Most of the stories in Mary Christmas: short stories spanning two centuries are to some degree autobiographical.

The Civil War story takes place at my childhood home, which was built in 1830. When my parents excavated to extend the driveway, they found a burial marker for a woman named Marianne who died in the early 1860s. My mother and I speculated about her, and I wrote a story about her for my creative writing class in high school. It was awful, but some parts stayed in my memory and became "For Remembrance", a much better effort after I had experienced more of life.

"Army Wife" drew on my own unhappy memories of being an abused wife in my first marriage. And those who know me well are not surprised to see George Armstrong Custer make an appearance because I have been fascinated since childhood by the man and the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

The details of the father's final illness in "A Branch with No Twigs" came from my father-in-law's last months.

My paternal grandmother, like the heroine in "The Empty Chair", left a child in Russia when she came to America as a mail-order bride. However, in real life the child was almost a young adult.

My mother was the governess and later housekeeper for the Azen family in the Squirrel Hill area of Pittsburgh and inspired "The Housekeeper".

"The Letter" is one of my favorite stories because the letter itself is verbatim from my Uncle Sam. After he died, Aunt Mary gave me a copy of it and suggested I use it in a story. I was anxious to put a book with the story into her hands before she died, and, therefore, I decided to self-publish. And, yes, she was pleased with how it turned out.

Like the parents in "Christmas Walk", my parents each voted the other's party on election days. Even in 1960 they were convinced that the government could find out how you voted.

Like the little girl in "Christmas Birthday", I once bumped into and apologized to a mannequin I couldn't see.

"We Wish You a Merry Tonsillectomy" is exactly what happened to me, except that it was Easter, not Christmas.

In "All I Ever Wanted", some of the names have been changed, but it is the story of my high school sweetheart, Bob Kraus, who broke up with me shortly before graduation and who died in Vietnam in December 1965. A happy postscript is that forty years later I reconnected with his sister Karen, who is now one of my dearest friends.

"A Humbling Experience", "The Slob Who Was Robbed", "Mint Jelly", and "The Fruit of Her Labors" are completely autobiographical.

My friend Louise Estevez provided the background for "Trouble Times Three". Her boys did climb on the roof to see if Santa Claus could fit down the chimney!