Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Hidden Blessing

This morning I awoke with the goal of posting some of the videos I'd taken this month onto my YouTube channel. Due to our slow internet connection, I have to do this early in the morning or late at night for the quickest result without interruption.

I started with a video that was the result of a camera error. You see, I usually keep the video settings on my Nikon P500 CoolPix as HD (High-Definition) instead of HS (High-Speed) mainly because the HS doesn't work well. With HS, the videos are too slow and there's either no sound of the sound quality is drawn out. Sometimes the HS video won't play on my laptop. At other times, the HS video is very dark and hard to see.

But this time, I love the result...

I don't know how something marked High Speed can give such a slow video, but then I don't understand all the intricacies of a camera despite having taken a photography course. Somehow the f stops and aperture settings are just extra buttons when I'm in a hurry to snap a photo, so I normally keep my camera on the automatic setting. I extensively use my zoom and focus as I go.

As I waited for my Canada Geese Slow Motion Flying to load on YouTube this morning, I saw the blessing of this camera error.

Having recognized it as a blessing, I wrote it down on a blue slip of paper and dropped it into the glass bowl I wrote about in my Inkwell post, The Blessings Bowl.

And that got me thinking of dark days and how often we experience troubles and disappointments and instead of receiving sympathy or empathy, someone will tell us that every cloud has a silver lining. Or if one door closes another one opens. Or if a door closes, crawl out the window. Or... some other insensitive comment that makes us feel worse.

Except sometimes those options are real but we have to look hard to find them. 

This video was an easy find. Yes, I was discouraged when I first realized that I'd missed my chance because of the wrong setting, but instead of automatically deleting the raw footage, I saved it to my laptop and then watched it.

At the very least, this video shows beauty and grace in motion. I hope you can glean something from it as well.


Anita Mae Draper is retired from the Canadian Armed Forces and lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan, Canada with her hubby of 30 plus years and the youngest of their four kids. Anita is pleased to announce that her short story, Here We Come A-Wassailing, published in A Cup of Christmas Cheer, Volume 4, Heartwarming Tales of Christmas Present, Guideposts Books, October 2014, is a finalist for the Word Guild's 2015 Word Awards. Anita is represented by Mary Keeley of Books & Such Literary Management. You can find Anita Mae at

Friday, April 24, 2015

It's A God Thing

by Anita Mae Draper

This morning I saw something on my local CTV channel that compelled me to share it with you. A quick search on the internet has shown it appearing on many stations, including this ABC Good Morning America (GMA) version, Wife’s Intuition Saves Husband Trapped Under Fallen SUV. You'll probably see it on Facebook and other social media as well.

It's the story of a wife who gets this feeling that something is wrong, so she rushes home to find her husband crushed beneath the car he's been repairing in their garage. The wife phones 911 and although her husband suffers internal injuries which include six broken ribs, his life is spared.

According to the media, the husband called for help for an hour and a half without anyone hearing him. 

On the GMA video, the husband says, "I just knew that if I  hung on long enough my prayers would be answered and she'd be able to come home."

But the coverage adds that the husband, "...says he's alive because of this wife's incredible sixth sense." Media reports also say the wife experienced a "gut instinct", "strong feeling", and "wife's intuition".

No one has called it a God thing, or that the woman felt God's nudge to go help her husband. 

However, the GMA video does show the wife as saying, "I think God was watching us that day, I'm so thankful for that."

I don't know the Utah family in this video, so I don't know their Faith walk. I also don't know what may have been left out of the video before it was broadcast. 

But it makes me wonder how many people are placed in similar situations without knowing that God hears their prayers. Or maybe they know it, but don't really believe it was Him answering their call for help. 

This morning I feel compelled to say that God hears your prayers. 1 John 5:14 (NIV) says, This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.

He may not always answer in the way you want, but he does hear you. Even if you don't believe in God, he knows you are there and he hears your most innermost thoughts. 

And I'll echo the wife in this story when I say, "...I'm so thankful for that."


