In Defense of Thanksgiving

I’ll begin by saying that Christmas is easily my favorite season. So, before you call me a Scrooge, recall to mind those words – and the fact that I have now written three Christmas books with hopes for a fourth. I am no Scrooge. I am no Grinch. So, why do I want to leave November open for Thanksgiving and make Christmas wait until the day after the holiday?

Some people do consider me a bit of a fanatic when it comes to celebrating holidays within certain time frames. When October 31st fades into November, I refuse to let the Christmas season commence. Yes, some of my comments regarding waiting for Christmas are facetious, but let me take a moment to give you my defense of letting Christmas wait for Thanksgiving.

Importance

Giving November – or much of it – to Thanksgiving gives the holiday importance. I don’t celebrate Halloween, but I have only to look around and see that October is increasingly filled with decorations, parties, and costumes, because Halloween is important to people. Christmas has a season of colors, movies, and traditions, because it is important. I want to leave November open for Thanksgiving because it too is important.

Sure, Thanksgiving may not be as exciting. Most people don’t dress up in costumes, give gifts, or have music dedicated to the holiday. Not everyone decorates. So, let’s change that. Let’s dress in orange and browns and burnt umber. Let’s write music and relearn the hymns of Thanksgiving that we’ve forgotten. Let’s set up the pumpkins and squash and nuts and pine-cones – and whatever else you might find that gives a cozy atmosphere. Make a thankful tree or send out letters telling your friends and family that you’re thankful that they are in your life. If you must, hang out orange lights on your house. (If they make orange lights; I’m not certain they do.) Be creative! That’s how all holidays get their traditions anyhow – once upon a time, someone was creative.

It’s not the excitement that lends the importance, it’s the meaning behind the holiday. For the Christians I know who celebrate Halloween, it’s important because of the fun and the memories. (I’m not getting into the roots of Halloween or anything like that right now.) Or, in my case, Reformation Day is important, because it’s a reminder of what the LORD has done by His power and through His children in History. Christmas is important because we celebrate the birth of Christ as a human baby on this earth. We have all sorts of traditions and things we do, to celebrate these seasons, to remind ourselves of the memories of years past and why the holidays are important. What then is important about Thanksgiving?

Our Heritage

We have generations of heritage in our country, that points back to a time of Thanksgiving, going back to 1621. Sure, it hasn’t been an every year event since the Pilgrims. And yes, we can quibble about whether or not a Puritan Thanksgiving actually would involve a feast, or if the event of 1621 should be called something else. No matter what we argue, however, our November Thanksgiving every year is rooted in that celebration in Plymouth. The history and heritage of our nation is inextricably woven into our celebration. It’s our heritage, therefore we ought not to throw it away.

“I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your doings; I muse on the work of Your hands.” Psalm 143:5

Remembering the days of old is even Biblical – particularly, when we’re doing it to remember the works of the LORD. We have the privilege of joining with our peers and predecessors in an event that recognizes God’s hand in guiding the Pilgrims to this land and His subsequent provision ever since. We get to look back at the early 1600’s forward and see the LORD’s hand and orchestration.

“I shall remember the deeds of the LORD; surely I will remember Your wonders of old.” Psalm 77:11

To remember a Providential landmark in our personal history as a nation is important.

It’s in the Name

The other reason that Thanksgiving is important is in the name of the holiday.

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18

We, as Christians are called to give thanksgiving to the LORD. For provisions, trials, blessings, – even our very life. Yes, we’re to give thanks every day, but setting aside a few weeks in the year to really focus on giving thanks is a good way to reset our minds for the coming year and look back on His providence from the previous year. Twenty-odd days in November is hardly enough to thanks Him for all that He has done, but it’s a good start.

And that is what the roots of Thanksgiving are about. Thanking the Almighty. That’s what the Pilgrims did. That’s what many have been doing and what the main focus has been for many Americans across many years ever since. Thanking the LORD for food to eat, clothes to wear, the people in our lives, the gift of another year, the sacrifice of Christ on the cross and His resurrection. Thanking Him for the trials that have brought us closer to Him; for His grace through the dark times. For the birth of children, healing, provision where we expected only famine, blessings where we didn’t expect anything at all. To celebrate and thank the One who gave us everything.

This is why I reserve November for Thanksgiving. Not because I don’t like Christmas. Not because I am a Scrooge. But because I want to remember to be thankful. Because I want to place importance on this holiday that focuses on thankfulness and the LORD’s hand in history and our lives today.

