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Monday, September 1, 2014

Those Who Can . . .


















Good morning, Alice Valdal here.

  I just purchased another book on writing and that prompted me to examine my library.  I am the proud owner of twelve "how to" books on writing, and that doesn't count the books on grammar and style, or the sheaves of notes from workshops.
   Some books, such as Alice Orr's No More Rejections, and Alicia Rasley's The Character Interviews, and Laurie Schnebly's Believable Characters: Creating with Enneagrams I purchased at the end of a workshop.  All of these women are brilliant.  Listening to them discuss the art and craft of writing left me inspired and itching to get at my hands on a keyboard, my next -- and best selling novel -- would be born in just a few months, now that I'd learned "the secret."
   Other books I bought on recommendations from other writers.  The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them), by Jack Bickham was promoted by a fellow writer who claimed it had changed her writing and turned her from a "wannabe" into a contracted author.
    Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass was another recommended purchase.  And what writer worth her salt wouldn't want to learn from Donald Maass, even his recorded lectures inspire.  He makes it sound so straightforward and logical.  Get the right characters into the right kind of trouble, add a ticking clock and the possibility of a sequel and the writer needs an accountant to handle all the money she's bound to make.
     How to Write Best Selling Fiction by Dean Koontz, The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler, Goal, Motivation & Conflict by Debra Dixon and Creating Characters by Dwight V. Swain, I bought from a fellow writer who had given up finding a market for her books.  Some of the information in these books is dated, particularly when it comes to marketing, but the basic lessons on character, plot, structure and emotional impact are timeless.
    All the books mentioned above fall into what I would call craft.  I also have three volumes on what I call the art of being a writer, Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott,  The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, and my latest purchase, Seven Steps on the Writer's Path, by Nancy Pickard and Lynn Lott.
    As I'm more of a pantser than a plotter, I turn to these latter books with a sense of relief.  Much as I love and use the craft books, much as they have to teach me, I sometimes feel they put me in a box that's too small and then push down on the lid.  But there is danger in the other books as well.  Julia Cameron wants me to go on "artist's dates" with myself.  I embrace the concept and can put off actually putting pen to paper for weeks, while I fill my soul with trips to the art gallery, the gardens, the beach, the lavender farm . . .  You get the picture.
    Ann Lamott encourages me to read and read and read.  Great advice and I'm happy to curl up on the couch or stretch out at the beach with a bag of books for company.  But at some point anyone who wants to be an author need's to put down her favourite reads, and actually write something of her own.
    Owning this wealth of advice and encouragement reminds me of the old saw "if you're so smart, why ain't you rich?"  Or, to put it in writer's parlance, "if you know so much, why aren't you a best selling author?"
     The answer is, of course, that there is no secret, no magical formula, no step-by-step process that will propel the hopeful author to stardom.  Writing fiction is both art and craft, each author brings his or her own life experiences, belief system, skill and dedication to the work.  Each writer is unique, and we create our own unique works.  Sometimes those stories resonate with millions of readers, other times they resonate only with the author.  Each of us must decide our own writing goals, our own process and our own vision.  
     I'm delighted with all my "how-to" books and I'm grateful to the authors who have generously shared their wisdom and their experience.  I salute authors everywhere who have slogged through the hard stuff and found success in the publishing world and I congratulate those who follow their writing dreams without the world's recognition.  
    Books enrich our lives, mirror our times, leave footprints in history and brighten the lives of millions and millions of readers.  
    So, what's your favourite "how-to" book?  Do you prefer books on the craft of writing or the philosophy of being a writer? Is there one missing from my library that I absolutely must have? :-)

Alice Valdal is the author of two historical romance novels, one contemporary romance novel and a collection of short Christmas stories.  She is a member of Vancouver Island Chapter of Romance Writer's of America and an avid collector of books on the art and science or writing.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

SUNDAY EDITION


Coming Up This Week

Monday

Alice Valdal: Those Who Can...

Tuesday

Dale Harcombe

Wednesday

Jenn Kelly

Thursday

Sara Goff

Friday Devotion

Judith Robl: Praise

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New Book Releases

Narelle Atkins' contemporary romance set in Australia, The Doctor's Return, is an August 2014 release from Love Inspired Heartsong Presents.

Marion Ueckermann's debut contemporary romance novelette set in Finland, Helsinki Sunrise, releases 22 August 2014 from White Rose Publishing as part of the Passport to Romance series from Pelican Book Group.


