Book reviewers and advance readers are one important element in the publishing process. It’s hard for the author and the editors to be objective about the book they’ve been immersed in for months, maybe years. Enter readers and reviewers who usually have little or no personal stake or emotional involvement in the book. We hope they are people who appreciate good literature, who want to share God-glorifying stories with their friends, who recognize authenticity in narrative that “rings true” and offers help and hope.
We are thankful for the advance readers who, in the midst of their busy schedules, have read a pre-publication copy of On Kitten Creek: Searching for the Sacred by Nancy Swihart and have sent us these endorsement/ reviews:
Ken Canfield PhD., Founder National Center for Fathering; President, National Association for Grandparenting says:
“Nancy Swihart’s On Kitten Creek is an uplifting and thoughtful read. It’s a fresh reminder that we are each living an adventure. At times our adventurous lives, the meaning of certain events, relationships and living spaces are obscure; however when we take time and reflect, as Nancy has done, the richness in living bursts forth in her narrative like a warm sun. Reading On Kitten Creek will minister to your spirit and move you to give thanks for life’s simple gifts. I particularly enjoy the way Nancy inserts her breath of literature, practical wisdom and spiritual insights in each chapter. Her concluding and short review of the “markers” of life’s adventures is worth the price of the book alone. I know you will enjoy On Kitten Creek and hopefully it will cause you to reflect deeply about your life, as it has prompted me.”
Steven Garber, Principal of the Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation & Culture; author of Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good says:
“’Lots of love, lots of tears, lots of growing.’ I could write on and on about the unusual richness of Nancy Swihart’s On Kitten Creek, but those few words of hers capture the life she has lived “in search of the sacred.” Always hospitable, always inviting, she is also artful and poetic, writing about her family’s life on a small farm in the Flint Hills of Kansas—the hours and days of hard work, the surprising commitment to a common life among neighbors, the celebrations and heartaches over the years. She graces us with eyes to see all of this as born of a longing for God to be present in her life and world. A quiet read for a quiet day or to be read aloud among friends, its gift is to draw us into the truest truths of the universe, sure that we have been looking over-the-shoulder and through-the-heart of someone with much to teach every one of us.”
Kay Bascom, Author, Teacher, Missionary, and Conference Speaker says:
“Strangers driving past the big red barn and outbuildings on Kitten Creek’s gravel road could never guess the magnitude of what has happened on that property in the last thirty years! The open hearts and hands there on the farm have enabled countless revolving college students and community friends to bond, build, create, study, experiment, grow, enjoy, laugh, serve, and fan out over the world, blessed. Let Nancy give you glimpses of His handiwork among us. Be inspired to look for sacred connections and creative opportunities waiting to surprise you within what may seem mundane in your own life.”
Thank you, Ken, Steven, and Kay!
May we all experience “God’s kingdom come”—more and more—on earth, and His will being done (in our lives and influence) as it is in Heaven. And may many readers be blessed by this book you have been willing to endorse with your good name.
Top photo credits: Can Stock Photo / ©Aaronam, ©monkeybusiness
Photos of furry creatures … videos of cute animal antics … stories and movies of animal adventures. These are popular because they evoke feelings of wonder, memories of beloved pets, the joy and excitement of wildlife sightings, the sensory experience of a trip to the farm.
Have you ever noticed how many book covers feature pictures of animals? Evidently, animal pictures on covers help sell books. We have a few books with animals on the covers, ourselves. I looked inside each of these books today for some clues as to why animals trigger such heart responses in us. Here is what I found:
1. Animals are our fellow creatures, loved by the Creator.
In God’s Creatures: A Biblical View of Animals, Susan Bulanda explains that God cares for his earthly creatures. He created them, blessed them, called them “good.” He saved the animals from the Flood, and he included “every living creature” in the covenant he made with us after the flood (see Genesis 9:9-17). Bulanda goes on to show that many Scriptures display God’s care for animals. Old Testament laws protected animals. Jesus’ parables affirmed and spotlighted them. Then, Bulanda asks:
“Is it possible that God has put the desire to care for all animals in the hearts of many people … God’s love for his creation showing through humans?”
“Could there be subtle lessons of love God gives us through our pets?”
