Friday, August 28, 2015

DEVOTION: Don't Run! ~ by Shirley Corder

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)


Some years ago, I made the mistake of stopping on my way from a restaurant to the car to take a photograph of a nearby ostrich. Now, the ostrich is a curious fellow and this one decided he wanted a closer look at my camera.

The next several minutes were spent with my husband trying to maneuver the car between me and the inquisitive creature, while I trotted furiously around the car park, trying to reach the open car door. My husband, and the friends who were with us, found the entire incident hysterically funny.

I was just relieved to regain the sanctity of the car with my camera and body, if not dignity, still intact. As we drove from the parking, the ostrich trotted along behind us, seeing his guests off the premises.

This huge bird weighs up to 145 kilograms (320 lb) which is as much as two adult humans and can run at speeds of up to 70 km (43 miles) per hour. Needless to say, my friend in the parking lot wasn’t all that anxious to catch me, as trust me. I can’t reach speeds like that!

The Bible tells us to resist the devil. It doesn't suggest we try to outrun him. It tells us to submit ourselves to God's protection. Then to stand firm. Don't do what I did and try to outrun the ostrich. The devil can run faster than you can, but he has no hope against God's protection. If there is an area that is a major stumbling block in your life, call on God for help. Then stand firm and allow Him to win the battle.

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.

Sign up here to receiva short devotional message from Shirley in your inbox once a week.

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 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Best of the ICFW Archives: Humility in Writing

By Jenn Kelly




When I first wrote 'Jackson Jones', it took me a year and a half of sitting in coffee shops and drinking lattes. It was very laid back and I enjoyed my time. I realized I was rather funny. I figured I shouldn't have a problem getting published. 

A year later and 72 rejections (both from publishers and agents) I began to think that perhaps I wasn't so funny at all. That all the writing I had been doing throughout my life was just junk. I gave it to God. "God, if it be Your will, not mine, I'd love to be published." I finally found one that said yes. Which happened to be through someone I met at a conference who liked my spunk. 

Then illustrations were to be added. Oh what fun! I would have an illustrator. I was sent preview copies. And I loved some and I liked some. But it didn't matter what I thought, because I no longer had a say. Just like I no longer had a say in the cover, the title (was originally titled 'Jackson and his Great Aunt Harriett') or that my name was the same size as the illustrator.

Read more at the following link:

http://internationalchristianfictionwriters.blogspot.com/2011/06/humility-in-writing.html

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Writing And The Cross-Cultural Heart - Part 1

Over the years, I have been divided in half. Into thirds, actually--a part of my heart here in the U.S., where I was born, grew, studied, and intertwined with family, and another part scattered abroad in tiny pieces: Japan, where I lived abroad for the first time, and then Brazil, where I was married and became a mother.

All the memories, the faces, the smells. Those scraps of memories that seem strange now, out of place: snow piled on the sidewalk, palm trees in the sun. These fragments of images dwell within me, sometimes sleeping in peaceful silence, sometimes crowding and jostling and crying out. Each one rising to the surface like bubbles, transparent, evanescent, fragile. Fragile because I loved, and still love, and because the memories of where I was and no longer am sometimes brings pain.

A bittersweet pain of something beautiful now gone, and yet something beautiful that can never be gone because it lives in me. It is me. The muddle is confusing, perplexing. Rich and deep enough to touch my very roots, and yet leaving me with a gaping "something," a yawning question that never seems filled or answered.

For I can never live in all three places at one time, and there is always someplace--someone--I miss. 

Always.



Sometimes I look back at old photos and can almost taste the Hokkaido fresh-cream ice cream that the server mounded in fluffy spirals, right there next to my good friend Yumiko, and I am there again--remembering, with painful slowness, the kanji characters on the sign, the ubiquitous cross-chest messenger bags of the college students, and the smell of cold air in northern Japan. 

And other times it all seems so far away and ethereal, like it almost never happened.




Yet even now, more than ten years later, I still feel something tangible, something painful, flood my heart at the sight of even an obscure photo like this. I was there. I lived. Japan still lives in me, and a part of me lives vicariously through it, even now.

I read Rocketnews.com about the latest weird Asian burgers, and I am teaching my oldest son Japanese kanji characters. Remembering my own lessons, my own messy pencil strokes. My own throbbing heart as a naive student of cross-culture, never dreaming it would change me so much.

