Monday, December 22, 2014

The Best of the ICFW Archives: Books, Books, Everywhere...

by Marion Ueckermann


One of the most fascinating places I visited when we lived in Ireland was the library at Trinity College in Dublin. It is the largest research library in Ireland, containing around 5 million printed volumes and a vast number of manuscripts, maps and music.

The most famous book in this amazing library is located in the Old Library. The Book of Kells, a 9th-century gospel manuscript celebrated for its lavish decoration and called the ‘most beautiful book in the world’, has worldwide fame. Containing the four Gospels in Latin based on a Vulgate text, this manuscript is written on vellum in a script known as “insular majuscule”. Thousands of rare and very early volumes have also found their home in the Old Library.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

SUNDAY EDITION


Coming Up This Week

From Monday to Thursday over the Christmas and New Year period we're bringing you our 'Best of the Archives' posts from 2009 and 2010. Our blog started on November 1, 2009 and you can read Lisa Harris' inaugural post here. 

Our Friday Devotion posts will run as normal, with special Christmas and New Year Devotions. 

All of us from International Christian Fiction Writers and ACFW Beyond the Borders wish you a blessed Christmas and New Year. We look forward to sharing our posts with you in 2015. 
   
Monday

Books, Books, Everywhere

Tuesday

 The Battle of Blood River

Wednesday

 Tasmanian Devils - and more about Tassie

Thursday 

Operation Christmas Child in Papua New Guinea

Friday Devotion

Judith Robl: The Sacrifice of Praise

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Contest Giveaway Winner


Amanda is the winner of Hidden Agenda by Lisa Harris (Lisa's post, December 16)

Congratulations Amanda! 

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Upcoming Book Releases

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.

Donna Fletcher Crow's murder mystery set in England, A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary, book 4 the Monastery Murders series, ebook only available now, print coming in January 2015.

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.

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Dandelions for Dinner, Book 4 in the Farm Fresh Romance series, releases independently in spring 2015.

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.

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

Friday, December 19, 2014

DEVOTION: Flash Mobs at Christmas ~ by Marcia Lee Laycock


I love the videos of flash mobs that circulate on YouTube and Facebook, especially at this time of year. I love to watch the faces of those in the malls or city squares as they realize that something unusual is happening. The looks range from bemused delight to open-mouthed awe. Cell phones quickly appear to capture the event and the applause at the end is usually long and loud.

What is it about these spontaneous events that delight us?

We aren’t expecting it. Who expects a symphony orchestra to suddenly strike up in a food court? The people doing it look just like us yet they are doing something out of the ordinary, something fun and sometimes spectacular. Ordinary routines are suddenly halted, an ordinary day is turned into a festival and the focus on scurrying around to shop is forgotten. Strangers smile at one another and share the delight of discovery. For a few moments a community is created.

As I watched a video of a flash mob the other day I thought of how perfectly it exemplified the spirit of Christmas.

Who expected the Messiah to be born as a baby in a manger? The people involved were ordinary people who looked just like all the others in that era yet they were involved in a world-changing event – something totally out of the ordinary, something spectacular. The ordinary routines of Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and the wise men were suddenly halted. An ordinary event, the birth of a child, on an ordinary day, became the pivot on which history would turn. Those who came to worship the Christ child on that day were strangers to one another, but they became companions in a journey that would lead them to the most important discovery of their lives and a joy that would never leave them.

As I thought about it, I thought about my own attitude to yet another Christmas season. I’ve seen over six decades of them. Yes, I’m that old! And sometimes I miss the delight and the joy I had as a child, because it is all so familiar. It’s all so commercial with the constant pressure to buy and my jaded attitude causes me to miss the glory.

Perhaps that’s why I love the flash mobs. They renew my joy in this season, they renew my delight in the story that is still the pivot of the world’s history even after more than 2,000 years.

As a writer of faith it’s important that I sustain that joy and delight, not just at Christmas time, but all through the year, because without it I cannot pass it on to my readers. Without that connection to the reality of the only story that truly matters in this world, I cannot write the stories that will point people to it and perhaps even draw them into an eternity of joy.

What about you? Has your attitude toward Christmas been dulled over the years? Has it been jaded by all the commercialism? Click into YouTube and find a video about a flash mob. (Here’s one you might enjoy.) Or better, open your Bible and read the story again. Ponder the event that changed the world. It might just renew your Christmas spirit and fuel the joy that will seep into your work all year long.

