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Christmas Ghosts - Fiction River



Fiction River:
Christmas Ghosts


Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith

Series Editors


Kristine Grayson





Copyright Information


Fiction River: Christmas Ghosts

Copyright © 2013 WMG Publishing

Published by WMG Publishing

Cover and Layout copyright © 2013 WMG Publishing

Cover design by Allyson Longueira/WMG Publishing

Cover art copyright © Talisalex/Dreamstime


“Foreword: A Time for Romance and Oh, So Much More” Copyright © 2013 by Dean Wesley Smith

“Introduction: Umbrellas, Spirits, and Holiday Cheer” Copyright © 2013 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

“The Farewell Gift” Copyright © 2013 by Louise Marley

“A Ghost of Time” Copyright © 2013 by Dean Wesley Smith

“Christmas, Interrupted” Copyright © 2013 by Lisa Silverthorne

“The Ghost of Willow’s Past” Copyright © 2013 by M.L. Buchman

“Toasted” Copyright © 2013 by Mary Jo Putney

“Chains” Copyright © 2013 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

“Miss Merriweather’s Christmas Follies” Copyright © 2013 by Carole Nelson Douglas

“A Countess for Christmas” Copyright © 2013 by Anthea Lawson


Smashwords Edition

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.



Table of Contents


Foreword: A Time for Romance and Oh, So Much More

Dean Wesley Smith


Introduction: Umbrellas, Spirits, and Holiday Cheer

Kristine Grayson


The Farewell Gift

Louise Marley


A Ghost of Time

Dean Wesley Smith


Christmas, Interrupted

Lisa Silverthorne


The Ghost of Willow’s Past

M.L. Buchman



Mary Jo Putney



Kristine Kathryn Rusch


Miss Merriweather’s Christmas Follies

Carole Nelson Douglas


A Countess for Christmas

Anthea Lawson



About the Editor

Copyright Information




A Time for Romance and Oh, So Much More

Dean Wesley Smith


This feels very odd to be writing this introduction to
Fiction River: Christmas Ghosts
for a couple of reasons. First, it seems almost impossible that we are already finishing up with the fourth volume. To me it was only yesterday we were fooling around making a Kickstarter video to see if anyone was interested in a multi-genre anthology series.

Now bam, here we are finishing up #4, since these introductions and forwards are always the last two things to be written for a volume. I just edited a time travel volume called
Fiction River: Time Streams
for #3. I am beginning to understand how time can pass very quickly with these books. I am fairly certain I just put those stories together and wrote the introduction just this week.

Time is a very fluid thing around the Fiction River

Second, for me it feels very, very odd to be writing a foreword to (in essence) a romance volume. Granted, every story in this book has ghosts of one sort or another. So it really is a paranormal volume.

And there are some fantastic science fiction and mystery stories in this book as well. And all are set in one way or another around Christmas.

But still, with all the different types of stories, Christmas Ghosts is a romance volume. So why does that make me feel very odd? Mostly because I am not known as a romance writer, even though I have written a number of romance novels and many romance short stories. But under this name I tend to be known for
Men in Black
or for
Star Trek
books and comics or for editing
Pulphouse Magazine
or for blogging about writing.

But as one of the executive editors of this series, Kristine Kathryn Rusch (the other executive editor) wanted me to write this foreword. And she wanted me to do this because (even though I have a reputation for writing in other genres) she knows I love good romance stories.

And I have to be honest right here. She is right. I do love a good romance story. On top of that, many, many of my own stories contain romantic elements and happy endings, which true romance requires.

So, simply put, I am a non-traditional romance reader and writer, so Kris thought I might be able to talk with you science fiction or fantasy or mystery readers who were hesitant to pick up a book with romance stories in it. Well, trust me when I say you are in for a great ride across many genres in this volume.

In this book there are great ghost stories, great mystery stories, great science fiction stories, and even a couple time travel stories. And yes, all of them are also romance stories. But trust me, you non-traditional romance readers won’t notice that much except when you get to the end of a story and you feel good about what you just read and a little misty-eyed. That will be the romance part kicking in.

So put your feet up, get the fire started, a cup of eggnog beside you, turn the Christmas tree lights on, and sit back to enjoy some really wonderful Christmas ghost stories.

And now I have to wrap this up to take a deep breath before
Fiction River: Hex in the City
needs a forward. More than likely, because of how messed up time seems to be around the Fiction River offices, I will need to write that tomorrow.

