Bible, Blog Tour, Book Review, Books, christian fiction, Christian Writer, New Author, The Word of God

BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Wanderer Scorned’ by Natasha Woodcraft

The first murder

Most people have heard of the story of Cain and Abel. The story of two brothers, one good, one bad, born at the beginning of time. Murderous Cain killed his brother Abel, because God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and not his. But is that the whole story? You can read the story in Genesis 4, but it doesn’t tell you much more than that. Except that Cain is confronted by God and cursed to be a fugitive, forced to leave his home and family behind.

Front cover of 'The Wanderer Scorned' featuring a close up of the face of a man half hidden in darkness, with sad eyes.

In ‘The Wanderer Scorned’ Natasha Woodcraft has done something few of us would dare to do. She has taken this story and, using her imagination, created a backdrop for a crime that has been condemned for millennia. Her starting point is ‘why?’ Why did Cain, a man who knew and heard God, murder his brother? Was it just a fit of jealousy over a misjudged sacrifice, or did it go much deeper than that? The story she creates makes Cain a human being just like any one of us. Exploring the idea that every human being has within them the capacity to do dreadful things, under certain circumstances, driven by wrong emotions, past hurts and long carried pain.

The Effect of the Curse

Genesis 3 tells us that Adam and Eve broke covenant with God, and were banished from the garden and His presence and protection. At that moment mankind became cursed – with physical and emotional pain, with negative emotions that they had never known before. Guilt, shame, distrust, jealousy, anger, misunderstanding and lust to name a few. At the same time the earth itself was cursed – with thorns and weeds, predatory animals and insects that could desecrate harvests. It was into that cursed world that Cain and Abel were born. The Wanderer Scorned shows Adam and Eve, themselves outcasts, trying to navigate this new reality and carrying the guilt of what their sin would mean for all of mankind, including their own offspring.

The front cover of 'The Wanderer Scorned' superimposed on a desert scene, with the words 'a tale of love, hate, faith and doubt: obscured by centuries of rumour'

Great descriptive writing

Natasha Woodcraft has done an amazing job in describing what the earth might have looked like then and how Adam and his family might have lived in it, dealing with every new experience as they come across it. The way the family grow in their understanding of how to make the most out of creation’s bounty rings true. She extends the timing of the events of Genesis 2-4 over many, many years, and adds additional children, including a twin sister for Abel.

Her greatest skill is in her characterisation. Cain (Kayin) is a very real, and strangely sympathetic character, whilst Abel (Havel), the ‘good’ brother, although kind and godly, also has the ability to irritate! The author is very careful not to excuse what Cain did, but what she does is very cleverly construct a plausible set of causative factors for his act. We experience Cain’s grief, anger, jealousy and mistrust, but we also see him loving his family, serving them well, and working hard to get the best out of the land. The serpent too has a major role.

Engrossing and Enjoyable

I found it an engrossing and enjoyable read. I loved the references to Elohim, and to the time in the garden before the fall, which Adam and Eve bring to her story in their memories. The story also includes beautiful songs of praise, written by the author, based on the words of the Psalms.

I believe Natasha Woodcraft has done an amazing job in fictionalising a really difficult biblical story, in a way that makes you think, and consider the very nature of humanity. The Wanderer Scorned is the first of three books retelling Cain’s story, and I am very much looking forward to reading the next one.

Ask the Author!

Image of the author, Natasha Woodcraft

I was curious as to how and why Natasha chose to write this book, and about the songs she included, so I asked her!

I understand that you believe God put it on your heart to write Cains’ story, and that He inspired you in the writing of it. Can you explain a bit more about how you actually wrote The Wanderer Scorned?

Wow, great question! It’s tricky to say, ‘God inspired me to write,’ isn’t it? It sounds like I’m claiming some kind of authority, but really, I’m not. I woke up early one morning with an idea; It was a complete surprise to me. So, I prayed (really, God?), read the Bible (the first six chapters of Genesis), then sat down and started writing. The first words I wrote were, ‘It all started with the banishment.’ They are still where Kayin’s story starts!

I think what God put on my heart that morning was communicating that Cain was a bad person, yes, but so am I. It’s so easy for me to judge other people: I have to constantly repent of this. Writing from Kayin’s point of view was a spiritual journey, an exploration into both his character and God’s. Giving Cain a voice enabled him to ask all those questions I sometimes keep bottled up. (Was God fair in His dealings with Cain? Why would he reject his sacrifice?) Also, it was an acknowledgement of the fact that, given the right set of circumstances, I might be capable of what he did, which is a harrowing thought. Oh, how I need Jesus!

People have lots of very strong opinions about the early chapters of Genesis. I spent a lot of time researching, reading and revising, trying to pitch something realistic and challenging but not offensive. I hope I succeeded.

There were several times when I ‘got stuck’. At these times, I prayed, and then I opened the Bible. I remember vividly the night I found Psalm 50: it was a game-changer. Suddenly, in that Psalm, I saw everything I needed to complete Kayin’s story; it was a real gift from God. I also often find inspiration from walking. I wrote the prologue in my head when walking my dog around a lake – then quickly ran home to scribble it down before I forgot it!

The Wandered Scorned has two songs written out in full, which you have written music to and recorded. Where can people find these?

It does! They are on my YouTube channel, which you can find here.

