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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Fragrance of Life

Hello, Sandra Orchard here.

I live in Niagara, Canada, where let's just say the weather has been unusual this year. But one great side effect has been less bugs eating what few plants actually grew. Or so I thought. When I spotted this guy in our garden, I remembered a post I wrote a few years ago for my own blog and thought I'd share it here today.
Scent is a powerful thing. The slightest whiff of a particular scent can rouse memories you haven’t thought about in years, evoking unexpected emotions. The fragrance of my mom’s favorite hand lotion will bring memories of her flooding back to me. 
For others the smell of oil might take them back to their first car, or a day spent with their dad working on the old jalopey. The smell of leather might remind you of that cool guy you dated in twelfth grade. 
Since I write romantic suspense, you’re probably thinking–-fragrances…romance…I know where she’s going with this. Trust me when I say…probably not. 
Do you have Japanese beetles where you live? 
They’re quite attractive, with shiny green and bronze shield-like backs. But destructive! Think plague of locusts.
I knew we had to take action when the leaves on my linden turned to lacy skeletons and began falling in mid-June, a full three months too soon. 
When the beetles, migrated to my bean plants, we declared all out war.  
We discovered a nifty way to catch these beetles without using pesticides. You hang a plastic bag, like the one in the picture, upwind from the infestation and place a pouch of female beetle pheromones inside. 
Instantly, hundreds of beetles lifted from our bean plants, and swarmed to the source of the scent.
Wow, that was one powerful fragrance. 
It reminded me of 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?"
A humbling thought, isn’t it?  
When I catch myself acting not so fragrant, I think of that swarm of beetles and how very much I want to be the fragrance of life to those around me. How about you?

Today’s smile: 

This is Bella, my connoisseur-of-hubcaps pup. (you'll have to click the link for that story)

She felt sorry for all those Japanese beetles doped up on pheromones. After all dogs have an acute sense of smell. So… she liberated them! 
Yup, it’s true. As my daughter told my husband, “You had to know that was going to happen.” 
Have a fragrant week!  

Your Turn: 

What fragrance rouses the most powerful memories or emotions for you?

Sandra Orchard is a multi-award-winning Canadian author of inspirational romantic suspense/mysteries with Love Inspired Suspense and Revell. An active member in ACFW, The Word Guild, and RWA, she enjoys helping writers hone their skills. To find out more about her novels, and to read interesting bonus features, please visit or connect at 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Learning from Other Authors

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles/

It’s common for us to grab snippets of inspiration from other authors, especially those who have enjoyed some measure of success. Last week I came across an article in the latest edition of Newswrite1, the member’s magazine for the NSW Writers Centre, where Hannah Kent shared her five bits of advice she wish she’d been given when starting out on her writing journey.

If you’re unfamiliar with Hannah Kent, she’s an Aussie who has received critical acclaim for her debut novel, Burial Rites. Funny, I was just looking at my previous post for ICFW and I mentioned that Burial Rites was the next novel in my TBR pile. Unfortunately, I’ve got sidetracked on others in my pile so have still to tackle it.

I’ve watched and read a few interviews with Hannah and it’s quite apparent she is a very accomplished author and has a natural talent for writing. So I was intrigued to read her five bits of advice. What struck me was that the five were nothing I hadn’t read before but Hannah had her own particular insight into each that I thought I’d share with you all.

Photo courtesy of

1. Read

One of the old maxims: “Read a lot, write a lot,” which I’m sure we’re all familiar. Hannah expressed a view that we should read widely. “How else will you work out what is good and what is bad?”

Historically, I’ve tended to read mostly in my own genre, but have started to read more outside of it. And I am enjoying the freshness that comes from reading other genres but it’s also great to then switch back to something fast and edgy.

2. Cultivate Empathy

As Hannah states, this is an important life skill. For a writer, “empathy will enable you not only to write about characters very different from yourself, but to understand them too. It will help you create character motivation, backgrounds, voice.”

“Empathy, put simply, will give you a keener insight into the human heart.”

Hannah mentions that reading literary fiction was recently proven to increase a reader’s ability to empathise. She encourages authors when they’re people watching (as well do) to try to put yourself in others shoes (or minds) and ask what they may be feeling or wanting out of a particular situation. I must try it this week when I’m standing in a queue at the grocery store.

