Thursday, December 10, 2009

'Tis the Season


‘Tis the Season

by Delia Latham

Seems like only yesterday I wrote the newsletter editorial welcoming in the new year. It hardly seems possible that December of that “new year” is already half gone. Time flies far too quickly!

I’m sure all of you are deep into plans and preparations for Christmas, just as we are. ‘Tis, after all, the season! The question is … the season for what?

The song bearing that title states, “’Tis the season to be jolly.” And it is. The Christmas season is fun and energizing, with all the hustle and bustle of shopping, baking, decorating—all the things we’ve come to consider necessary to make the season complete. And yet that very hustle and bustle can also at times make it oh-so-difficult to be jolly! Tempers flare, feelings are injured, feet ache and bodies scream for rest. How can one be jolly in the face of all those negative emotions?

Another song proclaims this “the most wonderful time of the year.” And while it certainly can be a beautiful, amazing time, it can also be the most stressful. The economy has spiraled downward … jobs are scarce, money’s tight, and most of us are concerned for our financial futures. Trying to find space in our budgets for Christmas giving can make this a time of unhappiness, distress, and unwelcome feelings of inadequacy and failure.

Silent Night—beautiful idea, isn’t it? And yet a few moments of silence would be a precious gift this time of year. Things never seem to be “calm” and “bright”—there’s too much going on! What we wouldn’t give for a moment of heavenly peace!

Song after song, cliché after cliché, I could go on with these examples. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas … isn’t that what we all strive for, sometimes putting ourselves very nearly in a straight jacket to achieve it? Joy to the World … oh, what a concept, when much of the world has never known a moment’s peace and joy!

Before I appear to have sunk into a pit of despair, let me share my viewpoint. Christmas is a wonderful, beautiful, amazing time of year. But I fear we spend so much time worrying about the commercial aspect of the season that we forget it’s true meaning. If money’s short, why is it necessary to put ourselves head over heels in debt to buy gifts we can’t afford? When did being with family and friends cease to be enough to make the day special? Are we seeking joy and “jolliness” in the wrong places?

Can’t afford all the fol-de-rol of gifts, elaborate dinners and breathtaking décor? I encourage you to plan a day of simply being with family. Enjoy a hearty meal together. Share wonderful memories. Catch up on each others’ lives. Above all, remember the real Reason for the Season, and take time to thank God for life, love, liberty and all the many blessings in your lives.

If money is no object for you, enjoy this holiday to the fullest … but please remember someone less fortunate. Take your children with you while you shop for a child who might not otherwise receive a Christmas gift. Deliver a turkey or ham to a family who can’t afford one. Spend a little time with a lonely acquaintance who doesn’t enjoy the blessing of a family. And above all, remember the real Reason for the Season, and take time to thank Him for life, love, liberty and all the many blessings in your lives.

Hang the mistletoe and enjoy all the fun that little tradition entails. Put up your tree, if you choose to have one, and stack beneath it as many presents as you can comfortably afford or wish to indulge in. String a thousand lights, bake enough sweets to feed an army, surround yourself with family and friends. Go caroling…roast a few chestnuts…rock around the Christmas tree…because, after all, ‘tis the season.

Yes, indeed. ‘Tis the Season to love each other more than ever. ‘Tis the Season to adore the God who came to earth to save us. ‘Tis the season to be happy. So be happy—not intimidated, depressed, or pressured by ridiculous expectations and man-made traditions that have nothing to do with Christ.

Have a wonderfully jolly, fun, loving, and very merry Christmas!

Author of Note

M Daley

I’m delighted to welcome Christian suspense author Margaret Daley to The Bookshelf. Margaret, we’ll be talking about your writing journey, and I also have a few just-for-fun questions. But first, “all writing aside,” tell us about you. Who is Margaret Daley?

I’m a mother of one son and grandmother to four granddaughters. I’ve been married thirty-nine years and have a wonderful husband. I’ve been retired from teaching special education at the high school level for a little over a year. Now I’m writing full-time and just recently sold my sixty-sixth book to Love Inspired Suspense. I always write for Love Inspired.