Anita Mae Draper is retired from the Canadian Armed Forces and lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan, Canada with her hubby of 30 plus years and the youngest of their four kids. Anita is pleased to announce that her short story, Here We Come A-Wassailing, published in A Cup of Christmas Cheer, Volume 4, Heartwarming Tales of Christmas Present, Guideposts Books, October 2014, is a finalist for the Word Guild's 2015 Word Awards. Anita is represented by Mary Keeley of Books & Such Literary Management. You can find Anita Mae at

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Most Eligible Bachelor Collection~Behind the Scenes!

I'm excited to celebrate the release of my debut novella, Love's Reward, in The Most Eligible Bachelor Collection, coming from Barbour Publishing May 1.

My hero, Daniel
The historical story's about an architect, Daniel, an unassuming but wealthy guy whose friendly rival promises a princely sum to the woman who can claim Daniel's heart.

Poor Daniel. He really hasn't a clue what's going on at first. He's too distracted by work.

But what sort of work? I knew nothing about architecture now or in the past, so I had to do some research.

That's when I came across pen-and-wash architecture submissions to an international competition that took place in San Francisco, California, in the late 1890s. Sponsored by Phoebe Apperson Hearst, the mother of media mogul William Randolph Hearst, the contest sought architectural plans intended to beautify the University of California at Berkeley.

Phoebe Hearst
Phoebe was a fascinating woman. She grew up in Missouri, and at age eighteen married 40-year-old George Hearst, a Missourian who'd moved to California during the gold rush and become a millionaire. (He'd be a politician eventually, serving in the California legislature and US Senate.) They moved to San Francisco in 1862 and had one child, the notable William, and Phoebe took him to Europe at a young age for the sake of his education (although he also began a lifelong love affair with antiquity and art collecting, which is another blog post altogether).

With her wealth and status, Phoebe was free to donate her time and money to causes she believed in. She was a suffragist, feminist, and a promoter of higher education. She became the first female regent at UC Berkeley and founded the UC Museum of Anthropology (now named in her honor).

She was also willing to sponsor the aforementioned contest to beautify UC Berkeley.

Officially, the contest was called The International Competition for the Phoebe Hearst Architectural Plan for the University of California. It started with a first-round competition in Antwerp, open to any architect in the world, in 1896. The deadline was set for July of 1898, and a hundred and five entries were received. The entries were narrowed down to eleven finalists (not a one from California), and then, later a final winner.

I wish I could share the submissions with you here, but they are copyright protected and can be viewed here.

View of UCB today, By brainchildvn on Flickr (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

My imagination was sparked by the pen-and-wash submissions I saw, and naturally, I wanted my hero Daniel to take part in a contest similar to this one. While I fictionalized my university, the contest, and Mrs. Hearst's character, I knew the story had to take place in the philanthropic sponsor’s home neighborhood of Nob Hill--and unlike in the real contest, Californian Daniel would have to be a finalist.

Curious about the results of the real-life competition? Well, the winner did not appreciate suggestions to his concept, insulted Mrs. Hearst, and returned to Paris. Next thing you know, the 4th place winner, John Galen Howard, was named the University's supervising architect.

Here's a blurb of Love's Reward:

Reserved, affluent architect Daniel Blair is a man with a price on his head—or his heart, to be precise. When it seems Daniel will best his old university rival in their competitions, both personal and professional, his opponent hopes to distract him by advertising a monetary reward for Daniel’s heart. Daniel always thought women wanted love over money, but the most mercenary maids in San Francisco now find him irresistible—all except the childhood friend-turned-suffragette he’s long admired who has made it clear she wants his money, not his heart.

After joining a Society dedicated to helping San Francisco’s poor women, Josie Price is eager to provide the neediest a home, and who better to donate his skills and money than her dear architect friend? His “no” disappoints her. Granted, a pauper’s home is not the prize-winning sort of project that could solidify his reputation like the international competition he’s engaged in, but the ultimate reward of helping others is far sweeter. When he’s distracted by the so-called competition for his heart, however, she agrees to help him ward off women in exchange for his assistance. She never expected she’d be caught up in a quest of her own to win Daniel’s heart.

