Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Locusts and Touros?

Today I find myself in the midst of working on a Business Plan. I'm answering all the questions to the best of my knowledge and research when suddenly the question presents, "HOW can I write a Business Plan when I (feel like I) can barely write a Query Letter?"

Yikes. A moment ago I almost wrote in the clients section, "Locusts and Touros" instead of "Tourists and Locals" (never mind that some of the tourists might be locusts by nature from time to time, eating and devouring everything in sight).

The point is, am I equipped for this? Can I do it the right way--or even the way it needs to be done?

Last week as I discussed this Plan with the relevant party, it occurred to me I have a fear of being inadequate to a task I'm presented with, particularly when the person who has asked me to complete the task believes I am up to it. I hate to disappoint, yet obviously there are times when I do.

What terrible event occurred in my childhood that it carries over now, into my thirties? Well, it was an epiphany in a month of several. It also occurred to me that to isolate myself in this thinking would be the worst part of all. I am NOT the only human who thinks like this, even if I am one of the few who'll admit it. WHERE did the pressure come from to perform, to be so perfect?

First I had to identify the wrong feeling of fear inside, the why behind the fear.

As I keep working on the Plan, I remind myself of verses from the Bible that are promises telling me I am adequate and up to the task. Because God says I am.

So there :)

Will I make mistakes? Absolutely. I'm human (although sometimes I do appear to be super-human like most mothers do). I can give myself permission to make mistakes, and I pray that God gives my fellow man the grace to forgive me when I've made them.

For now, back to the Plan, reminding myself I am adequate to the task ahead.

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4v13

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1v7

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1v5


Saturday, 11 May 2013

Shameless ~ Prologue

Here's the first chapter of one of my novels. To read the back page blurb, click here.

I walked up the path to the front of the Police Station, the cheery notes of Begin the Beguine in the back of my mind. That wartime song was a favourite of everyone the same age as my Gran and it made me briefly reflect on what tomorrow’s elderly would be rocking their chairs to. As much as it was amusing, George Michael, Spiderbait and Averil Lavigne just didn’t have the same sort of class.

            My Gran embodied class. She was old school when it came to ladylike. Licking her fingers was truly a devilish indulgence for when no one was looking. Gran was tall and elegant in a Lauren Bacall sort of way, and her neck was slender and sculpture-worthy like Audrey Hepburn’s. It was near on impossible to liken her to anyone outside her own era. None possessed themselves like the style masters and icons of the 40’s and 50’s.

            Her pants stayed on her waist, not her hips. Her tops were buttoned, seldom knitted unless it were a ‘sweater girl sweater’, making even me jealous, and her pearls were always present in either necklace, earring or ring form. Gran never wore bracelets, only a narrow-banded wristwatch with a face so tiny I needed glasses to read it. Having worn it without fail since her 21st birthday, it took only one repair its whole life, and it gave me a kick to catch her winding it from time to time, so dutifully, and always followed with the hint of a reminiscent smile.

            Once when I was younger I asked her what she was smiling at.

            Gran cupped my chin with cool, elegant fingers. “I’ll tell you when you’re older.”

            Perhaps her secretive, wry smile said it all.

            When I was older—all of 14—I asked again. She didn’t cup my chin but the smile remained the same.

            “I’ll tell you when you’ve got a boyfriend.”

            At the end of high school I got one and again asked.

            “That boy’s a self-absorbed moron, Jonti. I’ll tell you when you’re married.”

            Well, right now I didn’t have that claim to fame. The boyfriend back then was a bit lacklustre, but he was gone by mutual consent, and I was wiser at 25. Yet to learn the secret behind the smile I could still only wonder and ponder my perfect Gran’s greatness and poise, and live in hope that I would be as cool and lithe as her when I was 80.

            Gran could still move, still think, still drive, still wizen me to a few choice ideas and outwit anyone’s smartest remark. Unbent, with a lively gait and movement as smooth as a woman far younger, I’m sure Gran caught people out now and again when she gave her age.

            My Grandad, her husband, died when I was 7. I don’t remember much of him except that he loved her and she adored him. After he passed, I felt closer to Gran and she doted on me even more. It’s sad how some Grandies never see their grandkids. I couldn’t imagine being without her. Ironic, but I don’t see nearly as much of my Dad’s parents. It’s just the way it works out. Weird.

            Gran and me have only so much in common. The day I got told I have her hands I was thrilled. Even now her fingers are free of arthritis and beautifully slender.