“Giving thanks always for all things until God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…” Ephesians 5:20

To the KING be all the glory!

Christmas Carol Society is Live!

Did you see what went live this weekend? Christmas Carol Society is available in both Kindle and Paperback!

How did this book come about? Let’s travel back in time a bit to commence…

December 2013

That year, I spent most of December living with friends. One night, I sat on my bed in my little room, my laptop in front of me as I worked on the final rewrite of Journeys of Four. I hadn’t ever been away from home during Christmastime and while I worked, I analyzed what I missed about the traditions I had grown up with.

Toward the top of my list, I missed A Christmas Carol. I had neither book nor film with me. Mixing my thoughts with my work, I grew distracted, saw a white bunny and jumped down a rabbit hole. Which is to say, I stopped working and wrote down a new book idea that I titled Homeschooler’s Christmas Carol. Then, because I had a lot of work to do, I went back to work on Journeys of Four.

December 2018

Five years passed. Then, Sarah Holman asked if I wanted to write a novella for A Very Bookish Christmas. The idea sounded fun! I asked for A Christmas Carol and I got it.

It had been years since I even looked at my file, but the idea of spinning A Christmas Carol into a contemporary fiction story with no fantasy and a greater emphasis on the gospel had continued to intrigue me. How should it be done, however?

While December slipped by, January crept in. One afternoon, I made a hungry little person a grilled cheese and the character of Charlie Baker occurred to me. He wasn’t quite right – really, I pictured him about fourteen years younger – but I knew I had my starting point. I rushed across the room to write it down.

Possibly ten minutes later, I rushed across the room again, when Charlie grew into a man in my head, followed by the birth of Miss Dartmoor and the Christmas Carol Society. I could see them all so clearly, that I nearly forgot what else I had been doing. Only nearly.

However, by early 2019, if not before, I had begun struggling with my writing. While I still had moments of excitement regarding my stories, I struggled when I actually tried to write them. That didn’t stop me from trying, however, and I pushed on with my book, trying to grasp an elusive thread for this story that I knew just dangled beyond my reach.

Then, I went to Oxford, where the LORD allowed me to learn more than I could have expected. On my return, armed with lots of prayer, critiques on my first chapter, and a renewed vision, I began my book again on page 1. The LORD allowed first draft completion of my manuscript in six weeks.

I learned so much with Charlie. I’m still trying to absorb the lessons myself, as I am not fictional, and clearly, not as receptive as he is. I love this book and the characters. I thank the LORD for letting me write it.

I did have a single problem, however. Christmas Carol Society is not a novella. It’s a novel. Too long for the collection. The LORD provided there as well by letting me come up with and somehow find the time to write Gingerbread Treasures in a very short time. (Which, LORD willing, will be released with the other stories in the collection later this month!)

The end result is, that after six months of drafting the manuscript, typing it into my computer, letting it rest while I did other things, waiting on edits and readers, and finally doing the final edits and formatting – I get to present you with the completed novel in time for the celebratory season! I never have got over the awe of seeing the LORD allow a story that I wrote, reach the stage of publication!

I hope that my readers will enjoy Christmas Carol Society, will be blessed by the story within, and, ultimately, will be pointed toward the LORD in the reading.

To the KING be all the glory!

We Have a Release Date!

LORD willing, November 1st, Christmas Carol Society will be available for Kindle! Shortly followed by paperback. (All of my pushing has not managed a paperback version on the same day. LORD willing, that will be the following week!)

I should have posted this on Monday – but I forgot. I don’t know how, except I filled my entire day with editing. The good news is, Christmas Carol Society, is through with major editing and is just going through last read through!

Perry at perryelisabethdesign.com did a lovely job on my cover! I usually do my own, but I’m not sorry I decided to change things up. The cover makes me smile, just looking at it. It fits my modern story, while tying back to the original story of A Christmas Carol.

I can not pick favorites among my books. I haven’t ever had that ability. However, I do believe that Christmas Carol Society is very possibly the best book I have ever written. Miss Dartmoor proved to be a fascinating study for me, I had a lot of fun with Albert, and I loved Charlie. Then, of course, there is Ralph, Jessie, Ryan…

I have wanted to write a book that included A Christmas Carol for a number of years – and now I finally have one! And the release is oh-so close! We’ve got nine days and counting… I should go and work on formatting!

To the KING be all the glory!

Synapse – A Review

Synapse by Steven James

Released October 8th, 2019

Thirty years in the future, when AI is so advanced that humans live side by side with cognizant robots called Artificials, Kestrel Hathaway must come to terms not just with what machines know, but what they believe. Is hope real for them, or merely an illusion?

