The Edge of the Desert

As some of you may (or may not) have noticed, I have not kept up with my good intentions and posted here every Friday. The last couple of Fridays, for example, I have sat for a while, contemplating this empty blog space and my thoughts, trying to decide if either are worth sharing with anyone. As you may have surmised, I decided they were not and went back to doing other things.

I’m in a bit of a dry season of my life. I called this post the edge of the desert because I can’t claim to be in the midst of a full-blown, tumbleweeds-blowing-by kind of time. But the well of creativity (and pretty much every other aspect of my life) is definitely a bit low. 

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I feel a little like one of the characters in my WIP, the third book in The Night Guardians Series. Christina and her husband have experienced a tragic loss that has shaken their faith and their marriage to the core. Here’s an excerpt:

Not that she didn’t want to be close to him. Most of the time she longed for his touch, ached with the desire for things to return to the way they used to be between them, to the time when that well within her was so overflowing with everything she wanted to share with him that she couldn’t touch him enough, be with him enough, or tell him a joke for the sheer joy of watching him throw back his head and laugh often enough.

When he moved toward her now, the bucket she dropped down to retrieve something, anything she could give him in return clunked against the hard, cracked bottom of the well and came back up empty.

I’m going through something a little like this in my life right now. Not nearly as extreme, but just feeling as though I don’t have a lot to give in any aspect of my life. Someone posted to Facebook recently that during periods of spiritual dryness, the best thing to do is to dig deeper, be extremely intentional about spending time in the Word and in prayer. That resonated with me. Not that it is an easy thing to do – digging a well through hard, dry earth is a momentous and daunting job. But when water is struck and that well fills to the brim with cool refreshing water, isn’t every moment of the arduous task suddenly well worth it?

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My prayer for all of you is that, whatever you are going through in your life right now, you will experience the life-giving water that only Jesus can give. As he said to the woman at the well, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 5:13-14). 

Press on, my friends.

Press on,

Sara

 

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In Praise of Book Reviewers

I always say that writing the book is the easy part. The next hardest thing is convincing someone to publish it, and the hardest part of all is getting anyone to even hear about it, let alone read it. We have a book-saturated market. A million new titles appeared on Amazon last year alone. We live in an age where anyone and everyone can write a book and get it “out there”. So how can new authors ever hope to find readers for their books?

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I have heard writers say over and over, when asked why they write, that they do it because they can’t not write. That they have stories inside them that just have to get out. I’ve given this same answer myself, and it’s true. It’s only half of the equation though. As strong as the desire to get our stories down on paper (you know, virtually) is, the desire to have those stories read is just as strong. I once read a quote that said this is because the journey of writing a book is a circle, and the circle is not complete until the story is read, which I believe with all my heart is true.

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And so the challenge: how to get that story you have worked on for so long and so hard actually read. By someone you aren’t related to.

Marketing and promotion are definitely not my thing. I would much prefer to write the book, hand it off to someone else, and let them take care of all the rest. Like they did it in the good old days. Problem is, it doesn’t work that way anymore. Authors have to market their work. 

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So, the last two weeks The Seven Trilogy has been on a tour around the Internet. 10 days, 21 blogs (actually, 19, since one blogger devoted a post to each of the three books individually, over three days – bless her). It’s been an interesting experience.

The problem with getting your books out there is, well, that they’re out there. That makes them fair game for reviews and criticism and feedback, positive and negative. It’s all allowed, and it’s all perfectly acceptable. After all, no one book is going to appeal to everyone, and, given how many books there are out there, it is valuable for potential readers to hear different opinions and the reasons behind them so they can decide if this is a book they want to invest time and money in.

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Personally, I have a love-hate relationship with reviews. I know a lot of authors don’t read them, which I get and even think is wise. I can’t stop myself, but it’s always with a hand-over-my-eyes, grimacing-as-I-peer-through-my-fingers type of read. Still, I’m thankful for each and every review. For every person who is willing to take time out of their busy lives to get their hands on and actually read my books (which still always amazes me). And who then go to the extra effort of posting their thoughts on those books for others to see.

