Monday, August 02, 2021

Book Review: Rocky Mountain Restoration, by Lisa J. Flickinger

Today, I'm excited to bring you a different kind of book review: 

I'm reviewing a trilogy!

As I've shared on other posts, I'm a member of InScribe Christian Writers' Fellowship. A few months ago, members were sharing their upcoming summer releases. I don't have a release, so I offered reviews.

Lisa J. Flickinger took me up on my offer. 
I didn't know if I had the time to read a whole series, 
but she had me at "Historical Fiction!"

Today, I'm reviewing Lisa's latest release, 
Rocky Mountain Restoration
from her Rocky Mountain Revival Series. 

Our saga begins with Rocky Mountain Redemption and Rocky Mountain Revelation. Both are set in the late 1800's in a Rocky Mountain logging camp. I'd never read a story set in this environment before, so I was excited to learn more about the setting and how it would affect the lives of our characters. I loved the details of the forest, the rhythm of the camp life, and the dangerous work required of the loggers. 

Each book of the trilogy is a love story, set against the social challenges and constraints of the late Victorian era. We meet our protagonists early in the stories, so we immediately know who's going to fall in love with whom. What makes it so charming is how Lisa tells the story. She alternates point of view, so in one chapter we feel our heroine's thoughts and actions, and in the next, we feel our hero's. By writing in this style, we get a complete perspective on each character, allowing us to fully understand his and her struggles, challenges, and passions. 


You can definitely read each book independently, but if you read all three, you'll meet familiar characters, and better understand some of the social and emotional dynamics.

Rocky Mountain Restoration is the third chapter of this series, and it takes us on a whole new adventure! This time, we leave the rough and tumble world of the logging camp for the genteel life of steam ship travel. We meet our new cast of characters as they cruise up the coast of British Columbia. This new world is decadent, class-based, and dramatic. Think Downton-Abbey-at-sea!

I love ocean stories, so this new setting was so perfect for me - very different from the logging camp, and so full of wonderful, historical detail. You can fully imagine the world of the ship, the dynamics between the characters, and the tension caused by living in such tight quarters.


There are two things I particularly appreciate about Lisa's writing:

One, she deals appropriately with the restrictions of the era. The Victorian times were strict. Certain etiquette was required of men and women, and those rules were heightened by class. Lisa's characters live and make their choices in that world; we never see them trying to live by today's social rulebook.

And two, her characters aren't afraid of their faith. Some have it, some question it, some have lost it, but none are afraid to talk about it. This is also appropriate to the era, when most people of this particular society would have been raised in church. These books are more overtly "Christian fiction" than most of the books I review, but the scenes of faith were never preachy, and often very moving.

If you're looking for a lovely escape to a very different world, 
I recommend tucking yourself away in a cozy reading corner with the whole 
Rocky Mountain Revival Series

Oh, and make sure you grab a snack! All of our characters are connected to the food and service industry. Between the ship's homemade egg rolls, the logger's bacon-and-egg breakfast, and the constant mention of homemade donuts, these books made me hungry! Oh, did you know loggers get something called "second lunch"??? Me neither, but I'm thinking of starting it as a family practice in our home... 


You can learn more about Lisa J. Flickinger and the Rocky Mountain Revival Series at

http://www.lisajflickinger.com





 

Thursday, July 15, 2021

No Clear Path to Reopening for Musicians


For months, I’ve been terrified of “The Gap”
that time between the world returning to normal and musicians returning to work.


For the last decade, my husband, Gerald Flemming, and I have toured Canada with our inspirational duo, Infinitely More. Each year, we pack our car with guitars, gear, and CDs to bring live music from St. Catharines, ON, to every corner of the country. We’ve performed thousands of events, recorded 8 studio albums, and racked up a handful of national music awards.

That was, until 2020. We spent our first weeks of lockdown cancelling concerts, including our 10th Anniversary Cross Canada Tour. Lost income, lost creativity, lost community - it broke our hearts.

We pivoted to creating videos and teaching online lessons. We received a Canada Council for the Arts grant to take our 10th Anniversary Tour online. We partnered with the Anglican Diocese of Niagara to create our “Lenten Musical Calendar”. We started to work on our 9th studio album. 
We did our best to stay creative and connected.

17 months later, lockdowns are lifting. Vaccinations are happening. 
Businesses are reopening. Everyone is excited about the return to normal.

