It’s summertime, and thoughts of summer bring to mind pictures of people lounging in the sun, reading. I read all the time for many reasons, but sometimes I like to give myself the gift of reading guilt-free, just for fun. After all, reading has always been my most enjoyable non-writing activity.

Looking back to my youth, I loved the Nancy Drew series. Two main genres that most intrigued me at that time were mysteries and horse stories. (I was fortunate to live on a farm with horses, so that was a dream come true.)

In high school, I discovered classic novels, including Russian titles such as Anna Karenina, War and Peace, Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov (didn’t ever get through that last one).

When my children were young, I couldn’t find as much time to read, settling for short books on how to keep your sanity while parenting young children. And children’s books, of course.

Then I discovered Bodie Thoene. She was the author who inspired me to venture into writing. I found her books bold and intense and impressive, and wanted to write like her. (I’ve since realized that no matter what books and writers I admire and emulate, I still must find my own voice and style.)

My current interests vary widely. I have always loved historical fiction, and I should, since that’s primarily what I write, but I also enjoy good contemporary fiction. I’m on the library committee at our church, so I get to read lots of different Christian authors: Jeanette Windle, Joel C. Rosenberg, Heather Day Gilbert, Patrick W. Carr, Terri Blackstock, James Scott Bell, Angela Hunt, Jill Eileen Smith, Dani Pettrey, Dee Henderson, Siri Mitchell, to mention a few.

photoMy preferred secular books are Alexander McCall Smith’s The Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency series, Alan Bradley’s Flavia deLuce series, and Kate Morton’s novels. I also stumbled upon Lorena McCourtney’s Ivy Malone cozy mysteries, which I love. Add to that my complete series of The Cat Who books by Lilian Jackson Braun, which I’ve read and re-read for easy, engaging entertainment.

I could go on, but I’d love to know what some of your favorite titles are. What do you read just for fun?

00486_t“Between the beautifully bound covers of Bread for the Journey lies a collection of life lessons from past and present, from everyday occurrences to miraculous deliverance; pictures of faith, forgiveness and hope. This book is a treasury of physical and spiritual sustenance in one wholesome, inspiring package.” (My endorsement for MennoMedia).

Bread for the Journey is brought to us by the ten women who joined efforts to write Mennonite Girls Can Cook and Mennonite Girls Can Cook Celebrations, all through Herald Press (MennoMedia).

The dedication of Bread for the Journey reads thus: “We dedicate this book and our royalties to orphans and widows who face each day in need. Our prayer is that they would see the love of Jesus extended through caring hands, one home and one heart at a time.

I think for this very reason, God has been blessing the sales of these books. After seeing an Advance Reading Copy and a mockup of the cover, I’m sure this latest production will also achieve great sales.

Bread for the Journey is based on 13 weeks (90 days) of heartfelt meditations meant to encourage, to stir, to comfort, to inspire, to teach. Each week begins with a story and a recipe, and each day of the week features a devotional written by one of the ten women who compiled the first two books. Their inspirational contributions vary from lessons learned through everyday events to family stories from their forebears in Russia. Nostalgia and faith combine to show God’s protection and preservation through many years and trials.

This volume is again beautifully formatted, with luscious food photos and smartly styled pages. It is artistic, but as warm as Grandma’s hug. I love the spiritual parallel of roasted zwieback for the emigration journey with the long-lasting and nourishing inspiration of God’s word in our spiritual journey.

At the end of each meditation, the writer includes thoughts and meditations to savor.

Some of the stories brought tears to my eyes at the suffering the Mennonite people experienced in Russia and how they chose to trust in God instead of allowing bitterness to take root. Here are a few examples:

– Be encouragers

– Trust God in all circumstances

– Do not allow life to make you bitter; it’s a choice

– God loves us enough to take time to remind us of his great love

– The most amazing gift ever given is Jesus

– We are committed to each other and to Christ

I found these stories to be particularly nostalgic because they are part of my own personal history, stories I heard as a child when our extended family gathered at Grandma’s house for borscht and fresh bread. They are stories of sorrows and joys, of faith and perseverance.

