Friday, March 16, 2018

Feeling Stuck? Read on... Devotion by Dianne J. Wilson

I watched a bee try to get out of my house yesterday. He buzzed up a storm up and down the glass. He was trying to find a hole, I guess? Up and down, left, right. He pushed hard to get through every millimeter of that glass pane. He was dedicated. Committed. Probably a bit desperate. At the end of the day? Still stuck.

Before you think I’m heartless for watching the poor thing struggle without helping it, hear me out.

The window was open.

At any moment, he could have flown free.  I did eventually help the little guy, but it got me thinking about how we live sometimes.

We can see the vision, the goal, the dream. We push towards it with every scrap of our energy. We keep pushing and trying, we change tactics and try again – because surely a God-given dream should work, right? And yet sometimes, there is simply no breakthrough. We try until our all our energy and passion is depleted and then a small sliver of disappointment lodges deep inside. If nothing changes, this sliver grows to a wedge that can drive us away from trusting God and what He’s called us to do.

Friends, if God has placed a dream in your heart – the window is open.

If I spoke bee, I would have said to that little chap buzzing in my window, “Hey, take a step back. Stop the frantic buzzing and breathe a little. Find the scent of fresh air and follow it.”

God is saying the same to us. “Step back. Stop the frantic buzzing and breathe. Find the fresh wind of the Holy Spirit and follow it.”

‘Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of hosts.’ Zechariah 4:6

‘I know that everything God does will endure forever; 
nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it.’ Ecclesiastes 3:14

Dianne J. Wilson writes novels from her hometown in East London, South Africa, where she lives with her husband and three daughters. She is writing the third book in YA series, Spirit Walker, with Pelican / Watershed. Book 1, Affinity is releasing on the 8th of June 2018.

Finding Mia is available from AmazonPelican / Harbourlight, Barnes & Noble and other bookstores.

Shackles is available as a free ebook from Amazon & Smashwords.

Find her on FacebookTwitter and her sporadic blog Doodles.

Thursday, March 15, 2018


by Janice L. Dick  @JaniceDick54


I’m an introvert. I would guess that a large percentage of writers are. At conferences I’ve attended, the emcee will often comment about the buzz of talk among all the introverts, but that is, of course, because of our common interests, and the fact that we are respectful of one another’s reserved nature.

When I was young, I read a Peanuts® cartoon that stuck with me. Charlie Brown said to Linus, “I love mankind, it’s people I can’t stand.” I concurred, not knowing anything about the basic differences between people who love to foster new relationships, and those reluctant to do so. However, there have been times—I call them magic moments—when I’ve met another introvert and we’ve become instant and lasting friends.


I attended my first Write! Canada conference in Guelph, Ontario at the invitation of the planners, to facilitate a fiction workshop. (I felt anything but qualified, but that’s another story.) One of the responsibilities that accompanied the gig was that I agreed to be available at mealtimes to speak with people. I wanted to crawl inside my shell, to put my back to the wall and observe. But I couldn’t. I had to step out of my area of familiarity and pretend I was comfortable speaking with strangers.

At one meal, two women approached me, one being the spokesperson, because the other was too shy to come forward on her own. Barbara (not her real name) and I sat down together and found instant camaraderie that amazed both of us, as well as Barbara's friend, who shook her head in wonder. The two of us chatted away about writing and life and stories until lunchtime was over, and we hadn’t thought to eat. That’s also rare for me. Although I’ve since lost touch with Barbara, our instant relationship will always remain in my memory as a true heart-connection.


Just last week, we visited our daughter and family in Alberta. Since their son’s teacher knows I write, she asked if I’d come read to them and speak a bit about writing on Read Aloud Day. I was thrilled…until a few days before the event, when I had second thoughts. Silly fears jumped into my mind, questions like, why on earth did I agree to this? But I followed through and the event was lovely. The students were enthralled by the reading (excerpts from the beginning chapters of The Secret World of Og by Pierre Berton), they participated in the discussion session, and they helped create a simple “Story Quilt.” The pièce de résistance was the gift of a story written just for me—Goldie Goes to the Vet—by Daniel G., one of the grade three students.

As much as I love my quiet times alone, these magic moments are rare gems to store away in my memory, to remind me that I can do things that are uncomfortable, that introversion should not be allowed to control my life, and that opening up to people can be rewarding, no matter what our life work is.


