Our Victory Comes from God

I wait quietly before God,
for my victory comes from him.
Psalm 62:1, NLT*

Where do you need victory today? In an external conflict? A health issue? Inside your own thoughts or fears?

This psalm describes David’s enemies, sandwiching his plight between two declarations of his choice to wait quietly before God. God is his hope, his source of victory, and his fortress.

Since the psalm ends by affirming God’s ultimate judgement, likely this victory David’s counting on is a literal triumph over those plotting against him. But there’s another victory he could also be sure of – the same one we need today.

With God as his – and our – fortress, we have the security and salvation we need. By faith we can keep our eyes on the Lord and declare with David, “I will not be shaken.” (verse 6)

What if the threat is intense, and we’re trembling in our boots? David may have been quaking, too. If not this time, then earlier in his life. He can wait quietly and stand firm in faith because he has practiced – over and over – every time danger threatened. He had nowhere to go but God, and he learned that God was enough.

We can’t even quiet our souls without God, but that’s a prayer He will love to answer. David’s method was to concentrate on God’s might and character until he had a true perspective of where the real power lay – and then he could trust in God’s care.

We can learn to do the same. The battle we see, that threatens to swallow us whole – may not work out as we want. But the deeper battle is the spiritual one – will we stand secure in God, or will we fall?

Here’s where we can discover the assurance of victory. Whatever happens, Jesus will be with us. He will sustain us. He will be enough.

If we choose, by His strength, to quiet ourselves before Him and trust His deliverance, others will see His goodness.

We may or may not see the external victory we long for, but we can experience daily victory over our thoughts, attitudes, and fears by choosing to dwell each moment in God’s fortress.

Father, fear shouts so loudly that victory seems impossible. Have mercy on Your fragile children and give us the faith and strength to choose Your security. Quiet our flailing spirits so we can rest in You. Give us confidence in Your care, because You are indeed good.

Chris Tomlin’s song, “Good, Good Father,” helps us retrain our thoughts into trust.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Review: The Domino Effect, by Davis Bunn

The Domino Effect, by Davis BunnThe Domino Effect, by Davis Bunn (Bethany House, 2016)

Risk analysis. Esther Larson excels at it in her position with a major US financial institution. But if her personal projections are right, the global economy is teetering on the brink of disaster. There are too many high-level trades that skirt just past the safety restrictions.

The fear of economic disaster is something many North Americans live with, and The Domino Effect catches our imaginations with its horrifying “what if” that could conceivably play out in our  real-life near future.

As the plot builds and Esther risks revealing her fears, she moves from feeling afraid yet helpless and alone to choosing to do even the small amount she can – and finding out she’s not alone. That’s a message many readers will appreciate.

If financial thrillers don’t appeal to you, check this one out anyway. I confess I skimmed the technical details (although Esther does a good job of translating her concerns into everyday language) but this is a novel with heart.

Breaching her isolation brings Esther into contact with single dad Craig Wessex and his struggling daughters, Samantha and Abigail. Esther’s work with the girls helps her process her grief over her brother’s apparently-permanent injury as well as her childhood grief over her parents’ deaths.

This is also a novel with villains playing for high stakes. And it builds to a suitably tense conclusion. Numbers may be dry, but imminent disaster is most definitely not. The final pages of this one sent a chill across my scalp and some mist to my eyes.

Favourite lines:

Beneath his mild-mannered exterior beat the soul of a cautious assassin. [p. 88]

The sight was so jarring, the images did not want to fit together. [p. 196]

Davis Bunn has a reputation for accurate research, and he includes quotes from accredited sources endorsing the novel. A combination of plausible danger and characters worth caring about makes this a compelling read.

Davis Bunn is a multi-published, multi-award-winning author of Christian fiction. He also writes fantasy and science fiction as Thomas Locke. For more about the author and his books, visit sites.kensingtonbooks.com/DAVISBUNNBOOKS.

[Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.]



Janette Oke Award 2016

InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship added a new award to their Fall Conference event: the Janette Oke Award, created to honour a long-standing contributor to (and pioneer in) the genre of Christian fiction. Here’s the description from InScribe’s website:

Janette Oke is a lifetime member of Inscribe and some members of Inscribe have long wished to honor her faith, writing career and Christian commitment that have impacted millions around the world. The committee is blessed to be able to start to offer this award at Inscribe’s Fall Conference 2016.

