Monday, June 29, 2015

Book Recommendation: Sweet Serenade and Orphaned Hearts in SPLASH!



Narelle here. Last Tuesday was an exciting day for a few of the founding members of our International Christian Fiction Writers blog. Valerie Comer, Marion Ueckermann, and myself, with a group of nine contemporary Christian romance authors, celebrated the release of SPLASH!

I've enjoyed reading the stories in SPLASH! and I'm sharing my thoughts on Valerie and Marion's stories in my post today. As well as having a water the theme, the box set collection is international with contemporary Christian romance novellas set in Australia, Canada, Zambia, Scotland, Alaska and mainland USA.

Sweet Serenade by Valerie Comer, author of the Farm Fresh Romance series


Book Description: Canadian river guide and canoe builder Reed Daniels stands by as his lifelong friends pair off. After all, he’s waited this long for the right woman… what’s a little longer? But when newcomer Carly shows up at the gang’s bonfire, he’s mesmerized. Could she be the answer to his prayers?

Water-sport enthusiast Carly Thorbergsen is starting over in Riverbend. Hired as a canoeing and hiking guide, she’s ready to focus on work and leave the personal stuff behind. That is until the competition, Reed Daniels, offers her a ride in his cedar-strip canoe. No resisting that!

But no matter how much they have in common, Carly can’t erase her past, and Reed is bound to discover the truth. When a date finds Carly and Reed running rapids on the outside of the canoe, they come face to face with the real reasons their new relationship might capsize.

Narelle’s thoughts: Sweet Serenade is a fun contemporary Christian romance set in a small fictitious Canadian town. Carly’s cousin warns her about getting involved with Reed, who is the handsome, single guy in their church group. Carly can’t help being drawn to Reed, despite the added complication of being employed by Reed’s competitor.

Carly is struggling with guilt from her past and she’s adjusting to life in a small town community. I loved Reed’s integrity and his desire to live out his faith in all areas of his life. The minor characters added a realism to the story that I really liked. The river scenery is gorgeous and I want to go canoeing in a small town just like Riverbend!

Read an interview with Valerie here.

~~~~~~~~~~

Orphaned Hearts by Marion Ueckermann, author of the Heart of Africa series



Book Description: When his wife dies in childbirth, Zambian conservationist Simon Hartley pours his life into raising his daughter and his orphan elephants. He has no time—or desire—to fall in love again. Or so he thinks.

Wanting to escape English society and postpone an arranged marriage, Lady Abigail Chadwick heads to Africa for a year to teach the children of the Good Shepherd Orphanage. Upon her arrival she is left stranded at Livingstone airport… until a reluctant Simon comes to her rescue.

Now only fears born of his loss—and secrets of the life she’s tried to leave behind—can stonewall their romance, budding in the heart of Africa.

Narelle’s thoughts: Orphaned Hearts is a heartfelt contemporary Christian romance set in exotic Zambia on the banks of the Zambezi River. Despite her father’s disapproval, Abigail travels from England to Africa and teaches in an orphanage. She leaves behind an ex-fiance and her luxurious life as Lady Abigail. Simon is a devoted father to Chloe and spends his time caring for orphaned elephants. He is intrigued by the fiesty and beautiful Abigail when she first arrives in Zambia.

A sweet romance develops between Simon and Abigail, and I loved how Chloe bonds with Abigail. Simon is challenged to let go of his grief and rediscover his faith during the story. Abigail has secrets that threaten to destroy her idyllic new life in the small African village. The orphaned elephants are just adorable, and an elephant ride during an African safari is on my travel bucket list!

Read an interview with Marion here.

~~~~~~~~~~

His Perfect Catch by Narelle Atkins, author of the Snowgum Creek series



Book Description: Sydney girl Mia Radcliffe borrows her cousin’s beach house in Sapphire Bay, Australia, to escape the scandal surrounding her ex-fiancé. Her new neighbor is her secret crush from years ago… and she’s still captivated by the handsome builder who was a youth group leader at her church.

