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Archive for the tag “St. Nick”

TWAS THE NIGHT AFTER CHRISTMAS

Steamed milk. Sugar. Chocolate – dark chocolate this time. A dash of cinnamon and, was that nutmeg? Whatever it was, the beverage was just the thing to warm tired bones after a long, frigid night.

Kringle took a long pull from the steaming mug of cocoa and eased back into the easy chair. He shivered a little, pulled the red and green plaid blanket a little tighter over his legs.  A man his age shouldn’t go out on nights like this; especially when nights out for him lasted, well, an impossibly long time. They had to. How else to get all those toys delivered in one evening?

Kringle set the mug on top of an old book, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, on the table next to him. A bit of whipped cream slid down the side of the mug, which was a stout, blue ceramic item with flecks of gold and his initials filigreed on it, or at least the initials of the name he was most commonly called by – “SC”. Head elf Flifle had given it to him a century before and he’d enjoyed a cup of cocoa in it every Christmas night since.

Santa sat. Just sat. He hadn’t done that the entire pan-dimensionally long night. All over the world. Down the chimney. Up the chimney. Springing to the sleigh, springing out of the sleigh. Icy roofs, barking dogs, the odd sneaky kid trying to grab a peek. Occasionally getting singed by a fire that didn’t properly extinguish itself.

It was a young man’s game.

And Kringle was not a young man.

Every year, he thought about retiring. His predecessors had done the job until they dropped – faded into the other world or whatever. But he was tired. More so all the time. It was getting hard to press on. Even harder now.

Stop it, Kris. It’s Christmas! The most joyous time of year. He was the poster boy for holiday cheer – jolly ol’ St. Nick, Ho ho ho, and all that. But once in a while, when the presents were delivered, the workshop was shuttered until January 1 when production ramps up again, and the elves had gone home…well, these quiet holiday moments can be killers, can’t they? Worries that this year just wasn’t as merry as the last; regret over harsh words to the elves, frustration that little Sophie wasn’t going to get the exact doll she’d wanted. Concerns about the ratio of naughty to nice on his list.

In the past, he could count on Mrs. Claus to pull him out of a holiday funk with a joke or an encouraging word. One year, he’d quit being Santa all together and went to live in the Real World. Mrs. Claus, with the help of good ol’ Flifle and a couple of kind real worlders had pulled off a bit of Christmas magic worthy of, well, himself, he supposed. He chuckled awkwardly at the notion of his own legendary status. A status he never would have achieved without his beloved Mrs. Claus.

But things change. The seasons pass and so do those we hold dear.

Santa watches the children – sees them sleeping, knows when they’re awake, knows who is bad or good.

But what about himself, Mr. Kringle. Who will watch over Santa now?

Kringle shivered again. But it wasn’t from the cold this time. Santa drained the mug, but the warmth of the chocolate failed to penetrate the chill that stayed with him even when he delivered presents to the tropics. It was the chill of loss and mortality, not of climate.

There was a faint rapping at the chamber door. As it opened on ancient hinges, The light from the hallway spilled into the darkened room, Flifle’s jingle bells echoed in the silent night.

“Sir,” Flifle said. “I have the children’s letters If you’d like to read them now.”

“The what?”

“Oh,” Flifle said. “I thought you knew.”

“Knew what?”

“Mrs. Claus set it up before…well, before. She thought tonight of all nights you’d be wanting to read some of the millions of letters from the children who love you.” Seeing the somber look on his boss’s face, Flifle prepared his retreat. “I can take them back to the workshop if you like.”

Kringle looked at his old friend and helper. The warmth he’d been seeking finally pushed out the cold. “No, that’s all right, ” he said slowly, the twinkle in his eye not quite there, but definitely emerging. “I’ll take them.”

Flilfe left St. Nick alone with his letters. But he wasn’t really alone. No one who carries the spirit of Christmas in its many forms can ever really be.

Happy holidays!

Psst…want to read more about St. Nick, Mrs. Claus and Flifle? Let Rudolph’s nose lead you here. (Or whatever book purveyor you choose)…

http://smile.amazon.com/St-Nick-Time-William-Pepper-ebook/dp/B0092902GW/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1418447515&sr=8-2&keywords=In+the+St.+Nick+of+Time

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EGGS TO NOG, BOOKS TO FLOG

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THE BEST AND WORST HOLIDAY MOVIES

No holiday season would be complete without an arbitrary list of things you really don’t need. So here’s mine!

BEST

CHRISTMAS VACATION (1989): the best of the Vacation movie franchise in my opinion. Clark Griswold just wants to give Ellen, Rusty, Audrey and the in-laws a “good, old-fashioned, family Christmas”. Disaster ensues, naturally. The running gag of Clark hanging outside holiday lights by itself is worth the price of admission. (Fun fact: When he’s dressed for this chore, Clark looks exactly like my dad doing the same task in that era.) Hilarious and heart-warming without being cheesy. Love this one.