The award will be given to someone who demonstrates a strong Christian commitment, a desire to impact society with family and Christlike values in their work, belongs to Inscribe, and is innovative or brave in their chosen genre. The committee is not looking for a similar theme or genre but a sense of commitment, conviction and a strong desire to persevere in their field.

Janice L. DickOut of all the applicants, the inaugural winner was a natural fit: Janice L. Dick, author of historical sagas featuring Russian Mennonites.

Like Janette Oke, Janice Dick crafts novels with a strong sense of place and with characters whose faith affects their choices and their lives. The faith thread is never pushy, but instead it’s a part of the Christian characters’ identities, and as they live it out, it offers a powerful witness to the other characters (and to readers).

Janice Dick’s most recent release is Other Side of the River, with In a Foreign Land anticipated as the next book in the series. Her previous 3-book Storm series is currently out of print, to be re-released in the future.

Rest from the Ordinary

You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God.
Deuteronomy 5:13-14a, NLT*

Note the extra word the NLT adds here: “Your ordinary work.”

Rest. He insists on it. God rested on the seventh day of creation, not because He needed it, but because we would need it. Because otherwise we’d find ways to go nonstop in the pursuit of our “ordinary” work.

Stopping becomes an act of faith as well as obedience. It’s a sign to us, and to others, of God’s trustworthiness and His care for us. It means we trust Him to help us accomplish the “ordinary” work He has for us in the other six days.

Truly resting and trusting means not just stopping the work for a day. It means stopping thinking about the work for the day. Otherwise our minds keep working, and we miss the point.

Choosing rest makes us see where our worship and affection really lie – and where they belong. It can refocus us on what’s truly important, taking our focus off ourselves and pointing us back to God. It may reveal a few things that need trimming from our schedules. It also recharges us to return to work with new energy and stamina.

Worship is a key part of soul-rest and restoration. Other aspects of a day of rest dedicated to God may mean different things to different people.

Without legalism, and with daily resting in His presence as well, how might we expand our understanding of a designated day of rest?

God our Creator and our Shepherd, You know our limitations better than we do. You know we need rest of body, mind, and spirit, and You know how we can turn our own agendas into mini-gods if we’re not continually reminded of our true allegiance. Thank You for being the kind of God who rests His people instead of grinding us into the ground. Thank You that You desire relationship with us: our love, not just our labour. Teach us what it means to rest, including how to carve out a day of rest in our fast-paced world. May our obedience be a sign for us and for others of Your goodness.

The key to rest is the invitation of Jesus to “Enter the Rest of God,” sung here by Brian Doerksen.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Review: A Confident Heart Devotional, by Renee Swope

A Confident Heart Devotional, by Renee SwopeA Confident Heart Devotional, by Renee Swope (Revell, 2013)

Subtitled “60 Days to Stop Doubting Yourself,” this devotional book presents daily Scripture readings and encouraging messages to affirm women in their God-designed identities and to “help you take hold of truths that will unfold the plans and promises God has for your life.” [Kindle location 148]

The author shares candidly from her own experience as well as from other contemporary women and Bible characters. She is honest about the struggles many women face, and about the effort involved to retrain our thoughts to follow God’s truth instead of the self-doubt and insecurity that come so naturally.

Each day’s reading ends with “When I say… [whatever fear or negative thought we’ve looked at that day], God says… [a Scripture-based truth to counter it].” I found this a helpful way to reinforce the day’s lesson. A person could write these on index cards for easy reference, if there was a particular issue that required concentrated effort.

My favourite lines:

What if we stopped listening to our hearts when our feelings don’t tell us the truth and instead we chose to believe God’s words more than our own fears and doubts? [Kindle location 569]

Anytime we bury a hurt alive, it will keep rising from the dead to disturb us. [Kindle location 839]

This is a valuable book for any woman who struggles with self-doubt, even if only occasionally. It’s so easy to pick up wrong thoughts and allow them to diminish us, and taking time to restore our outlook can only be a good thing.

Renee Swope is a bestselling author and Proverbs 31 Ministries radio show co-host. Her mission is “Leading women to live confidently in Christ.” For more about the author and her ministry, visit reneeswope.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]


Worship is for God

Say to all your people and your priests, “During these seventy years of exile, when you fasted and mourned in the summer and in early autumn, was it really for me that you were fasting? And even now in your holy festivals, aren’t you eating and drinking just to please yourselves?”
Zechariah 7:5b-6, NLT*

True worship is a heart-and-spirit response to the Living God.