Available on Amazon!
Check back for opportunities to win a copy of The Most Eligible Bachelor, starting early May!


Susanne Dietze writes love stories with happily-ever-afters for all. You can visit her on her website,, to learn about her upcoming giveaways!


Friday, April 17, 2015

Movie Review: Beyond the Mask

by C.J. Chase
For decades, a few honchos of big corporations decided which novelists' books to publish, which musicians' recordings to release, and which directors' movies to make. Sure, it has always been easy for a small band to create music or a writer to type words--but how could the artists distribute the work to people beyond the local community? Without the backing of a major company, they were left to hawk self-published books out of their trunks or live out of a tip jar on the bar. And for would-be movie producers, the barriers to entry were even worse because of the enormous costs associated even with a "low-budget" flick. The big guys controlled which songs, books, or movies the public could hear/read/see--and those corporations chose according to their values.

Fortunately, the internet has created an "indie" revolution in music, books, and now movies. Terms like "self-published" or "independent"--once considered little more than synonyms for "poor quality"--are now ubiquitous. And while a part of me is sad at the passing of the cultural unity that developed when everyone watched/read/listened to the same things, I'm glad my entertainment choices are not confined to someone else's tastes and values.

Before I begin the review of Beyond the Mask, let me give a bit of background first. Beyond the Mask is a true "indie" movie. It is the brainchild of a couple of cousins who developed a passion for making movies as homeschooled kids. But how to finance a "real" movie? Enter the internet (part 1) with, a site that gives ordinary people the chance to vote with their wallets for proposed movies (or other art projects) they want to see produced.

Okay, that takes care of the funding. You've made the movie but what about that pesky distribution problem? How do you get it in theaters? Cue the internet, part 2, and the concept of "on demand" movies. A "theater captain" arranges (via the internet site Gathr) to choose a screening date with a local theater. In my area, there were three such possible dates, all of them on Monday/Tuesday--days the theater wouldn't normally be filled. If the captain can arrange for enough people to reserve seats by a specified date, the screening goes forward. (In my area, only one of the three met the threshold by the date.) It's a win-win for the theater which only hosts the screening if a certain number of tickets are sold in advance.

Of course, on-demand requires a groundswell of demand. How do you get word out to enough people interested that they are willing to order tickets for a Monday or Tuesday movie night? Well, I first learned about Beyond the Mask on social media (Facebook) -- internet, part 3. It sounded like my kind of movie, so I watched the trailer:

Men with guns. Women with fabulous dresses. A ship with dangerous secrets. Romance. Adventure. Redemption. Oh, yeah. Definitely my kind of movie. (Why, just the description reminds me of that great American classic, Redeeming the Rogue.) The 7:30 p.m. showing made it too late for son #3 (who has an 8:30 bedtime), so I left him home with his disappointed dad and took son #2 on a Mom-Son night.

Will Reynolds (Andrew Cheney) is a paid assassin for the East India Company who is tired of doing dirty deeds. He wants to collect his fees, retire, and settle down--but he discovers his employer (John Rhys-Davis) has an only-one-way-out, Mafia-like policy. It's only after Will cheats death (the first time) and falls in love with Charlotte (Kara Killmer) that he realizes what he really wants: redemption. But how can a man with so much blood on his hands ever prove himself worthy?

My verdict? I liked it. Imagine Elizabeth Bennet dumping that snobbish fop Darcy for a man of action like Horatio Hornblower, and you've got a pretty good sense of the flick. Beyond the Mask is billed as an adventure movie, and while it's fast-paced with lots of things that go "Boom!" (and a surprising lot of things go "Boom!" for the 1700's setting--Pride and Prejudice this ain't), I'd call it a romance at its core. It's rated PG for violence (you know, the guns, things that go boom, plus some implied killings, etc.), but nothing truly gory happens on screen. A bit of knowledge of US history is helpful, and the plot and characterization are complex enough that young children may have trouble following the storyline. I'd say it's best suited to upper elementary aged kids and above.

