Thursday, December 4, 2008

Remember the Reason for the Season

by Delia Latham

December is here…already! It seems to me that each year passes more quickly than the previous one.

Already we're seeing signs of Christmas. From grocery stores to department stores to online stores – all boast decorations of red and white, reminders of the big day approaching, sales prices to further entice shoppers, and lots of ho-ho-hos, fat men in red suits, and glittery pine trees.

It saddens me to see so few reminders of the true reason for the season. Aside from the occasional nativity scene, Jesus seems to have been forgotten in the commercialism of this most joyous of holidays. I vote we make an all-out effort to bring Him back. What do you say? Let ours be the homes that hail the babe in the manger. Let ours be the cards that trumpet His praises! Those who own shops, why not let yours be the ones that decorate in His honor?

It’s such a little thing, but if we all band together, our voices can be heard. Our Saviour can be recognized on this holiday, which is supposed to be all about Him in the first place.So here’s my suggestion: Let’s each make a concerted effort this year to bring Jesus back into Christmas. Can we do it? Yes, we can!

I know you’ll enjoy the December edition of The Bookshelf. Several talented, interesting authors have dropped by to share with us. Feel free to comment on any article you particularly like…or dislike for that matter. Just be nice, even if you disagree with something! J I know we can do that.

Enjoy the holidays, one and all. I pray you’re able to spend Christmas with family and loved ones, and that your day is filled with lots of love, good food, and plenty of fun.

Merry Christmas!

Contest Notes

The November winner of Forevermore by Cathy Marie Hake is Saundra Randolph. Congratulations, Saundra!

The December drawing will be for a copy of The Moon in the Mango Tree by Pamela Binnings Ewen. If you missed my review of this book, you’ll find it on My Book Bag — my “interview and review” blog.

Note: The Bookshelf contest is completely separate from the BIG Goldeneyes Contest Series on my website. Be sure to check that out — it’s a seven-month contest series with some absolutely fantastic prize packages. Two prize packages are being offered in December - a total value of close to $250!!!

You no longer need to do anything to enter the newsletter drawing each month. If you are subscribed to The Bookshelf, you will be automatically entered.

How to subscribe? Use the icon on my website’s Home page, or the link in that website Navbar (right-hand column), which will put you on my e-mailing list. If you want the Bookshelf articles to come right to your inbox each month instead of receiving just a link, use the FeedBlitz link in the top left corner of this page in addition to the manual icon on my website.)

Notes of Devotion - Christine Miller

The Lord My Shepherd

by Christine Miller

Psalm 95:6&7: “Come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.”

Why do you suppose that God presents Himself to us as our Shepherd? Could it be because He wants us to see: (1) that we are helpless and that (2) we need a caregiver.

Sheep are really dumb; they are also helpless, timid and feeble. They require constant care and have little means of self defense. They have need of the constant care of a shepherd or they will take the wrong path, walk into danger or eat the wrong food. Sheep can also become cast down – stuck on their backs, panic and die. Can you not see why God chose this description of us? When left to our own devices, we make poor choices, get into an unhealthy rut and put ourselves in harm’s way. I shudder to think where I would be today without the protection of my Jehovah-Raah.

Now, one of the biggest “perks” of belonging to Him is realizing how very much I need Him. It is really a joy to me to know deep within my soul that I am lost without Him.

(Ezekiel 34:11-12: “For thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd cares for his herd in the day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care for My sheep and will deliver them from all the places to which they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day.”)

What an AWESOME God!

About Christine:

Christine Miller lives in Bakersfield, California, with her husband of 40 years. She and Ken are blessed by two wonderful children, a teriffic son in-law and daughter in-law and four "fantabulous" grandchildren!

Christine considers Cursillo—a renewal Movement which she feels changed her life—to be her major ministry. “I love the in-depth study of God's Word and leading others concerning its life application—through both teaching and writing,” she says.

Author of Note - Diane Wylie

Our Author of Note this month is Diane Wylie. Diane and I are both published through Vintage Romance Publishing, and I have come to like and respect Diane through our author group. It is a distinct pleasure to welcome this talented lady to my newsletter. I know you will all enjoy our visit with her.