Sadly, we can lose focus and make our Christian gatherings about us instead. Congregations can take sides over music styles, service format, formality of prayers, etc.

It becomes all about us – what pleases us, what we deem the best way to express ourselves. It becomes our activity – the routine we follow for personal satisfaction.

But God wants first place in our hearts. When the structure or control of the event means more than He whom we gather to honour, we have a problem.

When we fight amongst ourselves over it, we have a problem.

When we’re there for what we get instead of Who we worship, we have a problem.

We need to worship God privately and corporately. Different people will bring different styles and ways of expression. Our focus must always be on God, not on personal gratification or on how well we’ve “done the job.”

It’s the pure hearts He’s looking for, not the people who are trying to make it all about themselves.

God who is King over all, help me not seek to worship for the experience, although may I experience You. Gathering with other believers, help me not to insist on my preferences in song and structure at the expense of others who know a different way. Join our hearts to desire and to bless You, and unite us in worship that is pleasing to Your heart.

This week’s song is “Lord, I Give You My Heart (This is My Desire),”  from Hillsong.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

New Releases in Christian Fiction

October 2016 New Releases

New fiction! More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Biblical Fiction:

Providence: Hannah’s Journey by Barbara M. Britton — When the prophet of Israel refuses to heal her, Hannah flees Jerusalem and is captured by an enemy with a curse all his own. (Biblical from Harbourlight [Pelican])

Shadow of the Storm by Connilyn Cossette — In defiance of her mother, Shira pursues her heart’s calling to become an apprentice midwife. When a delivery goes horribly wrong, Shira finds herself bound to a man who betrayed her, the caretaker of three young children, and the target of a vengeful woman whose husband was killed by Shira’s people, the Levites. As contention between the Hebrew tribes and the foreigners fans the flames of another dangerous rebellion, Shira will come face-to-face with the heartbreak of her past that she has kept hidden for so long. How can she let go of all that has defined her to accept the love she’s denied herself and embrace who she truly is? (Biblical from Bethany House [Baker])

Christmas Novella:

Christmas Lights by Chautona Havig, Vikki Kestell, Cathe Swanson, and April Hayman — From historical romance to contemporary cozy mysteries and Christmas wonder, these four “light” reads will warm your heart and ignite your Christmas spirit! (Christmas Novella, Mixed Genres, Independently Published)

Contemporary Romance:

Risking Love by Brenda S. Anderson — Can cautious bank employee Lissa Morgan risk falling in love with a former thrill-seeker, a widowed single dad, when she may have to foreclose on his house? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

A Mom for Christmas by Lorraine Beatty — Noah’s dream of a happy family and Beth’s dream of a continuing ballet career are both dashed, but when they come together they discover that the Lord might have a new dream for both of them. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Sleigh Bells Ring by Sandra D. Bricker, Barbara J. Scott, Lynette Sowell, and Lenora Worth — Santa Claus is coming to town, and so are the Tucker sisters. The girls have inherited their father’s run-down horse farm for Christmas. It needs some serious TLC in order to make it sell-ready. Joanna knows that by recruiting her sisters and one handsome ranch hand they can fix up the place and even celebrate one last Christmas while they’re at it. However, to Isabella, returning to their home in Kentucky bluegrass country for Christmas seems like an impossible hurdle. Can her Chicago boyfriend make life merry and bright again? One thing’s for sure: nothing is peace on earth for Sophia as a new beau brings up old wounds. And when the fate of the horse farm is put in jeopardy because Amy accidentally fraternizes with the enemy, tensions rise. But it’s not like the land developer stole Christmas . . . just her heart. Can the Tucker sisters have themselves a merry little Christmas? (Contemporary Romance from Gilead Publishing)

Do You Hear What I Hear? by Margaret Brownley — Stranded at the old Star Inn until the road back to his cabin reopens, lumber mill owner Rick Talbot suddenly comes face to face with the past. The only woman he’s ever loved is standing in front of the inn’s blazing fire trying to get warm. Both Rick and Sally regret what happened between them years ago, but his family lumberyard clashes with her tree-hugging ways and neither is willing to try again. It will take the storm of the century, one stage-struck young boy, a certain meddling “angel”–and even a cranky cat–to convince them that in matters of the heart, sometimes the second time around is best. (Contemporary Romance from St. Martin Press)

