Tuesday, May 22, 2018

GDPR: What Authors Need to Know

By Iola Goulton @iolagoulton

What is GDPR?

The GDPR is the General Data Protection Regulation, and comes into force on 25 May 2018. It harmonizes data privacy laws across the European Union (EU), so it affects any organization holding personal data from EU residents. Note that the EU still includes the United Kingdom, so GDPR still applies. The British government have indicated they will implement GDPR-like legislation following Brexit (if it goes ahead).

Why do authors need to know about GDPR?

GDPR affects all organisations based in the EU, or supplying goods or services in the EU, that collect and process the data of EU residents, regardless of where they are based. 

Some contributors to (and readers of) International Christian Fiction Writers are based in the EU, so are directly affected by GDPR. The rest of us are likely to be affected as well, because we are supplying goods or services in the EU:
  • If we have a book listed on Amazon.co.uk or BookDepository.com, we're indirectly supplying goods.
  • If we have a website that's viewable in the EU, we're suppling services in the form of information. Free services, but still services
  • If we have an email list that includes EU residents or may include EU residents in the future, we're supplying services, and we may also be marketing to EU residents.
If you have a self-hosted website, then your site is collecting a lot of information on your behalf, and you are responsible for ensuring only the necessary data is collected, that collected data is kept private, and that it is deleted on request or within a reasonable timeframe.

For example, if you comment on www.iolagoulton.com, I ask for your name, email address, and website (although that’s optional). But the website also collects and stores your IP address, and may store cookies (e.g. so the site remembers you have commented before and that I approved your comment, so subsequent comments aren’t held for moderation. Another cookie knows not to show you the email signup pop-up more often than once every 90 days).

Yes, you need to know about GDPR.

But GDPR isn’t the big bogeyman some commentators are making it out to be. Sure, it toughens up on the way we collect and use personal data, but the main principles are around people who hold personal data using that data in a way that is fair, transparent, and lawful.

Please note: I'm not a lawyer, so none of the information in this blog post is legal advice. It's my best guess as a layperson who has studied the subject. If you want legal advice, you ask a lawyer who is qualified to practice in this area. In this case, that means a lawyer based in the EU with a background in privacy, data protection, or similar. You don't get legal advice off the internet.

There are two excellent YouTube videos from British lawyers, and I'll link to those at the bottom of the post for those who want or need to know more.

What does this mean?

We tell people what data we are collecting, why we are collecting it, what we are going to use it for, and we only use it for that purpose. And that purpose must be lawful.

We only collect the data we need, with the permission of the owner of that data. We do not pass data on without permission, and we make sure anyone we pass data to is also collecting and using that data lawfully.

That’s not so hard, is it?

First, the Possible Exception.

Yes, there is an exception, and that's when your website or blog is managed through a free provider such as Blogger (like Australasian Christian Writers) or WordPress.com (but not self-hosted WordPress.org).

As best as I can tell, Google owns Blogger. Blogger/Google collects personal information every time we upload a post to Blogger, or comment on an existing post. The writer owns the copyright, but Google owns the platform.

I suspect this makes Blogger the data controller, not me (or us, in the case of ACW), and that means it is up to Google to ensure Blogger sites are GDPR compliant. Click here to read Google's Privacy Policy.

I think the same is true for WordPress.com (i.e. not self-hosted WordPress). It’s hosted by WordPress, which means they own it.  Click here to read the WordPress.com Privacy Policy. Note that WordPress do say:

We also process information about visitors to our users’ websites, on behalf of our users and in accordance with our user agreements. Please note that our processing of that information on behalf of our users for their websites isn’t covered by this Privacy Policy. We encourage our users to post a privacy policy that accurately describes their practices on data collection, use, and sharing of personal information.

If this isn’t right, please let us know in the comments (with the appropriate link), and I'll update the post.

What do you need to do to prepare for GDPR?

If you have a self-hosted blog or website, or an email list, then there are some tasks you need to complete to prepare for GDPR. Based on the research I've done, here's my approach:

1. SSL Certificate

SSL certification adds a layer of security to your website. If you don't already have SSL certification, now is a good time to consider it. You may be able to get a free SSL certificate from your web host.

Neil Patel at Kissmetrics has just published a detailed post on the subject.

2. Privacy Policy

You need a Privacy Policy, outlining the personal data you collect and how that is used. I spent a whole day researching privacy policies online (and wrote a blog post about it), then discovered this: WordPress Privacy Policy

Automattic, the owners of WordPress and WooCommerce, have made their Privacy Policy available under a Creative Commons Sharelike licence. You will need to adapt it for your own needs and brand voice, but it's a great start.