And through the years it becomes more and more tangled. My marriage to a Brazilian man (whom I met in Japan), and the humid salt air of our first home along the ocean. The beans and rice and soccer games and passion fruits and dry summer heat of the cerrado, the desert-like savanna of Brasilia where I spent more than eight years.

It has transformed a part of me as well, and I will never be the same.



None of us who step abroad into unknown lands are ever the same.

We age, I think, not only in years, but in emotions, in language, in humiliation at mispronunciations and social faux-pas, and in sincere gratitude to God as we cross over yet another cultural bridge to love a foreign friend as dearly as a sister or brother, as fiercely as if we were born of the same blood.

For in Christ we are, if we remember that He "is all and is in all," and there are no separations, no divisions, no arguments over geopolitics in His kingdom.



In fact, living abroad resembled a sort of "second birth" for me. Not merely the awakening to new cultures and customs, but the wholescale, awkward stumbling from first day to last day: my child-like groping through complex verb forms, using the wrong slippers, trying to make a sentence. A grown woman with a college degree unable to understand an elementary-school Japanese boy's question, no matter how many times he repeated it, and later a married woman with a son, nearly reduced to tears because she can't think of the right word for "cup" to ask a Brazilian street food vendor and asking for a slice of pork instead.

And yet surging joy as I realized I could do things I never dreamed: I could take buses all through the city of Brasilia by myself--by myself! I could pay, and ask questions, and shop for papayas at the market, and take myself to the doctor without a translator, and after a while, people sort of seemed to forget I was a foreigner. I worked at a Brazilian English-language school, the sole foreigner employed in our branch, and clocked in using the same time sheet everyone else did. When I flew home to the U.S., the waitresses offered me the Brazilian menu in Portuguese without asking--instead of the English one.

And there's more than fitting in, although that brings its own happiness of accomplishment. In one of my most treasured memories of all, I remember meeting a Japanese woman on a train who had kept a Bible hidden from her husband for fifty years--and she still recalled whole chapters and thought it just might be true... that perhaps it really was the Word of God. So keen was her love for the Bible! It was as if all time converged on this one single point, to lead my Japanese Christian friend and me to talk to her, urging her to get that Bible out and read it again, because its message was still true all these years later--and God still loved her, and still longed to have that relationship with her that He had offered the first time she opened it.

All of this swirls in me--the missed opportunities that still hurt, the deaths of dear friends I never quite got over, the memories of Christian friends from countless nations standing side-by-side at church--and it has become who I am.


When I write, I find this strange muddle, this tension, constantly at work in my prose and in my fiction. I cannot operate without it; it has overtaken me. Even in stories that have nothing to do with other countries, I can't help but think that way--look at characters that way--and ask myself, "What is it they are afraid of? What is it they miss most deeply?" And, "Where is home for them?"

For you can learn a lot about people, and about fictional characters, by learning what they miss and where they consider home.

If you asked me where I consider home, I would have to say, "I have no idea."

Ten years ago I would have quickly said, "The U.S." It's my home. It's what I miss. It's where I grew up; it's where my roots are. But I have learned over the years that roots are not such tender things that they cannot be uprooted and replanted, or perhaps even overgrown by memories--spiritual lessons and people who have lived as shining examples in the faith to me--from other lands.

All that I am has be reshaped, and so has my writing.

So has my sense of home.

When I write fiction, I can no longer incorporate the "expected" characters that appear in so many books... the clever and beautifully perfect golden-haired heroine, the handsome and dashing hero. While those images are all fine and good, I have seen too many people. And my thoughts jump to people I now consider supremely interesting: the late 40ish Japanese convenient store worker who studied English strenuously and religiously for more than two decades for no apparent purpose, the old Japanese man who gave me a bag of chocolate and hid a sad, dark secret about his absent family that he never shared, the Korean-Brazilian Christian singer whose Portuguese-language sermon on suffering made me fill up notebook pages with tear-stained notes, the brown-haired Brazilian woman who translated an interview for me in French because her French was better than her English--and I translated (if you can picture this!) from French to English to write the story.