In Bev’s words from article #4 of Week Three: “Without God, there are no answers to the hard questions, no reasons for difficult times, and, worst of all, no hope.”

Thank you, ladies, for your hard work, for your generosity, for your vision, and for being vulnerable. God is certainly using you through this endeavor.









Elma Schemenauer

Elma Schemenauer

Saskatchewan is a land of living stories.

Elma (Martens) Schemenauer, author of the 1940s Saskatchewan novel CONSIDER THE SUNFLOWERS, will highlight the province’s history and literature at the Humboldt library, 705 Main Street, Wednesday August 31 at 7:30 PM. CONSIDER THE SUNFLOWERS FRONT COVER 22-SEP-2014_72dpi

“I’m proud of my home province,” Elma says.

“Saskatchewan was multicultural from its early days. Germans settled in the Humboldt area, for example, Ukrainians at Yorkton, Black Americans near Maidstone, and Mennonites at Rosthern. Chinese immigrants settled in many Saskatchewan towns and cities, often running restaurants and other family businesses.

“Saskatchewan was the first Canadian province to use planes, parachutes, and courageous ‘smokejumpers’ to fight forest fires.

“In 1947 Saskatchewan introduced North America’s first universal hospital care plan.

“The Saskatchewan Arts Board, established in 1948, was the first organization of its kind in North America.

“The province has inspired creators of oral and written literature including Aboriginal storytellers, explorers, missionaries, biographers, poets, short-story writers, novelists, and others.”

Elma is one writer inspired by Saskatchewan, http://elmams.wix.com/elma. She was born and raised near Elbow, sinking deep roots into the prairie way of life and the traditions of her Mennonite family.

After graduating from the University of Saskatchewan, she worked in publishing in Toronto for many years. There she met her husband, Saskatchewan-born Robert Stuart Schemenauer. His relatives live in numerous areas of the province including Humboldt and surroundings.

Elma, who moved to Kamloops with her husband in 2006, is the author of 75 books, many of them about history and community life. Her most recent is CONSIDER THE SUNFLOWERS, published by Borealis Press of Ottawa.

This 299-page novel focuses on love, faith, and family on the Saskatchewan home-front during World War ll. One of the main characters, Tina Janz, is crazy about her boyfriend Frank Warkentin. He’s wild mushrooms and hot peppers, music and laughter. But after they’re married, bitter memories keep Frank from committing himself to her and their Mennonite faith. Can Tina, who carries emotional baggage of her own, find happiness with this charming but troubled man? You’ll need to read the book to find out.

CONTACT Elma Schemenauer, 250 374-1750, website http://elmams.wix.com/elma .


“Starting your book is only the first five miles of a twenty-six-mile marathon that’s one-third of a triathlon (authoring, publishing, and entrepreneuring).”

― Guy Kawasaki, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur


Hello fellow writers and publishers,

Since the completion of my first indie publication, my focus has been on marketing. Oh joy! I’ve spent a good amount of time studying the topic through online courses and video presentations.

One of my favorite sites is LiveWriteThrive, an excellent writing blog by C.S. Lakin. Take a look at her current and past blogs for whatever fictional element you are studying.

I’ve also become aware of some good writing and publishing courses through Shelley Hitz of Author Audience Academy.

A few of my main conclusions from these various lessons are:

  • Selection of genre categories plays a huge part in book accessibility and sales
  • It’s important to identify niche genres that sell well but don’t have tough competition, as well as larger categories (requires a balance here)
  • It’s important to narrow our focus to target a specific audience rather than casting too wide a net
  • It’s important to understand how to analyze books in our niche genre with regard to cover design, keywords, and description, so we can categorize our books alongside best sellers in that genre
  • It’s important to keep praying as we do our best to follow trends and suggestions
  • Amazon marketing can be elusive, and sometimes downright ridiculous. For example, the first edition of my book, Other Side of the River, is currently listed at $1009.67 (for the paperback). Wish I could share in the royalties for that sale!

