Author Archives: Janet Sketchley

About Janet Sketchley

Janet Sketchley is an Atlantic Canadian writer whose Redemption’s Edge Christian suspense novels have each been finalists in The Word Awards. She's also the author of the devotional collection, A Year of Tenacity. Janet blogs about faith and books. She loves Jesus and her family, and enjoys reading, worship music, and tea. Fans of Christian suspense are invited to join her writing journey through her monthly newsletter: bit.ly/JanetSketchleyNews.

Review: The Baggage Handler, by David Rawlings

The Baggage Handler, a novel, by David Rawlings

The Baggage Handler, by David Rawlings (Thomas Nelson, 2019)

Three people under pressure. Three identical black-with-red-tags suitcases. One airport baggage carousel.

Here’s the official description:

When three people take the wrong suitcase from baggage claim, their lives change forever. 

A hothead businessman coming to the city for a showdown meeting to save his job.

A mother of three hoping to survive the days at her sister’s house before her niece’s wedding.

And a young artist pursuing his father’s dream so he can keep his own alive.

When David, Gillian, and Michael each take the wrong suitcase from baggage claim, the airline directs them to retrieve their bags at a mysterious facility in a deserted part of the city. There they meet the enigmatic Baggage Handler, who shows them there is more in their baggage than what they have packed, and carrying it with them is slowing them down in ways they can’t imagine. And they must deal with it before they can leave.

In this modern-day parable about the burdens that weigh us down, David Rawlings issues an inspiring invitation to lighten the load.


[via the Thomas Nelson website]

My thoughts:

This gift-book-sized hardcover novel is an engaging read that’s sure to keep readers thinking long after they’ve reached the end. Most of us will relate to one of the three situations, and likely we’ll recognize a few people other than ourselves. If we can come away from the story inspired to “hand over” some of our personal baggage, we’ve gained more than the pleasure of a good tale.

Chapters alternate between David, Gillian, and Michael as they follow the same path of attempting to retrieve their baggage and discovering what’s weighing them down. Because of the parable-like nature of the story, the ending can’t be as happy as I’d like, but it’s a satisfying ending.

The book is published by Thomas Nelson, a Christian publisher, and written by a Christian author, but the message and worldview is subtle. Who exactly is The Baggage Handler? An angel? Jesus? Because it’s not stated, this is a book that can also cross into the hands of non-faith readers who also have baggage to unload.

The Baggage Handler is an excellent debut novel from Australian author David Rawlings. Look for his next release, The Camera Never Lies, in December 2019. For more about the author and his work, visit davidrawlings.com.au.

[Review copy from the public library.]

99-cent sale: Unknown Enemy

Unknown Enemy 99 cents until May 20/19 for Apple, Kindle, Kobo, Nook

Now’s the time to grab an ebook copy of my novella, Unknown Enemy.
The 99 cent sale ends May 20, 2019. For Apple, Kindle, Kobo, and Nook.
Buy links: https://www.books2read.com/unknownenemy

Follow me on BookBub

New Releases in Christian Fiction (May 2019)

May 2019 New Releases

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

Contemporary Romance:

When Love Won’t Wait by Roger E. Bruner — Laugh at Pastor Dan’s impulsive efforts to get out of the ministry and marry a woman of his own choosing by going against his domineering widowed mother’s wishes. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

A Perfect Amish Match by Vannetta Chapman — After three failed relationships, Amish bachelor Noah Graber would rather disappoint his parents than try again. But when matchmaker Olivia Mae Miller agrees to provide courting lessons, Noah’s perfect match becomes clear—it’s Olivia Mae herself! With ailing grandparents at home, she hadn’t planned on love or marriage. Might a future with Noah be everything she’s been missing? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Sing a New Song by Candee Fick — Songbird Gloria Houghton has always needed to be the center of attention, but the spotlight has shifted. Seeking fame and a fresh start, she finds a new stage in Branson, Missouri…only to risk being replaced by a manipulative rival. If Gloria can’t be the star, who is she? Jack-of-all-trades Nick Sherwood is just one leaf on a vast family tree that includes a restaurant chef, hotel owners, and even the headline act at a family-owned theater. He’s seen how fame can blind a person with jealousy and is more than content to stay in the background thank you very much. If only he wasn’t so fascinated–and irritated–by the newest addition to the staff. After a disaster of a first impression and financial difficulties land Gloria in the humblest of jobs—with Nick as her boss—it might be time for her to learn to sing a new song. (Contemporary Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

