When I started my novella, The Darkest Midnight in December, it was actually a short story aimed at Dreamspinner Press’s Advent Calendar, but it took a darker bounce. I worked it into a novella, getting the chance to research and write some of the more harsher Christmas legends.
This, by no means, is indicative of my feelings for the holiday. I think the ideals of Christmas, Hanukkah and Yule, at least those dealing with the ideas of peace and love for all mankind, are wonderful, and should be practiced year-round. But for this story, I got to look at Christmas through the eyes of the Soldiers of the Sun, my four young demon hunters. Caleb, the default leader, who is partnered both within the demon hunting organization and as a lover with Agni, the most placid member of the group, who arrived in the organization via Bombay. Temple is the youngest and most boisterous of the group. He comes from a long line of demon hunters, but defected to this group from the much more repressive Knights Templar. His partner and lover is Fu Li from China.
With such a diverse group, I was able to explore all the facets of the holiday. Caleb, growing up partially in an orphanage, has less excitement than Temple. Temple, on the other hand, had a strict childhood and he still covets the things he missed out on. Li and Agni, being non-Christians, have a different perspective on the whole holiday.
Back to those darker myths I mentioned, one of the two demons the Soldiers of the Sun have to face before any more children go missing in Economy, has his roots in those myths. Some time in the last hundred years, the legend of Santa Claus was cleaned up a bit, and bad boys and girls were forced to make due with lumps of coal. In centuries prior, it was possible they’d be faced with Santa’s evil counterpart. Whippings, kidnappings, even being eaten up was on the table for ill-behaved children. Krampus, Le Père Fouettard and Zwarte Piet all fall into this category, though, given Temple’s French background, I went with that version. I probably would have been much better behaved if I thought some guy was going to sneak into the house with a whip on Christmas Eve.
There are the more traditional gift giving and family moments in the story as well, but I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not always a “sweet fiction” author. I’m very fond of my action-adventure stories and this is definitely that, set against a background of Christmas in the Great Depression.
My love of history and folklore filled in many of the remaining blanks. I didn’t know all that much about the 1930’s, so in my writing, I had a lot more work to do for this than I did when I wrote the short story, Snowbound, for the same characters. (Snowbound appeared in Dreamspinner Press’s anthology, Necking).
It’s tricky working time for intimate encounters into a story where not only babies are going missing, but there is almost a certainty that it will continue unless Caleb and his team are able to stop the supernatural creature taking the babies and the couples. It doesn’t work if the characters seem insensitive to the drama unfolding around them in order to make time for sex, but their own fears and concerns about surviving this dangerous assignment serves to bring them together in a more organic, holistic way.
I moved away from the Pittsburgh area years ago, but in my stories, I keep going back to that area. The city and the towns around it make for great settings, and I enjoyed putting Caleb, Temple, Agni and Li into the city’s history. For me, they are vibrant characters, and religious lore and mythology, not mention my own imagination, allow for a vast array of demons for them to fight.
At its base, the story isn’t a traditional romance. It’s definitely more action/adventure. However, both sets of couples do find time to indulge their passions. For me, some of the most romantic moments of the novella aren’t in the bedrooms, but at the times when they risk injury and death to keep their partners safe. This story gives them ample opportunity for that kind of sacrifice and at the end, there is a tender and happy moment for them all.
Excerpt from The Darkest Midnight in December
“How many babies have gone missing?” Li asked.
Caleb tapped the briefcase holding a stack of files given to him by General Taglioferro before they left their headquarters in Pittsburgh. “Three and several couples. The local priests and police think it’s all the work of demons.”
“I was too busy packing.” Temple patted the box that held his Tommy gun and ammunition. “I didn’t get a chance to check out what the Order already knows about what’s going on here.”
“Once again, Li, your partner was napping.” Agni leveled a look at Temple who wrinkled his nose.
“We’ll bring him up to date once we get there.” Li pulled his coat tighter as the truck taking them from train station to hotel lurched down the road. “I just want to know why we have to ride in the bed with the luggage.”
“We all wouldn’t have fit.” Caleb shrugged. “And the driver they sent didn’t want any demon hunters in the cab with him, like we’ll infect him with our ability to see the demons or something.”
“Idiot. Who does he think is going to save this dumb town?” Temple grumbled.
“I also think he wasn’t too keen on our partners.” Caleb glanced over at Agni, the Hindu’s dark skin peeking out of the scarf wound around his hooded head.
Temple snorted. “Big surprise. One of Father’s biggest complaints about me joining the Soldiers of the Sun and not the Knights Templar was that we welcomed all faiths, all cultures. I thought he’d go apoplectic when he found out I have a Chinese partner,” he said. The wind nearly whipped away his whispered, “Too bad he didn’t just die from it.”
The four demon hunters hunkered down, trying to keep out of the wind as the truck wound its way through Ambridge, Pennsylvania. The store fronts winked by with promises of Christmas treasures on offer. The holiday was only a few days away. None of them, Temple in particular, had wanted to leave home before Christmas. There was no guarantee they wouldn’t be spending the holiday holed up in their hotel, nursing demon-inflicted wounds.
The brick hotel looked hospitable enough from its exterior. The truck driver was quick to help them off his truck and inside, away from him. It wasn’t an entirely new reaction. As Soldiers of the Sun, they had long since gotten used to people being wary of them. The hotel staff shunted them upstairs just as swiftly to adjoining rooms. Temple scowled at the twin metal bed frames in the room he shared with Li.
“These beds better be movable,” he grumbled.
“If you keep me awake, that adjoining door will be a pathway to your doom,” Agni warned grimly.
Glaring, Temple leaned against the wall. “Tell me what I missed of the report. Three missing babies?”
Caleb sat at the rickety desk crammed into the corner near a radiator that knocked and banged, but offered up toasty steam heat. “And several couples. No bodies have been found.”
“They could have been eaten,” Li pointed out. “Demons are best known for doing that.”
“That’s one of the reasons the Order was contacted,” Caleb replied. “We’re to meet with the local police tomorrow.”
I wanted to say thanks for having me here on your blog today, and thanks to everyone who stopped by. For one lucky person, I’ll had two free PDF versions of my demon hunter stories, including Snowbound and The Darkest Midnight in December. I’ll be working on the boys’ next story for NaNoWriMo next month, and will be surely blogging about it in my journal, as I go. You can find The Darkest Midnight in December here: