Friday, May 25, 2018

DEVOTIONAL: Up close and personal

By Leila Halawe @LHalawe

This post is cross posted on ACW



Recently I was driving through the South Island of New Zealand on my way to some work events. I had never been to the South Island before so it was a new experience for me with new scenery to observe and gush over. And there is lots to gush over in the South Island. Beautiful mountains, long winding river beds and lush green pastures are just some of the delightful landscape you will see as you drive around.



We needed to get from Christchurch to Nelson, which meant we got to travel some long winding roads; roads that were hugged by mountains on either side. Some of the mountain peaks were covered in snow, while others were covered by the long white clouds that New Zealand is often known for. But one of the most beautiful sites was the lush green on the mountains. Many of the mountain sides were covered in lush green leaves. From a distance, all you could see was a beautiful green covering the entire mountain face.



However it wasn't until we got closer that we were able to see the detail. We didn't the interconnectedness of the forest until we were up close and we could see the branches and the leaves and the roots. When we got closer, the detail became clearer and it was apparent that what looked like a blanket of lush green leaves was really a beautiful forest of old trees with deep roots. Of rocks and boulders covered with dirt and moss. Up close, we saw the intricate details and realised that from a distance, not everything is as it seems.

Our view of God can be like that. 

When we are a little removed from God, we can have an image of Him and of His heart. We can have perception of His nature. When we are looking at Him from a distance, we can still see Him, but we won't see the details; we won't see the intricacies of His heart and character. We won't feel His heart beat. When we are looking at God from a distance, we won't hear the tones of His voice because we are too far. In the book of 1 Kings 19, we read about Elijah having an encounter with God after being on the run:

"and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice." (I Kings 19:12 NKJV).


Elijah wanted to hear from God and he was looking for God in the wind and rain and trees, but the bible tells us that Elijah didn't encounter God in the fire, it was in the still small voice. God doesn't yell or scream at us, He whispers.

And the only way to hear a whisper is to lean in close; to get up close and personal and focused.

And when we do that, we can hear God tenderly and gently speaking to our hearts. Looking at God from a distance doesn't allow us to really truly know Him. It doesn't allow us to hear His heart beat for us. To know His plans for us. To follow His guidance.

Jesus himself tells us that we need to abide in Him:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me - John 15:4 (ESV)

He wants us to rest in Him, to sit at His feet and abide in His presence and listen to His gentle whisper. He wants us to walk close. When life is hard and when the pain is heartbreaking, we need to get up close to God, not stand back and look at Him from a distance. We need to run towards Him and really lean in and look at Him; press in and tune our ears to listen. And when we do that, we won't only hear Him, but we'll be able to see Him and see clearly His majesty and beauty and grace.

This post has been cross published on ACW and Looking In


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, May 24, 2018

Telling Stories



By Elizabeth Musser @EMusserAuthor 




When I was a child, parents would warn their kids not to tell stories. By that, of course, they were speaking about lying.  

Thou shalt not lie. 


I was a good little girl, the one who wanted to please, to do things right, so I tried my best not to lie. But oh, how I told stories! Story after story as they galloped through my mind, like the horses doing the same thing in the riding ring behind my house.

I loved telling stories! 


I told them to anyone who would listen to, or, more often, read them. I still have the spiral notebooks of my scribbled stories of yesteryear.

When I was blessed with two little boys, I went back to telling stories, 


nightly stories about Blackie and Angelfoot, the adored ponies, and Slimy Green and Shiny Green, the friendly snakes, and Mr. Snodgrass, the befuddled but kind neighbor. Story after story. And always, somehow, a spiritual anecdote crept into these stories, a little something to turn my sons’ imaginations toward Jesus. During their naptimes, I’d write down the morning’s disaster, turning it also into some sort of anecdotal and redemptive story.

Our ritual of story-telling continued, 


along with reading them books, up into their double-digit days. Yes, they were reading on their own, but amazingly (and delightedly for this little momma) they still loved snuggling with me in bed for a book and a story.