‘The Wanderer Scorned is available now in both paperback and eBook. Visit www.natashawoodcraft.com for more information on Natasha’s books, songs and to follow her personal blog.

Image showing kindle and paperback versions of the book

Joy Margetts is a blogger and a published author. Her debut novel ‘The Healing‘ was published by Instant Apostle on 19 March 2021, and her second ‘The Pilgrim‘ in July 2022. Her books are works of historical fiction, set in medieval Wales against the backdrop of Cistercian abbey life; stories of faith, hope and God’s redemptive power. Joy has also self- published a short novella, ‘The Beloved‘ as both a companion to ‘The Healing‘, and as an easy to read standalone story, which is available to buy on Amazon Kindle.

More information on Joy and her writing, and links to purchase her books can be found here www.joymargetts.com

Bible, Blog Tour, Book Review, Books, christian fiction, Christian Writer, Forgiveness, Medieval Fiction, pilgrimage, The Word of God

A Pilgrimage of Forgiveness

Image shows a stained glass window depicting medieval pilgrims, with a copy of The Pilgrim book in the foreground

Today is day 8 of the blog tour to celebrate the release of my second novel, The Pilgrim, on Friday of this week. Our dear writer friend LIZ CARTER was due to post a blog today, but sadly is not well enough to do so. Liz had asked me to write a guest blog on how the subject of forgiveness is explored in the book. So here is the text of the blog I wrote for her. I hope it blesses you.

Understanding and accepting forgiveness

The idea for my second novel The Pilgrim came from a scene in my first, The Healing. In it, Brother Hywel reveals to Philip a bit of his own history, his secret guilt. How a youthful indiscretion set into motion a series of devastating consequences for people he cared about deeply. He does so to illustrate to his younger friend how powerful forgiveness is in bringing about transformation in our lives.

So in fleshing out Brother Hywel’s story, The Pilgrim inevitably became a story of one man’s journey to understand and accept forgiveness. Fairly early on in the story he is offered forgiveness by the man he has hurt and betrayed. At this point in the story Hywel is still Hal, not yet having entered monastic life.  As his friend, Cenred, is dying, he tells him that he has forgiven him, but then goes on to say this:

‘I have but one thing to ask you in return.’

Hal lifted his eyes to meet those of his friend. ‘Anything! I will do anything. Tell me what I must do.’

The desire to put things right, to somehow negate the pain and grief his actions had caused this man, was so overpowering.

‘Forgive yourself.’

Hal was confused, and also disappointed. Was there not something else he could do? What Cenred was asking was impossible.

He felt a squeeze on his hand again. Cenred had closed his eyes, but seemed determined to say more.

‘I must commend myself to God’s forgiveness soon. You will find God will forgive you also, if you come to Him truly repentant. But, Hal, accepting that you are forgiven and forgiving yourself… those are the only ways that you will be able to walk free… of the guilt and pain you are bearing now.

‘You are so young, Hal, and there is so much good you can do with the rest of your life. But to do so you must be free. It is what I desire most for you. What I long for.’

The grace gift of God

Image of a large cross, dark against a blue sky with sun rising above a cloud

Although he struggles to embrace the enormity of those words when they are spoken, Hywel does eventually come to understand them. It takes an encounter with God at the foot of the Cross, and a personal revelation of God’s mercy and grace, for him to realise the extent of the forgiveness on offer to him. Still he has to accept it for himself, receive it as the grace gift it is – a gift still offered freely by the cross of Christ for each one of us who willingly responds to Him. 

Hywel’s journey continues. For to truly know freedom, to truly become the man God has called him to be, he must forgive himself. He hears the stories of two of his travelling companions. Both have experienced the burden of living with guilt, and both in their own ways have come into a new understanding of the power of forgiving self. As Hywel struggles to come to that point himself, so I believe we all can struggle with forgiving ourselves.

Forgive, as you have been forgiven

In His story of The Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18 : 21 -35) Jesus taught that we ought to forgive as we have been forgiven. Forgiving others is not always easy, but perhaps we feel more inclined to do so when we understand how much we have been forgiven by God. But what if Jesus meant His words to apply to forgiving ourselves also? Forgive yourself, as you have been forgiven.

I think we sometimes feel we have to continue to carry the guilt for the things we are ashamed of, long after God has forgiven us. That somehow we are serving some sort of penance by doing so. But that is not living in the grace of God. If He has forgiven us then there is no more to pay – the Cross has done it all. Guilt and shame can continue to keep us burdened and bound, and self-condemnation is a favourite tool of the enemy to keep us from living in the freedom that God’s forgiveness offers us.

Scripture says if I belong to Christ, then I am no longer condemned (Romans 8:1) If God does not condemn me, than neither should I condemn myself. We need to be truly repentant for our mistakes, of course, but once we have come to the Cross and received His forgiveness, it is a done deal. Accepting and receiving God’s forgiveness means letting go of our guilt and self-condemnation once and for all. Whether it be in a small stone church, or a wind- swept mountain top, or in a monastery guest house – there will come a time when we, as Hywel and his fellow pilgrims did, need to forgive ourselves and walk free of our burdens.

