CHRISTMAS IN MY HEART® 24

BLOG #42, SERIES #6
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
CHRISTMAS IN MY HEART® 24
October 21, 2015

NEWS RELEASE

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Joe L. Wheeler, Ph.D. has a new book out: the 24th consecutive yearly collection of Christmas in My Heart® stories. This is his 91st book and 76th story anthology. It was released in mid-October by Pacific Press Publishing Association in Nampa, Idaho, and is part of what has become the longest-running Christmas story series in America.

Like its predecessors, this new collection stays true to what has helped it to survive for so many years: horizontal trade paper format, Currier and Ives covers, old-time woodcut type illustrations, spiritually compatible stories that deeply move the reader, and stories for all age groups.

If this will be your first Christmas in My Heart® book, you will quickly discover that there is no connection between books: each is a stand-alone. Nevertheless, once you immerse yourself in this book, in all likelihood you’ll want to pick up earlier collections. Untold thousands have them all—unthinkable to face another Christmas season without the newest collection!

In this particular collection, you will find the following:

● Catherine Parmenter’s poem, “Holy Night.”
● Wheeler’s Introduction: “Our Top Twenty Christmas Stories.”

Over several years now, completists (those who own the entire series) have been mailing in their candidates for inclusion in a definitive list of the Top 20 Christmas stories ever written. In this introduction, you’ll find the results. There are actually two lists: One voted for by our readers, and the second consisting of Wheeler’s personal favorite 20 stories.

● “A Wood Crowns the Waters,” by Eric Philbrook Kelly
● “Little Cherry’s Star,” by G. M. Farley
● “The Christmas Kink,” by Lucille Adams
● “Flight Before Christmas,” by John Scott Douglas
● “Denny’s Christmas Revelation,” by Faith Freeborn Turner
● “The Belated Christmas Train,” by William McGinnies
● “Joy to the World,” by Mary Russell
● “The Lighted Path,” by Temple Bailey
● “Let Nothing You Dismay,” by Goldie Down
● “The Lost Child,” retold by Mabel Lee Cooper
● “Celestial Roots,” by Thomas Vallance
● “A Story for Christmas,” by Jody Shields
● “The Baby Camel That Walked to Jesus,” by Walter A. Dyer
● “Choices,” by Isobel Stewart
● “The Dream Catcher,” by Joseph Leininger Wheeler

You may order the book from us. After many years at $13.99, the publisher has raised the price to $14.99. But you may get it from us at a discounted cost of $13.99, plus $4.90 shipping. Inscribing, when specifically requested, at no extra cost.

Mailing address: P.O. Box 1246, Conifer, CO 80433

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CHRISTMAS IN MY HEART 23 NOW AVAILABLE

BLOG #38, SERIES #5
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
CHRISTMAS IN MY HEART® 23

September 17, 2014

N E W S R E L E A S E

Just out is this, our 89th book, and 74th story anthology!

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Hard to believe but, after 23 long years, Christmas in My Heart® is still alive! Clearly God’s plans for the series are not yet complete. As long-time readers of the series know, there is no resting on laurels where this series is concerned: for an entire year I winnow the stories down to a pure gold fifteen to nineteen stories; hundreds may be rejected for every one that makes it in. It normally takes me ten to fifteen prayerful winnowings before I feel the slate is perfect. I take special care in creating kind of a roller-coaster trajectory between laughter and tears, long and short, child and adult, love stories and stories with some other appeal. I make no apologies for the love stories since God created love, and love and Christmas are inextricably woven together. Indeed, I’ve come to the conclusion that, judging by our mail, the romance element is one key reason why the series is still alive today.

During the last two years, there has been a run on complete sets. Today, as more and more publishing houses fold their doors or are bought out by a bigger company, out-of-print books have swelled into epidemic figures. Not surprisingly, most of our now 89 books are today out-of-print. Consequently, if you or someone you love is a Christmasaholic—there are so many of us terminal cases out there!—, you might wish to take this occasion to take advantage of our Christmas sale 40% discount (close to our cost) for the complete set!  Scan_Pic0113

So let’s look at the line-up of what’s in the new collection. First of all, all 23 covers have timeless, Currier & Ives artwork on the covers, a veritable art gallery if you are lucky enough to own them all.