The habit of telling my sons stories and writing them down, along with whatever spiritual tidbit I could grab onto

kept my imagination supple 


until one day, my sons both trotted off to school, and I had the morning to create and craft fiction with the Gospel subtly embedded in the story.

We writers are meant to tell stories, and what better audience to start with than our own kids? 


I am now a grandmother of three, and I once again have the delight of reading books and telling bedtime stories to these precious little people.



Yesterday was Mother’s Day and for this one year, we’re in the States, living right down the street (figuratively, but close literally) from the grandkids. They came with our son and daughter-in-law for a cookout. And late in the evening, well past their bedtime, I snuggled with the three in bed and began my story…

When their daddy poked his head in to say, “Time to go home,” they looked up in dismay until I explained we were in the middle of a story. Then he quickly backed out of the room with, “Okay, just come downstairs when the story’s over.”

I treasure these times for many reasons, but one of the less obvious ones is simply that

making up bedtime stories is keeping my imagination going. And oh, how we writers need that! 


For all of my twenty-five years as a published author, I’ve had another job, too, of missionary, as well as the cherished roles of wife, mother, manager of the manse, etc. So often my other jobs have crowded in to steal away my writing time. Sometimes months go by without me working on a novel, as is the case with these ten months back in the States.

Caring for our aging parents, being involved in family celebrations that we usually miss out on, visiting supporters and supporting churches, speaking about my novels to all different groups of readers, working with our missionaries in our pastoral role and many other things have all but pushed aside my mornings to write.

With my grandkids, I am once again

using my imagination to exercise my creative muscles 


so that they don’t atrophy, so that they’re in good condition when the space opens up for me to sit down and tell another story.



That’s what being a novelist is all about, isn’t it? I promise I'm telling the truth.


How do you keep exercising your writing muscles when life gets in the way of your actual writing?


About Elizabeth Musser 

 ELIZABETH MUSSER usually writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France. For over twenty-five years, Elizabeth and her husband, Paul, have been involved in missions’ work in Europe. To be closer to family, the Mussers have moved back to the Southeast for 2017-2018 school year and are living in the Chattanooga area near their son, daughter-in-law and three grandkids. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Twitter, and her blog.


 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

GDPR: What Authors Need to Know

By Iola Goulton @iolagoulton


What is GDPR?


The GDPR is the General Data Protection Regulation, and comes into force on 25 May 2018. It harmonizes data privacy laws across the European Union (EU), so it affects any organization holding personal data from EU residents. Note that the EU still includes the United Kingdom, so GDPR still applies. The British government have indicated they will implement GDPR-like legislation following Brexit (if it goes ahead).

Why do authors need to know about GDPR?


GDPR affects all organisations based in the EU, or supplying goods or services in the EU, that collect and process the data of EU residents, regardless of where they are based. 


Some contributors to (and readers of) International Christian Fiction Writers are based in the EU, so are directly affected by GDPR. The rest of us are likely to be affected as well, because we are supplying goods or services in the EU:
  • If we have a book listed on Amazon.co.uk or BookDepository.com, we're indirectly supplying goods.
  • If we have a website that's viewable in the EU, we're suppling services in the form of information. Free services, but still services
  • If we have an email list that includes EU residents or may include EU residents in the future, we're supplying services, and we may also be marketing to EU residents.
If you have a self-hosted website, then your site is collecting a lot of information on your behalf, and you are responsible for ensuring only the necessary data is collected, that collected data is kept private, and that it is deleted on request or within a reasonable timeframe.

For example, if you comment on www.iolagoulton.com, I ask for your name, email address, and website (although that’s optional). But the website also collects and stores your IP address, and may store cookies (e.g. so the site remembers you have commented before and that I approved your comment, so subsequent comments aren’t held for moderation. Another cookie knows not to show you the email signup pop-up more often than once every 90 days).


Yes, you need to know about GDPR.


But GDPR isn’t the big bogeyman some commentators are making it out to be. Sure, it toughens up on the way we collect and use personal data, but the main principles are around people who hold personal data using that data in a way that is fair, transparent, and lawful.

