Friday, June 30, 2017

Devotion: I can do all things through Christ

I was on a British Airways flight from London to Denver, Colorado a few years ago. Driving to the airport I was excited about the trip and also a bit concerned, as it was a rather grey rainy day. It was about noon but it was as dark as 6 pm in the winter. I wondered what the flight would be like, as I really hate turbulence.

Anyway, a couple of hours later we had boarded and the flight had taken off. As we began the climb to our cruising altitude the plane started to shake. Not in a dramatic way, but in a way that would make anyone who is afraid of flying lightly clutch their armrest and subtly look around to take cues from other passengers. As I was sitting in a window seat I looked out and it appeared as if the windows were crying, as fat raindrops rapidly slid down the glass. I wasn’t looking forward to sitting on the plane for the next 9 hours. But just a few minutes later (we were definitely still over the UK) as we continued to climb it got even darker when suddenly we burst through the clouds into the brightest sunshine!

The lady sitting next to me (who I, later on, found out was a nun), looking out the window, turned to me and said ‘the sun is always there.’ Wow! That definitely made me think. She said ‘the sun is always there’, I knew she meant the sun, but my mind went to the Son – the Son of God. No matter how dark it gets, the Son is always there.

Living on the outskirts of London, events over the past 3 months can cause someone to question the plans and presence of God. We’ve experienced 4 terrorist attacks, as far as we know at least 100 people including children have died in an avoidable fire because of selfish and wicked decisions made by people at various levels of influence. Politically, we don’t even know exactly where we stand, as the government appears weak, the economy is not as strong as it used to be and people are scared. But through it all, we serve the God who rules and reigns in the affairs of men.

Philipians 4:13 is a familiar scripture telling us that we can do all things through Christ which strengthens us. Despite the uncertainty and turmoil of this perilous world, we can live. We can love. We can have joy. We can serve God wholeheartedly without fear, knowing that His will must be done. He is our strength and shield. No matter how dark it gets, the Son is always there and will be our light if we will look to Him always and put our trust and confidence in Him.

Ufuoma Daniella Ojo is a Software Training Manager and Personal Performance Coach.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

To Write, or Not to Write: Is That a Legit Question? ~ by Patricia Beal

Do you ever wonder if you should still be writing? Do you wonder if you should be writing right now?

I do. Both.

Being a big fan of Allen Arnold's The Story of With, I've already discovered that, for me, writing is a way of being one with God. So I never entertain the idea of quitting forever very seriously.

But with the debut now almost two months old, two kids in elementary school (one autistic), a full-time job the family depends on right now, and enough fiery darts to overwhelm my shield and shake my faith, the thought of putting the writing on the back burner until the empty-nest years seemed good and right.

I was already picturing life in 2027: I could have a ten-year anniversary edition/re-launch of A Season to Dance to get my name out there again and then sell/release The Song of the Desert Willow. I wouldn't miss time with the kids as they grow and wouldn't have to hear them say, "You're writingagain?!" I wouldn't miss time with my husband, wouldn't feel guilty about below average housekeeping efforts, would sleep more, and stress less. Be more, do less. Isn't that the goal?

Perfect solution, right?

The problem is, it's not working. I'm around everyone and available more, but I'm not very fun to be with. Could it be that not writing is killing me?

This Paulo Coelho quote comes to mind:

Now what? Do I have to write and send my agent the next proposal to be emotionally healthy? Really? It's not an approval thing. I'm out of that desert.

If I do have to write, how do I make it work again? It needs to be fun, not drive the family crazy, and fit in the schedule.

I spend a lot of time on social media. I love it, and it moves books. Could I trust God with sales and scale back? I know I should, but it's so hard! Do you stay away from social media? How? I know about scheduling things. I do that. But I like to show up and interact. 

Showing up is sucking too much time out of my day though... The Story of With covers that too. Can't let being social online consume our days.

Easier said than done :/

Do you see something I'm not seeing? Where are you with time management, dreams, kids, and choices?

I'm wide open to thoughts and ideas. The struggle is real!


Patricia Beal writes contemporary Christian fiction and is represented by Leslie Stobbe of the Leslie H. Stobbe Literary Agency. Her debut novel, A Season to Dance, is out now (Bling! / Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas 2017). Order here!

She’s a 2015 Genesis semi-finalist and First Impressions finalist. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Cincinnati in 1998 with a B.A. in English Literature and then worked as a public affairs officer for the U.S. Army for seven years. Now, after a 10-year break in service, she is an Army editor. She and her husband live in El Paso, Texas, with their two children.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Book Recommendation: Grounded Hearts by Jeanne M Dickson

Original Time and Setting

I asked to review Grounded Hearts because it’s been a long time since I’ve read and reviewed a book with an Irish setting (or even Irish characters). I was also intrigued by the hero, a pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force, as my Welsh grandfather also served in the RCAF. This was actually the one disappointment in the book, and it was entirely my fault. Dutch was actually a Canadian serving in the RAF, not in the RCAF. So I’m still waiting for a story about the RCAF in World War II (hint, hint).

