Friday, April 17, 2015

DEVOTION: The Parable of Everyman ~ by Karen Rees


Ignoring all the danger signs, Everyman took a stroll on the beach during a hurricane and was washed out to sea. As he was drowning, he saw a ship plowing through the waves toward him.

“Help! Save me!”

Soon a man in a dinghy arrived.

“I'm Captain deJesus,” the man said, pulling him aboard. The captain rowed back to the ship with a grateful Everyman huddled exhausted at his feet.

When they reached the ship, crew members eagerly carried Everyman below to a small cabin where they gave him a dry sailor's suit and a bowl of chicken noodle soup and put him to bed.

After a rest, Everyman felt better. He looked around the cabin. He'd never been on a ship before although he had read about luxury liners. He decided to explore the vessel. But first he must thank Captain deJesus for saving him.

Once on deck, Everyman found the captain standing by the rail scanning the rough seas. He thanked him and then said, “If you ever need anything you can count on me.”

“We need help in the galley,” the captain said. So Everyman spent the day washing dishes and dreaming of playing shuffleboard on a luxury liner.

The next day Everyman joined the watching crew as Captain deJesus rescued another drowning man from the angry ocean. He gladly welcomed the newcomer aboard. He was not as pleased to share his cabin with the man. He decided to talk with the captain.

“He has big feet,” Everyman said. “I and all my friends and family have small feet.”

The captain smiled.

“It's wonderful that you can finally befriend someone with big feet.”

Everyman quickly excused himself before the captain could send him to the galley. He wandered the rolling deck searching for a shuffleboard game or a deck chair for sunbathing after they cleared the hurricane. He found neither.

By the third day Everyman was angry. He had to share a cramped cabin with a seasick Big Foot who snored. The food was ordinary, entertainment was lacking and the ship was still storm-tossed. He went to see the captain and voiced his complaints.

“I've been patient,” Everyman finished. “Now you MUST steer for peaceful waters. And I want a bigger, private cabin.”

Captain deJesus, standing by the rail, shook his head firmly.

“This is a rescue ship, not a luxury liner. We're here to save and care for people. We could use your help.”

“Help?!” Everyman exploded in frustration. “I didn't sign on to help or have my wishes ignored.”

With those parting words, he flung himself over the rail into the raging seas and drowned.

The epitaph on his tombstone reads:

Here lies Everyman

He forgot

A lot.

What have you forgotten recently?

For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Eph. 2:10

Father God, help me to daily remember that you don't exist to serve me. I exist to serve you. Help me to serve you faithfully and with heartfelt gratitude for the gift of salvation that you've given me through Christ. In his name, Amen.


KAREN REES, with her second-generation missionary husband Benjamin, has served in Hong Kong since 1975. Besides her involvement in the mission work, Karen loves history, quilting and writing. They have two children, Matthew and Megan, and two grand-children, Hadessah and Arthur Aaron.

Her historical fiction novel, The Ruby Ring, won a Finalist Award in the 2014 National Indie Excellence Awards in the Religious Fiction category. It can be purchased in paperback or eBook from Amazon.com and many other online bookstores.

Visit Karen on her author page on Facebook
Watch her book trailer, The Ruby Ring Trailer.





Thursday, April 16, 2015

Introducing … Melissa Tagg

It’s my pleasure to welcome Melissa Tagg as a guest to the ICFW community. I first heard Melissa speak at ACFW in 2012 when she shared a devotional to the entire conference. She was instantly engaging in her passion for Jesus, her sense of humour and willingness not to take herself too seriously.

Three years ago, Melissa was an aspiring novelist. Now she is a published author, having released three romantic comedy novels and a couple of novellas. And she holds down two jobs. I’m in awe of her productivity.

Melissa just launched novel number 3, the first in a new series, From the Start and she was kind enough in her busy launch schedule to answer a few questions I posed.

Without further ado, please welcome Melissa Tagg.

Describe yourself in a few words.

I’m writing and working at my nonprofit day job and soaking up each and every minute of family and friends time I can. I’m still crazy about classic movies and traveling and oh, I’m an aunt again! That’s new! So I’m on the road more than ever visiting family.

This is a global community, and I know you've travelled. Where's your favourite overseas destination and why? And where'd you like to go next?