Please note: I'm not a lawyer, so none of the information in this blog post is legal advice. It's my best guess as a layperson who has studied the subject. If you want legal advice, you ask a lawyer who is qualified to practice in this area. In this case, that means a lawyer based in the EU with a background in privacy, data protection, or similar. You don't get legal advice off the internet.


There are two excellent YouTube videos from British lawyers, and I'll link to those at the bottom of the post for those who want or need to know more.

What does this mean?


We tell people what data we are collecting, why we are collecting it, what we are going to use it for, and we only use it for that purpose. And that purpose must be lawful.

We only collect the data we need, with the permission of the owner of that data. We do not pass data on without permission, and we make sure anyone we pass data to is also collecting and using that data lawfully.

That’s not so hard, is it?


First, the Possible Exception.


Yes, there is an exception, and that's when your website or blog is managed through a free provider such as Blogger (like Australasian Christian Writers) or WordPress.com (but not self-hosted WordPress.org).

As best as I can tell, Google owns Blogger. Blogger/Google collects personal information every time we upload a post to Blogger, or comment on an existing post. The writer owns the copyright, but Google owns the platform.

I suspect this makes Blogger the data controller, not me (or us, in the case of ACW), and that means it is up to Google to ensure Blogger sites are GDPR compliant. Click here to read Google's Privacy Policy.

I think the same is true for WordPress.com (i.e. not self-hosted WordPress). It’s hosted by WordPress, which means they own it.  Click here to read the WordPress.com Privacy Policy. Note that WordPress do say:

We also process information about visitors to our users’ websites, on behalf of our users and in accordance with our user agreements. Please note that our processing of that information on behalf of our users for their websites isn’t covered by this Privacy Policy. We encourage our users to post a privacy policy that accurately describes their practices on data collection, use, and sharing of personal information.


If this isn’t right, please let us know in the comments (with the appropriate link), and I'll update the post.


What do you need to do to prepare for GDPR?


If you have a self-hosted blog or website, or an email list, then there are some tasks you need to complete to prepare for GDPR. Based on the research I've done, here's my approach:

1. SSL Certificate


SSL certification adds a layer of security to your website. If you don't already have SSL certification, now is a good time to consider it. You may be able to get a free SSL certificate from your web host.

Neil Patel at Kissmetrics has just published a detailed post on the subject.

2. Privacy Policy

You need a Privacy Policy, outlining the personal data you collect and how that is used. I spent a whole day researching privacy policies online (and wrote a blog post about it), then discovered this: WordPress Privacy Policy

Automattic, the owners of WordPress and WooCommerce, have made their Privacy Policy available under a Creative Commons Sharelike licence. You will need to adapt it for your own needs and brand voice, but it's a great start.

Another good option is Zegal.com, which offers free privacy policies tailored for New Zealand or Australia. Mine was clear, easy to read, and easy to understand, but it's not GDPR-compliant. I contacted Zegal, and they say they will be releasing a GDPR-compliant Privacy Policy before 25 May, but it will only be available to paying customers.

3. Terms and Conditions

If you are selling directly from your website, you should consider a terms and conditions policy. I'm currently using the extreme legalese of Auto Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, but I will look at this again.

4. Cookie Policy

Most websites use cookies, and EU law requires website owners to advise visitors of this fact, and obtain their consent to using cookies. WordPress plugins such as the EU Cookie Law Widget help site owners comply.

Click here to learn more about cookies. Cookies can be addressed as part of your Privacy Policy, or in a separate Cookie Policy.

If you use WordPress, check out the GDPR Cookie Compliance plugin. It's easy to install and customise (you can check it out at www.iolagoulton.com. Note that I haven't customised it at all.)

5. Contact Form

Most websites have a contact form allowing visitors to email the website owner. It seems pretty obvious to me that completing a contact form means the website owner is getting your personal information, but some people are recommending adding a tickbox to make this explicit.

Regardless, your Privacy Policy will need to include what information you collect on your contact form, and what it is used for. The WP GDPR Compliance plugin for WordPress will add a tickbox to your Contact Form 7 or Gravity Forms contact form. It takes about two minutes to install and activate, which means WordPress users have no excuse.