Another good option is Zegal.com, which offers free privacy policies tailored for New Zealand or Australia. Mine was clear, easy to read, and easy to understand, but it's not GDPR-compliant. I contacted Zegal, and they say they will be releasing a GDPR-compliant Privacy Policy before 25 May, but it will only be available to paying customers.

3. Terms and Conditions

If you are selling directly from your website, you should consider a terms and conditions policy. I'm currently using the extreme legalese of Auto Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, but I will look at this again.

4. Cookie Policy

Most websites use cookies, and EU law requires website owners to advise visitors of this fact, and obtain their consent to using cookies. WordPress plugins such as the EU Cookie Law Widget help site owners comply.

Click here to learn more about cookies. Cookies can be addressed as part of your Privacy Policy, or in a separate Cookie Policy.

If you use WordPress, check out the GDPR Cookie Compliance plugin. It's easy to install and customise (you can check it out at www.iolagoulton.com. Note that I haven't customised it at all.)

5. Contact Form

Most websites have a contact form allowing visitors to email the website owner. It seems pretty obvious to me that completing a contact form means the website owner is getting your personal information, but some people are recommending adding a tickbox to make this explicit.

Regardless, your Privacy Policy will need to include what information you collect on your contact form, and what it is used for. The WP GDPR Compliance plugin for WordPress will add a tickbox to your Contact Form 7 or Gravity Forms contact form. It takes about two minutes to install and activate, which means WordPress users have no excuse.

6. Comments Form

Most blogs have a comments section, which collects personal information. Do we need to add a tickbox for specific consent? I've seen blog posts from non-experts that suggest we do, but my WordPress site doesn't have any way of adding a tickbox to comments.

However, the WP GDPR Compliance plugin also handles comments, so I've added the tickbox using this plugin. It took another three minutes.

7. Email Signup Forms

Your email signup forms need to include a reference or link to your new or updated Privacy Policy. You must also make it clear that visitors are signing up for a newsletter that will include sales and marketing emails, and that they have the option to unsubscribe at any time (which they will have if you're using a competent external email service provider. You are, right?)

There has been discussion over whether you can still offer a free gift to new subscribers. My understanding is that you can, but it has to be:

Sign up for my email list to receive regular newsletters and occasional marketing emails. In return, I'll send you a free gift!


Want a free gift? Sign up here!

Even better, have a tickbox as part of the signup form, so your website visitors know exactly what they are getting. I use Bloom from Elegant Themes* for my website signups, and that doesn't have the tickbox option. Yet. MailChimp* does have GDPR compliant forms, but they are not as pretty as my Bloom forms.

* These are affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you purchase something using these links. The amount you pay does not change. If you don't want to use affiliate links, then use your favourite search engine to find the sites.

8. Email List

Do you need to contact everyone on your list before 25 May to reconfirm they want to be on your email list?

This is the really hard part, and it's something even the experts can't agree on. Some experts and mailing list providers say yes. They say you need to email everyone on your list and ask them to reconfirm their consent, then delete the people who unsubscribe or don't respond. The issue with this approach is you will lose a large number of subscribers (although it is argued you're only losing the unengaged subscribers, so cutting them will improve the performance of your list).

Some email list providers (e.g. AWeber, ConvertKit) seem to be able to segment out EU subscribers by their IP address, which makes the consent process easier. If your email provider has this option, it's worth exploring.

Other experts advise against asking your email list to reconfirm their consent, because sending the email implies you don't have a record of their consent and you shouldn't be emailing someone without their consent.

The approach you take will depend on how you built your email list, and who your email list provider is. MailChimp (my email list provider) seems to be taking a softly-softly approach. Others (e.g. MailerLite) seem to be more aggressive in requiring list owners send reconfirmation emails.

What I don't recommend is what I've seen two US-based authors do over the last few days: email their list with a suggestion/request people opt out if they no longer want to be on the mailing list, and that not opting out will be taken as consent for GDPR. I don't like this approach for two reasons:
  1. There should already be an unsubscribe option on every email you send.
  2. This is passive consent—do nothing, and you're on the list. The principle of GDPR is that subscribers must actively consent to being on your mailing list. That is, they have to check the box that says "Sign me up!" to be on your list, not uncheck it to stay off your list. 
There is one thing the experts agree on: this is a good opportunity to either try and reengage your email list, and to delete those who haven't opened recent emails (say, any email for the last three or six months, or your last three or six emails). This is the approach I have taken.