Janice L. Dick is an award-winning author who writes from her rural home in Saskatchewan, Canada. She writes contemporary and historical fiction, blogs, book reviews, and inspirational articles. In September 2016, Janice became the first recipient of the prestigious Janette Oke award, presented by the InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship.
 In 2016 Janice established her indie imprint: Tansy & Thistle Press: faith, fiction, forum, and has since released two more historical novels. Find out more at her website.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Wandering Wednesday: Bath, England

By Carolyn Miller @CarolynMAuthor

As a major fan of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, it was inevitable that on a trip to England to visit my sister that I would have to visit Bath, in Somerset. No longer would I have to be the ‘poor relation’ looking on with envy as others posted their scenic shots of places I was meant to be, places I knew so well from such novels as Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, Bath Tangle and a more recent Christian novel Prelude to a Lord. Now it was my turn to walk the streets (not run, as Anne Elliot did in the 2007 film of Persuasion!) and soak up the atmosphere of a city founded by the Romans in the first century AD.

Unsurprisingly for a city named Bath there are…Roman Baths. This iconic bathing complex is based on hot springs, and is a must visit for any tourist. According to UNESCO, the Temple of Sulis Minerva and the baths are some of the most important Roman remains north of the Alps, with the associated waters considered to hold health-giving properties, which led to it becoming England’s premier Spa town of the Georgian period.

Today, you can visit the Baths, see the Roman remains, or, if you’re like me with something of an Austen addiction, ‘take the waters’ at the Pump Room, where the famous pump delivers the slightly sour tasting water for your improved health, and where numbers of characters of various books have visited. Of course, I had to take my characters there in my new Regency novel Winning Miss Winthrop, both to experience the waters and the gossip associated with this fashionable venue of the 1800s.
Nearby is the magnificent Bath Abbey, founded in the 7th Century as a Benedictine monastery, which owes a lot of its current splendour to major restoration work in the mid-1800s. This Grade 1 listed building is a wonderful example of Gothic architecture, and is noted for its breath-taking fan vaulting and stained glass. Definitely worth a visit.

Of course, a trip to Bath means a visit to the Jane Austen centre, where one can learn more about this illustrious author, take a tour, try on Regency attire, and even take tea with Mr. Darcy (!). This is a fabulous place to conduct research, such as examining Regency-era concert programs, complete with descriptions of Galas of music and Grand Illuminations (fireworks) of new devices and decorations - in other words, a Regency author's dream.

Walking up Gay Street takes you past a glory of Georgian architecture, before The Circus (a street enclosing a round park) takes us to the Upper Assembly Rooms, where elegant society would assemble and mingle and perhaps engage in matchmaking. These rooms consist of the Ballroom, Octagonal room, tea rooms, and card rooms, and were the site of dances, concerts and lectures, and the site of many dramatic scenes for Austen heroines. I used these elegant 18th Century rooms for a number of pivotal scenes for Miss Winthrop – including a masquerade!

Not far away is another of the iconic scenes of Bath – the Royal Crescent, a row of 30 terraced houses in a semicircle, and one of the most fabulous examples of Georgian architecture in Britain, and a prestige address with its views over the park opposite.

Bath is built in the valley of the River Avon, with many steep streets and rows of terraced houses lining the surrounding hills, all designed for aesthetic appeal by illustrious 18th century builders. A walk along the river takes you across the beautiful Pulteney bridge and up another hill to Sydney Gardens. This is another location mentioned in Austen and Heyer novels, and a place any true Austen aficionado should visit – and Austen-inspired authors should use. So, of course I had to set several scenes here, especially as the many trees and paths make it perfect for secret rendezvous.

Bath is well worth a visit even if you’re not a history buff or a great fan of Austen’s literature. It is one place (of many!) I’d love to return to, and spend longer time, soaking in the atmosphere of this beautiful, evocative city.


Carolyn Miller is giving away an print copy or ebook copy (winner's choice) of Winning Miss Winthrop. To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment on this post and/or ICFW's March New Releases post on March 19. Receive two entries in the drawing by commenting on both posts. I'll draw a winner from the comments on Saturday, March 24.  

Carolyn Miller lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children. Together with her husband she has pastored a church for ten years, and worked part-time as a public high school English and Learning and Support teacher. A longtime lover of romance, especially that of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer’s Regency era, Carolyn holds a BA in English Literature, and loves drawing readers into fictional worlds that show the truth of God’s grace in our lives. Her Regency novels include The Elusive Miss Ellison, The Captivating Lady Charlotte, and The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey, all available from Amazon, Book Depository, Koorong, etc 

Connect with her: website | facebook | pinterest | twitter

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Bookish Tuesday | Firing Line by Mike Hollow

Review by Iola Goulton @IolaGoulton

Firing Line by Mike Hollow is part of the The Blitz Dectective series. It's a police procedural following Detective Inspector John Jago as he investigates murders in London's East End during the Blitz, those months in 1940 when the Germans were routinely bombing British cities, especially London.