I am seated precariously on the wagon of building my email subscriber list. I have questions as to how assertive I want to be in collecting subscribers, because I react negatively to pushy emails. So that’s something I’m still working on.

I came across a suggestion to do one thing every day for three years (yes, it said years) with regard to marketing my book. Yesterday (May 16) I emailed reviewers of my first edition and asked them if they would be so kind as to transfer their reviews to the site of the current edition. Sometimes Amazon does this automatically, sometimes not.

Here’s one more thing required from the indie author: legal deposit of every form of your work. In Canada, where I live, I was directed to Library and Archives Canada—Legal Deposit. Since my print book is POD (print on demand), I was only required to send in one copy of my book. Make sure you check this out according to the law of the country in which you reside.

I found out that for the print version, I was able to send a gift copy to the address in Ottawa (gifting seems to be available for print books on amazon.ca but not for digital format). That meant purchasing the book and paying for shipping, but it was fairly easy to accomplish this online. In the process, I spent a few minutes on the phone with a lovely French woman. She was so much fun to talk with, which is highly unusual in the arena of governmental beaurocracy, that I just had to call her a second time!

For the digital format, all I had to do was send a .pdf copy of the book after registering with the digital records division.

Meanwhile, I think the best thing I can do as an indie author is to get back to work on the sequel.writer-1129708_960_720

work-985543_960_720What is the difference between voice and style in fiction? Simply put, voice is who we are, our hearts on paper or screen; style is how we express that identity. My writing will never be the same as yours, even if the topic and genre are similar.

In the spiritual realm, we are called upon to live according to Scripture, to pattern our lives after Christ, to strive for holiness. We are unique in who we are in Christ, and so we will be unique in how we express that individuality.

We are not called upon to be alike as followers of Christ (we are, however, called to be united in spirit). God has created us distinct from one another. He has a plan for each of us. We don’t all have the same calling, the same goal, the same mission.

God asks and expects us to be the best we can be. The only way to do that is to match our style to His, to be unique in Him.

A Mission Statement for Writers

Do you ever feel like you’re spinning your wheels? Like you are writing randomly?

It’s not that we have nothing to write about. Most of us, as writers, have so many ideas, so many projects in the back of our minds, that there are times we just don’t know where to start. At least, that’s where I’ve been lately.

Writing is not easy, and sometimes we find ourselves asking, “Why do I do this?” And similar questions. This quandary led me to think of my purpose as a writer. I know deep down that I have a purpose and a passion for writing. But what happened to my plan?


So I googled “how to write a mission statement.” Here’s what I discovered (rediscovered):

One of the sites I found was Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn (excellent writing resource), featuring Shannon from Duolit: http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2013/08/03/mission-statement/. Shannon suggests the following questions (with my comments following):

  1. What do I do?

Be specific here. Do you write fiction, non-fiction, poetry? What is your motivation and your purpose?

  1. Who do I do it for?

In other words, who is your audience? Again, be specific. What do my readers expect from me?

  1. Why am I different?

This refers to your writing! What makes your writing unique? What makes it stand out from other writing of similar style and genre?

I find this a tough question. Just start writing something and you may be surprised with what comes out.

  1. Where am I going?

I see this as a directional question. What projects do I have in mind? Make a list. Organize it by level of importance (if you can…this is also one of my tough spots right now).

  1. How am I going to get there?

Beside each project, write two or three ideas on how to make it happen. You may also want to include possible timelines for each. These are, of course, completely adjustable. To start myself off, I began with a few of the projects I have already completed. This gave me a bit of momentum to carry on.

Now refine your answers (suggests Shannon) to one simple sentence for each question (save your original musings for reference). Then put all five together into a paragraph. Use present tense.

