In the middle of a hot Texas sandlot, Christmas is the last thing on Trampas Elliot’s mind. The troubled young teen is more concerned with finding his missing mother.
That is, until he stumbles into an old house with a mysterious closet where Christmas lives year-round.
When the old house is threatened with destruction, Trampas and his best friend Jenny, find both mysteries are linked more closely than they ever imagined.
My coming of age Christmas story is now available for purchase on Amazon Kindle. Print copies ARE NOW AVAILABLE as well. This novel is an adaptation of my award-winning screenplay of the same name.
Story ideas come to me in different ways. Sometimes like a bolt of lightening out of the blue. The idea for my sci-fi script “The Man in the Linen Sheet” – was formed almost completely when I read a particular verse in the bible that suggested the possibility of time travel. The plot for “Walking Wounded” sprang into my head upon waking from a dark nightmare.
Some of them take root as tiny seeds, and germinate for years. Or in this case, decades.
The story idea for THE CHRISTMAS CLOSET was formed a long time ago – in my own youth. I was poking around in the backyard of a house in our neighborhood that was supposed to be vacant. When I peered into the garage – I saw old Christmas decorations sitting on a shelf. For some reason – the notion that ‘this is where Christmas goes the rest of the year’ – popped into my mind. I don’t think I was older than 12 when that moment happened, but it always stuck in my head.
That tiny seed of an idea sprouted into a vague concept for a kind of ‘time travel’ Christmas story – not unlike A Christmas Carol, or It’s a Wonderful Life. I toyed with starting the screenplay back in the early 90’s. If I recall, my son was only nine or ten when I started it. I worked on it for a few days, and then abandoned it. Or rather, put it away for a later date.
In 2001, I was taking a screenwriting class – and pulled out the first fifteen pages to see if it was still a good idea. I pushed through until I had the first act – roughly 30 pages – written and polished up. That’s all that was required of the class, and as I recall, I got an “A” on it.
Back into a drawer it went.
It wasn’t until the holiday season of 2007/ 2008 that I took up the first act and started working again. Suddenly, I knew what the story was about. I knew where it was going. I knew what I had to say. I pressed on and finished up the first draft, very pleased with how it came out. I handed it off to my good friend and film producer Erin – and asked her for her opinion. She read it and said she really liked it. We were on our way to the gym together, when she nonchalantly added a coda; words to the effect that she thought it was going to have a much different ending.
Suddenly I realized she was right. It WAS supposed to have a different ending. And that ending was buried in the story all along. It was the ending that my subconscious wanted on the page. With fevered fingers – I returned to the keyboard and hammered out the ‘second’ draft.
That draft won a PLATIMUM REMI AWARD at Worldfest Houston International Film Festival. It also went on to place in the top 10% at the prestigious Austin Film Festival. Readers were all very complimentary. “The best screen kiss I’ve ever read” – one judge wrote. “A teenaged cross between ‘Christmas Carol’ and ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ – truly unique!” wrote another judge.
But Christmas films are a hard sell. Especially ones that don’t have Santa Claus saving the world from aliens. The Christmas Closet is a coming-of-age story that deals with a serious topic. So in 2012, I pulled out the script and adapted it into a novel. Not having a literary agent, I sent it to two small publishing houses – both were open to unsolicited manuscripts. I included the first three chapters for each. My hope was to hear something in six to eight weeks.
The next day, I got an email from one house, asking for the full manuscript. Well, that’s nice, I thought. I sent it on. Hours later – a note from the second, asking for the same. Well, this IS encouraging.
The following day, I got an email from the publisher at the first house. “Can we call and talk? What’s a good time?” It happened to be six am on the west coast when I opened the email – so I emailed back to the New York publisher, “Any time after nine.” Two minutes later the phone rang.
“Listen, ” she said, “This is a fantastic story. It’s really really good. And… well, normally, I don’t call people personally… to MAKE A REJECTION.”
“Oh…kay… thanks?” I mumbled.
“No, I just wanted you to know WHY we’re rejecting it. It’s a really good story, but we’re a small house. We only publish six to ten novels a year – and they have to sell ALL YEAR round. A Christmas story – even one this good – really only sells for a limited window around the Holidays. So… as much as I like it… we’re going to have to pass.”
“Oh… kay. Thanks?” I mumbled.
“It’s really a fantastic story. Your storytelling is superb. ”
“Oh… kay. Thanks.”
“With some editing and guidance, it could be really good. You NEED to take this to a larger house. Someone with a big marketing budget. Seriously.”
“Oh… kay. Thanks.”
“Did… I wake you?”
“No, I usually get up around six.”
“OH You’re on the west coast. I’m so sorry!”
The second house also sent a rejection – with much the same explanation. “You need a BIG house to market this, in order to get the most benefit in the limited holiday window. Great story though! What else you got?”
I did manage to get the manuscript into the hands of a major agent, and he really liked it – but also said, “Christmas manuscripts are a niche item. Really hard to sell… unless you’re established.”
Sometimes a story just wants to get out there and breathe.
I don’t have a big marketing budget, but the publishing world is changing fast. Sometimes, what a book needs is for someone to believe in it.
Sometimes, it’s enough to put it out there.
Hop onto Amazon, and read the first three chapters. I’m hoping you’ll download the story and enjoy the ride. If you do – be kind enough to leave a glowing review. If you don’t like it – well, send me a lump of coal for my stocking.
Happy Holidays. – All of ’em.