3. Work hard, be disciplined

Even though she was intuitively good at language it surprised her how essential diligence was to completing her novel. Hannah stresses the importance of adopting a “professional attitude.” This is consistent with what so many others have said and was an important takeaway that I gleaned a number of years ago, especially after reading Steven Pressfield’s “The War of Art.” A professional turns up every day; they honour deadlines (even their own) and don’t shirk the responsibility of getting the work done.
Photo courtesy of

4. Expect it to be difficult and don’t expect to feel ready

All of us would wholeheartedly agree with this one. Mastering anything requires hard work. Certainly, writing comes more intuitively to some authors (I’m not one of them) just like with any skill.

Hannah acknowledges the anxieties we all experience as we sit down at the computer:

“Writing is difficult, and your doubt won’t dissipate overnight. Be patient with yourself. What will happen is that you’ll become accustomed to the doubt and difficulty. You’ll accept it as an intrinsic part of the writing process, and this preparedness will help you eventually ignore it.”

One of the struggles I think many of us experience is getting into the groove. When you’re only able to grab “moments of a day” to write, establishing one’s flow can take a while and I find the longer it takes the more the anxieties badger me and distractions become more attractive.

It’s where having a collaborator in the Holy Spirit is such a blessing. He knows our anxieties and it’s in surrendering them to Him and soldiering on that we can experience release allowing us to get into a good writing groove.

5. Write from the Soul

Hannah differentiates writing from the heart to writing from the soul. It was her thoughts on what this means that most captured my attention and has given me added encouragement in my writing these past few days.

“Writing from the soul means to write about that which moves you at a profound level or in order to discover meaning, and to have purity of intention. You’ll know when you’re writing from the soul because the writing becomes the reward.”

My characters have appreciated this in recent days by being able to express themselves where prior to that they felt constrained by my inhibitions.

Write because you love it, “because there is no other way for you to breathe.”

Love that.

What of Hannah’s five grabbed your attention the most and/or what piece of advice do you wish you had known before you started out on your writing journey?

Note:1. Newswrite, The NSW Writers Centre bi-monthly magazine, Issue 216 August – September 2014. ISSN 1039-7531, pp20-21.

Ian Acheson is an author and strategy consultant based in Northern Sydney. Ian's first novel of speculative fiction, Angelguard, is now 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

Sunday, August 17, 2014


Coming Up This Week


Ian Acheson


Sandra Orchard: The Fragrance of Life


Mary Hawkins

Friday Devotion

Shirley Corder: My Cup Overflows


Contest Giveaway Winner

Celeste is the winner of a print copy of The Doctor's Return by Narelle Atkins (Narelle's post, July 31).

Congratulations Celeste!


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 15, 2014

DEVOTION: How Is Your Heart? ~ by Yvonne Ortega

2 Chronicles 16:9: “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”

Do you worry about your finances or your children? Are you or family members sick with the flu or another illness? Do you feel stressed over your job? Has someone hurt you or disappointed you? Do you struggle with anger or unforgiveness?

Our heavenly Father promises “to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” I want to hang on to that promise. Don’t you?

I find comfort in this verse for a couple of reasons. First, the Bible tells us God keeps his eyes on us. Our Abba Daddy loves us and watches over us.

Secondly, he promises to strengthen us, but he places a condition on that promise. He will strengthen those “whose hearts are fully committed to him.”

What does it mean to be “fully committed to him”? Let me give you an example of what it doesn’t mean. An acquaintance turned his back on God when his wife died of cancer. He said his wife taught Sunday school and sang in the choir. He didn’t want anything to do with God because he let a good woman suffer with cancer.

He was a “fair weather Christian.” As long as the blessings flowed in his direction, he lived for God. When he lost his wife, he became bitter and fell into the devil’s trap of unforgiveness.

As a “fair weather Christian,” he forgot God’s only Son, Jesus, suffered and died on the cross for our sins and how many Christians have been imprisoned, tortured and killed for their faith.

On the other hand, a friend lost her husband when he was 36 years old. She continued to love God, trust him, and serve him. God strengthened her and blessed her with a wonderful second husband, a young widower.

We can’t get through life without trials and heartaches, and we all come with an expiration date. The proof of our faith comes when we hang on to God’s promises anyway and allow him to strengthen us.

Dear God, help me be fully committed to you. Amen.

Copyright © by Yvonne Ortega January 14, 2013

OVER TO YOU: In what heartaches will you allow God to strengthen you this week? Leave a comment below.