6. Comments Form

Most blogs have a comments section, which collects personal information. Do we need to add a tickbox for specific consent? I've seen blog posts from non-experts that suggest we do, but my WordPress site doesn't have any way of adding a tickbox to comments.

However, the WP GDPR Compliance plugin also handles comments, so I've added the tickbox using this plugin. It took another three minutes.

7. Email Signup Forms

Your email signup forms need to include a reference or link to your new or updated Privacy Policy. You must also make it clear that visitors are signing up for a newsletter that will include sales and marketing emails, and that they have the option to unsubscribe at any time (which they will have if you're using a competent external email service provider. You are, right?)

There has been discussion over whether you can still offer a free gift to new subscribers. My understanding is that you can, but it has to be:

Sign up for my email list to receive regular newsletters and occasional marketing emails. In return, I'll send you a free gift!


Not:

Want a free gift? Sign up here!


Even better, have a tickbox as part of the signup form, so your website visitors know exactly what they are getting. I use Bloom from Elegant Themes* for my website signups, and that doesn't have the tickbox option. Yet. MailChimp* does have GDPR compliant forms, but they are not as pretty as my Bloom forms.

* These are affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you purchase something using these links. The amount you pay does not change. If you don't want to use affiliate links, then use your favourite search engine to find the sites.

8. Email List


Do you need to contact everyone on your list before 25 May to reconfirm they want to be on your email list?


This is the really hard part, and it's something even the experts can't agree on. Some experts and mailing list providers say yes. They say you need to email everyone on your list and ask them to reconfirm their consent, then delete the people who unsubscribe or don't respond. The issue with this approach is you will lose a large number of subscribers (although it is argued you're only losing the unengaged subscribers, so cutting them will improve the performance of your list).

Some email list providers (e.g. AWeber, ConvertKit) seem to be able to segment out EU subscribers by their IP address, which makes the consent process easier. If your email provider has this option, it's worth exploring.

Other experts advise against asking your email list to reconfirm their consent, because sending the email implies you don't have a record of their consent and you shouldn't be emailing someone without their consent.

The approach you take will depend on how you built your email list, and who your email list provider is. MailChimp (my email list provider) seems to be taking a softly-softly approach. Others (e.g. MailerLite) seem to be more aggressive in requiring list owners send reconfirmation emails.

What I don't recommend is what I've seen two US-based authors do over the last few days: email their list with a suggestion/request people opt out if they no longer want to be on the mailing list, and that not opting out will be taken as consent for GDPR. I don't like this approach for two reasons:
  1. There should already be an unsubscribe option on every email you send.
  2. This is passive consent—do nothing, and you're on the list. The principle of GDPR is that subscribers must actively consent to being on your mailing list. That is, they have to check the box that says "Sign me up!" to be on your list, not uncheck it to stay off your list. 
There is one thing the experts agree on: this is a good opportunity to either try and reengage your email list, and to delete those who haven't opened recent emails (say, any email for the last three or six months, or your last three or six emails). This is the approach I have taken.

Listen to the Experts


As I said at the beginning, I'm no lawyer. But I've read a lot of blog posts, and listened to podcasts and watched videos from GDPR legal experts. Here are the two best sources of information I've found:

Mark Dawson's Self-Publishing Formula podcast interviewed British lawyer Gemma Gibbs:



Nick Stephenson's First 10,000 Readers interviewed British lawyer Suzanne Dibble. Suzanne also has a Facebook group with loads of free information. Click here to find Suzanne's Facebok group. She also has a GDPR Compliance Kit for sale, for GDP 197. Here's Suzanne on GDPR:




What do you need to do to prepare for GDPR?



About Iola Goulton

Iola Goulton is a New Zealand book reviewer, freelance editor, and author, writing contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist. She is a member of the Sisterhood of Unpronounceable Names (Iola is pronounced yo-la, not eye-ola and definitely not Lola).

Iola holds a degree in marketing, has a background in human resource consulting, and currently works as a freelance editor. When she’s not working, Iola is usually reading or writing her next book review. Iola lives in the beautiful Bay of Plenty in New Zealand (not far from Hobbiton) with her husband, two teenagers and one cat.