Listen to the Experts

As I said at the beginning, I'm no lawyer. But I've read a lot of blog posts, and listened to podcasts and watched videos from GDPR legal experts. Here are the two best sources of information I've found:

Mark Dawson's Self-Publishing Formula podcast interviewed British lawyer Gemma Gibbs:

Nick Stephenson's First 10,000 Readers interviewed British lawyer Suzanne Dibble. Suzanne also has a Facebook group with loads of free information. Click here to find Suzanne's Facebok group. She also has a GDPR Compliance Kit for sale, for GDP 197. Here's Suzanne on GDPR:

What do you need to do to prepare for GDPR?

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.

Monday, May 21, 2018

International Christian Fiction - New Releases | May 2018 #giveaway

Solo Tu: Only You (A Tuscan Legacy Book 7) by Narelle Atkins 

Home means everything to Sienna Rossi.

Four years ago, Sienna defied her father by moving to Australia to obtain her teaching qualifications. Her grand plan is shaken by her father's unexpected death and a trip back to Tuscany for her grandmother's eightieth birthday where she renews her close bond with her sister, Alessa.

Teacher Dave Maxwell likes the freedom of his nomadic lifestyle. He works contract-to-contract, moving to different high schools around Australia. He's in Sydney for a season, caring for his grandma while his aunt is on an extended overseas vacation.

Back in Sydney, Sienna moves in with her Aussie cousins and starts her first teaching job, torn between her dream for a future in Australia and her longing for home. Sienna and Dave work at the same school, attend the same church, and quickly become friends. They are drawn together by circumstances and an undeniable attraction.

But their idyllic time together is temporary. Can the girl from Tuscany and the boy from Australia risk everything for love?


Narelle Atkins is giving away a print copy of Solo Tu. The giveaway is open to international entrants with a mailing address where Amazon USA delivers.

To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment on this post and/or Narelle's Bookish Tuesday post on May 29. Receive two entries in the drawing by commenting on both posts.

Check out Narelle's post on Tuesday May 29 for more information on the giveaway that will close on Monday June 5, 2018.

Available at Amazon.com

Harvest of Love: Garden Grown Romance Book Three (Arcadia Valley Romance 17) by Valerie Comer

Hot on the heels of a failed relationship, Kenia Akers focuses on her bookstore along with granting her aging grandfather’s desperate desire to get his hands in the dirt through a program at Grace Greenhouse. Reminding herself she’s on the rebound isn’t enough to keep her from falling for the hunky activities coordinator from Granddad’s facility.

Zane Russell is amazed that the fun-loving, pretty bookstore owner is attracted to him, a guy who’s not even in her league. As their relationship deepens, he avoids explaining why he seems allergic to books. Admitting his failures has never been a good move in the past.

Will they find a way to let openness, trust, and acceptance blossom into a harvest of love?

Available at Amazon.com

Digging up Secrets by Sandra Orchard (Victorian Mansion Flower Shop Mysteries)

Nothing is coming up roses for Kaylee Bleu. Not only are all of the plants in her flower shop going thirsty because of a busted well pump, but a competing florist of Orcas Island is stealing customers from The Flower Patch. As if that wasn’t enough to turn her into Florist Grump, a new client who could be Kaylee’s golden ticket to the lucrative country club set is also her most persnickety yet–and continuously threatens to take her business elsewhere.

But all of that seems like no big deal when Kaylee’s plumber discovers a fractured skull in her shop’s yard. The remains belong to Danny Lane, a troubled teenager accused of killing a high school girl in a boating accident thirty-five years ago. The consensus around Turtle Cove was that the boy fled town shortly after the accident, but Kaylee thinks the holes in that story are as big as the grave-size pit dug up around her well pump.

Unfortunately, somebody on Orcas Island wants Kaylee to leave the past buried. At first, she refuses to be intimidated by menacing messages and frightful pranks. But when suspicious accidents begin to befall witnesses close to the cold case, Kaylee’s seeds of doubt blossom into dread. She must decide how deep she’s willing to dig to determine if Danny’s death was an accident . . . or murder.

Available via subscription to the series at Annie's Attic

Rapsodia: Rhapsody (A Tuscan Legacy Book 3) by Alexa Verde

A risk taker with a crushed spirit and a control-addicted businessman with a crushed heart... Can they surrender themselves to God's healing love?

After the woman he loved left him for a richer guy, Marco Carter turned all his passion toward the chain of pizzerias he founded. He can control his business, unlike love. Then his world is turned upside down. He meets Samantha Jenkins on his flight home to Texas after his grandmother's eightieth birthday. Many hours with the guarded but beautiful Samantha has him questioning his career-centered mindset.