Soon after experiencing a personal tragedy, Kestrel witnesses a terrorist attack and is drawn into a world of conspiracies and lies that she and Jordan, her Artificial, have to untangle. With a second, more brutal attack looming on the horizon, their best chance of stopping it is teaming up with federal counterterrorism agent Nick Vernon.

But the clock is ticking—and all the while, Jordan is asking questions that Artificials were never meant to ask.

Deftly weaving suspense and intrigue into a rich, resonant tale that explores faith and what it really means to be human, Steven James offers us a glimpse into the future and into our own hearts.

Synapse is an unforgettable, gripping story of dreams shattered, truth revealed, and hope reborn.

My Review

Steven James is an exceptional writer. Never once did the story lag, even during long discussions of a philosophical nature. He knows how to weave together his words and story in a beautiful manner.

I enjoyed seeing from multiple perspectives, even from the criminals’ points of view, throughout the book. I rarely got confused – only with the NCB agents and that could be attributed to my not noticing their names when they first appeared on the page.

My biggest complaint about Synapse is the role of Kestrel Hathaway. Biblically, I don’t believe there is a role for female pastors. She didn’t act much like a pastor either, from what I could see, but as her character arch put her into a place of struggle, perhaps that could be expected. I did like how many times she called Scripture to mind, even though she couldn’t always say she knew her own thoughts on those Scriptures.

I would also include a warning regarding the violence of a few of the death scenes. As a thriller, one might expect deaths, but the level of detail, particularly for some of the murders, might disturb some readers.

I found the underlying premise regarding what Jordan, an Artificial, can and can not believe about God to be a fascinating topic and one that I want to think about more thoroughly. The discussions regarding existence, death, and eternity were well thought out and good food for thought.

Blog Tour

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, October 8

Just Your Average reviews, October 9

Emily Yager, October 9

amandainpa , October 10

Wishful Endings, October 10

Just the Write Escape, October 11

Writings, Ramblings, and Reflections, October 11

Pause for Tales, October 12

Mary Hake, October 12

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, October 13

For The Love of Books, October 13

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, October 14

Hallie Reads, October 15

Blogging With Carol, October 15

Remembrancy, October 16

Through the Fire Blogs, October 16

Simple Harvest Reads, October 17

Texas Book-aholic, October 18

Rebekah Jones, Author, October 18

janicesbookreviews, October 19

Bigreadersite, October 19

A Reader’s Brain, October 20

Inklings and notions , October 21

By The Book, October 21

About the Author

Steven James is the critically acclaimed, national bestselling author of sixteen novels. His work has been optioned by ABC Studios and praised by Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, the New York Journal of Books, and many others. His pulse-pounding, award-winning thrillers are known for their intricate storylines and insightful explorations of good and evil. When he’s not working on his next book, he’s either teaching master classes on writing throughout the country, trail running, or sneaking off to catch a matinee.

To the KING be all the glory!

~Empty Without Them…

It’s strange how memory works. Even when you’re 7.

We sat around the table, eating frozen pizza. The phone rang and my father answered it.

“WHAT?” his answer still echoes in my memory, louder then anything else in the house.

He slammed the phone down, urgency in his voice.

“Danny just died.”

My uncle hadn’t been expected to die.

Chaos. We covered our pizza with napkins. Jumped into the van. Daddy sped away from the house, my mother worried about his speed and the police.

We arrived at the hospital. My parents disappeared. My sister and I stayed in a room with family friends. Miss Stacey let me chatter to her for hours. She looked so sad.

They couldn’t get my uncle on the phone. They kept trying. No one could find him. Until they did.

He arrived at the hospital, went back to the room where his brother lay, and his grief seemed to break open a fresh layer all around me. Anguish and grief swirled around. My grandparents, my parents, my aunts, uncles, cousins…

We finally left the hospital. Everyone needed food. We went to Denny’s. The yellow glow of the letters signified grief and death for years afterword. I didn’t understand why we even went; I barely understood how to picture the world without Uncle Danny in it. How could I no longer have four living uncles? Shouldn’t I be grown up first?

We didn’t go to bed until the wee hours of the morning. I felt sure I had never been up so late. I lay in bed, trying to understand how the world had changed. Like it had when Granddad died four years earlier. I couldn’t, and I fell asleep still trying to understand. Knowing a part of the world would forever remain empty without them both.

To the KING be all the glory!