Molly’s Christmas Wish (an original short-story)

Story

“Santa Claus!” Molly exclaimed. “Oh mommy, can I go tell Santa what I want for Christmas? Please.” Five-year old Molly tugged on her mother’s hand.

Callie bit her lip and stared at the mall Santa in his red suit. What’s the point, there will be no Christmas for us.

“We have time Callie,” her cousin Rose said. “Let’s take the girls to visit Santa and then we can finish our shopping.”

Angela and Molly looked up with pleading eyes.

Callie blinked back tears, her stomach churning. Molly was too young to understand. The storm that had destroyed their home had left them devastated. They had no money for Christmas. They were dependent upon the kindness of her cousin, Rose, and her family for even the clothes they were wearing. She would not impose on their holiday. Callie had already been making plans to return Texas. FEMA would give them vouchers for a place to stay until they could rebuild their lives. Straightening her shoulders, she followed Rose and the two girls to the miniature Santa’s village.

Rose’s daughter, Angela, just a year older than Molly, went first. She had a list of Christmas presents she wanted and Santa finally had to tell her he’d surprise her with some of the things on her list. Smiling, she’d leaped from Santa’s lap and whispered to Molly as she passed. The two girls touched hands and Callie had to wonder what they were up to.

Molly climbed on Santa’s knee and stared up into the man’s kind face.

“And what would you like for Christmas Miss. Molly?”

Molly’s eyes grew large. “You know my name?”

He smiled and patted her back. “I know all the good children’s names.”

Molly leaned close and whispered.

Santa glanced up and met Callie’s eyes. He blinked and nodded. “I’ll do my best.”

Molly patted the gloved hand and said, “That’s all we can do Santa, our best. That’s what my mommy says.” She looked up and waved.

Callie smiled and waved at her daughter as she struggled to control her emotions.

 

“That was an awfully long list you had Miss. Angela,” Rose scolded her daughter. “You know what I think of greedy children, don’t you?”

Angela blushed. “But I had to mommy, Molly wouldn’t ask Santa for what she wants for herself, so I had to give him both our lists.”

Callie stopped walking and turned to her tiny cousin. “What do you mean, Molly wouldn’t ask?”

Molly tugged on Angela’s hand and shook her head. “You can’t tell or it won’t come true.”

Angela sighed, and whispered loudly, “You can’t tell but I think it’s okay if I tell.”

Molly hung her head. “You’ll ruin everything.”

Rose patted Molly’s head. “It’s okay Molly, you can have your secret. Of course, if you told your Aunt Rose, I could make sure Santa didn’t forget…”

Molly stared up into Rose’s eyes. Rose was only her cousin but because of the age difference, Molly carried on the family tradition of giving cousins of the previous generation the honorary title of aunt or uncle.

“Callie,” the ladies turned to see a handsome young man coming towards them. “It is Callie, isn’t it?” He asked.

Callie nodded. “Do I know you?”

Touching her hand, he turned her away from the girls and mouthed, “I’m Santa.”

Callie blushed. The man couldn’t be any older than she. Fit and handsome, he wasn’t the typical Santa. “Oh yes, how can I help you?”

“I was wondering if you had a moment.” He nodded to the coffee shop. “I’d like to talk to you.”

When Callie hesitated, Rose said, “I’ll take the girls to the bathroom and we’ll get a snack at the bakery.”

She didn’t wait for Callie to agree as she hustled the girls down the mall to the bathroom.

Callie asked, “What is this about?”

He smiled, his gentle green eyes full of warmth. She liked the way his whole face lit up when he smiled. “Come, let’s get some coffee.” He led her into the shop. “My name’s Jeremy Deans.”

She shook his offered hand. “Callie Davenport.”

They took their coffees to a table near the back of the café and he held out her chair. When they sat down, he said, “Molly’s worried.”

Callie nodded and stared into her coffee.

“She wants to stay here but she knows you don’t like taking charity from your cousin. “

She blushed and looked away. “My God, that girl…”

“My aunt owns this coffee shop. She’s looking for help. I know you don’t know me…”

“You’re right. I don’t know you and you don’t know me.” She started to rise.

Jeremy put his hand over hers briefly. “I’m a police officer in my regular life. I play Santa each year because I love kids. Molly’s only wish for Christmas was that you find a job here and a place to stay near her cousins.”

