Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Confessions of a Christmas Cheater: Guest Post by Ellen Byron

Today I'm starting my Christmas Crime Fiction posts. I'll be posting my lists (and checking them twice!), but this year, I'll also be posting guest blogs from authors with Christmas themed mysteries. Enjoy!

Ellen Byron writes the Cajun Country Mystery series. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly called her new book, A Cajun Christmas Killing, “superb.” Body on the Bayou won the Lefty Award for Best Humorous Mystery, and was nominated for a Best Contemporary Novel Agatha Award. Plantation Shudders, was nominated for Agatha, Lefty, and Daphne awards, and made the USA Today Bestseller list. She’s written over 200 national magazine articles; published plays include the award-winning Graceland; TV credits include Wings, Just Shoot Me, Fairly OddParents, and pilots. A native New Yorker, Ellen now lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband, daughter, and two spoiled rescue dogs.


I have a confession to make. I’m a Christmas cheater.

For me, one of the best aspects of the holiday is the surprise element. Oooo, what’s in the bag? What’s in the box? Except by the time the big day rolled around, I already knew. Because much as I insisted on being surprised, I was helpless against my urge to track down the presents and have a looksee. One year when I was about ten, the rest of my family went out, leaving me home alone. Having searched all the closets for the holiday presents and come up empty, I pulled down the old ladder to the attic of our 1920s home, scurried up it, and located the gift haul. When my family came home, I greeted them in tears because the Little Kiddle doll I desperately wanted wasn’t among the haul. “You weren’t supposed to even see the presents,” my exasperated mother scolded. “You’re the one who always wants to be surprised.”

Abashed, I swore I’d never do the cheat-and-peek again. And I didn’t… for a few years. Then one day pre-holiday, I accidentally found the Christmas gifts in a basement closet. I didn’t just peek that time. I tried everything on. My acting talent was undeniable on Christmas morning when I acted totally surprised as I opened each outfit. By the way, I wasn’t a kid at that point. I was fifteen.

As an adult, I’ve been known to shake a box, peek into a bag, and try to elicit clues from gift givers. Seriously, I still do this - all the while insisting that I want to be surprised. But it also works in reverse for me. If I’m really excited about a gift I’m giving someone, I beg the recipient to let me give it to them sooner than the actual holiday. More than once my teen say, “My birthday isn’t for two weeks, but I’ll open your present now if means you’ll stop bothering me!”

In an early draft of A Cajun Christmas Killing, my latest Cajun Country Mystery, I gave this cockeyed gift attitude to my protagonist Maggie. But when I read the draft, I thought, wow, she’s super annoying. So I rewrote the story and gave her a healthy, normal attitude toward gift giving.

These days, with the constant stream of boxes from Amazon or Vistaprint showing up on our doorstep, every week feel like a holiday. I’ve told my family not to buy me presents for Christmas or my birthday. I say it’s because I don’t need anything, but I also think it’s to protect them and myself from my chronic serial cheating. Old habits die hard, or in my case, not at all. But at least my characters are more mature about gift getting and giving than I am.

1 comment:

Leslie Karst said...

OMG, I haven't thought about Little Kiddles for fifty years. Bunson Burnie, anyone? Truthfully, they were my little sister's dolls, but I would play with them with her on occasion.

And just to let you know, I'm the polar (yes, that's a Christmas reference) opposite to you: Not only have I never opened any present early, but I don't even want to touch them for fear or ruining the surprise. Vive la difference!