More Than a Tiara by Valerie Comer — Marisa Hiller abandoned her modeling career to nurse a broken heart in Montana, far from the photographer who ruined everything. Her family farm is now part of a CSA program teaching gardening and cooking to single moms, but when the coordinator begs her to represent the program in the Miss Snowflake Pageant, Marisa balks. God has forgiven Jase Mackie but hasn’t answered his prayer to bring Marisa back into his life… until Jase finds himself out West as the official photographer for a beauty pageant, face to face with the woman he’s never forgotten. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Room at the Inn for Christmas by Mary Connealy — Ambitious hotel executive Amanda Star has got her sights set on the CEO job at the multi-national Halston hotel chain. But then she inherits the Star Inn, a place her father had always wanted her to run alongside him. With no time to be away from her job, she rushes home to put the inn up for sale. Once there, she’s struggles against keen regret, sweet memories, and the longing to return, which grows stronger when she is reunited with an old classmate: Anthony Carter, a handyman with a guarded heart. (Contemporary Romance from St. Martin Press)

Can’t Help Falling by Kara Isaac — A funny, heartfelt romance about how an antique shop, a wardrobe, and a mysterious tea cup bring two C.S. Lewis fans together in a snowy and picturesque Oxford, England. (Contemporary Romance from Howard [Simon & Schuster])

A Christmas Homecoming by Kimberly Rose Johnson — Interior design assistant Bailey Calderwood suspects the mysterious admirer sending her cards and flowers is none other than the son of her unpleasable, bed-ridden boss. When Stephen Belafonte’s mom demands he fire Bailey, can he find a way to heal the rift in his family as well his own heart, or will he be forced to let Bailey go? (Contemporary Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)

Where Two Hearts Meet by Liz Johnson — When Caden Holt’s boss asks her to show off their own beautiful Prince Edward Island to impress a visiting travel writer and save the Red Door Inn, the reclusive executive chef is forced to face a world much bigger than her kitchen–and a man who makes her wish she was beautiful. (Contemporary Romance from Revell [A Division of Baker Publishing Group])

Trust My Heart by Carol J. Post — Grant McAllister, a jaded big-city lawyer and small-town reporter Jami Carlisle have no hope for finding true love–except for a zany old matchmaker who won’t give up. In the unspoiled beauty of the Smoky Mountains, there’s healing and forgiveness to be found. And for Grant, this unplanned detour may be just what’s needed to finally guide him home. (Contemporary Romance from Waterfall Press)

Insight by Deborah Raney — She’s having a baby. It’s a blessing that brings comfort to newly widowed Olivia Cline. Yet with no insurance, no job and precious little money, how will Olivia care for herself and her child? The answer is a handsome and brooding artist seeking an assistant. Reed Vincent has recently regained his eyesight thanks to a donor. And through his eyes, Olivia begins to see all the possibilities before her. Before them. Until, in a flash of insight, she knows why his signature is so hauntingly familiar. (Contemporary Romance from Raney Day Press)

Silver Bells by Deborah Raney — As Elvis croons from the radio and Christmas descends upon a small Kansas town, two people find the miracle of love. (Contemporary Romance from Raney Day Press)

A Family Under the Christmas Tree by Terri Reed — In this heartwarming tale set during the Christmas season, a single father and a fashion photographer are brought together by a young boy and a mischievous Bernese mountain dog–but first they must learn to set aside their differences if they are willing to let their relationship bloom. (Contemporary Romance from Howard [Simon & Schuster])

Third Strand of the Cord by Catherine Richmond — Caroline will do anything to keep her ex-husband from putting her son with Down syndrome in an institution–even enroll the boy in a class taught by a know-it-all karate instructor. Lee Marivaux is an expert at reading people. He knows his feisty new student will thrive with firm guidance – and he’s right. He pegs the boy’s mother as a clueless socialite who loafs at the country club – and he’s never been so wrong. When Caroline’s abusive ex shows up, demanding custody, Lee and Caroline must join forces to keep the boy safe. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Buying Love by Toni Shiloh — Impatient for marriage, Nina Warrenton places an ad in the newspaper for a husband–attaching a monetary reward. But when she begins to fall for the small-town chef who answers her add, she realizes how much she wants him to love her and not her money. Dwight Williams needs fast cash to save the family restaurant, but can he let it go to prove his love for Nina? (Contemporary Romance from Celebrate Lit)