Callie wiped at her tears. There was little for her back in Texas, why not start over again here in North Carolina? Taking a deep breath, she said, “I’d like to meet your aunt.”

Jeremy waved over an older woman with kind green eyes just like his. “Aunt Ginny, this is Callie Davenport, she’d like to apply for a job.”

 

Callie said good bye to Jeremy and went in search of her daughter and cousins.  “You’ll never guess what just happened,” she said, smiling. “I have a job and a place of my own.” She told them about Jeremy and his aunt, leaving out the part about Jeremy being Santa. “She offered me an apartment, it’s over her garage but we’ll be out of your hair. It’s only a few blocks from your house.”

“I know Ginny and Jeremy. They go to our church. Oh, Callie, I’m so glad you’ll be staying. I’ve enjoyed having you and Molly here.” Rose hugged her. “You know you could have waited until after Christmas.”

“Luke’s family will be coming to visit and you need the room.” Callie hugged her. “This is better. We’ll still be together but just not under the same roof.”

The two little girls whispered together. “Santa is real. He didn’t even wait for Christmas to bring you your wish,” Angela said.

Molly nodded and hugged her cousin. “And we won’t be separated ever again.”

Callie and Rose wrapped the girls in a group hug. They were all getting their Christmas wishes early.

The Accidental Feminist

inspiration, my books, Thoughts

I’m not sure how I ended up writing a feminist novel. My main character, Rae Lynne Grimes, is a woman who can drive and repair anything from trucks to boats. She is a tough girl with a bad attitude. She is a fighter and a survivor. On the surface, she is as different from me as chrome is to pink.

While writing Chrome Pink, I didn’t think about the oddity of a female tow truck driver, nor did I think it strange that she was able to restore a motorcycle. My husband has often talked of his friend who worked alongside her father as a girl, and has now surpassed him in mechanical abilities. He spoke of women football players and race car drivers, and he pushed me to pursue my dreams, never setting limitations because of gender.

Rae embodies the strength of the women who have influenced my life. She is vulnerable and strong, street smart and naïve, she is an enigma, and she is all woman. I wanted a powerful personality, a character who could deal with life’s crap and give it right back.

I tease and tell people Rae is my husband in drag. That is only the first part of how she was created. I was taking a class online, the instructor told us to describe someone we know well. I described my husband. Afterwards, she told us to make changes: gender, race, religion, etc. and that became the skeleton for my character. Rae does have traits similar to my husband but she has evolved into a woman who has powered past her own weaknesses to do what has to be done.

I often thought my mother was weak. My dad didn’t even want her driving alone at night. When we visited her parents in the neighboring county, (pre-cell phone era), her father or brother would follow her home. After she started attending night classes at the local community college, I rode with her to keep her from traveling alone at night (that’s how I first met my husband but that’s another story). Dad was very protective of mom and I have taken on that role in his absence but she isn’t not as fragile as she sometimes appears. As an adult, I have come to know more of the story of my mother’s life that I was unaware of, like Rae Lynne, she has had to deal with pain and suffering, loss and fear, and as she has told me, she just did what she had to do to get to the other side.

Saying I’m not a feminist is like saying, I’m not a woman. It’s not that I think all women should run for congress nor should all women stay home and take care of the children. Today, we have more choices. I think, we as women, no, we as humans, have to find our own path, whether that is soaring to the moon or running to the grocery store. We are only limited by our own choices.

What I want my characters to say to my readers is simple, be you. It takes each of us to make the world work, celebrate what makes you special and unique. The world would not be the same without you.

I Need a Hero

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What Makes a Man a Hero?

I have six sons, a loving husband and several male relatives, all could be romantic heroes, at least to those who love them. We have military men, construction workers and volunteer firemen, first responders, dedicated fathers and Scout leaders, all embody the manly men who set feminine hearts aflutter. They are all good looking too, of course I’m probably a bit prejudice in saying so.

When writing the characters for my stories I don’t set out to use a certain person as a model. Often, traits, events or actions from friends and family members drift into my stories. If you are looking closely, you can see a piece of one son or another, my husband, my best friends, but unlike the characters in my stories, I do not know what is in the heart and heads of real people. In truth, I find it more liberating to create my characters and play inside their skins until I feel I have a real person on the page. While I don’t purposely steal my characters from real life, I am well aware that those around me influence my writing, my building of characters and worlds.

