Review: On a Summer Tide, by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Book cover: On a Summer Tide, by Suzanne Woods Fisher

On a Summer Tide, by Suzanne Woods Fisher (Revell, 2019)

When their widowed father announces that he’s sold the family home and bought an island off the coast of Maine, Cam Grayson and her sisters are afraid he’s losing his mind. Partly due to this fear and partly due to life circumstances, each of the women decide to spend some time with him on Three Sisters Island.

Their father, Paul, plans to renovate the rustic island camp where he first met his wife. He hopes the family project will draw his daughters closer together. In the beginning, this is a family who don’t listen to one another, who may work together but without sharing any depth of relationship.

The daughters are widely different in personality and goals. I feel they’re perhaps too much defined by their dominant traits, to the point I didn’t really connect with any of them. We have Cam the driven businesswoman, Maddie the counsellor-in-training who analyzes family members at every opportunity, and Blaine the 19-year-old who can’t decide on her future path.

Despite a bit of disconnect, I enjoyed the story. The setting is isolated and beautiful, and I enjoyed watching the camp restoration. There’s a nice romance between Cam and Seth, the island’s schoolteacher. Seth’s gentle conversations with Cam about faith are a good example of natural ways to engage with non-Christian friends in real life.

There are flashbacks sprinkled throughout the novel and I don’t think they added anything that wasn’t (or couldn’t have been) conveyed in straight story time. For me they were more of a distraction than a bonus. The bonus was watching the interaction between teacher Seth and Cam’s son Cooper.

Favourite lines:

The driveway unfurled in a lazy curl through strands of trees until it reached the clearing where the old house sat against a windbreak of pines. [page 69, Cam’s first sight of their father’s new house]

“It’s okay to start with a small faith. We’ve got a big God.” [page 220, Seth to Cam]

On a Summer Tide is book 1 in the Three Sisters Island series, and since Cam was the central sister in this story, I expect Maddie and Blaine will each be the heroine of their own book as the series continues.

Suzanne Woods Fisher is a multi-published author of contemporary and historical novels. For more about the author and her work, visit suzannewoodsfisher.com.

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

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Interview: Christine Dillon

Author Christine Dillon
Author Christine Dillon

Author Christine Dillon’s third novel, Grace in Deep Waters, released in July, and I caught up with her for a few questions. You’ll find her author bio and the details of her book below, but first, let’s hear from Christine herself.

Janet: You’ve lived in a number of countries. Where are you based now? And what’s something you love about where you live?

Christine: I’m currently back in Taiwan where I’ve worked as a missionary for the past twenty years. As my parents were also missionaries, I have also done most of my schooling in Malaysia and the Philippines. However, my passport country is Australia.

I love using my life to tell people about Jesus. People here are friendly and hospitable.

Janet: You’re a Bible storyteller, verbally recounting events from Scripture. How did writing novels come about?

Christine: As a Bible storyteller I couldn’t fail to be impacted by the response that people had to stories and the fact that they often learned far more than they would if I’d taught them the main points. The stories lingered.

I had also been strongly impacted by certain stories like the Narnia series and Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. However, I didn’t think I could ever write a novel. Non-fiction yes, but novels were well beyond me.

It seems that God has other ideas because he literally dropped the initial ideas and title into my head for the first novel which went on to start a series. It was kind of Him not to give me too much up front because I would have been overwhelmed. I spent nearly five hard years learning to write fiction. Some things get easier but it is still the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Janet: Grace in Deep Waters is book 3 in the Grace series, each one tackling some heavy issues in a character-driven, thought-provoking way. Do readers need to begin with book 1, or can they dive right into the “Deep Waters” of book 3?

Christine: I’ve written each book as a ‘stand alone’ story but it would be much more beneficial to read from book 1.

Janet: Each book in the series features a different member of the Macdonald family. Do you have a favourite character, and if so, why?

