Tuesday, December 12, 2017

That Guilty Feeling

Maybe readers everywhere belong to this not-so-exclusive club.

I just returned from ministry overseas and with all that I need... should....must do, I have succumbed to that siren call of "You need a break. Settle down awhile and pick up that book you've been wanting to read."

It doesn't take much for me to give in and shirk the work. But then that mean old niggling starts.

"Soiled clothing (see how big that pile is?) needs washing! Floors. Ugh! Need to go food shopping, cereal alone, just doesn't cut it . Windows? Forget it! Letters to answer, not forgetting Christmas cards to send." On and on it goes almost shaming me to get to work. Yes, almost is the operative word.

If you're an avid reader, you'll understand. Or perhaps you have iron resolve like some upright leading characters you read about. Really? Yet every so often you find yourself tempted beyond your control. And you slip a little. You pick up that novel you've been dying to get at. And you settle down, despite telling yourself, "Just a few minutes....." Hah! Too late!

And that strange mix of "Can't wait to get to the end and find out what happens," with this, "Hope this doesn't end too soon. It's so good."

Escapism? Is that what it's all about? Or could it be something else drawing us into another world of characters who face the same battles we face? Is it the longing in most of us yearning for wrongs to be made right? To see perseverance and prayers and hope rewarded by our loving God who knows us inside out?

These are some of the reasons I enjoy well-crafted inspirational novels so much. Yes, I also read many other secular novels and appreciate their honesty as to how the authors see their world. But I love the truth that comes to my heart and soul from reading a story in the light of a Christian World View. That point of view gives hope to us and often opens our eyes in recognizing our own imperfect selves. It reveals how giving up is not an option. And how trusting God is not a weakness of character, but more of a trusting, child-like faith in a God who cares for His children.

Why did Jesus tell so many stories? He compared the natural everyday life with its complexities to the spiritual world. In this way He never placed burdens on His followers, instead, He promised His strength to cope with our life, no matter what difficulties we face.

So, taking time out to read helps our souls to grow. It helps us to see that others have overcome those seemingly insurmountable problems.  So let's not feel too guilty about our time out for reading, huh?

Rita Galieh, has written a trilogy of historical novels, Indie published, and also contributed to several US anthologies. She is now completing a third historical romance series. A member of ICFW, ACFW, and several Australian blogs, she is on Facebook and www.ritastellapress.com  

Rita studied art at the Sydney National Art School then joined the family ceramics studio. After their marriage, she and her husband attended Emmaus Bible College, and were also involved with Christian Television on Sydney’s Channel Nine. 

Currently she co-presents Vantage Point, an Australia-wide Christian FM radio program. She enjoys giving her fun-filled presentations of ‘Etiquette of the Victorian Era’ in costume.

Monday, December 11, 2017

A Short History of ICFW ... and The Future

By Iola Goulton

One of the many hats I wear is Zone Director for the American Christian Fiction Writers Beyond the Borders group, which is for ACFW members living outside the United States of America. We have around 100 members, from over a dozen countries. Most are from Canada, but we also have members from Australia, France, Hong Kong, Japan, Mozambique, New Zealand, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, the Virgin Islands, and the United Kingdom.

Part of my role includes contributing to and helping organise the International Christian Fiction Writers blog, along with Narelle Atkins and Jenny Blake.

ICFW was started in 2009 by twenty-one members of the Beyond the Borders group, most of whom were writing for (or aspiring to write for) one of the main US-based Christian publishers. Author websites and group blogs were a fairly new innovation, and it made sense for this group of international authors to band together to try and reach readers interested in novels by international authors or featuring international settings (or both).

Many of those early posts have had single-digit views, as is common for new blogs. But some have been read hundreds and thousands of times over the years. For example, The Battle of Blood River by Shirley Corder has been viewed over 5,000 times. Many other posts have been viewed over 1,000 times.

There are now almost 2,500 posts on the blog. 

The blog has evolved over the years as contributors have joined and left, but the premise is the same: Christian authors writing stories in international settings. But what started as a blog focused on reaching readers has slowly turned into a blog that’s a little more writer-focused than intended.

And, if we’re being honest, the blog branding is tired. The main brand image has been updated to include new bloggers (including yours truly), but the essential look hasn’t changed in eight years. That’s about eight decades in internet time.

It’s time for a refresh.

