My little book is finally in my hands. I’m solicitous of her as if she were a child. I want her (or him!) to be a blessing wherever she goes, into whatever bookstore, into whatever home, into whosever hands. I want her, through the Lord’s power, to bring glory and honor to Him. I want him to make people happy. I want him to make people sing. I want her to inspire readers to write their own Christmas memories.
The blurb on the back cover reads:
“Carols line Silent Night, Joy to the World, and O Little Town of Bethlehem sing the truth of Christmas, that Jesus did come! But those carols can also remind us of the very taste, smell, and feel of Christmases past.
Brenda Knight Graham tells some of her stories of Christmas as a child, as a mother, grandmother and great grandmother, and invites you to write your own Christmas stories in this interactive Christmas journal. You will find yourself sometimes choked with emotion, other times erupting in laughter. But always the joy will shine through.
Christmas Carols in my Heart will help you find the Christmas carols in your heart.”
This little book has been twenty-one years in the making. It started as a grieving therapy after my mother died right before Christmas in 1997. Other projects and big chunks of Life have gone on since then too. Two other books were published, I had breast cancer and our family suffered the death of our daughter when she was only 42. But, no matter what else was going on, every January as I put away Christmas treasures, I’d sit down and write about another carol. After a few years my notebook was getting full and the thought occurred to me that just maybe these meandering stories might be a help to someone else, particularly if readers might be inspired to write some carol contemplations themselves.
It takes a lot of willpower and downright work to turn stories written in the passion of the moment into a readable manuscript. This book has been shelved in discouragement, brought back out of compulsion, cried over, bled over, and prayed over. At one time there were thirty carols in the book but after painful crafting it is now only a dozen. After a few near acceptances and several rejections, I did give up.
Last year on our annual Black Friday shopping jaunt Christi, my daughter-in-law, asked when my Christmas book would be published. “Oh, Honey, it’s not,” I answered. She looked at me with an expression near to shock. “But it has to be published!” Our conversation picked back up on the way to another store. “I’ll help you,” she said. “Okay,” I finally agreed, “but only if you illustrate it.”
Christi is a very busy attorney, not only at the law firm where she works, but also in leadership positions in Birmingham legal circles. She is a wife and mother of three. I knew she didn’t have time for this project. I also knew her passion for art and had enjoyed several of her paintings. Christi said yes, and we were on another stretch of the journey with Christmas Carols in my Heart.
Seven of my books were published by traditional publishers who paid me royalties, rather than my paying them, who took all the risks, who made all the decisions. Should I do this? Self publish? I looked at a company or two and felt uneasy as if God were saying hold back. More prayers went up!
Harley Rollins, close family friend, got into the picture. He has spent his whole career providing Bibles and Christian books by the huge container load for third world country booksellers. He knows dozens of publishers on a first name basis. He recommended Dave Sheets and Danny Wright with Fitting Words.
In April Christmas Carols in my Heart was accepted. The excitement and frustrations of birthing a book kicked into high gear. All of a sudden those illustrations and final decisions about cover, format, everything, had to be done by the middle of June. Booksellers choose their Christmas books in June and July. The cover, at least, had to be ready for the distributor by June. Christi’s son, Thomas, was chosen to play basketball with an international team in Spain. She burned midnight oil to finish her twelve chapter heading illustrations before leaving as his chaperone.
It was a crazy time leading to many funny little situations. There was the time when, on vacation (planned months in advance), we had to send some timely signed documents by Fed Ex to Danny. Our GPS took us right to the address in Petoskey, Michigan, only there was no Fed Ex there. We became acquainted with many more people in that strange town because of our quest for a Fed Ex. We finally found it tucked in the back of a huge office supply store.
I started to work responding to a copy editor’s critique only to learn that my “new” computer (six years old) was a dinosaur and my software was incompatible with Whitney Bak’s. The upshot of that was that not only did I have to purchase a new computer, painful to the pocketbook, but also I had to learn how to use it! Thanks to Amanda, my granddaughter, who answered so many of my dumb questions, I didn’t lose my hair! I longed for the times when an editor would return typewritten portions to me with red pencil critiquing for me to adjust and then stick back in the mailbox.
One of the very fun developments connected to this adventure was that we had a reunion with the Hughes family. Harry and his son Daniel were so generous in allowing me to tell briefly their amazing story.
At last, one day in late August, five boxes of books arrived at my back door. When I first picked up a copy of Christmas Carols in my Heart I hugged it to my chest. Then I really looked at it. It was beautiful, a truly lovely book. But it was so little. All those years of work for this slim little book? My husband, who’d endured much pain in the book’s development as he walked by my side, held me as I cried.
Then I realized again a very big truth. God can use small things. He can make much of our little. I don’t know all the ways He may use this slim volume of twelve Christmas carols, their stories and my contemplations. But I trust Him to follow the flight of this bright Christmas book and use it as a blessing.
You can order Christmas Carols in my Heart from Amazon or find it in your favorite bookstore, whether a small hometown store, or Barnes and Noble and Books’a’Million. Ask for it if you don’t see it. It should be in stores by the end of September. Please give it a review on Amazon.
I’d love to see you at one of my signings. Christi and I will both be at Rayann’s in Thomasville, Georgia, October 12, 11:00-1:00. I’ll be signing books at Books With Appeal in Cornelia, Georgia, November 1, 1:00-3:00, and at Center Drugs, Cairo, Georgia, November 8, 2:00-4:00.
If you’re aware of a venue where you think folks would enjoy a signing, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.