Nan O’Neil is the midwife in the village of Ballyhaven, County Clare, Ireland, in World War II. She’s a widow, and still hasn’t got over the death of her poet husband, or her regret that they were never able to have children. She’s now being pursued by Shamus Finn, a pig farmer who is now a member of the Local Defence Force … and one who enjoys the power rather too much.

When an injured Canadian flyboy shows up on her doorstep in the middle of the night, Nan decides to help him. 

She’s a nurse. She can’t turn him away. Even though Ireland is neutral—if caught, he’ll go straight to an internment camp, and she’ll face prison. Personally, I found this aspect fascinating. I’d known Ireland was neutral during World War II, but I’d never stopped to wonder why. Grounded Hearts told me, and showed me a uniquely Irish way of dealing with the problem.

The writing style reminded me of the British and Irish fiction I’ve enjoyed over the years from authors such as Beth Moran. There were a few too many “she thoughts” for my taste, but that small weakness was more than made up for by the understated Irish humour and wordplay.

If you’re looking for a traditional Christian historical romance set in World War II Ireland, you’re looking in the wrong place. 

Grounded Hearts has an irreverent Irish flavour. There are references to the rhythm method, marital relations (and relations outside marriage), and body parts. It’s a long way from obscene, but conservative Christian readers may well find it offensive.

But if you’re the kind of reader who’s looking for fresh well-written fiction with an original plot, a little suspense, a little romance, and a lot of Irish humour, then you’ll enjoy Grounded Hearts.

Thanks to Waterfall Press, Litfuse Publicity, and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Jeanne M Dickson at her website, and you can read the introduction to Grounded Hearts below:

About Iola Goulton

I am a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction. Visit my website at download a comprehensive list of publishers of Christian fiction. 

I also write contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist—find out more at

You can also find me on:
Facebook (Author)
Facebook (Editing)

Monday, June 26, 2017

Author Newsletters — Part 2: Finding Subscribers

By Valerie Comer

Back in April, I posted Author Newsletters — Part 1: Getting Started, in which I discussed when, how, and where to begin an author newsletter. But what’s the good of investing the time to get something rolling just for your three email addresses and your mom, right? You want subscribers, and you’ve basically got three places to find them.

1. Turning friends and family into fans

At first, your subscribers will come from people you know. Just this one time, send a personalized email to many or most of your email contacts. Give them a brief update on your writing progress, and let them know you’ve set up a newsletter. Tell them you will not harass them, so this is the only time you'll ask them personally. Then, of course, give them the link! It may take the better part of a day or two to email your friends, family, and acquaintances. It is time well spent. You’re touching base, you’re being respectful, and you’re offering them something of value.

Passive ways to encourage signups include adding the link to
• your email signature
• your social media accounts

2. Turning readers into fans

In my opinion, the best source of new subscribers is from those who are reading your books now. When they get to the end of their current read (your book!) and breathe a happy sigh, reluctant to part with your characters, what would you like them to do?

• Buy the next book in the series if it’s available
• Subscribe to your list so they’ll know when the next book releases

How do you get them to do that? Simply invite them. For the next book, I usually offer the first chapter (even if it’s all I have written yet) after the final chapter of the current book, with a link at the end of the excerpt: Buy 'this book’ here. It’s a retail link if the book is available and a link to the book’s page on my website if it isn’t. If there are no retail links yet, the book page invites readers to join my email list to find out when ‘this book’ releases.

The subscription link at the end of my book is simply a more direct link to the email signup!

But here’s a good question: why would a total stranger sign up for your newsletter?

You offer a reader magnet (aka a lead magnet). It’s just what it sounds like: an offer so good it’s like their finger is drawn to the link magnetically. They can’t possibly resist clicking that link or button.

In practical terms, a reader magnet is something you offer your new subscribers in exchange for their email address. It incentivizes them to move from being a casual reader to a subscriber. In my case, I offer a 7500-word short story that takes place at 2.5 in my six-book Farm Fresh Romance series.

This short story was directly responsible for about 3,000 new subscribers in just under one year. It took me a week to write, and a small amount of money to have edited. My designer created a simple cover for it — one that doesn’t need to look competitive on retail sites since it will never be for sale. Readers click to receive this story every day, so the minimal effort has been well worth it.

Whatever you write, that’s what readers will want more of in your reader magnet. Here are some ideas:

• A report on something related to your topic (nonfiction or fiction)
• A full-length book that is also for sale (nonfiction or fiction)
• A short story linked to your novels (fiction)
• A case study or character interviews (fiction)
• A world history (fantasy/scifi)
• Exclusive audio or video content
• Other? This is only limited by your genre and your imagination!

If you start offering Kindles or other non-book prizes, you might find yourself with subscribers who are there for the prize, not because they care about your work. So, I recommend aligning any incentives very closely with your own content.

Make it worthwhile to be on your list. Promise them exclusive content or sneak previews or giveaways or other opportunities, and then follow through.

You can deliver this bonus material several ways:

• Most email marketing service providers allow you to upload content for subscribers to download
• Host the material on your own site and offer the link in your welcome letter
• Use a service such as BookFunnel or Instafreebie

Personally, I’m a huge fan of BookFunnel. There’s a monthly (or annual) fee, but they offer terrific support to both authors and readers. I upload both an epub and a mobi file, and BF walks people through how to download the correct file onto their preferred device.