Pigtails and a Tool Belt by Janetta Fudge-Messmer — The Christian Romance where circumstances seem impossible. But with God – all things are possible. (Contemporary Romance from Winged Publications)

Wooing Cadie McCaffrey by Bethany Turner — After four years of dating Will, Cadie questions his love for her and sends him packing. Their breakup only makes Will more determined to become the man Cadie wants him to be. With the help of his work buddies and tactics drawn from Cadie’s favorite romantic comedies, he devises a “foolproof” plan. What could possibly go wrong? (Contemporary Romance from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing)


General Contemporary:

Over the Waters by Deborah Raney — As “Dr. Botox” to the bored rich women of Chicago, plastic surgeon Max Jordan was shocked by the decision of his son, Joshua, to focus his medical talent on Haitian orphans. Embittered by Joshua’s death, Max searches for resolution in the very place his son called home. The selfless labor of Joshua’s coworkers stuns Max. He is particularly taken by American volunteer Valerie Austin, whose dream of a honeymoon on a tropical beach were crushed, replaced by a stint working in the impoverished orphanage. But Valerie’s view of Joshua’s sacrifice challenges everything Max has lived for. Now Max wonders if he can ever return to his “Max-a-Million” lifestyle, or if the doors to his gilded cage have finally opened. (General Contemporary from Raney Day Press)


Historical:

True Freedom by Carol Ashby — When a Roman slave rescues his master’s daughter from the kidnapping arranged by her own brother, will his sacrificial service earn the freedom and love he never dreamed possible, or will it only end in death? (Historical from Cerrillo Press)


Historical Romance:

The Daughter’s Predicament by Mary Eileen Davis — Can a patient love win her heart? As Isabelle Atwood’s romance prospects are turning in her favor, a family scandal derails her dreams. While making a quilt for her own hope chest, Isabelle’s half-sister becomes pregnant out of wedlock and Isabelle–always the unfavored daughter–becomes the family sacrifice to save face. Isabelle loves her sister, but with three suitors interested, will she really allow herself to be manipulated into a marriage without love? Or will the man leaving her secret love poems sweep her off her feet? (Historical Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)

Mail-Order Mishaps by Susan Page Davis, Linda Ford, Vickie McDonough, and Erica Vetsch — In The Bride’s Dilemma by Susan Page Davis, Eve Martin arrives in Cheyenne to learn that man she came to marry is in jail, accused of a violent murder. But has God brought her here to help save Caleb Blair’s life? In Romancing the Rancher by Linda Ford, Amelia expects a safe home for herself and her niece in Montana as mail-order bride to Zach Taggerty. Only Zach has never heard of her. In The Marriage Sham by Vickie McDonough, Texas mail-order bride Zola Bryant is a widowed newlywed. Worse, they were never truly wed because the officiant was an outlaw not a preacher. What will she do now that her life and reputation are in tatters? In The Galway Girl by Erica Vetsch, a mail-order mix-up sends Irish lass Maeve O’Reilly to the Swedish community of Lindsborg, Kansas. Will Kaspar Sandberg consider it a happy accident or a disaster to be rectified as soon as possible? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Lord of Her Heart by Sherrinda Ketchersid — Lady Jocelyn Ashburne suspects something is amiss at her family’s castle because her father ceases to write to her. When she overhears a plot to force her into vows—either to the church or a husband—she disguises herself and flees the convent in desperation to discover the truth. Malcolm Castillon of Berkham is determined to win the next tournament and be granted a manor of his own. After years of proving his worth on the jousting field, he yearns for a life of peace. Rescuing a scrawny lad who turns out to be a beautiful woman is not what he bargained for. Still, he cannot deny that she stirs his heart like no other, in spite of her conniving ways. Chaos, deception, and treachery threaten their goals, but both are determined to succeed. Learning to trust each other might be the only way either of them survives. (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