“Sing, O heavens! Be joyful, O earth! And break out in singing, O mountains! For the LORD has comforted His people, and will have mercy on His afflicted.” (Isa 49:13 NKJ)

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isa. 9:6 NIV)

NOTE FROM SHIRLEY: Watch this fabulous example of what Marcia talks about above:


Marcia Lee Laycock lives and writes in Central Alberta Canada where she lives with her husband and two golden retrievers. Her work has appeared in print in both Canada and the U.S. and in many places on the world wide web. Visit her website to learn more about her writing and speaking ministry.

Download Abundant Rain, a devotional for writers of faith at Smashwords.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Travel Change: A Story Cube Flash Fiction

[December 18th. I have to write a blog! But I have no idea what topic I should take. I mention it to my visiting writer friend (who normally lives in Austria) and like magic, she pulls out a set of Story Cubes. She bought them in Sweden as a souvenir but since discovered they are all over the world. Nine dice, each with six symbols. Cast the dice and be inspired, apparently. Well - I'm game! I need a solution to my lack of inspiration. I shake the dice and drop them on the table. 

Footprint. Globe. Lightbulb. ID card. Abacus. Flower. Turtle. Cane. Falling star.

Here goes nothing...]

"There's a whole world out there," said the old man as he leaned on his cane. The boy squinted up at him in the hot sun. His grandfather continued. "All you have to do is take one step. Then take another. Pretty soon you'll be somewhere else and if you keep going, why, you might just see every country on earth!"

"Have you seen every country on earth?"

"Oh, not I, my boy. But maybe you will."

The boy dug his toes into the red dirt and peered at the low trees crowding the horizon. "Tell me about some of the places you've seen."

"Well, there was the time I swam with turtles under a night sky filled with falling stars. I wish you could have been there too." He grew pensive at the memory.

"Opa, don't be silly. They're not falling stars. They're meteorites."

"Of course they are." Opa laughed and waggled his eyebrows. "Then there was the time I lost my passport in Holland. I went to see the fields of tulips. Truly wondrous. But after a long day of walking around, I returned to my hostel and found I didn't have my ID on me."

"What did you do then?"

"I had this brilliant idea that the only place I could have dropped it was in the bus when the driver was counting out change. It turned out I was right, but it took a lot of legwork to find the company and their office. But the whole time I searched, I saw those fields of flowers and everything was worth it."

The old man talked for hours as the boy accompanied him on his slow walk around the village, and when the boy had work to do, Opa went too, telling stories all the way.

Finally, the tales fell silent, and after a while, the boy spoke. "In all your travels, Opa, what is the most important thing you learned?"

"Aside from always taking that first step?" Opa's eyes twinkled. "The first most important thing is to let it change you."

Dusk had fallen, and as they paused to survey the first evening stars, a bright point of light zipped across the sky. The boy gaped. Pointed. "Opa! Was that... was that my first falling star?"

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Movies


There are less than 8 days until Christmas, and I for one am going to miss this season terribly.

Why?

Because this year, I have gotten addicted to Christmas movies!

Yes, it’s true.

My DVR is jam packed.

I am loving all these beautiful movies that center around love and family. These optimistic storylines often have me wondering who wrote them, because they resemble the fantastic inspirational books us Christian writers pen.

And it amazes me that every movie seems to have at least one line that should be hung on the wall.

I just can’t help but paraphrase one from the movie, Christmas on the Bayou.

“You can’t chase happiness, you have to find it where you are.”

A great message for this time of year as we dream about what is to come in 2015.

And I may have some big plans for the coming year, which I’ll be sharing in future posts, but I guarantee you, I’ll be trying to enjoy each moment of the journey and I hope you do, too.

Merry Christmas and All the Best in the New Year!

Enjoy your blessings!


Eva Maria Hamilton is the author of Highland Hearts, a Love Inspired Historical novel published by Harlequin. Her novel, Highland Hearts, won 2nd Place in the Historical Romance, as well as the Traditional/Inspirational Romance Categories in the Heart of Excellence Reader’s Choice Awards, and was an Inspirational Series Finalist in the 2013 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence.


Highland Hearts

Scotland 1748

The Battle of Culloden is over, but one Highlander’s fight has just begun…

Logan McAllister survived years of indentured servitude in the Americas to reach this moment. Now he’s returned to Scotland, ready to redeem the secret promise from Sheena Montgomery’s father – that his years as an indentured servant would earn him Sheena’s hand in marriage. But when he arrives home, he learns that Sheena’s father has died, his contract has been lost… and Sheena is engaged to another man.