2. Animals can provide companionship, inspiration, and comfort.
In Walking In Trust : Lessons Learned with my Blind Dog, Gayle M. Irwin describes an afternoon of companionship with her dog:
“Snow falls in large flakes outside my door this afternoon and a warm Sunday fire blazes in the wood stove inside the house. Sage has found a way to wedge herself into the over-stuffed chair. At first she lies quietly stretched out beside me. Then, as if she has an itch, she suddenly rises, turns herself around and lays her head on my chest. I pause from my reading to softly stroke her black and white fur. She sighs deeply and tries to snuggle closer. I pet her long muzzle and then scratch behind her ears, a favorite spot of hers. As I minister these gentle strokes, I tell her what a wonderful, loving dog she is. Sage closes her eyes, relishing the experience. I, too, bask in the tender moment. My hand rests lightly on her shoulder and we sit like this for hours—protected from the frigid cold outside—in comfortable, companionable silence inside our cozy house.” … “I learned more from Sage than she did from me: lessons about trust, courage, loyalty, contentment, and perseverance.” … “Sage’s visits and her life story encouraged many children to persevere in spite of the hardships and challenges they face. Through the life of a blind Springer Spaniel, I have learned more fully what it means to walk by faith and not by sight.” (p. 145 and 9)
3. Animals teach us about the Creator and how to relate to him.
In All We Like Sheep: Lessons from the Sheepfold, shepherdess Marilyn Bay Wentz writes:
“I continued cutting out the weeds, but the burdensome task was balanced with the delight I felt watching my flock. I knew the serenity of the scene could be broken at any time. Movement as mundane as a startled Cottontail rabbit jumping from behind a bush to hop across the pasture could send the flock running for the protection of the pen. … In that moment, the joy of the Lord, expressed by the psalmist when he said ‘We are his people, the sheep of his pasture,’ made perfect sense to me. God compares his delight in me and you to a flock of peacefully-grazing sheep. He could have compared his delight to another animal in his creation. Why not say we are his people, the horses of his stable? Horses (which I am partial to) are beautiful, strong and fast. Surely, the Lord delights in seeing the horses he created. Or, why not compare his delight in us to that of seeing a lion? Male or female, a lion is a powerful and awe-inspiring animal. Or, surely the Lord is delighted to see the soaring eagles he created. They are simultaneously fierce and beautiful. They can soar high and dive powerfully. Their outstretched wings are a wonder to behold. But, he says I am as pleasing to him as the sheep of his pasture. To please him we don’t need to be fast and athletic like a horse, powerful like a lion, or beautiful and awe-inspiring like an eagle. What pleases him is when we, like the skittish sheep, run to him for everything we need, trusting his sufficiency to supply all our needs.” (pp. 156-157)
4. Animals provide metaphors of our lives.
In his allegorical fiction, The Dangerous Journey of Sherman the Sheep, Dean Davis describes the Shepherd taking his flock to the “high country”:
“Their destination was a lonely valley deep in the hills and an ancient sheepfold with four high walls of stone. This became their home away from home, the place where all their journeys began and ended. Early in the year, when grass was plentiful, their travels were short, hardly more than outings. At dawn the Shepherd would open the gate of the fold, whistle for the sheep, and lead His flock to a nearby meadow with a pool of fresh spring water to drink. Then at dusk they would all return to the safety of the fold’s strong walls. But as spring gave way to summer, and summer to fall, the journeys grew longer and more difficult. They’d be gone for many days, camping beneath the stars or in caves. The meadows grew fewer and the water more scarce—and to find these, the flock had often to follow their Shepherd through dark, narrow canyons, where wolves or lions might be lurking in the shadows. … Yes, this was the dangerous time of year, a time when sheep could get hungry, thirsty, or even hurt. Needless to say, the Shepherd took such dangers very seriously. But as for the sheep, they simply trusted in their Master’s care. They knew that sooner or later He would give them rest, just as He always had. (And as for Sherman—well, for him danger was just another word for adventure; and adventure was the one thing Sherman loved best)!” (pp. 8-10)
5. Animals represent elements of Mystery.
In Gadly Plain: A Novel, J. Michael Dew uses the literary device of a talking donkey who has lived since the Garden of Eden. This donkey represents the victory of life over death, of God’s overarching purpose in human history. This same donkey had gone up the mountain with Abraham and Isaac, had talked to the prophet Balaam, joined the other animals in Noah’s Ark, carried Mary to Bethlehem and witnessed the birth of Jesus. Toward the end of the book, the donkey, who is named Amen, is on the Isle of Patmos with John the Apostle. Amen and John share this conversation:
“Amen,” John says one day. “I have a story to share, a new one as fresh as a spring blossom.”