Yvonne Ortega is a counselor, international bilingual speaker, trainer and eleven-year breast cancer survivor. She is the author of Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer (Revell) and a contributing author to The Embrace of a Father (Bethany House) and Transformed (Wine Press). She has also been published in several magazines online and hard copy.

Yvonne hosted a blogtalkradio program on breast cancer, addiction, domestic violence, and other types of trauma. Archives are available. Visit her website

Thursday, August 14, 2014


by Marion Ueckermann

I’m so excited! Helsinki Sunrise, a Passport to Romance, blog tour is finally here…officially. Nearly a month of hopping from blog to blog, country to country lies ahead. I’d love you to join me on this journey from one side of the world to the other–it’s going to be awesome. Yes, we’ll probably be cyber-lagged by the end, but it will be worth it, I promise.

Why not pack your eBags, and let’s clock up some cyber-miles together. But, in the bustle of our travels, don’t forget to visit Pelican Book Group on August 22nd and purchase an eCopy of Helsinki Sunrise—you’ll need a good book to read as you travel, and you’ll get it at half-price on that day. I guarantee you’ll love spending time in that special corner of Finland on Lake Sahajärvi at the Mikkola’s summer cottage.

Join the blog tour each day at the following links (remember to visit the stops that have already happened.) All blogs are hyperlinked to make your journey comfortable and easy.

The beauty of cyber travel means you don’t have to miss any stop and as a travel temptation, I’ve included a few highlights on this travel itinerary. 

May 19:  
Canada — No Wrong Turn and Book Promo @ Christine Lindsay

Please search under the label, HomelessIn writing Helsinki Sunrise, there’ve been no wrong turns. As I look back over my years of writing, I can see how God has guided me to this moment, this special debut novelette.

August 4:  
South Africa — Book and Author of August @ Foreign Affaire

This story will draw you into the scenery and the characters as well as the plot. For me, it was a one-sitting read. I couldn't put it down. I loved the look at Finland, a place I will probably never get to visit in any other way. But it feels like I've already been there.

August 11:  
South Africa — Suomi Sauna @ Foreign Affaire

Timo Nakari, Managing Director of Suomi Sauna Kft. in Gyorujbarat, Hungary, kindly shared his childhood memories of their family saunas in Finland.

August 14
South Africa — Pack Your Bags, We’re Going Travelling @ International Christian Fiction Writers

Oh, that’s us, today, right now, right here…read on!

August 15:  
Australia — Friday Weekend Escape to South Africa @ NarelleAtkins

It was difficult to choose a specific place to showcase in South Africa on this travel blog, so I decided on a quick overview of the places most significant to me—the beautiful and the ugly.

August 16:  
Hungary — Re-cover @ Re-Birth

On this blog stop we’ll look at some interesting facts about the cover of this fun romance novelette.

August 18:  Today we have a double feature...
South Africa — Meet Adam and Eve ~ Part 1 @ Foreign Affaire

Adam, what's your favorite saying? 
The best things in life are unseen, that's why we close our eyes when we kiss, cry, and dream.
Get a little more insight into our hero by visiting this blog.

August 18
Zambia — Meet Marion with Aldyth Thomson @ Beauty forAshes

Your school friends used to call you John Wayne. Please tell us why.

August 19:  
South Africa — Helsinki Sunrise Interview and Giveaway @ Shirley Corder

I love travel. I love foreign countries and cultures. I love the feeling of being in love. With the Passport to Romance books, I can give my readers a taste of all three from the comfort of their armchairs.

August 20:  
Zambia — Book Review with Aldyth Thomson @ Beauty for Ashes 
I have never read a love story where the main character is fasting and praying of all things, and yet Marion Ueckermann skillfully turns what could be dry and boring into a modern day Taming of the Shrew with a Christian twist.

August 21:  Our second double feature day…
South Africa — Meet Adam and Eve ~ Part 2 @ Foreign Affaire

Eveliina, what's your favorite saying? 
Not all scars show. Not ll wounds heal. Sometimes you can't see the pain someone feels.
Get a little more insight into our heroine by visiting this blog.

August 21
USA — Falling in Love in the Helsinki Sunrise, A Critiquers Journey and Book Review @ Diane Tatum

What do you get when you cross a devout (hot!) missionary fasting before going on the mission field, a bitter missionary kid whose parents died in their service to God, and a small island with one house and sauna?