Secondly, most of the stories are illustrated with a timeless woodcut, most at least a hundred years old; thus contributing to the heirloom look. Since most of our stories don’t come with illustrations we can use, I usually pour through tens of thousands of pages in old magazines or books in search of those few unique ones that seem born to illustrate certain stories.

I also vary the time-frame story-wise: a story may date back to Bible times or hundreds of years ago; or it may have been set in the nineteenth or twentieth centuries. Or written during the last year or two. What matters is whether the story remains relevant today.

Nor does the name of a given author mean much to me. I believe I am one of the very few story anthologists who are convicted that the power of a given story alone ought to determine whether it makes it in the collection or not.

Now for the Gold list of the stories that did make it in:

•      Introduction: “Psst! I’m Giving Away All My Secrets” – Joseph Leininger Wheeler. In it, I pass along many of my anthologizing secrets so that when I pass off the stage of life, perhaps someone else will be ready to take my place.
•      “Two Christmas Mornings of the Great War” –Edward Hulse and Wilfred Ewart. I’ve been saving this powerful story until 2014, the 100th anniversary of an unbelievable Christmas Day truce in the World War I trenches of France. It had to be the lead story this Christmas.
•      “Santa for Certain” – Earl Reed Silvers. Earl Reed Silvers is one of the most beloved of all writers of stories for young people. This is his second inclusion in our series.
•      “The Gift” – Bruce R. Coston. A little girl who longed for a kitten, and parents who definitely did not.
•      “Father Carter and the Herd of Elelphants” – Pat Thornborough. Had to go clear to England to land this very special story.
•      “The Crinoline Lady of March Manor” – Irma Hegel. Whoever heard of falling in love with an old painting?
•      “Flight of the Second Section” – Edward S. Marshall. Just imagine flying an airliner that had an altitude ceiling at barely 8,000 feet—and in a Christmas storm at that!
•      “The Children Who Played with the Manger” – Iones Haynes Keene. Manger animals are to be looked at, not to be played with; well, doesn’t that make sense?
•      “The Return of Christmas” – Marlene Chase. The unadulterated nerve of her sister Lexi: trying to foist off on her a thirteen-year-old going on twenty-three girl at Christmas. This is Marlene Chase’s fourth inclusion.
•      “The Christmas Doll” – Jeanne Bottroff. A poor little girl who had not realized she was cold—read it and find out why.
•      “Christmas at Bethlehem” – Anna Brownell Dunaway. What could be worse than being marooned in a one-horse town in a rickety old hotel at Christmas? This is Dunaway’s second appearance.
•      “Sweet Singing in the Choir” – Deborah Siepmann. You’ll never again be able to listen to a boys’ choir the same after you read this poignant story from England.
•      “Twenty Acres for Christmas” – F. McKinnon Morton. What if you are sitting on valuable land you’ve long considered your own, but discover someone else owns it? But if you don’t say anything about it, it’s most unlikely anyone else will ever find out about it.
•      “The Monkey Manufacturing Company” – Harold D. Robinson. The boys were out of business—or were they?
•      “Personal Delivery” – Gail Courtney Rittgers. Marcia stopped Kent from reaching for his checkbook. Why?
•      “A Christmas Triumph” – Frances Lewis. Father never participated in Christmas. Said he couldn’t afford it.
•      “Because of Christmas” – Phyllis Naylor. What to do with leftovers at Christmas—find out!
•      “The Tides of Life” – Joseph Leininger Wheeler. She never wanted to see him again—not unless, a very unlikely “unless”. But she got on a cruise ship anyhow.

The hand-tasseled bookmark is worth $5.00 by itself!

ORDERING INFORMATION

Publisher: Pacific Press Publishing.

Binding: Trade Paper

Pages: 128

Price: $13.99

Shipping: $4.50

Personally inscribed by Joe Wheeler, if requested, at no extra cost. You may secure your copies from us, so give us a call, or email, or letter, and we’ll fill your orders for you.

Mail your request to: Joe Wheeler, P.O. Box 1246, Conifer, CO 80433.

