Thursday, December 21, 2017

Happy Winter Solstice!

From Gary Zukav:

The winter solstice has always been special to me as a barren darkness that gives birth to a verdant future beyond imagination, a time of pain and withdrawal that produces something joyfully inconceivable, like a monarch butterfly masterfully extracting itself from the confines of its cocoon, bursting forth into unexpected glory.

Monday, December 18, 2017

You are the beloved by Henri Nouwen

You Are the Beloved: Daily Meditations for Spiritual Living by [Nouwen, Henri J.M.]

You are the Beloved by Henri Nouwen. This book was published in October of 2017 by Convergent Books.

This is a daily devotional written by the much-loved author of numerous spiritual classics such as The Return of the Prodigal Son and The Wounded Healer. It is intended to empower readers to claim the truth that "we are the beloved" and features the best of Nouwen's writing from previously published works.

The Amazon write-up says, "It will appeal to those familiar with Nouwen's work as well as to new readers looking for a devotional to guide them into a deeper awareness of their identity in Jesus."

My thoughts:

I wanted to fall in love with this book or this author. As someone who's encountered Nouwen quotes in countless other books of Christian nonfiction, I was sure I would become a fan and that after tasting the sampling here, I would want to read many of his books.

It didn't happen. Each sampling was taken so far out of context, and nearly always without an accompanying scripture reference, that the daily devotions were nearly meaningless to me.

However, I did leave many, many highlights, which is my custom, so it must've spoken to me to some extent. But it did not speak to me like others I have read that employed the same format.

Maybe it's just a difference in author personalities and voices.

For example, after reading Dear Abba: Morning and Evening Prayer by Brendan Manning, I went on to devour several of Manning's books. How I love this man's thoughts.

Although I did not fall in love with You are the Beloved, I am not giving up on Nouwen, however he has dropped a little lower on the list of Christian authors whose works I intend to read.

I was provided a free copy to read and review by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

The Bible from 30,000 feet by Skip Heitzig

The Bible from 30,000 FeetTM: Soaring Through the Scriptures in One Year from Genesis to Revelation by [Heitzig, Skip]

The Bible from 30,000 feet, by Skip Heitzig. This book was published in September, 2017, by Harvest House. 

Book description: An Eye-Opening and Engaging Guide to the BibleEnjoy the magnificent panorama of Scripture like never before! Pastor Skip Heitzig shares a FLIGHT plan for all 66 books of the Bible to help you better understand the context and significance of each. In this one-year overview, you'll discover... 
  • Facts—about the author and the date each book was written
  • Landmarks—a summary of the highlights of the book
  • Itinerary—a specific outline of the book divided by themes
  • Gospel—how to see Jesus within the book's pages
  • History—a brief glimpse at the cultural setting for the book
  • Travel Tips—guidelines for navigating the book's truths
If you have ever found yourself getting lost and wandering from verse to verse in Scripture, put yourself firmly on track with the clear aerial view offered in The Bible from 30,000 Feet.

My thoughts: 

The author created a clever way to explore the Bible using flight as an acronym (see above). For each book of the Bible, he does a thorough job of going through all of the points listed. 

I found a few possible errors, depending on your stance toward modern Bible scholarship. For example, he contends that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible. 

This is a common view, however I have read that most modern Bible scholars do not believe the Pentateuch was written by Moses, or not all of it. (See How to read the Bible by Harvey Cox.) 

I am not a Bible scholar, so I will leave that debate to the experts. 

I am, however, someone well-acquainted with flight, as my husband and I travel frequently, both in commercial airlines and in our own small airplane. I would say that the title should be instead: The Bible from 5,000 Feet

From 30,000 feet, you don't see much ground detail, whereas from 5,000 feet, you see much more. This book is dense with details. In fact, it weighs in at 642 pages. The Bible itself is only about 350 pages long. 

So, will you learn much about the Bible while reading this book in conjunction? 

Of course. The information goes well beyond the short summaries found frequently at the beginning of each book of the Bible.  

I enjoyed seeing how Jesus figures into each book. I especially liked learning about the cultural setting. That is so important, if we hope to understand what the words might have meant to people in ancient times and how it sometimes dramatically changes what the words could or should mean to us.  

