I’m taking this week off to relax with my family and to set some goals for the New Year. See you in early 2009!

The Toymaker’s Gift

By Catherine L. Osornio

toymaker1Long ago in a small village, a toymaker was busy at his workbench making special gifts for Christmas. He was an aged man with gentle wrinkles on his face, stark white hair, and kindly blue eyes. His hands, though calloused by years of carving, sanding and polishing, were still strong and agile.

When all the toys were finished, he placed each gift into big, elaborate boxes and wrapped them with delicate colored papers and ornate ribbons of gold and silver. But the special gift he worked so hard on was placed in a small, plain box and wrabrown-paperpped in common brown paper.


On the day of the party, a large sleigh was sent to retrieve the presents. The toys were loaded up and taken to the mayor’s house in the center of the village. The mayor, who loved to show off his power and prestige, had his mansion decorated from top to bottom with garlands, streamers, candles, ribbons and ornaments of red, green, gold and silver.

In the corner of the ball room, the colossal Christmas tree almost touched the lofty ceiling. It treewas elegantly adorned with small gold candles and imported glass bulbs of rich colors. As the gifts were placed under the tree, a houseman started to tuck the brown-papered box into a hidden corner. The toymaker stopped him and placed the package delicately atop the front-most gifts.

When the party started, the mayor presented his three children to the guests. Hubert, the eldest child of 10, was as proud as his father and extremely boastful. Henrietta, the oldest daughter of 8, was spoiled and thought the world revolved around her. Little Grace, on the other hand, was a beautiful and quiet child of 6 who, though crippled from birth, had the sweetest disposition of them all.

Hubert and Henrietta looked greedily at the gifts before them. Hubert was wondering how many of the big boxes were his. Henrietta loved the beautiful colored papers and knew, of course, that she deserved her presents. Both of these children glared at the plain package with disdain, and wondered why it was even under their magnificent tree.

Grace was intrigued by the simple gift. As the packages were handed out, or rather grabbed by the others, Grace tried to keep her eyes on the brown-papered package as it was moved about by the housemen who didn’t know quite what to do with it.

When all but that one box was handed out, Hubert and Henrietta proceeded to rip open their gifts without any thought to the care taken to make and wrap each one. It was only a matter of minutes before all their boxes lay strewn about the floor and the contents tossed in a corner.

While all the commotion was going on, Grace, who had ignored her pile of presents, slowly dragged herself to the tree and picked up the lone gift. The toymaker, who was watching from a distance, smiled. Grace started to unwrap the box when Hubert and Henrietta both let out a shout. The present they had originally ignored suddenly became the object of their desires. They began to protest loudly. They each wanted to own the box, no matter what it contained.

The mayor, who generally yielded to the pleas of his older children, saw the silent tears of his youngest child. He observed the scattered boxes, papers, and shunned toys of the others. He was amazed that Grace had left a whole batch of shiny and colorful packages untouched for this one, simple and unassuming parcel.

Something tugged at the mayor’s heart. Normally he was repulsed by such a package. But he knew that this child, who never complained about her circumstances, would have this gift for herself. Hushing his other two into silence, the mayor nodded to Grace to continue.

All eyes were upon Grace now:  curious eyes; scornful eyes; jealous eyes; and amazed eyes. She carefully untied the string, folded open the paper, and began to lift the lid. A gasp went through the crowd as the contents were revealed. Shame filled the hearts of many around, including the mayor’s. For inside the box, was a simple, but beautifully carved manger with the Christ child manger21inside, a symbol that had been sorely forgotten amidst the lavishness of the whole affair.

The mayor looked at the toymaker with sorrowful eyes. “Toymaker,” he said softly as he picked up the manger and held it gently in his hands, “you have outdone yourself tonight. In this simple little box, you have reminded me of the most valuable gift of all, the gift of our Savior, Jesus Christ. This is truly humbling, for I, through my pride and possessions, have failed to remember what I once held dear, the most life changing message of all:  ‘For God so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.’ You have more than earned your pay.” He held out a thick envelope.