Monday, May 21, 2018

International Christian Fiction - New Releases | May 2018 #giveaway


Solo Tu: Only You (A Tuscan Legacy Book 7) by Narelle Atkins 


Home means everything to Sienna Rossi.

Four years ago, Sienna defied her father by moving to Australia to obtain her teaching qualifications. Her grand plan is shaken by her father's unexpected death and a trip back to Tuscany for her grandmother's eightieth birthday where she renews her close bond with her sister, Alessa.

Teacher Dave Maxwell likes the freedom of his nomadic lifestyle. He works contract-to-contract, moving to different high schools around Australia. He's in Sydney for a season, caring for his grandma while his aunt is on an extended overseas vacation.

Back in Sydney, Sienna moves in with her Aussie cousins and starts her first teaching job, torn between her dream for a future in Australia and her longing for home. Sienna and Dave work at the same school, attend the same church, and quickly become friends. They are drawn together by circumstances and an undeniable attraction.

But their idyllic time together is temporary. Can the girl from Tuscany and the boy from Australia risk everything for love?

Giveaway


Narelle Atkins is giving away a print copy of Solo Tu. The giveaway is open to international entrants with a mailing address where Amazon USA delivers.

To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment on this post and/or Narelle's Bookish Tuesday post on May 29. Receive two entries in the drawing by commenting on both posts.

Check out Narelle's post on Tuesday May 29 for more information on the giveaway that will close on Monday June 5, 2018.

Available at Amazon.com




Harvest of Love: Garden Grown Romance Book Three (Arcadia Valley Romance 17) by Valerie Comer


Hot on the heels of a failed relationship, Kenia Akers focuses on her bookstore along with granting her aging grandfather’s desperate desire to get his hands in the dirt through a program at Grace Greenhouse. Reminding herself she’s on the rebound isn’t enough to keep her from falling for the hunky activities coordinator from Granddad’s facility.

Zane Russell is amazed that the fun-loving, pretty bookstore owner is attracted to him, a guy who’s not even in her league. As their relationship deepens, he avoids explaining why he seems allergic to books. Admitting his failures has never been a good move in the past.

Will they find a way to let openness, trust, and acceptance blossom into a harvest of love?

Available at Amazon.com



Digging up Secrets by Sandra Orchard (Victorian Mansion Flower Shop Mysteries)


Nothing is coming up roses for Kaylee Bleu. Not only are all of the plants in her flower shop going thirsty because of a busted well pump, but a competing florist of Orcas Island is stealing customers from The Flower Patch. As if that wasn’t enough to turn her into Florist Grump, a new client who could be Kaylee’s golden ticket to the lucrative country club set is also her most persnickety yet–and continuously threatens to take her business elsewhere.

But all of that seems like no big deal when Kaylee’s plumber discovers a fractured skull in her shop’s yard. The remains belong to Danny Lane, a troubled teenager accused of killing a high school girl in a boating accident thirty-five years ago. The consensus around Turtle Cove was that the boy fled town shortly after the accident, but Kaylee thinks the holes in that story are as big as the grave-size pit dug up around her well pump.

Unfortunately, somebody on Orcas Island wants Kaylee to leave the past buried. At first, she refuses to be intimidated by menacing messages and frightful pranks. But when suspicious accidents begin to befall witnesses close to the cold case, Kaylee’s seeds of doubt blossom into dread. She must decide how deep she’s willing to dig to determine if Danny’s death was an accident . . . or murder.

Available via subscription to the series at Annie's Attic




Rapsodia: Rhapsody (A Tuscan Legacy Book 3) by Alexa Verde


A risk taker with a crushed spirit and a control-addicted businessman with a crushed heart... Can they surrender themselves to God's healing love?

After the woman he loved left him for a richer guy, Marco Carter turned all his passion toward the chain of pizzerias he founded. He can control his business, unlike love. Then his world is turned upside down. He meets Samantha Jenkins on his flight home to Texas after his grandmother's eightieth birthday. Many hours with the guarded but beautiful Samantha has him questioning his career-centered mindset.