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

Upcoming Book Releases

Christine Lindsay's historical romance, Veiled at Midnight, Book 3 of Twilight of the British Raj series, will be a September 2014 release from WhiteFire Publishing.

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance novella is included in Snowflake Tiara, releasing independently in September 2014. Her novella, The Model Queen, will be paired with author Angela Breidenbach's historical novella, The Debutante Queen, both set in the US.

Narelle Atkins' contemporary romance set in Australia, Her Tycoon Hero, will be a November 2014 release from Love Inspired Heartsong Presents.

Sandra Orchard’s romantic suspense set in Washington State, USA, Identity Withheld, will be a November 2014 release from Love Inspired Suspense.

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Sweetened with Honey, Book 3 in the Farm Fresh Romance series, releases independently in November 2014.

Lisa Harris' romantic suspense set in Georgia, USA, Hidden Agenda, Book 3 in her Southern Crimes series, will be a January 2015 release from Revell.

Lisa Harris' romantic suspense set in Paris, France, Taken, will be a February 2015 release from Love Inspired Suspense.

Narelle Atkins' contemporary romance set in Australia, Winning Over the Heiress, will be a February 2015 release from Love Inspired Heartsong Presents.

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

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

Friday, August 29, 2014

DEVOTION: One Small Typo ~ by Shirley Corder

I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. Romans 7:19 MSG

Before you read any further, please stop and read the notice on the left. Then come back. I'll wait . . .




. . . So apart from thinking I'm promoting my website, which I'm not, but now you come to mention it .  . .
There is a reason I asked you to read that advert. Some of you will have spotted the reason.

A few days ago, a friend of mine wrote and said he'd been reading my weekly devotion and he'd noticed a somewhat unique spelling of the word encourgement. Ahh! You spotted it this time! He said he'd noticed it before on my previous posts too.

Well, there is a simple explanation. This advert appears down the sidebar of my "Closer Walk" which goes out automatically every week to those who sign up for it. And guess what? I use the same template for every post. Whereas the devotion is always fresh, the panel down the side is usually the same. So what seems like a small matter, after all it's only a missing 'a', has been duplicated over 50 times to date. What a bind. I not only had to open 50 devotions to add the 'a' to the side bar, I also had to correct it in the plain text version. 1 typo; 100 corrections. How I wish I'd noticed that little slip after the first or even the second devotion.

This got me thinking. How often do I let something small slip through my daily routine, and then I let it happen again? In no time it has become a habit. Maybe I skimp on my daily Quiet Time for a day. Then another day slips by. Before I know it, I have got into a habit of cutting the time short. Perhaps it's a book that I really didn't want to read, but got absorbed in the story, and before long I'd wasted precious time reading something that did nothing for me. Then there's the piece of chocolate popped in while watching TV. It's not the one piece that's the problem, it's the rest of the slab that seems to keep it company.

Surely that's what Paul was talking about when he said "I decide to do good, but I don't really do it." If only I'd done a really thorough check of my original template I wouldn't now be wading through 50 devotions!

John Wooden, the famous basketball player and coach said, "If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?" My challenge for you this week is simple. Do it right the first time, and don't allow the little typos to creep in unchallenged. Little typos grow into big hassles!

Oh, and if you'd like to sign up for these weekly devotions, hopefully with no other typos for you to spot, simply follow this link.

SHIRLEY CORDER lives on the coast in South Africa with her husband, Rob. Her book, Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer contains 90 meditations based on her time in the cancer valley and can be obtained from bookstores or online stores.

Please visit Shirley through ShirleyCorder.com, where she encourages writers, or at RiseAndSoar.com, where she encourages those in the cancer valley. You can also meet with her on Twitter or FaceBook.

Receive her once-a-week devotional challenges "Closer Walk" in your inbox.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

HELSINKI SUNRISE BOOK REVIEW

by Ruth Dell


Helsinki Sunrise, a Passport to Romance, blog tour follows on from yesterday’s author interview with Marion Ueckermann here at International Christian Fiction Writers. Today I’ll be reviewing Helsinki Sunrise.

Marion Ueckermann has skilfully combined the ingredients in her debut novella, Helsinki Sunrise, to create a light-hearted, yet deeply satisfying, inspirational romance.