As is almost expected with a murder mystery, Firing Line opens with the discovery of a body. Joan Lewis has been strangled, but her body is found behind a locked door. How? Was her assailant known to her? Where did the Navy uniform hat come from? And the hard-to-get American nylons?

The novel also addressed some of the political issues of the age, such as boy's clubs, greenshirts, and Social Credit (a political party I never understood, and understand even less now I know what it is).

Firing Line is the fourth novel in Mike Hollow's Blitz Detective series, but only the second one I've read (I reviewed Enemy Action a few weeks ago). It's a standalone mystery, so it won't matter if you haven't. I did find I appreciated some of the subtle humour in the interactions between Jago and Detective Constable Craddock all the more for having read one of the earlier books:

I do enjoy the dry British humour. Some is remarkably modern:

So #FakeNews isn't new.

I have lived in London, and the old ladies in my church would tell stories about their wartime experiences—one was evcuated from the East End to North London, and her old house was bombed a few days later (I think the same night as her son was born). I lived in North London, and there was still an Andersen shelter in the neighbour's garden

I also had great aunt who lived in London during the war years. Her husband was an ambulance driver, and had stories of driving down a street to rescue someone, and the street being demolished when he drove back an hour later. Fifty years later, my aunt could still mimic the sounds of the British Spitfires and Lancasters flying overhead on their way to Germany. I've experienced a similar sound myself, watching air displays from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. I once saw sixteen Spitfires flying at once, the largest formation since World War II.

London itself has changed since World War II. The East End bore the brunt of the German attacks, so much of it had been rebuilt by the time I lived in London. The Docklands area is the new financial district, but the Thames remains one of the major natural landmarks of the city.

I enjoyed the location of Firing Line and the memories it brought back. But it's a good read for mystery lovers with or without the memories. Recommended.

Thanks to Lion Fiction and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

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.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Lessons from the five things spammers do wrong

I hate spam.

Not the faux-meat shaped like dog food, but the unwanted rubbish that appears in my email inbox every morning. The type of communication that leaves me disappointed that of the 100 emails I’ve got waiting for me, only three are actually real people with something for me.

I’ve noticed how much it’s infiltrating social media as well. The whole “fake news” movement means that we are becoming jaded to social media posts in our own feed, which is reinforced every time we see “Such cute dogs – Number #7 will melt your heart” or “You won’t believe Back to the Future was released 32 years ago.” (I would actually, I was there when it first screened).

I’ve studied spammers as a part of my day job: I write social media strategies and content for clients, and decided to get my head around what spammers do, and what impact it has.   By spammers, I don’t necessarily just mean those people who sit in a sweaty internet café in the Ukraine or Togo looking to steal your bank details, but those companies (legit or not) who end up flooding your inbox with stuff you don’t want.

That’s what defines spam. It’s not the fact that the communication is illegal or dodgy. Spam defines communication that is unwanted and irrelevant.

As I’ve moved into fiction writing, I’ve seen authors make those same mistakes (and I’ve even been tempted by a few myself).

Clearly we don’t want to be spammers, putting people off from engaging with us in the social media space, or when our eNewsletter arrives, so what can we learn from them?  Well, we can learn from the five things they do wrong. And I offer them to you as filters through which you can put your own newsletters, social media content and web sites.

1.    An overfamiliarity with me

We’ve all gotten that spam email. The one that reads like it’s come from a long-lost friend, despite the fact that you’ve got no idea who the sender is.  This type of email sounds like this:

“Hey David! Great to see you doing so well in business!  But I’m sure you’d love to do so much better, so lucky for you that I’ve got the product that will deliver exactly what you need!”

This is how I respond to this as I read it …

“Hey David! (Um, who are you?) Great to see you doing so well in business!  (How would you know?) But I’m sure you’d love to do so much better (I don't actually), so lucky for you (I don’t believe in luck when it comes to business) that I’ve got the product that will deliver exactly what you need (How on earth would you know exactly what I need?)!”

Do you know what that company was offering in that email? I don’t know. I stopped reading, and I enjoyed shunting their email to the Trash folder. Probably a little too much to be honest.

So what’s the lesson for authors? Presume nothing and don’t be too over-personal unless you’ve earned the right first. Learn about your audience first, THEN deliver something for them. Learn what they read, what they like, what they respond to and what puts them off. Then use THAT as a base for your connection with them.

