13 12, 2021

Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer’s Backstory

By |2021-12-11T21:22:07-06:00December 13th, 2021|Holidays|2 Comments

This time of year we hear the song “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” a lot. The story behind the song is fascinating.

In 1938 Bob May, a 34-year-old ad writer for Montgomery Ward in Chicago was exhausted and nearly broke. His holiday season held no comfort or joy. His wife bedridden, losing her two-year battle with cancer. His four-year-old daughter Barbara feeling left out, different.

Bob understood. He’d been a small, sickly boy, constantly picked on and called names. He wanted to show Barbara that being different was nothing to be ashamed of and created a bedtime tale about a reindeer with a bright red nose who found a special place on Santa’s team.

Barbara loved the story so much that she made him tell it every night. Because he couldn’t afford to buy her a gift for Christmas, Bob turned the story into a homemade picture book.

Bob’s wife died in early December. A few days before Christmas, he attended a Montgomery Ward company party where co-workers encouraged him to share the story he’d written. There was a standing ovation when he finished. Everyone wanted copies of their own.

Montgomery Ward bought the rights to the book from their debt-ridden employee. Over the next six years, at Christmas, the store gave away six million copies of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to shoppers. Every major publishing house made offers to obtain the book. In an incredible display of goodwill, the department store returned all rights to Bob.

Four years later, Bob May’s bedtime Rudolph story made him a millionaire. He remarried, had a growing family, and felt blessed by his good fortune. But there was more good fortune to come.

Songwriter Johnny Marks married Robert May’s sister. Marks set the uplifting story to music. Several popular recording artists including Bing Crosby all passed. Finally, Marks approached Gene Autry. Like the others, Autry wasn’t impressed with the song about the misfit reindeer. Johnny Marks begged him to give it a second listen.

Autry played it for his wife, Ina. The line “They wouldn’t let poor Rudolph play in any reindeer games” touched her so she insisted her husband record the tune. Within a few years, the song became the second best-selling Christmas song after “White Christmas.”

As the years passed, the story’s popularity never waned. On Dec. 6, 1964, NBC broadcast the first Rudolph TV special and it has been broadcast every year since making it the longest-running Christmas TV special in history.

Rudolph lives through TV specials, cartoons, movies, toys, games, coloring books, plush toys, greeting cards, and even a Ringling Bros. circus act. The story symbolizes Christmas as much as Santa Claus, evergreen trees, and presents.

And, the backstory is wonderful. However, …

a fact check with Snoops says the often-quoted story is only partly true. Bob May authored the story for Montgomery Ward as part of this job as a copywriter in the PR department and “tested” it on his daughter. After Montgomery Ward had given away copies for 6 years, they looked for something new for their Christmas giveaways. That’s when May asked for his rights back and they gave it to him.

The success part of “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer,” on the other hand, is completely true.

Enjoy Gene Autry singing his version with a 1953 Ed Sullivan Show audience.

6 12, 2021

Celebrating Christmas Texas Style

By |2021-12-03T09:12:31-06:00December 6th, 2021|A Writer's Life, Holidays|0 Comments

Christmas on the Texas Gulf Coast is a little different. No snow, no cold, and a few other traditions unique to the Lone Star State.

There’s our version of the classic Night Before Christmas to read. The Night Before Christmas in Texas, That Is by Leon A. Harris,  This tale has a definite Texas spin with buckboards and bunks. It has entertained Texas audiences for more than forty years.

From the inside cover flap:

A Western Santa Claus-decked out in Levis, a ten-gallon Stetson, a cowboy vest, and with a bandana around his neck-makes his Christmas journey on a buckboard piled high with presents.  Swooping in over the prairie to the amazement of sleepy residents and jackrabbits alike, a plump, jovial Santa parks his buckboard outside a peaceful ranch house. From boot-stuffing gifts to the faithful “hosses” pulling his “sleigh,” this is a Christmas tale rich in Texas tradition.