And here's the best part. Because enough on-demand tickets were sold in April, the movie has been picked up for a traditional theater release, beginning June 5. Take the whole family, or, if your kids are very young, leave them with a sitter and take your husband. There are enough things that go "Boom!" you don't have to tell him it's really a romance.

Hollywood has notions of adventure and romance that are often diametrically opposed to Christian values (Fifty Shades of Grey, anyone?). If Christians want to compete for the culture, we need to create and support excellent entertainment that doesn't shy away from eternal truths.

You can read more about Beyond the Mask here. For a sneak peak at the opening scene:

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

From King Maker to Coffin Maker

by Anita Mae Draper

In London, Ontario, Canada, Joy Ibsen, a British-born mother raised her children with stories of noble blood running through their veins. An amateur genealogist, she traced her family lineage back to Ann Spooner (1780-1873) before losing the trail.

But one evening in 2004, Joyce received a phone call from English historian John Ashdown-Hill who confirmed her lineage by saying she was a 15th generation descendant of King Richard III's sister, Anne of York, and they want to test her DNA to confirm the possibility that bones found in Belgium belong to another sister, Margaret.

At the time, Joyce thought it was a crank call, but later agreed to have a mouth swab taken for a DNA test. Under the auspicies of The Richard III Society and the genetics lab of the University of Leicester, the test confirmed that the bones found in Belgium do not belong to a sister of Anne of York and Richard III. On the other hand, it could mean that Joyce was not a direct descendant after all.

In 2008 in London, Ontario, the Ibsen family mourns the loss of Joy, their British-born wife and mother.

In 2009, Philippa Langley, a Scottish historian working on a script about the life of King Richard III has the ambitious idea to search for Richard's remains. An argument put forward in 1986 by a University of Leicester tutor David Baldwin and presented in the paper, King Richard’s Grave in Leicester suggested that Richard III was buried in the Grey Friars area. No one had seemed to take notice at the time.

Philippa Langley, Grey Friars
Credit - University of Leicester
But now, thanks to the DNA testing done with Joy Ibsen, a positive match might be made if they could only find the notorious king's remains.

Philippa's gut feeling is that David Baldwin is right and that Richard is buried in the Grey Friars complex. She's determined to prove it, except the location of the friary is beneath an urban parking lot. Better a parking lot than a building, though. She goes to check it out.

According to the Richard III Society website, Philippa says, "...The moment I walked into that car park in Leicester the hairs on the back of my neck stood up, and something told me this was where we must look. A year later I revisited the same place, not believing what I had first felt. And this time I saw a roughly painted letter 'R' on the ground (for 'reserved parking space', obviously!)."

But even with funding from the Universtiy of Leicester and the Richard III Society, it takes over three years and several hurdles before enough money is raised and the path is cleared for the project to go ahead.

Finally in Aug 2012, Joyce's son, Michael, is invited to attend a media promotion for the start of excavation of the Grey Friars complex. Michael is the 16th generation nephew and closest living relative of King Richard III, and so part of the media event is a new and very public cheek swab.

Michael Ibsen (genetic descendant of Richard III) and geneticist Dr. Turi King. CREDIT - University of Leicester

The next day excavation on the first of two trenches begins and soon halts when human bones are found. The team is amazed that the discovery is so quick, but what's really astonishing is that not only are they suspected of belonging to Richard III, but they are found in close proximity to where Philippa Langley had stared at the painted R on her first foray to the site.

If you want to see the excavation process that unearthed Richard III's bones, watch it below or check it out on YouTube at Richard III -The Archaeological Dig. 

A month later the team announced that circumstantial evidence of the bones showing curvature of the spine, battle wounds, and carbon dating all pointed to the remains being those of Richard III, but it wasn't until a press conference was held at the University of Leicester on Feb 4, 2013 when it was announced that together with the physical evidence, DNA testing of a living relative was a "perfect match" and proved "beyond reasonable doubt" that the human remains found at the Grey Friars site were indeed those of King Richard III.