But for musicians, we find ourselves firmly in “The Gap”.

You see, there’s no clear path for a full-time professional musician to “reopen”. 
We’re not like other businesses. There won’t be a day when the government announces, 
“And today, artists can return to work!” 


The pathway to our re-opening is layered and complicated:

We need venues to open, but live music isn’t restricted to clubs and theatres. Thousands of performances happen in churches, parks, libraries, seniors homes, and other community spaces. Most of us can’t make a living until all venues open at full capacity.

Did you know that many concerts at churches, community centres, and even theatres are fully or partially staffed by volunteers? Before they can host a concert, venues will need to recruit volunteers, create a safe work environment, and provide special training for ever-changing restrictions and guidelines. 

For a Christian duo like Infinitely More, we need to follow the lead of local churches. Many of them still aren’t gathering in person. Some have lost members and resources along the way. It will take a period of time for them to regroup and settle into a new normal before they can take on an “extra” event like hosting a concert. 

Most full-time musicians travel. We need to consider the safety of hotels, planes, public washrooms and dine-in restaurants, in Canada and across the border. Many of us find accommodations with friends, family and billets. How comfortable will any of us feel staying in someone else’s home and eating at their table? 

The insecurity of long-range planning is a new issue. Venues of all shapes and sizes had to cancel all their 2020 programming. Many are hesitant to put events on the books until things are easier to predict. As you can imagine, this varies across the country, complicating the already-complicated world of touring. 

There’s the issue of money. How will heavy and unpredictable tour finances play out in a post-pandemic economy? Will venues be able to pay fees or guarantee ticket sales? Will audience members have extra cash for tickets or merchandise? 

As venues cancelled events last year, many artist bookings were simply deferred to 2021. That means that concert series and other commercial and community venues already have their performers secured for this year, and won't have openings for another full year.


Which leads to the most complicated part of the equation: booking events is a long game. 
There’s often a 3-12 month gap between booking a concert and the actual performance. Assuming any of us can get back to our 2019 numbers, both in terms of fees and performance schedule, that still means a 3-12 month gap before we can earn a full-time income.


This is “The Gap” I fear. 

And this is “The Gap” where we, and all full-time musicians, now find ourselves. 


There are fantastic groups on all levels working to ease this transition, create safe venues, and advocate for financial support. We’re grateful for their commitment.

As things start to open up, there’s a genuine excitement in the air. People are anxious to leave their homes, travel, and attend events. We’re hoping this means full audiences who are eager to buy tickets and CDs. 


But the simple truth is this: 
Being an artist is hard anytime, and this season has been uniquely difficult. 


Every day, social media contains yet another post by a talented musician “announcing” their new career in real estate or bookkeeping. Artists are regularly sharing testimonies of lost creativity and productivity. Our arts community has suffered and is suffering. Many won’t survive. I worry for the career artists who can’t see the next chapter, and the new artists who can’t even write their first page. 

Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it’s now going to take a village to reopen the performing arts industry. We’ll need financial support for individuals, venues and organizations. We’ll need a vaccinated country that’s not living in fear of disease. We’ll need committed staff and volunteers who can safely support live performances. And we’ll need artists who are physically, emotionally, psychologically, creatively, and financially healthy.

As artists, all we want to do is make art and share it with the world. 
Art is never complete until it’s shared with an audience. 
Trust me when I say, we can’t wait to perform for you! 

Let’s hope it can happen soon ... 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *  
   

Want to help Infinitely More in "The Gap"? 

Please visit our STORE to purchase music or make a donation. 
Please CONTACT us to book live or online concerts, workshops, and worship services.



 

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Guest Blogger!

Today, I'm the guest blogger for Inscribe Christian Writers Fellowship.

You can find my post HERE




Thursday, July 08, 2021

Book Review: A Tapestry of Light, by Kimberly Duffy

One of my 2021 Reading Challenges was to read a book 
"based in a country I've never read about."

Can you believe I'd never read a novel set in India??

I'm so happy A Tapestry of Light by Kimberly Duffy 
was the book to fulfil that challenge!

A Tapestry of Light opens in 1885 Calcutta. Our heroine, Ottilie, has already seen more than her share of hardship, and today is no different. We meet her at her mother's funeral. At only 20, Ottilie now bears responsibility for her grandmother and her young brother. Her physical strength and her faith in God are barely holding up.