A must-read every holiday if you live in my house.

Gene Autry recorded the poem for Columbia Records in the 1940s or 50s. My copy of the original 78 release is still around somewhere. Take a listen to a later release:

Other Lone Star Christmas traditions are not strictly Texan, but unique to customs of the southern states.

Hanging a pickle on the Christmas tree

Lining our sidewalk with Luminaries

Eating tamales on Christmas Eve

But it’s definitely not Christmas in Texas unless we sing “Merry TEXAS Christmas, You All.”

Gene Autry recorded the song on the flip side of “Night Before Christmas” Click on the link to hear him singing:  https://youtu.be/onGs1BaA7co

29 11, 2021

Memories Fuel Writers’ Stories

By |2021-11-28T07:56:58-06:00November 29th, 2021|Beyond and Behind the Story, Holidays|0 Comments

I’m always asked where I get my story ideas. The simple answer is my life. As writers, we call on our memories to plot stories and fuel characters’ emotions. Sometimes obviously. Sometimes subtly.

There’s personal memory embedded somewhere in a plot or a character or a scene in every book I’ve written. None more than When Love Endures, book three of the Fitzpatrick Family series. It’s based on one of my favorite holiday memories.

Growing up, holidays involved gathering around the piano and singing. It never mattered how you sounded or how old you were. You sang.

Or you played the piano.

Another thing we did was attend holiday programs either as an audience or participants. School programs, church programs, choir performances, band, and orchestra performances. Listening to the holiday songs always fueled our holiday spirit.

One memory—playing a Christmas duet with my daughter at her piano recital—provided the springboard for When Love Endures, my new holiday novella.

In the story, heroine Sarah’s high school sweetheart moves back to their small town and enrolls his daughter in her school music class. Old feelings return, but Sarah must win the daughter over. There are obstacles, but, like all Hallmark Christmas love stories, there is a happy ending that may or may not involve playing a Christmas duet.

When Love Endures

Sarah Fitzpatrick, pianist extraordinaire, gave up on true love when her high school boyfriend, Nick Stephens, ran off to marry his pregnant ex-girlfriend. When his daughter shows up in her music class eleven years later, Sarah must find a way to keep the little girl and her widowed father out of her heart. She can’t risk losing everything again.

Nicks Stephens has other plans. Sarah is and always has been the love of his life and he’s back in Burton, TX to prove it. But there are secrets Nick must keep, from Sarah and his daughter, that could destroy everything he hopes to build.

Use these links to get your copy.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/When-Love-Endures-Fitzpatrick-Family-ebook/dp/B08W9MP12F/

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/when-love-endures-judythe-morgan/1138790688

I hope a fond holiday memory comes to your mind when you read When Love Endures.

22 11, 2021

Reasons I’m Thankful to Be a Writer

By |2021-11-21T06:20:12-06:00November 22nd, 2021|A Writer's Life, Holidays|0 Comments

Thanksgiving in the United States is just around the corner. Cornbread for dressing is baking in the oven. The big bird’s thawing in the frig.

It’s time to focus on thankfulness.


As a writer, I’m thankful for so many things.

  • A supportive spouse who is my walking research resource and also happens to be the best critique partner, plotting budding, and editor ever.
  • Writing friends who support, cheer, and listen to my rants.
  • Non-writing friends who ask how’s my writing is going and accept that deadlines can interfere with get-togethers.
  • Family members who let me talk about my characters as if they are real and always answer my wild questions.
  • The imaginary friends and their voices in my head. Without them, I couldn’t do what I do.