A born risk taker and fiercely independent, Samantha misses her former life as a travel photographer and extreme sports aficionado. But more than anything, she grieves her fiancé. On her trip from Italy on the anniversary of his tragic passing, the last thing she expects is to become drawn to her neighbor on her flight. Deep inside, she still blames herself for her fiancé's death...

Though Marco is determined to forget Samantha, the arrival of a mysterious painting reminds him of all that is missing in his life. Hoping for a new chance with her, Marco opens a pizzeria in Samantha's hometown in south Texas. Spending time with her, he's learning to surrender control to the Lord. But apparently it's easier to earn millions than to make Samantha open her heart again. What will it take for her to heal enough to trust in God and take the biggest risk of all-to love again?

Available at Amazon.com

Ti Amo: I Love You (A Tuscan Legacy Book 4) by Marion Ueckermann

She never wants to get married. He does. To her.

The day Alessandra Rossi was born, her mammà died, and a loveless life with the father who blamed the newborn for her mother's death followed. With the help of her oldest brother, Rafaele, Alessa moved away from home the moment she finished school--just like her other siblings had. Now sporting a degree in architectural history and archaeology, Alessa loves her job as a tour guide in the city of Rome--a place where she never fails to draw the attention of men. Not that Alessa cares. Fearing that the man she weds would be anything like her recently deceased father has Alessa vowing to remain single.

American missionary Michael Young has moved to Rome on a two-year mission trip. His temporary future in the country doesn't stop him from spontaneously joining Alessa's tour after spotting her outside the Colosseum. And being bold enough to tell her afterward that one day she'd be his wife. God had told him. And he believed Him. But Alessa shows no sign of interest in Michael.

Can anything sway the beautiful and headstrong Italian to fall in love? Can anyone convince her to put her faith and hope in the Heavenly Father, despite being raised by an earthly one who never loved her? Will her sister's prompting, or a mysterious painting, or Michael himself change Alessa's mind? About love. And about God.

La Fiamma Sacra: The Sacred Flame (A Tuscan Legacy Book 5) by Clare Revell

Forged in love's sacred flame, can a firefighter and a widow find the path God set for them?

Ric Rossi left the family farm in Tuscany and never looked back. Working as a firefighter in Reading, England, he has everything a man could ask for—a secure job, a firm faith, and a neighbour who cares for his cat Noci when he goes away. The only thing missing is a woman he can share his life with.

Widowed when her son Deforest was a week old, Bracken Hughes isn’t prepared to open herself to the heartache a relationship can bring. Especially with her handsome neighbour who risks his life each time he leaves for work. No matter how good the man is with her son.

Ric finds Deforest to be an appealing child who captures his interest. And the mother has that certain something that pricks his heart. But the unhealed wound in Ric's soul might just spoil any chance he has at love.

Available at Amazon.com

Bella Notte: Beautiful Night (A Tuscan Legacy Book 6) by Heather Gray

He likes to play the field. She's content to wear her goody two shoes.

Piero Carter packs light and travels often. He loves adventure and manages to keep his life simple by sticking to a two-dates-only rule. The longest relationship he's had -- aside from family -- is with his camera. As a photographer who works primarily with fashion, he's used to having his pick of beautiful women who want to be seen by his side.

Felicity von Wolff is a makeup artist whose job takes her around the world. That's all the adventure she craves. She has little use for Piero the Playboy. Being seen on his arm means getting tied to his reputation, and that's the last thing she wants. Yet, somehow, they keep getting thrown together. What's a girl to do?

Piero finally meets a woman who makes him want more than two dates, but does that mean he's ready for one of life's greatest adventures -- falling in love? When Felicity peeks over the wall she's built, she discovers there's more to the people around her than she ever realized. What will it take for Piero and Felicity to stop hiding from life and open their eyes to the rich beauty God has in store for them?

Available at Amazon.com

The 49th Mystic by Ted Dekker

Some say the great mystery of how one can live in two worlds at once died with Thomas Hunter many years ago. Still others that the gateway to that greater reality was and is only the stuff of dreams.

They are wrong. In the small town of Eden, Utah, a blind girl named Rachelle Matthews is about to find out just how wrong.

When a procedure meant to restore Rachelle's sight goes awry, she begins to dream of another world so real that she wonders if Earth might only be a dream experienced when she falls asleep in that reality. Who is a simple blind girl to have such strange and fantastic dreams?