Christine: You spend so much time with the characters so they grow on you. Most of my favourite characters are the minor characters. I loved Joy from book 1 and Dr Paul Webster. I am planning a separate book for him. In book 2, I loved Josh and Dirk at the plant nursery. Throughout the series I also love Naomi, Esther’s grandmother. In book 3, one of the main characters is quite hard to like. I am thankful God doesn’t give up on him because most of us would have. The side characters of Reg (modelled a bit on my grandfather) and Davy are my favourites. Writing an eight-year-old was fun.

Janet: I know you’re here to talk about fiction, but could you give us a quick intro to what Bible storytelling is?

Christine: Of course, I love to talk about Bible storytelling. It is a way of simply telling Bible stories so that people not only hear God’s word but can then interact with it. I mostly tell stories to adults and most often with non-Christians. Storytelling has a unique ability to get under people’s defences and allow us to communicate with people who wouldn’t usually listen. I have two non-fiction books on storytelling and you can find out more at storyingthescriptures.com. There are many training posts/videos and video stories there, plus testimonies of people using storytelling around the world.

Janet: Christine, thanks for taking time to chat today, and all the best with your writing!

More about the book:

Book cover: Grace in Deep Waters, by Christine Dillon

William Macdonald is at the pinnacle of his career. Pastor of a growing megachurch and host of a successful national radio programme. Clever and respected, he’s a man with everything, including a secret. His wife has left him and he can’t risk anyone finding out.

Blanche Macdonald is struggling. Her once rock-solid marriage is showing cracks. She promised to love her husband for better or for worse, but does loving always mean staying? Blanche desires to put God first. Not William. Not her daughter. Not herself.

When is a marriage over? When do you stand and fight?

Buy links for Grace in Deep Waters:

More about Christine Dillon

Christine never intended to become an author. The only kind of writing she wondered if she might do was biography. However, it was a surprise to her to write poetry, non-fiction and now fiction.

Christine was a physiotherapist but now she writes ‘storyteller’ on any airport forms. She can legitimately claim to be this as she has written a book on storytelling and spends much of her time either telling Bible stories or training others to do so from her base in southern Taiwan.

In her spare time Christine loves all things active – hiking, cycling, swimming, snorkelling. But she also likes reading and genealogical research, as that satisfies her desire to be an historical detective.

Visit Christine’s website: storytellerchristine.com

Subscribe to Christine’s newsletter: subscribe.storytellerchristine.com

Review: Grace in Deep Waters, by Christine Dillon

Book cover: Grace in Deep Waters, by Christine Dillon

Grace in Deep Waters, by Christine Dillon (Links in the Chain Press, 2019)

Should Blanche go home? But how can she resume life with her legalistic husband now that her growing faith conflicts with his dogma? And while he denies their shared grief over their daughter’s death?

William didn’t even go to the funeral. And he denies the existence of their other daughter, Rachel, who left home many years ago at 15.

Grace in Deep Waters is book 3 in the ongoing Grace series (there are more books to come). New readers can start here and not feel lost, but I’d recommend starting at the beginning with Grace in Strange Disguise.

The women in this series develop a faith that’s nothing like the showy façade William has drilled into them. When life circumstances hit—and hit hard—Esther, Rachel, and Blanche each discover a truer Christianity and make the hard choices to live for God’s honour instead of living to satisfy or defy William’s rules.

William is proud, self-centred, and unyielding. Author Christine Dillon does a fine job of letting readers into his head to understand him and develop enough compassion to hope he’ll change.

Part of the novel is his story: will he change or harden himself further? Can he change, even if he wants to?

Another part is a beautiful observation of Blanche, a fallible woman growing in her faith and trying to find a healthy way to grieve.

Is this a depressing novel? Not at all. It’s heartwarming, inspiring, and it can challenge us to prayerfully make better choices in our own lives.

Favourite lines:

She’d let fear bind her. What might life be like if she walked free? [Kindle location 288]

The kid turned around and gazed at  him with a piercing eye a high school principal would die for. [Kindle location 2159]

Anyone who thinks Christian fiction is light and fluffy or dry like a dusty sermon needs to read Christine Dillon’s Grace series. The faith message is strong and clear yet presented organically through the characters’ thoughts and decisions, leaving readers free to draw their own conclusions. The questions are real and deep.

