Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Wandering Wednesday - Venice, Italy

By Patricia Beal @bealpat

Sisterchicks in Gondolas, by Robin Jones Gunn


Ciao bella!

SISTERCHICK n.: a friend who shares the deepest wonders of your heart, loves you like a sister, and provides a reality check when you’re being a brat.

When Jenna is invited to Venice for a week of cooking for a small retreat group, she knows just who to take along: her sister-in-law Sue. With her Dallas drawl and wild tangle of red hair, Sue desperately needs her own retreat from the pressures of the past two years…and blessedly for their guests, Sue actually knows how to cook (unlike Jenna)!

With about six words of Italian between them, a map, and a keen appetite for gelato, they puzzle out the lovely city together. During their stay, Jenna and Sue become victims of grace in ways they never expected—starting with their accommodations: a restored fifteenth-century palace on a quiet canal complete with a stairwell perfect for mattress sledding!

Coming out of a time of dark shadows in their lives, these two friends dive into a new season of refreshing and realize that sometimes when serving God, the most important thing to do is just show up…and watch for goodness and mercy to follow close behind. Come join Jenna and Sue over boiling pots of pasta in this lilting gondola-paced adventure! 

Patricia's Thoughts

How fun it is to read an established author from time to time. I don't think Robin worried much about a story quest, an antagonist, opposing forces, chapter hooks, or any device designed to keep the reader "engaged." She doesn't have to. She has her Sisterchick readers. Her captive audience.

The result? A gentle story. A walk in Venice. A laugh. A sigh. A breath of fresh air for the soul. A character arc that's as gentle as the quietest little bridge in Venice and as long-lasting too. I've caught myself thinking "just show up" many times since I read the novel, and I have a feeling the thought will stay with me for years to come. I hope it does.

Awesome novel. Because sometimes I don't want to be on the edge of my seat. I just want to go for a walk in Venice or a slow gondola ride :)

Wandering Spotlight

The Beals in Venice in 2012:

One Beal (Simoes back then) in Venice in 2003:


Your Turn

Do you read established authors often? Do you find them breaking all "the rules" and writing (and selling!) lovely stories?

About Robin

Robin's books have sold over 5.5 million copies worldwide. She and her husband have two grown children and live in Hawai'i. Visit Robin's site at

About Patricia

Patricia Beal has danced ballet her whole life. She is from Brazil and fell in love with the English language while washing dishes at a McDonald's in Indianapolis. She put herself through college working at a BP gas station and graduated magna cum laude from the University of Cincinnati with a B.A. in English Literature. She then worked as a public affairs officer for the U.S. Army for seven years.

 She now writes contemporary fiction and is represented by Bob Hostetler of The Steve Laube Agency. Her debut novel, A Season to Dance, came out in May (Bling! / Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas 2017). 
Patricia is a 2015 Genesis semi-finalist and First Impressions finalist. She and her husband live in North Carolina with their two children.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Finding the Christian in Christian Fiction

By Ian Acheson - @achesonian

I was relatively late to Christian fiction. I didn’t discover it until my thirties when I devoured Frank Peretti’s “Darkness” novels and the “Left Behind” blockbuster franchise (yes, I’ve read everyone of the 16(?) of the series, prequels and all). I was captivated by the strong Christian themes and Peretti’s fiction account of the supernatural world lingered in my mind for year afterwards and inspired my desire to write something similar.

