holiday.


The challenges

Lightness and fun aren’t all that intriguing after a while, though. Even in holiday stories, there needs to be tension, conflict, and dark moments to make for an interesting read. And especially in mysteries, there needs to be something, well, mysterious.


How to create those darker elements without making the story depressing? One way I found was to make the mystery about something other than murder. In An Unsaintly Season in St. Augustine, it’s a missing person, a friend of Kate’s parents.


In my Christmas novella for my second series, about a young woman who trains service dogs for veterans, I made the murder an old one. The protagonist’s quirky neighbors in Mayfair, Florida decide to build an ice-skating rink (told you they were quirky) to attract winter tourists. And during the excavation, a thirty-year-old skeleton is uncovered.


The themes

The themes in holiday stories, obviously, should be related to that holiday. That is both fun and challenging. For my novella, My Funny Mayfair Valentine, the mystery revolves around a budding romance (or two).


The themes of my Christmas stories are related to family. In A Mayfair Christmas Carol, as Marcia and her police detective boyfriend try to solve the old murder, the back story of the town’s founding family is revealed and we learn, along with Marcia, why the muumuu-wearing octogenarian matriarch is a Scrooge.


Bringing it home

The endings should also be related to the holiday in some way. In The Legend of Sleepy Mayfair, I re-enacted—sort of—the ride of the Headless Horseman.


And in A Mayfair Christmas Carol, Marcia and her boyfriend literally bring someone home to their family on Christmas Eve.


I love writing holiday stories so much that I’m kind of sad right now—because I’m running out of holidays. I have one more novella planned for the dog trainer series, titled Auld Lang Mayfair. (In case you haven’t guessed, it’s set around New Year’s Day.)


And I’m starting a new series, of police procedurals, partly so I can write more holiday stories for that series! 


A Mayfair Christmas Carol

A Marcia Banks and Buddy Cozy Mystery, Book 4)


When Mayfair, Florida’s newly minted Chamber of Commerce goes off the rails and decides to build an ice skating rink for a Christmas extravaganza, a decades-old skeleton is uncovered and its secrets threaten more than the town’s Christmas plans. Service dog trainer Marcia Banks is determined to help her police detective boyfriend solve the mystery—whether he wants her help or not. Can she and her Black Lab, Buddy, keep the ghost of Christmas past from destroying what is left of Mayfair’s founding family?


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Kassandra Lamb said...

Thanks, Anastasia and Lois, for letting me hang out with you today!

Lois Winston said...

Always a pleasure, Kass! Happy holidays!

KM Rockwood said...

I love holiday stories, both reading and writing them. (I contribute to the blog Writers Who Kill, which every year features stories between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The new stories will begin posting this week, with a new one every few days until the new year. It's our gift to our readers.)

I always want my holiday stories to have a hopeful ending. Even though they can get a bit gritty at times, they always end with at least the possibility of a better future.

Kassandra Lamb said...

Oh, goody! I'll have to stop over at the WWK blog and check out the stories.

And hopeful endings are definitely my kind of ending, especially for holiday stories.

Janet Alcorn said...

Great post! I love reading and writing holiday stories too. Holidays often carry an extra layer of emotion for people and also create lots of possibilities for conflict, especially family drama and expectations vs. reality. It's also fun to write something with a twist on holiday conventions--like a Halloween love story or, my favorite, a Christmas horror story (I just got one of those accepted for an anthology, in fact). So much fun!

Kassandra Lamb said...

Yes, love those twists!! Especially the Halloween love stories. My daughter-in-law (G.G. Andrew) is a romancer writer who loves Halloween. She wrote a whole series of Halloween love stories.

Kassandra Lamb said...

And congrats on getting into the anthology, Janet!