Joy Margetts is a published author and blogger. Her books are works of Christian Historical fiction. Set in medieval Wales against the backdrop of Cistercian abbey life, they tell stories of faith, hope and God’s redemptive power. Her debut novel ‘The Healing‘ was published by Instant Apostle on 19 March 2021. Joy has also self- published a short novella, ‘The Beloved‘ as both a companion to ‘The Healing‘, and as an easy to read standalone story, which is available to buy on Amazon Kindle.

Image shows a garden table and chair, with the view of the sea beyond. On the table is a copy of the book, The Pilgrim, and a vase of mulitcoloured flowers.

The Pilgrim‘, her second full length novel, will be published by Instant Apostle on 22 July 2022

More information on Joy and her writing, and links to purchase her books can be found here www.joymargetts.com

Book Review, Books, Children's fiction, christian fiction, Christian Writer

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Tommy’s Mummy is Sad’ by Celeste Majcher and Elri Jacobs

Text on back cover of book. @tommy is a little green frog, who has a happy little life until he notices how sad his mummy is. It makes him sad too, and he decides to try and help his mummy not to be sad anymore.
Front cover of 'Tommy's Mummy is Sad' showing cartoon of a green frog on a white background.

As soon as I saw that this book was being published I knew I needed to get a copy. It is a children’s book, no age specified, but the language and the pictures seem to be applicable to younger children, perhaps 3 years upwards. I actually think it could be valuable for children of all ages, and for adults who care for children too, because it deals with a difficult subject in an accessible and honest way.

Parental Depression

Post Natal Depression, indeed depression of any kind, is more prevalent than we want to admit. It still holds a stigma, and it is misunderstood and not talked about enough. It is particularly difficult for children to understand. I didn’t realise how much Post Natal depression can affect a family until I went through it myself. And my children and my husband had to walk through it with me.

Image of page from book with cartoon photographs and the words: 'He thought he was the reason why she was always so sad'

So to know someone had written a book specifically to help children to deal with the effects of parental depression, was amazing. There was nothing out there when we needed it. No way of adequately explaining to our children why I was sad. And most importantly that it was not my children’s fault that I was sad, nor that they had to feel like it was up to them to make me happy again.

A delightful little story

Image from inside book showing green frog licking his lips, a plate of food and a bottle of sauce.

Celeste sensitively addresses all these issues, within a delightful little story about a green frog named Tommy, and his efforts to help his Mummy to not be sad any more. Tommy has a happy little life but he knows something is wrong with his mummy and it makes him feel really anxious.

The story tells us what he tries to do about it, and how he and his mummy come to a place of understanding –  that anxiety and depression are real things, that they can talk about their feelings with each other, andt that it doesn’t change the way they love one another.

I loved this book. The illustrations by Elri Jacobs are stunning and the writing is so good. I got my daughter (now a mum herself) to read it and she agreed that it really is very well done. Today she understands why I was sad when she was small. But it would have been really good to have a resource like this one to read with her then.

God the Healer

Image form inside book with the words: 'It is not your job to make me happy.'

God is Healer and Redeemer. My depression is long gone, and any trauma suffered by my children because of my post natal depression is also healed. But I still wish this book had been around all those years ago. I believe this book could be a real blessing to families everywhere.

My favourite quote from the book, is what Tommy’s mummy says to him and what I would say to my children too.

You help me every day by being who you are and who God made you to be. I am so proud of you and I am so happy to be your mummy.’

Well done Celeste Majcher. Tommy’s Mummy is Sad is a fabulous, heart warming, hope-filled little book, dealing with a hugely important subject. I hope it is the first of many Little Green Frog books.

Image from inside the book, giving child friendly definitions of the words Anxious and Depression

Celeste Majcher is an author, vicar’s wife and mother of 5. She is a South African expat, now living in Scotland. You can find her and her books at https://celestemajcher.co.uk/ Or follow her on Social Media @themajcher7

Joy Margetts is a blogger and a published author. Her debut novel ‘The Healing‘ was published by Instant Apostle on 19 March 2021. A work of historic fiction, set in medieval Wales against the backdrop of Cistercian abbey life, it is also a story of faith, hope and God’s redemptive power. Joy has also self- published a short novella, ‘The Beloved‘ as both a companion to ‘The Healing‘, and as an easy to read standalone story, which is available to buy on Amazon Kindle.

The Pilgrim‘, her second full length novel, will be published by Instant Apostle in July 2022

More information on Joy and her writing, and links to purchase her books can be found here www.joymargetts.com

Blog Tour, Book Review, Books, Children's fiction, Christian Writer, Jenny Sanders, New Author

BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Magnificent Moustache and other stories’ by Jenny Sanders

Front cover of book. Gold titles on a red background with line drawings of characters from the stories.

A book of funny stories for younger readers, that will also make adults snigger.

I am so thrilled to be included in the book blog tour for this fabulous new book from Jenny Sanders. I have known Jenny for a while, as a fellow author. She has written seriously good devotional non-fiction, and is known for her desire to encourage others to grow spiritually. And to get women together in community to support each other. She is wise and godly… and I have discovered that she is funny too. Very funny.

Entertaining, Clever and Funny

That becomes ever more apparent in this wonderful collection of stories that she has written and produced for children. Inspired by the stories she made up for her own children, and with no nasty surprises or scary characters. They are just jolly, affirming, and entertaining throughout. I was amazed at her ingenuity. Her imagination knows no bounds, her writing is laugh out loud funny, and very, very clever. Even her choice of language, names and characters makes you smile. There is a definite sense of the ridiculous through all of her stories. And who doesn’t love that?