Or Phone us at: 303-838-2333.

Or send an email to: mountainauthor@gmail.com.

COMPLETE SET OF 23 BOOKS

Available this Christmas at only $170 (a 40% discount), plus shipping. Inscribed too, if specifically requested.

CHRISTMAS IN MY HEART TURNS 21

BLOG #40, SERIES #3
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
CHRISTMAS IN MY HEART® TURNS 21
September 26, 2012

It has arrived. As I sit in my writing rocker, on my lapboard is the reality that for so long has been so much less: first Christmas stories I read and re-read, wrote their titles down in Draft #1, discarded some and substituted others for Draft #2, repeated the process for Draft #3, again for Draft #4, kept discarding other stories that all but demanded to be included that ended up in Draft #5, repeated the process in Draft #6, began feeling better about the collection in Draft #7, better yet with those in Draft #8, almost got there with Draft #9, and only with Draft #10 did I prayerfully conclude that God was pleased with that menu of stories.

Once decided on, I began playing with the order. It is at this stage that I’ve sometimes concluded, for one reason or another, that one story had to go. Sometimes because two stories were too much alike or one of them just didn’t stand up to the competition. Always in the back of my mind is the vow I made to God many years ago: Lord, if any future collection of Christmas stories is less powerful than those that went before, give me the guts to hang it up right there, because I must never, never, never coast!

But this collection stood up under such a re-reading. So which one should be placed in the lead position? A crucial question, for if the lead story fails to suck readers into it, then we risk losing them completely. There were a number that competed for that position in my mind, most notably, Isobel Stewart’s “Christmas in the Heart” —no wonder she loved the series! What jubilation reigned in her house in Helderberg, South Africa when Pacific Press’s Karen Pearson hand-delivered the newest collection to her a year ago. But this year, her story faced tough competition with that battle-hardened veteran, Temple Bailey. I’d just recently stumbled on her wondrous love story titled “The Christmas Quest,” and it just plain dug in its heels and tantrummed its path to the lead position. So I then positioned Stewart’s story next to my own at the end. Always I try to feature one of our strongest stories in that position. Sadly, not long after I sent the manuscript in, Isobel’s husband e-mailed me that the love of his life had passed away. Never in this world would she get to light up with the arrival of another Christmas in My Heart® collection carrying one of her magical stories—often Christmas love stories (a genre our readers treasure above all others!).

Once those two positions were decided, I began wrestling with organizing the rest of them. There is always a rhythm to their appearance: Don’t position two long stories together, but separate them by shorter ones; ditto short ones; normally, I don’t position two tear-jerkers sequentially; don’t place the most powerful ones at the front, the middle, or the end; above all, don’t leave the weaker (of course we try our best to have no weaker ones!) for the end of the book, for the stories ought to reach a crescendo that culminates with my own story. A real challenge, believe me! Especially this year when I made such a departure from my norm and turned to a non-fiction account of the most memorable Christmas of my lifetime. Six of the fifteen finalists turned out to be love stories.

Two stories, Pierre van Paassen’s “Uncle Kees’ Christmas Rebellion” and Willemm Brandt’s “The Candle,” had been in the running for years and years, but each time failed to make the final cut; but this time I felt God saying to me, Their turn has come: include them! Though short, each of them is a masterpiece.

One genre I have usually avoided—other than featuring my own—is the long Christmas story, reason being that to include two long ones in one book results in too few stories in the 128-page collection. But since my own story wasn’t as long as some this year, I was able to include Lucy Agnes Hancock’s unforgettable romance, “Christmas Gift,” one of the longest Christmas stories we’ve ever featured. I’ll be really surprised if it doesn’t do its best to run away with this collection.

I also make a point of featuring contemporary writers as well as time-proven ones; these add vibrancy and uptodatedness to a given collection; this year, making that tenth cut were Virginia A. Johnson’s “Ornament of Grace,” Harriet LaBarre’s “The Magic Key,” Katharine Swartz’s “Star of Hope,” and Jill Hoefler’s “The Empty Box.” Johnson writes from Crabtree, Oregon; LaBarre (96 years old and still writing!) from Sag Harbor, New York; Katharine Swartz from St. Bees Vicarage in Cumbria, England; and Hoefler from Firth, Nebraska.