Eveliina needs a break from her demanding job and boss/boyfriend, so she withdraws to her grandparents' secluded island cottage to enjoy nature and a time of solitude. She is cheesed off when she finds a man in her sauna. The man in question is Adam, a missionary from Africa, who is staying at the cottage for several weeks at the request of Eveliina's brother. He's there to fast and pray before starting a new mission in Finland. Both are determined to stay on the island, and Adam finds himself in a real pickle as Eveliina uses her culinary skills and feminine wiles to tempt him to break his fast and leave the cottage.

Eveliina is a spunky heroine who wants nothing to do with God, while Adam is a devout man of God. This combination of characters makes for some interesting situations as the plot thickens. I read quickly and with great enjoyment to see who would be the victor and remain on the island.

Finland, the land of the midnight sun and summer blueberries, makes an unusual setting. Ms Ueckermann uses her experience of staying in a Finnish holiday cottage to bring the landscape to life. She certainly whet my appetite to visit Finland if I ever get the opportunity.

I recommend this book highly and look forward to reading Ms Ueckermann's next book which is set in Oslo, Norway.

Thank you to the author for providing a digital copy of Helsinki Sunrise. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions expressed above are my own.



He needed the island to himself. So did she.

Three weeks alone at a friend’s summer cottage on a Finnish lake to fast and pray. That was Adam Carter's plan. But sometimes plans go awry.

On an impromptu trip to her family's secluded summer cottage, the last thing EveliinaMikkola expected to find was a missionary from the other side of the world—in her sauna.

Determined to stay, Eveliina will do whatever it takes—from shortcrust pastry to shorts—to send the man of God packing. This island’s too small for them both.

Adam Carter, however, is not about to leave.

Will he be able to resist her temptations?

Can she withstand his prayers?


Marion has once again kindly offered to give away an e-Copy* of Helsinki Sunrise. To enter the draw for her book, please leave a comment before September 19th telling us which country you would like Marion to use for a setting in her next novel. Please include your email address to be eligible for the draw. The winner will be announced on the blog on September 21st.International readers are welcome to enter.

Be sure to follow this blog tomorrow at Inspirational Romance with Rita Galieh where Marion will share some slices of romance.

Numerous eBooks of Helsinki Sunrise will be given away on the blog tour, so take a journey to each of the stops and leave a comment. Don’t forget to include your email address.

Helsinki Sunrise is available to purchase from Pelican Book Group,Christianbook.com, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble

Watch the Helsinki Sunrise book trailer on YouTube.
Watch the Passport to Romance book trailer on YouTube.


Marion Ueckermann’s passion for writing was sparked in 2001 when she moved to Ireland with her husband and two sons. Since then she has published devotional articles and stories in Winners, The One Year Devotional of Joy and Laughter (Tyndale House Publishers), and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miraculous Messages from Heaven, and her debut novelette, Helsinki Sunrise (White Rose Publishing, a Pelican Book Group imprint, Passport to Romance series).

Marion blogs for International Christian Fiction Writers and Beauty for Ashes. She belongs to Christian Writers of South Africa and American Christian Fiction Writers. She lives in Pretoria East, South Africa in an empty nest with her husband and their crazy black Scottie, Wally.

Connect with Marion Ueckermann:

* Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.

Permission to use images obtained.




Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wearing Her Author's Hat

by Ruth Dell

Helsinki Sunrise, a Passport to Romance, blog tour follows on from yesterday’s hero interview and book review with Heidi McCahan.

Today we welcome Marion Ueckermann to our blog. She’s a regular blogger here, but today she is wearing her author's hat. We will be chatting about her debut novelette, Helsinki Sunrise

Marion Ueckermann’s passion for writing was sparked in 2001 when she moved to Ireland with her husband and two sons. Since then she has published devotional articles and stories in Winners, The One Year Devotional of Joy and Laughter (Tyndale House Publishers), and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miraculous Messages from Heaven, and her debut novelette, Helsinki Sunrise (White Rose Publishing, a Pelican Book Group imprint, Passport to Romance series).

Marion blogs for International Christian Fiction Writers and Beauty for Ashes. She belongs to Christian Writers of South Africa and American Christian Fiction Writers. She lives in Pretoria East, South Africa in an empty nest with her husband and their crazy black Scottie, Wally.


Marion, welcome and congratulations on the release of Helsinki Sunrise.

Thanks, Ruth. It’s great to be here today, this time as a published author. Can I just say, “Whoo-hoo!”