A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983): There’s a reason TBS runs this movie 24 hours straight on Christmas. Because AWESOME. Set in the 1940s, little Ralphie Parker wants only one thing for Christmas – “an official Red Ryder carbine-action two-hundred-shot range model air rifle.” But even Santa thinks he’ll “shoot his eye out, kid”. More sentimental than Christmas Vacation, maybe, but just as funny. Hits me where I live as an adult and as I remember being as a kid. I don’t make my family watch “Christmas Vacation” with me. I do make them watch this one. Make your family watch it too.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1951) There have been countless good film versions of Dickens’s tale (including the next entry on this list), but this is one of the best. Alastair Sim is a mesmerizing Scrooge. The black and white film of the era and the attention to detail put you right in side Victorian London in all it’s somber, sooty glory.

THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL (1992): a very different telling of the tale, but no less powerful. The Muppets do what they do best – blend great music and humor and a lot of heart to tell a wonderful story for all ages. Plus, if that’s not enough, we get Michael Caine as Scrooge. “God bless us, everyone!”

THE SANTA CLAUSE (1994): Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) accidentally becomes Santa…but doesn’t know it. Hilarity ensues. Funny and heart-warming are over-used terms, but they fit here. (Calvin: “I’ve gained 45 pounds in a week.” Doctor: “What’s your diet like?” Calvin: Milk and cookies. But I don’t always finish the milk.”) This is a feel good movie for a cold December night with some eggnog and holiday cookies.

PLANES,TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES (1987): Two days before Thanksgiving, weary traveler Neal Page (Steve Martin) just wants to get home to Chicago from New York. Disaster ensues and the awesome John Candy is along for the ride. Or lack of one.

MIXED NUTS (1994): Martin’s in this one too, part of a very funny ensemble piece by the late Nora Ephron. A dark(ish) comedy set in the offices of a suicide hotline, the film still manages to be funny AND pack a holiday punch. The production feels more stage play-ish than film-y, I suspect by design, and I’m okay with that.

WORST

THE FAMILY STONE (2005) uptight businessman Dermot Mulroney brings even more uptight, conservative fiancée Sarah Jessica Parker home for the holidays to meet his super- liberal family, headed by Craig T. Nelson and Diane Keaton. Comedy (allegedly) ensues. There’s really only one thing wrong with this movie – despite big star power, not a single character is remotely likable. None of them. Even Luke Wilson can’t save this one.

HOLIDAY IN HANDCUFFS (2007): Melissa Joan Hart is a waitress who kidnaps a random customer (Mario Lopez), so she can take him home for the holidays and pass him off to her family as her fiancée. I’m serious. They fall in love at the end because, you know, the script says so. This movie is so bad, there are rumors there was a sequel in 2010. I haven’t found it yet. I’ve looked super hard.

ANY OTHER MADE-FOR-TV HOLIDAY MOVIE FILLER: You’ve all seen them.

Honorable mention, but not sure which list: THE POLAR EXPRESS (2004) is a refreshingly unusual holiday tale about a boy who hops a mysterious train to the North Pole. The story is fine, the animation stunning. The thing is though, as amazing as the train looks, the rendering of the characters is creepy and off-putting. Plus, Santa and the elves aren’t all that likable.

So, what say you, holiday movie watchers? Give your favorites a shout out.

MY BOOK

If you don’t already follow me on Twitter, please do so now! Be warned, I talk about Doctor Who a lot. And doughnuts. (I know some people spell it “donut”. I prefer the classic spelling though.)

Anyway, if you follow me on Twitter, you know that for the last month or so, I’ve been flogging my holiday-themed book IN THE ST. NICK OF TIME, a Santa Claus story…but for adults. It’s the story of three unlikely friends – the depressed author, Cameron Jones, who is losing his daughter in a custody dispute; Dogwater Hunt, the multiple alien-abductee pathologically afraid of holiday lights, and the big man himself, St. Nick. Nick is burned out and quits being Santa. Dogwater and Cameron become the unlikely saviors of Christmas as we know it.

I don’t talk much about the book most of the year, for obvious reasons, so I hope you’ll tolerate my blatant trolling for sales this time of year. I’m really proud of this little holiday tale; proud and relieved as, when I wrote it, it finally released Father Christmas from the endless loop his sleigh had been flying around my head for years before I finally committed the story to paper.

Oh, by the way, here’s what the cover looks like. You can order this just about anywhere you want, like here, or here, or here It’d really make me happy (obviously) if you did. And, if you do, leave a review!

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SANTA’S PUBLIC APPEARANCE CONTRACT

It’s not yet even Thanksgiving as I write this, but in my town, Santa kicked off his world tour this week. He appeared at our local mall with a highly orchestrated gala of marching and dancing as he assumed his appointed spot in the Christmas village where he will spend the next month and a half accepting the good wishes of the local citizenry.