A born risk taker and fiercely independent, Samantha misses her former life as a travel photographer and extreme sports aficionado. But more than anything, she grieves her fiancé. On her trip from Italy on the anniversary of his tragic passing, the last thing she expects is to become drawn to her neighbor on her flight. Deep inside, she still blames herself for her fiancé's death...

Though Marco is determined to forget Samantha, the arrival of a mysterious painting reminds him of all that is missing in his life. Hoping for a new chance with her, Marco opens a pizzeria in Samantha's hometown in south Texas. Spending time with her, he's learning to surrender control to the Lord. But apparently it's easier to earn millions than to make Samantha open her heart again. What will it take for her to heal enough to trust in God and take the biggest risk of all-to love again?

Available at Amazon.com



Ti Amo: I Love You (A Tuscan Legacy Book 4) by Marion Ueckermann


She never wants to get married. He does. To her.

The day Alessandra Rossi was born, her mammà died, and a loveless life with the father who blamed the newborn for her mother's death followed. With the help of her oldest brother, Rafaele, Alessa moved away from home the moment she finished school--just like her other siblings had. Now sporting a degree in architectural history and archaeology, Alessa loves her job as a tour guide in the city of Rome--a place where she never fails to draw the attention of men. Not that Alessa cares. Fearing that the man she weds would be anything like her recently deceased father has Alessa vowing to remain single.

American missionary Michael Young has moved to Rome on a two-year mission trip. His temporary future in the country doesn't stop him from spontaneously joining Alessa's tour after spotting her outside the Colosseum. And being bold enough to tell her afterward that one day she'd be his wife. God had told him. And he believed Him. But Alessa shows no sign of interest in Michael.

Can anything sway the beautiful and headstrong Italian to fall in love? Can anyone convince her to put her faith and hope in the Heavenly Father, despite being raised by an earthly one who never loved her? Will her sister's prompting, or a mysterious painting, or Michael himself change Alessa's mind? About love. And about God.

La Fiamma Sacra: The Sacred Flame (A Tuscan Legacy Book 5) by Clare Revell


Forged in love's sacred flame, can a firefighter and a widow find the path God set for them?

Ric Rossi left the family farm in Tuscany and never looked back. Working as a firefighter in Reading, England, he has everything a man could ask for—a secure job, a firm faith, and a neighbour who cares for his cat Noci when he goes away. The only thing missing is a woman he can share his life with.

Widowed when her son Deforest was a week old, Bracken Hughes isn’t prepared to open herself to the heartache a relationship can bring. Especially with her handsome neighbour who risks his life each time he leaves for work. No matter how good the man is with her son.

Ric finds Deforest to be an appealing child who captures his interest. And the mother has that certain something that pricks his heart. But the unhealed wound in Ric's soul might just spoil any chance he has at love.

Available at Amazon.com



Bella Notte: Beautiful Night (A Tuscan Legacy Book 6) by Heather Gray


He likes to play the field. She's content to wear her goody two shoes.

Piero Carter packs light and travels often. He loves adventure and manages to keep his life simple by sticking to a two-dates-only rule. The longest relationship he's had -- aside from family -- is with his camera. As a photographer who works primarily with fashion, he's used to having his pick of beautiful women who want to be seen by his side.

Felicity von Wolff is a makeup artist whose job takes her around the world. That's all the adventure she craves. She has little use for Piero the Playboy. Being seen on his arm means getting tied to his reputation, and that's the last thing she wants. Yet, somehow, they keep getting thrown together. What's a girl to do?

Piero finally meets a woman who makes him want more than two dates, but does that mean he's ready for one of life's greatest adventures -- falling in love? When Felicity peeks over the wall she's built, she discovers there's more to the people around her than she ever realized. What will it take for Piero and Felicity to stop hiding from life and open their eyes to the rich beauty God has in store for them?

Available at Amazon.com



The 49th Mystic by Ted Dekker



Some say the great mystery of how one can live in two worlds at once died with Thomas Hunter many years ago. Still others that the gateway to that greater reality was and is only the stuff of dreams.