She's the prophesied one who must find and recover five ancient seals--in both worlds--before powerful enemies destroy her. If Rachelle succeeds in her quest, peace will reign. If she fails, both worlds will forever be locked in darkness.

So begins a two-volume saga of high stakes and a mind-bending quest to find an ancient path that will save humanity. The clock is ticking; the end rushes forward.

Ready? Set?


Available from Amazon.com

Becoming the Talbot Sisters by Rachel Linden

Twin sisters Waverly and Charlie Talbot have drifted far apart as they pursue opposite dreams of stardom and service to the poor. On an astonishing journey across Central Europe, they must come together to face their fears, find their courage and fight for what they love.

Celebrity chef Waverly Ross has built a successful career with her home-entertaining show Simply Perfect. Yet she and her husband, Andrew, have never been able to realize the true desire of Waverly’s heart: to become a mother. Meanwhile Waverly’s twin sister, Charlie Talbot, buries her bitter disappointment and shattered idealism beneath a life spent serving others as an international aid worked in Budapest, Hungary.

When the beloved aunt who raised them passes away, Waverly and Charlie come together in their grief after living years on separate continents. Struck by a fierce desire to bridge the distance between them, Charlie offers Waverly and her husband the selfless gift of surrogacy.

But soon the sisters find they are each in danger of losing their jobs, seemingly putting their dreams on hold once again. When Waverly shows up unannounced in Budapest with a plan to rescue Simply Perfect, the sisters embark on an adventure across Central Europe that could save them both from occupational hazards. Though the twins haven’t had to rely on each other since childhood, an unforeseen dangerous turn in their journey across Europe forces them to stand together to save their careers, the baby, and each other.

Available from Amazon.com

No Less Days by Amanda G. Stevens

David Galloway can’t die.

How many lifetimes can God expect one man to live? Over a century old, David Galloway isolates himself from the mortal humans who die or desert him by making a quiet life as a used bookstore owner in Northern Michigan. But then he spots a news article about a man who, like him, should be dead.

Daredevil celebrity Zachary Wilson walked away unscathed from what should have been a deadly fall. David tracks the man down, needing answers. Soon David discovers a close-knit group of individuals as old as he is who offer the sort of kinship and community he hasn’t experienced for decades—but at what cost?

David finds himself keeping secrets other than his own. . .protecting more than himself alone. He’ll have to decide what’s worth the most to him—security or community. When crimes come to light that are older than any mortal, he fears the pressure is more than he can stand. What does God require of him, and is David strong enough to see it through?

Available from Amazon.com

Friday, May 18, 2018

Living a Balanced Christian Life (and other funny jokes) ... a devotion from Dianne J. Wilson

If you're anything like me, you spend most of your time juggling many things, wondering if you should have them all on your plate and trying to figure out how to 'balance' it all. Sound familiar?

Sometimes I feel like I'm limping along on a flat. Who am I kidding - most times.

I've attempted to fix my life pizza-style. You know, rearrange things into equal time sections so that everything at least gets a touch. That's not realistic though, so I whipped it all about into some sort of redeemed Mazlo's Hierachy... God first, family second, then church... oh wait. Is it meant to be church then family? I just can't get it straight. But where do you fit a book deadline into that? Or car repairs? How about elastics that need to be stitched onto a ballet shoe? Does that legitimately belong in family?

I've winged it too... on-the-fly-allocate more time to those things that are apparently more valuable than others. But you know what? All it takes it one cat with a fur-ball who decides it's time to let it all out over the lounge carpet to blow my priorities out the water. Or a kidlet who forgot about a speech that has to be done for tomorrow. Or a dropped bottle of ketchup-slash-tomato sauce... Fill in the blanks.

I've come to realize what I was missing from the whole equation. To run smoothly every wheel needs an axle, a central point that is constant. For us, that's Jesus. Once He is securely central, the origin for each thing that captures our time and energy... then our lives run balanced.

Here's the funny thing - there will be seasons of complete and utter 'unbalanced-ness' for each of us. A deadline, a new baby... whatever hits your life with enough force to shake you wonky. But when Jesus is smack in the middle, somehow the wheel can still run smoothly.

How can it though, when the spokes - AKA all the demands on us - are sometimes so unequal? Ask any cyclist how bumpy a ride with spokes like that would be.

Here is the secret... Jesus is a magnificent spoke equalizer. He doesn't just stand on the sidelines, barking orders and smacking his forehead when we get it wrong. He is right in the middle of our mess, His grace, the elastic that reaches the bits we can't get to. He stretches and holds on our behalf when our internal elastic is so frayed that our mental and emotional pants are falling down.