In Grace in Strange Disguise, the challenge was “what happens when the prayer of faith doesn’t heal?” In Grace in the Shadows, it’s “how—and why—would God love me, after what I’ve done?” In Grace in Deep Waters, characters wrestle with grief, marital breakdown, and that contentious issue, submission.

As the characters wrestle, readers can wrestle, too. This isn’t a series that hands out easy answers. Discussion guides are available on the author’s website, for book clubs or individuals who want to dig deeper.

Christine Dillon is a missionary whose tag-line is “multiplying disciples one story at a time,” and the author of the Grace fiction series. She has also written non-fiction books about the Bible storytelling approach. For more about the author, visit storytellerchristine.com.

[Review copy provided by the author.]

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New Releases in Christian Fiction (August 2019)

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.


Contemporary Romance:

The Butterfly Recluse by Therese Heckenkamp — Lila finds solace in her sheltered world by raising butterflies and surrounding herself with their gentle beauty. They’re all she needs—until a motorcycle-riding stranger roars up her driveway, invading her safe haven, throwing her life off-kilter, and forcing her to question everything. What exactly is he after, and what is he not telling her? In one intense night of desperation and revelation, Lila must confront her darkest fears—and hopefully discover that with faith and courage, shattered dreams can be restored, damaged hearts can love again, and broken wings can heal . . . maybe even fly. (Contemporary Romance from Ivory Tower Press)

A Glitter of Gold by Liz Johnson — Anne Norris moved to Savannah, Georgia, for a fresh start. Now her pirate-tour business is flagging and paying the rent requires more than wishful thinking. When she discovers evidence of a shipwreck off the coast of Tybee Island, she knows it could be just the boon she needs to stay afloat. She takes her findings to local museum director Carter Hale for confirmation, but things do not go as planned. Carter is fascinated with the wreck, the discovery of which could open the door to his dream job at a prestigious museum. But convincing Anne to help him fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle is no easy task. And working with Carter means that Anne will have to do the one thing she swore she’d never do again: trust a man. (Contemporary Romance from Revell-A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Hometown Healing by Jennifer Slattery — She’s home again, but not for long… Unless this cowboy recaptures her heart Returning home with a baby in tow, Paige Cordell’s determined her stay is only temporary. But to earn enough money to leave, she needs a job—and her only option is working at her first love’s dinner theater. With attraction once again unfurling between her and Jed Gilbertson, can the man who once broke her heart convince her to stay for good? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])


General Contemporary/Women’s Fiction:

Grace in Deep Waters by Christine Dillon — William Macdonald is at the pinnacle of his career. Pastor of a growing megachurch and host of a successful national radio programme. Clever and respected, he’s a man with everything, including a secret. His wife has left him and he can’t risk anyone finding out. Blanche Macdonald is struggling. Her once rock-solid marriage is showing cracks. She promised to love her husband for better or for worse, but does loving always mean staying? Blanche desires to put God first. Not William. Not her daughter. Not herself. When is a marriage over? When do you stand and fight? (Women’s Fiction, Independently Published)

When Mountains Sing by Stacy Monson — Mikayla Gordon loves nothing more than sleeping under the stars, reeling in the “big one,” and long hikes in the wilderness. A medical crisis reveals a 30-year-old secret that turns everything she’s known and believed upside down, unraveling her dreams and her identity. In search of answers, she follows a trail from Minnesota to Colorado and discovers more unwelcome secrets even as she falls in love with the majestic beauty of the Rocky Mountains, and a wilderness camp leader who shares the greatest secret of all. Knowing her life can never go back to what it was, she must make decisions that will impact far more than just her future. (Contemporary from His Image Publications)

All In by L. K. Simonds — Cami Taylor: a blackjack dealer, a bestselling author, and a fraud. Cami’s boyfriend, Joel, loves her in spite of her flaws. He wants to marry her, buy a house on Long Island, and raise a family–a life that’s a million miles from Cami’s idea of happiness. Her therapist suggests compromise and trust, but Cami bolts like a deer. She breaks off the relationship and launches on a new quest for happiness, not knowing that a nasty surprise waits around the corner. What follows is a fight to the death. Who will be the one left standing? (Contemporary from Morgan James Fiction)