August 22:  RELEASE DAY!!!
UK — Heroine Interview and Book Review with fellow Passport to Romance author, Clare Revel

What fun I had having my heroine, Eveliina Mikkola, interviewed.

August 23:  
USA — Blurb and Excerpt @ The Barn Door Book Loft

Stop by The Barn Door Book Loft to read the full opening scene.

August 24:  
USA — Author Interview @ The Barn Door Book Loft

Want to know the quirkiest thing I’ve ever done? Or my strangest habit? You’ll find out on this author interview.

August 25:  The third double feature day…
South Africa — Meet Marion @ Foreign Affaire

Interviewing myself...this should be interesting.

August 25
USA — Location, Location, Location and Book Review @ Johnnie Alexander Donley

Want to know why I chose to write a book set in Finland? Hop on over and decide for yourself whether I’m half Finnish now.

August 26:  
USA — Hero Interview and Book Review @ Heidi McCahan

I enjoyed having my heroine interviewed so much that I had to afford my hero the same opportunity.

August 27:  
South Africa — Author Interview with Ruth Dell @ International Christian Fiction Writers

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.

August 28:  
South Africa — Book Review with Ruth Dell @ International Christian Fiction Writers

August 29:  
Australia — Slices of Romance @ Inspirational Romance

Two small slices of romance from different scenes in Helsinki Sunrise to tempt you.

August 30:  
South Africa — Bear Necessities @ Marion Ueckermann

How many ways can you eat liquorice? The Finns believe in as many ways as possible.

September 1
USA — Hero Review and Book Review with Nancy Kimball on Fiction Hero Features

I am looking forward to this blog where Adam Carter, the hero, will be scored under the following aspects of his character:
•           Gallant Score
•           Wounded Score
•           Softie Score
•           Stupid Strike
•           Swoon Score

September 2:  
Hungary — Sweet Temptations @ Go Hungry Go Home

On this blog we take a closer look at “Operation Missionary Elimination.” Poor Adam!

     Was a little fruit all it took to turn God's finest creation to apple crumble? Had the way to a man's heart been through his stomach since the beginning of time?
     But she wasn't interested in Adam's heart—she wanted her space.

September 3
Canada — A Book Review with a Difference @ Marcia Lee Laylock

Today’s book review has been compiled from comments made by my critiquers as they journeyed with me—reading, giving feedback, advice, suggestions and praise—to ensure the Helsinki Sunrise manuscript was publication-worthy.

September 4
USA — “How to Keep Your Readers Turning the Page” @ Zoe M. McCarthy

Applying this method turned critiquers' comments from "...this is where I'd stop reading," to " a reader I loved the conflict which works because often I was tired and needed to go to bed but I had to see the next sub to know what happened."

September 5:  Our last double feature day…
Australia — Friday Weekend Escape to Finland @ Narelle Atkins

My second travel style blog. This time we visit the location of Helsinki Sunrise… Finland.

September 5
Australia — Täältä Tulee Morsian—Suomi Häät @ Inspirational Romance

When asked to focus this blog on the romance side of Helsinki Sunrise, I chose to write this blog based on my son’s Finnish wedding to avoid spoiling anything for the readers. And what could be more romantic than a wedding?

September 6
USA — Stop and Smell (or taste) the Finnish Flowers @ Pamela Thibodeaux  

In a country that consists mainly of forests and water, you might be tempted to ask, “What Finnish flowers?” Why don’t you stop by this blog and see for yourself?

September 8
Australia — Final Author Interview @ Paula Vince

I dreaded the final empty nest, but when it came, much as I love my two boys, I found it strangely enjoyable. Does that make me a bad mother?

October 3
Facebook Party — Meet the Pelican Book Group Authors

I’ll be one of the four featured authors. Come and join us. It’s great fun, and there are giveaways.

I hope you’re as excited about this itinerary as I am and ready to join me on this blog tour. Come and enjoy a Helsinki Sunrise in the northern wonderland of Finland.

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 Eveliina Mikkola 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?

There will be an eBook of Helsinki Sunrise up for grabs today. To be entered into the draw, please leave a comment with your email address before September 19th.*

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

Helsinki Sunrise will be available to purchase from Pelican Book Group,, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iTunes.

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. Her debut novelette, Helsinki Sunrise, releases August 22, 2014 by 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: Website / Amazon / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest

* 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.