3. Turning strangers into fans

Turning friends, family, and readers into fans probably won’t cost you anything beyond the basic service fee at your mailing list provider. But what if you want to grow your list more quickly? Before you jump on the bandwagon — or pooh-pooh the idea — here are some considerations.

• How much is a subscriber worth?
• How many books do you have out?
• How many will you have in the next year?
• How much do you earn per book sale?
• What if you paid two dollars to gain that subscriber, they bought one more book of yours, and you made that two dollars back?

If you think you might be interested in paying for growth, there are a variety of places you can pay for additional exposure.

• Facebook lead generation ads
• Twitter lead pages
• Ryan Zee, LitRing, and other list-building promotions
• BookFunnel
• Instafreebie

I haven’t tried social media advertising ads for lead generation yet, though I plan to run some this summer. I have participated in two Ryan Zee promotions so far. He invites 25+ authors, usually in close genre, to pay $60US (prices may vary) and offer several e-books to the winners. He adds a Kindle, creates graphics, and runs the promotion, asking everyone to share. Each person who signs into his ‘booksweeps’ gets added to all participating author newsletters… there is full disclosure. I expected to find these subscribers cooler, but the unsubscribe rate has been low while open rates and click rates (more on stats in the fourth post on author newsletters) have been similar to my organic lists.

BookFunnel offers a DIY group promotion page. Seventeen Christian Contemporary Romance authors joined together in April for a promo event that was considerably cheaper than Ryan Zee. We all promoted the event. Curious readers could click individual book covers and choose to get the book free by subscribing to that author’s newsletter, so the results were more targeted. It was a great experience, with over 500 new email addresses added for pennies each.

I haven’t ever used LitRing or Instafreebie, but mention them because they are popular and may be methods you’d like to look into. Of course, there are more options, too.

Note: If you have signup sheets out at events, either keep an iPad open to your subscription page so they can sign up themselves, or keep the dated documentation to prove that person specifically asked to join the list. You don’t want to be accused of spam!

I hope this gives you some ideas of how to find subscribers for your newsletter. What ideas can you come up with to offer as reader magnets? Any questions about finding subscribers?

This is the second in a four-part series on author newsletters that I’ll post in 2017. Find Part 1 (Getting Started) here. In later episodes, I’ll cover how to choose content and how to track your statistics.

Valerie Comer's life on a small farm in western Canada provides the seed for stories of contemporary inspirational romance. Like many of her characters, Valerie and her family grow much of their own food and are active in the local foods movement as well as their church. She only hopes her creations enjoy their happily-ever-afters as much as she does hers, shared with her husband, adult kids, and adorable granddaughters.

Valerie is a USA Today bestselling author and a two-time Word Award winner. She writes engaging characters, strong communities, and deep faith as she injects experience laced with humor into her green clean romances. Visit her at

Sunday, June 25, 2017


Coming Up This Week 


Valerie Comer: Author Newsletters — Part 2: Finding Subscribers


Iola Goulton: Book Recommendation: Grounded Hearts by Jeanne M Dickson 


Rita Galieh


Patricia Beal: To Write, or Not to Write: Is That a Legit Question? ~ by Patricia Beal

Friday Devotion 

Ufuoma Daniella Ojo


New Releases

Carolyn Miller's regency romance set in England, The Captivating Lady Charlotte, Book 2 in her Regency Brides series, is a June 2017 release from Kregel.

Kara Isaac's contemporary romance set in Australia and New Zealand, Then There Was You, releases independently in June 2017.


Upcoming Releases

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Memories of Mist, Book 3 in her Urban Farm Fresh Romance series, releases independently in July 2017.

Lisa Harris' romantic suspense set in Italy, Fatal Cover-Up, will be a July 2017 release from Love Inspired Suspense.

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Better Than a Crown, Book 3 in her Christmas in Montana Romance series, releases independently in October 2017.

Carolyn Miller's regency romance set in England, The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey, Book 3 in her Regency Brides series, will be an October 2017 release from Kregel.

Lucy Thompson's historical romance set in Australia, Waltzing Matilda, in The Captive Bride Collection: 9 Stories of Great Challenges Overcome Through Great Love, will be an October 2017 release from Barbour. 

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Rooted in Love, Book 2 in her new Garden Grown Romance series (part of Arcadia Valley Romance multi-author series) releases independently in November 2017.

Lisa Harris' romantic suspense set in USA, Vanishing Point: A Nikki Boyd Novel, will be a November 2017 release from Revell.

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

Friday, June 23, 2017

DEVOTIONAL: Going boldly to the Throne

By Leila Halawe 

One of my favorite books in the Bible is the book of Ruth. we all know the story; Ruth loses her husband and needs to make a choice between staying with her mother-in-law, Naomi, or walking away like her sister-in-law and starting a new life. Ruth decides to stay with her mother-in-law and journeys back with Naomi to her homeland of Bethlehem where she meets Boaz and gets married and starts her happily ever after. It's a beautiful story of loyalty and love but the more I read it, the more I see it's a story of courage. Specifically, Ruth's courage to step out in faith. 