Historical:

Finding Lady Enderly by Joanna Davidson Politano — A rag girl accepts an invitation to become the lady she’s always dreamed of being, but some dreams turn out to be nightmares. (Historical from Revel – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)


Historical Romance:

Lady and the Lawman by Crystal L. Barnes, Vickie McDonough, Annette OHare, and Kathleen Y’Barbo — Four historic stories of lawmen and the ladies who love them. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

The Farmer’s Daughter by Mary Davis, Kelly Eileen Hake, Tracie J. Peterson, Jill Stengl, and Susan May Warren — Enjoy five historical novels by some of Christian fiction’s bestselling authors. Meet daughters of prairie farms from Montana south to Kansas who find love in the midst of turbulent life changes. Marty’s nieces are kidnapped. Rosalind’s town is overrun by a railroad company. Amy’s jealousy comes between her and her twin. Beulah’s answer is needed to a marriage proposal. Lilly’s choice puts her at odd with her neighbors. Into each of their lives rides a man who may only make their situations worse. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

The Cowboys by Sandra Merville Hart, Cindy Ervin Huff, Jennifer Uhlarik, and Linda W. Yezak — Taming the West–one heart at a time. Healing Heart: A physically scarred cowboy finds solace with a ranch girl who is hiding from her past. Becoming Brave: A cattle drover wants to get his boss’s heard safely through Indian Territory…as soon he figures out why a bloodstained woman is holding a gun on him. Trails End: Waiting for his boss’s cattle to sell, a cowboy takes a kitchen job at a restaurant where the beautiful and prickly owner adds spice to his workday. Loving a Harvey Girl: To improve the local preacher’s opinion of career women, a Harvey Girl makes it her mission to redeem a wayward cowboy, but finds herself longing for a husband, hearth, and home. (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

Lost in the Storm by Tamera Lynn Kraft — Lavena, a journalist during the Civil War, wants to become a war correspondent. She finally gets her chance, but there’s a catch. She has to get an interview from a war hero who has refused to tell his story to every other journalist, and she has to accomplish this impossible task in a month or she’ll lose her job. Captain Cage, the war hero, has a secret that will destroy his military career and reputation. Now, a new journalist wants him to reveal what he’s been hiding. He’d prefer to ignore her, but from the moment she came into camp, he can’t get her out of his mind. Leading up to the turbulent Battles for the city of Chattanooga, will Lavena and Cage find the courage to love and forgive, or will they be swept away by their past mistakes that don’t want to stay buried? (Historical Romance from Mt Zion Ridge Press)

Love’s Allegiance by Linda Shenton Matchett — Inspired by the biblical love story of Rebekkah and Isaac, Love’s Allegiance explores the struggles and sacrifices of those whose beliefs were at odds with a world at war. (Historical Romance from Shortwave Press)

The Brightest Hope by Naomi Musch — Five years after the Great War, Holly Allen is a well-adjusted war widow with a knack for running the family press. She’s over the days of waiting for a white knight to ride in and sweep her away from her cares. Besides, if Hugh Phelps is a knight, he’s certainly a black one—with his prison record, personal demons, and the ghosts of war that haunt him. When Holly hires Hugh, despite her reservations, it isn’t long before she sees the man he could really be, and as Hugh finds his niche at Allen’s Printing, he finds his lady boss equally appealing. Despite the attraction, however, Holly won’t let herself fall for a faithless man, and Hugh isn’t on gracious terms with God. Then, just when new beginnings seem possible, old heartaches from the war come calling. Now it might only be in letting go of everything dear that they both discover what real love is. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Annabelle’s Joy by Betty Thomason Owens — She’s waited too long. When Tom proposed last year, Annabelle wasn’t ready to open her heart to another man. Pain still held a thin crust around it. Time has healed her heart, but with a new woman in town, one who clearly has her sights set on Tom, does it matter if Annabelle’s heart is ready to love again? Folks in town are keeping a close eye on their pharmacist, hoping to be the first to hear the good news. He’s been courting the widow Cross for nigh on two years now. Annabelle Cross better wake up and put her dancing shoes on. Mr. Tom is prime real estate. (Historical Romance from Write Integrity Press)