            The most we have in common is love.

            A single look at her is enough to convince she’ll live past a hundred. I want her to. I don’t want my kids to miss out on her. But first I have to get married for that to happen and learn the secret behind the watch-winding smile. It made me think that Gran was keeping secret more than one big mystery in her life, and somehow I loved not knowing everything. It kept her mystique alive.

            So why she called me to her side at the Police Station I was looking forward to finding out. The reason I was given was a lie, I was sure. I knew already there was no way she could have done what they said she did.

            Villette Hasluck didn’t smuggle drugs.



Completely & Utterly Shameless

Well, I've told myself I really should do this if only for the fun of it, so I'm going to. It's the blurb for a novel I wrote a little while back called Shameless. I hope you enjoy it, and whether you do or you don't, I'd love to have your feedback in the comments section below, or via Twitter (a)MerceyValley.
Isn’t there a right way to behave when love catches you unaware?


Love was the last thing on Jonti’s mind when she went to bail out her naughty Nanna, but that couldn’t keep love from hunting her down...

Jonti Moran is not the kind of girl to go out in hot pursuit of a man. In fact she’s quite happy just looking, thank you. When she pays an unforeseen visit to the local lockup to come to her Gran’s rescue, a cold hard case of reality is not the only thing about to give her more than she bargained for. Surviving the romantic encounter of a lifetime without looking like a crack job herself is just the beginning.

Enter Jack, the dreamiest guy she’s ever laid eyes on, and suddenly her dormant inner flirt is out of its coma. Problem: Jack is the detective handling Grandma Villette’s case, and Villette has been a very bad girl. What on earth is a woman her age doing smuggling dope? What is it she’s not telling? Both Jonti and Jack know Villette is covering for someone—but who? And why? It’s also starting to look like Jack might be keeping some secrets of his own. There’s no denying he’s seriously intriguing, but only time and the tests of their peculiar circumstances will prove if his faith matches her own.

In this unashamed jaunt of fun and games (and a kiss or three) Jonti is about to learn that life must be lived for more than the present, and that uncovering truth proves how defenceless a heart can be.

Just how much can one heart take?

In Jonti’s case, not much. But God can handle anything, and He’s not leaving her alone for a moment. Will He throw in the man of her dreams to boot—or will misunderstandings ruin everything? Now is not the time to be so shameless. A pity it comes so darn naturally...
To read the prologue, click here.


Sunday, 5 May 2013

Across the China Sky ~ C. Hope Flinchbaugh

Finding this book was a revelation for me. I was really excited to find something where the sole story was not hinged on romance. This possibly had much to do with just having read Revolution In World Missions by K.P. Yohannan. I didn’t know fiction could include such awesome topics! Don’t get me wrong because I do love a good ‘kissing book’.
But seriously, it blessed me to find a work of fiction set in another realm: persecution. Most Inspirational novels use verses from the New Testament. This is the only one I have come across that has the sufferings of our brothers and sisters in Christ at its very core.

One reviewer wrote, Flinchbaugh's writing is sensitive, compassionate and articulate.” I couldn’t agree more.

Honestly, I don’t know if it’s a personal coming of age thing for me or not, but Hope’s book provided food for the inner man that gets far above and beyond our Café Society to the realities of life in China’s persecuted church. We know these things exist and that real people struggle within them, but we have little to connect us with their reality.

I considered only momentarily whether or not Christians under wraps in China was a morally sound topic for a work of fiction because fiction can so easily make a mockery of things we ought to uphold. I took about two seconds to decide that there are people who will never read testimonials or bios. Fiction is the only way to reach them, therefore it is the perfect topic for a novel.

My only disappointment was in finding out that this book is a sequel! Daughter of China is its predecessor, and I’m really hoping to get my hands on a copy of that too, very soon. Sometimes jumping the gun is very uncool. This one could easily stand alone (but what a crying shame if it did).

So. How would this unique and genuine subject matter be treated? I held only a minute degree of scepticism. The author is extremely well acquainted with issues surrounding the persecuted church, and her writing is fluid and transporting. What a joy to read such seamless work. It allows fast delivery into the moment and to my mind, this topic is worthy of our utmost respect.

Suddenly I wasn’t just reading about the rice paddies on the hillside, I was standing in them. I felt the rock beneath me as I sat with Liko and Mei Lin listening to them discuss their future, and I walked behind them toward the house as the sun sank beneath the horizon and another day neared its end. I read this book in a day and what a joy to experience that, too. It was so lovely to be able to have a virtually uninterrupted journey, more so because of my deep investment with the characters, aware it would not be far removed from the truth.