So if you have read and posted a review about my work, on this tour or any other time, whatever you said about the books,

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from the bottom of my heart. You have completed the circle for me, and you have helped me find others who just might do the same. And I appreciate that more than I can say.

Press on, my friends.

Press on,

Sara

P.S. If you haven’t been following the tour and are interested in seeing what others have to say about The Seven Trilogy, check out the blogs listed here: https://justreadtours.com/2019/01/07/welcome-to-the-seven-trilogy-blog-tour-and-giveaway/

 

 

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Judging Covers

Hello all,

I hope the new year has been good to you so far. It is snowy and sunny here in Ontario, Canada, and it’s amazing how much that lifts the spirits.

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Today I’m working on design ideas for the cover of my next romantic suspense novel, Vigilant, coming in June 2019. My publishing company has a fabulous designer, but they welcome their authors to participate in the ideas stage of the creative process. I’ve been combing through thousands of images the last couple of weeks, searching for inspiration. Hopefully I’ve come up with a few ideas that might work.

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I know firsthand how difficult it is to overcome the challenge of a cover that doesn’t quite work for the book, as I experienced that with the original covers of The Seven Trilogy. Although the designer (different designer, different company) did a great job with them, they didn’t quite match up with the genre, which may have contributed to slow sales as my target market wasn’t drawn to them. The covers have since been redone, but only time will tell if that will be enough to make up for the cooler-than-hoped for response to the books when they were released.

the seven series - half size

So the pressure is on with my next set of covers, for The Night Guardian Series. Because the truth is, although we’re warned not to, as humans we really do judge books by their covers (I know I do). Very often this expression is used to warn us not to judge people by the initial impression they make, yet we have a tendency to do that as well. Which is a sobering reminder for believers. As followers of Jesus Christ, it does matter what we do and say and do, how we present to others. As Jesus put it, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). This means, if we are not living lives worthy of our calling, it not only reflects badly on us, it reflects badly on God. Whether we like it or not, our “cover” speaks volumes to the world, not only about who we are, but about the one we claim to serve.

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My prayer for myself this new year is that the cover I present to the world will at all times bring glory to God. That the words I speak, the way I say them, whether or not I show love, kindness, and compassion towards others, everything I say and do will draw others to him and not push them further away.
May the covers of each of us who call ourselves Christians reflect who we truly are – humble, broken but redeemed, grateful believers in Jesus Christ. And may others see that in us this year and be blessed.

                                                                                                               Press on, my friends.
                                                                                                               Press on,
                                                                                                               Sara

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Good Intentions, Grace, and a God who Remembers

Like most people, I am full of good intentions regarding the various aspects of my life. Professionally, for example, I have lots of ideas about how to better market and promote my work, but I only have the time and mental energy to incorporate one at a time (if that). For starters, I recently committed to posting on my blog every Friday (seriously, once a week, even I can handle that, right?) Apparently not. For several weeks I posted faithfully and then, well, life.

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I became swamped with editing projects for other authors, rounds of edits on my next novel (I’m allowed a shameless plug on my own blog, aren’t I? If so, Vigilant, Book One of The Night Guardian Series, release June 2019!), kids, husband, Christmas shopping, family health issues, finances, and on and on. So the last three weeks I have failed to deliver on my promise to myself and to you. Thankfully, it is the start of a brand new year, always a good time for renewing vows and promises and following up on those good intentions, at least for a few months (or weeks). So I will attempt to get back into that routine, starting this week. As a next step, I hope to launch a newsletter early in 2019 (stay tuned for more on that).

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Good intentions in other areas of my life are not always (ever?) sustained either. Spiritually, I need more quiet time in the Word, feeding my soul and growing deeper in my walk with God. Having just come through the Christmas season, when I was reminded at every turn of God’s love for the world and his plan to reconcile us to him through the birth, life, and death of Christ, I now desire to re-commit myself to being more intentional in reading the Word daily and to “praying without ceasing” as the Apostle Paul admonished believers to do.