It’s a lot of work for the old gent. But he puts on a good show. My kids were very impressed with the jolly old soul. But, still, I couldn’t help but wonder: what does it take to get Santa to your town before Christmas? My town is nice, but there are lots of nice towns. How does he decide which ones to visit during his crucial pre-holiday time? Santa may be all about the giving, but c’mon, the man’s got reindeer to feed. Surely, he expects a little something for these public appearance. Makes you wonder what’s in his contract.

Wonder no more.

If you’re thinking about booking the big guy for your company Christmas party, here’s some thing’s you’ll need to know. Never mind how the blog got hold of this (it involves compromising photos of Hermie the Elf), but we got a peek at the various clauses (har!) in Santa’s public appearance contract. And, because the blog is about nothing if not public service, wanted to share a few of them here. We would simply post a link to the contract and let you read the whole thing yourself, but when you click on it, the computer turns into one of those old-timey parchment scrolls Santa is fond of. It’s really hard to figure out what to push down to reset it.

So here’s some of the highlights.

The reindeer cost extra. Santa is, of course, paid in cookies, the toppings of which are negotiable. To get some reindeer to show up is a tough one. Ironically, they don’t really like to travel. The cost in carrots (not carats) is pretty steep. Except Blitzen. You can pretty much get him for gas money and cigarettes.

Santa’s “throne”: Every Santa’s village has a throne where St. Nick sits to greet the children. There’s  a rider in Santa’s contract that his throne shall also have a minimum of three inches of padding covered in green velvet, scotch-guarded and lint-rolled daily by the pixies that inhabit the spaces between grains of sands on infinite beaches.

Photos: You may, of course, get your kid’s picture taken with Santa. But only if you don’t care about stealing his soul…

No ho-ho-ho’s, dammit: At his tour debut this week, Santa didn’t utter a single “HO HO HO” and now I know why. It’s in his contract. Hugely famous bands don’t trot out their iconic hits for just anybody either. Santa’s gotta save his best stuff for the big dance, by which we mean Christmas Eve.

Elves: A minimum of three elves shall attend to Santa’s needs at every appearance. To avoid fawning fans and/or ridicule, the elves shall always be disguised as bored, part-time, minimum wage employees in silly hats.

Only one wish per kid: He can’t give everything to everybody. C’mon, who do you think this guy is, Santa Claus…

There will be candy in his dressing room. It will only be plain GREEN M&M’s. Any other color in the bowl and he’ll fire your ass. He won’t say “ass” of course, because he’s Santa, but you’ll still be just as fired.

If Mrs. Claus isn’t happy, no one is happy. She wears the oversized, red velvet pants in the family. She calls the shots. Your mall/auditorium/den/parking garage/porta-potty better be up her standards for her husband or there’s hell to pay.

So there you go. Here’s what you’re in for if you want to book St. Nicholas for your holiday bash. You may want to consider Plan B, Holly “Jingle Your Bells” Jolly and her ladies of Christmas Cheer.

 

 

BOOK NEWS: IN THE ST. NICK OF TIME

So, a while back, I wrote this book titled IN THE ST. NICK OF TIME. And now finally you can get it here as an e-book and pretty much everywhere in print.

The book is sort of a Santa Claus story for adults ( because it was about time, I think) set in Santa Claus, Indiana at Christmas. It tells the story of three men having a very crappy holiday. Cameron Jones is a famous author without a recent hit, adrift with emotional problems and the looming loss of his five-year-old daughter when she and his ex-wife move away. His friend Dogwater Hunt is a broke, obsessed alien abductee intent on proving aliens are going to visit Earth on Christmas Eve if the abduction flashbacks induced by holiday lights don’t do him in first. Also, he’d really like a new TV.

And, finally, the third musketeer in our little adventure. The big man himself. Old St. Nick has been jolly for centuries. But he’s tired. So very tired. So Santa quits. Packs up his cookies and milk and moves to Indiana, posing as a relative of Cameron’s ex-wife. The three men end up unwittingly helping each other muddle through the holiday season. To save Christmas, they have to save each other. Oh, and did I mention the imaginary goldfish who swears a lot?

AND GET THIS! If you’re reading this blog on September 23, the e-book version of IN THE ST. NICK OF TIME on Amazon is ABSOLUTELY FREE! Today only! Free! And if September 23 has come and gone already, don’t sweat it, the e-book is only 99 cents. My only request is if you like the book (or any book), leave a review somewhere to help other readers.

NOTE TO YOU INDIE AUTHORS: Yeah, putting your book up for free is uber-scary. This is the first time I’ve done it and it seems strange to just give away my little book baby. But any chance to get new readers is worth it. I think. We’ll see. I’d love to hear other perspectives om this.

ONE MORE TIME: Sunday, 9/23. FREE ALL DAY!  Just 99 cents every other day!

End commercial (I feel icky now, but this book is totally worth it, if I do say so myself.)

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