We are going to be rolling out some changes here at ICFW. We’re not changing everything. We’ll still be right here, at http://internationalchristianfictionwriters.blogspot.com. We’ll still be posting every weekday. And we’ll still have a devotional post each Friday.

But we won’t be having the weekly Sunday Edition post any more. It doesn’t get many views—I suspect people want to see what’s on the blog today, not what’s coming up tomorrow. I know I do.

We’ve introduced a tagline: Connecting Readers and Writers Around the World.

That’s what we want to do: talk about books. And reading. And topics related to books and reading. Because we love books. And reading. We love talking about and introducing people to our favourite books and authors.

We want to introduce US readers to international authors and settings. We want to introduce non-US readers to books set in their home country. Okay, some of the books we feature will be set in the US, but that’s because the US is an international setting to most of us. We want to connect readers and writers from around the world over our love of reading. Because the best writers love to read.

We will be having themed posts Tuesday and Wednesday: Bookish Tuesday and Wandering Wednesday. We’ll also have a monthly New Releases post (and maybe even some giveaways).

The most noticeable change will be the look—we’re currently testing new colours, fonts, and images, and will be rolling out the new look across the blog over the next week or so (we've already updated Facebook and Twitter, and we even have a group board on Pinterest). Meanwhile, here’s a taster:

What do you think? What would you like to see more of here at International Christian Fiction Writers?

About Iola Goulton

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

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

Sunday, December 10, 2017


Coming Up This Week 


Iola Goulton: A Short History of ICFW ... and The Future


Rita Galieh


Patricia Beal: Resolution 2018: Resolve Nothing.


Janice Dick: All About the Journey

Friday Devotion

Dianne Wilson


Upcoming Releases

Lisa Harris' romantic suspense set in Amsterdam, Deadly Exchange, will be a January 2018 release from Love Inspired Suspense.

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the USA, Wishes on Wildflowers, Book 4 in her Urban Farm Fresh Romance series, will release independently in January 2018.

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the USA, Harvest of Love, Book 3 in her Garden Grown Romance series, will release independently in May 2018.

To find more International Christian Fiction books, please visit our 2017-2018 Book Releases page, 2013 - 2016 Book Releases page and Backlist Titles.

Friday, December 8, 2017

DEVOTIONAL: Tis' the Season

By Leila Halawe

Christmas is almost upon us. Decorations are going up, carols are playing and Christmas presents are being wrapped and stored under the tree. It is an exciting time of year where we get to stop and fix our eyes on the miracle that is Jesus. It is a time when we can gather together and give thanks for the year that has been; the blessings and joys and highlights that were sprinkled throughout 2017. It is a time when we can sit with our loved ones and enjoy a meal and make new memories to tuck away in the corners of our hearts. Yet for some, it can also be an exhausting time of year. For some, Christmas is a time when family gatherings bring anxiety and weariness and fear of potential conflicts. A time when gift shopping and the expectation of doing Christmas right adds stress to an already tight budget. A time when weariness from working so hard all year seeps in and you are aching all the way down to your bones. For some, Christmas brings with it the knowledge that another year has gone by with prayers unanswered. 

If you find that Christmas has lost its glow in the midst of life, be assured that you are not alone.

It is easy to let the chaos and burdens of life get in the way of what Christmas is all about. I imagine that Mary and Joseph were both feeling weary and overwhelmed as they traveled to find a place to birth Jesus. While the bible doesn’t go into detail about how they felt, it’s not hard to imagine how weary Mary and Joseph would have been feeling as they traveled from Galilee to Bethlehem to complete the census that had been decreed at the time. It’s not hard to imagine the aches and pains they would have felt as they tried to find a place to settle so that Mary could give birth. It’s not hard to imagine the fear and anxiety and nervousness that Mary would have been feeling while Joseph tried to find a place to rest and deliver the baby. I imagine that upon walking into the stable, there would have been a sigh of relief to finally be able to get off their feet and get some rest.   

But then Jesus came along.

Despite the long travel, the fear, anxiety and weariness that would have been their companion, it all came to a stop when Jesus arrived. It all stopped at the sight of baby Jesus. Everything faded away as they beheld the face of the One that would save the world. The world faded away as they fixed their eyes on the greatest gift the world has ever seen, Jesus Christ. The birth of Jesus didn’t change what was happening outside; they were still in a stable, still under threat and still exhausted. None of the external factors had changed, but they had changed. They had stopped. They fixed their eyes on Jesus and they beheld Him and adored Him. And that is what we can do this Christmas.