Suddenly, Canadian-born Michael Ibsen had more interview invitations than he ever dreamed possible. And in his quiet, humble way, he accepted almost every one of them. He could have passed them off to his Canadian siblings, but according to a recent Maclean's article, "In doing so, he’s taken pressure off the others, who are, like him, very private."

When Michael moved to London in the mid-80's, he set aside his music and took up his second love, woodworking. Since then, he's become an accomplished cabinetmaker who takes pride in the old style of hands' on craftsmanship. Even so, it was a surprise when he received a call from a Leicester Cathedral official with a request to make the coffin that would enclose Richard III's remains in his memorial tomb.

Stunned and honoured, he set to work on designing a casket fit for a king. But after thinking it through, he realized dignified simplicity would have a more profound impact. In the aforementioned Maclean's article, Michael goes on to say,
“I’m not producing some sort of woodworking masterpiece, as much as I might be capable of it. Because I don’t think it’s about me,” the cabinetmaker explains. “It’s about Richard.” He’d decided early on the type of timber: “It really had to be English oak. Traditionally, oak would have been used for a high-status funeral if there was a coffin.” The internal framework is of yew, used for English longbows and often found in rural churchyards. “Those are the sorts of things that people can relate to, as opposed to some cabinetmaking bit of genius,” Ibsen says.

The following video, Richard III's descendant makes a coffin fit for a king, shows Michael speaking his thoughts on this momentous task.

This past March 26th was the televised reburial of King Richard III, this time inside Leicester Cathedral. As part of the tomb team, Michael was there for each private and public event.

You can see Michael's handiwork in the following video, Richard III The King Laid To Rest - Reburial of Richard III Highlights which includes interviews with some of the team members. It's almost an hour long, but then how often do you see the burial of a king?

The following photo shows Michael and his 14th cousin Wendy Duldig, who along with his siblings, make up the only living descendants of King Richard III. They are placing a wreath of white roses on the oak and yew coffin finely crafted by Michael Ibsen.

Michael Ibsen  and Wendy Duldig place a wreath of white roses on Richard III's coffin

There are two side notes I want to end this post with. The first is a profound statement by Michael who has said in interviews, "They caught this particular link just in time," in reference to the fact that neither of his siblings, nor their cousin, Wendy Duldig, has any children. It really is the end of this royal line.

And finally, these words are also from the Macleans article written by Patricia Treble on Mar 22, 2015:
All three siblings and their father, Norm, who is in Leicester as well, keep mentioning the one person who would have most loved to be there: Joy Ibsen, who died four years before the king’s remains were discovered. Leslie recalls that when she heard that Richard III had been genetically identified, “My first thought was, ‘Oh, I wish she could have been here.’ It was bittersweet. It would have meant so much to her.” The coffin made by Michael is, Leslie says, “part of history, and part of our family. It’s kept my mom’s memory going. It’s a tribute to her.”

One more thing... if you have a hankering to learn about medieval life, you might be interested in this final video because in an effort to prove/disprove Richard's fighting skill with his scoliosis while wearing armour, we get to see all manner of medieval life including what they ate and drank. Fascinating stuff here.

Did you happen to see Richard's reburial? Any thoughts on the matter?


Anita Mae Draper is retired from the Canadian Armed Forces and lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan, Canada with her hubby of 30 plus years and the youngest of their four kids. Anita's stories are set, but not limited to the western prairies. She is blessed to be included in Guideposts Books A Cup of Christmas Cheer collection. Anita is represented by Mary Keeley of Books & Such Literary Management. You can find Anita Mae at

Monday, April 13, 2015

7 Ways to Restore Your Joy

What gives you joy? Not just "happiness," I mean the kind of joy that is a deep-down sense of satisfaction and confidence that surpasses whatever is going on around us, overrides a painful past, and supersedes worries about our unknown future. When our joy is at an optimum level, we do our best work, our relationships are strengthened, even our health benefits. So what can we do when our joy levels have fallen below that optimal line? When times are hard and the storms of life come, joy can seem as elusive as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

The Bible describes joy as the fruit of the Spirit of God, like love and peace and kindness and self-control. That means it's always there in us, in our spirits, whether we "feel" it or not, because it's not something we create from our own resources. It's also something of a commodity... something that can be nurtured and nourished and built up, or depleted. David prayed "restore to me the joy of my salvation" in Psalm 51 and Paul writes about joy that overflows in Philippians 1:26.