They are the people I want to write about. They are the real faces, the real voices, and theirs is the real struggle we fight as we flesh out stories, choose words, and plot and craft books that we hope will touch generations for Christ. This is why I chose odd and unusual characters in my "Southern Fried Sushi" series, and fill my novellas with nerdy types, unconventional people, and people of different colors and cultures.

This is why I choose to write about Chinese immigrants in the San Francisco Gold Rush instead of the more expected Anglo-American--because my mind immediately shifts to the people I've known, the places I've walked (like China) and the way these people of different nations have changed forever the fabric of our nation. (Look for "The Golden Cross" in Barbour's Gold Rush collection, releasing early 2016).

I have learned, too, through it all, that there is a danger in stereotyping even those we'd consider enemies--and caricaturing them as evil while we sit on the side of good.

For we are all evil, really--"all have sinned"--all--including me, including my beloved country, including my people. I had never really thought in these terms before. In my teenage American patriotism, I thought loving my country meant denying or justifying all wrongdoing across the centuries. After all, if my country has done wrong, how can it be perfect?

It wasn't until I saw a Japanese pastor's wife lead her little Sunday school children in a weekly series called "The Sins of Japan" (complete with maps of invasions) that I realized how humble and mature was her love for her country in comparison to mine. She, you see, had grasped that it's possible to love your country without agreeing with all of its decisions, and without sugarcoating our past into one of pure, "kum-ba-ya" perfection. That is not only love, it is reality--and thinking over our American policies, both external and internal, made me think differently.

I wrote about this tension in my novella "Kamikaze" (Yellowstone Memories) which explores Japanese-American relations and tough issues all the way back to World War II, and about Native American policies and failures in "Black Widow."


If I were to be honest, I also think living abroad has brought a certain element of bittersweetness to my writing. Just like I have seen too many fascinating people to be satisfied with the simplistic, I have seen to many hard things to be satisfied with a sugar-coated ending. Life isn't sugar-coated, and neither are God's plans for most of us. I have seen street children with no shoes, people living in garbage heaps. Beautiful teenage girls selling themselves in Brazilian newspapers or Japanese online ads for money. My Japanese friend told me about a woman who committed suicide with her newborn child when she found out he was deaf.

I no longer believe in "sappy-happy" endings where everyone is perfectly thrilled to pieces, riding giddily off into the sunset, but I prefer to leave a lingering ache in there somewhere. A bit of a struggle that never truly goes away, even when the hero and heroine are finally united, and a bit of a longing that leaves us still waiting, perhaps unconsciously, for something.

For the plans God has for us, which so often include a heavy dose of both joy and suffering, hardship and joy. The same push-pull tension that works in us to build character, hope, and faith, and shows us more of a God who is bigger, greater, and more wild than we ever dreamed. He isn't a Santa Claus, He's a father. A loving father who sometimes includes pain in His greatest plans for our growth.

For those places we miss. For those countries where I once lived, and grew, and have now said good-bye to. Perhaps forever.

For those people who have shaped me, in all the places I've lived.

For home.

For heaven, my true home, where all of those longings and questions will finally--ultimately be fulfilled. Where I will never have to leave, never have to say good-bye. Never look back in nostalgic mistiness wishing for something that cannot be recovered.

All of this has shaped my writing, subtly, effortlessly, like a river polishes rocks, smoothing, sanding, changing, molding.

How has your cross-cultural heart shaped your own writing? Where is "home" for you, and how has your journey changed your fiction?

--
Jennifer Spinola has published four full-length novels with Barbour Publishing, along with several novellas. This year she also co-authored her first non-fiction book this year about the tornadoes that devastated Moore, Oklahoma. In her spare time (does she actually have any spare time?) Jenny changes diapers, scrubs spots off the carpet, hikes with her family, and serves up Brazilian-style rice and beans nearly every day.



Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Book Recommendation: Reservations for Two by Hillary Manton Lodge

Hi everyone, Kara here. I don't know about the rest of you in the southern hemisphere but we have had a rotten winter in our house. For the last six weeks we have done back to back colds, flus, tummy bugs and general misery. In the midst of all the horribleness I found myself bunkered down with the perfect "comfort read", Hillary Manton Lodge's Reservations for Two, the second book in her Two Blue Doors Series, which is split between France, Italy, Portland, and Memphis.