It wasn’t until I was preparing to publish Chrome Pink that I realized how much I’d borrowed from real life. Logan, the hero in Chrome Pink was difficult to write. I wanted him to be understanding and kind, but not wimpy. He had to be strong enough to hold up against a character like Rae Lynne. To find the balance between masculine charm and alpha-male, I looked to the men around me. My sons, husband and assorted relatives are mostly alpha-males. They are strong willed, opinionated and ready for battle but they are also gentle fathers, romantic husbands/lovers, and kind friends. From each of them I was able to see how a man handles the baggage of a traumatic childhood with the strength and character of a man who wants to do and be his best. I hope that I have captured these elements in my characters. I want them to feel real but they are not, they are characters from my imagination, influenced by those around me.

I have thrown everything into this story but the kitchen sink, oh wait, I have that too. My friend has a plaque over her kitchen sink, “No man was ever shot while doing the dishes,” it influenced one of my scenes. What could be sexier than a man doing dishes?

What do you want in your fantasy lover? What makes a man a romantic hero?

 

 

Celebrating My First Novel

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Seeing my novel on Amazon for the first time was like seeing your child after a long trip. I’m so excited and a bit overwhelmed.

In celebration I’d like to host a drawing. I will give away a $10 Amazon gift card to one lucky winner. All you have to do to win is post a review of my new book, Chrome Pink by S L Hollister. You can post it on Amazon, Bookbub or Goodreads, then copy it and send it to me via email at sherrilhollister@gmail.com. I will have one of grandchildren pull a name from bowl and contact the winner. We will draw the winner on December 26th.

Thank you for celebrating with me the launch of my first novel! 

Discovering my Voice

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Few people know I’m shy and timid, and a bit of an introvert. Okay, stop laughing, I am really, though I hide it well. In high school, I began speaking up for myself. It didn’t come naturally but with the encouragement of my mentor, Ms. Glenoria Jennette and one of my favorite teachers, Mr. Justice Tice, I began to find my voice. My husband, David, in the course of our marriage and raising our six boys has tried to help me find my courage. My sons, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, also taught me how to find my voice. Sometimes it was in their defense but often it was mediating between them.

For someone who is timid and fearful, standing up and making your voice heard is often difficult and emotionally exhausting. It’s much easier (less problematic) to just remain silent and stew in your insecurities. Writing is another way I have found my voice. Sharing my writing with others is terrifying and the many rejections I’ve received over the years has thickened my skin, though I am still insecure and tender hearted I handle it a little better now.

“A coward dies many deaths…,” If I could be anything, I’d be brave. For if I were brave then nothing would stop me from fulfilling my dreams. In my stories, I want my characters to be people who find their voice, their strength and their courage to face the task ahead of them. Whether it be allowing themselves to be loved or looking down the barrel of a gun, I want my characters to overcome their fears and conquer it.

My characters, like the main character in my novel “Chrome Pink”, are damaged personalities. Most of us don’t make it to adult-hood without some baggage. Rae Lynne Grimes has more than most but she is stronger than she realizes. She is a survivor—a fighter. After being raped and humiliated in high school, she fought back. Her anger and addictions nearly ruined her as she struggled with the shame and the pain, but with the love and help of her grandfather and her best friends she learned to cope with the demons. Hardened by her past, Rae still manages to retain a kindness the belies her tough exterior. Like many of the people we know, Rae has had to deal with the drama she didn’t create as well as her own bad choices. Her life hasn’t been a fairy tale and she is no one’s idea of a princess. She will tell you herself, she isn’t easy to love, but for that one person—she is everything. Logan Birdsong who sees past the tattoos and piercings, the foul mouth and anger, in his eyes, she is a jewel in the rough. While he has his own burdens, it is Rae’s strength and determination that pushes the story forward.

It is for those who will never reach the ball, those women who are destined to deal with the bad choices they’ve made, that I write. I want to tell the story of a women too tough to lay down and die. Women who go through hell and not only did survive, but thrive. I want to show others going through their own versions of hell, that they are not alone.