2.    Expecting way too much, way too soon

I get the emails that are heavy on the sales pitch FROM DAY ONE.  It doesn’t work.  This is what that email looks like:

“As an introductory offer, we will give you 20% off, but only if you respond in the next 14 minutes …”

Sorry, but I don’t care about 20% off if it turns out that it will be a 100% waste of money.  I need time to research that. So that manufactured rush to get me to respond actually is counter-productive, because now I want to know why there’s such a hurry to push me into a sale.

As authors, we can’t expect everyone to read our elevator pitch and then buy our book. That process takes time for most people. They want to experience our ability, read some excerpts or be impressed with some recommendations. Then they'll weigh up whether or not we're worth it.

Lesson for authors: a small percentage of your audience will buy after the first interaction. Cater for the majority, who want to know more. Much more. And understand that your communication isn’t supposed to open and close a transaction in one hit. It’s supposed to add another brick to the wall.

3.    Being a salesperson first and foremost

I subscribe to a few eNewsletters, and will pretty much give anything a try in this field, although I am pretty ruthless when it comes to which ones I delete.

The ones I flick have one thing in common – they’re all thinly-disguised sales pitches. When I engage with an organization or an individual, and my expectation is that they’ll be providing me with advice, ideas, challenges or information that I can absorb – and they then do nothing but sell me stuff - I’m outta there.

I know some authors who constantly post that their book is available on Amazon all the time.  In the end I mentally switch off from anything they post, and that costs them the important bridge that social media is supposed to build. That's the case for many customers. They don't just stop reading the sales-related content. They stop reading everything.

Lesson for authors: Build bridges, then apply a toll. Resist the urge to sell, sell, sell ALL THE TIME.  There is nothing wrong with selling, but you need to have people’s trust, respect and interest before they’ll accept your sales pitch.

4.    Firing off a million emails, hoping to make one hit

You might have received those emails that look like they went to a million people, but still have a quasi-personal message about them.

This is what that looks like: “Hey customer, we all want to do better in life, regardless of what we want to achieve. Our product will do everything you need it to do, in a way that will really make your life turn around!”

Okay, so here’s my problem with this: in trying to be vague enough to reach everyone, they end up hitting no-one. When you’re online, you really need to target who you are speaking to (regardless of whether it’s a blog post, social media post or even web page).  And calling me customer instantly devalues all the other faux-personal style of the rest of the email or post. I know it's not for me.

If you’re an author, you need to speak more personally to people. It might be harder work, but it’s worth it. (And if you're wondering how this works with #1, the key to it is finding that happy medium. I'm happy to receive your eNewsletter if it says "Dear David", but not "Hey Dave ol' buddy, ol' pal".

Lesson for authors: if you’ve got a range of different groups following you (writers, readers, Christian friends and contacts and schoolteachers [for example]), then write four posts – one targeted to each group. It’s four times the work, granted, but it’s also the best way to engage with people – at their level.  One post that tries to reach everyone just doesn’t engage with people.

5.    Tell a story as if I’ve got the time to read it

I used to follow a real estate company because I liked what they had to say. In bite-sized chunks of information, they’d talk about what was happening in property and zeroed it on what I was interested in. I could digest it all in minutes, and feel informed enough to move on with my day. For deeper stuff, I could always follow their links to information that was a lot more detailed.

Then someone else took over, and everything changed.  Suddenly their posts and their articles took on a longer feel, and the writer (the new boss) felt that they needed to qualify everything first. That meant they were talking about themselves for paragraphs, before getting to what I was interested in in the last paragraph (sometimes this also went for Facebook posts).

I lasted a week.

You see, I haven’t got a heap of time to invest in reading this material. And I don’t want to waste time on information that doesn’t engage with me. So I don't read.

One thing I’ve found in business is that perfectly sums up the usual social media user. We all want to know what’s in it for us in the first five words. Not invest five minutes reading some waffle until the writer eventually gets to the point.

That’s the last thing authors can learn from: get to the point. You’ve got a handful of words to connect with your audience, so use them.

Lesson for authors: start every post with a statement that connects with your audience. Talk in their language, framing what you’ve got to say in the best way possible so a reader can digest it according to what they want. Don’t give them the history of the genre, give them the reason to read your book. Don’t go on and on about the fact you’ve got a newsletter – tell them why they’d subscribe. Start with a line that grabs their attention because it's got them in mind.

So that’s how my professional expertise informs how I connect with readers (and I’m still learning and tinkering).

What is your biggest frustration with spam, and what can you learn from it?