Front and back cover of the book.

Six Ingenious Stories

In this collection there are six complete stories, each about 5000 words long. The title story is that of Lord Clanville-Smythe and his dangerous moustache obsession. Then we have the tale of a tea catastrophe that leaves the Queen high and dry. We meet a poor fellow who literally goes to the ends of the earth to lose his ridiculous name. And we are involved in the challenge of finding an ingenious way to revitalise a failing biscuit business. The fifth story describes what happens when technology takes over a kingdom trapped in a bygone age. And finally, in the last story we get an plausible (sort of) explanation for the red dragon that features on the flag of Wales.

Each story has a very satisfying happy ending, and is beautifully illustrated by the creative talent of Amanda Young. Although not overtly Christian stories they have integrity and a discernable moral undertone. They are just delightful! Young readers will enjoy expanding their imagination and indeed their vocabulary reading these extra-ordinary tales. They would also make excellent bedtime story material – I challenge you, if you are the one to read them out loud, to keep a straight face!

So if you like your stories funny, imaginative, gentle and endearing. And if you particularly enjoy a little bit of the ridiculous, you will love these stories. Oh, and your children might enjoy them too… Well done Jenny!

Image of Author, Jenny Sanders
Jenny Sanders

The Magnificent Moustache and other stories

Published by: The Conrad Press. ISBN number: 9781914913853. Available as an e-book or as a paperback. Purchase on Amazon or order at all good bookshops, or purchase direct from the author for £9 +p&p

You can find the author in the following places:

Facebook: Jenny Sanders – writer https://www.facebook.com/dancingthroughchaos/?ref=pages_you_manage

Instagram: @jennysanderswriter  https://www.instagram.com/jennysanderswriter/

Blog: Dancing Through Chaos https://dancingthroughchaos.wordpress.com/about/

Joy Margetts is a blogger and a published author. Her debut novel ‘The Healing‘ was published by Instant Apostle on 19 March 2021. A work of historic fiction, set in medieval Wales against the backdrop of Cistercian abbey life, it is also a story of faith, hope and God’s redemptive power. Joy has also self- published a short novella, ‘The Beloved‘ as both a companion to ‘The Healing‘, and as an easy to read standalone story, which is available to buy on Amazon Kindle.

The Pilgrim‘, her second full length novel, will be published by Instant Apostle in July 2022

More information on Joy and her writing, and links to purchase her books can be found here www.joymargetts.com

Book Review, Books, Children's fiction, christian fiction, Christian Writer, Faith, Forgiveness

BOOK REVIEW: BURROWED by MARESSA MORTIMER

I was thrilled to be asked to participate in the blog tour for the latest book from my prolific author friend Maressa Mortimer*. Burrowed is a full – length novel, designed primarily for teens and young adults, but equally suitable for all adults to read.

Front cover of Burrowed. Black text on an image of red tulips floating above a grey sea

Daydreaming in words

Maressa describes her stories as daydreaming in words. She writes because the stories in her imagination just have to be put down on paper. As a result we get to have an insight into her extra-ordinarily imaginative brain, and to read stories that are told with an immediacy that keeps you gripped. You live each moment with the characters, wondering what is going to happen next. Wondering if the author knew when she was writing it!

Burrowed is an fantastical adventure story. It has two main characters, teens who live on the imaginary Island State of Ximiu. The island has being going through major changes, and those changes are still happening, perhaps too quickly. You get the sense that things are quickly getting out of control, so much so that when more sinister things start to happen the people in charge don’t know what to do about them. In fact they seemingly are doing nothing.

Believable characters and topical issues

Apart from telling a good story Maressa has done a great job creating characters that are believable and empathetic. Jasira is the bold and brave, inquisitive and questioning daughter of the Island’s female leader. Her male friend Ilori, is wheelchair bound, a more sensitive soul prone to poetic outbursts, but with a genuine faith in God. Together, with two new unexpected allies they set out to solve the mysteries of the things that have been going missing from the island – cars, asphalt, energy – and some things that are much more precious.

It is an engaging tale, and you are definitely drawn in. Towards the end it becomes harder and harder to put down, as the action becomes increasingly dramatic. But Burrowed is more than a good fantasy adventure story. It deals with topical issues such as climate change and the costs of going green, and autocratic government dangerously tainted by lies and deceit. It also describes a state religion that has become increasingly godless. All things that resonate with the reader.

Image listing the blog sites on the official blog tour

Emotive and dramatic

The book also sings with hope – woven throughout are references to faith, and the power of God to answer prayer. Themes of loss, grief and sacrificial love are also beautifully handled. As is the growing relationship of trust and dependency among the main protagonists. It is heartbreakingly emotive at times, edge of the seat dramatic at others.

Burrowed is a great book. And it needs a sequel. What happened to Jasira and Ilori next? Will the Island’s government survive and change for the better? What really happened under the surface and did anyone survive? And where on earth did Xandra’s sister go?

Time for some more ‘burrowing’ I think!