“My ears, friend, are big,” says Amen.
“I have seen the end and the beginning, the omega and the alpha. I have written it on a scroll. There is something you should hear.”
Amen swallows what he has in his mouth.
Then John goes on, “He showed me. His voice was like the sound of rushing water. The end is terrible and good. The fibber will have his due.”
“I don’t like the fibber,” says Amen. “He is the enemy of hope.”
John says, “It will be a great and awful reckoning.”
“When?” asks Amen.
John just smiles. “Amen, you have been faithful.”
“I have tried to be led well.”
“It is better to be led than pushed,” says John. “You will be led some more, good donkey.” And John laughs so hard, he cries and tries to catch his breath.
Amen just takes another bite and swishes his tail to swish away a fly.
Finally, John scratches Amen behind the ears. “Amen, do you know why, of all the other animals, you were given the ability to speak to man?”
Amen says no.
“I’ll tell you,” says John. “As a donkey, you are well-suited to carry heavy loads. The load you carry now is a story: words strung together since the beginning, invisible cargo on the back of a humble beast. I have seen the end of this story. I have only seen glimpses of the next.”
“I am a storyteller?” asks Amen.
“Yes, and a guardian, too.”
Amen shakes his head hard at that.
“How am I well suited to be a guardian?”
“You are stubborn. You won’t forget. You won’t give in to time. You haven’t yet.”
Amen thinks about that for a minute, and then he asks, “But to whom? I have learned a lot about man. He can be a cruel master. There were times when I kept my words to myself. Some men only hear their own stories. And worse, some men only hear lies. I know a story that can free them from their torments. Who can hear it, though, with the fibber taking them for long walks in the desert?”
John rubs Amen’s withers, and it feels good. “Yes, yes,” he starts gently. “The fibber is persistent. But what is his persistence next to the truth you carry?”
“I know the strength of his tug.”
“You have also felt his release, unwilling though it was.”
“Yes, and praise.”
Amen he-haws, because whatever he thinks to say, it doesn’t work.
“My brothers and I aren’t the only ones charged with relaying the good news.”
“I am a donkey. I talk. You say it is to tell a story—one I’ve lived, one I carry.”
“Yes,” says John. “You have been entrusted.”
“Please tell me then: Who will listen?”
“Those who can.”
“Those who can?”
“Those who wouldn’t think it that strange or that impossible to hear a donkey speak.”
(adapted from pp. 171-173)
March 17, 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Larry Lawton: email@example.com
That Day By The Creek named 2016 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards Finalist
GREELEY, COLORADO—Today, CLADACH Publishing is pleased to announce That Day By The Creek: A Novel About the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864 has been recognized as a finalist in the 19th annual Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards.
As part of their mission to discover, review, and share the best books from small, university, and indie publishers (and authors), independent media company Foreword Reviews hosts its annual awards program each year. Finalists represent the best books published in 2016, and submitted to Foreword Reviews for award consideration, and were narrowed down by Foreword’s editors from over 2,200 individual titles spread across 65 categories. Submissions come from both secular and religious/Christian presses.
Find a complete list of finalists and more about That Day By The Creek (click “Adult Fiction: Historical” and scroll down) at:
“Choosing finalists for the INDIES is always the highlight of our year, but the choice was more difficult this time around due to the high quality of submissions,” said Victoria Sutherland, publisher of Foreword Reviews. “Each new book award season proves again how independent publishers are the real innovators in the industry.”
“John Buzzard had the inspiration and talent to pen this story, and editor Christina Slike helped shape it into a form worthy of this respected award. Based on a violent and tragic incident in American frontier history, That Day By The Creek not only promises an engrossing read, it also holds timely lessons for our day,” says Catherine Lawton, publisher.