After being back in Bethlehem for a while, Naomi comes up with a plan to get Ruth married to Boaz. She instructs her make it known to him that she is available for marriage by going Boaz while he sleeping and lay herself at his feet. Literally. I don't know about you but the thought of walking up to a man and laying at his feet to let him know that I am available for marriage doesn't sit that well with me. It's the equivalent of going up to a long distant relative and letting them know in no uncertain terms that you are available for marriage and that you want them to marry you. Yet, that is exactly what Ruth did. 

I would imagine there was some hesitation on Ruth’s part at going to Boaz and making her intentions knows, especially as there had been no real relationship between the two of them. She was putting herself out there not knowing if Boaz would actually redeem her. She was putting her reputation, her self-respect and heart on the line by laying at his feet because the truth is that he could very well have rejected her. They assumed he was a decent man based on his reputation and what they had seen of him, but really, they couldn't have been sure they would get the outcome they wanted. Ruth had no guarantee that he would step up and redeem her, so she was really taking a really bold step of faith by going to him. That level of boldness takes courage. A lot of courage. But the more we read about the Ruth, the more courage we see, and we really see it in chapter 3, when Boaz wakes up to find her at his feet, 

“Who are you?” he asked.
“I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family.” (Ruth 3:9)

Not only does Ruth lay herself at his feet and wait patiently for him to wake up and find her, when asked, she tells him exactly what she needs and wants. Her actions, both spoken and unspoken, were a way of saying, 'I need protection and coverage. I need provision and you can provide that, so please provide it.' Personally, I struggle to ask for help when I need it, yet we see Ruth put aside all fear and pride and nerves to speak out what she needs. Ruth sets a great example of being bold and taking a leap of faith. She took her requests to the one that she believed could redeem her and provide for her. She lay at his feet and poured out her requests. She didn’t hold back or side step what she really wanted; she was bold and spoke out exactly what it is that she wanted. Fearlessly. Courageously. And we can do the same today.

Recognising our need for provision and protection takes courage. Speaking it out takes more courage. We are taught to ‘put on a brave face.’ To not show weakness. We live in a world where meekness is seen as weakness yet, it takes a lot of courage to search your own heart and uncover what you really want and need, then to go and ask for it. Like Ruth, we have a Redeemer that can and will provide for us but the difference is that we know our Redeemer will answer our call. We know he will answer our prayer because we have a Savior that invites us to share our heart with Him. He tore the veil so that we would have complete access to Him and freely go to His Throne and pour out our heart.  

Will He always answer with a ‘yes’? No, He won’t, but sometimes the best yes we can get is a no. And just because we have no guarantee that He will give us exactly what we want, it doesn’t mean we can’t ask. It doesn’t mean that we can’t dream big and dream of being world changers and light bearers for His Kingdom. Our Redeemer is the King of Kings and the Lord of the impossible, so nothing we ask is too hard for Him. He knows what is best for us, so we can be confident that His provision will far exceed anything we can possible imagine.  

Today, can I encourage us to be dreamers. Can I encourage us to be people that think big and dream bigger. And can I encourage us to boldly step up to His Throne, lay at His feet and ask for what it is our heart desires; big or small, crazy or impossible, let us go to Him knowing that the One that redeemed us by His blood has His arms wide open waiting to embrace us. 

Leila (Lays) Halawe is a Sydney based coffee loving nonfiction writer and blogger. She has published a short devotional, Love By Devotion, and shares her views on life and faith via her blog page Looking In. You can connect with her via Facebook at Leila Halawe Author and via Twitter at Leila Halawe.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Best of the ICFW Archives ~ Interview with Elsie O. Oghenekaro

Interview with Elsie Oghenekaro by Ufuoma Daniella Ojo

It's an honour to bring an interview with Nigerian children's book author, Elsie Oghenekaro. Elsie has written numerous short stories, children's books and biographies. She is also a travel agent, a mother of 5 young children and active in her local church.

When did you first realise that you wanted to be a writer?

I have always had the desire to write. I wrote my first story when I was eleven years old, although I didn’t do anything with it. I just loved reading and writing. When I was nine years old, I had to leave my parents and go live with an older sister and her family to help out with her kids. Her husband was quite abusive to me, but he had a large library of books and these became my succor. I read everything available and signed up as a member of the local public library. I had few friends because of the restrictive environment at home, so I started “talking” to my books. I would write down my thoughts, hopes, dreams and would imagine myself living in happier times and surroundings. I would create characters in my head and whenever things got out of hand at home, I would retreat into the happier world in my head.

Read more at the following link:

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Free Word Search

I’m so excited to announce my new website for Lilac Lane Publishing!

Currently, Lilac Lane is publishing a series of Jane Austen Colouring & Activity Books.

A colouring and activity book is already available for Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility. You can purchase them at any of the major online retailers. Emma is coming next! It’s scheduled for release in the fall!

I also have a slew of books that I’ve written that will be published in the near future.

For instance, there’s a 3 book series featuring the grandchildren from Highland Hearts! And if you loved the cast from Highland Hearts, they’ll be in the Americas! You’ll get to see what became of them!

So please, hop on over to Lilac Lane Publishing’s website and sign up for the newsletter. Not only will you stay informed, but I’m giving away a FREE Jane Austen Colouring & Activity Books WORD SEARCH!