Image of Maressa Mortimer

*Maressa Mortimer is Dutch but lives in the beautiful Cotswolds, with her husband and four (adopted) children. Maressa is a home-school mum as well as a pastor’s wife, so her writing has to be done in the evening when peace and quiet descend on the house once more. Her debut novel, Sapphire Beach, was published in December 2019,  followed by two self-published YA novels, Walled City, and Beyond the Hills, and a novella, Viking Ferry.

Burrowed was released on 22 April 2022.  All Maressa’s books are available from her website, www.vicarioushome.com, Amazon or through local bookshops.

Joy Margetts is a blogger and a published author. Her debut novel ‘The Healing‘ was published by Instant Apostle on 19 March 2021. A work of historic fiction, set in medieval Wales against the backdrop of Cistercian abbey life, it is also a story of faith, hope and God’s redemptive power. Joy has also self- published a short novella, ‘The Beloved‘ as both a companion to ‘The Healing‘, and as an easy to read standalone story, which is available to buy on Amazon Kindle.

The Pilgrim‘, her second full length novel, will be published by Instant Apostle in July 2022

More information on Joy and her writing, and links to purchase her books can be found here www.joymargetts.com

Book Review, Books, Children's fiction, Christian Writer, Faith, God's faithfulness, Lessons from life

BOOK REVIEWS: ‘They Whisper About Us’ and ‘The Letters She Never Sent’ by Joy Vee

One of the pleasures of being a blogger who reviews books is being able to read books designed for children and teenagers, as well as those written for adults. I am particularly thrilled to once again be able to recommend two new books by Joy Vee*. They Whisper about Us, for readers 13+, and young adults and The Letters She Never Sent for readers 8+. The two books are written as companion books taking two different slants on the same story, and can be read separately or together. Each is written in a way that is age appropriate for the readers they are designed for, but as an adult I thoroughly enjoyed both!

We live in uncertain times. What we read and see on the news is deeply unsettling and frankly unbelievable. The publication of Joy’s books could not be more timely. If nothing else they might help younger readers make some sense of what is happening in Ukraine right now, and the history behind it.

They Whisper About Us

They Whisper About Us is set in two different times and places, focussing on two young girls of similar age. One is a promising ballerina, dancing for the Kirov Ballet in 1960’s USSR, the other a modern day teenager trying to work out what life is all about. What connects the two is a battered old tea tin full of letters written in Russian, and a pair of old ballet shoes, found deep inside a store cupboard in a theatre in Lincoln.

As the story and the mystery of the connection between the two unfolds, we are drawn into the not so distant past; a world of fear and uncertainty, where to be different is to be treated with suspicion. In the modern day the author deals well with the angst of teenage insecurities and family dynamics, as well as touching on themes of aging and dementia with sensitivity. The characters are engaging and the description of places and events believable.

It is a faith based book but the Christian message is subtly done, and completely in context. I would not hesitate to give this book to a non believer, but it would also challenge and encourage Christian readers too. The storytelling is great with its twists and turns, leading to a satisfactory ending. Although there may be some unanswered questions and that is where ‘The Letters She Never Sent’ comes in.

The Letters She Never Sent

This shorter book tells the story of Amy-Hope and her surprising new friend. Amy-Hope loves dancing, loves her dog Cosmo, and deals with the upheaval of the separation of her parents by writing in a diary. When her dad moves into a new house, Amy-Hope discovers she shares her love of dancing with the strangely shy, elderly lady, Mrs P, who lives next door.

The Letters She Never Sent’ takes the form of Amy-Hope’s diary entries, alternated with letters written by Mrs P to a long lost brother; letters that she will never send. The effect is to beautifully describe in intimate detail the developing friendship between the two main characters, their interactions and the growing realisation of how much they can help one another to make sense of the things that happen.

I loved both books but this one was really special. Joy Vee deals with big issues, such as fear and anxiety, in a really gentle way and there is an overriding feeling of hope throughout. The ending is lovely. It is also a faith based book, and deals with faith themes in an accessible way that only enhance the storytelling.  

Both books are available separately in paperback and kindle versions, or can be bought as a hardback omnibus edition. They are available to purchase online, or via the author direct at www.joyvee.org.

*Joy Vee lives in the UK, with her husband and two children. She is married to a Ukrainian, and lived in Ukraine and Russia for 7 years. Her first book for children, ‘The Treasure Man‘ was published by Instant Apostle in 2020. She has since published several more books for children.

About me:

Joy Margetts is a blogger and a published author. Her debut novel ‘The Healing‘ was published by Instant Apostle on 19 March 2021. A work of historic fiction, set in medieval Wales against the backdrop of Cistercian abbey life, it is also a story of faith, hope and God’s redemptive power. Joy has also self- published a short novella, ‘The Beloved‘ as both a companion to ‘The Healing‘, and as an easy to read standalone story, which is available to buy on Amazon Kindle.

The Pilgrim‘, her second full length novel, will be published by Instant Apostle in July 2022

More information on Joy and her writing, and links to purchase her books can be found here www.joymargetts.com

Book Review, Books, Christian publishing, Christian Writer, Faith, New Author, Publishing

BLOG BOOK REVIEW: ‘They’ll Never Read That’ by Tony Collins

Image of front cover of 'They'll Never Read That'

I never expected to become published author. It came late in my life and was surprising and terrifying all at the same time. I wrote a novel and it got published, and at the time I had absolutely no experience or understanding of the publishing world. My publishers had to hold my hand and guide me through the whole process, and they were patient and kind, while maintaining utmost professionalism.

