Ontario Author’s Mainstream Travel Book

This is apparently our third in a series of Ontario authors who are signed to mainstream U.S. publishers. And the second to have an Orillia connection.

Freelance writer Janet LoSole wrote to us last week to let us know about her book with the interesting title, Adventure by Chicken Bus: An Unschooling Odyssey Through Central America. Her story was published in December, 2019 by Wipf and Stock. Here’s their summary:

Embarking on a homeschooling field trip to Central America is stressful enough, but add in perilous bridge crossings, trips to the hospital, and a lack of women’s underwear, and you have the makings of an Adventure by Chicken Bus.

Buckling under a mountain of debt, Janet LoSole and her family are at their wits’ end. Determined to make a drastic change, they sell all worldly possessions and hit the road. With only a few items of clothing, a four-person tent, and little else, the family visits a sleepy island backwater in Costa Rica to save endangered sea turtles. In Panama, they bounce around like turnips in the back of a vegetable truck to reach an isolated monkey sanctuary. In Guatemala, they scale the ancient Mayan temples of Tikal. In between tales of begging rides from total strangers and sleeping overnight in the jungle with an indigenous family, Janet endorses community-based travel–supporting local businesses and favoring public transportation called chicken buses.

She also writes candidly about what it takes to travel long-term with two little girls amid the chaos of border crossings, erratic drivers, and creepy crawlies lurking at the edge of the jungle.

In an email she explained that her family are Quakers, a constituency not frequently heard from among the publishers most of us carry. “The book was written for the mainstream audience so my faith is mentioned only briefly in the first chapter… However, Wipf & Stock is a Christian publisher.” (The book is actually under the Resource Publications imprint which covers a variety of religious titles.) 

She describes her goal, “Adventure by Chicken Bus demonstrates how to travel sustainably, but more importantly, how to nurture the next generation of environmentalists and social justice activists by exposing them to the conditions faced by those in the developing world.”

If you’re looking for something safe but a little outside the box for Christian bookstores, this would be a title to consider.

9781532684869 | 226 pages, paperback | $23.00 U.S. | Ingram

Website: adventurebychickenbus.com

Toronto Author Blends Historical Fiction with Romance

After a series of murder mysteries with Harvest House (The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder, A Lesson in Love & Murder) and a similar series with Thomas Nelson (Murder at the Flamingo, Murder in the City of Liberty) Toronto author Rachel McMillan has decided to tackle some stories which don’t have murder in the title. The London Restoration released late summer with Thomas Nelson.

On her website she writes,

I am also delighted to be writing historical romance set amidst the beautiful architecture of London and Vienna in the post-war years. The London Restoration releases in Fall 2020 and introduces readers to the gorgeous Christopher Wren churches blitzed during the War as well as the enigmatic codes of Bletchley Park.

Enjoying the relationship with Nelson’s parent HarperCollins means that she works with their general market promotion and publicity team on interviews and in-store events which works because she says, “the spiritual aspects of my books are a tad more subtle.” So she might turn up at a mainstream bookstore as she is in my town, albeit a Facebook virtual event in these challenging times for authors.

The Canadian connection might be more overt depending on the series. She notes that, “My first series with Harvest House is set in Edwardian Era Toronto and features a female Sherlock Holmes character and my first series with Harper Collins featured a young lawyer from Toronto who moves to Boston. When possible, I love to include a Canadian component to my work.”

The London Restoration‘s page at Thomas Nelson describes the book in detail:

The secrets that might save a nation could shatter a marriage.

Madly in love, Diana Foyle and Brent Somerville married in London as the bombs of World War II dropped on their beloved city. Without time for a honeymoon, the couple spent the next four years apart. Diana, an architectural historian, took a top-secret intelligence post at Bletchley Park. Brent, a professor of theology at King’s College, believed his wife was working for the Foreign Office as a translator when he was injured in an attack on the European front.

Now that the war is over, the Somervilles’ long-anticipated reunion is strained by everything they cannot speak of. Diana’s extensive knowledge of London’s churches could help bring down a Russian agent named Eternity. She’s eager to help MI6 thwart Communist efforts to start a new war, but because of the Official Secrets Act, Diana can’t tell Brent the truth about her work.

Determined to save their marriage and rebuild the city they call home, Diana and Brent’s love is put to the ultimate test as they navigate the rubble of war and the ruins of broken trust.

Her website bio begins,

There is nothing better than exploring the world –near and far: whether with a notebook and passport at the ready or in the pages of a book.

so it’s not surprising she’s also authored a travel guide. Dream, Plan, and Go: A Travel Guide to Inspire Your Independent Adventure was released in hardcover last year by Harvest House. 