 

Description of Chrome Pink for Amazon

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Rae Lynne Grimes returns to Leeward, North Carolina to care for her dying grandfather. Together, they restore an old Harley and paint it pink for breast cancer awareness. Her grandfather succumbs before seeing it finished.
Alone, Rae must face the town of Leeward who blame her for sending her stepbrother to prison, costing their high school football team one of their champions. Now, her fate lays in the hands of the man who orchestrated her rape and shame, former football captain and elected mayor, Todd Bryant.
When she rescues Logan Birdsong from a canal, she starts to believe she can have the fairy tale but when she learns he is working for Todd, she tries to get as far from him as possible. She joins her friend’s dating club and that soon turns to disaster when her dates start turning up dead.

Logan is just trying to keep his stepfather’s company from filing chapter 13. He has over-extended and needs the new spa and hotel Bryant plans to build to put the company back in the black.
Prostitutes at business meetings and Todd’s attitude make Logan wary. He is torn between his affection for Rae and his need to protect his stepdad’s company. When he becomes a murder suspect, that choice becomes easier.
Together Rae and Logan must prove their innocence, but they must stay alive to do it. Thrust together, they soon give in to their desires but someone doesn’t want them to have their happy ending.

Do Not Let Your Fears Defeat You

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I have a confession to make. I’m a fraidy-cat. I am terrified of everything. I am afraid of trying and failing, but not trying is even worse, for that is definitely failure.

I tend to hem and haw, and toy with an idea until I make up my mind. Once I’ve decided on something I plow through until it is done. Right or wrong, I just put my head down and do it. I’ve made a lot of mistakes this way. Rushing through a job that would have been better planned and executed according to a specific schedule. I’ve also waited around and missed my chance because I couldn’t or wouldn’t decide. Life is about risks. If you do not take a chance, you will never accomplish anything.

My dream is to be a published author. I have written since I was ten years old. My first story was, of course, a romance written in red ink, titled, “True Love.” All through high school I scribbled stories and ideas for stories. The first time I read my work out loud for a friend she blew me off, embarrassed and hurt I didn’t share my work again for many years. I hid my stories in notebooks under the bed, afraid to let them see the light of day.

When my “adopted” sister found out I wrote stories, she encouraged me to share my work. She liked it and was surprised that I could capture her feelings on the page. Being able to describe emotions and experiences so that the reader asks, how did you know? For me, that was when I knew I didn’t just want to write, I wanted to be published.

I am a fraidy-cat, sharing my writing is like standing naked in the Walmart parking lot yelling, “Look at me!” I sometimes feel as if I’ll swallow my tongue when I try to read my work. I think, “Why do they care? I’m not that good. They’re not interested in hearing what I have written.” But I have found as I opened my mouth and shared my stories, people began to listen. They started to care about what I had to say and about my stories. They related to my characters.

I grew up believing traditional publishing was the only way to go. When I first started sending my stories to publishers and agents, they had to be printed and mailed. Does that tell you how long I’ve been working towards this dream? The past few years I’ve come close with articles published in magazines and stories and essays in published in anthologies. I’ve attracted the attention of a couple of agents even working with one for almost two years but still I’m unpublished. After breaking up with my agent, I realized I had to really get in there and make my dream happen, no one was going to do it for me.

Between my mentor, published friends and my family, I have pulled up my big girl panties, strapped on my leathers and stepped up to face myself in the mirror. I’m terrified but I’m ready. Once the story was edited (AGAIN) and my readers said it was ready to go, I began working towards self-publishing. Author-friends who have self/indie published, some of whom have also traditionally published, tell me it is the way to go. So much of the promoting falls on the writer’s shoulders so why not do it all the way you want to do it.

So, I’m battling the fraidy-cat and standing up to let my voice be heard. I am a writer and soon, I’ll be a published author. Don’t let your fears rob you of your dreams, if I can do it, so can you!

 

The Power and The Pain

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I duck my head and hold my books close to my chest hoping to go unnoticed.

“Hey fellows look who it is, city shitty,” the older boy chants. His words are mimicked by the group of boys with him. All of them are several years older than me.

He reaches out and knocks the books from my hands. I blink back tears. Like blood in the water, my weakness attracts more abuse. Like sharks they circle, chanting and touching, pushing and crowding, I gasp for breath, my heart racing, fear threatens to loosen my bladder.

“Hey, you boys, leave her alone and get on the bus,” the teacher orders.

I gather my books and smile in relief and appreciation at the teacher.

“You need to toughen up, fight back,” he tells me.

I look up at him, six-foot tall and wide as a door. Tears blur my vision as I rush to the bus. I don’t know how to fight.