Love’s Belief by Linda Shenton Matchett — When the Third Reich implements mandates that require Jewish babies and other “undesirables” to be killed as part of The Final Solution, is midewife Pia Hertz’s new faith in Christ strong enough to defy the laws of man? Dieter Fertig is relieved he’s no longer part of Hitler’s army, despite the reason–a battle that cost his arm. After he returns to Berlin, only to discover the Nuremburg Laws require his best friend’s baby girl to be killed, he must find a way to spirit the child out of Germany before the Nazis discover her existence. (Historical Romance from Shortwave Press)

Shelter Bay by Pamela S. Meyers — Adventurous bicyclist Maureen Quinn and her best friend, Preston Stevens, a member of the U.S. Life Saving Service, find love and face life-altering events on the shores of Lake Michigan. (Historical Romance from Mantle Rock Publishing)


Mystery:

Fallen Leaf by Julie B. Cosgrove — When a DNA kit reveals blond, blue-eyed Jessica Warren is half Cherokee, she confronts her adoptive parents and learns her birth father is in prison…for murder! Now he wants her help in exonerating him. Can Jessica trust the handsome, young Tulsa district attorney to help, or does he have an agenda of his own? (Cozy Mystery from Write Integrity Press)

Bitter Pill by Richard L. Mabry, MD — Things were going along just fine until the miracle fouled them up. (Medical Mystery, Independently Published)

Latter-day Cipher by Latayne C. Scott — Kirsten Young, a well-known and rebellious Utah heiress, is found murdered in Provo Canyon. The strange markings carved into her flesh and the note written in 19th century code seem to cast a shadow on ancient Mormon laws. Journalist Selonnah Zee is assigned to cover the story– and it quickly grows out of control. (Historical Mystery from Moody)


Romantic Suspense:

Running Target by Elizabeth Goddard — A routine patrol turns deadly when marine deputy Bree Carrington’s boat is sunk by men carrying illegal weapons. Fleeing a barrage of bullets, she’s suddenly rescued by DEA agent Quinn Strand—her ex-boyfriend. Quinn’s return threatens more than Bree’s heart…because he’s the one the men are really after. As criminals hunt her to get to him, can Quinn and Bree take down a drug ring? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])


Speculative:

The Pages of Her Life by James L. Rubart — Allison Moore’s dad was living a secret life and left her mom in massive debt. As she scrambles to help her mom find a way out, she’s given a journal, anonymously, during a visit to her favorite coffee shop. The pressure to rescue her mom mounts, and Allison pours her fears and heartache into the journal. But then the unexplainable happens. The words in the journal, her words, begin to disappear. And new ones fill the empty spaces—words that force her to look at everything she knows about herself in a new light. Ignoring those words could cost her everything…but so could embracing them. (Speculative from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

Review: The Enoch Effect, by Rick Acker

The Enoch Effect, by Rick Acker

The Enoch Effect, by Rick Acker (Waterfall Press, 2017)

A research scientist is dead, his lab destroyed by fire. Two lawyers on opposing sides of a multi-million-dollar insurance claim must work together to find the truth of what really happened—with the help of a computer genius hacker and a private detective.

Because of the nature of Dr. Rhodes’ research, what starts as a legal thriller quickly moves into biomedical or science fiction territory, with a side-dish of action-adventure and a splash of romance.

The Enoch Effect is fast-paced, clean, and thought-provoking as the characters begin to wrestle with the ethics of what they discover about the scientist’s work. (I can’t elaborate without spoilers.) In the wrestling we see they’re realistic people no more likely to have easy answers than we readers do.

I’ve read a few of Rick Acker’s novels now and have another one in my to-read stash. As well as enjoying the stories, I appreciate his notes at the end separating the fiction from the facts and offering more information for the curious.

For more about the author and his work, visit rickacker.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Why Do We Take On So Much? (Guest Post)

Why Do We Take On So Much?

by Steph Beth Nickel

Last month, I talked about paring down our To Do list.