Just go to the Newsletter section of the website to get your FREE COPY!

See you there!

And depending on where you live,
Happy 1st day of Summer / Winter !


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover

By Lisa Harris

Except I confess, I do.

I love covers. I love them so much, in fact, that there have been times that I've chosen to buy a book simply because I loved the cover. But the opposite is true as well. I've dismissed books because I didn't like the cover. And while that might not be fair to the author, covers speak to me.

In fact, I think that was the hardest part of switching to an ebook reader for me. (And I only did so because we are hundreds of miles from the nearest bookstore!) I could no longer study the front and back of a cover before diving into a novel. Covers set the tone and give the reader a glimpse into the story's world. As an author, one of the most exciting moments in the book process is that moment when I click on the file from my publisher and see my cover for the very first time. I just love covers.

I'm currently in the processes of putting up on line a number of my older books that I've been given the rights back to by previous publishers as ebooks. And while the content is mine, I don't have the rights to use the covers. Which means brand new covers. And while I could have paid someone to design the new covers, in trying to learn the entire process of Indie publishing, I decided to take on the task of making my own covers.

Here are two things (of many) I've learned.

1. People DO judge a book by it's cover. 

After doing a bunch of research, I realized that the new covers I had made--and loved--for my Mission Hope series didn't fit their genre of romantic suspense. At all. Which also meant the books weren't selling well. They showed that the setting was Africa, but there was nothing to indicate that this was a suspense novel, expect perhaps the title which hadn't changed. What surprised me the most--and proved to me how important cover really is--was how changing the cover made my sales go up.



2. Covers MUST fit the genre you're writing for.

The first time I attempted to make covers for my books was several years ago for a cozy mystery series I got the rights back on. At the time, with limited resources out there, they were okay. But definitely didn't scream COZY. And today. . .they really fall short. I just changed these and don't think they've switched yet, so I haven't seen sales change yet, but I think they will.

BEFORE (Book two)

AFTER (Books 1-3)

Over the past few months, I've jumped into another writing project. This time I'm going Indie on a book I wrote about ten years ago with another author. This has meant that except for edits, we're doing everything ourselves. Once again, it's been fascinating and a bit terrifying. The book has been totally rewritten, edited, formated, cover made, ads made, marketing planned. . .I could go on and on. It has really made me appreciate greatly my traditional publishers--that I hope to never leave--while at the same time it has forced me to learn to do a lot of technical things I never imaged doing. And I have to say, I'm so glad I did. But once again, it's always a bit scary as you wait to see what people think about the new cover.

So what about you? Do you love covers as much as I do? Have you ever bought a book just because of it's cover? Have you passed on a book because of it's cover?

Let me know what you think!


(Find out more about my books at my website.)

Monday, June 19, 2017

On Antiques, Gifts, and Talents

By Iola Goulton

Paeroa is a small town not far from where I live. It has two claims to fame. It’s the home of L&P, our national soft drink which is World Famous in New Zealand. (I wrote a blog post explaining the history of L&P here.) It's other claim to fame is newer, yet older.

Paeroa is famous for its antique shops.

My husband and I visited some of those antique shops recently. We weren’ t looking for anything in particular—we were driving through Paeroa on one of our weekend drives, and decided to stop and look. It was an interesting afternoon, but one which left me feeling somewhat sad.

Some of the shops were small and cramped, filled with an eclectic mix of china, cutlery, glassware, clothes, books, tools, and telephones all mixed in together. Some items were definitely antique, while others looked more like second-hand—old and tired. Other shops were larger and more spacious, with different spaces for different categories of goods for sale.

There were many beautiful things for sale—some of which were familiar as items I remember seeing in my grandmother’s house when I was a child. A lot of the prices seemed more than reasonable, especially considering what items of comparable quality would cost today–and what the items themselves would have cost when new.

There were complete china dinner sets, with eight or twelve settings. Silver cutlery sets in beautiful presentation cases. Glass and crystal fine enough to grace any table. Classic brands such as Wedgewod, Royal Albert, and Crown Lynn. Everything was in perfect condition, even the “everyday” crockery.

Yet it was all sitting in a what was essentially a junk shop. Unused.

I wondered why. People had paid good money for these beautiful things, these beautiful unused things. I thought of my crockery at home—plates covered in knife marks, some newer than others because we’ve bought new pieces over the years to replace those pieces which have been chipped or broken.

I thought of my cutlery set, a wedding present which hasn’t had all eight pieces in a long time. The teaspoon monster strikes often in our house. And I wondered …

All these beautiful things. Had they ever been used?

Were they unwanted gifts, stored in the back of a cupboard for years, forgotten, then sold or given away when the owners moved house (or moved into an old folks’ home). Were they precious pieces, bought for “best”, and never used for fear of breaking the delicate china?

Either way, it seems like a waste.

People spent hours earning the money to buy these things which were rarely or never used. Then they were packaged up and sent off to an antique shop—donated, or sold for a fraction of their original price. I hope the original owners got some enjoyment out of these items, gifts or not.

Because to receive a gift and never use it is a waste.

To have a talent and never use it is a waste.