Think of it like this: you can have a tomato plant, and with proper care, it will produce tomatoes. You don't have to MAKE the tomatoes, the plant makes the tomatoes. But for the best results, you do have to provide some resources to help that tomato plant be the best tomato plant it can be. So what resources do we have at our disposal for cultivating joy? Here are seven—just seven—from the Bible. There are many more, I know, and the simplest is probably David's example: ask for it, but there are also some practical exercises we can do to increase our joy, some you may not have considered. Try one every day this week! 

1. Promote peace. 

There is deceit in the hearts of those who plot evil, but joy for those who promote peace. Prov. 12:20
It's really, really easy to fight and strive and complain and murmur and be snarky. But those things are joy thieves. Instead, promote peace. The Hebrew word for promote here is also defined "advertise, advise, consult, determine, guide, and purpose. In other words, make it your aim in all your interactions (that includes social media and IRL) to be a peace pusher! Purpose not to enter into that political debate on Facebook, turn off the angry commentary on the news report, and don't let that grouchy relative suck you into his or her drama. And then take it one step further: advertise peace. Make it a point to say nice things, to soothe hurt feelings, and to share positive thoughts and energy with others.

2. Listen, then speak.

A man finds joy in giving an apt reply - and how good is a timely word! Prov. 15:23

Talk to someone, and really listen to what they have to say. When you listen with your spirit, you'll know what to say in response, and that will benefit you and the person you're talking to. A good conversation with a friend, or even someone you don't know very well, can be a joy builder for you both.

3. Smile! 

A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones. Prov. 15:3

You know when you're feeling down and folks say, "Smile!" and you just want to punch them? It turns out there's something to it. Putting on a smile, on purpose, brings joy to your heart. And it does good for those around you, too! There's probably research out there to prove it, but I'm betting putting on a smile releases endorphins or triggers some other chemical response in the body that helps change our attitude.

4. Smell something wonderful.
Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart... Prov. 27:9

This one might be my favorite. On Palm Sunday I went to Mass. One of my best friends lost her son the day before, and I'd promised to light a candle for him. I was grieving with my friend, and fighting a cold, but when I walked in, the church was filled with incense and I could feel the clouds of sorrow begin to break. So light a scented candle or burn some incense, or put on a new perfume, or look into essential oils and aromatherapy when you feel down.

5. Shout it out.
You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy. Isa 1:26

"Shout for joy" is all over the Bible, and we usually interpret it as shouting BECAUSE you have joy, but you can increase your joy with a shout. Not shouting AT someone, mind you, just shouting. I live with my grandchildren. They shout a lot. And, like most children, they have a lot of joy. Go ahead, be loud. The world and all your problems are shouting at you, shout back!

6. Sing, sing a song. 
Sing for joy to God our strength; shout aloud to the God of Jacob! Psalm 81:1

This is another one that is found repeatedly throughout the Scriptures. Why have hymns and psalms and worship music so important to our faith? Why does it feel so good to turn up the radio in the car when your favorite song comes on and sing at the top of your lungs? Or belt out a tune in the shower? Because singing builds joy.

7. Leap! 
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. Luke 6:23

Last but not least, get some exercise. We've all heard it, exercise is good for the heart, the brain, the body, and the spirit. Leap a little bit. Go for a run. Take a walk. Go swimming Play hopscotch. Dance! David danced unto the Lord with all his might, remember? (2 Sam. 6:14) David, the same guy who asked God to restore his joy. Is there a connection? Maybe. Get moving, and keep moving. You might not "want" to, but you'll feel better for it in the end!

I've had a couple of very difficult weeks, and I'm tempted to "dwell in the dust," but I can't. I need to keep my strength up for myself, and for my friends and family. So I'm going to apply these instructions this week and see what happens. I'd be interested to know your results, particularly if you try one you haven't tried before!