Mystery/Cozy Mystery:

Hidden Secrets by Janet Sketchley — When an online vendetta against the Green Dory Inn escalates to physical threats, a cryptic message about a tunnel points to the property’s original owner, a notorious Prohibition-era sea captain rumoured to have left hidden wealth. (Mystery, Independently Published)

Murder at Rendsburg Resort by C. L. Wells — Trapped in a remote resort with a killer on the loose, the body count piling up, and no one else to save them, mystery writer Jill Pemberton must help find the killer before they claim their next victim. (Cozy Mystery, Independently Published)


Romantic Suspense:

Two Steps Forward by Luana Ehrlich — When CIA operative Titus Ray has an unexpected encounter with a Jihadi terrorist while he and Nikki are on their honeymoon in Morocco, he assumes it’s a coincidence, but when they travel to Israel for the second half of their honeymoon and encounter him again, he takes action, which takes him to Baghdad to prevent the assassination of a high-profile government official. (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)

Edge of Truth by Kimberly Rose Johnson — The DEA sends two of its best agents, Kara Nelson and Jeff Clark, to Central Oregon, to shut down a major drug ring. Kara and Jeff usually work alone, but Operation Trail Ride throws them undercover together in a way neither of them expected. A notorious Miami drug lord wants Kara dead. Can these agents pull off the greatest acting job of their lives—and manage the sparks flying between them? Or will they die trying? (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)


Speculative:

Redemption by Jacques R. Pye — Sterling Newman and Armena Sandal face death as they struggle to help the Alesandrans and the Kirilleans combat a force seeking the destruction of both worlds. (Speculative, Independently Published)


Young Adult:

Shards of Light by Susan Miura — Sometimes the pieces of a shattered dream can transform into something extraordinary. (Young Adult from Vinspire Publishing)

Hidden Secrets Release Week

Book cover: Hidden Secrets

This is the official release week for Hidden Secrets, with a physical book launch tonight and the ebooks releasing on Thursday. Print copies are available online now, too.

Why am I telling you this? To let you know the sale pricing for the ebooks will end after August 8. Right now, Unknown Enemy is reduced to $0.99 and Hidden Secrets to $2.99. They’ll move to $2.99 and $4.99 USD respectively. Save money while you can! (Or ask your library to order a copy, and let them pay for it!)

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Survivors and Overcomers—In Fiction and in Real Life

Violence against women, especially sexual violence, scares me. Even in fiction. So why is the heroine in my Green Dory Inn Mystery series a survivor of human trafficking? Short answer: I don’t know. Longer answer. I don’t know, but the idea kept popping up until I decided I’d better cooperate in case there was a …

Click to continue reading at the International Christian Fiction Writers site.

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Vacationing and the Writing Journey (Guest Post)

Letter tiles spelling GOAL with text: "We're here!" to a traveler is as amazing as "The End" to a writer.
Original image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay . Text added.

Vacationing and the Writing Journey

by Steph Beth Nickel

Are you traveling this summer?

Are you looking forward to the journey or only arriving at the destination?

How is vacationing like the writing journey?

We aren’t planning any big trips this year, but I realized on our way to Frankenmuth for a couple of days that I had a choice. I could enjoy the journey or merely endure it.

Writing is a little like planning and executing a vacation.

Decide on a Destination

Unless you’re hopping in the car and seeing where the road takes you, you likely have a destination in mind.

The same should be true when writing. Are you planning to write a book? An article for Medium? A blog post?

Set a Timeline for Each Leg of the Journey

Life happens. Something may come up to deter you from your schedule. However, it’s important to at least have a schedule to keep you on track. (You don’t want to find out the day before you leave for the airport that you should have renewed your passport.)

It’s important to be kind to yourself. Set an achievable pre-journey itinerary, but don’t be so “kind” that you leave everything to the last minute and consider giving up on the idea altogether.