Although she calls Toronto home, she grew up in Orillia, Ontario where she worked for the local bookstore, as she told Orillia Matters:

She worked for a year at Manticore Books in downtown Orillia, when it was owned by Don Ross. That was more than a decade ago, but she is still inspired by Ross and often thinks about the long chats they had about books and history.

“When I’m writing, I still think, ‘I hope Don Ross likes this,’” she said.

Reading The London Restoration need not be a solo experience either. Last month, Rachel reported on Facebook that a discussion kit is now available for book clubs and she offered to do a virtual meeting with club members to add to their discussion.

Her next historical romance, The Mozart Code releases May, 2021.

Brampton, Ontario Author Launches New Fiction Series

I’d seen Susan Anne Mason‘s titles before, but didn’t realize the Bethany House author was a resident of the GTA, Brampton to be specific. She wrote the 3-part Courage to Dream series and also — what should have been the giveaway — the 3-part Canadian Crossings Series. These are both Historical Fiction, though she has a previous Contemporary series with White Rose Books, a division of Pelican which is part of Penguin Random House..

Her newest, A Haven for Her Heart, launches a new Historical Fiction series, Redemption’s Light. As you can see in the publisher description from Bethany House, there’s a Toronto element to this story:

Haunted by painful memories, Olivia Rosetti is singularly focused on running her maternity home for troubled women. Darius Reed is determined to protect his daughter from the prejudice that killed his wife by marrying a society darling. But when he’s suddenly drawn to Olivia, they will learn if love can prove stronger than the secrets and hurts of the past.

Homeless after being released from a women’s reformatory in 1939 Toronto, Olivia Rosetti is taken in by an angel of mercy, Ruth Bennington. The two discover they share a painful past and together decide to open a maternity home for troubled women.

Despite the success of the home, Olivia is haunted by her inhumane treatment at the reformatory and the way her newborn son was taken from her. She feels undeserving of love–until she meets businessman Darius Reed. Although his attention makes her heart soar, he can never learn of her past.

Greek widower Darius Reed is determined to protect his daughter from the prejudice that killed her mother. He’ll ensure her future by marrying a woman from a respected Toronto family. But when Darius meets Olivia, he’s immediately drawn to her beauty and compassion…

The book releases Tuesday, October 13th. Publisher’s Weekly said they expect the book to appeal to fans of Julie Klassen. I love that when not composing fiction, Susan is busy writing the bulletin at a local Anglican church where she is a part-time secretary (her words) or to be more accurate, the Parish Administrator.

 384 pages, paper | 19.99 (Parasource) | ISBN-13: 9780764235191

New Store to Open in Former Gospel Lighthouse Tillsonburg Location

September 23, 2020 1 comment

After this summer’s radical shutdown of the five remaining Gospel Lighthouse stores all at once, it’s nice to report some good news about one of the locations. The former Gospel Lighthouse store at 147 Broadway Street in Tillsonburg will re-open under new owners and a (slightly) new name, Lighthouse Treasures.

On their Facebook page, Dan and Linda share their story:

It was two weeks before The Gospel Lighthouse closed its doors after a 32-year run as Ontario’s Christian Bookstore

My wife, Linda, and I were visiting Tillsonburg to spend time with a friend, when we spotted the 50% off everything sign in the window of one of their stores and decided to go in and check things out. As soon as we walked out of the door from our visit, I turned to Linda and said, “Would you ever consider …”, when she stopped me in my tracks and answered, “I sure would!” … and the dream began to become a reality.

For years, my wife & I had always dreamed of opening up an inspirational gift shop in a charming community, that also could be a ‘third place” (a place, besides home and work, people can come and feel comfortable, safe and relaxed). We thought it would be somewhere in the southeast of the U.S., but God had other plans; And what better place, than in Linda’s Mom’s hometown in Southern Ontario, where destination activities are aplenty and we’re surrounded by family and friends! We have been loving everyone we meet in Tillsonburg, and look forward to many great years in this sweet, friendly and beautiful town!

We look forward to reporting an opening date and sharing some pictures as soon as they are posted.

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Thomas Nelson Fiction Title Pulled from Release

In the wake of Black Lives Matter and sensitivities in the United States concerning all things race-related, a fiction title by Tamara Alexander appears to have failed the litmus test of political correctness in 2020.