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Physically, the usual – eating better, exercising more. When I do this I feel so much better and have so much more energy I ask myself why I would ever not live like this. And then I slide so easily back into bad habits. A reflection of how things go in other aspects of my life as well.
My word for 2019, however, is Grace. As I strive to show more grace to others, I will also attempt to show it more often to myself. Forgetting what is behind, I will try always to focus on striving towards the goal before me. Life happens. My old, sinful nature wars constantly with my desire to grow closer to God and to be disciplined in all other areas of my life. But one of my favourite passages in the Bible is Psalm 103. Verse 13 says, “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”

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I am grateful every day that I love and serve a God who remembers that I am dust, that I want to but so often fail to keep my commitments, to live a disciplined life, and to follow through with my good intentions. A holy God who over and over again extends grace to his broken children. That is a God I can commit to serving and honouring with all my heart, every day of the year.

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So Happy New Year to you all. May 2019 be a year filled with hope, joy, and peace. And may we all extend to others, and to ourselves, the grace we ourselves have been shown by our good God.

Press on, my friends.
Press on,
Sara

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A Christmas Prayer

 

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My friends, as we enter into this season of celebrating and giving thanks to God for sending His son into the world to be Emmanuel, God with us, and to reconcile us to Himself, I would like to share with you a prayer I wrote to honour the one who came:

Father God, we ask that you would prepare our hearts as we enter this holy season. Your Son, when he came to earth as a baby, was called Wonderful Counsellor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. May we honour him as Wonderful Counsellor, by listening to that still, small voice leading and guiding us every moment of every day. May we honour him as Almighty God by always giving him first place in our hearts and our lives. May we honour him as Everlasting Father by coming before him with reverence and placing ourselves under his care and protection, and may we honour him as Prince of Peace by taking time, in this Christmas season and all through the year, to live lives not characterized by stress, rushing, busyness or performance, but by peace.

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A very blessed Christmas to you all. My prayer for each one of you is that you experience the supernatural joy and peace of God throughout this sacred and holy season as we celebrate and give thanks for the greatest gift ever given.

                                                                                                              Sara

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Things I Learned on my Retreat

Quiet. Rest. Contemplation. Uninterrupted work. Meals prepared for me by others. Evenings curled up by the fire. If this was the Pyramid game, the answer would have to be: Things I Rarely Experience in my Everyday Life.

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As I mentioned in my previous post, I have spent this week on a writing retreat at a friend’s cottage. While the focus for the three of us is always writing, we manage to find time, here where our regular duties, responsibilities, and activities do not rudely insinuate themselves into our “me” time, for other things as well. Eating, of course. Long walks out in frigid temperatures made bearable by the breath-taking beauty of our surroundings.

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And contemplating all aspects of life. Here is what I have learned in each:

Spiritually: I’ve been more conscious and intentional than usual about starting my day in the Word, praying, and just being still and listening for God’s voice and leading. When I do that, I worry less, I am more at peace, and I remember that I don’t have to do it all myself. God is with me every moment of every day, no matter where I am or what I am doing, and he will provide me with the strength, resources, and wisdom to do the work that he has called me to do.

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Physically: long walks, good, relatively healthy meals, and more sleep than usual have left me feeling refreshed and strengthened to return to regular life. A good reminder to take care of myself whether I am on a retreat or not, so that I can take care of others.

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Mentally: I’ve been able to focus this week, more than I have in a long time, on what I am doing with my life and my writing career, and where I want to take both of those from here. With time and discussions with my friends, clarity has come. If I’m serious about my writing, I need to give it a place of more importance in my life. I need to devote more time, effort, and energy, not only to writing, but to promoting and marketing (ugh) my work. So I have devised a plan to cut back on certain other responsibilities and carve out more time to focus on my passion, calling, and ministry.