I squeeze past the boys standing in the aisles. They turn to face me, blocking the seats up front where I like to sit. The move their hips suggestively and laugh at my discomfort.

“Whew, what is that I smell?”

“I bet she pissed her pants.”

I hadn’t, at least not yet.

“Nah, I bet she’s just creamed her jeans.” He stroked my arm moving close to my undeveloped breast.

Chill bumps pebble my arms. There’s a tingling in my chest and a fluttering in my tummy. I shift sideways and push past the bullies.

“Leave her alone guys or I’ll kick you off the bus,” the bus driver, a high school boy, shuts the door and eases into the lineup. “Take your seats before we get wrote up.”

Perching on their seats, they look back to where I sit just in front of the black kids who huddle at the back of the bus. “Do you know what a carpenter’s dream is?”

“A girl flat as a board.” The boys laugh.

One of the black girls, I don’t know her name, whispers, “Don’t let them know they hurt you.”

Her sister tells her to stay out of it. “If they’re picking on her they’re leaving us alone.”

“Just keep your head down and ignore them,” the girl continues to whisper.

I nod and open my book, loosing myself in reading.

The boys continued their jokes. “I think she might be a Pirate’s girl.”

The boys laughed in reply, “A sunken treasure.”

I didn’t understand half of what they were talking about and that makes it easier to ignore them.

The bus makes several stops, the girls behind me rise. We’re on the road to my house. I glance up as they pass and the girl who looks close to my age smiles at me. I return the smile. I’ll ask my daddy who they are when he gets home.

Just a few more stops and I’m almost home. I rise and gather my things.

The older boys stand up and lean out of their seats. One of them grabs my hands and puts it on the fly of his jeans. I snatch my hand away and stumble from the bus. I hear the bus driver threatening the boy but know nothing will happen. Nothing ever does.

I wish him dead.

He is killed in a car accident a few years later, I cannot mourn him. In truth, I am thankful he is gone. Over forty years later and I still feel the fear and shame, bullying has lasting effects.

 

When my grandson complained of being bullied, my first reaction was to tell him to toughen up, fight back, don’t let them see your pain. What is the answer to dealing with a bully? I still have trouble standing up for myself, being brave, finding my voice. I believe, that is why I write.

 

The Audio version of The Golden Hour

Book Review

 

The Audiobook: The Golden Hour by MK Graff and narrated by Nano Nagle

Why did I listen to the audiobook after reading The Golden Hour? I’ve said quite often that I’m addicted to audiobooks. For me listening to the book is a different experience than reading the book. It is like watching a movie but with an unabridged version, it isn’t as frustrating as seeing what they do to your favorite books in film.

As the narrator breathes life into the story, acting out scenes and putting emotion into the dialogue and thoughts of the character, I am surrounded by the story in a way that is somehow different from when I am reading the story. As I read the story I put my own inflections into the dialogue, interpret the prose and thoughts colored by my own experiences. When I listen to the story, I become a participant, acting and reacting to how the narrator interprets the emotions and events. Nano Nagle has narrated all of the Nora Tierney stories. She has become as much a part of Nora as the writer, MK Graff.

I love the Nora Tierney series. Nora is fallible yet likeable. She is real. The Scarlet Wench gave us the love story of Nora and Declan. The Golden Hour shows us the love story of a family. While these are sold as cozy mysteries, the Nora Tierney stories have become so much more. Each story has given us a glimpse of England from an American’s perspective. They have showed friendship and family, and even shown us that family isn’t always those who are related to us by blood.

In The Golden Hour Nora becomes a victim and for the first time, she has to sit and wait, something she is not good at doing. As this story unfolds, listening to the audio, I discovered or remembered things that didn’t appear important to me as I read the same words. Again, Nano’s inflection gave importance to things I’d previously overlooked.

If you are a mystery buff or you hope to become a writer, I suggest listening to audiobooks as well as reading the books. It opens your senses to more of the story and helps you see more of the pattern and design of the books. With The Golden Heart I believe I have a better understanding of the first book, The Blue Virgin.

For a little darker, more thrilling Nora Tierney story, read or listen to The Golden Heart. But don’t think Nora will sit on the sidelines, behaving for long. In true Nora fashion, she has to be involved in the solving of the mystery.

I highly recommend this series, each one is better than the last although, it’s a tie between The Scarlet Wench  and The Golden Hour which one like best.