Yay traveling! I’d have to say my favorite (excuse me, favoUrite) destination so far is London simply because I have so many wonderful memories there. I studied there for a short time and have been back several times since. The friends I made there are just incredible and tend to tug on my heart much more than any landmark or historic site.

But if I was planning a future trip and none of those friends were going to be around, then I’d probably go someplace new. And right now, it’d probably be a toss-up between Italy and Australia or New Zealand. 

We’d love to host you when you make it down under, Melissa. You’ve published 3 novels plus some novellas in less than two years. Please give us a little insight into how you do this plus hold down 2 jobs?

You know what, if you’d asked me this question a year and a half ago, I would’ve said I managed to do all that by scheduling verrrry carefully. But something has become incredibly clear to me over the past year and that’s this: Even the most perfectly color-coded calendar and all the organizational tools in the world are no match to God’s help. My 2014 was chock full of “I have too much going on!” moments … and yet, God prodded and tugged (and in some cases, kinda dragged, I think!) me through each one. J

That said, one of the perks of my main job—I’m a grant-writer and communications coordinator for a nonprofit—is that it’s a Mon-Friday daytime job. I rarely work weekends or evenings. So I’m able to write early in the morning, late at night and on Saturdays. I also scheduled a few long writing weekends throughout the year, which is when I did the bulk of my novel-writing. And I found writing some shorter stories last year—a novella and an e-short—actually energized and exercised my writing chops in a way I hadn’t expected. Got me more fired up to write, I think, than if I’d just gone from novel to novel.

I’ve also learned to let go a little in the past year. I don’t force myself to blog three times a week anymore. Sometimes I even take a week or two off. The great thing about that is after a time away, I usually start missing the blog and am excited to get back to it. I don’t force myself to follow all the marketing and social media rules out there either—that way social media and staying connected with readers feels more relational and fun, something I want to do instead of something I have to do.

Now to your latest novel, released last week: From the Start. Tell us a little about it.

This is the first full-length book in my new Walker Family series. (There’s also a free e-novella prequel called Three Little Words.) I’ve been pretty open online about how much I struggled through writing this new book, but now that it’s all done and out there on bookshelves, I’m able to look back at it with a little less emotional drama. LOL!

This story takes place in a made-up town in Iowa and features the second oldest Walker sibling—Kate. She’s a jaded writer of romantic Hallmark-esque movies…and she feels like she’s not making a difference in the world. She wants to do something more “important.” And then there’s Colton Greene—an injured, ex-NFL quarterback who’s lost both his career and the woman he thought he was going to marry in one day. It’s written in the same banter-y style as my first two books, but does delve deeper into some issues—including Colton’s painful past, foster care, cancer and broken dreams.

I love this quote from an interview you did with Cassie Baker in this month's Family Fiction: "All the while, God is there, saying, 'Give me the paintbrush and you'll see what a beautiful picture I can paint with your life.'" Share with us a little more about how you weave this in the novel and why you chose to use this theme when writing FTS?

Sure thing! Well, honestly, by nature I tend to be a “take charge” sort of person. I love to plan and prepare and feel like I’m in control. And that’s not always a horrible thing. But so often life doesn’t go according to our plans. Both Kate and Colton end up in that place in the story—they both had such a clear picture of where their life was “supposed” to go. And when things turn inside out, they’re stumped…much like I am. Life and the picture I thought I was painting with it can feel blurry and smudged when that happens.

But God…God is awesome. And the picture he’s painting with my life is just so much better than anything I could do on my own. And it’s just so, so much better when I stop trying to paint on my own.

What's up next for you? The second in the Walker Series?

Yep! I turned in the first draft of the second Walker book last month and my editor has already given me rewrite notes. So I’m excited to dig into that story and make it prettier. I had so much fun with this next story. It’s called Like Never Before, features reporter-turned-political-speechwriter Logan Walker and editor Amelia Bentley, and it combines my love of small-town reporting and my fascination with Charles Lindbergh.

Summer is on its way in Iowa. What's something you really love about an Iowan summer?

As much as I love the warmth and sunshine of Iowa summers, I reeeeally love summer rain. Rainy summer days are just my favorite! And I’m excited for this summer in particular because I’m going to have the opportunity to see so many long-distance friends, travel almost every other weekend AND see my favorite band in concert. J

Thanks Melissa for sharing with us at ICFW and wishing you every success with From the Start.