Living next door to Mia wasn’t part of Pete McCall’s plan when he started renovating his beach house. The blonde beauty inspires thoughts of settling down, despite her high maintenance ways and big-city dreams.

Love kindles during their time together and Mia’s heart is set on returning to Sydney with Pete. When new opportunities arise, Pete and Mia must decide if their love is for keeps.


Grab a tall glass of lemonade or iced tea and dip your toes into a cool pool of water on a hot summer’s day while you enjoy the never-before-released Christian romance novellas in SPLASH!

NINE Refreshing Romances Filled with Faith!

Available from Amazon Kindle for 99 cents

Sunday, June 28, 2015

SUNDAY EDITION


Coming Up This Week

Monday

Narelle Atkins - Book Recommendation: Sweet Serenade and Orphaned Hearts in SPLASH!

Tuesday

Eva Maria Hamilton

Wednesday

Grace Bridges

Thursday

Christine Lindsay

Friday Devotion

Val Waldeck: When A Strong Wind Blows in Your Life

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

Contest News

Blind Trust, book 2 in Sandra Orchard’s Port Aster Secrets series, is a Selah Awards finalist for Mystery.

Sandra Orchard’s Identity Withheld is a Holt Medallion finalist in the short inspirational category, and a National Readers' Choice Awards finalist in contemporary series suspense/adventure.

Sandra Orchard’s Blind Trust and Identity Withheld have been shortlisted, in the mystery and romance categories respectively, in the 2015 The Word Awards, a national contest for Canadian Christian writers.

Sandra Orchard’s Emergency Reunion is an RT Book Reviews Top Pick.

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

New Releases

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

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

Narelle Atkins, Valerie Comer, Autumn Macarthur, and Marion Ueckermann have novellas set in Australia, Canada, Scotland, and Zambia in SPLASH!, a novella collection releasing independently in June 2015. Five American authors with USA-set stories are also included. 


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

Upcoming Releases

Narelle Atkins' contemporary romance novella set in Australia, His Perfect Catch, releases independently in July 2015.

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance novella set in Canada, Sweet Serenade, Book 3 in the Riverbend Romance series, releases independently in July 2015.

Autumn Macarthur's contemporary romance novella set in Scotland, More than Friends, releases independently in July 2015.

Marion Ueckermann's contemporary romance novella set in Zambia, Orphaned Hearts, releases independently in July 2015.

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.

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 - 2015 Book Releases page and Backlist Titles.

Friday, June 26, 2015

DEVOTION: Praying with Our Eyes Open ~ by Marcia Lee Laycock

The waitress placed a large bowl of salad in the middle of the table and handed plates all round. Spence and I chatted with our friends for another few moments, while the waitress poured tall glasses of water, then we bowed our heads, closed our eyes and thanked God for the food we were about to eat and the friendship we could enjoy. It was a common blessing, something that is as ordinary to Christians as breathing. As we dished up the salad, our friend Bob said, “We should have prayed like they do in China.” My first thought was, how could it be so different? Then Bob explained.

“You can’t bow your head over there. You can’t close your eyes. When the people say the blessing over a meal, in public, they look at one another as though they were having a normal conversation, but instead of talking to one another, they talk to God.” I was amazed at the need for such caution. But Bob assured me it was necessary. “Over there, you pray with your eyes open, in more ways than one.”

We can be thankful that we don’t have to be afraid to bow our heads and close our eyes in public. But perhaps there is something of value to be learned from the need to do so.

Pray with your eyes open. The phrase has stayed with me, and it has occurred to me how meaningful and exciting praying that way could be. Perhaps you’ve already done it. Perhaps you stood on the edge of a mountain and looked out on an unending scene of beauty and praised God. Or you looked into the eyes of a new-born baby and gave thanks. Perhaps you watched the destruction and devastation of war on T.V. and prayed for peace. Or drove past an accident on the highway and prayed for those taken away in an ambulance. Or perhaps you walked down the street one day and suddenly started praying for everyone you saw.