The oldest story in the collection, first published in 1891, Ella F. Mosby’s “The Christmas Inn,” is set way back in 1465 England.

Then there are other ever so special authors we’ve never featured before: Lola Lamorreaux, Lawrence York, and Leslie Peters. It is always a joy to bring back to life from the very edge of extinction authors whose work deserves to live on!

And I must not forget the bookmark! I just spoke two days ago to Doug Church, Pacific Press’s Vice President of Marketing, who confided in me that he and his marketing team have concluded that one key reason why last year’s collection, Christmas in My Heart® 20, sold out of its first-printing before Christmas was the stunningly beautiful bookmark that was given to each purchaser of the collection. A Barnes & Noble manager told me, “Joe, that bookmark is as beautiful as any of those we sell for $5 each!” The bookmark was taken from the center of the Currier & Ives-ish cover crafted by Steve Lanto. And some people coveted the bookmark so much they bought the book just to get it! So, on this basis, Church told me, they did the same for Christmas in My Heart 21. And he sighed, “Do you have any idea how long it takes for our entire staff to hand-tie all those thousands of tassels? It takes everyone, beginning with the front-desk receptionist, to tie them!” Isn’t that uniquely special? A hand-tied artifact in this age of mass market digitalization!

You can order your copy (copies) from us at P.O. Box 1246, Conifer, CO 80433. $13.99 each, plus shipping. Or go to our web page and send us an email through the web page: http://www.joewheelerbooks.com. Or send directly to our email: mountainauthor@gmail.com. Let us know if you want your books to be personally inscribed.

May you and yours enjoy a blessed Christmas season!

CHRISTMAS IN MY HEART® MEANDERS

“Meander” is the most apt verb I can think of to describe the journey of the last nineteen years. Nothing about it can remotely be classified as being predictable (perhaps the most exciting and frustrating aspect of turning over the navigational role of one’s life to God).

If I ever doubted the confusion generated by this meandering, the reactions of those who stop to look at the blur of Christmas-related titles and publishers at book-signing tables would set me straight. Goodness, sometimes I get confused myself just trying to explain all the twists and turns. But let’s try anyhow.

Christmas in My Heart

First of all: what I’ve come to call the “core series.” Fortunately, Review and Herald Publishing’s commitment to the series was unwavering (for a decade and a half); this provided the stability the series needed in its formative years. Unbeknownst to me, that very first year, I was locked in to what became the series’ defining template: old-timey Currier and Ives covers (horizontal rather than vertical format), old-timey woodcut illustrations inside, and old-timey (even when stories are new ones) stories that touch the heart. As time passed, and more and more Christmasaholics bought into completion (keeping their own series complete by buying the new collection every Christmas season), the template became so iconic I couldn’t have altered it even had I wanted to do so.

Focus on the Family’s involvement began early, and has continued with unbroken commitment ever since. Indeed, well over half the time, the Focus Christmas story of the year has been taken from the pages of Christmas in My Heart®. Most years, the books have been offered as premiums to ministry supporters, as part of seasonal mailouts reaching millions every Christmas.

Because of Focus on the Family’s involvement and because the first four books were a GOLD MEDALLION Finalist in 1995, the series rapidly expanded into Evangelical Christianity.

Which led to the seven-year partnership with Doubleday/Random House, beginning in 1996. Their books were re-scrambles (some stories taken at random from each of the first four collections), with old-timey (but not Currier and Ives) covers, woodcut illustrations (but different from those in the core series), vertical format rather than horizontal, and hardback with dust jacket rather than trade paper. With the entry of Doubleday, the series was marketed in chain stores everywhere, thus becoming a staple in the broader secular market.

Concerned that someone else might try to steal the title, Doubleday insisted that we Trademark it (which we did, after considerable legal choreography, effort and money). We renewed that Trademark at the end of five years, and again after ten years. Fortuitously, it turns out, for during the last 24 months, someone (a major player in today’s marketplace) moved in on the title. Only the Trademark saved us.