Around this time I found the Association of Christian Writers, and a group that met via Zoom weekly (this was right in the middle of lockdown craziness). Here I found a group of lovely writers who were more than happy to chat, and answer my questions, and share funny stories, and generally encourage. One of the people I met was Tony Collins. I was a bit awestruck at first, when I realised how he had spent his life in publishing, the authors he knew personally, the books he had helped to publish. But Tony was generous and kind with his advice.

Imagine my delight when he announced he was publishing a book based on his experiences in Christian publishing. I could not wait to see it in print. And now I have the absolute delight in being able to review it and recommend it to you.

How to make mistakes in publishing’

Image of back cover of 'They'll Never Read That'

They’ll Never Read That’ has the subtitle ‘How to make mistakes in publishing’. It is Tony’s story and he does not gloss over the difficulties he encountered, both in his professional and personal life. He tells the tale with a gentle and engaging humour, and it is a compelling read. The publishing world might seem like a glamorous one on the surface, but it is far from that in reality. It is hard slog, and not always rewarding. It can even be heart-breaking at times. I did not know this. Now I do, and I am grateful to Tony for opening my eyes.

On the other hand, there are amazing successes, and achievements to be genuinely proud of. I turned the pages of Tony’s book and discovered time and time again, that he had been instrumental in publishing some of the books that have been influential in my life and walk with God. From the English version of the NIV Bible, to ‘Killing Fields, Living Fields’ by Don Cormack, and ‘The Heavenly Man’ by Paul Hattaway/Brother Yun. I also have Tony to thank for the publication of the ‘Freedom in Christ’ course by  Steve Goss, which has been transformational in my life and in the lives of many that I know.

A love for books

Image of the author, Tony Collins

Tony Collins has worked for several of the biggest Christian publishing houses in the UK, including Lion Hudson, Monarch and SPCK. He has published hundreds of books and turned down thousands more (let’s not mention Joni!) That he loves books is without doubt, but what comes across is that he also appreciates authors. He understands the work that goes in to produce a book, the frustrations and the joys. Now that I have read his book I have a much greater appreciation for publishers – in particular the individuals who dedicate themselves to each stage of  the publishing process – the people who work so hard to ensure that we have great quality Christian books at our fingertips.

Tony’s book is a must read for anyone who is interested in the Christian book world. Whether you are aspiring writer, an already published author, or just a reader. It is a great read, written by man honest about his failures, and yet propelled by his faith in God to take risks, over and over again. It is a brilliant expose of all that publishing books entails and a celebration of the life of a man who loves his involvement in it. I commend it to you wholeheartedly.

They’ll Never Read That: How to make mistakes in Publishing‘ by Tony Collins was published by Sarah Grace Publishing in Feb 2022. RRP £9.99 ISBN 9781912863983

Joy Margetts is new to blogging, and new to being published. Her debut novel ‘The Healing‘ was published by Instant Apostle on 19 March 2021. A work of historic fiction, set in medieval Wales against the backdrop of Cistercian abbey life, it is also a story of faith, hope and God’s redemptive power. Joy has also self- published a short novella, ‘The Beloved‘ as both a companion to ‘The Healing‘, and as an easy to read standalone story, which is available to buy on Amazon Kindle.

The Pilgrim‘, her second full length novel, will be published by Instant Apostle in July 2022

More information on Joy and her writing, and links to purchase her books can be found here www.joymargetts.com

Book Review, Books, Christian Writer, Connected to God, Faith, God speaks, God's faithfulness, Holy Spirit, words of comfort

Blog Book Review: God Speaks: 40 letters from the Father’s Heart

GOD SPEAKS?

Front cover of God Speaks: 40 letters form the Father's Heart. Hard cover book with decoration in two shades of green

For too many years I believed that God only spoke to special people. Like the Old Testament Prophets and the New Testament Apostles. Of course I was taught that God speaks through the Bible, and through the words of those preaching His word. But I could not expect Him to actually speak to me personally. Not in a heart whisper, not in a thought, not in a dream or vision, and definitely not in an audible voice. After all, how could I trust that what I was hearing was actually from God?

Fast forward to my forties, and to the radical work of the Holy Spirit in my life. As I opened my heart and life to the gifts and anointing of Holy Spirit, and began experiencing Him in a fresh way, I discovered that actually I had been hearing Him for years. Not just in the written Word, but in my heart also. He had used the words of others, lyrics of songs, and even creation to speak to me, and He still does. But what about if I actually wanted a two way conversation with Him? Isn’t that what prayer is supposed to be?

LETTERS FROM GOD

I then discovered journaling. Encouraged by others, I began to not just write down my thoughts and prayers, but to also ask God what He thought. And I began to write down what I believed He was saying to me. And do you know it was always loving, always encouraging and always biblical! This kind of journaling has seen me through some of the toughest times, and is still part of my regular prayer life. Which is why I was thrilled to be asked to review Ruth O’Reilly Smith’s Devotional Journal, ’God Speaks: 40 letters from the Father’s Heart’*.