But Ottilie has a special talent - beetle-wing embroidery. Yes, you read that correctly. Actually embroidery with beetle wings! If you love handicrafts like me, all the descriptions of this specialized artistry will make your heart swoon! I spent hours googling and drooling over photos...

Embroidery becomes a theme and a metaphor throughout this incredibly lush and romantic book. 


Beetle-wing Embroidery
Source: Wikipedia 
Ottilie is both British and Indian, simultaneously belonging to both and neither. When her family's British past shows up in an unexpected way, Ottilie must make hard decisions about her family's future. What entails is a journey through cultures, class, and racial tension. I really don't want to give away any plot points, so I'll just say I loved the way Ottilie's story unfolded! The plot kept me fully engaged, without ever sacrificing detailed descriptions of cities, clothing, and countryside. The characters are engaging and beautifully developed.

Kimberly does a great job of putting us in a very tactile world. We can taste the Indian spices, hear the sounds of the neighbourhood, and feel every breath of weather. In full disclosure, I know very little about British/Indian history. I found myself looking up words like "Cawnpore" and "Nana Sahib", but isn't that part of why we love historical fiction? The best historical fiction doesn't just give us a great story - it gives us a unique and personal glimpse into history. More often than not, we get to experience chapters of history - usually about women or the disenfranchised - that rarely make it into the history books.


At 400+ pages, A Tapestry of Light is a hefty read, but worth every moment. I loved the world of the book, the characters, the artistry, the Victorian sensibility, and yes, the beetle-wing embroidery!

Brew yourself a cup of tea, visit your local Indian bakery for a dish of rasmalai, 
and allow A Tapestry of Light to transport you to another time and place. 


Here's an offer you don't hear every day: 

If your book club is discussing one of Kimberly's books, 
she'd love to join you via Skype or Zoom! How cool is that???

For more info, please visit Kimberly's site:

KimberlyDuffy.com


This contemporary artist shares details of her creation HERE. 



Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Thursday, July 01, 2021

A Complicated Canada Day

 “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

Romans 12:15 NIV

Healing Fire at the Niagara Regional Native Centre, Niagara-on-the-Lake


Today, we’ve held conflicting emotions in our hands:

We’ve spent the last decade touring every province in Canada. 
We’ve seen firsthand the beauty, grace, and generosity of our diverse and beautiful people.

We also mourn the loss and mistreatment of indigenous children. 
We recognize the role of our government in this abuse, 
but even worse, we recognize the role of our churches.


This morning, we visited the Healing Fire at the Niagara Regional Native Centre. We heard singing & drumming. We were invited to add medicines to the fire, and lift our prayers for healing. We gathered to “mourn with those who mourn.”

In the afternoon, we spent time exploring our beautiful Niagara countryside, soaking in the glorious sunshine. We shared a piece of cake with our neighbours. We connected with family online, counting down the days til we can finally see each other in person.


Mourning. Rejoicing. Conflicting emotions. 


I wish I could give you some great succinct nugget of wisdom today, but the truth is, there is no simple way to sum up how we feel today. We, as a country, as communities, as individuals, are working through something dark and complicated. 

It’s going to be hard. It should be hard. 


When we were invited to add medicines to the fire, we asked, 
“As non-indigenous people, is it okay for us to do this?” 

The fire tender answered, 
“People are people. We all need healing.”


Oh Canada, may we mourn, may we heal, 
and may our journey together transform us into something better. 

Amen...



Saturday, June 26, 2021

Book Review: The Peace Project, by Kay Wills Wyma

I don't know about you, but I feel like the last 18 months have been desperately lacking in Peace. Inner peace, community peace, and world peace have been replaced by inner turmoil, community protests, and world unrest. 

When I saw the title The Peace Project
I knew this was a book I needed to read right now.

Before even opening the cover (which is so striking, by the way!), I noticed the forward is written by Ron Hall, co-author of Same Kind of Different as Me. I loved that book so much and still highly recommend it! You can read my review HERE.

On a busy morning, Kay Wyma backed out of her driveway, only to be met by a rude driver. Kay reacted like many of us do - cursing and swearing at the other driver from the safety of our own car. 