Praying with your eyes open. It’s not a bad idea, not a bad habit to cultivate. The Apostle Paul exhorted the people of Thessalonica to do just that when he said, “Pray continually” (I Thess.5:17). There are times, of course, when our praying should be done in a way that takes us away from the distractions of external things, but praying with our eyes open will make us aware of what’s really going on around us. It can put us in touch with what God is doing and make us a part of it. Too often we miss it. Our eyes are open but we’re not seeing, we’re not being touched by what’s around us.

That is God’s intention, after all, that we be His servants on this earth, servants who see and respond in prayer and in action. Pray continually. Pray with your eyes open. Try it. You might get to like it!

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.

Marcia is the author of One Smooth Stone and A Tumbled Stone, and the devotional Spur of the Moment - available at Christian bookstores or from Amazon. Or order by emailing directly. Contact Marcia via her website to sign up to receive her weekly devotional, The Spur. 

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

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Those second hand treasures

Recently, I had several hours to while away at a hospital as I waited for my husband to be discharged. At first, I sat in a corner with a cup of coffee as I read and wrote. It was a bitterly cold day, however, so in order to feel my feet again, I decided to explore a little. Eventually, I found an area outside where various stalls were being set up in an effort to raise funds for the hospital. While most were food stalls, catering for the hungry lunchtime hordes, I also found a second hand bookstall. The two women running it were intrigued when I told them I was an author and wanted to know what sort of books I wrote. An interesting conversation ensued, during which I commented how I was happy to see any of my books in a second hand bookshop.

‘Of course,' I went on to explain, 'I always hope the person who initially bought or was given my book read it before recycling it—but at least he or she didn’t think it was bad enough to consign it to the rubbish bin straight away! Besides, it gives more than one person the opportunity to read my books, which is great from my perspective.’

I also told them how my novels contain strong faith themes, at which point the lady in charge told me they steer clear of selling any religious books.

‘It’s too risky for us. This is a very multicultural area and we don’t want to offend anyone.  Any Bibles we receive, we give straight to the hospital chaplain. Also, sometimes we get quite strange books donated to us and I refuse to put them on display as well. We don’t want to lead anyone astray.’

She proceeded to show me some they had just received—and I was glad of her decision not to display them. I began to wander around the stall and found many good books, ranging from classics to popular novels to cookbooks to children’s stories, all selling for less than two dollars. Then I noticed a book by Australian Christian author and radio personality Kel Richards, The Case of the Vanishing Corpse. Hmm. It seemed the ladies in charge did not realise it was about a modern day detective investigating the disappearance of the body of Jesus. Oh well!

I then noticed one of these ladies examining the book Surprised by Joy by C S Lewis.

‘I don’t know this book or author,’ she commented.

‘Oh, C S Lewis an excellent writer,’ I said blithely. ‘Very insightful and well worth reading!’

I hoped I hadn’t said too much. I prayed she would leave the book on display and was relieved to see her do exactly that. I bought a selection of books and chatted with them for a while longer in an effort to encourage them. After all, they were doing a great job for that hospital, standing in the cold to sell those books. And who knows what treasures they might pass onto others in the process?

How about you? Are you partial to second hand bookstalls? And how would you feel if one of your novels found its way onto one of these?

Jo-Anne Berthelsen lives in Sydney, Australia. She holds degrees in Arts and Theology and has worked as a high school teacher, editor and secretary, as well as in local church ministry. Jo-Anne is passionate about touching hearts and lives through both the written and spoken word. She is the author of six published novels and one non-fiction work, Soul Friend: the story of a shared spiritual journey. Jo-Anne is married to a retired minister and has three grown-up children and four grandchildren. For more information, please visit www.jo-anneberthelsen.com.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

North to Alaska!

Early morning hike in Haines Junction, YT

Long ago—back around 1960—I was a child in school when we studied the building of the Alaska-Canada Highway—“Alcan” for short. The idea of driving all the way to Alaska caught my childish imagination, but the road was gravel. You had to carry gas cans and know how to fix your own car if it broke down because there were no services. I am not the least bit mechanically minded, so as an adult I regretfully set aside that dream as unrealistic for me.