Back Cover Copy


 Juliette and Neil find romance simple as they travel through Provence and Tuscany together, but life back home presents a different set of challenges. Juliette has a restaurant to open, a mother combating serious illness, and a family legacy of secrets to untangle – how does Neil, living so far away in Memphis, fit into to her life? 
 
As she confronts an uncertain future, Juliette can’t help but wish that life could be as straightforward as her chocolate chip cookie recipe. Can her French grandmother’s letters from the 1940’s provide wisdom to guide her present? Or will every new insight create a fresh batch of mysteries? Food writer-turned-restaurateur Juliette D’Alisa has more than enough on her plate. While her trip to Provence might have unlocked new answers to her grandmother’s past, it’s also provided new complications in the form of Neil McLaren, the man she can’t give up. 



My thoughts

At the moment, there's a bit of a thing for writing series where all the books can also stand alone. This is not that. You absolutely need to have read the gorgeous first book in the series, A Table by the Window, to understand what is going on in Reservations for Two. 

This book combines many of my favourite things in a romance - multiple countries (who doesn't love an armchair visit to France and Italy?!), a historical and contemporary thread, challenging family dynamics, a heroine you cheer for, and twists you don't see coming. And it's a foodie novel so there are recipes for any of the mouth watering creations that show up in the pages! If you're a romance or contemporary fiction lover you really need to add this series to your shelf. I can't wait of the final instalment of Juliette's adventures (hopefully they involve another trip to France!) in April 2016.

Anyone else had any recent "comfort reads" they would recommend?

Kara Isaac lives in Wellington, New Zealand. Her debut romantic comedy, Close To You, is 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 April 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


Monday, August 24, 2015

The Consummate Traitor: A Long Journey With a Purpose, by Bonnie Toews


The idea for my novel THE CONSUMMATE TRAITOR began when I read the biography of William Stephenson – INTREPID, CHURCHILL’S MASTER SPY – by the Canadian author William Stevenson. In it, he wrote about an agent code-named Trudi, who was a cousin of King George VI. She volunteered to persuade the atomic physicist Niels Bohr, who was working on atomic bomb experiments in Copenhagen, to defect to London. The Danish Resistance did succeed in helping him escape to England but “Trudi” was arrested by the Gestapo, interrogated and tortured. No one knows what happened to her. She was declared missing in action and presumed dead. Reading this, I wondered. “What if she survived? What would her story be?” The only possibility was to create another woman to replace her on the mission.

First, I needed to create a believable royal lineage and hope I didn’t pinpoint her actual connection. To do this, I studied the pedigrees of the British, Danish and Norwegian royal families. The result: Lady Grace Radcliffe. Then I needed to create her counterpart – a woman who could look like her, but be opposite in nature and upbringing. The result: Lee Talbot. Only through their friendship, do they become more like each other as time goes on. With these names and broad character traits, I then started detailed research on their back stories, the men in their lives, and how they would fit into a plot I loosely based on the real “Trudi” mission.

Research in the 1980s was not as easy as it is today. I spent months in the Toronto Main Library photocopying sections of historic books and maps. I read the diaries of Basques who endured the bombing of Guernica. I read William Shirer’s journals about Germany through the 1930s, and Churchill’s memoirs, as well. The more I read, the more the Holocaust haunted me. One day I broke down and wept because I could hear their silent screams.

I interviewed a former Nazi aeronautical engineer who sat on Hitler’s inner circle as a designer of Germany’s first jets. He described Berlin and the effect Kristallnacht had on him in 1938. To trace all the backgrounds and invent the details necessary to build the story for THE CONSUMMATE TRAITOR took me ten years before I was ready to start writing my novel. The writing of the novel took another ten years plus two revisions that evolved over the next eight years. As wartime records were released new information surfaced, and I had to change portions of the book because I wanted the details to be as authentic as possible. The traitor’s story, for instance, evolved in greater detail. Britain’s civilian spy agency – SOE – recruited so many homosexuals that this led to the later British scandal of double Soviet agents, such as Anthony Blunt, a confidante of Queen Elizabeth II.