Right now for me, life is a stretch. I single-parent during the week, miss my hubby between weekends, try my best to mommy my girls, work, do home & pets and chase my deadlines. Some days I feel like something has to give or I'll conk out. But you know what? I just need to stay cuddled up to Jesus. He has all these things that pull at me, these spokes... He has them all. Where I fall short (so so short) He doesn't. And He's got you too.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

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, May 17, 2018

Finding the Dolce in My Far Niente

By Patricia Beal | @bealpat

The sweetness of doing nothing? I can't figure this out, folks.

I can make the far niente part happen, but it isn’t dolce at all. It's rather uncomfortable.

What exactly is dolce far niente anyway? What is it supposed to feel like and look like? And how in the world do we make it happen in our jam-packed modern lives?

This is so hard for me that I tried to write a different post. I was going to avoid this whole dolce far niente business by writing about Saturday’s royal wedding instead. But then the latest developments involving the bride’s dad broke my heart and took some of the magic out of the anticipation. Best to search for the dolce in my far niente after all…

So what is dolce far niente?

Merriam-Webster says it’s “pleasant relaxation in carefree idleness.”

I can make myself be still, but it’s just not pleasant (or relaxing or carefree). Why? The mind is going at a million miles an hour. Can I make it stop? Yes and no. If I practice it often, I can probably get my thoughts to slow and worries to fade. But…

My brain is trained to be online.

I love it. I’m on Twitter a lot, and on Facebook a lot, and on Instagram, and on Pinterest, and reading emails, and answering emails. To fit all that online interaction in my daily routine (homeschooling mom), I have to think fast, read fast, type fast. There’s some agitation involved. The result of the interaction is sweet, but the process is fast-paced. Can I go from that to “pleasant relaxation in carefree idleness” whenever I want? Can my social media life and dolce far niente co-exist? I’m not sure.

My Dolce Far Niente Pinterest Board

Why should I care about dolce far niente anyway?

What’s the big deal? It’s a big deal because I believe it walks hand in hand with God's rhythm of grace. If I can get dolce far niente right, my time with God will improve—quantity and quality. My prayer life will be sweeter.

So what have I tried and want to try?

Here’s what I see as dolce far niente “activities” – watching the rain, watching snow fall, floating in the ocean, looking at clouds, hammock time, watching water when it’s sparkly, sitting on a bench in the woods, watching the sun rise on the beach (cool sand), sitting on a tree, looking up at trees, watching candles burn, listening to soft music, looking out the window, a slow café or restaurant on a slow street…

What do you think? How are you doing on this? Can you help me find the sweetness of doing nothing? Are smartphones the enemy? What do you do that you consider dolce far niente? And, curious minds need to know, are you watching the royal wedding? :)

About Patricia

Patricia Beal has danced ballet her whole life. She is from Brazil and fell in love with the English language while washing dishes at a McDonald's in Indianapolis. She put herself through college working at a BP gas station and graduated magna cum laude from the University of Cincinnati with a B.A. in English Literature. She then worked as a public affairs officer for the U.S. Army for seven years.

She now writes contemporary fiction and is represented by Bob Hostetler of The Steve Laube Agency. Her debut novel, A Season to Dance, came out in May of 2017 (Bling! / Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas). A Portuguese translation will be out in her native Brazil in August of 2018 (Editora Pandorga). Patricia is a 2015 Genesis semi-finalist and First Impressions finalist. She and her husband live in North Carolina with their two children.

Goodreads - www.goodreads.com/bealpat
Facebook - www.facebook.com/patricia.beal.author
Pinterest - www.pinterest.com/patriciasbeal
Twitter - www.twitter.com/bealpat
Web - www.patriciabeal.com

Friday, May 11, 2018

Devotional: Thoughtful Silence

By Keona Tann | @ICFWriters

As I read Proverbs 10:19 I was greatly inspired to reflect upon thoughtful silence:
“When there are many words, transgression and offense are unavoidable, But he who controls his lips and keeps thoughtful silence is wise.” Amplified version.
There have been many times that I’ve babbled on simply for the reason of filling an awkward silence. Sadly, I’ve also reacted to a verbal or written attack without careful thought and prayer.