We can stop.

We can fix our eyes and we can behold the gift of salvation that was so freely given to us.

We can let the rest of the world fade out as we make time to stand in awe and worship the Son of God that came for us. We can put the lists and plans aside and meditate on scriptures that tell of why Jesus came. We can set our hearts on Him in childlike wonder and give thanks for the gift of salvation that Jesus was and is. The turkey will still need to be cooked and the presents will still need to be wrapped and Uncle Jack will still be falling asleep in his soup over the dinner table, but let’s put all that aside for one moment and just worship. Let us intentionally stop and adore Him. And let’s remember that Jesus is the reason for the season and that only He can restore and redeem us. As we gather with our loved ones, let us remember that He is worthy of our praise and love and let’s thank Him for all that He has done, is doing, and will do. 

Leila (Lays) Halawe is a Sydney based coffee loving nonfiction writer and blogger. She has published a short devotional, Love By Devotion, and shares her views on life and faith via her blog page Looking In . You can connect with her via Facebook at Leila Halawe Author  and via Twitter at Leila Halawe.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

11 Steps to a Great Blog Post

By Iola Goulton

Blogging. It’s often considered one of the basics of a good author platform, but a lot of authors find it an unpleasant chore. Today I’m sharing my top tips for taking the stress out of blogging, and producing great posts.

And if even the thought of establishing a blog or an author platform fills you with dread … I can help. Click here to sign up to be notified about my March Marketing Challenge: Kick Start Your Author Platform.

But now, onto my 11 Steps to a Great Blog Post:

1. Plan Ahead

Yes, I know this sounds boring. But it will cut down on your blogging stress in two ways because it means you won’t be scrambling to write and edit a blog post at the last minute. Planning ahead also means you can write when the urge hits you … even if that’s several weeks ahead of your scheduled post date. As an example, I’m drafting this post on 22 November. I know December is going to be busy, so I’m trying to get ahead while I can.

For those of us who contribute to group blogs, planning and scheduling ahead of time makes life a lot easier for the blog admins. 

A missed post can take an hour or more of admin time in checking the blog, checking the schedule, contacting the other admins, contacting the blogger, waiting for an answer, and trying to find a substitute post.

I’m an administrator for two group blogs (this and Australasian Christian Writers) as well as having two blogs of my own (Iola Goulton and Christian Editing Services). It gives me a good feeling to check the calendar on Monday morning and find all the posts are scheduled for the week. All I have to do is promote them (see point 10 below).

2. Find the Perfect Topic

Sometimes you’re writing a blog post with a specific goal in mind: to share a cover reveal, a pre-order, a new release, or a specific time-sensitive promotion. These are easy posts to plan and write ahead of schedule, and should be part of your regular book launch marketing plan.

Sometimes you’re writing a post that has to fit a particular theme e.g. a book review. Here at ICFW we’ve always had a Friday theme: a devotional post. But we’ll be introducing themed Tuesday and Wednesday posts in 2018 (and I’ll be talking a little more about them in my next post. Yes, I’m planning ahead).

But more often you’re faced with a blank slate. I find those blank slate posts harder to write than when I’ve got a topic in mind. So … plan ahead. Plan out what topics you’d like to cover and when. Then you can write to cover those topics, or (if the muse hits you) you can write to please the muse.

What makes a great blog post topic? I suggest:

  • Something that interests you (so you’re going to enjoy writing it)
  • Something that’s not going to date quickly (so you can continue to promote the post in the future).
  • Something that’s relevant to your target audience. You do know your target audience, right? Do they ever ask questions? Yes? Then write an answer. You’re likely to get the same questions over and over, and having the answer in a blog post means you can direct future askers to the post.
(Kick Start Your Author Platform has more great tips on choosing the perfect post topic.)

3. Write at least 300 words

One of our objectives as writers is to be read. Which means writing words people want to read. But first people have to find what you’ve written. This means making your blog post as appealing to Google (and other search engines) as it is to your target reader.

Which means writing a blog post that’s at least 300 words long. More words are better, but only if they are good words. No padding!

(P.S. In a group blog, that's 300 or more words of content. Not 300 words including your bio.)