When I was nearly two-thirds finished, two things happened. Both times I awoke at 3 a.m. The first revelation identified the traitor – I believe not knowing kept driving me to write, but then I had to go back through the story and drop hints so the reader wouldn’t be as shocked as I was! The second burst of inspiration led me to write a chapter I have always believed came directly from God. It shows the spiritual charge working in the characters. It was never a part of my outline, and yet it absolutely belongs in the story. I never rewrote it, and I’m convinced it’s the reason why writing this story has always felt like a mission I had to complete. Curiously, no reviewer or reader has ever commented on that chapter. If it was God’s purpose to include it, the reason is entirely His.

Rather than reveal that special chapter, I feel guided to leave it as the private message it seems to be for individual readers.


Award-winning business journalist Bonnie Toews covered the delivery of aid to Rwanda following the genocide in 1994 and observed first-hand why Harry Belafonte, then ambassador for UNICEF, called Canada’s peacekeepers “the best in the world.” Today, Bonnie lends her voice to the Canadian Veterans Advocacy on her Homecoming Vets blog. Her novel THE CONSUMMATE TRAITOR is in its second edition with Whistler House Publishing.

Bonnie has also embarked with her life partner John Christiansen on producing the BIBI &  BABU TRAVEL SERIES. These books are armchair adventures that adults or grandparents can enjoy reading and sharing with their children. Ten percent of the series’ royalties goes to the Kilimanjaro Orphanage Centre in Moshi, Tanzania.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

SUNDAY EDITION


Coming Up This Week

Monday

Sara Goff: The Consummate Traitor: A Long Journey With a Purpose,
 by Bonnie Toews

Tuesday

Kara Isaac: Book Recommendation - Reservations for Two

Wednesday

Jennifer Rogers Spinola

Thursday

Jenn Kelly: Humility in Writing (Best of the ICFW Archives)

Friday Devotion

Shirley Conder: Don't Run!

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New Releases

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

Marion Ueckermann's second Passport to Romance novella, Oslo Overtures, set in Norway, will be an August 2015 release from White Rose Publishing.

Grace Bridges' literary science fiction set in Northern Ireland, Mariah's Dream, Book 1 in The Vortex of Éire series, has released from Splashdown Books in July 2015.


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Upcoming Releases

Sara Goff’s mainstream Christian fiction novel set in NYC, USA, I Always Cry at Weddings, will be a September 2015 release from WhiteFire Publishing.

To find more International Christian Fiction books, please visit our 2013 - 2016 Book Releases page and Backlist Titles.

Friday, August 21, 2015

DEVOTION: Move That Mountain ~ by Shirley Corder


". . . if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."  Matthew 17:20

I gazed at the magnificent Table Mountain in Cape Town and wondered. What did God mean? I couldn’t –didn’t want to—believe I held that sort of power, that I could demand it be moved. How many lives would be shattered or lost if that mountain moved?

But of course Jesus was not referring to a geological mountain. The disciples had just done battle (and lost) with a demonic spirit. Jesus was saying if they had any faith at all, they would have been able to move that spiritual mountain from that young boy.

I have been astounded recently to learn of some Christian leaders who actually do not believe this Scripture. They say that this was for the age of the apostles, and it no longer applies to today.

Some years ago, I knew beyond any doubt God wanted me to write a book of meditations specifically for those going through cancer treatment and those who were standing with them. I live in South Africa where we have few opportunities to get a book published outside of self-publishing, and I didn’t sense God wanted me to go that way. So I stepped out in faith and wrote the book, trusting God to take care of the rest. I looked at the mountain standing between my words and a published book, and asked, “Lord, please move that mountain.”

It didn’t happen all at once. Bit by bit that mountain started to move. An American author, Cecil Murphey, sent an email out of the blue, offering to pay for me to come to a Christian writers’ conference in Florida. He knew nothing about my book, nor did he know he was part of a mountain-moving exercise, but he was listening to the Lord.

At the conference, more pieces of mountain moved as the editor of Baker Publishing wanted my book. The mountain continued to crumble until one amazing day, several years after my original prayer, the entire mountain was gone, and I held in my hands my published book which was now available world-wide.
What mountain is standing between you and where you believe God wants you to be? Does God want it moved? Do you have faith? Then speak to it. God is still in the mountain-moving business today.

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.

Sign up here to receiva short devotional message from Shirley in your inbox once a week.

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