I was provided a free copy to read and review by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

IWSG: knowing what I do now, what would I have done differently in 2017?

Hosted by: Insecure Writer's Support Group

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post. And please be sure your avatar links back to your blog! If it links to Google+, be sure your blog is listed there. Otherwise, when you leave a comment, people can't find you to comment back.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

The awesome co-hosts for December 6 are Julie Flanders, Shannon Lawrence, Fundy Blue and Heather Gardner.

Remember, the question is optional! Here is this month's question: 

As you look back on 2017, with all its successes/failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently?

So here I am, dipping my feet in IWSG and feeling very insecure. Guess I'm in the right place. My answer is long. If you want to skip to the summary at the end, it won't hurt my feelings.

This was me at the beginning of 2017: After an 18-month family crisis that ended sadly on December 27 of 2016, and an ongoing crisis with ups and downs (the new normal), I started 2017 with the intent of focusing again on my writing.

Fall of 2016, I had started a wagon train-themed book targeted for Love Inspired’s historical line, as they had stipulated that they were seeking wagon train stories. I spent a couple of months researching wagon trains. Fortunately, research is fun.

I was half-finished with a draft in [March] when Love Inspired announced they were closing the line. It was the second line in two years that I had hoped to break into, only to learn they were closing their doors.

That, combined with the fact that Christian publishers were significantly reducing the size of their fiction output, or discontinuing their fiction lines entirely, took the wind out of my sails. Christian fiction publishing had taken a huge hit due to Family Christian bookstores filing for bankruptcy.

Around the same time, my website was up for renewal. As I was unpublished and there weren't possibilities, even on a distant horizon, I could no longer justify spending $500.00 a year to maintain a website.

Especially one that broke in one way or another every time Wordpress updated itself, which was frequent. Bluehost, which hosted it, also had its problems. I was glad to say good riddance to the design and maintenance of my own, way-too-expensive site.

I returned to good ole’ blogspot and opened a new blog. I had left a perfectly good blogspot blog three years previously. Why I did not return to it (this one), rather than spending a lot of time developing a new one, is something I would definitely do different.

Especially because here I am, back at the blog I'd abandoned in 2014.

But I didn't know I would return, then. In May, when I set up the other blogspot blog, I reasoned that because the blog you're reading had been a YA book review and writer’s blog, and I intended to review Christian nonfiction exclusively on the new blog, I needed an entirely separate blog in which to do it.

Different audiences = different blogs, right?

However I am now convinced it's unnecessary to maintain two separate blogs, especially as I now plan to review YA fiction, sweet and Inspy romance, and Christian nonfiction, on this blog. So I imported posts from the CNF blog into this one. I hope to attract an audience that reads and loves all of these genres as much as I do.

Though Love Inspired had announced it was closing the line I had hoped to break into, I continued to work on the wagon train story until late August, when a third family crisis affected my life greatly. It bumped me (and especially my writing routine) off track for a couple of months.

Oh, the slings and arrows of life.

In September, I attended a one-day SCBWI conference in Spokane with a good friend whose first book had debuted with a small press in July. Congratulations, Sharon!!!

That, combined with the earlier negative happenings (lines folding and the massive shrinkage of the Christian fiction market), got me interested in writing for the YA market again.

So for the past two months, I've been revising one of my two completed YA manuscripts.

And today, I have returned to this, my original blog, inaugurating it with a post about my writing insecurities! Ha. Yes, they are many and deep. 



If I could've known at the beginning of the year what I know now, I would've returned immediately to this blog after closing down my website instead of messing around for a few months, creating and posting on a separate blogspot blog. Heck, if in the spring of 2014 I had known what I know now, I would never have created the website and I could've saved a ton of effort and money. Such is life.

As to which fiction genre I should be writing, I am admittedly guilty of wandering. I'd gone from YA to Inspirational and now back to YA. It just seems that Christian fiction is not currently the market in which I should be spending my time. So I plan to continue down the YA path until I learn otherwise.

I have a plan and I am not stuck. As Seth Godin says, “The way to get unstuck is to start down the wrong path, right now.”

Having read this, do you think I should've stayed with the Inspy market? Self-published? Is returning to YA a logical direction?

What about you? What would you have done differently in your circumstances?
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