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Emotionally: having the time to make headway on my lengthy to-do list, even to cross several projects off of it, has lightened my load, relieved my stress, and helped me to lift my head from my feet, trudging along one step at a time, to take in the panoramic view of the future spread out before me. 

I’m sad the week is nearly over. But, newly equipped for what lies ahead, I am excited to return home too, to the people and the life I love and am so grateful for. And that’s one of the best and most beneficial rewards of going away – realizing how much you appreciate what–and whom–you have to return to at the end of your journey.

Press on, my friends.

Press on,

Sara

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Mountain Brook Ink Holiday Blog Tour – Stop #24 – A Canadian Christmas

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Welcome to Mountain Brook Ink’s 2018 Holiday Blog Tour! We’re so excited you’ve decided to join us on this journey of family, friends, traditions, and memories over the next month. You as our reader have done so much to pour into our lives, and this season we want to give back to you with insights into our lives AND some giveaways. The more days you follow, share, comment, and engage with us, the more entries you’ll have toward a Kindle Fire Grand Prize (US addresses only) or one of three Amazon Gift Cards! For more information about the blog tour go to: http://mountainbrookink.com/2018/10/23/2018-holiday-blog-tour/

Luke 2

I realize that, with American Thanksgiving just two days away, a Thanksgiving-themed post might seem more appropriate than a Christmas one here, but I am Canadian, so this is just a regular week for us. We celebrated our Thanksgiving back in October, and you can read my post, “Thanksgiving is Not a Feeling”, dated October 5th, just below. While I do try to cultivate a spirit of gratitude all year long, for me, this time of year is all about Christmas. My husband Michael and I have been married almost twenty-three years, and we have carried on a lot of the traditions we grew up with, as well as incorporating some of our own. Christmas Eve is my favourite time. We always go to church, and I love the mixture of barely-restrained excitement and reverent awe that his evening—and the remembrance of that little baby’s birth in Bethlehem two thousand years earlier—always elicits. I love the carols too, and look forward to this service as a highlight of my year.

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After church, my family heads home to eat dinner and watch The Polar Express. We actually own more than one copy of this DVD so that, if something happened to one of them, we wouldn’t have to sacrifice what has become an important Christmas Eve ritual. Of course we drink hot chocolate while viewing, so we are prepared to join in on the scene where the hot drink is served on board. As soon as the movie ends, the kids leave a note, cookies, and a glass of milk on the table for Santa and his reindeers before heading off to bed. Okay, not so much anymore, since they are all in their late teens (our oldest is 20!), but personally I really miss this part of the evening, you know, when they looked like this:

My beautiful picture

When Michael was a child, Santa always left a stocking on his and his brothers’ beds so that when they woke up early Christmas morning they could spend time opening them and playing with the contents, thereby buying his parents a precious extra hour of sleep. While I can definitely appreciate the sentiment, I have always been far too excited about my kids’ reactions to what’s in their stockings (they love those even more than their gifts) to miss out on watching them dive in. As a result, my family does what my sisters and I did every Christmas morning while we were growing up: we wait until everyone is in the hallway then, oldest to youngest, we march downstairs together and open our stockings all at once. After stockings we eat breakfast (strata made the night before and baked that morning, coffee cake, and fruit) before heading back to the living room.

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Someone reads Luke 2 and we pray together before opening our gifts, one at a time. Which we still do, even now that they look like this:

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After that the day is pretty quiet. We play games or read and enjoy our presents and spending time together as a family. More family get-togethers will happen over the next couple of days, so this day is a welcome reprieve and offers a great opportunity to reflect on what Christmas really means, and who it is all about. And to be thankful for the gifts God gives us every day of the year.

Join us tomorrow for Stop #25 with Taylor Bennett. The links for Taylor’s and all the blog stops can be found here: mountainbrookink.com/2018/10/23/2018-holiday-blog-tour/

AND don’t forget to leave a comment below and enter the MBI Blog tour giveaway (void where prohibited by law). I’d love to hear all about your holiday traditions too, so please share.

CLICK HERE TO ENTER!

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