The toymaker smiled with tears in his eyes and shook his head. “I have already been paid,” he said. “If my skills can be used to further the kingdom of God, then I have already been rewarded in heaven.” With a nod to all in the room, the toymaker took his leave.

Walking home through the quiet streets of the village, the toymaker looked up into the starry sky. Although his pockets were empty, he felt content. He sensed his Lord saying to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Merry Christmas!

Copyright 2008 Catherine L. Osornio

Text and pictures may not be reproduced without permission of the author.


Too Little Time

I haven’t written much these past few weeks. It’s been crazy with appointments, Christmas preparations, and kids home on vacation. The only items I have been consistently writing are my blogs.

There hasn’t been too much time to sit and feel creative. Nothing much has come to mind besides getting my shopping and wrapping done.  I have a few deadlines for the new year, but I won’t work on them until after Christmas. I’ll be able to breath a bit then.

Make sure you are scheduling your writing around the holidays. Don’t get trapped with hectic deadlines or impossible commitments that will crimp your creativity and crush your holiday spirit. Christmas is a time to enjoy family, to share love, and to recognize the true gift of Christmas: Jesus Christ.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!

Are You Sending the Correct Doc?

The long awaited e-mail from Publisher Y just hit your mailbox. Your query has resulted in a request for three sample chapters. After you jump around the living room for a few minutes, you sit down, double check your spelling and format structure for the gazillionth time, write out your e-cover letter, attach your documents, and are ready to hit the send button.


STOP!!! Did you properly format your document?


The accepted word processing software for most publishers is Microsoft Word, but with the new 2007 edition, Microsoft added some different formats from the standard 97-2003 editions. When you save a document in the 2007 edition, your document defaults to a .docx file. Most editors and publishers only accept a .doc file from the earlier editions. If you send a .docx file, you may receive an embarrassing e-mail telling you that you didn’t read their guidelines correctly and could you please resend in a .doc format.


Gulp! It’s tough enough to get an open door into a publisher nowadays. You don’t want to look unprofessional by sending the wrong file format. They may never take you seriously.


There are two ways to fix this problem. If you go to save your document, click the Office Button on the top left of your document. Arrow down to “Save As” and then click “Word 97-2003 Document.” This will save the document in the proper .doc file format.


The second way, so you don’t continue to make this mistake, is to set the Word 97-2003 Document as your default. Click the Office Button, but then click on “Word Options” at the bottom of the open box. This will open up a new box. Click the “Save” section. You will be given a list of Save options. In the “Save documents” section you will see “Save files in this format:” You will click the Word 97-2003 Document (*.doc). Press OK at the bottom of the box, and all your documents will save in the .doc file format. 


You want to do all you can to stand out to the editors and publishers you submit to. Improve your chances by making sure you are sending the right document format.


Yesterday marked the launch of a brand new website: AuthorsNow! It debuts up and coming authors (like me!), telling a bit about each book and the author who wrote it. Although my book, The Declaration of Independence from A to Z, won’t be out until 2010, I am still a part of this group because I am a brand new author. Log on at www.authorsnow.com to check out the various books you can expect to see in the next few years.

Thanks to the creator, Cynthea Liu, for this wonderful way to get our books out into cyberspace!

Noise Levels

Must it be quiet when you write or do you need the top ten tunes blaring from your stereo system?

When I started taking my writing seriously several years ago, I had young kids running around the house. I eventually learned to tune out the noise while still being tuned to the occasional cry for help. Looking back, I am amazed at how much work I actually got done.

Now that my children are in school all day, I prefer quiet, especially when I am creating something new. I find it very difficult to write good dialogue or to concentrate on a twist in the plot when my mind is competing with background lyrics or talk show conversations.

Once in a rare while I will play some soft music, but mostly I prefer the hum of my refrigerator, the purr of my computer, or the muffled roar of a passing car.

What noise levels do you prefer when you are being creative?