Moonlight Over Manahttan by Carrie Turansky — Professional organizer Sarah Montgomery is hired to organize her elderly neighbor’s cluttered apartment by Justin Latimer, her neighbor’s grandson. Sarah believes free-spirited Justin is a lazy, unemployed poet who is taking advantage of his grandmother’s generosity. Though attracted to him, she guards her heart against her growing feelings. As Sarah and Justin work together to help his grandmother and enjoy Christmas events in NYC, romantic sparks fly. When Sarah discovers who Justin really is, she must decide if she will continue to hide behind her protective wall or open her heart and embrace love. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Love Bears All Things by Beth Wiseman — Charlotte Dolinsky needs time to recover after breaking up with her boyfriend, Ryan. But when a surprise visitor shows up on her doorstep in Texas, she’s forced to put aside her own worries to help her Amish friends in Lancaster County. Daniel Byler struggles each day in his Amish community to heal from his fiancée’s betrayal. When he discovers that a member of his family is in danger of being shunned, his pain turns to fear. His only way to help is by partnering with Charlotte, a woman he barely knows who has already deceived them all before. (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

General Contemporary (includes Women’s Fiction):

Paint The Storm by Dawn V. Cahill — When Meg is challenged to love her lesbian daughter as Christ would, she struggles to live out God’s command, and when her daughter goes missing, she finds herself joined with the unlikeliest of allies in her search for Linzee, and finally learns of God’s unconditional grace for sinners. (Contemporary Women’s Fiction from Spring Mountain Publishing)

Restoration Road by Elise Phillips — Mallory Andrews’s short trip back to Texas for her mother’s funeral quickly becomes a move home to help her grieving father with his contracting business. When her old crush, Tres, hires them for a restoration project Mallory falls in love with the crumbling old house. And when feelings bloom between her and Tres, she finds herself on the road to a brand new, unexpected life filled with faith, sweet tea, and fresh paint. (General Contemporary from Desert Breeze Publishing)

Above All Things by Deborah Raney — Expecting their first baby, Judd and Evette McGlin are thrilled to become parents. But the couple faces the ultimate test when Judd learns he already has a child: a six-year-old mixed-race girl born amid secrets and lies. Now, Evette must decide if she can accept the child. She thought she was open-minded–until hidden prejudices threaten the future of an innocent little girl, Evette’s marriage and the very notion of who she thinks she is. (Contemporary Women’s Fiction from Raney Day Press)

Restoring Christmas by Cynthia Ruchti — Alexis set out to restore a fieldstone farmhouse in need of repair. She didn’t expect to restore a life in the process. (General Contemporary from Worthy Inspired)

Strings of Faith by Terry Stafford — Darcy is a classically trained violinist who dreams of playing bluegrass and winning The National Oldtime Fiddle Contest in Weiser, Idaho. When tragedy strikes, Darcy lays her gift aside for her family and faces unimaginable pain and loss, leading to dissension with her husband, disappointing judgment from her church, and anger with God Himself. Can her gift of music survive when her life is turned upside down? (General Contemporary, Independently Published)


The Lost Generation by Erica Marie Hogan — On August 5th 1914, the world changed forever. For John and Beth Young, it meant the happiness they finally achieved was snatched out from under them. For Emma Cote, it meant that her husband Jared would do his duty, despite her feelings. For Christy Simmons it meant an uncertain future with the boy she loved. The lives of six people, spread across the British Empire to America were changed forever. (Historical from Elk Lake Publishing Inc.)

Aboard Providence by Keely Brooke Keith — When an accident forces Jonah Ashton to serve as a ship’s physician, he boards the Providence with the plan to escort a group of families to their new settlement in South America and then return to Pennsylvania to finish medical school before rumors of Southern rebellion erupt into all-out war. What he doesn’t count on is getting lost at sea… and Marian Foster. When the settlers finally reach land, Jonah makes a startling discovery that changes everything, but will it change his heart? (Historical from Crossriver Media Group)

Historical Romance:

The Rails to Love Romance Collection by Diana Lesire Brandmeyer, Amanda Cabot, Lisa Carter, Ramona K. Cecil, Lynn A. Coleman, Susanne Dietze, Kim Vogel Sawyer, Connie Stevens, and Liz Tolsma — Journey the Transcontinental Railroad along with nine unlikely couples who encounter all the dangers and disappointments of traveling the rails in the late 1800s. From sight-seeing excursions to transports toward new lives, from orphan trains to circus trains, can romances develop into blazing love in a world of cold, hard steel? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Cowboy Christmas Homecoming by Mary Connealy, Ruth Logan Herne, Julie Lessman, and Anna Schmidt — For widow June Harper, another cold front is about to hit. Most call him Hugh. She’d call him Scrooge, except as the man ensures her needs are met, June can’t help but wonder how to meet the needs of his heart. Netty Lewis can take care of herself, has for a while now. And even if Roy, her hired help for the holidays, does take care of her, that doesn’t mean he cares for her or that he’ll stay past Christmas. Pastor Colton McCabe is not sure he’ll make it through the holidays with his new housekeeper. Grace can’t seem to do anything right but love. Perhaps being a homekeeper will earn her a permanent residence in his heart. Connie Lancaster is determined to return to St. Louis, and no cowboy can change her mind. But if Isaac can change her heart, maybe Connie will see the homecoming she’s been longing for isn’t to a place but a person. (Historical Romance from Gilead Publishing)

The Captive Heart by Michelle Griep — Stranded in a strange land, Eleanor Morgan faces starvation or marriage . . . but who wants to marry a murderer? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

The Rightful Heir by Angel Moore — Cowboy Jared Ivy must work with stranger Mary Lou Ellison until a judge comes to town and determines which one of them is the rightful heir to his family’s Texas newspaper. Intrepid reporter Mary Lou won’t lose the Pine Haven Record–the legacy he left her–without a fight. But when she and Jared stop sparring long enough to investigate a story together, they become a force to be reckoned with. Will they let their battle over the Record get in the way of something even more newsworthy: true love? (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Christmas at Stoney Creek by Martha Rogers — When newspaper reporter Tom Whiteman befriends a homeless man named Joe, Tom decides to bring him home to Stoney Creek, Texas for Christmas. As Tom and his childhood friend Faith Delmont set out to learn the truth about the mysterious old man with the kind, sad eyes, they discover that God’s love can turn tragedy and loss to triumph, and that true love comes to those who wait. (Historical Romance from Realms [Charisma Media])


Another Day, Another Dali by Sandra Orchard — In order to regain her grandmother’s favor FBI Special Agent Serena Jones agrees to investigate a missing Salvador Dali painting. But when the evidence points to members of the owner’s own household, it becomes clear that Serena won’t be winning any popularity contests. Then Serena stumbles upon links to her grandfather’s unsolved murder. (Mystery from Revell [A Division of Baker Publishing Group])

Romantic Suspense:

Tangled Webs by Irene Hannon — After a disastrous Middle East mission ends his six-year Army Ranger career, Finn McGregor needs some downtime in the woods. But when someone threatens his neighbor, publishing executive Dana Lewis, Finn and Dana must work together to discover who wants her to leave her lakeside cabin before it costs both their lives. (Romantic Suspense from Revell [A Division of Baker Publishing Group])

Identity Unknown by Terri Reed — When a John Doe washes up on the shores of Calico Bay, no one knows who he is—including him. But one thing’s instantly clear to deputy sheriff Audrey Martin: the man’s marked for murder. And she’s the only one who can protect him from the assassins who lurk at every turn. The arrival of a team of men claiming he’s Canadian Border Services officer Nathanial Longhorn only further complicates the matter. As his memories slowly start drifting back, Nathanial and Audrey work to uncover who wants him dead and why. If they don’t, this Christmas might be their last. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])


A Time to Rise by Nadine Brandes — What more can you sacrifice than your life? Parvin Blackwater is dead. At least that’s what the Council and the world thinks. But her sacrifice tore down part of the Wall long enough to stir up hope and rebellion in the people. Parvin and Solomon must uncover the mysterious clues that Jude left behind in order to destroy the projected Wall once and for all. Meanwhile, the Council schemes to new levels of technology in its attempts to keep the people contained. Can a one-handed Radical and a scarred ex-Enforcer really bring shalom to the world? (Speculative Young Adult from Enclave Publishing)

Unblemished by Sara Ella — Eliyana can’t bear to look at her own reflection. But what if that were only one Reflection—one world? What if another world exists where her blemish could become her strength? (Speculative Young Adult from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

Beast by Chawna Schroeder — For as long as Beast can remember, she has lived among her master’s dogs. With them she sleeps. With them she eats. With them she fights and struggles to survive. But through hunger and cold she dreams of one day becoming her master’s favorite, earning bones with meat and a place beside the fire. When her pack scatters after a surprise raid, Beast must defend herself against slavers, hunting down the loners. They are so strong, and she is only a beast . . . or is she? (Speculative Allegory from Enclave Publishing)