Spoilt for Choice
Now 90% of my fiction reads are Christian. Award programs dominate the first half of every year's reading as I love assisting as a judge and, accordingly, my fiction choices are made for me. Typically, the remainder of my reading is filled with favorite authors, friend’s releases and trusted sources novel “gushes”.
Many of you will be familiar with last week’s release of the INSPYs Long List and there are simply so many on it that I want to read. They alone would fill most of my reading time for the next year.
Faith Arc
This week I finished “When Angels Cry” by MaryLu Tyndall, which is a supernatural end times story. I was motivated to read it, as I’m about to dive into the third episode of the Angelguard series and was keen to be inspired by something of a similar ilk to stir my imagination. And it did that. One of the aspects of the story I enjoyed the most was the faith arc of the lead character, Angelica, who is a single mum working as a cocktail waitress to support herself and her son, Isaac. She sees angels and demons and is a passionate evangelist as she responds to the darkness around people by sharing Jesus with them. But it’s her journey of learning to trust the Lord that I was most attracted to, in particular, in letting go of Isaac into God’s hands.
I love stories where the faith arc is as compelling as the romance or the suspense or the thrill. In fact, the two elements are uniquely bound. For example, the suspense is enhanced by the protagonist's faith. It serves to challenge me not just as an author but also as a lover of Jesus. As this is what growing in Christ is about, immersing every aspect of our life with Christ.
Wrestling with Shadows
I submitted the manuscript to Wrestling with Shadows, the sequel to Angelguard, to the latter’s publisher who had requested first access to it. Nine months later, they responded by advising they weren’t going to proceed because it was too Christian. At the time, the publisher was working themselves out of being in administration and were keen that all their new releases were able to sit across the general market as well as the Christian market. I understand that position.
It consolidated my disappointment with a lot of what was coming out under the Christian fiction label. Yes, I’ve read some great stirring stories that I love but many have lacked a faith arc and at times I’ve struggled to find the story’s Christian. I realise that I may simply be reading the wrong novels.
It’s Hard
I’ve always considered writing a great faith arc to be hard. Harder than many of us think. Because we don’t want to be seen to be preachy or we think seeing characters praying to be a bit weird or we have other means of having our faith inspired and don’t want to read it in our fiction or our faith arc doesn’t fit in the traditional Southern Bible belt mindset.  So the speculative element, or the romance, or the suspense, takes precedence and in most cases the story would still survive if there were no faith element.
Indie Alternative
But it’s clean with no sex, no bad language and whatever else fits the Christian fiction “norm.” Fortunately, we’ve seen some gutsy faith stories go Indie for whatever reason. I only have to think of Sally Bradley’s much-admired “Kept” as one example.

I'm also reading a novella series titled "The Eli Diaries" which depicts Jesus as a teenager called Eli Shepherd living in modern day California. Eli's friends happen to be guys like Peter, Jude, Tommy, Laz, Martha and Mary. In addition, one of the major characters is Maggie, who has a poor reputation for sleeping around as she searches for love. I just finished the seventh in the series over the weekend, Payback, which was told from Peter's POV. Tim Shoemaker, the author of this episode, does a great job demonstrating the love of Christ in how Eli goes about addressing some serious teenage issues like stalking and paying back with violence. Yes, Eli at present is probably the only 'believer' but the story wouldn't have worked without his alternative means of addressing such matters.
The next blockbuster
I want to read it. Ideally, one of us here at ICFW will write it. How cool would that be? It’s going to happen. Sure it may be controversial like “The Shack” but isn’t it time for the next faith arc blockbuster where the Lord’s love and grace are front and centre in the life of a character?
I can’t wait.
I’d love for us to share in the comments what stories first drew each of us to Christian fiction and what great faith arc stories have you read recently that I should be adding (to the top of) my TBR pile.
Here’s to a great year of writing and reading some stellar Christian fiction.

Ian Acheson is an author and strategy consultant based in Sydney. Ian's first novel of speculative fiction, Angelguardwas recognised with the 2014 Selah Award for Speculative Fiction.You can find more about Angelguard at Ian's website, on his author Facebook page and Twitter

Monday, January 29, 2018

What if “better writer” was the journey and not the destination?

By David Rawlings (@DavidJRawlings)

Every writer under the sun wants to be a better writer.

Each of us has the carrot of being a better writer dangling a few feet in front of us, always out of reach. Even those whose names grace our bookshelves – including the ones whose names feature again and again – want to get there. In fact, the best writers never stop reaching for being a better writer.

So apart from the usual advice – you know, you need to do 10,000 hours before you become an expert – how do you actually get there? Surely it’s more than “keep practising?”

Here’s another way of thinking about that: what if “better writer” was the journey and not the destination? As I’ve continued to develop my writing skills, I’ve spoken to countless authors and read everything I can get my hands on when it comes to what I need to reach the Holy Grail of being a “better writer”.

Treating the drive to be a better writer as the journey does something inside my head. Once I start to think about improving and developing as I go, it does a number of things:
  • Take the pressure off. If you realise you are always becoming a better writer, rather than short of your elusive goal, it can take pressure off you. I know it has with me. Any improvement is an achievement, not step #5 in a 5,000-step process.
  • Help you to enjoy the journey. I’ve found when I travel that if you focus too much on the destination, it can make the journey seem like something to be endured, not enjoyed. And I want to enjoy this journey - I'm putting so much of myself into it.
  • Realise your improvement is a constant, not a goal. I set out on my writing journey thinking if I learned enough things, I’d eventually make it. But it’s not that. I’ve learned you need to keep learning.
  • Puts my earlier efforts into context. I look back on my first manuscript, or my first draft of my current WIP, with different eyes. It’s no longer a poor first effort, it’s now the best I could have done AT THAT STAGE OF MY DEVELOPMENT. And now I’ve developed beyond that. 
 So that’s why I now view being a "better writer" as a journey. How does that sit with you?

About David Rawlings

Based in Adelaide, South Australia, I am a sports-mad, married father-of-three with my own copywriting/communication business who reads everything within an arm’s reach.