—Dean Wesley Smith

Lincoln City, Oregon

May 28, 2013




Umbrellas, Spirits, and Holiday Cheer

Kristine Grayson


I don’t like most Victorian traditions, but I adore one: The Christmas Ghost story, or as one website calls it, the Yuletide Spirit Story. (Really?) Twenty-six years ago, when I and my writer friends all lived far away from our families and had no money at all, we celebrated Christmas by reading ghost stories to each other on Christmas Eve. We ate well, imbibed a bit, and settled around a fire for snacks and stories. Sometimes the stories were marvelous; sometimes they were laughingly bad. But they made us all feel connected to a time-honored tradition, one that had been around a lot longer than we had.

We got older. We got married (some of us to each other), and moved away. Children entered the picture, and suddenly the holidays became about family, presents, and Santa instead of Christmas cookies, eggnog, and stories told around a fire.

As you can tell, I miss those Christmases. I do not miss the poverty in which we all lived, but I do miss the creativity.

So, when we discussed doing a holiday version of Fiction River, I volunteered immediately with Christmas ghost stories. I also knew I would edit this anthology in my Kristine Grayson incarnation, because romance readers buy many Christmas-related novels and anthologies. We wanted Fiction River to encompass all genres, so why not go for the ultimate umbrella genre itself?

For those of you who don’t read a lot of romance, let me explain that term. Romance is what we in the trade call an umbrella genre. It encompasses all other genres. Romantic suspense novels are mysteries with a romance. Paranormal romances are fantasy with a romance. Futuristic romances are science fiction with a romance, and so on.

There are three requirements that make a story into a romance. First, the story must be about a couple in love. Second, that story must have a happy ending. Third, and most important, the story must have emotion.

You have in your hands eight happy endings. Some of you who’ve traveled here from other genres now wonder why I went and spoiled all the endings for you. Romance readers are smiling. Because romance isn’t about the ending. It’s about the journey.

There are as many romance stories as there are couples. Ask any happily married couple how they met, and you’ll hear the origin story of the relationship, an origin story unlike any other you’ll ever hear. Falling in love is personal, and it’s different, even if one of the parties has been in love before.

I have written and published in every fiction genre except military fiction (at least that I can think of), and let me tell you this: Contrary to popular opinion, romance is the
genre to write. When I teach romance courses, I compare romance writing to writing poetry. Most fiction writers write the equivalent of free verse—anything goes. But romance writers write sonnets. They follow strict rules, and produce wonderful stories.

Ask any professional writer to write a romance and that writer will fail on the first few attempts. I was very careful in the writers I chose for this anthology. All of them have successfully written romance before. I wanted to make sure they could handle two more rules: Christmas and a ghost.

I let them pick their subgenre. All of the stories here are paranormal romances because the stories have ghosts in them. But sometimes the ghost is important, and sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes the paranormal element is slight, and sometimes it’s the focus of the story.

For her subgenre, Louise Marley chose historical. “The Farewell Gift” takes place just after World War I. That war is called the first modern war, and its devastation was profound. She touches on that and so much more in this sweet story of survivors after a dark time.

Dean Wesley Smith’s subgenre is time travel. Time travel romances had their heyday in the 1980s, although they continue even to this day. Dean adores time travel, which is why he edited Fiction River’s third volume,
Time Streams
. He sees the possibilities of love throughout the ages when he looks at all of time, and he communicates that here.

Time travel has a place in Lisa Silverthorne’s “Christmas, Interrupted,” but she also dabbles in a bit of romantic suspense as well. Her story, full of what-might-have-beens, also conveys a strong sense of holiday joy.

M.L. Buchman writes military romance which is, for those of you who don’t know, one of the most popular subgenres of romance. He has written a stand-alone gentle contemporary in his Night Stalkers series, which features more than one romance and the possibility for more than one happy ending.

When I asked Mary Jo Putney to contribute a story to the anthology, I thought she would probably write a Regency. She’s written some of the classics in that romance subgenre. Instead, she wrote a modern story set in her popular Guardians universe.

“Toasted” straddles the place that confounds critics: Is it urban fantasy? Is it paranormal romance? It’s both, really, although the ending, in my opinion, places it solidly in the romance camp. Even knowing where the story would end up, I had no idea how we would get there, and found myself turning pages quickly. Just because you know how the couple will end up doesn’t mean you know what will happen to the other characters. What happens here is one of the best things about this wonderful little tale.

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