What an accomplishment! (An aside to my readers … I’m so proud to say I actually know Margaret, as we are members of the same local ACFW writer’s group (WIN-ACFW). She’s as sweet and pretty as she is talented, and definitely an inspiration to this fledgling author.) Margaret, would you share a little with us about how you got started as a writer? Was there an “aha” moment when you knew that’s what you wanted to do?

I never thought I would be a writer when I was growing up. I wanted to be a teacher, but I loved to read and make up stories when I played with my dolls. One day after reading a lot of romances (I was in my late twenties), I thought I would try my hand at putting one down on paper. That book will never see the light of day, but it’s what got me started and I haven’t stopped in thirty years.

Just goes to show that God’s plans for us often take us down a far different path than the one we see ourselves taking. Where do you find inspiration for your stories?

Everywhere. It might be an occupation, a current issue or a character that intrigues me to write a story. I have written a couple because of the locale. I love the jungle and wanted to place a book there. That’s where Heart of the Amazon came from.

How much time do you spend writing?

I write almost every day, at least a little. I have a weekly word count that I strive for (at least 10, 000 words). Some weeks I do more if the story is coming to me fast.

A wonderful woman—one whose influence will be with me throughout my lifetime—once quoted an old piece of wisdom to me: “Consistency, thou art a jewel.” I still believe it—and your success as a writer bears out its truth. What’s your best piece of advice for new and aspiring writers?

Don’t give up. It’s a tough business, but if you don’t write and keep submitting, I guarantee you will never sell.

Amen! Give us one writing tip that you personally find invaluable.

Listen to yourself when you are going through your story. Sometimes I’ve ignored that little voice in my head that tells me something is wrong with a scene. Invariably my editor will have me revise that scene.

Do you have any books releasing right away, or recently released?

I had a November Love Inspired called Together for the Holidays, and I have one on the shelves right now, a Love Inspired Suspense for December called Christmas Peril. Both are Christmas stories, as you can tell from the titles.

I always love Christmas stories, especially those of the happily-ever-after variety. J Of all your published works, do you have a favorite? And if so, what about that book makes it special to you?

Heart of the Amazon was a book of the heart. The words flew from me. I was so in the groove with Slade and Kate it was like they took me over.

I have yet to read that one, but will certainly search it out now. 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?

I don’t know that I would ask a question, but I would love to meet Jesus. I can imagine how awe-inspiring seeing Him would be and listening to Him talk.

I can’t think of a better answer. What books are on your bedside table right now?

Love Finds You in Holiday, Florida—it has flamingoes on the cover and I love flamingoes.

What word annoys you more than any other?

“I can’t”—which are two words. I had students who said that to me. They used their learning disability as a crutch. I wouldn’t let them because I have a learning disability and I went to college and got my masters degree.

How wonderful for your students to have a teacher who had walked in their shoes! What “super power” would you like to borrow for a while?

To be able to heal people.

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

I really don’t have any.

Thank you for hanging out at The Bookshelf for a while, Margaret! Where can readers find your books?

They are available at or any online bookstore as well as places like Wal-Mart, Barnes and Noble, Borders.

Thanks again for being with us.

About Margaret:

Margaret Daley is an award winning, multi-published author in the romance genre. One of her romantic suspense books, Hearts on the Line, won the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Book of the Year Contest. Recently she has won the Holt Medallion, Golden Quill Contest, FHL’s Inspirational Readers’ Choice Contest, Winter Rose Contest, and the Barclay Gold Contest. She wrote for various secular publishers before the Lord led her to the Christian romance market. She currently writes inspirational romance and romantic suspense books for the Steeple Hill Love Inspired lines. She has sold sixty-six books to date.

Margaret is currently the Volunteer Officer for ACFW. She was one of the founding members of the first ACFW local chapter, WIN in Oklahoma. She served as vice-president for two years in WIN-ACFW and is still on its board as an advisor. She has taught numerous classes for online groups, ACFW and RWA chapters. She enjoys mentoring other authors.