INDIES finalists are moved on to final judging by an expert panel of librarians and booksellers. Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award winners in each genre—along with Editor’s Choice winners, and Foreword’s INDIE Publisher of the Year—will be announced during the 2017 American Library Association Annual Conference in Chicago on June 24, 2017.
In my mind, a publisher distributing books is like a farmer broadcasting seeds. We send them out in every direction, hoping they fall on ready, prepared soil that will receive the message and take it to heart.
This wintry time of year, seeds lie dormant in the ground waiting, sealed. When days grow longer and warmer, the seeds will awaken, sprout and eventually produce leaves and fruit.
Same with books. You may buy a book or be given one, but the season of your life isn’t right yet. The book sits on a shelf, or under a pile of other volumes—or a list of Kindle files—you plan to read sometime. Then one day you pick it up, or click it open, and start reading; and you marvel that these words are exactly what you need at this time of your life.
Casting/sowing seeds or books takes faith. A Christian publisher must believe that these books, which contain kernels of life-giving truth, will be carried by the Wind of the Holy Spirit. And when prepared personal soil opens to them, we pray that their message will be watered by the Living Water. The resulting fruit will be minds and hearts growing and encouraged to flourish in hope, wholeness, spiritual insights, and joy.
So I choose the mindset of an under-gardener. My Father is the Gardener. By his grace I’ll do my part. His is the overall plan, purpose and power. The resulting fruit cannot be fully seen or measured this side of Heaven.
Then, how can we fail? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must lick my finger and hold it to the wind.
Are you listening, in prayer, to what the Lord may be asking you to do? Are you watching for His answers? Susan Roberts describes how saying “Yes” to the Lord led her on an adventure of devotional discoveries. I interviewed Susan to find out why and how she wrote Everywhere I Look, God Is There.
There are more than 65 million displaced people in the world today, more than ever before in history.
There are more natural disasters occurring than ever before in recorded history.
There is a growing spirit of division among people, notably in the U.S. and in Britain, as evidenced in current politics and elections. So much of this division seems fueled by fear, anger, and distrust.
There have been horrific times before in history. We humans like to think we have learned from those experiences and that we wouldn’t let such things happen again. Can we learn from history? Will we? Or must history repeat itself?
Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) And he said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)
Cladach has released books that feature true stories of God—and his people—at work even during the most horrific historical times. For instance:
- Pol Pot’s genocidal regime in Cambodia (in the book, NO MORE FEAR).
- Jewish children during the Holocaust (in the book, FAITHFUL FRIENDS).
- A political terror-hostage crisis (in the book, HOSTAGE IN TAIPEI).
- Christian and Muslim refugees in Africa and the Middle East (in the book,A PEOPLE TALL AND SMOOTH).
- Spiritual hunger during the Communist revolution in Russia (in the book, PAPER POPPIES).
All these personal memoirs happened in extremely tumultuous times and circumstances. Each describes injustices, cruelty, and evil forces unleashed on nations, people groups, and individuals. Each of these stories also gives witness to God’s grace.
We offer these stories in the hope that readers will find renewed perspective, faith, and love.
When I visited author Marilyn Wentz on her farm, I saw these sheep in a pen. The scene struck me as humorous, as if the one sheep in the foreground was holding a meeting of the flock. She seemed to have their attention. And a discussion seemed to ensue. Many of Marilyn’s (and her mother Millie’s) sheep have names. In All We Like Sheep the two shepherds tell stories of lambs and ewes named Carla, Charlene, Foxy Lady, Scotch, Squirt, Pumpkin, Spring, Teddy Bear, Gomer, Pibb, and Blue.
These troublesome words tend to hide like gremlins in our writing (especially in fiction, but also nonfiction).
We often use these words compulsively, but often they aren’t needed.
Remember, less is more. Conciseness makes better, stronger, clearer writing.
Do a search for—and delete unnecessary uses of—the following:
- look / looked (at)
- begin / began / beginning
- started / started to
- take / took
- seem / seemed
Were you surprised how many of these words showed up in your article, blog post, or book manuscript (especially a novel)?
Do you have other words on your personal list for keeping gremlins out of your polished drafts?