Today, I’d like to talk about why we take on as much as we do.

While I can only speak for myself, maybe you can relate.

Financial Need

There may be responsibilities you would like to set aside, but you have bills to pay. I can relate.

For the most part, I enjoy my work outside the home, and we do need the money. Still, there are many days I’d love to stay put and work in my home office and spend time decluttering the stuff I’ve accumulated over the last 30+ years.

I feel for those who have to hold down an “evil day job” in order to make ends meet.

Others’ Dependence

I see this as a two-sided coin. We depend on others and they depend on us. That’s the way life works.

However, when others are so dependent on us that we get drained and have nothing left to give, we need to re-evaluate our To Do list and prayerfully consider what needs to change.

Others’ Expectations

We’ve likely all taken on tasks because someone else thought we should—maybe a family member, employer, or church leader. Maybe it was a casual acquaintance, but we didn’t feel we could say no.

We ought to be able to expect things of one another, but when those expectations become unreasonable, we have to be able to let go of them without resentment or fear of hurting the relationship.

Our Own Expectations

How many times do we think we could take on “just one more thing”—even though we don’t have adequate time or energy?

In my case, the answer is “at least several times a month.”

So, if I could do without sleep and never binge watch Netflix, I could do a lot more than I do now. However, that time would best be spent completing tasks I already have on the go.

The New, Shiny Syndrome

Are you like me?

Do you see something new and shiny, something you already have the skills to accomplish or would like to learn, and jump in with both feet, only to remember you’re carrying the weight of all those other responsibilities and find yourself going under—and then binge watching Netflix because you realize you don’t have the ambition to do anything at all?

Grasping

Sometimes we take on a task because we’re grasping for something. Maybe it’s a sense of acceptance, worth, or accomplishment. 

Do we want to admit these truths to ourselves? Definitely not!

Does it help to do so? Absolutely!

Passion

We may have a passion to do something, but that, in and of itself, is not a reason to do something—or not to do it.

Some people refer to it as balance. I like to see it more as tension, the good kind.

Every day we hold things in tension. How much time do we spend on this or that task? How much time do we spend interacting with our family? How much time do we devote to our friends?

Wisdom, we need it in vast amounts.

Calling

As Christians, we often ask ourselves, “What is God’s calling on my life?”

Sometimes, that calling corresponds with our passions, our expectations, our need to earn an income. But we have to be in His Word and spend a significant amount of time in prayer, as well as seek godly counsel, to truly discern what His calling is on our life.

Calling Plus, Plus, Plus

Even after we do have a sense of what God has for us, we may want to do whatever it is—as well as oh, so many other things.

I am definitely in this boat. In fact, I’ve actually made it my houseboat where I spend most of my time.

Is that easy to admit? Nope!

Feel free to hold me accountable as I work this one through.

Rebellion

Though we wouldn’t want to admit it, we may be living in out and out rebellion toward God. Perhaps, we know we should invest our time differently, but we don’t want to.

That’s the bad news, but the good news is that God will forgive us and change our heart if we ask.

An Overinflated Sense of Importance (aka Pride)

Don’t get me wrong. I believe God values us highly. After all, if we had a price tag, it would read, “The Life of God’s Son.”

However, He is God, and well able to accomplish anything He desires—without our help.

Yes, He chooses to accomplish much through His people, but we don’t have to take on every opportunity that comes across our path, thinking, “If I don’t do this, who will?”

Trust God to give you wisdom and to raise up others to accomplish what He isn’t calling us to.

An Unwillingness to Set Aside Already Spinning Plates

I once heard a speaker say she never took on something new unless she knew what other task the Lord would have her set aside. Such a great perspective!

I definitely don’t live this way. I want to keep spinning all the plates.

So, why do you take on the tasks you do? Are there those you believe you ought to set aside?

As believers, we can count on Him to give us the wisdom (and the desire) to do what He’s calling us to—and only those things. But I’m pretty sure this is a lifelong learning opportunity. I’m trusting that I’m on the road to learning this lesson now that I’m staring down my 60th birthday. (Okay, so, it’s two years off, but when you get to be my age, two years flies by.)