Until she retired last year, she was a teacher of students with special needs for twenty-seven years and volunteered with Special Olympics as a coach. She currently is on the Outreach committee at her church, working on several projects in her community.

You can visit her web site at and read excerpts from her books and learn about the ones recently released and soon to be released.

Notes of Devotion

S Forgrave


The Best Gift

“The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor.” (Genesis 4:4b-5a)

It’s hard to know why Cain’s offering wasn’t received as warmly as Abel’s, but we do know that “Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.” (v4a) It was the best of his best. Perhaps Cain’s sacrifices weren’t the prime of his crop, or maybe his attitude dampened the gift.

Have you ever participated in a white elephant gift exchange? You know, where you scrounge around your house for some useless piece of junk and wrap it up in a beautiful package? Then you go to a Christmas party and secretly wring your hands together, waiting for the poor person who’ll pick your present? My husband and I always have fun searching our house for just the right “treasure”. We’ve been known to give away things that were previously buried in a closet or drawer, like an 80s-style exercise VHS, complete with leotard-donned instructor.

The reality is those gift exchanges are fun because we know what we’re getting ourselves into. But if we had wealthy parents and were accustomed to receiving a Hawaiian vacation each year, only to open this year’s package and uncover a roll of toilet paper with a one-dollar bill stuffed inside, we’d be pretty disappointed.

That’s how God feels when we give him less than our best sacrifice. He knows what we’re capable of giving, but instead He’s staring down the short tube of a roll of toilet paper. Just like Cain, we give Him something mediocre and hope He’ll be satisfied. Why do we hold back from giving an Abel-like sacrifice to God? Is it because we don’t recognize the value of what we possess? Or is it because we want to horde our talents and possessions for ourselves?

While it’s important to give God a valuable gift, we must also give in a manner pleasing to Him. He evaluates both our motives and the quality of what we offer. As Christmas approaches, ask yourself the following questions. When I give my time, talents, or money to God, do I fret about how much I’m relinquishing? Or do I have a joyful and pure heart because of what I’m able to give? How does either approach affect my attitude toward God?

Give Him your best this holiday season!

Lord, Thank you for the gift of your Son. You made the ultimate sacrifice on my behalf. As I go through this Christmas season and the new year, show me what I can give back to you. And give me the courage to give you nothing less than my best. Amen.

About Sarah:
Sarah Forgrave is a prepublished inspirational fiction writer, with novels in the genres of women's fiction and romance. She also writes articles for, blogs at Every Woman’s Journey, and works part-time as an accountant. When she’s not in front of the computer, she stays busy chasing the two bundles of energy that live in her house—her husband and her toddler-aged son.

Notes on Writing


Jennifer AlLee

Getting Ready for a New Year

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions. They’re too easy to make in a rush of zealous good intentions, and too easy to break when the realities of life intrude. What I am a fan of is reflection and planning.

As the year draws to a close, I’ve taken some time to look back at my writing life. What did I do that worked? What was a big waste of time? What do I want to do better in the year ahead? Here are my three hot spots and how I plan to deal with them:

Set a Word Count Goal

I’ve known this about myself for a while, but it’s time I admitted it to the world: I’m a big-time procrastinator. Don’t get me wrong, if I have a deadline, I will absolutely meet it. In fact, I work best under pressure. But if there’s no deadline, no person expecting my pages, I can find all kinds of reasons not to write. For the new year, I plan to set a weekly word count goal. And to keep myself accountable, I’m going to involve my circle of friends. This brings me to the next item…

Keep in Touch

When I first started my blog almost three years ago (where did that time go?) my main intent was to promote Christian fiction by reviewing novels. I’ve done a lot of that, and still do. But about a year ago, I realized I was missing an opportunity to connect with the people reading my blog. I made a conscious effort to write more interactive posts. I shared things that made me laugh, or my views on life, and asked for comments. It was going quite well and made the blog more varied and interesting. But lately, I’ve fallen back into mostly-review mode. Going forward, I hope to be more transparent and write about things that are more personal. Sharing my word count goal with readers and reporting on my progress will not only make me accountable, but involve them in the book writing process.