This year I signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo—and, shock of shocks, I edited my manuscript well ahead of schedule. There are several more steps to take before the book is available, but now I know I can actually git ’er done. Now to set a timeline for the next steps.

Gather What You Need

Clothes? Check. Camera? Check. Toiletries? Check. Tickets and reservations? Check. Aforementioned passport? Check.

Gathering what you need for your writing journey can simply mean grabbing a pen and notepad or your phone with its note-taking app, finding an inspiring location to write, and getting at it. Or it may need a reliable internet connection and months of research.

Whichever it is, commit to it and get started.

Start Out

You won’t get any closer to your destination if you gather what you need, pack it in the car, and sit in the driveway.

It may be exciting—or a little scary—to start out on a new journey. But the only way to reach your destination is to set off.

Put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard (thumbs to phone screen?) and begin.

“Once upon a time …”

Recalculate When Necessary

You may find you made a wrong turn or missed the cut-off. But just like the old GPS units used to say, “Recalculating.”

You wouldn’t abandon your idea for a vacation because you had to do some backtracking and recalculating to find your way.

Don’t abandon your idea if the road to publication gets a little bumpy or if you have to find your way through unfamiliar territory.

Ask for Help

When planning your trip, you may hop online to get inspiration or check out customer reviews of accommodations and tourist attractions.

If you get lost (on the road or in the airport), you may have to check with someone in the know.

Even after you reach your destination, you will likely count on dozens of other people to make the trip a success.

Granted, writing is, in many ways, a solitary endeavour, but “no [writer] is an island.”

Writers rely on countless others on the journey from the first spark of an idea to published work—and beyond. Those people may include beta readers, editors, proofreaders, marketing pros, web designers, and many others.

Celebrate Your Arrival

“We’re here!” to a traveler is as amazing as “The End” is to a writer.

Touching down on the tarmac or penning those satisfying words isn’t really the end of the journey. But it is well worth taking at least a few minutes to do a happy dance—literal or figurative.

Finalize Plans

You may have a detailed itinerary in hand, but it’s good to check on reservations and make sure everything is in order. On most trips, adjustments have to be made.

When it comes to releasing a book or publishing a blog post, adjustments may be in order. Or, possibly, if you’re new to the process—or have just been too busy with other things, you may have to create that website, research traditional and indie publishing options, find out how to get your work in front of readers.

Begin Planning for the Next Journey

It took about five minutes before I started planning our next trip to Newfoundland when we were there last summer. Since our son and daughter-in-law live in Scotland, I thought it would be a wonderful location for a family gathering. They wouldn’t feel like they’d left home—except, of course, for the hours of travel and the money spent.

Even if you’ve arrived at your writing destination, you likely have plans for several other projects. While you want to relax for a while and enjoy the moment, you just may want to grab that note-taking device and outline the next journey.

Wherever you are along the way, take a deep breath, and marvel at the fact that yes, you are a writer. And it’s one of the most exciting journeys you’ll ever take!

Tweetables:

How is vacationing like the writing journey? [click to tweet]

9 ways travelling is like the writing journey. [click to tweet]

“We’re here!” to a traveler is as amazing as “The End” is to a writer. [click to tweet]

Take a deep breath, and marvel at the fact that yes, you are a writer. And it’s one of the most exciting journeys you’ll ever take! [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.

Review: Touched by Eternity, by Susan Harris

Touched by Eternity, by Susan Harris (White Lily Press, 2019)

Book cover: Touched by Eternity (A True Story of Heaven, Healing, and Angels) by Susan Harris

I was eager to read this book, since I’ve communicated enough with author Susan Harris to respect her Christian faith and her integrity. Despite the popularity of books recounting near-death experiences (NDEs) I’ve avoided them until now because I had no way to verify the writer’s trustworthiness.

Subtitled “A True Story of Heaven, Healing, and Angels,” Touched by Eternity is a memoir of the author’s three NDEs and related visions and how these events have shaped her life. A nonfiction author with an analytical mind, she relies heavily on details (including her hospital records and notes taken at the time) to anchor her personal experiences in as much fact as possible.