Thanks so much for taking the time to take a closer look at why we do what we do.

Tweetables:

Sometimes we take on a task because we’re grasping for something—a sense of acceptance, worth, or accomplishment for example. (Click to tweet.)

Wisdom, we need it in vast amounts. (Click to tweet.)

God is well able to accomplish anything He desires—without our help. (Click to tweet.)

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.

New Releases in Christian Fiction (April 2019)

April 2019 New Releases from members of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW):

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


Children’s:

The Heart Changer by Jarm Del Boccio — Miriam is asked to do the impossible: serve the wife of Naaman, commander of the Syrian army. Clinging to treasured memories of home and faith, Miriam faces captivity with bitterness. Little does she know the Heart Changer is preparing her for a greater mission — far beyond what she could imagine. (Children’s from Ambassador International)

 


Contemporary Romance:

 

Faith and Hope by Amy R. Anguish — Younger sister Hope has lost her job, her car, and her boyfriend all in one day. Her well-laid plans for life have gone sideways, as has her hope in God. Older sister Faith is finally getting her dream-come-true after years of struggles and prayers. But when her mom talks her into letting Hope move in for the summer, will the stress turn her dream into a nightmare? Is her faith in God strong enough to handle everything? For two sisters who haven’t gotten along in years, this summer together could be a disaster…or it could lead them to a closer relationship with each other and God. Can they overcome all life is throwing at them? Or is this going to destroy their relationship for good? (Contemporary Romance from Mantle Rock Publishing)

Match Made in Heaven by Julie Arduini — Beth Prescott wants to make a difference with the senior citizens she serves as a volunteer coordinator, but their matchmaking efforts leave her guarded. She’s experienced too much pain to make that leap again. Dean Kellerman returns to the Finger Lakes area to help his grandfather and heal his own broken heart. He’s recommitted his life to Christ, and doesn’t want any distractions.
When his grandfather needs assistance with a senior program, it places Dean right in Beth’s path. Can these two surrender their pasts to Christ and have faith in each other and their future? (Contemporary Romance from Surrendered Scribe Media)

An Amish Reunion by Amy Clipston, Kathleen Fuller, Kathleen Irvin, and Beth WisemanTheir True Home by Amy Clipston: Marlene Bawell’s new friendship with an old crush is threatened when change once again disrupts the home she’s tried to make in Bird-in-Hand. A Reunion of Hearts by Beth Wiseman: Separated after tragic grief, husband and wife Ruth and Gideon Beiler are reunited when they accept an invitation to a family reunion they each believe the other has declined. A Chance to Remember by Kathleen Fuller: Cevilla Schlabach, Birch Creek’s resident octogenarian matchmaker, is surprised when Richard, a man from her Englisch past, arrives in Birch Creek for a visit. While he and Cevilla take several walks down memory lane, they wonder what the future holds for them at this stage of life—friendship, or the possibility of something else? Mended Hearts by Kelly Irvin: Abandoned by her father, penitent single mother Hannah Kauffman finds support in her old friend Phillip, who has loved her for years, but fears risking another mistake by opening herself up to love. (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing [Thomas Nelson and Zondervan])

Her New Amish Family by Carrie Lighte — Widower Seth Helmuth needs a mother for his sons, but for now, hiring the Englischer next door as their nanny will have to do. Trina Smith plans to stay in Amish country only long enough to claim her inheritance and sell her grandfather’s house. But as she falls for Seth, his twin boys and Amish life, will she inherit a home and a family? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Beauty for Ashes by Kathleen Neely — Well-known novelist Nathan Drummond revisits painful memories when family responsibilities force him to return to his home town. Although he’d intended the living situation to be temporary, Nathan didn’t count on falling in love. As guilty memories threaten a return of panic attacks, Nathan begins to write a novel paralleling the tragic event from his youthful folly. Will the novel be seen as a work of fiction, or will it expose his secret? (Contemporary Romance from Harbourlight Books [Pelican])