Welcome to The Bookshelf, Diane! It’s always fun to interview a fellow Vintage Romance author.

Before I start asking a bunch of random, off-the-cuff questions, let’s find out who you are. Tell us about yourself – not the author. Who is Diane Wylie, the lady next door?

Hello, and thank you for having me at The Bookshelf. Well, let me see… I consider myself to be a scientifically-minded romantic, if there can be such a thing. I received my Bachelor of Science from Cook College at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Yes, I am originally a Jerseyite, but now live with my husband and two children in Maryland. I have been a veterinary technician, cancer research technician, high school biology teacher, but now I am a technical writer. So that is my science side.

I must have inherited my romantic side. My father was always a hopeless romantic, so I guess it rubbed off on me. My romantic side also comes from the loving relationship I have with my husband of 28 years. He is very supportive of my writing and I will always be grateful to him.

See, I just knew you were an interesting lady! Now we can talk about your books. How many published books have you written?

I’ve had two books published, both are Civil War romances, Secrets and Sacrifices and Jenny’s Passion.

I know Jenny's Passion is your newest release – tell us about it.

Jenny’s Passion is what I would call the book of my heart. The Civil War period has been a favorite of mine since I first saw Gone with the Wind. I have done a lot of research on the time period, visited battlefields, and attended reenactments. But most of the Civil War romances I read left me slightly dissatisfied. The primary emphasis always seemed to be on the Southern Belle. What about the soldiers, the ones who went into battle and gave their lives for their country? So I set out to write a story that told of the soldier’s emotions and heartache along with a woman’s agony over the potential loss of her beloved. As anyone who has read the story of David and Jenny will tell you, I go deeply into the emotions of both characters through their struggle to survive this devastating period in their lives and find love for each other.

Hint: The second in the series, Lila’s Vow, is coming out March 2009.

How long have you been writing? Was there an “aha” moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve been writing fiction for nine years now. I guess I originally tried writing just to see if I could do it, as a kind of challenge to myself. My first manuscript never made it to print, but I learned a lot along the way.

How much time do you devote to your craft?

I spend as much time as I can to writing and promoting my work. Perhaps some day I will be able to quit that day job and write fiction full time, but not yet. I have to snatch the time where I can get it now. Most of that time comes on the weekends.

Any advice for new and aspiring writers?

Just don’t give up, keep writing and keep reading, that is the best way to learn your craft.

Now for that off-the-cuff stuff I mentioned….If you could ask any person, living or dead, a random question – what question would you ask of whom?

Hmm...that is a good question. I think I’d like to ask Margaret Mitchell why she didn’t write a sequel to Gone with the Wind.

What crayon in the box describes you best on a good day? Bad day?

On a good day—Christmas Red

On a bad day—Midnight Black

You’re going on a very long trip. Which of the following will you take with you?

Book: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Music: Anything by Josh Groban

Person: My husband

Food: Chicken salad wrap

What would you do today if you knew you had only a week to live?

I would go visit every one of my family and friends and eat lots of chocolate.

What word annoys you more than any other?


What “super power” would you like to borrow for awhile?

I would love to fly!

What’s your favorite chore? Least favorite?

Painting is my favorite. My least favorite is cleaning bathrooms.

Anything you'd like to do but don't because of some underlying fear?

Ride those upside down roller coasters. I would love to, but they scare me to death!

Share a grammatical pet peeve...go ahead, sound off.

Misuse of “its” and “it’s.”

Share a societal pet’s your chance to blast ‘em.

Athletics, like baseball players, that spit all the time…Yuk!!

Thank you for hanging out at The Bookshelf for awhile, Diane! We can’t wait to read Jenny’s Passion! When and where can we get it?

The official release date was November 30, 2008. You can get it online at Amazon, Books-a-Million, and Barnes and Noble, or order it through your favorite bookstore:

Jenny’s Passion by Diane Wylie

ISBN-10: 0981559247

ISBN-13: 978-0981559247

Thanks so much for having me at The Bookshelf. It’s been fun!

About Diane:

Diane Wylie makes her home in Maryland with her husband, Ed, a former racecar driver, and two wonderful children. During the day Diane is an award-winning technical writer for a training-based company in Maryland.