A great way of trying Melissa’s work is by reading the prequel, Three Little Words. It’s free and is a fun read that touches on the themes in From the Start.

Also, check out Melissa's blog. Her blogs are full of grace, humour and reader engagement.

A little more about Melissa

Melissa Tagg is a former reporter, current nonprofit grant writer and total Iowa girl. She writes romantic comedy for Bethany House, and is also the marketing/events coordinator for My Book Therapy, a craft and coaching community for writers. When she’s not writing, she can be found hanging out with the coolest family ever, watching old movies, and daydreaming about her next book. Her newest book, From the Start, is out now. She blogs regularly and loves connecting with readers at  http://www.melissatagg.com.



Ian Acheson is an author and strategy consultant based in Sydney, Australia. Ian's first novel of speculative fiction, Angelguard, is available in the US, UK, Canada and Australia. You can find more about Angelguard at Ian's website, on his author Facebook page and Twitter

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

But I Write Fiction!

How Blogging Helped Me Develop My Fiction Writing
                       
I’m a story person. I read some non-fiction books, but not many. I need story in my life.

Those of us who write novels know it is a delayed-reward process, since it may take a year or more to write a novel, followed by editing, then the publication process, whether that’s royalty or indie. It’s a long-term work that can seem endless and muddled at times.

What can a fiction writer do to combat this problem? Write non-fiction.

Say what?

After the release of my first books, I decided I needed a website for visibility. If someone wanted to google me, I wanted them to find me. With the help of a friend I set up a website. It’s simple, but it’s out there. 

I blogged a couple times the first year, then realized it was an all or nothing venture. No one would visit my blog a second time if there was nothing new to read. The next year I created a schedule for myself and committed to it.

- Week One:  devotional/inspirational piece
- Week Two:  interview a fellow writer
- Week Three:  book review (if possible, a book by this month’s interviewee)
- Week Four:  my own series of posts titled Fiction 101

This year I’ve changed it up, but I still plan to post one blog per week. Besides this, I guest blog on several other sites.

What did I gain by breaking into the blogging world?

1. I learned to write for a deadline – doesn’t matter if it’s self-imposed or not
2. I learned to write more tightly – blogs tend to be about 300 words, give or take
3. I learned to appreciate the sense of accomplishment when I posted a blog every week
4. I learned how to use WordPress (well, enough to post my blogs)
5. I learned to be more decisive – there’s a time and space deadline
6. I learned to do my best and then let it go – the key is communication
7. I learned to broaden my horizons – choosing topics makes me pay attention to life
8. I learned that varying the type of writing I do adds interest both for me and my readers
9. I learned that blogs make me write more regularly
10. I learned that blogs can help and encourage others, as I’ve been encouraged over the years
11. I learned that although these blogs are not books, they can be combined and published
* Note: For an example of this, check out these books by Kristen Eckstein
12. I learned that researching and writing blogs can feed my fiction

Through my connection with my current publisher, I was encouraged to branch out into various social media, and these efforts were also beneficial in many ways:
— They helped me establish a network of friends and readers
— They helped me learn to write concisely (Only 140 characters for Twitter)

The important thing is to schedule in time to work on my novels. After all, I'll always be a fiction writer first.


Monday, April 13, 2015

The Fun in the Dream - Book Giveaway

So, I'm living the dream. This time next year my debut novel will be a real thing. Out in the big wide world standing on its own merits (or not). In the last couple of months since it all became public I've been mired in the crazy world of developmental edits and trying to stay in schedule for writing my contracted second book.

Here's the thing about having a contract. You have to show up. Whether you feel inspired or not. Whether you want to or not. Whether the muse is in-house or not. There are some writers who have honed this skill pre-contract. Me, not so much. With two preschoolers, a job and a myriad of other commitments, writing was the nice-to-do hobby. Now it's the other job. 

I'm living the dream. And I absolutely wouldn't have it any other way. But, the truth is, when you've spent three weeks solid wrestling with the same 300+ pages and it feels like you're trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together again and failing, it has moments of un-fun.

But then there are the incredible surreal days like March 27. The day that I spent two hours with an amazing photographer, Jenny Siaosi, to take photos for my website and my publisher's promotional material. The day that I sat in a salon and got to tell my hairdresser and make-up artist that I was having photos taken because I was having a book published. And practice my story pitching techniques on my captive audience. The day it started becoming all a bit crazy exciting real.