4. Make Your Post Scanable

As you write, make your post scannable. Many people read blog posts via a reader (such as Feedly), or on a mobile or tablet.

In an online world, scanable equals readable.

To make your blog post scanable:
  • Use short paragraphs (no more than four lines).
  • Use headings and subheadings.
  • Use bullet points or lists where relevant. Like here.

5. Ask a Question

As bloggers, we need to engage our readers, to keep them coming back. A great way of doing this is to ask a question.

This could be like my Bookish Question, or like #FirstLineFriday posts (what’s the first line of the book nearest you?).

Or you could ask a question that’s relevant to theme of your post. If the post is sharing your favourite novels, ask your readers their favourite novels. If you’re about Christmas, ask your readers to share their favourite Christmas memory. You get the idea.

The blogs I enjoy reading most are generally conversations where the comments are as important as the blog itself. So work out how you can turn your blog post into a conversation.

6. Revise. Edit. Proofread

We’re writers. We can do this. (If you can’t, Christian Editing Services can help you!)

7. Add a Killer Title

Feedly delivers me over 100 blog posts every single day. I don’t have time to read 100 blog posts. No one does. So how do I decide which posts to read? Based on the title.

Some people don’t want to use clickbaity titles such as 11 Steps to a Great Blog Post. However, it’s only clickbaity if the post doesn’t actually deliver on the promise (or makes you click through 32 screens to get the 11 points).

Also, I’m reliably informed (thanks, Margie Lawson) that people subconsciously like numbered posts, because the numbers show us how much longer until the end of the post.

8. Include a Relevant Image

People like images. Search engines like images. Social media likes images—experts will tell you posts with images get more attention.

Include images. (But make sure you are using them legally.)

Your main image should be centred at the very top of the post. This is the image Blogger will pick up for social media shares (if you use WordPress, you can select a Featured Image. WordPress will display that at the top of your post, and use it for social media shares).

Intersperse images throughout a longer post—it breaks up the text and makes it more readable. 

Use design software such as Canva to brand your images, so your images stand out to someone randomly scanning through Feedly. And include your killer title with your image—that will help when you’re sharing to visual sites like Instagram and Pinterest (see 10, below).

If you’re posting on a group blog like ICFW, include your author photo, bio, and social media links at the bottom of the post.

9. Add Your Byline

Tell your readers who wrote the post. This is especially important if you’re writing for a group blog with multiple contributors. Some people will choose to read the post because you wrote it. Make it easy for them to know they want to read this post.

10. Promote Promote Promote

Note: promote promote promote does not mean spam spam spam.

Promoting means sharing your post with your target audience using relevant social networks.

If your post is about your multi-author romance giveaway, share in places where romance readers congregate (hint: not LinkedIn).

I use Buffer to share to Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter—their Power Scheduler means I can even schedule multiple posts at once. A few clicks, and it’s done, with a unique message for each network (e.g. one or two #hashtags on Twitter, but more on Instagram).

Why these networks?

  • For my reader-writer-reviewer posts, my target reader is on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Many are also on Twitter, and it takes only a few extra seconds to get Buffer to share to Twitter as well.
  • For my writer-editor posts, my target audience is on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. The beauty of Pinterest is that people can follow specific Boards, so people who aren’t interested in writing can choose not to follow my writing-related Boards.

I share on Google+ because that is indexed for SEO purposes. Translated: sharing to Google+ means Google is more likely to show my blog post (or Google+ share) to someone who is searching for posts on my topic.

The other reason for sharing or promoting is that some blog posts get more traction on social media than on the actual blog. For example, my weekly Bookish Question often gets no comments on the actual blog post, but always gets Likes and Comments on Facebook and Instagram (especially Instagram).

One request: if you’re a member of a group blog like ACW or ICFW, consider using a programme like Buffer to share everyone’s posts, not just your own. Because this is a community. Let’s work together and help each other.

11. Engage

You finished your blog post with a question, right? Now it’s important to check back and make sure you respond to answers (and other comments). And don’t forget to check your social media networks and respond to comments there as well.

Readers want to connect, to engage. That means responding to comments in a timely manner.

That’s it. My top blogging tips. Is there anything you don’t understand or you’d like more information on? Or anything you’d like to add? Let me know in the comments.

About Iola Goulton

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

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

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Merry Christmas!

It's that time of year again... Christmas!