The minute the book arrived I knew I was going to love it. It comes as a handy- sized hardback, printed in two beautiful colours. Inside there are forty ‘letters’ from God. Each is accompanied by scriptures, prayer prompting questions, and space to write down your response. These personal ‘letters’ are indeed straight from the Father’s heart, and as I have discovered, are loving, encouraging, comforting, and completely scriptural:

Image of inside pages of book showing prayer questions and space for writing
Image of inside of book, showing one of the letters and a verse from the Psalms

Day 10: 

‘When your heart faints, I will sustain you. When you think you’ve failed, know that, in me, you are victorious. Let the voices of doubt and despair be stilled. Hear only my voice. I am with you until the end of the ages.’                             Deuteronomy 31:8

FOR LENT OR FOR ANY TIME

Ruth began asking God to speak at the beginning of Lent 2020, just before that first scary lockdown set in.  Writing her letters from God daily for forty days sustained her through those weeks and now she has chosen to share them with us, in a time that is just as uncertain and fear -filled. That there are forty devotions means it lends itself to being used for Lent, but it could as easily be used at any other time. I cannot recommend it enough, if you need encouragement and comfort, or to just discover what it means to truly hear God’s voice for yourself.

I am going to use the devotional myself this Lent, starting today. I can’t wait to go deeper, and I know it will be a blessing. What an absolute privilege to be gifted with this resource, and what an absolute joy to know that the Father is speaking. To us, His beloved ones:

Day 29:

‘As certain as the rising sun, so certain is my love for you morning by morning…

As vast as the heavens that stretch out before you as far as the eyes can see, so are my care and compassion for you. Not one star is out of place. I see all. I know all. And I love you completely…’

Psalm 57:10.

Image of the back cover of God Speaks.

*Ruth O’Reilly Smith currently hosts a radio show with United Christian Broadcasters on UCB2 called ‘This Is My Story’. The Bible has been key to Ruth’s growth as a Christian and she is passionate about communicating God’s heart through His word. Ruth’s website can be found at www.ruthoreillysmith.com.

‘God Speaks’ by Ruth O’Reilly Smith is published by Authentic Media, ISBN 9781788932226.


Joy Margetts is new to blogging, and new to being published. Her debut novel ‘The Healing‘ was published by Instant Apostle on 19 March 2021. A work of historic fiction, set in medieval Wales against the backdrop of Cistercian abbey life, it is also a story of faith, hope and God’s redemptive power. Joy has also self- published a short novella, ‘The Beloved‘ as both a companion to ‘The Healing‘, and as an easy to read standalone story, which is available to buy on Amazon Kindle.

The Pilgrim‘, her second full length novel, will be published by Instant Apostle in July 2022

More information on Joy and her writing, and links to purchase her books can be found here www.joymargetts.com

Books, Christian Writer, Faith, God in control, Grief, Healing, Holy Spirit, Medieval Fiction, New Author, pilgrimage, Seasons of life, The Word of God

A Heart Set on Pilgrimage

image of a path across a headland, with the island of Bardsey on the horizon

As I write this, I really should be doing something else. I am supposed to be editing my manuscript for my second full length novel, The Pilgrim. The editing has been taking up most of my time and energy for the last few days. I know it has to be done, but I am finding it both exciting and exhausting. It is with mixed feelings that I read and re-read, and correct the words that I have written. And always the questions… is it going to be good enough? Are people actually going to want to read this?

Heart pilgrimage

At the end of each chapter, as I did in my first book, I have inserted a verse or two of scripture. In The Pilgrim these are taken from the Psalms. Each one is chosen for how it speaks into what is happening in the life of the central character, Brother Hywel, as he walks his own spiritual journey. But many of them have personal meaning to me too, like this one:

Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baca, They make it a spring;
The rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
Psalm 84: 5-7 NKJV

I have chosen to write about a real pilgrimage in the book, hence the title. But it isn’t just the physical path of pilgrimage that is Hywel’s journey to grace. It is also the inclination of his heart, to truly seek after God. 

Image of a valley path with the text of Psalm 84 :5

Tears bringing life

On my own journey I have been through some dark valley times, when it really feels like the Valley of Baca (‘Baca’ means ‘weeping’). I have struggled to understand why, but it isn’t always for me to understand. I only have to keep my heart set on Him. My ‘pilgrimage’ is to step by step walk the path that leads me closer to His heart. And it isn’t always easy to stay on that path, especially when blinded by tears.

But what if the very tears that I weep actually help to water the dry ground around me and turn it into springs of life? My strength to keep going actually comes from Him, if I ask for it! And He will increase that strength as I keep walking, make me even more resilient and fruitful. Nothing is wasted in Him. I might walk through the Valley of Weeping, but my very presence turns it into a place of blessing!

Image of the front cover of The Pilgrim. The title of The Pilgrim is in black font against a white background that looks like manuscript paper. The 'P ' is illuminated. Beneath this is a brightly coloured stained glass image of a group of pilgrims.

The Pilgrim: a pool of blessing

My tears have fed into the story I have written in The Pilgrim. My prayer is that the book becomes a pool of blessing for many. I am blown away that God has chosen to use the things that I have gone through, in my own pilgrimage journey, to create books that might just do that. I’ll remember that as I continue the sometimes painful editing process!