I can see a typo from across the room and always – always – make sure my text messages are grammatically correct. My manuscripts have finalled in the ACFW's Genesis competitions and the OCW's Cascade Awards.

And now I'm working with the Steve Laube Agency as my agent to find that elusive first publisher.

Friday, January 26, 2018

DEVOTION: Unchanging God

By Leila Halawe | @Lhalawe

And just like that, the new year has well and truly come and gone. The celebrations have settled down, the streamers have been pulled down, along with the Christmas decorations (mine, anyway) and everyone has gotten back into the daily grind. For many, the changing of the calendar is a time to reset. A second chance. A new beginning. A time to hope and dream and visualise all that could be. To say goodbye to what was and usher in a new season. While we are almost at the end of January, I am still reading many new year posts online claiming that this year would be different, it would be better. There would be more joy and happiness and success. Amen.

Like many people, I had a hard year in 2017. On just about front, things were difficult or hard or just downright exhausting. There was so many ups and downs but through it all, there was one constant: God. As I look back, I realise that while it was a difficult year for me, it was also a year where I repeatedly saw the goodness and kindness of God. It was a year that I felt the steadfast love of God in my life. Despite what I felt or did or said, He was steadfast. He was constant. His love was unconditional and endless. I wish I could say the same about myself.

But God.

But God was faithful and steadfast and true.

He was present.

He is still present.

New beginnings are wonderful, and ushering in new things is also wonderful, but so is steadfastness. So is faithful. So is familiar. These are all also good and wonderful things that we should be careful to not toss away in the search for new and exciting and comfortable. Don’t get me wrong, like many others I was more than glad to see the back of 2017, but I was also comforted in knowing that the midnight stroke on NYE wouldn’t change God. It wouldn’t change who He is. It wouldn’t change His love for me or His plans and purposes for me. The change in the date wouldn’t change the fact that God is still God, He is still on the Throne and Jesus is still seated at His right hand. It wouldn’t change the fact that I am loved with an everlasting love by a Heavenly Father that calls me by name. 

The ticking of the clock doesn’t change that for you, either.

You are still loved.

You are still a child of God.

You are still adored by Your Heavenly Father, the creator of the heavens and earth.

As we look ahead to new beginnings and as we make fresh starts, let’s also hold onto the faithfulness of God. Let’s hold onto the knowledge that He was and is and is to come. Let’s hold onto the truth that He is unchanging and His love is everlasting.

Blessings for a great year.

About Lays 

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, January 25, 2018

Embracing the Unexpected

by Janice L. Dick / @JaniceDick54

You Have Arrived…or Not

You might think that once authors have published, they have arrived. In one sense that’s true, but only for a brief time. A first—or fiftieth—novel is a milestone, but it does not mean that success is here to stay. It means there's more work ahead.

There are many and varied life experiences that can derail a writer from his or her work, whether short- or long-term.

Life continues to challenge most of us on an irregular basis, keeping us on our toes. As Christians, we have declared Jesus to be our King, our Leader. But often, we chafe at the so-called interruptions that draw us away from our writing.

Sometimes it’s not the outside world that can derail us, but our own attempts to control our lives. We may think we are our own boss, but that’s not true. A Christians, we commit our days and times to Jesus, seek his guidance and direction, and strive to obey.

To Write or to Live

Writing and living are not exclusive. They mix and meld and challenge us to be real about our faith. What is the Lord asking of us today? This very moment?


I’ve been thinking a lot about planning and setting goals recently, as befits the time of year, but I’m finding it entirely different this year. Due to a family situation in 2017, I did not achieve my writing goals. It’s easy in these circumstances to allow defeatism to enter into the picture, but I can’t let that happen. After all, there are times when the living takes precedence, only to provide credible story content later. Perhaps much later. We can’t interfere with God’s plan for us, but put ourselves before him daily and ask him for his strength and direction.

God’s Love Changes Everything

I’m ever so thankful we have a God who loves us, lives in us, and uses us to achieve his goals. We are special in his eyes, a good thing to remember when life takes an unexpected turn.

Whether you are a reader, a writer, or both, I encourage you to join me in trusting more fully the God who is willing to use us in his service.

Blessings to you in 2018.

About Janice L. Dick

Janice L. Dick is an award-winning author who writes from her rural home in Saskatchewan, Canada. She writes contemporary and historical fiction, blogs, book reviews, and inspirational articles. In September 2016, Janice became the first recipient of the prestigious Janette Oke award, presented by the InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship.

In 2016 Janice established her indie imprint: Tansy & Thistle Press: faith, fiction, forum, and has since released two more historical novels. Find out more at her website.