I just love it! :)

The music, decorations, lights, shows, time with family, that special feeling in the air, everyone trying to be nicer... It's magical!

This year my kids asked for some toys that aren't sold in stores anymore.
That sent us shopping at second hand stores.
Luckily, we snagged some toys on their list!
We should have some happy little girls on Christmas morning!
I can't wait! :)

But I also couldn't pass up the opportunity to purchase these beauties for myself!

Check out this photo:

All those Love Inspired Books from one store! I couldn't believe it!

Love Inspired Suspense:

Love Inspired:

And Love Inspired Historical:

It was like meeting friends :)

Definitely an early Christmas gift for me :) But also, a gift for the future, since I hope that when the girls grow up these are the books they'll choose to read.

And those Love Inspired Historicals are soon to be antiques ;)

So thank you to all the Christian writers for their hard work, and the readers who make this all possible! I hope our stories multiply and we all have an abundance of amazing books to read in the New Year!

God Bless you all!

Eva Maria Hamilton

Eva Maria Hamilton is the author of Highland Hearts, a Love Inspired Historical novel published by Harlequin. Her novel, Highland Hearts, won 2nd Place in the Historical Romance, as well as the Traditional/Inspirational Romance Categories in the Heart of Excellence Reader’s Choice Awards, and was an Inspirational Series Finalist in the 2013 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. Her short story, Disinherited Love, can be read in the anthology, A Kiss is Still A Kiss. Eva Maria Hamilton is also the owner of Lilac Lane Publishing, which has currently published, Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice Colouring & Activity Book featuring Illustrations from 1895, Jane Austen’s Sense And Sensibility Colouring & Activity Book featuring Illustrations from 1896, and Jane Austen's Emma Colouring & Activity Book featuring Illustrations from 1896.

To connect with Eva Maria Hamilton, please visit her at www.EvaMariaHamilton.com or LilacLanePublishing.com


Monday, December 4, 2017

Enjoying the Simple Things

by Lisa Harris

I've been doing a lot of running these past few months. We're currently on furlough in the US which means hundreds of miles of travel, a new bed every few nights, and way too much delicious food. We've visited with families, and churches, caught up with friends, and shared updates on our ministry. In the midst of this, I've been busy getting our two older children settled in the US, homeschooling, writing two books, and launching two other books. It's been a wonderful time of encouragement for our family, and I'm so grateful to everyone who has hosted us and spent time with us. But I have to say, I'm tired.

I'm sure most of you know how so easy to get lost in the business of life. It's easy to miss seeing the simple things right in front of us. The little things that make us remember what is really important. Things like family, faith, friendships, and the unexpected beauty around us. Now with the Christmas season in front of us, life will probably get even busier for most of us. It's so easy to rush around, planning, organizing, and in the process we forget the true reason for the season. 

But how can we slow down?

1. Make time for what matters.

What's important to you right now? Sometimes we have to say no to one thing in order to say yes to something else. Sometimes we have to make sacrifices, so the urgent doesn't push aside what's really important. 

2. Live in the moment.

How many of us multitask? We're doing one thing while always thinking about the next thing that has to be done. And in doing so, we often miss out on what's really more important. Yep. . .I'm so guilty of this. Lost in my to-do list, more interested in crossing things off then living in the moment. Don't let the business of the season make you miss what's right in front of you. Stop. Listen to your kids or your spouse. Take time to enjoy beauty around you. Do something nice for your neighbor or a co-worker. Drink a cup of tea. Watch a movie with a friend. Invite someone over for dinner. And when you're there, be in the moment.

3. Live happily ever after.

In my books, I always have a happy ending. I love it when the bad guys are caught and the heroine and hero realize that they love each other. Movies with happy endings make me smile. And I like to smile. We all know that in real life doesn't always have an ending you'd want to put in a book. Real life is messy, full of both laughter and tears. But I've always been a glass half full kind of person. I want to see the best in people. Believe that God can bring healing and restoration. Isn't that why he sent his son to be born in a stable? So that we could be redeemed and live with him forever in heaven.    

Romans 8:18 says "...what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later." 

What do you do when you feel like life has you running and you need to slow down and focus on what's really important? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

I'm praying that each one of you have a blessed Christmas seasons and take time to enjoy the good things around you!

Lisa Harris

Visit my website to find out about my books. Best selling romantic suspense!