Then there are the uniquely writerly things

  1. I get to work in pajamas.
  2. I always have a blank page to start fresh.
  3. Life is filled with funny stories, daily struggles, and multitudes of blessings, so there’s always be something to write about.
  4. My first-try draft doesn’t have to be perfect. Think about it. Professionals like doctors and dentists can’t say that.
  5. Edits and revisions do, in fact, eventually end.
  6. My Google searches haven’t gotten me arrested…yet. (I’m probably on watchlists, but so far no one’s come after me.)
  7. I can escape into other worlds – ones I create, and the ones other authors have created for us to read.
  8. Reviews! Even one or two-star reviews mean a reader’s read the book.

So many blessings in my writer world. What’s in your world that makes you feel thankful this Thanksgiving?

6 09, 2021

Labor Day

By |2021-09-03T10:58:13-05:00September 6th, 2021|Holidays|1 Comment

Since its origin in 1882, Labor Day has paid tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers. In 1894, it became an official federal holiday.

This vintage postcard commemorates that holiday addition.

The day is a well-deserved tribute to all laborers whether their office is a building, a field, a warehouse, a store, a hospital, a patrol car or fire station, or their home. Commitment to their job is what makes our country such a great place to live.

Today I’d like to say a big Thank You.

I’m a writer retired from the traditional workforce. Because you do your job, I can concentrate on mine every day. To writers who work day jobs then write in the evenings, you’re my heroes too.

If you’re among the many workers who have Labor Day off work, kick back and enjoy your free day. Holidays tend to slide by in my world. One day is like the next.Write, write, write.

Because Labor Day also signals the end of summer, I think I may take a break and join the crowd at the grill.

31 05, 2021

What will you be doing this Memorial Day?

By |2021-05-27T10:41:47-05:00May 31st, 2021|A Writer's Life, Holidays, Writer's Life|0 Comments

Today we’re celebrating Memorial Day.

I find saying “Happy Memorial Day” hard because I believe Memorial Day is a solemn holiday.

I’m not saying going to the beach or having a cookout is wrong. Not at all.

I enjoy a cookout with family and friends and celebrating what signals the start of summer same as anyone else.

I’m just sayin’, Memorial Day has become a long weekend focused on shopping, family gatherings, fireworks, trips to the beach, and national media events more than its original purpose.

A time set aside to remember and honor the men and women who gave their lives while serving this country.

Sometime during our fun, let’s pause to wave an American flag and salute our fallen heroes. That’s what our family will be doing.

10 05, 2021

National Leprechaun Day is Coming!

By |2021-05-04T09:03:07-05:00May 10th, 2021|Holidays, Make Me Think Monday|0 Comments

May 13th is celebrated as National Leprechaun Day. No one knows the origins of the holiday. I’m guessing one of the tiny creatures came up with the idea for a day in his honor.

Being a bit Irish meself, I think it’s delightful to have a Leprechaun celebration separate from St. Patrick’s Day.

Leprechauns are portrayed  as sly and sneaky elves who dress in waistcoats and hats in Irish folklore. While they are small in stature, they are quick as a whip and masters of practical jokes.

They are also keen musicians who play tin whistles, the fiddle, and even the Irish Harp and love to dance. It’s said, they love dancing so much, they wear out their shoes and constantly have to make new ones.

You might see a leprechaun if you go to Ireland. Tis been known to happen.

For sure you’ll see one if you go to the Leprechaun Museum in Dublin. I know it’s a fun and interesting place to visit.

But catching one of the mischievous pranksters is another matter entirely!

The wee people hide because, if someone finds a leprechaun, then the leprechaun has to either give his pot of gold to the finder or grant him or her three wishes.

These devious little creatures should never be trusted. They will do anything to escape once caught.

If you do happen to catch one, be aware the leprechaun will use all his magical powers to grant you three wishes in return for his freedom. He might even offer you a pot of gold, but he’s also likely to trick you. Best to follow these tips on How to Catch a Leprechaun.

Most people celebrate this day for fun and luck by:

  • organizing Leprechaun hunts,
  • throwing Leprechaun parties,
  • playing practical jokes, and
  • eating and sharing gold foil-wrapped chocolate coins

Happy Leprechaun Day!

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