Recently I had the privilege to chat with Robert White of The Arts Connection about my devotional book, A Year of Tenacity. You’re invited to pop over and have a listen. Here’s the link.
When the Bough Breaks, by Bobbi Junior (Angel Hope Publishing, 2016)
Nothing can prepare parents for the pain of losing an infant, either during pregnancy or following the birth. Bobbi Junior’s brief memoir about the death of her second child shortly after birth is, on the one hand, one couple’s personal story, and on the other hand, a window on how friends and loved ones can offer support to the grieving parents.
Told in short, conversational chapters, each charmingly illustrated by Ramona Furst, this is a quick read with a good take-away. Readers learn some of the things not to say, and in fact that it’s okay to say nothing but to be present in silence and with tears.
The book includes simple and practical things, too, creative means of comfort that worked for the Junior family and which may work for others. As the author points out, though, every person’s grief is different.
Like carefully pushing aside a spider web before it could cling to me, I took great care in moving the comment aside before passing it by. I wouldn’t forget it, but I wouldn’t wear it, either. [On dealing with an unintentionally hurtful comment, page 29]
Bobbi Junior is also the author of The Reluctant Caregiver. For more about the author and her work, or to check out her blog, visit bobbijunior.com.
[Review copy from my personal library.]
David Kitz is an award-winning Canadian author and Bible dramatist, currently celebrating the release of his newest book, The Soldier Who Killed a King (a true retelling of the Passion).
Janet: Welcome, David, and thanks for taking time to join us. First, I have to ask: what exactly is a Bible dramatist?
David: To put it simply, I act out or dramatize the Bible. For example I have memorized the Epistle of James and present the entire book in costume, often in place of the Sunday morning sermon. I do something similar with fourteen Psalms. In the case of the Psalms, I play the role of David.
Janet: That must have an incredible impact on your own spirit and on those who hear you. Does being able to immerse yourself in the Bible scenes enrich your ability to bring the stories to life?
David: Absolutely. Sometimes we can read the Bible in a detached sort of way, after all it was written in a different time and in a faraway place. But these were real people who lived and experienced these events. Putting yourself in their shoes brings the Bible to life in a whole new way.
Janet: Tell us a bit about The Soldier Who Killed a King.
David: This book was born out of a one-man drama called “The Centurion’s Report” that I have been performing for about twenty years now. After doing this four-act play for a few years I realized that this drama could form the basis for a novel.
Janet: Did connecting so deeply with the Roman soldier affect you personally?
David: Yes, it did. But even more significantly it affected my identification with the suffering of Jesus. It all happened in a rather mysterious or even mystical way. As my novel writing progressed, I eventually reached the point where I was describing the whipping Jesus endured from the Roman soldiers. At the same time I was diagnosed with a severe case of shin splints. My doctor said, “Things will get worse before they get better.” They did get worse—much worse. Over the next few weeks I wrote the chapters that detail the crucifixion. It was a descent into a personal place of extreme agony. The pain—my pain— kept getting worse until the point when Jesus died. But from that point on I started feeling better. In fact, I recovered rapidly. It seems I needed a taste of agony to make those chapters ring true.
Janet: Wow! God teaches in some unusual ways. What compelled you to write this story?
David: I believe that the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus form the pivotal event in all of human history. As believers we need to experience the personally transformative power of those events. The book is intended to take you there—to immerse you in that life-changing experience.
Janet: Observing with the centurion does bring readers into the story. Any interesting research tidbits?
David: I found Herod Antipas to be a perfect foil for Jesus. In character and conduct he is the polar opposite of Jesus. He’s an ambitious schemer seeking to regain his kingdom.
Janet: It was interesting how you contrasted them in the book. I’m assuming Jesus is your favourite character. Who do you most relate to?
David: Actually, I most relate to the centurion, Marcus Longinus. Maybe it’s because I have played his part so often over the years. He is awestruck by Jesus miraculous power, but quite uncertain what to make of this messianic figure.
Janet: What other books have you written?
David: I’m a rather eclectic writer. My children’s book Little Froggy Explores the BIG World was also a Word Guild Award winner. I have written a devotional study on the psalms entitled Psalms Alive! My literary agent is currently seeking a publisher for my book on the life of James, the brother of Jesus.
Janet: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?
David: Don’t give up. This is a very tough business. Learn lots. Pray hard. Know your calling.