Accelerant by Ronie Kendig — He’ll destroy the world. But he must save it first. As the only able-bodied heir to the Fire Throne, Haegan, Prince of Seultrie must return to the Nine Kingdoms and fight for his people. But there are insidious forces at work. When reality itself falls into question, Haegan struggles to know where to fight, who to trust. Caught between duty to his country and duty to the world, Haegan must see clearly enough to choose the right path to save his devastated world. (Speculative High Fantasy from Enclave Publishing)


Death in the Mind’s Eye by Rick Acker — It knows what you’re thinking. It knows when you’re lying. Does it know how to kill? San Francisco attorney Mike Webster and Dr. Johanna Anderson, a brilliant and beautiful psychologist, must clear Jo’s name of a malpractice case before the controversial, technologically-assisted Mind’s Eye therapy is seized by a shadowy finance firm and used as a weapon. (Thriller/Suspense from Waterfall Press)

The Warrior’s Seal by Ronie Kendig — A Special Forces team is thrust into a war with the past to save the president after an artifact unleashes a deadly toxin. Special Forces operative Cole “Tox” Russell and his team are tasked in a search-and-rescue–the U.S. president has been kidnapped during a goodwill tour. The mission nosedives when an ancient biblical artifact and a deadly toxin wipe out villages. Tox must stop the terrorists and the toxin to save the president. This is a free e-novella prequel! (Thriller/Suspense from Bethany House [Baker])

Deadly Infiltration by W. Richard Lawrence — Infiltrators inside the American government are betraying undercover agents while helping sneak weapons of mass destruction across our borders. To keep their work hidden, they are willing to murder anyone who gets in their way. Sara, a brilliant computer expert working for the FBI, finds herself caught in the middle. Sara’s young faith in God is gravely tested when she is framed for the murder of an FBI agent, forcing her to go into hiding. Meanwhile, Sara’s fiancé Derry lives up to a promise he made to her, and gives up his future to save her and hopefully the country. (Thriller/Suspense from Boarding House Publishing)

Western Historical:

Refining Fire by Carol Cox — Meet the Arizona Territory Brides. Four strong, independent women–each determined to stand on her own two feet, and not one of them looking for romance. But sometimes love shows up when you least expect it… (Western, Pioneer/Prairie, Independently Published)

3 Challenges of the Christian Book Lover (Guest Post)

3 Challenges of the Christian Book Lover

by Steph Beth Nickel

3 Tips for Book LoversGiving a Kind Critique

Have you ever been asked to critique someone’s writing or been approached to be a beta reader? (A beta reader is given an author’s unpublished manuscript for review.)

Anyone who writes knows how hard it is to allow others not only to read the words they’ve spent hours—sometimes even months or years—grueling over but also to ask readers for feedback, both what they liked and what they didn’t.

As believers, we want to be kind and encouraging. We want to build up rather than tear down. These are godly responses, but we must also seek to be honest.

How can you and I express our opinion in a way that is both honest and encouraging?

Here are three suggestions:

Before you start to read, ask what the writer is looking for in particular. Don’t give them a list of grammatical errors if they primarily want to know if the characters are believable and the storyline plausible, for example.

Remember to list what you liked as well as what you didn’t. Some people use the 2-1 rule: list two positives for every negative. Others simply list the things they enjoyed first and then those they feel could be improved.

Even if you’re an editor, a critique is not the same as an edit. Try to approach the work as a typical reader rather than a professional, although there will, of course, be an overlap. It’s hard to switch off the editor brain even when reading for pleasure.

Tweetable: Build up, don’t tear down, when giving a critique. (click to tweet)

Leaving a Realistic Review

If we’ve been asked to leave a review—or simply if we choose to do so, it can be challenging if we didn’t particularly like the book.

We may not want to hurt the author’s feelings—or their sales—especially if we know them personally.

While we want to be kind to the author, we must also keep in mind those who may choose to read a book based upon our review.

Here are three suggestions:

Deliberately look for something positive to include in your review, especially if you can’t honestly give it four or five stars. Point out what you enjoyed—or what other readers might enjoy—before listing those things you didn’t like.

It’s best to leave a brief review. Even so, take the time to craft it well and read it over a few times before posting.

And when it comes to reviewing books by authors you know, you may not want agree to do so if you think your review may affect their sales and / or your relationship with them.