They are wrong. In the small town of Eden, Utah, a blind girl named Rachelle Matthews is about to find out just how wrong.

When a procedure meant to restore Rachelle's sight goes awry, she begins to dream of another world so real that she wonders if Earth might only be a dream experienced when she falls asleep in that reality. Who is a simple blind girl to have such strange and fantastic dreams?

She's the prophesied one who must find and recover five ancient seals--in both worlds--before powerful enemies destroy her. If Rachelle succeeds in her quest, peace will reign. If she fails, both worlds will forever be locked in darkness.

So begins a two-volume saga of high stakes and a mind-bending quest to find an ancient path that will save humanity. The clock is ticking; the end rushes forward.

Ready? Set?

Dream.

Available from Amazon.com



Becoming the Talbot Sisters by Rachel Linden


Twin sisters Waverly and Charlie Talbot have drifted far apart as they pursue opposite dreams of stardom and service to the poor. On an astonishing journey across Central Europe, they must come together to face their fears, find their courage and fight for what they love.

Celebrity chef Waverly Ross has built a successful career with her home-entertaining show Simply Perfect. Yet she and her husband, Andrew, have never been able to realize the true desire of Waverly’s heart: to become a mother. Meanwhile Waverly’s twin sister, Charlie Talbot, buries her bitter disappointment and shattered idealism beneath a life spent serving others as an international aid worked in Budapest, Hungary.

When the beloved aunt who raised them passes away, Waverly and Charlie come together in their grief after living years on separate continents. Struck by a fierce desire to bridge the distance between them, Charlie offers Waverly and her husband the selfless gift of surrogacy.

But soon the sisters find they are each in danger of losing their jobs, seemingly putting their dreams on hold once again. When Waverly shows up unannounced in Budapest with a plan to rescue Simply Perfect, the sisters embark on an adventure across Central Europe that could save them both from occupational hazards. Though the twins haven’t had to rely on each other since childhood, an unforeseen dangerous turn in their journey across Europe forces them to stand together to save their careers, the baby, and each other.

Available from Amazon.com



No Less Days by Amanda G. Stevens


David Galloway can’t die.

How many lifetimes can God expect one man to live? Over a century old, David Galloway isolates himself from the mortal humans who die or desert him by making a quiet life as a used bookstore owner in Northern Michigan. But then he spots a news article about a man who, like him, should be dead.

Daredevil celebrity Zachary Wilson walked away unscathed from what should have been a deadly fall. David tracks the man down, needing answers. Soon David discovers a close-knit group of individuals as old as he is who offer the sort of kinship and community he hasn’t experienced for decades—but at what cost?

David finds himself keeping secrets other than his own. . .protecting more than himself alone. He’ll have to decide what’s worth the most to him—security or community. When crimes come to light that are older than any mortal, he fears the pressure is more than he can stand. What does God require of him, and is David strong enough to see it through?

Available from Amazon.com

Friday, May 18, 2018

Living a Balanced Christian Life (and other funny jokes) ... a devotion from Dianne J. Wilson



If you're anything like me, you spend most of your time juggling many things, wondering if you should have them all on your plate and trying to figure out how to 'balance' it all. Sound familiar?


Sometimes I feel like I'm limping along on a flat. Who am I kidding - most times.

I've attempted to fix my life pizza-style. You know, rearrange things into equal time sections so that everything at least gets a touch. That's not realistic though, so I whipped it all about into some sort of redeemed Mazlo's Hierachy... God first, family second, then church... oh wait. Is it meant to be church then family? I just can't get it straight. But where do you fit a book deadline into that? Or car repairs? How about elastics that need to be stitched onto a ballet shoe? Does that legitimately belong in family?

I've winged it too... on-the-fly-allocate more time to those things that are apparently more valuable than others. But you know what? All it takes it one cat with a fur-ball who decides it's time to let it all out over the lounge carpet to blow my priorities out the water. Or a kidlet who forgot about a speech that has to be done for tomorrow. Or a dropped bottle of ketchup-slash-tomato sauce... Fill in the blanks.