The Passion Translation gets straight to the point:
“If you keep talking, it won’t be long before you’re saying something really wrong. Prove you’re wise from the very start— just bite your tongue and be strong!” Proverbs 10:19 - TPT
Incessant babbling, speaking for no reason other than to fill silence, can be a dangerous trap which can lead me to saying something silly or wrong.‬‬‬‬
Speaking without prayer and thought can also be damaging. The Passion Translation suggests that we ‘bite our tongue’, which is another way to say: ‘count to 10 before responding’ and what I try to live my life by is: pray first then respond.
Thoughtful silence I translate as prayer. As I focus my thoughts on Jesus, I allow His Amazing Grace and Transforming Love to change me, which will change my response. Instead of retaliating with hurtful words I can respond with words of truth and life.
One of the weapons we have available to us, through the armour of God, is the Sword of the Spirit – which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17). God’s Word transforms us and the situations we face so it is a mighty weapon to have.

As I pressed in for more revelation around this I was led to study Proverbs 17 and I created the following prayer around my study:

Abba Father, I ask for Your discernment so that I can have true knowledge of situations that I face. Grant me wisdom so that I respond to situations with self-control and godly grace. Lord I ask for an understanding heart so that I can be cool, calm and collected in any situation. When I’m provoked and goaded into making a silly retaliation, I pray that I will bite my tongue and look to You Lord. May I always control my tongue and avoid using hurtful words by praying before I speak. Lord when I need to be discreet and close my mouth, grant me the wisdom to do so. When You grant me a message to share I ask for boldness and the right words. Inspired by Proverbs 10:19 & 17:27-28‬ ‭‬‬

I pray that You’re encouraged to reflect upon the phrase thoughtful silence and press into God to find out what it means for you.
Many blessings, Keona

About Keona:
I’ve lived most of my life in Tasmania, which is one of the beautiful Australian states. Deliriously happily married to my college sweetheart for over 20 years, we consider ourselves extremely blessed to be raising 2 wonderful teenagers. Hubby and I have also been long time child sponsors with Compassion so we have overseas kids!
I struggled with illness and disease for most of my life. The biggest battles were: endometriosis for 28 years and adrenal/chronic fatigue which was severe for 28 months. In September 2016 healing was declared over my life, praise God, this set me on a path of deep inner healing, restoration and transformation. My passion to write was reignited and I wrote out a mission statement:
“He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the LORD.” Psalm 40:3 (NLT)
I desire to impact the world through the words I share. I long to enrich, empower and encourage others whilst delivering my stories with empathy and understanding.
In my new-found boldness I’ve started a weekly blog which you can find at: https://keonajtann.wordpress.com/
Many Blessings, Keona

Thursday, May 10, 2018

What's In a Name?

Janice L. Dick | @JaniceDick54

Recently, I came across a Facebook post from a friend of mine. She wrote: (names have been changed) My name is Lorianne, not Lorraine. There were a couple more additions from readers: My name is Caroline, not Carolyn. My name is Wayne, not Dwayne. I added my own: My name is Janice, not Janet. (I have a dear friend and a cousin named Janet, but that is not my name.) 

As a writer, I try to choose the perfect names for my characters. We all have preconceived ideas of names due to people in our lives or our past, so we won’t please everyone, but we need to try to find just the right fit in a name. 

One unwritten rule I’ve tried to follow is to not use two names that sound or look too similar. For instance, Ben and Bob. Or Jill and Jen. It confuses the reader, and there are lots of names to choose from, so we can branch out. 

I recently read a cozy mystery (Capital Obsessionby Emily James) where one of the main characters is named Ahanti. Her detective friend knows the name means “gift,” which proves to be a clue to the mystery.  

Names are important. Some are strong (Thor!), some are sweet (Bessie). Some names suit certain genres or historical times (Phoebe, Penelope, Cassandra), or languages/cultures (Dietrich, Bjorn). Some names are timeless (Michael, Elizabeth, Katherine, Thomas). I often go to name lists on the internet for my ethnic characters. Reading down a list can offer fresh and credible options. 

Every once in a while, I goof. For the first book in my current series, I choose the name Magdalena for one of my motherly characters. Her friends called her Magda. I also had someone I considered to be an insignificant young woman whom I had named Manya after a favorite aunt. It was all fine until the third book when Manya became very significant, and the names were much too similar. One option was to kill off Magda, but that felt somewhat petty. I decided to call her Magdalena as often as possible and trust my readers to sort out the rest. One of the challenges of writing a series.

As you can see, names are as important in fiction as they are in life. They help build pictures in our minds of who the characters are. We try to choose carefully to suit the genre, the style, the personality, the time period and ethnicity of our characters, because names set us apart from others. 

My name is Janice, not Janet. 
What’s yours?

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...