Visit Diane’s website: to learn more about her and her upcoming novels.

Notes on Writing - Amy Deardon

On Writing: Don't Be a Welfare Hydra

by Amy Deardon

For those of you who don't know, I've done an in-depth study of story (novels and films) with the aim of articulating how stories can be put together. I've been fortunate enough to coach several writers to apply and refine my paradigm, and I think I'm onto something! This is something I'm writing up now, as a book that I hope will be out before too long.

A main, and I mean really main, really big, problem that I keep running across I've called the "One Darn Thing After Another" syndrome. But I've just found the icon for this that I think is perfect -- the Welfare Hydra!

First, take a look at this 3 minute clip. This scene is from 1963's Jason and the Argonauts, where Jason needs to kill the 7-headed Hydra in order to steal the golden fleece. The chick is a high priestess who's basically betrayed her people to help Jason, but we won't go into the whole ethics of Jason's quest here -- after all, this is high Greek mythology, so let's just watch it for fun:

This is an impressive movie with astounding special effects for 1963, and I enjoyed watching it on many levels. I first saw this movie about 6 years ago with my boy, when as a first grader he became interested in ancient warfare topics in general (as an aside, he impressed the heck out of his teacher by taking half an hour to explain the Pelopynesian War to the class. My daughter, though, is the Greek myth expert. But as a proud mom, I digress).

I feel a bit guilty being so critical here since the special effects technology WAS so primitive, but hey, this makes my point. In this clip, did you notice what the Welfare Hydra does?



Yes, the Hydra waves its heads a bit, hisses, and slithers on its floppy little belly. It even catches Jason in its tail at one point, but promptly lets him go and doesn't press the attack. You can almost hear the Hydra saying (in a squeaky voice) "I'm scary! I'm scary! See how scary I am?" At the end it bares its chest so Jason with his sword can conveniently stab its heart, at which it obligingly dies.

So what does this have to do with writing?

Simply this: in many of the stories that I critique, I find this same sort of "Welfare Hydra" mentality appearing, on both the macro and the micro levels. The writer describes exciting (or not so exciting) events that the protagonist wrestles through, but in the end, these events don't make any difference to the story. They don't push the story along.

The micro events just add word count. A character will find a chilled bottle of water, unscrew its tight cap, take a few sips of the cold liquid, then screw the lid back on and wipe her hands on her black summer-cloth-weight capris, feeling refreshed now. Excuse me? Does any of this detail really add to the story? Now, maybe if the character had arthritis, then her method of opening a bottle might give a little grace note to her character, but otherwise this is throwaway stuff.

So how might one push a story along? There are many techniques to do this, but the core principle is
to consistently raise the stakes for the protagonist: put more in jeopardy, make it uncertain that the protagonist can accomplish a goal that is vital to him and for the long-term success for the story. Everything counts, including little actions. Who cares how the character opens a bottle of water? But if the character isn't sure that she will be able to sneak a sip of water to calm a cough before she has to make an announcement, it might be more interesting.

A good way to raise these questions is to write in a deep third person point of view. Many manuscripts I read are written in a superficial POV, where actions are captured as if on camera, and there is no insight into the character's thoughts. The penetrating POV is one of the great strengths of novel writing. (Films of course have music, camera angles, and other tricks that make them a different, yet also strong, medium).

Use your PO

Here are two passages:

(1) Sam ran down the hallway. It was long, and there were no windows. He picked up speed. The entrance was twenty feet away. (objective POV)

(2) Escape.

Sam couldn't see the intruder, but knew he must be close by. This was the hardest
part to get out of the building: a long white tunnel, no windows.

Twenty feet. He might just have time. If only he could turn off these lights to race in the dark, but no time, no time.

And then he heard a footstep behind him...

(penetrating POV)


OK, it's a hokey example written off the top of my head, but you get the idea, I trust.

When you w
rite, whether a paragraph or a scene or more, keep asking yourself, "Are my words a Welfare Hydra?" If they are, stab them through the heart.

About Amy:

I'm married and fortunate enough to be able to stay at home with our two children who both earned their black belts in tae kwon do last summer.