So, since I'm in marketing research mode, let's talk about author websites. Do you care about them at all? If you do, what do you like? What do you not like? What would you expect to see? I'm about to start designing one from a blank page and am looking for all the suggestions and advice I can get :) All comments with a contact email address go in the draw to win a copy of Then There Was You. (Winner announced in the Sunday Edition)



Kara Isaac lives in Wellington, New Zealand. Her debut romantic comedy, Then There Was Youis about a disillusioned academic-turned-tour-guide and an entrepreneur who knows nothing about Tolkien who fall in love on a Tolkien themed tour of New Zealand. It will be an early 2016 release from Howard Books. When she's not working her day job as a public servant, chasing around a ninja preschooler and his feisty toddler sister, she spends her time writing horribly bad first drafts and wishing you could get Double Stuf Oreos in New Zealand. She loves to connnect on Facebook at Kara Isaac - Writer and Twitter @KaraIsaac


Sunday, April 12, 2015

SUNDAY EDITION


Coming Up This Week

Monday

Kara Isaac - The Fun in the Dream

Tuesday

Paul Baines

Wednesday

Janice L. Dick: But I Write Fiction!

Thursday

Ian Acheson

Friday Devotion

Karen Rees: The Parable of Everyman

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

New Releases

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance novella set in Riverbend, BC, Canada, Pinky Promise, is an April 2015 independent release.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Upcoming Releases

Narelle Atkins' contemporary romance set in Australia, Seaside Proposal, will be a May 2015 release from Love Inspired Heartsong Presents.

Sandra Orchard’s romantic mystery set in Niagara, Canada, Desperate Measures, Book 3 in her Port Aster’s Secrets series, will be a June 2015 release from Revell.

Dianne J. Wilson's romantic suspense set in South Africa, Finding Mia, will be a June 2015 release from Harbourlight.

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Plum Upside Down, Book 5 in the Farm Fresh Romance series, releases independently in summer 2015.

To find more International Christian Fiction books, please visit our 2013 - 2015 Book Releases page and Backlist Titles.

Friday, April 10, 2015

DEVOTION: Sin No More ~ Kathi Macias


“Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more” (John 8:11, NKJV).

The story of how Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery is an all-time favorite for many of us. We love that the Savior was merciful and compassionate, even turning the spotlight from the woman to her self-righteous accusers. But to focus on the Lord’s lack of condemnation to the exclusion of His admonition to “sin no more” is to misrepresent the truth and power of His words.

A few decades ago I came across a popular book titled I’m Okay, You’re Okay, and it struck a chord of concern in me because the book was selling like crazy and readers were extolling the virtues of its anything-goes message. Some years later I had the privilege of working on Josh McDowell’s manuscript for his book The New Tolerance, in which he cautioned the Church not to get caught up in the world’s ever-increasing love affair with that “I’m okay, you’re okay” type of mantra. Josh rightly predicted that our society was well on its way to making tolerance the number-one virtue and intolerance the gravest sin. We now live in that culture, where the most oft-quoted (and misused) verse in the Bible is “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1, NKJV). Though it is true we are not to judge others based on our own opinions or personal values, neither are we to toss out the absolutes of God’s Word in fear of being considered intolerant.

The Scriptures are clear that murder, stealing, lying, adultery, and other behaviors contrary to the character of Christ are absolutely wrong. Period. Not because we say so but because God says so. To proclaim His Word is not judging; it is simply believing that what He says is True because, after all, He is Truth, and God cannot contradict His own nature and tell a lie.

The Scriptures also instruct us to “[speak] the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15, NKJV). Certainly we need to proclaim God’s truth from a heart of love, desiring to see people saved and healed and set free, for truth without love causes terrible damage to the hearers. However, love without truth becomes license and allows people to remain in their sin and continue in their separation from God.

And that is why Jesus so clearly said to the woman caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” He assured her that she did not have to live under condemnation, but He also admonished her to change her ways. “Sin no more,” He warned her, for if she truly understood His message and received His forgiveness, her life would be marked by repentance, an “about-face” from her previous walk away from God to one heading straight for His heart, a life epitomized by a desire to please her Lord and reject a life of sin.