A few months ago I visited Marion and one of the highlights of the day was enjoying her homemade blueberry pie. It was, in fact, the first blueberry pie that she had ever made. It was delicious and definitely “moreish”. Marion, what was the significance of that pie?

Firstly, Ruth, it really was a flop-proof recipe. For anyone interested, my heroine, Eveliina’s blueberry pie recipe is available in Pelican Book Group’s free recipe book, Cooking with Grace. And I just noticed that the crockery I used that day was lined with a blueberry pattern.

In the summer, the forests of Finland are filled with berry-bearing blueberry bushes. This was important to the book, originally titled Blueberry Eve. When Eveliina is faced with the prospect of having to share her grandparents’ summer cottage with a fasting missionary from the other side of the world, she’s adamant he has to go. And she knows exactly how to make Adam Carter want to leave—her grandmother’s blueberry pie. Here’s a little teaser excerpt:

Eveliina held her breath as tightly as she held the spoon, waiting for Adam to succumb. If he did, she was certain he’d leave the island a defeated man, unable to live up to his goals and ideals, his God and his Christianity.
But if he resisted…
How many blueberry recipes did she have?

Finland is an unusual setting for a book. How did you research that county? Do you have any anecdotes or interesting experiences arising from your research which you would like to share with our readers? Have any of these found their way into your book?

It certainly is, Ruth, and that’s why I was so excited to see it on Pelican Book Group’s list of stories required for their Passport to Romance series—I had visited Finland for my son’s wedding seven months before. What better research could I have had than living with Finnish people, immersing myself in their culture?

One thing I never expected in Finland was the infestation of mosquitos in the summer. I always thought they were unique to Africa. But then again, with all that water, something close on 190,000 lakes, what else could one expect. And those tiny buzzing bugs were far more vicious than African mosquitos. My feet definitely took the brunt of their attacks. For some it was their faces, others their backs or arms.

Interesting experiences during our time in Finland involved taking a sauna, gently beating myself with a vasta or vihta which are leafy, fragrant boughs of silver birch used to massage and stimulate the skin, and to calm the effects of mosquito bites—pity I didn’t know that then—and thereafter running and jumping into the lake…several times in succession. Hot, cold, hot, cold.

Another cultural experience we enjoyed was roasting makkara (a Finnish sausage), stuck at the end of a long two-pronged fork, over an open fire.

And what fun we had blueberry picking. It was unforgettable.

The sauna and lake experience definitely made it into Helsinki Sunrise in a really fun way, along with the mosquitoes and blueberries. Vasta and makkara didn’t make it into my story.

Did you have any particular Bible verses running through your mind as you wrote?

One verse defined Helsinki Sunrise—Luke 15:6, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.” I chose this verse because Eveliina had become the black sheep of her family. She desperately needed to be found and returned to the fold and Adam was determined to do just that through prayer and fasting.

There were several other verses from Isaiah that I used toward the end of the story but I’ll keep those a secret as I don’t want to give away anything of the story and spoil the read.

How did you weave a spiritual thread through Helsinki Sunrise without being preachy?

Adam’s vocation as a missionary definitely lends itself to a preachy hero, but his character fortunately did not allow it. It’s not without a struggle that Adam manages to hold fast to his integrity and beliefs as Eveliina tries her best to tempt Adam who’s fasting. Between Eveliina’s shortcrust pastry and shorts, Adam has a difficult time. I believe it is this humanness of Adam that will draw readers in so that they will listen to his subtle messages.

Even when Adam has the golden opportunity to present the gospel to Eveliina, he does so by drawing her in gently, raising challenging questions only she can answer.

The salvation message is conveyed to the reader subtly through Eveliina’s thoughts as she reads the scriptures from Isaiah I alluded to in the previous question when she’s placed in a situation where she struggles with her own fears and doubts.

Here’s an excerpt of one of the ways the scarlet thread is gently woven into the story:

Adam’s thoughts drifted to his favorite parable. Doesn’t a good shepherd go seeking after the stray sheep? Doesn’t he leave the safe open country, venturing into dangerous territory until he finds the one that is lost?
Heaven will rejoice more the day you show Eveliina the way back to Jesus, than at your teaching the Finnish church to pray. The thought struck Adam like the cold water splashing across his back as the oar skimmed the water instead of sinking deep.
Both took his breath away. 

What do you want your readers to take away from your book?

I want my readers to not only feel like they are falling in love all over again, but also to know that God will pursue the lost sheep relentlessly to bring them back home.