Gates can close the road to travel in foul weather.
Fast-forward fifty years. The road is asphalted. There are gas stations every hundred miles or so and finding a mechanic in a time of need is theoretically not impossible. It turns out that driving to Alaska was also a long-time dream of my soon-to-be-ninety-year-old mother-in-law. My husband (no more mechanical than I am) is now officially retired. We could do it, we told ourselves. Why not?

We began talking seriously about it eight months ago. The Alaska Tourism Board was more than happy to send us information. My husband plotted our route and contacted hotels in February. May 20 we left home with a cooler, a camera, and a box of supplies. Twenty-five days and 9,280 miles later, we arrived home, awed and eager to do it again.

In 1942 a recuperating soldier added his hometown
of Danville, IL, to the sign post on Watson Lake in
Yukon Territory. Since then others have followed suit
until it has grown into this "signpost forest".
The Alaska Highway had been talked about since the gold miners headed north in the 1890s. Serious route possibilities were discussed in the 1930s. But it was the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that pushed the US and Canadian governments to come to an agreement to make the road a reality. Work began in the spring of 1942. In June the Japanese attacked an American base in the Aleutian Islands and demonstrated the importance of an overland supply route for military bases there. More than 16,000 soldiers and civilian engineers bulldozed trees, leveled the ground, and built bridges, ditches and culverts over 1,422 miles of wilderness. At first commanders believed that Americans of African descent would not be able to handle the harsh conditions of the far north (more than 90 degrees in summer and fifty or more below zero in winter). When they finally did send African Americans, they excelled. This miracle of engineering, sometimes compared to the Panama Canal for its scope and coordination, was completed in November of 1942, only eight months after it was begun!

Wildlife like bear and this moose can be seen along the road.
Now, I am a novelist. As we journeyed, I kept imagining the men who built the road, the sweethearts they left behind, the friends and brothers fighting in the Pacific. Most of these men had never been out of the lower 48 before. Most of the locals were used to traveling by dog-sled. What a range of characters! What a range of emotions in those close quarters and harsh conditions! What a setting for Christian fiction! (Note: This is a major hint to my Canadian friends and fellow-bloggers; I really want to read a book about this.)

Our 2015 journey found a two-lane asphalted road, much of it with no shoulder. Some days we met another vehicle about once every ten minutes. "Facilities" were mostly long drops at roadside pullovers. We saw moose and bear, waterfalls, tundra and snow-capped mountains. Although Mom likes to take an arm to steady her these days when she walks, her spirit of adventure is strong. She’s not up to hiking, but she is more than up to riding in a car and oggling out the windows. Every day of the journey was a worship experience, praising our incredible Creator God, a shared adventure none of us will ever forget.

___

LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books for young people come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey truth. She loves hiking and always wants to know what's around the next corner. You can read a day-by-day log of her Alaska trip (with lots more pictures!) at her new travel blog, Wide-eyed Wanderer, and find out more about her books at her author site, Times and Places.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Are We Using What God Gave Us? by Ruth Bigler

I run in the mornings. For years I wasn’t able to run, because pregnancy and babies and something that happened to my knee when I was pregnant with number one. But suddenly, blissfully, I run now, almost every morning.

There is something magical about being outside in the morning in the summer, when the early light is filtering through the leaves that have passed the pale, yellow-green of spring and are now the dark, rich colour of a summer forest. The birds talk more in the morning than they do at any other time of day. They talk more, and they talk louder, quarrelling, singing, jubilating in the experience of existing in a morning in the summer.

There’s a field I run past that’s flat and boggy, and often a moose will startle at my approach and take off running, his gangly legs flailing, his whole disproportioned body evoking a cross between the majestic awe of creation and a great cosmic joke. Sometimes I even see “my” owl perched on a fence post, watching me as I run past, its head swivelling a full 180 degrees to follow me down the road.