Niki Turner

Friday, April 10, 2015

Handling Review Angst

by Dina Sleiman

I know we have both readers and writers following this blog, but today’s post is geared more toward writers, and you readers out there can enjoy this twisted peek into our crazy worlds.  As many of you know, I’ve reached a new level with my writing recently. I have three published novels, but I’ve recently had my “big break” with Bethany House Publishing. And along with a major publishing house, comes major reviews. Not the 20 five star in a row reviews I received with my first novel that mostly reached just my friends and relatives. Serious reviews by people whose sole purpose in life, it seems, is to warn the world away from bad books.
And be warned away from the crummiest books on the planet!!!!
Okay, maybe that’s a tad melodramatic. But when your book releases with a major publisher, it seems that people expect more. They don’t just say, “Hey, this was a great story, 5 stars.” They pick it apart and point out every little flaw. And then sometimes they actually say, “Despite the 20 things I just told you were wrong with this book, it was really enjoyable and I look forward to the next book in the series, 2 stars.” What??? Clearly these people are not from the same book reading planet as me, because if a book isn’t at least a 4 star in my opinion, I never even make it past chapter 5. And I don’t review books I don’t finish, which means I almost never give lower than a 4 star review. Plus, being a writer, I don’t want to alienate other writers or hurt their feelings.

And of course, the melodrama continues, because I have an average rating of 4.3 on amazon and 4.2 on goodreads with over a hundred reviews on each. Seriously Dina, get a grip, that’s pretty darn good. Especially when my book is in an unusual sort of cross over genre of YA/Adult/Adventure/Romance set in the odd for CBA medieval period. A lot of people are picking it up not quite knowing what to expect and bringing all different sorts of expectations to the table. Despite some readers wanting more romance, or action, or suspense, or fantasy, or wishing it was for someone younger or older--that means that around half of the people have still given my book five star reviews. Yet it is the handful of one and two and even harsh three star reviews that keep replaying in my mind day and night, especially when I’m trying to write the next book.

Quite appropriately named "Sad-Whiner Emoji"
So people have been giving me lots of advice on how to handle this, some more helpful, some less helpful, which I’m going to sum up here.

1)      Just don’t read them. Yeah, good luck with that. I’m the kind of person that has to pick at my pimples, both physical and metaphorical. I can’t handle something being wrong, and I’m just ignoring it and leaving it to fester under the surface. But maybe this will work for you.

2)      Have someone pre-screen your reviews. I doubt this will work for me either, see #1. I don’t want a skewed view of reality. I want to know the truth. I want to know what people are saying about me and how that might be affecting future readers. Even if it hurts.

3)    Look at reviews in context. Sometimes it helps to look at other reviews by the same reviewer. You might think that a review is harsh, and find out you actually did pretty well compared to how they rated and critiqued other authors. Also keep in mind if they are an inexperienced reviewer, vindictive, or perhaps even still a child. I even went and looked at reviews for some of my favorite author's early books to encourage myself that I wasn't doing so bad.

4)      Put your writing in perspective. The idea here is that if you are taking reviews too harshly, maybe you’ve lost perspective about your writing. Maybe you’ve made publication success too big of a priority. Hmm, I think I might resemble that remark. The remedy is to submit your career, your book, and your success or lack thereof to God. Ok. I’m working on this one.

5)      Pray for and Forgive Your Harsh Reviewers. Wow, this was a light bulb moment. It’s not that I held anything against the reviewers that just didn't connect with my book. I mean, come on, I’m a fair person. But those ones who seemed intentionally mean, or misrepresented my book. Or those who slammed the theology of the book, which is very important to me. Yep, some prayer and forgiveness was in order.

6) Shake It Off--Literally. I'm coming back after the fact to add this one for people who might read this later from the archives. This new method I recently discovered, combined with #4 and #5 seems to be the perfect prescription for overcoming review angst. Every time you read a negative review, force yourself to sing and dance to the entire Taylor Swift "Shake it Off" video. I dare you. Try it and see what happens ;)

The wise Inky ladies are responsible for the more helpful suggestions above. I’m not going to lie and say that my review angst is over. It’s rough. All sorts of artists face this, in fact, just about everyone deals with review on some level, and let’s be honest, it hurts. But I think I’m starting to get a grip and a better perspective. 