Restoring Her Faith by Jennifer Slattery — An artist fighting to save her career must find a way to work with the handsome yet stubborn cowboy overseeing a church restoration project–without falling for his southern charm. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Sweet On You by Becky Wade — Britt Bradford and Zander Ford have been the best of friends since they met thirteen years ago. Unbeknown to Britt, Zander has been in love with her for just as long. As they work together to investigate Zander’s uncle’s mysterious death, will the truth of what lies between them also, finally, come to light? (Contemporary Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

 

General Contemporary:


The Edge of Mercy by Heidi Chiavaroli — A dying request from an elderly neighbor forces a woman in a troubled marriage to find the 300-year-old story of a young colonial woman—one forced into an unwanted betrothal but drawn to a man forbidden to her by society. (General Contemporary from Hope Creek Publishers)

All My Tears by Kathy McKinsey — Meet five women who struggle with life’s deep sorrows. Beth fights to recover from alcoholism and to mend her relationships with her family. Ann doesn’t believe God will forgive her. Kathleen wrestles with a years-old fear and with saving her marriage. Cassie needs to learn to deal with chronic depression. Martie finds herself the single parent of the eight-year-old niece she barely knows when the child’s parents die in a car wreck.
See how God gives them the gifts of hope, healing, and love. (General Contemporary from Mantle Rock Publishers)

 

Historical:


The Refuge by Ann H Gabhart — Can Darcie Goodwin find love and a way to keep her baby in a community that doesn’t believe in marriage or individual family units? (Historical from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

 

Historical Romance:


The Artful Match by Jennifer Delamere — At loose ends in London after a near-tragedy, Cara Bernay finds herself at odds with the Earl of Morestowe after she befriends his brother, a talented but troubled young artist. Soon she finds herself drawn to the earl as she becomes more involved with his family. Like Cara, they are suffering from unresolved mistakes in their past. Can they form an unlikely alliance and find a way to a new beginning? (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

The Golden Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse — Olivia Brighton finds herself widowed and working her brother’s restaurant in San Francisco during the height of the 1849 Gold Rush. Even though she receives at least twenty marriage proposals a day, she will never marry a gold miner. Her brother’s friend Joseph Sawyer has gotten caught up in local politics and the plight of Chinese in forced labor. The more Joseph gets pulled into investigating crime in the city, the less Olivia sees of the compassionate man. And just when she thinks she could love again, a fire threatens to steal all hope. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

 

Romantic Suspense:


Justice Delivered by Patricia Bradley — An escaped victim of sex trafficking must find the courage to report her captors to the authorities—some of whom could be corrupt—when her niece is kidnapped by the ringleader. (Romantic Suspense from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

You Shouldn’t Have by Susan Page Davis — “I SAW MY NEIGHBOR MURDER HIS WIFE!” But the police don’t believe Petra Wilson. There’s no body, no evidence, no murder. But Petra knows what she saw. And now her dangerous neighbor knows it, too. Her sisters introduce her to private investigator Joe Tarleton. Petra tells Joe her story, expecting him to decide there is no case. But the dedicated P.I. accepts her word, and he vows to uncover the truth. Still, he can’t guard Petra twenty-four hours a day. In spite of her precautions, her neighbor makes inroads in her vulnerability. Petra is left open to a killer intent on silencing the only living witness. (Romantic Suspense from Tea Tin Press)

Beauty in Battle by Robin Patchen — Harper doesn’t want to return to Maryland to face the police. The mess she left behind makes her look guilty of the worst, but it’s too late to run again. Red is safe and the authorities are waiting. At least Jack is by her side.
Now that Jack knows the truth, his feelings for Harper are deeper than ever. He’s not about to leave her side, especially knowing a killer is after her. But Derrick is on their trail, and he’s come unhinged. And he may not be the biggest threat lurking. (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published [ACFW QIP])

 

Speculative:


