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Sunday, 17 November 2013

A Father Christmas Story

A Father Christmas Story, which carries the sub-title, Being a Tale of How Father Christmas Came to be, is the first Christmas book that I wrote and published. Here I want to explain how I came to write it and its relevance to contemporary civilisation.

Perhaps the subtitle is enough to explain the story, for the book is indeed a tale about how, long ago, in the snow covered forests of the north, up near the artic circle, one special Christmas Eve, one person’s life was change, and Father Christmas made his first appearance in the world.

How did I come to write this story? It started to take shape in December 2006 as a way of passing some time over the Christmas holiday period. I decided to use the seasonal ambience as an inspiration for a Christmas story. This is when I wrote the first three chapters, with the fourth following on in early January 2007 after the Christmas decorations had disappeared. During the following months I undertook some further work on the book, until by the summer I came to the conclusion that it was time to abandon it, by which I mean that I had reached a point where I understood that working on the story any further was pointless as I had done all that I could with the theme, and that it was time to move on. Then I published it.

The book started as a way of practicing my writing and passing my time, and initially I was interested in exploring two quite distinct attitudes towards Christmas, these being: the one where people embrace it fully and enjoy it, and the other the one where  people are forever complaining about Christmas, making themselves miserable in doing so. But very quickly it turned into a literary challenge, especially in relation to what exists in this particularly genre – very little in terms of adult books, with Dickens’ A Christmas Carol acting as the benchmark. Being aware of this, and also knowing that Dickens managed to construct a story about Christmas, which deals with the salvation of one individual, without even mentioning that other Christmas story, the nativity, I set about writing a story that was focused on the salvation of humanity and introducing into it, that which Dickens ignored – the nativity myth complete with shepherds and wise men.

I was also motivated by the fact that a massive shift has taken place in our attitudes and approach to Christmas since the time when Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol. Today, Christmas has largely become an opportunity for businesses to make money, and for many it is also time for excessive consumption. But back in Dickens’ time, Christmas was almost a forgotten event, which is why in his story the issue of working on Christmas day arises, and some shops are still open! Given such a shift towards viewing Christmas in such a commercial way, I thought it time to provide an amusing book that offered some Christmas cheer but which also reminded people that there is a more serious side to Christmas.

In addition to the above, what also emerged as I wrote the book was the idea of re-engaging with what was starting to become much easier than previously – indie publishing. I had already published a number of books, some for the European Commission, and thus I had available the necessary professional software along with a supply of ISBNs. And it was through publishing this story, both the paper and the eBook versions, that I came to understand modern indie publishing in the age of the internet and the attitude of large book retailers to stocking any book that did not return a large profit for them. I also began to realise that the traditional ways for authors to market their books, also needed to be reinvented, as most of the old ways are controlled by publishers and retailers, and are of questionable efficacy in a world increasing dominated by the internet.

So what of the relevance of the story to contemporary society? All my work is motivated by what I now called the lunacy of the modern world, and my aim to open peoples’ eyes and minds to this – as a first step for people beginning a journey to peacefully bring about positive change in the world, by rejecting this madness and changing their own lives, and in doing so, making the world a better place.

The story centres on a person, Nicholas, who is kind and compassionate, and who has respect for nature and all living things, and is not at all materialistic. On a journey to collect his yule log, this being a tradition dating back to pre Christian times, Nicholas has three mysterious encounters, and you can see here that the story is inspired by the three encounters that also appear in Dickens’ tale.

The first encounter is with a being that I called the Earth Spirit, a name I deliberately chose to ground this character in the material and earthly world, although, as his name suggests, he is a spirit, but one representing a side of humanity that Nicholas is not all connected with. Nicholas can be said to represent the soul, and all that is good about people, and the Earth Spirit all that is bad, and, as you will see when you read the story, the Earth Spirit is full ready to kill people to get his own way; he tries to kill Nicholas, but fails.

Having escaped the clutches of the Earth Spirit, Nicholas than encounters an angel, which is what one might expect on that particular night, for after this second meeting the next one is actually a visit to the mythical nativity stable, complete with all that is associated with this myth. But this is not a Christian story nor one extolling Christianity, but one that uses the elements of this to highlight, what can be found in all major religions, that, one of the purposes of religion is to help people to choose to be better (and not to impose upon them someone else’s will, which, if you read the boo, is what the Earth Spirit wants to do). In this story one can also see the beginnings of my fascination with the battle between the soul and the mind, with Nicholas representing the soul, and the Earth Spirit the mind.

So to summarise, I used the Christmas story as a way of exploring many issues that are of interest to me, including the development of an author centric business model, and also the themes that increasing find a place in my writing. And, the good news for you, the reader, is that the book is available open access, which means that you can read it for free, online, via my web site – A Father Christmas Story: Being a Tale of How FatherChristmas Came to be.

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