Janet: Is there a particular song or Scripture verse that’s made a big difference for you?
David: I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20).
Janet: From the serious to the trivial: Cake or Pie? And what’s your favourite season?
David: Pie by a country mile, and yes, I bake my own pies. Seasons? I like them all. Probably my favourite is a warm sunny day in fall with autumn colours ablaze.
Janet: What do you like to do to recharge?
Janet: Tell us something you appreciate about where you live.
David: Access to beautiful cycling trails.
Janet: Congratulations again on your new release, and I pray it impacts many people. Readers who want more can see my review of The Soldier Who Killed a King.
A stunning story of Holy Week through the eyes of a Roman centurion
Look behind the scenes at the political plotting of King Herod, known as the scheming Fox for his ruthless shrewdness.
Get a front-row seat to the confrontation between the Jewish high priest Caiaphas and the Roman governor Pontius Pilate.
Understand as never before the horror of the decision to save a brutal terrorist in order to condemn the peaceful Jew to death.
If you’ve heard the story of Passion Week so often it’s become stale, now is the time to rediscover the terrible events leading from Jesus’s humble ride into the city to his crucifixion. The Soldier Who Killed a King will stun you afresh with how completely Christ’s resurrection changed history, one life at a time.
Read an excerpt: kregel.com/fiction/the-soldier-who-killed-a-king/
Find more about the author: davidkitz.ca
Over Maya Dead Body, by Sandra Orchard (Revell, 2017)
FBI agent Serena Jones is trained to spot illegal activity – even when she’s on vacation. A stranger’s suspicious behaviour makes her think he’s smuggling art antiquities, and the unexpected death of the man she and her family had travelled to visit has her looking for a murderer.
The evidence suggests that Jack fell, but what happens next convinces Serena otherwise. Unless she’s too obsessed by her job and these incidents are truly accidents like the local police say.
Serena, her parents, and her incorrigible Aunt Martha are joined by Nate (Serena’s apartment superintendent, who’s more than he seems) and Tanner (her FBI boss) to help untangle the clues. Aunt Martha brings a few of her contacts into play, as well.
It looks like Jack was killed to keep him from talking about an antiquities smuggling ring. Then, there’s his missing nephew. And rumours of drugs. In the middle of trying to solve the mystery, Serena can’t stop comparing her feelings for Nate and Tanner and wondering how she can be attracted to them both.
Many fans of the series have already voted on which guy Serena will choose, and it’s been a source of some contention. They’re both fine men, and my one hesitation about reading this book was I didn’t want to see either of them sad at the end. Author Sandra Orchard has that covered, though, with an epilogue that forecasts happiness in the future for the man who lost out.
This is a fast-paced mystery filled with banter, twists and turns, and pages that practically turn themselves. Aunt Martha is a hoot as she tries to help with the investigation. As Serena says,
As sidekicks went, she was the best. If I ever decided to quit my day job and become a PI, I’d hire her in a flash. Well, except for the fact that Mom would kill me. [page 121]
Over Maya Dead Body is book 3 in the Serena Jones Mystery series. I heartily recommend starting with book 1, A Fool and His Monet, and reading all three books.
Sandra Orchard is an award-winning, Canadian author. She has also written the Port Aster Secrets series, and a number of other romantic suspense novels. For more about the author, and to see the bonus features she provides for each book, visit sandraorchard.com.
[Review copy provided by the publisher.]
Janice L. Dick is a Canadian author of Christian historical fiction, and she’s celebrating the recent release of her newest novel, In a Foreign Land.
Janet: Welcome, Janice, and thanks for taking time to join us. Let’s start with a few details to place your this book in context on the world stage. Where is it set? What’s the time period, and what are a few world events that would have happened at the same time?
Janice: Hi Janet, and thanks for this opportunity. My latest book is set in northern China between 1945 and 1951. WWII has just ended, China is in turmoil, and the ensuing civil war disrupts every corner of the land.
Janet: You’re a Canadian author, of Russian Mennonite descent, and family stories were part of your childhood. Have some of those anecdotes found their way into your fiction?
Janice: Oh yes. The stories I heard as a child at family gatherings were one of the reasons I started to write these historical fiction books. Some of my characters resemble certain of my forebears, either in character, experience, or both. Turning life into fiction is what I love to do.
Janet: Your In Search of Freedom series was to some extent inspired by a true story. How did that come about?