Flight of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse — Selene Ravenwood, once the heir to House Ravenwood, is now an exile. On the run and free of her family’s destiny, Selene hopes to find the real reason her family was given the gift of dreamwalking. But first she must adapt to her new role as wife to Lord Damien Maris, the man she was originally assigned to kill. While adjusting to her marriage and her home in the north, her power over dreams begins to grow. As the strongest dreamwalker to exist in ages, her expanding power attracts not only nightmares but the attention of the Dark Lady herself. With a war looming on the horizon and a wicked being after her gift, Selene is faced with a choice: accept the Dark Lady’s offer or search out the one who gave her the gift of dreamwalking. One path offers power, the other freedom. But time is running out, and if she doesn’t choose soon, her decision will be made for her. (Speculative Fantasy from Bethany House [Baker])

Snow Globe Travelers: Samuel’s Legacy by K.A. Cummins — Transported into another world, an Austrian girl must face a genetically-engineered warrior with an army of vicious hybrids. (Hard Science Fiction (for Children), Independently Published)

The Baggage Handler by David Rawlings — A hothead businessman coming to the city for a showdown meeting to save his job. A mother of three hoping to survive the days at her sister’s house before her niece’s wedding. And a young artist pursuing his father’s dream so he can keep his own alive. When David, Gillian, and Michael each take the wrong suitcases from baggage claim, the airline directs them to retrieve their bags at a mysterious facility in a deserted part of the city. There they meet the enigmatic Baggage Handler, who shows them there is more in their baggage than what they have packed, and carrying it with them is slowing them down in ways they can’t imagine. And they must deal with it before they can leave. (Speculative Allegory from HarperCollins Christian Publishing [Thomas Nelson and Zondervan])

Is Quitting Right for You? (Guest Post)

Clock with words: time management, schedule, delay, stress, busy, alarm, late, rush, overtime

Is Quitting Right for You?

by Steph Beth Nickel

When should you set aside responsibilities? When should you press on? How do you decide?

My absence from Janet’s blog may or may not have been conspicuous, but when January and February slipped away, I had to ask myself, “Is this what God has for me going forward?”

Is this the only responsibility that has slipped? Absolutely not!

Since the time change—in the fall—tiredness and lack of motivation seem to have wrapped their arms (or is that tentacles?) around me.

Being an Expressive, I am among the group least likely to be overly concerned about missed deadlines. Not great when there are so many mandatory and “soft” deadlines in my life.

When Janet suggested I pray to see if God would have me continue writing for Tenacity, I thanked the Lord for friends such as her. No pressure, just concern that I follow the Lord’s path for my life.

So, how do we determine which responsibilities to take on and which ones to set aside? As Christians, we can ask the Lord for wisdom and direction—and He will give it.

Second, it’s a good thing to create a list of everything we do and prioritize the items on our list.

Some items on our list are mandatory—our day job and taking care of family for instance. However, when reviewing the remaining To Do items, we may want to determine which ones we feel called to and which we’re passionate about.

Now, if you’re eclectically interested, as I am, it may be hard to rank these in order of priority, which leads to the fourth thing we should do: be honest about our energy and abilities.

We may be skilled in many areas. We may be able to do a plethora of things each week, each day even. But can we do them well? Can we give them the time and attention they deserve? Can we do so without becoming exhausted and resentful? Can we do them without fear of burnout?

In humility we should ask, “Could someone else do this task? Could they do it more quickly and more efficiently than I can? Are they actually the right person for the job?”

I’m a little like Sister Bear from the Berenstain Bears. When my children were young, they watched and re-watched a video in which Sister Bear sang, “I want it all.” Truth be told, I’m like that. I suffer from what I call Butterfly Syndrome. I flit from thing to thing, claiming the whole garden as my own.

I’m like a plate spinner who tells herself, “Sure, the plate has slowed down … Sure, the pole is beginning to wobble … But I have lots of time to get to it before the fine china crashes to the floor.”

We must consider those who are counting on us.

Granted, I have some of the most understanding and forgiving friends, family, and clients in the world. Still, I have responsibilities to them, and if I can’t meet them, perhaps it’s time to set some of them aside—the responsibilities, not the people.

Last, but definitely not least, we must consider our Why.

Let’s go over that list we made item by item and determine why we’ve taken on each thing. When we know what motivates us, it helps us determine which items must stay on the list and which we can—and should—set aside.