What are you currently working on and what are your future writing plans?

At the end of July, I signed my second publishing contract with Pelican Book Group for another Passport to Romance novelette. This story is set in Oslo, Norway, and my hero and heroine have the exciting occupations of being professional wingsuiters.

I've just completed a submission for Pelican Book Group for their Easter Lilies series. The story is set in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Currently, I'm completing a third Passport to Romance story, this time set in Glasgow, Scotland. I definitely plan to write more Passport to Romance novelettes. Maybe one day soon I'll get to polish some of those completed novels, or finish writing one of the four semi-complete ones.

Thank you, Marion. I'm looking forward to reading more of your books.

Thank you for hosting me, Ruth. It’s been fun to sit on the other side of the interviewing table.


Marion has kindly offered to give away an e-Copy* of Helsinki Sunrise. To enter the draw for her book, please leave a comment before September 19th telling us which country you would like Marion to use for a setting in her next novel. Please include your email address to be eligible for the draw. The winner will be announced on the blog on September 21st. International readers are welcome to enter.

This blog tour will remain at International Christian Fiction Writers tomorrow where I will share a book review of Helsinki Sunrise.
Numerous eBooks of Helsinki Sunrise will be given away on the blog tour, so take a journey to each of the stops and leave a comment. Don’t forget to include your email address.
Helsinki Sunrise is available to purchase from Pelican Book Group, Christianbook.com, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble

Watch the Helsinki Sunrise book trailer on YouTube.
Watch the Passport to Romance book trailer on YouTube.

Connect with Marion Ueckermann:

* Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.

Permission to use images obtained.

Ruth Ann Dell writes children's stories and international Christian fiction from her home in a sunny South African suburb. She is a member of several writing groups including the American Christian Fiction Writers and Writer's Ink. Her desire is to craft gripping stories which draw her readers into a closer relationship with God.

Ruth Ann and her husband have lived in several countries and are renovating a cottage in the heart of Ireland.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

On Leaving the Country.




By Marcia Lee Laycock

I was called an ex-patriot.  The phrase still makes my back hump like a cat's, in belligerent defence. The word screams of desertion, a pointing finger, whispers behind the back, a negativity that makes people stare. It makes me want to scream, "No!" I was leaving the country, but not "ex-ing" it! The thought of being called an "ex" brought out a zealous nationalism I didn’t realize I had. 
I was determined not to leave with negative thoughts of this country, though some  wondered at the time if there would be a Canada, as we know it, when I returned. I didn't spout criticisms from afar, nor shout expletives across the ocean. I was and am grateful for my nationality, for a home often rated " one of the best." I did not leave because of what I didn't like, but because it was time for a broader view, time to see from a different perspective, through a lens opened to panorama. It was time to live beyond, with the hope that when I returned the enrichment of the experience would return with me to enrich others.
They told me it would be "a wonderful experience" and they were right, but wonderful experiences don't come cheap. They cost. This one cost that comfortable Canadian feeling of knowing the seasons follow one on another, the trees always turn to gold, the rolling Alberta fields always ripen into harvest, there is always snow for Christmas and the garbage is always collected Thursday mornings. Such commonplace certainties were no more. They were replaced by a tropical sun, from which I had to hide, by rain that was not gentle, by a land that quivered with earthquakes every other day, by fly-ridden markets instead of IGA. 
These bits of foreign reality were, to some extent, anticipated. Those I did not expect were those which stirred me most profoundly - facing my own prejudices and sometimes a callousness I didn't think I had, and dealing with the callousness and prejudice of others. Truth often becomes glaringly obvious, once all that is familiar has been left behind. It was hard to anticipate, let alone welcome, such possibilities. But I prayed for the grace to receive them and found it was there, as well as the wisdom to learn from them.
They told me I would never be the same, and again, they were right. I was changed by living in a strange and foreign land. My view of myself, of Canada, of the world, and even of my God, did not remain the same, but I was determined, and I did not, live as an "ex-patriot." 
I will always carry with me the stamp of the place from whence I came and I will sing my country's praises - albeit with a polite Canadian voice.  And perhaps, after being away, the voice has become just a bit more zealous.
****

Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor's wife and mother of three adult daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone. Her second novel, A Tumbled Stone was recently short listed in the contemporary fiction category of The Word Awards. Marcia also has two devotional books in print. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan. 






Abundant Rain, an ebook devotional for writers can be downloaded here

Visit Marcia’s Website