I've come to realize what I was missing from the whole equation. To run smoothly every wheel needs an axle, a central point that is constant. For us, that's Jesus. Once He is securely central, the origin for each thing that captures our time and energy... then our lives run balanced.

Here's the funny thing - there will be seasons of complete and utter 'unbalanced-ness' for each of us. A deadline, a new baby... whatever hits your life with enough force to shake you wonky. But when Jesus is smack in the middle, somehow the wheel can still run smoothly.

How can it though, when the spokes - AKA all the demands on us - are sometimes so unequal? Ask any cyclist how bumpy a ride with spokes like that would be.

Here is the secret... Jesus is a magnificent spoke equalizer. He doesn't just stand on the sidelines, barking orders and smacking his forehead when we get it wrong. He is right in the middle of our mess, His grace, the elastic that reaches the bits we can't get to. He stretches and holds on our behalf when our internal elastic is so frayed that our mental and emotional pants are falling down.

Right now for me, life is a stretch. I single-parent during the week, miss my hubby between weekends, try my best to mommy my girls, work, do home & pets and chase my deadlines. Some days I feel like something has to give or I'll conk out. But you know what? I just need to stay cuddled up to Jesus. He has all these things that pull at me, these spokes... He has them all. Where I fall short (so so short) He doesn't. And He's got you too.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30


Dianne J. Wilson writes novels from her hometown in East London, South Africa, where she lives with her husband and three daughters. She is writing the third book in YA series, Spirit Walker, with Pelican / Watershed. Book 1, Affinity is releasing on the 8th of June 2018.

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

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

Find her on FacebookTwitter and her sporadic blog Doodles.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Finding the Dolce in My Far Niente

By Patricia Beal | @bealpat



The sweetness of doing nothing? I can't figure this out, folks.

I can make the far niente part happen, but it isn’t dolce at all. It's rather uncomfortable.

What exactly is dolce far niente anyway? What is it supposed to feel like and look like? And how in the world do we make it happen in our jam-packed modern lives?

This is so hard for me that I tried to write a different post. I was going to avoid this whole dolce far niente business by writing about Saturday’s royal wedding instead. But then the latest developments involving the bride’s dad broke my heart and took some of the magic out of the anticipation. Best to search for the dolce in my far niente after all…


So what is dolce far niente?


Merriam-Webster says it’s “pleasant relaxation in carefree idleness.”

I can make myself be still, but it’s just not pleasant (or relaxing or carefree). Why? The mind is going at a million miles an hour. Can I make it stop? Yes and no. If I practice it often, I can probably get my thoughts to slow and worries to fade. But…

My brain is trained to be online.


I love it. I’m on Twitter a lot, and on Facebook a lot, and on Instagram, and on Pinterest, and reading emails, and answering emails. To fit all that online interaction in my daily routine (homeschooling mom), I have to think fast, read fast, type fast. There’s some agitation involved. The result of the interaction is sweet, but the process is fast-paced. Can I go from that to “pleasant relaxation in carefree idleness” whenever I want? Can my social media life and dolce far niente co-exist? I’m not sure.

My Dolce Far Niente Pinterest Board

Why should I care about dolce far niente anyway?


What’s the big deal? It’s a big deal because I believe it walks hand in hand with God's rhythm of grace. If I can get dolce far niente right, my time with God will improve—quantity and quality. My prayer life will be sweeter.

So what have I tried and want to try?


Here’s what I see as dolce far niente “activities” – watching the rain, watching snow fall, floating in the ocean, looking at clouds, hammock time, watching water when it’s sparkly, sitting on a bench in the woods, watching the sun rise on the beach (cool sand), sitting on a tree, looking up at trees, watching candles burn, listening to soft music, looking out the window, a slow café or restaurant on a slow street…


What do you think? How are you doing on this? Can you help me find the sweetness of doing nothing? Are smartphones the enemy? What do you do that you consider dolce far niente? And, curious minds need to know, are you watching the royal wedding? :)

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 of 2017 (Bling! / Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas). A Portuguese translation will be out in her native Brazil in August of 2018 (Editora Pandorga). 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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