It reminded me of the gifts we’ve been given—not so much the physical gifts we receive for Christmas and birthdays, but the gifts God has given us. Too often, we waste or squander what we’ve been given.

That too is a waste.

May we remember to use and appreciate our God-given gifts and talents. May we not waste them or squander them by leaving them sitting on a shelf until it’s too late.

And the Gift of Salvation. May we never waste or squander that gift.

About Iola Goulton

I am a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction. Visit my website at download a comprehensive list of publishers of Christian fiction. 

I also write contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist—find out more at

You can also find me on:
Facebook (Author)
Facebook (Editing)

Sunday, June 18, 2017


Coming Up This Week 


Iola Goulton


Lisa Harris: Don't Judge a Book by it's Cover


Eva Maria Hamilton


Best of the ICFW Archives ~ Interview with Elsie O. Oghenekaro

Friday Devotion 

Lays Halawe


New Releases

Carolyn Miller's regency romance set in England, The Captivating Lady Charlotte, Book 2 in her Regency Brides series, is a June 2017 release from Kregel.

Kara Isaac's contemporary romance set in Australia and New Zealand, Then There Was You, releases independently in June 2017.


Upcoming Releases

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Memories of Mist, Book 3 in her Urban Farm Fresh Romance series, releases independently in July 2017.

Lisa Harris' romantic suspense set in Italy, Fatal Cover-Up, will be a July 2017 release from Love Inspired Suspense.

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Better Than a Crown, Book 3 in her Christmas in Montana Romance series, releases independently in October 2017.

Carolyn Miller's regency romance set in England, The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey, Book 3 in her Regency Brides series, will be an October 2017 release from Kregel.

Lucy Thompson's historical romance set in Australia, Waltzing Matilda, in The Captive Bride Collection: 9 Stories of Great Challenges Overcome Through Great Love, will be an October 2017 release from Barbour. 

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Rooted in Love, Book 2 in her new Garden Grown Romance series (part of Arcadia Valley Romance multi-author series) releases independently in November 2017.

Lisa Harris' romantic suspense set in USA, Vanishing Point: A Nikki Boyd Novel, will be a November 2017 release from Revell.

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

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Fabric of Me - devotional art

Woven together

Each strand in its place

Dreams not perchance

Hopes not misplaced

DNA formed to Your grand design

Each gifting on purpose

Each love refined

An open channel

A clear written book

A riverbed waiting for Love to flow through…

… the fabric of me

Born to love

and be loved

I am made for You

Artwork ~ Hayley Wilson (age 12 at the time) | Words ~ Dianne J. Wilson

Dianne J. Wilson writes novels from her hometown in East London, South Africa, where she lives with her husband and three daughters. She is working on a three book YA series, Spirit Walkers, 
for Pelican Book Group / Watershed.

Finding Mia is available from AmazonPelican / Harbourlight, Barnes & Noble and other bookstores.

Shackles is available as a free ebook from Amazon & Smashwords.

Thursday, June 15, 2017


A very good friend of mine went on a Christian retreat last weekend.  Her husband had attended two weeks prior.
It's a very exclusive kind of place, where you have to be 'recommended' by someone who has been, in order to go yourself.  You have to hand over your cellphone and your car keys, and you don't know what the program is.  You sing before you eat, you can't speak after bedtime and the following year, you have to volunteer your time, in payment for your stay the year before.
She said she had a wonderful time. That she laughed a lot, she cried a lot and she felt closer to GOD than ever.

I've been to a few retreats.
I once attended a year-long women's study, where we had 4 different weekend retreats. It was wonderful and it made me long to do it on my own. So, from then on, I would take 3 retreats a year.

I had a special place, in Pembroke, Ontario, at a nunnery. It was called the Marguerite Centre.  It was a nunnery, then a hospice, then a retreat centre, and then a hospice again.  I would always manage to plan my weekends away when there wasn't anyone else there, except for a few nuns in a different wing.
Imagine having your own room, with a tiny little bed, a closet, a sink with two different taps, and a desk with a chair.  Outside of your room was a long hallway in each direction, filled with doors to other rooms. There were about 50 rooms to a floor, and it was two floors.  The main floor held a few offices, a gigantic cafeteria, a library with antiquated computers, a front office and a dark living room.
At seven o'clock every evening, the office personel would lock up, and I had the entire building to myself.
On the very first night, I was slightly afraid. I locked my door and put the chair up against it. But there was no reason to be afraid. GOD was always there.
My weekends would involve eating food, sleeping about 15 hours per day, and reading my specific GOD book for the weekend. In the evenings, I would flake out in the large lounge with the tv on low for background noise, surrounded by popcorn and hot chocolate, my laptop, and the cool tile beneath  my feet. I loved it there. I rested there. I would write, talk to GOD, watch the sun set over the river, drink hot chocolate and tea. It was ideal.

The Marguerite Centre closed two years ago.  And my heart broke.