A few other sites I stumbled upon are:

Allen Watson’s ideas on Indie Mission Statement: https://authorallenwatson.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/your-indie-author-mission-statement/

Then from Darla at http://www.darlawrites.com/create-writer-mission-statement/:

(This is not verbatim.)

    • Start with your thoughts, hopes, dreams
    • Focus on a single writing goal (perhaps quality, being read, etc.)
    • Choose two or three things that will help me meet my goal
    • Write, write and rewrite this mission statement until it’s perfect for me
    • Memorize it
    • Print it out and post it in a prominent place
    • Share it, claim it, live it

And here’s a sample mission statement from Joanne Phillips: https://joannegphillips.wordpress.com/2012/08/14/author-mission-statements/

        “I write stories to entertain and offer a temporary escape into another life. I create interesting characters who may linger with the reader long after she’s finished the story. I write about characters who learn to examine their lives – their motivations, their hopes and fears – and find the courage to change. I write about the important stuff, but with a light touch. I write about the four Ls: life, love, loss and lies – including the lies we tell ourselves. And yes, I want to change the world. A little tiny bit of it, anyway.”

I will also include my very unfinished mission statement that I created with the help of the above information. Lots of tweaking yet to be done:

    “I create quality writing that reflects life and offers hope and a future, because that’s what I’ve been given. My readers are people who grasp truth through story, whether historical or contemporary. I write quality fiction (and non-fiction) from a Christian worldview, offering hope in spite of life’s difficulties. My goals are to independently publish both historical and contemporary fiction, as well as blogs, book reviews and how-to mini-books, and to learn how to market these to readers. I love stories with welcoming settings, a steadily moving plot, fascinating and usually quirky characters, a bit of romance, quite a few secrets, and some mystery, all combined in a gentle but realistic read.”

So have a little fun with this. I have already felt more motivated by reviewing these questions and my tentative answers. Don’t edit yourself when you begin. You can trim later. Right now you need to unload your ideas as fully as possible. If you are willing to share your mission statement, include it in the comments section below. You never know who you might inspire.

51YncIgjSFL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_This Regency Era historical novel by Julie Klassen started a bit slowly for me. I think the reason is that the opening scene is not focused on the main character. But as we meet Hannah Rogers and the rest of the cast of this story, as events and people fall into place, we are swept along on the tide of intriguing characters, questionable motivations, and unexpected developments.

To hide the birth of her son, Hannah Rogers has fled her position as ladies’ maid to Lady Marianna Mayfield. However, Hannah desperately needs money to pay the woman who looks after little Danny, so she asks if she may return to the Mayfield household.

Lady Marianna accepts Hannah’s proposal, because she and her husband are leaving Bath for another town and she doesn’t wish to go without a personal maid. The reason for the move is that Sir John Mayfield is trying to keep his wife from seeing her lover.

On the journey, a storm forces the carriage off the road and almost into the sea. When Hannah regains consciousness, only she and Sir John remain. The doctor who finds them assumes Hannah is Lady Mayfield, and that the red cloak he sees floating away in the tempestuous waves is the ladies’ maid. The misunderstanding lingers, since Sir John is insensible and near death, and cannot correct them. When Hannah realizes that people think she is Lady Mayfield, she keeps her secret, hoping to stay until her injured arm heals and she can return to Bath to pay her debt and collect her son.

To complicate plans, Sir John’s solicitor arrives, and although he’s never met either Lady Marianna or Hannah, he is suspicious about her identity, even as he is drawn to her kind manner and gentle ways. She does not match the description he has been given of Lady Mayfield, in looks or in character.

The tension hinges on whether Hannah can execute an escape before someone reveals her true identity. The plot continues to surprise, until the reader has no idea how it will end. I sensed a touch of Jane Eyre at times, a mystery in both storyline and characters.

Julie Klassen

Julie Klassen

Author Julie Klassen has written many other books in the Regency Era, all well-crafted and researched. They are generally gentle reads with strong moral values and faith lessons, all woven seamlessly into absorbing stories.


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