She texted a friend to share the encounter, but her friend's text didn't share her outrage. Instead, she shared a personal story of a time when a bad day made her the "rude driver."


That perspective started to shift something in Kay's heart. 
And that shift birthed The Peace Project.



Kay discovered that the combination of Thankfulness, Kindness, and Mercy (TKM) brought in waves of inner peace. She invited her friends and family on a 30-day practice to see if they could create more peace in their lives.

I will admit, this book went in a different direction than I expected. I thought this would be a 30-day guide with practical peace-making steps. I expected exercises and ideas for executing a peace plan.

Instead, Kay shares the stories of living out TKM in the midst of everyday life. The goal was to find a reason to practice each of the three every day. Some days, they happened naturally. Other times, they had to seek out or create opportunities. Thankfulness and Kindness seemed to be the easiest for Kay and her friends to access. Mercy became the real kicker. 

Kay's writing style is honest, personable, and really fun. Each chapter opens and closes with a quote inspired by the themes, and these alone are worth the price of admission. Most chapters close with a short paragraph written by one of Kay's friends and their own experience of living out one aspect of TKM. There's also space for you to track you own daily progress.

In the end, I'm glad this wasn't simply a "how to". I was inspired and engaged by the stories in this book. I don't think I've ever given so much thought to living out Mercy in my everyday life! And here's the thing, we all say we want Peace, but we define it as an "absence of conflict." How do we ever create an absence of anything??? Finding this TKM combination might just be the the secret formula to creating Peace in our homes, our communities, and maybe one day, in our world.


Kay is offering FREE gifts with pre-orders from her site (the pre-orders were still available as of today's blogpost date). Scroll down her Books page to also find FREE downloadable Bible studies! 
Here's the link:

https://kaywyma.com/books-stuff/



Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Book Review: Miriam's Song, by Jill Eileen Smith

I've always held a fascination with the women of the Bible. God chose these diverse women to be part of His story, and yet so often, we're given such tiny slivers of information about them.


A few years ago, I was asked to preach a sermon about Miriam 
for a Women of the Bible sermon series. 

You can watch my sermon on Miriam HERE.


Sister to Moses and Aaron, Miriam plays a key role in the story of the Israelites. We meet her several times over the full course of her life - from a little girl, putting her baby brother in a basket in the Nile, to a prophetess singing in the desert, to her death as an old woman - yet, in-between these moments, we hear so little about her.


That's why I was excited to read Miriam's Song
a new historical fiction by Jill Eileen Smith.

Smith has become an expert on recreating the stories of the women of the Old Testament. She has a passion for discovering the details of everyday life for women of that time. These details create a visceral and compelling world for the characters of Miriam's Song.


For example, after mixing pitch for Moses's basket, his parents decide,

"'We will bury the bowls, for there is no time to clean them well.' ... Bowls were scarce, and it would take time to make more. But it would be easier to make new ones than try to clean the old."


What a fantastic detail! Living in our own single-use society, I loved this line. What a reminder that things couldn't just be bought or easily replaced. Everything they owned had to be handcrafted in the scarce time that remained after a day of slave labour.


From food to clothing to housing, 
Smith gives us a full picture of Miriam's everyday life and duties.

The one challenge with the novel is the original issue with Miriam's story - we know so little about her! In writing Biblical historical fiction, the author always needs to manage a careful balance. Do I simply write within the limited story I'm given, or do I fill in the gaps and run the risk of rewriting the Bible?

Smith chooses to flesh out the parts of Miriam's story given in the Bible. But rather than invent stories not in Scripture, she fills in the missing pieces by switching over to Moses and telling his story. (She addresses this directly in the "Note to the Reader" at the end of the book.)

The whole story is compelling, but to be honest, I wish she'd stayed with Miriam the whole time. The storyline of the Exodus is difficult and emotional. I really wanted to stay with our heroine and allow her to be our guide through the trials and successes. That said, Smith does a wonderful job exploring the conflict within Miriam's heart - she knows God has called her to be part of His story, yet she feels so restricted in her sidelined role. 

How many people, especially women, can still resonate with this today???

There's such power in creating a novelized form for a woman like Miriam. It's so easy for us to judge the importance of a Bible character by the number of lines dedicated to her in Scripture. 


By writing this book, Smith has given Miriam a heart, 
a family, and a voice.
Her's is a story worth sharing...


Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.