At the same time, the events themselves make the book as easy to read as a novel.

An experienced speaker, leader, and teacher, Susan Harris makes no claims to having touched Eternity by her own merit or strength. Instead, as one would expect with a near-death experience, her moments of greatest physical pain and weakness have been the gateways to the spiritual realm.

She writes with honesty about her personal failings and about her struggle to understand what happened and to accept the disappointment of tasting Heaven and then being returned to earthly life.

Christians can be uncomfortable discussing NDEs out of fear of drifting into heresy or false teachings. The Bible shows people being brought back from the dead, but we don’t get their testimonies of what they saw while they were gone.

I appreciate how Susan Harris finds biblical connections for many of her observations and how she’s careful to present her interpretations as her own and not as doctrine or fact. Her stated purpose in writing this book is to stimulate discussion, encourage the faith of Christians, and inspire non-Christians to seriously consider Jesus’ words about Heaven and Hell.

It’s interesting to read that in her research into other NDE accounts, she found similarities and yet differences, as if individuals were seeing part of a much-greater whole.  

Favourite line:

My whisper was hoarse, the broken kind He hears because He Himself had hung ragged on a rugged cross. [Kindle location 2284]

No matter how much or little pain we’ve endured, Touched by Eternity reminds us that it’s in our brokenness that we’re closest to God. It challenges us to take time alone with Him, to remember what He’s taught us in the past, and to obey anything He’s called us to in the present that we may have been neglecting. Our time on earth is limited, and we need to be about our Father’s business before that time runs out.

Other books by Susan Harris include Little Copper Pennies (a history of the Canadian one-cent piece) and Remarkably Ordinary. She currently hosts a television show called ETERNITY. For more about the author and her work, visit susanharris.ca.

[Review copy provided by the author. My opinions are my own.]

Author Interview: Jessica Kate

Author Jessica Kate

Preparing for the release of her debut novel, Love and Other Mistakes, on July 30, author Jessica Kate somehow squeezed in time for one more interview—provided we kept it to three questions. You’ll find her author bio and the details of her book below, but first, let’s hear from Jessica herself.

Janet: On the internet, we’re citizens of the world and often don’t know which country people call home. So for those who don’t know, I want to celebrate that you’re an Australian author. What’s something you love about where you live?

Jessica: Oh, great question! I love Australia’s weather (visiting the USA I’m often surprised at how much more extreme the temperatures are), beaches and relaxed vibe. The more I visit beaches overseas the more I realize how ours really are among the best in the world.

Janet: How did an international author catch the attention of an American publisher?

Jessica: I guess the story starts with first getting an agent. I met Chip MacGregor at a writing conference in 2015. While I didn’t have an appointment with him, I went to his class on book proposals and used the question time at the end to show him mine and ask what he’d improve. He looked at it and liked it, and long story short he wound up my agent.

Once we’d worked on the book for a while (quite a bit of re-writing and polishing which really strengthened the book) Chip sent it out to multiple publishers. I met many of them, either in formal meetings or again stalking at writing conferences, and then they got the book proposal.

I think it helped that I have an Aussie accent and was wearing a bright red dress at the time. It meant they could remember me more easily. 😊

After a long wait, Thomas Nelson made an offer! I was so excited!!!

Janet:  Love and Other Mistakes looks like a light-hearted read, perfect for summer. What do you hope readers take away from the story?

Jessica: Hope! The book combines humor with a lot of family and romantic drama, and some messy situations. But at the end of the day, God is bigger than our messes.

Janet: “God is bigger than our messes” – that gives hope, all right. Jessica, thanks for taking time to chat today, and all the best with your writing!

Jessica: Thanks Janet!

More about the books:

Book Cover: Love and Other Mistakes, a novel by Jessica Kate

There’s a fine line between love and hate…. And for the last seven years, Natalie Groves has hated Jeremy Walters.

Natalie Groves was meant for great things. But soon after her fiancé left, Natalie’s father was diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly her grand plans evaporated…and God felt very far away.