To connect with Eva Maria Hamilton online, please visit her at www.evamariahamilton.com




Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Giveaway! Hidden Agenda

I don’t know about you, but this year has flown by for me! Between ministry, writing, and family, I’m enjoying the chance to slow down for a few days during this holiday season of 90 degree weather on my side of the world! Not only have I recently finished three pressing writing deadlines, but two of my three kids are home, which makes it even more special.

Looking back over the past five years, I’ve enjoyed so much watching this blog grow and have enjoyed the posts from authors living all over the world. I’ve been encouraged in the writing journey (and life in general!), have been introduced to new authors, and have seen parts of the world I might never be able to see in person. Thank you for being a part of our journey!

In the celebration of Christmas and giving, I’d like to give away a copy of HIDDEN AGENDA to one winner! (A non US address will receive an ebook copy) With such an international audience, I’d love to hear a special or unique holiday tradition from your family. Leave a comment below, and I will draw a winner randomly to receive a copy. Giveaway ends midnight, December 20th, 2014 (PT).


“A non-stop chase that is constantly set on high-gear, fans of Lisa Harris will revel in the constant race from one place to another. Readers will most definitely be unable to catch their breath before the fantastic ending is revealed.” Suspense Magazine on Hidden Agenda




Merry Christmas!

Lisa Harris


To find out more about Christy-award winner Lisa Harris and her books you can visit her website at www.lisaharriswrites.com. Be sure and sign up for her newsletter as well!




Giveaway is 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.




Monday, December 15, 2014

Book Review: The Songs of Jesse Adams by Peter McKinnon


Book Description

Set in the turmoil of social change and political unrest of Australia during the 1960s, The Songs of Jesse Adams traces the meteoric rise of a boy from the bush – a farmer’s son who breaks away to follow his heart, his dreams and his love of music. But, as Jesse travels with his band and the crowds gather, it becomes clear that something else is afoot. This rock singer captivates and transforms a host of fans who hear his songs and encounter his touch. 

Lives are changed in unexpected ways and the enigmatic Jesse becomes a symbol of hope and freedom for those on society’s edge. But not all will celebrate the rising tide of influence of this charismatic figure whose words and actions challenge those in power – the media, the politicians, the church. In one tumultuous week this clash of ideals comes to a head – with profound consequences. 

Awash in all the protest and collapse of conservative Australia, the colour and madness that was the sixties, The Songs of Jesse Adams is a tale of conflict, betrayal and tragedy, but ultimately the triumph of love.

Narelle: The Songs of Jesse Adams is different to the books I usually read. It’s a fictional story with Christian content that’s written for a general market audience. The story touches on confronting social issues that will probably offend conservative Christian readers. It has edgy content that doesn’t just prick the so-called ‘Christian bubble’, but blows it apart with dynamite. The book contains strong language that isn’t usually found in the typical Christian fiction book. If you’re offended by reading bad language and blasphemy, this book probably isn’t for you. 

I really liked the story premise. The Songs of Jesse Adams is an allegory of the gospel story, set in Australia in the late 1960′s. If Jesus had lived during this time in history, what would he be doing? Who would he be hanging around? More importantly, who would he offend with his message of love? We follow the character of Jesse Adams, a country boy who forms a band and becomes a well known singer. A charismatic man who draws a crowd and inspires people to follow him. 

If you know the gospel story, you’ll follow the basic plot and discover which characters are inspired by specific Biblical characters. The story has a strong, authentic Australian flavour and includes many colloquial expressions that were common in the 1960′s. For example, nong (idiot), cocky (farmer), grog (liquor), yarns (stories), loos and dunnies (toilets), and chinwag (chat). 

One reason this story is different to my usual choice of reading material is my personal preference for fiction written from a purist point of view. The Songs of Jesse Adams is written from multiple viewpoints, including omniscient (narrator) viewpoint, and there is head hopping within scenes and paragraphs. I can understand why the author has chosen to use multiple viewpoints. It stylistically fits the allegory and the original Biblical narrative story format. The reactions of the people who encounter Jesse are an important aspect of the story.

At times I found the first half of the story difficult to follow because we were introduced to a large cast of characters. I like to become absorbed in a character’s viewpoint, get to know them and become invested in their story journey. It’s harder to do this when we’re moving between a number of character’s heads in a short space of time. I did re-read a few sections to get a handle on what was happening and which characters were involved. Once I passed the half way mark, it became much easier to read and follow each of the main characters. I suspect I’m more sensitive to head hopping than the typical reader, and others may not even notice the viewpoint changes.

I recommend The Songs of Jesse Adams to readers who are looking for gritty, real-to-life fiction that isn’t sugar-coated and challenges their thinking on contemporary social issues. 

I received a complimentary review copy from the publisher.