Tweetable: Give kind but honest reviews. (click to tweet)

Selfless Self-Promotion

Whether we write, edit or proofread, we may have to promote our work. As Christians, we may find this difficult to do. After all, humility is a godly trait. However, humility doesn’t mean denying the gifts and abilities the Lord has enabled us to develop.

I once heard of an author who said if he didn’t believe his book would be valuable to his reader and worth their financial investment, he had no business writing it. What a great perspective!

The same is true of any creative or professional endeavour we are involved in. And if it has value to others, it makes sense to make them aware of it.

How can we do so without coercing others or allowing pride to motivate us?

Here are three suggestions:

Truly consider how others will benefit. Keep them in mind when developing a marketing strategy and promoting your product or service.

Be generous. Many creatives, even those who aren’t believers, give away bonus material that is of significant value. They may offer their first book free. They may record podcasts or webinars that are more than simply promotional tools. Follow their example and seek to bless your readers or clients.

Although this may sound overly “spiritual,” believers ought to pray about this, as they should about all areas of life. God will show you how to engage in selfless self-promotion if you ask.

Tweetable: Consider how your writing will benefit the reader when marketing. (click to tweet)

Will you accept these challenges? What could you add to these lists?

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.




To Hear and Obey

…and the whole remnant of God’s people began to obey the message from the Lord their God. When they heard the words of the prophet Haggai, whom the Lord their God had sent, the people feared the Lord.
Haggai 1:12b, NLT*

What was the Lord’s message that the people obeyed?

A remnant of Israel had returned to Jerusalem, but in the busyness of rebuilding the city and their homes, they’d neglected to finish rebuilding the Temple.

God asked, “Why are you living in luxurious houses while my house lies in ruins?” (Haggai 1:4, NLT*) He said that was why the people were working so hard for meagre results. They weren’t honouring Him.

Prophetic messages were often rejected, but not this time. These people listened. They chose to obey.

We can be like them, getting off-track or drifting away from what the Lord would have us do. He may let us wander for a while and miss the best He wants to give us, but isn’t it wonderful that He will call us back?

Let’s be quick to listen and to respond.

Good and merciful God, You know we’re prone to distraction. Please guard and direct us, and make us responsive to Your correction. Give us ears, hearts, and spirits attuned to You, for Your glory and our own wellbeing.

A good song to pray regularly is “Search Me, Know Me,” by Kathryn Scott.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Review: Scrivener for Dummies, by Gwen Hernandez

Scrivener for Dummies, by Gwen HernandezScrivener for Dummies, by Gwen Hernandez (John Wiley and Sons, 2012)

This is probably the only reference book I have ever read cover-to-cover. It’s definitely the only one that’s ever caused me to cheer.

I’m posting a photo of my own copy, complete with page markers, instead of the standard cover shot, to show how many important things I want to be able to easily find. (The index will take me to the proper page, but will I find the specific line that I need?)

Most users would follow the expected method of looking up their immediate question in the index and reading only the relevant sections. I did that a bit when I first bought the book, but didn’t find it as helpful as I’d hoped even though that’s what it’s designed for. I think I wasn’t very good at defining my need well enough to search for the solution.

Scrivener is considered by many writers to be the best thing since the word processor. Now, after using the program for a few years, having worked through the tutorial, learned from some excellent free webinars and one of Gwen Hernandez’ paid courses, I decided to read Scrivener for Dummies to pick up some advanced knowledge – and to refresh myself on some of the basics I’d missed along the way.

Honestly, the cheering? That was for the discoveries about some of the program’s features. But I found the author’s explanations very easy to understand. She’s funny, too, which definitely helps anyone reading very far.

This is an approachable resource, intelligently laid out and with clear examples and screen-shots. Each section is self-contained, pointing to other sections where needed, for the person who dips in for a specific answer instead of reading straight through.

The book covers both the Mac and Windows versions, and while Scrivener has made some changes since 2012, enough of the material is the same. If you find something in the book that you want to do but your version of Scrivener handles it differently, if you can’t figure it out by poking around in the program, either the Literature and Latte forum or a Google search will find you the answer.

Gwen Hernandez is a romantic suspense novelist and Scrivener teacher, offering interactive online courses. I found her Compile course very helpful, and she was patient to answer our many questions. For more about the author, visit gwenhernandez.com. For more about her Scrivener classes, visit scrivenerclasses.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]