Stop Comparing Myself

This is a big trouble spot for me. I belong to several writers’ email loops and often see announcements about personal triumphs: agents acquired, three book deals, etc. It’s wonderful and exciting… most of the time. But there are days when I’m feeling down, when I haven’t gotten the news I was hoping for about a project, that those emails rub against my ego like steel wool. The Lord has really been dealing with me in this area. He’s shown me that my writing journey won’t be like anyone else’s. Even if I don’t always recognize the plan God has for me, it’s still there. He knows exactly what books I need to write and who needs to publish them. My head knows all that. In the new year, my heart needs to get a grip on it, too.

So now you know my issues of concern. Do any of them sound familiar to you? Are these areas you need to address? If not, hurray for you! But I guarantee there’s something in your writing life that’s not quite right. Is there something you can do more efficiently? Something that needs to be cut out altogether?

As the clock ticks down on 2009, spend some time in prayer and contemplation. If you can pinpoint your trouble spots and make a plan of attack, you can start off 2010 with a real bang!

About Jennifer:

As a child, Jennifer AlLee lived above a mortuary in the heart of Hollywood, California, which may explain her unique outlook on life. Her publishing credits include The Love of His Brother, a contemporary romance from Five Star Publishing (November 2007) as well as skits, activity pages, and over one hundred contributions to Concordia Publishing House’s popular My Devotions series. Her latest novel, The Pastor’s Wife, releases February 1, 2010 from Abingdon Press. She’s an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers and serves as the Nevada Area Coordinator. Jennifer resides in the grace-filled city of Las Vegas with her husband and teenage son. Visit her webstie at

Notes in Review

The Blue Enchantress

by M.L. Tyndall

Charles Towne Belles/Book 2

Hope Westcott has a lifetime of bad choices under her dainty little belt. The most recent one—an affair with a married man—lands her on an auction block to be sold into slavery.

Captain Nathaniel Mason is running from God’s call to the ministry. He is determinedly building a shipping business, ensuring himself a lifetime of security, which he mistakenly believes wealth can buy. His weakness is a secret love for the vain and frivolous Hope Westcott. When he sees her on the auction block, his love demands he sacrifice his ship and its cargo to save her.

Nathaniel has every intention of returning his lovely new possession to her home in Charles Towne, but God uses stormy seas, shipwreck, illness, and pirates to waylay the headstrong couple until they see things His way.

The Blue Enchantress is a captivating tale of love, forgiveness, acceptance, personal and spiritual growth, and learning to yield to the Master’s will. M.L. Tyndall breathes such life into her characters that the reader is reluctant to bid them farewell on the last page. This second installment in the Charles Town Belles series is chock full of laughter and tears, sin and redemption, love and its seedier counterpart. The Blue Enchantress is a pirate’s chest of literary treasure … more than worth the voyage!

Reviewed by Delia Latham

Contest Notes

skip to main | skip to sidebar

skip to main | skip to sidebar The drawing for this edition of the Bookshelf will be held on the last day of January. Winner will be announced in the February edition.

The drawing will be for one book: Love Finds You in Revenge, Ohio by Lisa Harris (see my review of this book here) AND—in honor of both Christmas and Valentine’s Day (December & February)—a gift certificate for a one-pound box of Sees candy.


The previous edition’s winner of Sisters, Ink and Coming Unglued by Rebeca Seitz is:

Congratulations, Lottie!

You don’t need to “do” anything to enter the newsletter drawing each month. If you are subscribed to The Bookshelf, you will be automatically entered. Here’s how to subscribe: Use the icon on my website’s Home page, or the link in the Navbar (top of page) on that site, which will put you on my e-mailing list. You will then receive an e-mail link every other month when the newsletter posts, as well as occasional updates or announcements between posts. If you want Bookshelf articles to come right to your inbox each month instead of receiving a link to this web page, use the FeedBlitz link in the top left corner of this page in addition to the manual icon on my website.

Note: The books given away in these drawings are in excellent condition, but some of them have been read once for review purposes. They are handled carefully and you will receive them in great condition.