A few weeks ago, I realized I wasn't going to have anything new to release to my readers in December. Initially, I had thought I would have my next full-length book, Rock 'n Roll Heaven ready to go in December, but delays caused by investigating the realities of using real people in a fictional book plus a complete change in certain aspects of the story I wanted to tell pushed that book out to late January or early February. That left my release schedule barren for the holidays, and that just didn't seem right. Since it was almost Thanksgiving when I realized this, I knew I would only have time to do a short story. Unfortunately, I didn't have any "Holiday Short Story" ideas ready to be written.
     So, I did what my sister and mentor Terri, always taught me: Use the other person's brain. (This was her #1 business management rule, and it has served me well throughout my life.) With that in mind, I went to my FB page, where I hang out with friends and readers at least a little bit every day. I asked them to give me some plot ideas they would like to see in a Christmas story. Man, did I get ideas! They ranged from "Write about your first Christmas back with Dawn" to "A modern day version of Gift of the Magi to "I love stories that have a scene that happens on a Christmas tree lot."
     I took about four or five of these basic plot points, threw them all in the blender that passes for my brain and went to work. About three days later, I had the story. There were echoes of my own story of loss (the couple in the story had been separated for 20 years) but there was also a tip of the hat to O. Henry's Gift of the Magi and the pivotal scene in the story was indeed set in a Christmas tree lot. I even got the title, Second Chance Christmas from one of my readers.
     There are so many things I love about being independently published, and this story exemplifies a lot of them. If I'd had this idea even fifteen years ago, there's not much I could have done with it. There was virtually no market for short stories, outside of magazines, so my little story would have been back-burnered until Christmas of 2014, at best. Now, since I am my own publisher, I can think of a story one day, write it the next and publish it the third. We self-publishers are nothing if not nimble!
     The story of Second Chance Christmas didn't end there, though. When I sent it off to my friend and editor J.K. Kelley to work his magic on it, he had reservations about the story, and rightfully so. What I had seen as "echoes" of my own story with Dawn, he saw as derivative. He also noted way-too-many similarities between Steve Larson, one of my two main characters, and myself. He was right. I had subconsciously projected myself into the story and made Steve too much like myself. Thankfully, with another few days and few rounds of brainstorming and editing, we got the manuscript whipped into a shape I could be proud to release.
     Then came the cover. As always, I used Linda Boulanger to design my cover. In this case, I told her that a key scene would be in a tree lot and that I wanted it to be "Christmas-y." Less than 24 hours later, she came back with this:
     I loved it. There was something sweet, innocent and evocative about the cover. Since that is exactly the type of story I had set out to write, I accepted it just as it was.
     And so, in just two weeks, I solicited ideas from my readers, wrote a story, re-thought and re-wrote that story and found a perfect cover. This story is very much a group effort and I wanted to give all credit where it is due.
     I had so much fun tackling this project that I have decided to try and squeeze in one more short story before Christmas. As of this moment, it is about half written. It will be called Christmas Town and it is a cross between a Christmas story and a Twilight Zone episode. It's one of those stories that started out as one thing and then took a right turn about halfway through and is going in a completely different direction than what I had planned. I love it when that happens - when a story tells me what it wants to be. I hope to have it out the week before Christmas. 
     If you'd like to know when Christmas Town, or any of my books or stories are coming out, you can subscribe to my New Release Mailing List by clicking here. For signing up for the newsletter, you will always get advance notice when I publish something. Of course, I will never sell you name and I won't spam you with a lot of notices - so far this year I've sent a grand total of two emails to my mailing list. 
 


Comments

Sharon Mean Kelley
12/11/2013 7:38pm

Looking forward to your next short story. But, If you keep this up, I don't know how I will ever get on with "The Book Thief", in time to finish by the end of January! :)

Reply
12/23/2013 3:24pm

Hi Shawn. Just read Second Chance Christmas. Loved it. I lived all my young life in Washington. Now that I am married and have grand kids I live in VaBeach Va. I just had to write and let you know how much I enjoyed the book and can't wait for the new adventures of your pair especially the Valentine one. I might have snow on the roof but still an old romantic. Have a Merry Christmas.

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    Shawn Inmon

    I am a writer, Realtor, KISS imitator and sales trainer. But, more than these, I am a husband, father, grandfather and caretaker of two chocolate Labs.

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