By all means may we refrain from imposing our opinions and personal values on others, but may we also love enough to speak the truth of God’s Word so others can turn from sin and enter into eternal life.

Kathi Macias is a multi-award winning writer who has authored nearly 40 books and ghostwritten several others. A former newspaper columnist and string reporter, Kathi has taught creative and business writing in various venues and has been a guest on many radio and television programs. 

Kathi is a popular speaker at churches, women’s clubs and retreats, and writers’ conferences. She won the 2008 Member of the Year award from AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) and was the 2011 Author of the Year from BooksandAuthors.net. Kathi “Easy Writer” Macias lives in Homeland, CA, with her husband.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Seeing Through Different Eyes, by Karen Rees


A few months ago a British transport minister on a trade visit to Taipei made the headlines in this part of Asia because of a diplomatic blunder. She presented the mayor with a pocket watch. She didn't know that giving a timepiece is taboo in Chinese culture. Because of the similar pronunciation of “giving a clock” and “attending an old person's funeral”, her gift suggested that the mayor's time was running out.



During the years that my husband and I worked with a Chinese church here in Hong Kong, we learned of another similar taboo. Never take flowers to someone in the hospital; flowers are associated with funerals.

Later we began working with household servants imported from the Philippines. We discovered that Filipinos point with their lips, hospitality is high priority while punctuality is not, and wives handle the family money. If they manage it badly, it brings shame on their husbands.

Our current part-time involvement with a Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seeker family from a Hindu background has exposed us to the habits and values of yet another culture.

These three cultures are different in many ways. But, all being Asian, they share a basic value: the rights of the family take priority over the rights of the individual. This value is seen in a tradition of arranged marriages that benefit the family, in the expectation that money earned by one is available to all and in the requirement that individuals put the wishes/needs of the family before their own.

This “family first” value is in direct conflict with the “individual first” culture of the West.

As writers we know that conflict drives the story. We usually create conflict by giving our characters, all of whom have likely Western values, different backgrounds, personalities and desires. Consider the additional conflict possibilities if one or more characters came from a culture with different values.

Countries, and couples, have gone to war because of clashing cultural values. It's not uncommon for a Western husband and a Filipina wife to do battle over how to spend the household money. He, being an individualistic Westerner, wants it all used for themselves and any children they may have. She, with her “family ­first” values, insists that they send money to her extended family in the Philippines.

Cultural differences can add interest, and conflict, to international contemporary novels. Recognizing cultural differences also helps when writing historical fiction.

As I researched Tudor England for my novel THE RUBY RING, I discovered that the Middle Ages shared the same 'family first' value as 20th century Asia.  Choosing a spouse in the 1500s or, more likely, having one chosen for you, was primarily a business matter, not a matter of the heart.

Because of this, the couple in my novel who wishes to marry for love faces much greater family opposition than they would have in today's individualistic Western, 'all we need is love' culture.  Since they also are caught up in England's religious turmoil, I had enough conflict to keep many readers up well past bedtime.

But to maintain a feel of authentic Tudor England, I had to allow my characters to deal with the conflicts in a manner suitable to that culture. I had to see life through their eyes.

Returning to the present day and the Chinese view of clocks and flowers, how's this for a contemporary romantic thriller?

After graduating from a Western university, a courageous young Chinese female reporter begins working in China only to receive death threats for her honest reporting of government and business corruption. She flees to the relative safety of Hong Kong. There she meets a handsome young Western businessman. After a whirlwind romance, they become engaged.

At their engagement party they receive an anonymous gift – a beautiful clock. He is pleased. She is fearful. Are her enemies still after her? A few days later she is injured in a freak accident and spends a few days in the hospital. Her fiancé brings her flowers.

Her previous apprehensions abruptly intensify as a new and terrifying possibility arises. Is her fiancé merely a thoughtful but culturally ignorant Westerner? Or is he actually in the pay of the corrupt Chinese businessmen who, through the clock and flowers, are telling her that she can't escape them?

It all depends on which cultural eyes you're using.


Karen Rees and her second-generation missionary husband Benjamin have served in Hong Kong since 1975. Besides her involvement in the mission work, Karen loves history, quilting and writing. They have two children, Matthew and Megan, and two grandchildren, Hadessah and Arthur. She is the author of the historical novel, The Ruby Ring.