Christmas in My Soul

Doubleday/Random House published four Christmas in My Heart® Treasuries (1996, 1997, 1998, and 1999); at the end of that period, they moved on to a new series title, Christmas in My Soul for their gift books over the next three years (2000, 2001, and 2002), each book a re-scramble of stories taken from the first six books in the core series.

In 1998, Tyndale House co-published with Review and Herald the core edition of Christmas in my Heart® 7 (both publishing house imprints on the title page). In 1999 Tyndale House joined forces with Focus on the Family to publish a vertical trade paper edition of the core series (with different cover and introduction, but otherwise remaining the same content and illustration-wise).

But when Doubleday switched series titles in 2000, Focus on the Family and Tyndale House pounced on the hardback rights to the core series. Those vertical hardbacks with dust jackets were also beautiful works of art, just as Doubleday’s were, with old-timey non-Currier and Ives covers; but otherwise, inside, the same stories and illustrations as those used by Review and Herald in the core series. These editions continued to be published through 2006 (Christmas in My Heart® 9 – 15).

The 12 Stories of Christmas

In 2001, RiverOak/David C. Cook published The Twelve Stories of Christmas (the first twelve Christmas stories I wrote personally); for the only time, I also told the story behind the story—how I happened to write each one.

In 2006, storms assailed Christmas in My Heart®. Review and Herald wavered in its commitment to continuing the series, thus opening up the possibility of Focus on the Family/Tyndale House taking over all markets for the core series. Needless to say, Focus on the Family and Tyndale were delighted. But, at the last minute, Review and Herald decided to publish Christmas in My Heart® 16 after all. Result: Tyndale House and Focus on the Family ceased publishing their hardbacks of the core series. But then, even though they were still selling the same number of books as before, Review and Herald decided that Christmas in My Heart® 16 would be a nice number to conclude the series with. Not sharing this perception that the series had reached its terminus, I asked Pacific Press Publishing if they were interested in picking up the series with Christmas in My Heart® 17. The answer, in only hours, was a resounding, “In a heartbeat!” Same format, same Currier and Ives covers, same woodcut illustrations as before—all agreed upon. Thus the series has continued; this year with Christmas in My Heart® 19. The manuscript for Christmas in My Heart® 20 has already been sent in.

In 2007 and 2008, Howard/Simon & Schuster published three beautiful retrospective collections (rescramblings from Christmas in My Heart® 1 – 16): The Best of Christmas in My Heart® 1, Christmas in My Heart® 2, and Candle in the Forest and Other Christmas Stories Children Love.

Christmas in My Heart® 1 was published in Spanish and the first six books were published (rescrambles) in Norwegian.

St. Nicholas: A Closer Look at Christmas

Besides this, I edited Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol and Abby Farwell Brown’s Christmas Angel for Focus on the Family/Tyndale House in 1997 and 1999. I partnered with Canon James Rosenthal for our book St. Nicholas: A Closer Look at Christmas for Thomas Nelson in 2005; just off the press is another St. Nicholas book, my Saint Nicholas, part of Thomas Nelson’s Christian Encounters biography series.

This incredible story would have been much more difficult without the steadfast support and innovative placement of our collections by my cherished agent and friend, Greg Johnson, president of WordServe Literary Group, Ltd.

A special note: because of editorial differences of opinion (as to specific story-inclusion) in Review and Herald and Focus on the Family/Tyndale House, those who wish to acquire the complete core series of stories—so far—would need to secure the following:

Review and Herald Christmas in My Heart® 1 – 16.

Focus on the Family/Tyndale House Christmas in My Heart® 13 and Christmas in My Heart® 15.

Pacific Press Christmas in My Heart® 17, 18, 19.

* * * * *

So this blog brings all these meanderings up to date. Connie and I have no idea as to how long the series may last—we leave all that up to the good Lord. We take no credit for the first nineteen years of its story: we’ve only been taking orders from our Commander in Chief. When it is His will that the last Christmas in My Heart® book rolls off the press, then it will be time to write “Finis” to its story.

But not until then.

I’ll conclude this blog with a line from one of James Dobson’s many personal letters to me, “You’re right, Joe: Neither of our ministries belongs to us—but isn’t it a great ride?”

That it has been—and continues to be.