There are some completely unexpected twists and turns in this story and the characters are easy to associate with. Because we have heard of certain levels of persecution to some degree, when the story takes a turn for the worse, your brain starts screaming at the characters to watch out. It was impossible to keep from thinking about our different lives, and the freedom we live with and most assuredly take advantage of. Have we lost our fervour? Ha. Decide for yourself, because the question will be presented to you though it is not asked once inside the pages. We will have much to answer for.

I could not put this one down. Even when I had other things requiring my attention throughout the day, the book was either in my left hand, tucked under my arm, or right where I could see it to pick it up again (and that’s saying something). I treated it as real. For all I cared, it was a true story. 

This book will get you thinking, and it should. Prayer is truly our greatest weapon, and the author gets into territory I honestly believe many Christians would simply not know how to handle if they were faced with the same spiritual realities. What a challenge to our reality.

I hope you can find a copy of this book soon, and let it pour into your heart to the full. I am at a loss to describe it beyond this.

"Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings." 1 Peter 5v8-9

Soyez sobres, restez vigilants: votre adversaire, le diable, rôde comme un lion rugissant, cherchant qui dévorer. Résistez-lui avec une foi inébranlable, sachant que les mêmes souffrances sont imposées à vos frères et sœurs dans le monde.


Jewel of the Pacific ~ Linda Lee Chaikin

I've read two amazing books in the last week, and I'll be bringing them both before you here for review. I told a friend the other day that I don't blog for the sake of blogging - I like to feel I've got something to contribute rather than reinventing the wheel of the day. These books are blogworthy!

First, it was my absolute pleasure to get between the pages of the final instalment in the Dawn of Hawaii series by Linda Lee Chaikin.




I am never disappointed with her works. I mean, like practically never.


Though amazon.com will have you believe this is book three, it's actually book four. Book one will be known by Chaikin's faithful readership who are no doubt celebrating this grand finale, and the author's astounding testimony on how the separation came about can be read here (I highly recommend it for aspiring authors on the realities of publishing). To avoid confusion we'll refer to this original work as the prequel (instead of book 1), as I'm hoping Moody will come to the party and publish it again (hopefully with a totally fantastic cover to give it some serious cred!).

What I love most about Linda's novels is that they possess a spirituality and intellectuality I long for in my own life. Her characters are complex and filled with consistency as well as the nuances of humanity that brings them so within reach of our understanding. They do what we would do, and mature into a space where integrity and strength are tested and proven true. Their faith is utterly maxed out, and God is always faithful.

Book 3 picks up where 2 left off, right after the fire that would destroy Rafe's future and not just his dreams. The vow he made years before is sorely tested and that with dire consequences he never saw coming. People get in the way (as always), and Rafe is left without his sight, without immediate recourse for repair after the fire, and without his fiancée. How this comes about is just plain wicked.

Eden is at a loss, however she is now free to pursue her dream of following her father to Molokai without a backward glance. Only she does glance back, and that isn't pretty either. Once again, people are at work and love is thwarted as fiery arrows fly fast and free from more place than one.

The thing I always, without fail, love most about Linda Chaikin's books is that they are not quick reads. There's no 'fling' aspect about them whatsoever. They're meatier, grittier, and stronger than so many works out on the Christian shelves today. They require time to digest every single penny drop moment inside. There are books you can pick up for a quick jaunt through a romance or life lesson, but these books are always so much more for me (Siri Mitchell also fits that meatier profile, and I foresee Olivia Newport joining that list as things progress). They embody a longing for so much more.

This is not to say every other work out there is a waste of time or that we should not have fun, but Linda recognises that time is of the essence. We're in a Laodicean society, as she refers to it (Revelation 3v14-22). I call it a Café Society. As Ephesians 5v16 says, we need to "redeem the time because the days are evil." Her books scarcely waste a word. The characters care about so much more than themselves and their own world.

If you're into novels that redeem the time and feed your spirit not just your soul, these are worth a look. I rue the day this lady of the Word will no longer be with us, but praise God others have picked up the baton to run with it fast and proud.

"I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth." Revelation 3v15-16

Je connais tes œuvres. Je sais que tu n’es ni froid ni bouillant. Puisses-tu être froid ou bouillant!  Ainsi, parce que tu es tiède, et que tu n’es ni froid ni bouillant, je te vomirai de ma bouche.