Last November I decided to try an Airbnb in Pembroke. Surely I would find the same rest, the same beautiful sunsets? The host seemed very artistic and her guests wrote rave reviews about her. The bedroom had a large bed that looked out the window and it was tucked high up in the house. I was so excited. I had emailed her many questions and she didn't really answer all of them, but I tend to ask a lot of questions, so I didn't think anything of it.
I arrived at 3:45, just fifteen minutes earlier than she told me to. The house was adorable. The gardens were stunning.  I knocked on the door, ready to apologize for being early, but there was no answer.
I waited contentedly in my van, feeling my heart rate slow down peacefully, and my body became heavy as I knew the first thing I would do when I unpacked, was nap for a few hours.
Four o'clock came and went.
I figured maybe she was was in the shower when I had arrived. After all, her car was in the driveway, and she wasn't expecting me so early. So I knocked again. I noticed shoes lined up in the hallway and a purse sitting on the chair by the door. She had to be home. Didn't she?
I knocked again. I walked around the back and peeked into the kitchen windows. The kitchen counter was covered in filthy dishes and so much...junk.  Surely she must have been expecting me?  At this point, I needed the washroom, so I called her again and left a message saying I was just headed over to the grocery store.
I drove away at five, wondering if maybe she had a heart attack. Or was very ill. Women don't leave the house without their purses, right? I found a store and used the facilities and then my phone rang at 5:30.
"Yes, I am home now. You can come over."

Oh dear.  This was not a friendly voice.

I arrived and knocked on the door, a big smile on my voice, slightly worried. She opened the door, and a very grumpy face just stared at me.
"Well, come in, then."

I stepped inside. "Hi, I'm so glad to meet you, yourhouseisbeautifulsorryI'mearlyI'mveryexcitedtobehere..."
"Aren't you bringing in your things?"

"Um, I thought I'd look at the room first?"

She showed me the living room, where I could sit and write if I liked. She showed me my bedroom, which was absolutely adorable. She showed me the beautiful bathroom.  We walked back downstairs and she began cleaning her kitchen counter.

"I brought some of my own food. May I put some in the fridge?"

She glared at me and then looked at her gigantic stainless steel box. "I don't have a lot of room in my fridge for your food."

"Ok. I can keep it in the cooler, I guess. Can I put some fruit on the kitchen counter?"

She sighed and threw her dirty dishes into the sink. "I don't really have a lot of room."

I grabbed my large cooler from the van and carried it in. "Where should I put this, then?"

She pointed at the living room. "Tuck it in there, out of the way."

I tucked it into the corner. What on earth was her problem?  I opened the cooler to give her the gift I had brought her. In her bio, it said that she loved to cook, was a good cook, and all of her guests loved the food she made them. "I have brought you some heirloom tomatoes from my garden. And some eggs from our chickens. I only have eleven though."

I put them on the counter and went upstairs to unpack.  Should I be staying? Maybe she's having a bad day. Maybe something happened and it's none of my business.  I went downstairs to leave for a walk. She was sitting at her counter, one of the tomatoes sliced on a plate and she was eating it with a knife and fork.
"What kind of tomatoes are these?"

So we had a conversation. We talked about tomato plants and processing them, and then we looked up tomato pureeing machines on the internet. She had finally stopped glaring at me.  I decided to go for my supper.

I came back at 7, to find her sitting in her chair, drinking wine.  "Ok, I'm going to bed now," I said. "I'm pretty tired." We discussed what I did and why I was on retreat.

I slept well, considering.

In the morning, I went downstairs at 8, wondering what I should do for breakfast. Her bio stated that she made breakfast for her guests. She was in the kitchen, dirty dishes on the counter, and dressed to go out.
"I have yoga. I like yoga."

I looked around the kitchen, wondering where I would make myself some food. She motioned to her backyard. "I have put the toaster outisde if you want to use it to make yourself breakfast." There was a little toaster on a side patio table, plugged into the outlet outside. No cutting board, no plate, no knife, no glass.

And then she left.

Well, you can imagine how I felt at this point.

I suppose I could have called her out on it. I could have asked her what her problem was. I had paid for two nights and three days, but I had to get out of there.
I quickly packed up all of my belongings and threw them into the van. She wasn't back yet. She told me to just go out the front door if I were to head out. She wasn't worried about locking it.
I scribbled a note and thanked her (why?) and taped it to the door. I had said I had to get home, some personal matters were pressing.

She sent me an email later, and rather condescendingly said that she knew I wouldn't stay as she knew I felt guilty about watching her clean her kitchen.

Well, that was the straw that broke the camel's back. I wrote her back, explaining my discomfort and whatnot.

Now, during this insane time, I was commenting on facebook everything that was going on. It was too amusing not to.  My dear friends were sweet enough to tell me to call her out on her ridiculous behaviour. That I should write a very horrible review of what happened when I visited.
Oh, how I wanted to.

I had scrimped and saved for a year to pay for a 4-day holiday, to be with GOD and just rest as I normally do. I hadn't had a retreat in two years!

But I could not get angry.

I had two weeks to write my review of my time on the Airbnb website.
She had written up her review about me as a guest. I would not be able to see what she wrote until I wrote something.

 So I did.

I wrote that it was a very nice house, the bedroom had a lovely view and you could even eat outside if you wanted to.

No vindication. No meanness. I didn't write what I wanted to.

Well, you can imagine what she wrote about me.