Fast-forward seven years, and an internship presents Natalie a chance at her destiny – but she needs a job to work around it. And the only offer available is worse than a life sentence. Her ex Jeremy, now back in town, is desperate for help with his infant son and troubled teenage niece, Lili. And Natalie may be just the one to help Jeremy…provided they don’t kill each other in the process.

When Jeremy and Natalie join forces, sparks fly. But will either of them get burned along the way?

Book Cover: A girl's Guide to the Outback, a novel by Jessica Kate

Kimberly Foster needs help from the last man in the world who would give it.

She and Samuel Payton fought so much during their three-year stint as colleagues that they now reside in different halves of the globe. She’s still the business director of the Virginia-based youth ministry that Sam founded, while he’s back at his family’s farm in rural Australia.

But Kimberly can’t find a suitable replacement for Sam, and the ministry is in trouble. She needs him back. What she doesn’t know is that the Payton farm’s finances are scarier than statistics on Australian spider bites.

She and Sam strike a deal: if she can use her business savvy to save the farm, he’ll return to Virginia and recruit and train his replacement.

Soon Kimberly’s on the edge of the Outback, working more closely with Sam than ever before. Can she protect his family’s legacy, the ministry, and her heart?

About Jessica Kate

Australian author Jessica Kate is obsessed with sassy romances.

She packs her novels with love, hate, and everything in between—and then nerds out over her favorite books, movies and TV in the StoryNerds podcast. When she’s not writing or discussing fiction, she’s hunting the world for the greatest pasta in existence.

Her debut novel Love and Other Mistakes releases July 2019, while A Girl’s Guide to the Outback hits shelves in January 2020.

Receive her sassy short The Kiss Dare FREE when you sign up for her newsletter at jessicakatewriting.com.

Book links

Love and Other Mistakes – https://books2read.com/u/3L06gJ

A Girl’s Guide to the Outback – https://books2read.com/u/b570Dl

Social media

Facebook and Instagram: Jessica Kate Writing

StoryNerds podcast: Available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts and at www.storynerds.podbean.com.

Review: Far Side of the Sea, by Janice L. Dick

Book cover: Far Side of the Sea, by Janice L. Dick

Far Side of the Sea, by Janice L. Dick (Tansy & Thistle Press, 2019)

Danny Martens, now a man, was an infant when his Mennonite parents fled the USSR to China in the 1930s. The refugees became farmers, then refugees again. At long last, they’re in a refugee camp in Germany—far from their promised destination in Oregon.

Far Side of the Sea is book 3 in the In Search of Freedom trilogy, beginning in 1951 and spanning 40 years to bring this multi-generational family saga to a satisfying conclusion.

I appreciate the characters, especially Rachel and Luise. Despite their many hardships, these two women live a sincere faith. They don’t deny the pain, but they choose to let it press them closer to their Saviour. Danny carries trauma he won’t share with them, and in his anger at God he bears it alone.

With this novel, we move from a foreign setting to the western US, and from the 1950s (which are still in the historical genre) to 1990, which is recent enough for me to remember. Readers with longer memories will enjoy recognizing nods to their past.

While you could enjoy this novel as a stand-alone, I recommend beginning with book 1, Other Side of the River. Take time to savour the Martens family’s full experience. As difficult as parts of their journey are, there are also moments of laughter. And some well-turned phrases.

Some of my favourite lines from this book:

As Rachel watched Luise from day to day, the older woman grew more tired, more worn. But then, they all felt weary after years of homelessness, persecution and fear, as though their souls were getting thin.

He didn’t even say amen, because now that he’d begun a conversation with God, he didn’t think the dialogue was over. [Danny, after a brief, desperate prayer for help.]

“A broken heart does not heal quickly, but it does mend enough to allow us to live again.” [Brigette, another favourite character, who doesn’t appear often.]

Historical novelist Janice L. Dick has also written Calm Before the Storm, Eye of the Storm, and Out of the Storm, a Mennonite historical series set during the Russian Revolution. For more about the author and her work, visit janicedick.wordpress.com.

[Note: I received an advance review copy from the author. My opinions are my own.]

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