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Bookish Tuesday: Cradle Snatchers by Henry Brooks

by LeAnne Hardy | @ICFWriters

From time to time I have the opportunity to participate in the creation of quality Christian literature by being a beta reader for a colleague or editing for a client. One such book was Cradle Snatchers, the latest in British author Henry Brooks’ Will Houston mystery series and definitely his best so far. Brooks is an enthusiastic young father with seemingly boundless energy and creativity. He has a sharp mind and is eager to use story to communicate ideas he feels very passionate about. I’m usually pretty impatient with agenda-driven fiction even when I agree with the agenda, but in Cradle Snatchers Brooks has given us fast-paced action and laugh-out-loud characters that slam home his human-life agenda with gut-punching force.

It is difficult to talk about this book without giving away a bit of the plot so *spoiler alert* the theme is abortion in the UK and the world. Early on a young woman has a seizure while burying an infant corpse in Hyde Park—with a clump of daffodil bulbs. “We don’t plant daffodil bulbs,” says the park maintenance man. I will never look at daffodils the same again. In Cradle Snatchers the daffodils that blanket Hyde Park and beyond represent more than six million abortions to date. Brooks draws readers in with horror and righteous anger over dead babies and then points a finger like the prophet Nathan: Thou art the man! In the end, he will floor you with the facts and the heart-stopping decadence of modern society. He puts a human face on what his character calls “the defining issue of the age”.

Brooks is a Brit. He is not writing to American sensibilities. There is language in this book. There is violence. The characters drink alcohol. Catholic/Protestant animosities play a part, and for a while it almost sounds like Dan Brown’s anti-Catholic DaVinci Code, but nothing is inappropriate to the context, and the story packs a punch. I think this book will find an audience in the pro-life community and among teens, especially older boys. I am proud to have had a part in producing it.

I recently interviewed Brooks on the writing of Cradle Snatchers.

LH: Why did you choose a mystery story instead of non-fiction to present your case?

HB: Jesus rarely taught except that he used a parable, a story. Narrative seems to switch something on in our brains and hold our attention better. There are so many excellent books dealing with this debate, but I know teens are not going to read them, so this was my offering for them.

LH: You obviously have a passion for the subject. Have you ever been tempted to behave like your character Gabriel to shake sense into your opponents?

HB: Well, this is very difficult, isn't it? Anger and grief is the correct response and the Bible is not against anger per se, but how we express that is the real question before us. In the Batman Dark Knight movie, the righteous Harvey Dent allowed grief and anger to turn him into the same type of monster he had set out to fight. A lot of my own fiction deals with this. The lessons and tragedies of church history are before us. You cannot fight fire with fire. Jesus could not be clearer on this point: if you live by the sword you will die by it. It is a lot 'easier' and takes considerably less courage to blow up an abortion clinic, than to adopt unwanted children. Christians need to pioneer new, prophetic models of social service, and not just point a self-righteous finger. This debate is almost too polarised and toxic for dialogue, people need to see the Gospel principle in action.

LH: You link issues like abortion and euthanasia, health care and women’s rights. In the book, you make a point of sticking to non-religious arguments. How do you believe these issues are related in the gospel?

HB: This is very simple to answer. It was the same issue at stake in Nazi Germany and the Communist Gulag. And the same issue at stake in the LGBT issue. It is the issue of anthropology—are we made in the image of God or not? If not, then we have no leg to stand on. But if the Imageo Dei is the foundation of human existence, then Christians have the awesome responsibility of saving their post-Christian societies from the catastrophic course on which it has embarked. I cannot state this strongly enough. The Imageo Dei is the bedrock of a free society. We were given a glimpse in the twentieth century of where the materialist view of humanity would take us, but we have not listened. C. S. Lewis' lectures called The Abolition of Man should be read by anyone who thinks I am exaggerating.

LH: What suggested daffodils to you?

HB: We believe in the resurrection, thank God! Not one child aborted will ultimately be missing on that great day. Daffodils are a reminder each year at Easter time that God is faithful and that he has not, and will not, abandon his creation.

LH: What do you have planned next for Will Houston?

HB: There is a fourth book called The Student Jihad which I wrote ten years ago. It deals with issues relating to Islam and Christianity, which is a real button issue in the UK right now. I started to get it ready to send to an editor recently but got bogged down with so many other things that it will have to wait at least 12 months.

LH: I hope we will see some of the same characters we met in Cradle Snatchers who lent humor to an otherwise heavy topic. All the best to you on your current project!

LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents as a writer and missionary librarian. Her plots and settings are inspired by these diverse locations. She currently writes and does freelance editing from a lake in the Northwoods of Wisconsin where she and her husband enjoy visitors, especially grandchildren.