And then there’s the running. I never feel more alive, more grateful for the beautiful gift that is my body, as when I’m pounding down the hard-packed dirt road, the smell of dew and aspen and warm dirt in my nostrils, my feet hitting the road in perfect rhythm and my breath as steady as my footsteps. It is my meditation, my zen, my morning devotional. It affects my every day. It affects my confidence, how I feel physically, and how much patience I have for my kids, my husband, and my co-workers.

A beautiful, sublime purpose exists within our bodies and our spirits. When I run, my body is doing what it was built to do; when I pray, or read my Bible, or go to church—when I turn to God—my spirit is doing what it was built to do.

When I first started training again, after six years out of commission, it was hard. I kept injuring myself, so many times that I finally had to go back to a five-minute run per day. For weeks! It was painful, and hard, and some days, just plain boring. There were times I wondered if it was worth it. Sometimes I almost decided it wasn’t. But I had run before, and I knew that once I passed that mysterious threshold, running would once again go from a chore to a part of my life-force.

Being spiritual isn’t easy, either, especially when you’re just starting. Turning to God can be hard, and painful, and sometimes so, so monotonous. Other activities are much easier, and, at least in the short term, more enjoyable. But we keep trying, because perhaps we’ve had a glimpse of how rewarding a relationship with God can be. We’ll sludge and slog our way, step by painful step, until one day we’ll look up and we’re not dragging our feet any more; we’re soaring, and life is more beautiful than we can even comprehend.

We need that glimpse of Heaven first. Before going through the pain and discomfort of fully trusting God, we need to understand why. I write about the rewards of running because I hope others will challenge themselves physically, too. I write about God’s miracles because I want to share them with people who don’t know them or have forgotten. Maybe that’s why you write, too.

Have you experienced a glimpse of Heaven through the mud and sweat of life? God has given each of us a way to let others experience Heaven on Earth. So, if we write, let’s write! If we preach, let’s preach. Even if all we do is run, let’s run for His glory. Because nothing in the world could be more beautiful than being what God made us to be.


Ruth is a bit of a nomad, having moved eleven times between three countries in her seven years of marriage. She's a lawyer, a mother of four very energetic children, and an omnivorous reader, and despite everything, (usually) manages to squeeze in some writing. Ruth writes mostly Young Adult and Middle Grade fiction, ranging from sic-fi to historical. She loves running, dark chocolate, and cross-country skiing, and is determined one day to get her very own dog.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

SUNDAY EDITION


Coming Up This Week

Monday

Sara Goff

Tuesday

Ufuoma Daniella Ojo

Wednesday

LeAnne Hardy

Thursday

Jo-Anne Berthelsen: Those second hand treasures

Friday Devotion

Marcia Lee Laycock: Praying with Our Eyes Open

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

Contest News

Blind Trust, book 2 in Sandra Orchard’s Port Aster Secrets series, is a Selah Awards finalist for Mystery.

Sandra Orchard’s Identity Withheld is a Holt Medallion finalist in the short inspirational category, and a National Readers' Choice Awards finalist in contemporary series suspense/adventure.

Sandra Orchard’s Blind Trust and Identity Withheld have been shortlisted, in the mystery and romance categories respectively, in the 2015 The Word Awards, a national contest for Canadian Christian writers.

Sandra Orchard’s Emergency Reunion is an RT Book Reviews Top Pick.

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

New Releases

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

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

Narelle Atkins, Valerie Comer, Autumn Macarthur, and Marion Ueckermann have novellas set in Australia, Canada, Scotland, and Zambia in SPLASH!, a novella collection releasing independently in June 2015. Five American authors with USA-set stories are also included. 


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

Upcoming Releases

Narelle Atkins' contemporary romance novella set in Australia, His Perfect Catch, releases independently in July 2015.

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance novella set in Canada, Sweet Serenade, Book 3 in the Riverbend Romance series, releases independently in July 2015.

Autumn Macarthur's contemporary romance novella set in Scotland, More than Friends, releases independently in July 2015.

Marion Ueckermann's contemporary romance novella set in Zambia, Orphaned Hearts, releases independently in July 2015.

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.

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 - 2015 Book Releases page and Backlist Titles.