At least the book already has the most beautiful of cover designs. I pray that the words inside will be just as beautiful.

(The Pilgrim is due to be published in July 2022, but you can pre-order your copy now, by commenting on this blog post)


Joy Margetts is new to blogging, and new to being published. Her debut novel ‘The Healing‘ was published by Instant Apostle on 19 March 2021. A work of historic fiction, set in medieval Wales against the backdrop of Cistercian abbey life, it is also a story of faith, hope and God’s redemptive power. Joy has also self- published a short novella, ‘The Beloved‘ as both a companion to ‘The Healing‘, and as an easy to read standalone story, which is available to buy on Amazon Kindle.

The Pilgrim‘, her second full length novel, will be published by Instant Apostle in July 2022

More information on Joy and her writing, and links to purchase her books can be found here www.joymargetts.com

Belonging, Book Review, Books, Christian Writer, christmas, Faith, Forgiveness, Grief, Seasons of life

TALKING TO CALIPPA CUMBERLAND: BLOG TOUR BOOK REVIEW

Christmas is coming! I know, I’m beginning to panic a bit too – it’s less than a month to go and I don’t feel in any way prepared for it! I am however praying that this Christmas will be a good one; a celebration of family and fun, a ray of light in the dark winter days, a time full of joy and hope. It will be wonderful, yet again, to tap into the true meaning of Christmas and look beyond the festivities to the One who came to bring the joy and hope, and dare I say it, fun!

I love Christmas. I treasure the memories of Christmases past and truly look forward to this one, especially as it is my first as a grandparent! But for many, Christmas isn’t a time for celebration, and may not carry those happy memories. For many, Christmas is a stark reminder of loved ones lost, of childhood traumas, of heartbreak and of the relentless passing of the years. It can be an acutely painful and lonely time.

ONE CHRISTMAS EVE

Front cover of the book, Talking to Calippa Cumberland

Chick Yuill has drawn on that reality in his latest novel, Talking to Calippa Cumberland and I am absolutely thrilled to have been included in the blog tour. It all starts one Christmas Eve in 1976. A small child shopping with her mother in a department store hears the tannoy announce that there is a little girl lost and crying for her parents. For 3 year old Lori Bloom that lost child stays in her heart and imagination. The name she thinks she has heard is ‘Calippa Cumberland,’ and Calippa becomes her imaginary friend, someone she can talk to and confide in, someone who perhaps understands her. Because the truth is that Lori Bloom is herself lost.

As chapter follows chapter we follow Lori’s life through a snapshot of subsequent Christmas Eves. We journey with her into her teens and into adulthood, as she discovers painful secrets, faces betrayal, suffers heart-breaking loss, and makes life choices with complicated consequences. All the time she is confiding in her faceless friend, Calippa Cumberland. All the time searching for someone who understands and someone she can finally, fully trust.

UTTERLY COMPELLING AND DEEPLY PLEASING

Back cover of the book, Talking to Calippa Cumberland

The book is utterly compelling. I read it in almost one sitting. Chick draws Lori’s character so well, and describes the things she goes through sensitively and convincingly. It is not a maudlin book, but it is real and raw in places. The story brings tears to your eyes and a lump to your throat, but also the odd smile and nod of understanding. It covers subject matters that are not uncommon, things that many of us can relate to in some degree. You find yourself rooting for Lori, hoping that she will ultimately find what she is looking for.

She does find good friends, and one in particular has a lasting and positive effect on her. Not to divulge any spoilers. Let’s just say things definitely get better for Lori, and she comes to terms with much of what life has thrown at her in a deeply pleasing way.

WHO ARE WE TALKING TO?

I was unsure at first of the device Chick used to let us hear Lori’s deepest thoughts. Is it strange to have an imaginary friend, even in adulthood? Is it strange to write notes to them pouring out your soul? Well as one of the characters in the book says…

 ‘every night before I sleep I have a conversation with someone I can’t see, who many people tell me is a figment of my imagination and whose existence I can’t prove…’

What Lori is doing, is what many of us do in praying and journaling. Except of course, for those who know Him, Jesus is no imaginary friend. Talking to Calippa Cumberland is Christian fiction, and the message of the gospel is there subtly throughout, but is never forced down your throat. I found myself yearning for Lori to meet the one person she could completely trust and pour out her thoughts, fears and feelings to. The One who could make the lost child feel found again, and forever secure.

The book set against a Christmas scene

A FABULOUS CHRISTMAS GIFT

I loved this book, and Chick writes so well, especially as he convinces us that he knows what it feels to be like a woman with definite female issues to contend with! And I salute his encyclopaedic knowledge of Christmas Number Ones! I can’t recommend it highly enough, especially seeing as Christmas is just around the corner. This book would make a fabulous gift to anyone who loves a well written and beautifully told story based around Christmas. And perhaps is also a book not just for Christmas…

photo of the author

SPECIAL OFFER

As a special offer, Chick is offering readers of this blog, a signed paperback copy of the book for the discounted price of £9.00. To avail yourself of this kind offer, and to bless the author, contact him via margaretyuill@martyart.co.uk  before 4th December and quote the code joysblogg

Talking to Calippa Cumberland by Chick Yuill, was published by Instant Apostle (22 Oct 2021), ISBN 1912726483, RRP £9.99, and is available from all the usual places.