Janice: I had read about the escape of an entire Mennonite village in far-eastern Russia across a frozen river into China in 1930, and I wanted to retell it in fictional form. I was blessed to discover a little chronicle of the events, Escape Across the Amur River, which was written by participants in the 1940s. I inserted my characters into this milieu.
Janet: Do you have a favourite character in the series?
Janice: The main characters change from book to book, so it’s hard to have a favourite through the entire series, but Luise is my fav for book one, and Danny for book two.
Janet: I can see that. I guess we’ll have to wait and see who’s your favourite in book three. What do you want readers to take away from these books when they’re done?
Janice: The most important takeaway is that God is faithful, no matter what circumstances the characters find themselves in. This is also true in our own lives. The stories are just vehicles to show this truth.
Janet: In a Foreign Land is book 2 in this series. Could a reader start here without getting lost?
Janice: I hope I have written the story clearly enough for a reader to be able to find satisfaction at the end of the book, even without reading the first, and that references to former characters are informed enough to create a full picture. It’s a trick I didn’t get quite right in my first series, so I was mindful of it this time through.
Janet: It’s a tricky balance, to include enough but not too much. What do you have planned for the rest of the series?
Janice: The final book, Far Side of the Sea, is in process. The construction of the book will be somewhat different than the other two, which are written linearly, but I plan to connect it to the others as the final book of the series, tying up any loose threads.
Janet: I’m looking forward to it! In your research, what’s the weirdest bit of trivia you’ve picked up?
Janice: Maybe not weird, but definitely strange, was trying to gather information on post WWII China. That history was rewritten by Mao, and apparently, everything that existed before was destroyed. Even GoogleEarth comes up flat across the Amur River. So I had to dig deeply in order to offer a realistic setting. Thanks to my source for the second book (the man it was written about), I was able to piece together what I wanted to convey.
Janet: GoogleEarth is flat… thanks for making me giggle! Random question time… Chocolate or vanilla? And are you a morning person or a night owl?
Janice: There is only chocolate!
As to the next question, I got this apt description from Facebook and I concur: “I am neither an early bird nor a night owl. I’m some form of permanently exhausted pigeon.” Thanks to whoever made that up; I know I’m not alone.
Janet: Yup, I’m one of those pigeons too. Tell us something you appreciate about where you live.
Janice: Lots of space here on the prairies, lots of privacy on the farm, and four of our grandkids only a mile away.
Janet: That sounds idyllic. Thanks for visiting today. I’m looking forward to Far Side of the Sea – but no pressure!
Janice: Thanks again, Janet. (I put enough pressure on myself!)
You can discover more about Janice Dick’s books at janicedick.com, as well as find some traditional Mennonite recipes. While you’re there, take a look at her blog posts for readers and writers.
In a Foreign Land, by Janice L. Dick
Manchuria has been home to the Martens and Giesinger families ever since they escaped Soviet Russia in 1930. At fifteen years of age, Danny Martens and Rachel Giesinger are content with their lives, and with each other.
But the end of World War II changes everything. In 1945, the Soviets invade northern China, infiltrating the temporary vacuum of power, and repatriate all men who were older than twenty years when they fled the Soviet Union.
Robbed of home, livelihood and security, Danny’s family and friends move southward, trying unsuccessfully to acquire emigration papers.
Amid the difficulties, a ghost from the past stalks the Martens family in search of vengeance for previously hidden crimes. Danny struggles to honor his father’s wish to move his family out of the country, but all his plans are thwarted.
In desperation, Danny’s mother requests sponsorship from friends, Phillip Wieler and Jasch Fast, who emigrated to the States in 1932. In spite of their own struggles with personal and economic tragedy, the Wielers and the Fasts attempt to help their friends who are held captive In a Foreign Land.
This story is based loosely on memoirs of a survivor. It is the second book in the In Search of Freedom series. The first book is titled Other Side of the River.
No, I’m not branching that far afield from Christian suspense/mysteries and devotionals…
Some of you may remember the character features I posted for my novel, Without Proof, where my son Matthew Sketchley interviewed the key players. Matthew is now doing a Kickstarter campaign to publish his first novel, and you may know someone in his target audience. (You may be in his target audience — I know some of us read in widely diverse genres.)
So.. for your information, and with encouragement to share where appropriate:
Incendiary: First Sparks
Two Canadian high school students discover they have superpowers and become supervillains.