Besides tapping on the computer keyboard, periodically I play the flute. The most moving performance (for me) was playing for a crowded memorial service for a serviceman killed in the Pentagon on September 11th, 2001.

I took over a year on a personal quest to investigate the claims of Jesus' resurrection with the goal of destroying them. To do this I studied Biblical accounts of Jesus and numerous commentaries by believers and skeptics alike, listed the facts agreed upon, and began to explore scenarios that could explain what was known. To my surprise and considerable dismay, the evidence kept pointing away from naturalistic explanations and eventually formed a virtually certain case for the resurrection of Jesus. Finally I admitted defeat and became a Christian.

My first novel, A Lever Long Enough (due to be released in January 2009), combines my loves of technology and derring-do with the universal longing for transcendent truth. I believe there is a rational basis for this longing.

Notes in Review

Ryann Watters and the King’s Sword

by Eric Reinhold

Publisher: Creation House

ISBN: 978-1-59979-388-0

230 pages, hardcover, $17.99

Ryann Watters is your typical 12-year-old boy-next door…until he’s visited by the angel Gabriel.

The mighty being informs the young boy that he has been chosen to find “the King’s sword,” and provides three tools to help him complete this task. In the mystical universe of Aeliana, Ryann and his friends Liddy and Terell form an unexpected bond with a special bunch of talking animals and find themselves battling horrible evil – much of it in the form of the dreaded school bully, Drake Dunfellow. Drake has experienced his own visitation – from the dark angel, Lord Ekron.

The young hero and his friends experience unbelievable, magical events that will change them forever. Though Ryann considers himself a Christian from the start, he finds his relationship with Jesus Christ reaching a new level of strength and trust, and learns a few essential life lessons along the way, as he seeks the King’s sword.

The search for exciting, Christian-oriented reading material for youth is over – Eric Reinhold delivers in this riveting novel, the first in the Annals of Aeliana trilogy. Not once does the author “talk down” to his audience, nor does he use the story as a means to “preach.” His message of faith, trust and knowledge of the Word of God is skillfully imbedded into a page-turning storyline.

Absolutely brilliant! Set in the real-life town of Mount Dora, Florida, this enchanting tale of fantasy combines a compelling storyline, riveting action, and excellent characterization, culminating in a breathtaking novel with the potential to be for Christian youth what Harry Potter was to a more worldly crowd. Ryann Watters and the King’s Sword is a must for the bookshelves of readers – young and old – who enjoy great Christian fiction and fantasy.

Reviewed by Delia Latham

An Extra Little Note

Confession: A Soul Essential
by Delia Latham

1 John 1:8-10 (KJV) 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

A familiar old saying tells us "confession is good for the soul." And it is. It is, in fact, essential to the soul.

True repentance comes only through total humbling of self. The truth is, nothing – nothing – is more humbling than verbal confession of wrongdoing. That’s why the Bible so strongly encourages this action, and why many people are adamantly unwilling to do it.

The wonderful thing is that once our sins are laid out there in all their ugliness and shame, God can wash them away. He can't do that while we keep them locked up inside our consciences, attempting to hide them from Him and the rest of the world.

Ever seen a child with a favorite article of clothing ... the one he wants to wear every single day, every hour of the day? Without laundering, that piece of clothing is obviously going to become more and more unappealing ... dirty, stinky and just downright disgusting. Unfortunately, it cannot be laundered until the child takes it off and hands it to his mother to put in the wash. Now Mom can wash away all the filth, launder out the stench, iron away the wrinkles – and transform that unlovely rag into an attractive garment again.

It's a matter of relinquishing something ... entrusting it into the hands of a Higher Power. Confessing our sins tells God, first of all, "I've done wrong. I know I've done wrong, and I'm sorry." It also says, "Father, I trust you to take all this ugliness that I'm turning over to you, and make of it something beautiful ... something good."

How marvelous for us that it is the Father's great joy to do exactly that!

Jesus, we come to you humbly, realizing that we have sinned and come short of your glory. We confess our wrongdoings – each of us our own – and ask your forgiveness. Please cleanse us with your blood, and make us clean and pure. Thank you for being a forgiving God, for loving us just the way we are, and for being able and willing to erase our ugly sins and make us clean! Amen