I have no idea how I got onto that story. I wanted to write a post about how important retreats are, how important it is to get away and spend time with GOD.  And then this story came out. I guess my point is that life is not what you expect.  That sometimes people are really crazy, even though they get good reviews.
That mean people shouldn't change who you are.
That we all need a good laugh.

Jenn Kelly is a writer still looking for a good retreat centre. Maybe she should open her own. But make breakfast for those people who attend.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

How to Stay Authentic in a Counterfeit World

By Jebraun Clifford

There’s something attractive about authenticity.

People crave the real thing.

Being real is engaging. Being real is endearing. Being real is essential.

But at the same time, another force exists. Working against authenticity, against real, is another concept.


I see this battle between real and imitation at the grocery store.

At the back of the store, in the refrigerator section, sits a wonderful concoction made of real milk carefully cultured and aged into a magical substance called cheddar cheese. It’s beautifully tangy and sharp and tastes delicious sliced onto crackers or sprinkled over nachos. Melted in a toasted cheese sandwich. Whisked into a sauce to pour over broccoli or other vegetables (can you tell I was hungry when I wrote this post?!?).

On the other hand, sitting somewhere sad and lonely, is a particular product.

In a can.




This…stuff…thinks it’s cheese, but we all know better. It’s mostly salt, oil, and artificial flavouring with a leetle bit of dairy thrown in as an afterthought—and if you’re a lover of cheese-in-a-can, then I apologise for maligning your very poor taste in snacks. But I gotta ask, why would you choose the imitation when the real thing is so much more…real?!?

The battle between the authentic and the counterfeit area extends to other arenas, too.
Every day, we experience pressure to take the easy way, the fake way. So how can we stay authentic? When we remember who we really are. When we’re consistent with our goals and values. And especially when we silence the temptation to compare ourselves with others.

Identity vs. image

My husband preaches a lot about identity and why it’s important to Christians. We need to remember who we really are: sons and daughters of God! Chosen, blessed, and accepted! We only have to read the beginning of Ephesians to get a glimpse of these promises.

But sometimes, we trade this amazing identity of who God says we are for the poor shadow of image, or who we want people to think we are.

There are some crucial differences between identity and image. Identity is effortless. God says it, so that’s who we are. But maintaining an image is hard work. We’ve got to constantly be on our toes, projecting a fake picture, hiding our thoughts and emotions and all the little quirks that make us a unique person. What’s more inauthentic than somebody pretending to be somebody else? You are obviously the only you in the entire universe. You matter. You are important. You play a vital role in God’s Kingdom. Don’t forget it!

What do we hold close to our hearts?

I chatted with a friend recently who quit her job. She realised she forced herself into a situation that betrayed the very values she held dear. Her job wasn’t unethical or anything, but she felt she was turning into somebody else because she was promoting ideals that weren’t really hers.

Can anybody else relate?

If we don’t have a firm grasp on our identity, it’s easier to push aside our true values and adopt what everyone else is doing. But stopping for a moment, taking stock of where we’re at and what we’re doing, making sure it aligns with the things that are important to us, can help us stay authentic.

Comparison is the thief of authenticity

This one is hard. As I scroll through Facebook or Instagram and see all the amazing things other authors are doing, I can get really down on myself.

I should be posting awesome pictures of the books I’m reading in front of my bookshelves!

Why aren’t I collecting Funko Pop figures of all my favourite characters?

When will it be my turn to share a photo of me signing a book contract?

These comparisons slowly erode my confidence in my authentic self. I stop striving to be me, and I start wanting to be like them. I want my platform to be as big as their platform, my writing style to be similar, my success to be like their success…the list could go on and on.

I want to imitate them instead of being me. But whilst imitation might be the sincerest form of flattery, it’s also the quickest killer of authenticity.

This comparison game is also closely linked to our identity.

I heard another pastor recently talking about the Tower of Babel. He found it interesting that the people in Genesis 11 specifically chose to build with bricks rather than stones. He surmised it was because bricks are uniform and therefore easier and quicker to build with.

Whereas one brick can easily be exchanged for another identical brick, stones are uniquely shaped. 

Each on is different. It takes time and skill to fit stones together properly. A builder has to look carefully at each one to discover exactly where it will fit in best.

The truth is, we can’t be exchanged, one person for another, which is what we say when we compare ourselves to others. So climb out of the comparison trap to find your true self (and I’m telling this to myself as much as you).

Bottom line?

I want to interact with authentic people. And I want to be an authentic person. Living a life of authenticity can be difficult but it means seeking your identity in Christ, staying true to your core beliefs, and not comparing yourself to others.

What about you? What do you find keeps you from staying authentic?

About Jebraun Clifford

Jebraun Clifford always wanted to step through a door into an imaginary kingdom, so it’s no surprise she now calls Middle Earth home. Too short to be an elf and too tall to be a Hobbit, she lives in a gorgeous town smack-dab in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island filled with thermal activity, stunning lakes, and enough Redwoods to make her Californian heart swoon.

Her unpublished YA fantasy, The Two Queens of Kyrie, won both the American Christian Fiction Writer's 2015 First Impressions contest and the 2016 Genesis contest. She loves coffee, tree ferns, dark chocolate, and Jesus, and harbours a secret penchant for British spelling.

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