Does this mean it will be easy? No. Often the things we’d prefer to set aside are actually the things that need our time and attention most.

Will I continue writing monthly posts for this blog? I hope so. But I’ll see after I prayerfully follow my own advice.

How do you determine what tasks to take on? Are there those that must go? Which tasks on your list make you want to jump out of bed in the morning (or stay up late) to accomplish?

~~~

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.

Review: Romeo’s Rules, by James Scott Bell

Romeo's Rules, A Mike Romeo Thriller by James Scott Bell

Romeo’s Rules, by James Scott Bell (Compendium Press, 2015)

Mike Romeo is an former cage fighter trying to stay off the radar in Los Angeles—until he comes to the rescue of an attractive woman whose children are missing after a church bombing. Helping Natalia gains him some powerful—and violent—enemies, but Mike is not one to back down.

This is a noir-feel thriller, fairly clean but so violent in a couple of places that I skipped some pages. That said, it’s written with a pleasing dry humour. And Mike and his wheelchair-bound Rabbi friend Ira (a former Mossad agent) are seriously impressive in their skill sets.

Although this is a mainstream novel, the author’s Christian worldview comes through in a few places, never in a preachy way. The hero, Mike, is prone to highly intellectual philosophizing—often right before he has to lay somebody out. And violent as he can be toward criminals, he’s outspoken against domestic abuse.

Romeo’s Rules is the first in the Mike Romeo Thriller series. At the half-way mark (the bit I skipped) I thought it’d be the only one I could read, but after that scene it was manageable and I hope to read book 2, Romeo’s Way.

James Scott Bell also writes legal thrillers (including a few with zombie lawyers) and he’s a respected author of books on the craft of fiction writing. For more about the author and his work, visit jamesscottbell.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Exile, by Rachel Starr Thomson

Exile: The Oneness Cycle, by Rachel Starr Thomson

Exile, by Rachel Starr Thomson (Little Dozen Press, 2013)

On a stormy sea, fishing buddies Tyler and Chris discover a young woman in their net. As if that’s not startling enough, once she’s dry and recovering in their cottage, they hear a window break and rush to find her holding a sword and claiming to have killed a demon. On the floor lies a dead bat, but Chris is sure he saw something larger before it shrank.

So opens Exile, book 1 in The Oneness Cycle. The young woman, Reese, has been exiled from her group of believers. That shouldn’t be possible, but it happened and the grief is almost more than she can handle. The sword shouldn’t be possible for an exile, but it appeared in her hand when needed.

The Oneness is “one of three spiritual forces” (Kindle location 167) in the world, with the other two being angels and demons. Members of the Oneness look like ordinary people, but they are variously-gifted spiritual warriors holding the world together.

Exile is a gripping urban fantasy novel of spiritual warfare suitable for adults and young adults. As well as enjoying the read, I was encouraged by Reese’s and April’s challenge to persevere in the darkness instead of giving in to despair. That’s an example I can bring into real-life situations.

Favourite line:

“I don’t pray to get around the plan; I pray to be part of it.” ~Richard, a prayer warrior. [Kindle location 1175]

Exile is free in ebook format from major retailers. Rachel Starr Thomson writes Christian fantasy novels and has also recently released the writing memoir, Left Turn to the Promised Land. For more about the author and her (many) books, visit rachelstarrthomson.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

International Women’s Day

Fiction-lovers, celebrate International Women’s Day with some strong female characters.

"Strong women. Extraordinary circumstances. Faith-filled fiction." 
#Christiansuspense
Available in print and for Apple, Kindle, Kobo, and Nook.

Ruth: the prayer warrior abducted by a serial killer. (Heaven’s Prey)

Carol: the single mother targeted by a drug lord. (Secrets and Lies)

Amy: the plane crash survivor who suspects sabotage. (Without Proof)

Then there’s Landon: the young woman with a traumatic past, trying to solve the mysterious happenings at the Green Dory Inn. (Unknown Enemy)

I know there’s way more to International Women’s Day than reading fiction. But sometimes other women’s courage can inspire us… even if they’re fictional.