What could possibly go wrong?
This is a mainstream novel for young adults, intended to be the first in a series of three books. For a brief video introduction and an excerpt from one of the chapters, click over to the Kickstarter page: Incendiary: First Sparks.
As the Ink Flows, by Glenda Dekkema, Melony Teague, Carol Ford, Claudia Loopstra, and Marguerite Cummings (Judson Press, 2016)
As the Ink Flows is a collection of ninety devotions from five Canadian writers and speakers. The contents are divided by topic: “the craft, inspiration, know yourself, well-being, personalities, and faithfulness.”
The devotional component of each entry is the standard Scripture quote, devotional thought, and prayer, but what sets these devotions apart is the application portion. Each one includes a question for reflection and a writing prompt for the day.
This is an approachable resource that will encourage Christians who work with words, while encouraging them to build from a foundation of faith. It’s useful for writers and speakers in both the Christian and the general market.
Working through the reflections and writing prompts will enrich writing projects already in progress, and will inspire new ones. As the Ink Flows is suitable for individuals and small groups.
[Review copy from my personal library.]
In a Foreign Land, by Janice L. Dick (Tansy & Thistle Press, 2017)
Fifteen years after Luise Martens and her family escaped from Russia to China, the past catches up with them. Soon they must flee again, from a terrible enemy they thought they’d left behind.
The novel opens in 1945, and it’s a sequel to Other Side of the River. If you haven’t read that book, you may want to do so first. It’s not necessary for comprehension, but it adds a level of depth to understanding these characters’ lives and struggles.
Book one was Luise’s story as a young woman. Book two is partly her story, but partly the story of her son, Danny. It’s interesting to watch the dynamics between the son facing trials for the first time and the mother who has endured similar times.
I always appreciate Janice Dick’s historical fiction, for its richness of character and setting and for what it teaches me about the Russian Mennonites and their struggle to live as pacifists, trusting God’s care in the middle of dangerous times. As Luise says, “Sometimes living for a cause is more difficult than dying for it.” [Kindle location 412]
Luise’s faith has grown stronger through her suffering, but Danny can’t embrace a God who could allow so much to be taken from him.
In a Foreign Land is an inspiring tale of courage, danger, family, and love, set against a backdrop of international conflict and an oppressive regime. The novel is based on a true story.
The In Search of Freedom series will conclude with book 3, Far Side of the Sea. For more about the author and her books, visit janicedick.wordpress.com.
[Review copy from my personal library.]
That’s Life! Communications, the publisher of the Hot Apple Cider inspirational anthologies, has put out a call for submissions for a new book, to be called Christmas with Hot Apple Cider. If you haven’t seen these books, check them out online (A Taste of Hot Apple Cider is free in ebook format from online retailers).
As a contributor to the second and third books in the series, I can tell you that the editing is thorough and educational, the publisher and the team of authors are supportive and encouraging, and that these are books you can be proud to be part of. They make great gifts, and there’s something in them for everyone.
You need to be a Canadian citizen or landed immigrant, and you need to be able to affirm the Apostles’ Creed (see the publisher’s website for the Creed and for more submission details). Want more information? Click to read the full call for submissions at the That’s Life! Communications site.
YesterCanada: Historical Tales of Mystery and Adventure, by Elma Schemenauer (Borealis Press, 2016)
Author Elma Schemenauer has researched and brought to life 30 intriguing tales from Canada’s past, in a selection as broad as our nation’s geography. Stories feature First Nations tribes, visitors, and immigrants, in settings from British Columbia to Newfoundland, and range from as early as the 1200s to the 1900s.
Vignettes, with accompanying photos, range from the light-hearted to the tragic, and from fact to myth. There is lost gold, murder, shipwreck, even a mysterious infant floating down a river to safety. Meet a hermit, a priest, a prime minister’s wife, a bride imported from France. Read about courageous men and women, others bent on what their neighbours called fools’ quests, and about legends, mysteries, and drama.
Stories are told in an accessible and engaging tone, making YesterCanada an ideal book for adults and young adults alike. It would also be a good choice for reading aloud to older children, to cultivate an interest in the lesser-known details of Canadian history.
Elma Schemenauer has written many books for adults and children, and edited hundreds more. For more about the author and her work, visit elmams.wixsite.com.
[Advance review copy provided by the author.]