*Update: After writing this post, I got a very positive review from the Library Journal, my first official "editorial" review. In fact, Dauntless was their top Christian Fiction pick for the month! Now this is probably cheating, but a good review from a reputable source certainly is helpful to relieve a ton of review angst. LOL.

What are your suggestions from a reader or a writer point of view for getting over review angst? Do you write reviews? Why or why not?


And if after all of that, if you want to form your own opinion of Dauntless...


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

His Name is Wonderful!

I think a lot of us here at the Inkwell have been struggling. Family issues and work problems and money struggles and, of course, the dreaded deadlines. I just turned in two manuscripts and then realized I had to very quickly come up with a synopsis for a third. I'm so thankful for the work, but sometimes I just don't want to have to do anything. Sometimes I just need to take a break and relax and have a bit of fun. Sometimes I just need to make it all stop and go away.

But then I remember how blessed I am, how privileged I am to do the job I do, to have the friends and family I have, to live in this country, and all the rest of it. Even without any of that, though, I still have lots to be thankful for, lots to smile about. I have a God who loves me, who cares about me, who wants to just hang out with me. He is enough. Whatever else is going on, He is enough. And His name is wonderful.

Bryan Duncan has been my favorite Christian artist for a very, very long time. If you remember him, dig out those old CDs and enjoy. If you never heard of him, give him a try. He's a lot of fun, and he'll make you cry, too. A ton of his songs are available on YouTube.
Have you taken time today to thank God for just being wonderful?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

ACFW Foundation Silent Auction -- Last Day to Bid!

Have you been trying to get your manuscript in front of an agent or editor? 

Wonder why the story isn't working? 

Then check out these silent auction items (and remember all proceeds go to the ACFW Foundation for scholarships to next year's conference).

The ACFW Foundation 2015 Online Silent Auction has been extended an additional day. It will now end Tuesday (today), April 07, 2015 at 09:00 PM EDT. 

Most of the items are selling greatly below value. Anyone can bid, not just ACFW members.

Michelle Grajkowsky, 3 Seas Literary

Chip Macgregor: proposal & 3 chapter review plus skype 

Sarah Freese: WordServe agent

Linda Glaz: Hartline Literary Agency  

Michael Hauge: 1 hour consultation

Raela Schoenherr: Bethany House editor 


Stacy Adams Hawkins

Susan Meissner

Elizabeth Goddard

Kathleen Fuller

Lauraine Snelling: critique & Call

MaryLu Tydall: 3 chapter critique

Colleen Coble

Lynette Eason

And don't forget that if you're planning to come to conference, you can bid on a conference registration. Then your registration fee goes entirely to the Foundation!


Cozy Mystery Magazine  book basket

Karla Akins Book Basket

Tosca Lee mini-library

Diana Wallis Taylor ~ Shadows on the Mountain

Kathryn Springer ~ The Dandelion Field

Kristin Billerbeck ~ What a Girl Needs

Dianna T. Benson ~ The Hidden Son

Lacy Williams autographed book bundle

Be sure to check out the Inkie's donation!

Inkwell Inspirations ~ Writer Rest and Resource Gift Basket


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How Our Giveaways Work: The Official Rules

We, the ladies of Inkwell Inspirations, would love to give free stuff to everybody. Since we can't, we will often have a giveaway in conjunction with a specific post. Unless otherwise stated, one winner will be drawn from comments left on that post between the date it was published and the end of the giveaway as determined in the post. Entries must be accompanied by a valid email address. This address is used only to contact the commenter in the event that he/she is the winner, and will not be sold, distributed, or used in any other fashion. The odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. NO PURCHASE, PLEDGE, OR DONATION NECESSARY TO ENTER OR TO WIN. ALL FEDERAL, STATE, LOCAL AND MUNICIPAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS APPLY. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.