Despite having copies printed and ready to ship, HarperCollins Christian Publishing has pulled the title Colors of Truth by popular fiction writer Tamara Alexander. The title is book #2 in the Carnton series. The publisher blurb was,

Based on the real history of Carnton, an antebellum home that served as a Confederate hospital, Colors of Truth follows the journey of an Irish immigrant arriving in a country where her kind isn’t wanted, and of a former Federal soldier returning to the scene of a battle that almost destroyed him…

But things related to that era of American history are ultra-sensitive right now. On June 11th, CNN reported that the band Lady Antebellum was changing their name to Lady A. Many statues of Confederate leaders and heroes have been torn down or are schedule to be removed.

Tamara Alexander broke the news to her fans in a Facebook post on Wednesday last week which drew about 480 reactions, 260 comments and almost 50 shares as this is written. She explained:

Life has taken a few unexpected twists and turns lately (but hey, it’s 2020, right?) …

…My publisher has cancelled Colors of Truth as well as the third book in the Carnton novels series that I’m currently writing. After the manuscript for Colors of Truth was accepted, and the book printed and ready to ship, they circled back and requested that I make changes to the novel that, in good conscience, I simply could not make. Not and remain true to history.

So, where does that leave us? As I share in the video, the rights to Colors of Truth (and the third book) have been reverted to me, and I’m busy getting it ready to publish on October 6 under my own press—Fountain Creek Press. (If Fountain Creek sounds somewhat familiar to you, there’s good reason. That’s the name of my first 3-book Colorado series from almost fifteen years ago!)

I’ve learned a ton about indie publishing in recent weeks, with more yet to learn. But it’s exciting! I’ve always loved a challenge, so . . . onward! …

The article continues with more details followed by a Q&A section. The final question there was,

Q: Will the book be in my favorite local bookstore where I usually buy your books?
A: I’m working on that now and, of course, part of that answer depends on whether that favorite local bookstore is even open right now due to COVID. But rest assured, I’m working on those channels of distribution, and for ALL versions of the novel to be available for purchase online on October 6.

At this writing the video explanation has been seen over 3,100 times.

In the video Tamara Alexander is adamant that she’s not changing a word of the book when the indie edition is published. There is no mention about the status of Book #1, With This Pledge. Information at Ingram, Thomas Nelson’s consumer site, and trade site Edelweiss had not been updated as this article goes to print.

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Books Which Are Basically Advertising for Something Else

This morning on Twitter someone was noting that the newest title by a popular Reformed author is basically a promotion piece for the seminary which he heads.

Perhaps you’ve seen this type of book, perhaps not. It’s the literary equivalent of being invited to someone’s house for dessert and coffee, only to arrive and discover it’s actually a recruitment meeting for a multi-level marketing program. The Amway ambush.

Several years ago the wife of a very popular Christian author did a series of four small books for teen girls on various aspects of addiction. But the books did a fairly strong hard-sell on getting into a program at a retreat centre she worked with.

Personally, I found myself reading a smaller hardcover book (similar to the Thom Rainer books, but not him) about the power of Children’s Ministry in the church growth equation, only to realize that, despite being picked up by a mainstream Christian publisher, it was a promotional piece for Child Evangelism Fellowship.

I expect this sort of thing online. You read an article and are then told that, “if you order my DVD curriculum today you’ll learn all you ever need to know about…”  Believe me, seeing that, I do indeed know all I need to know. 

However, I don’t expect this inside the pages of a book.

My advice to stores is that when you find a title like this on your shelves, discontinue selling it after the last copy goes. Perhaps even insert a disclaimer on a loose half-sheet of paper. Your customers will appreciate you acting as a gatekeeper for them in these situations.

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Graphics for the Updated edition of The End of Religion by Bruxy Cavey

Known simply as “Bruxy,” the pastor of The Meeting House is especially well-known in Ontario, where the church has 20 locations, and he is very active on online media. On his blog he writes,

For the last decade I have continued to do research on the themes in the original version of this book, and over the last couple of years I have been writing new chapters (and re-writing old ones). The result is this new book, with almost twice the content of the previous edition.

The End of Religion is written to your non-Christian friends, to partner with you in generating conversation in a way that should also encourage all our hearts to live into the freedom that is found in the New Covenant.

I believe in this book. I’ve received too much encouraging feedback from the previous edition about new faith found and old faith renewed not to have confidence that this edition will be so helpful to so many.

Both this November book and his previous title (re)Union, are available to stores through Herald Press, distributed in Canada by Parasource.


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More Graphics including NIV Revised Study, David Jeremiah

Here are more graphics for your store newsletter, Facebook page, and website. One quick news item; Baker Books didn’t have Canadian rights for Dorothy and Jack, the story of the friendship between C. S. Lewis and Dorothy Sayers. You’ll have to make other arrangements.

YouTube video for embedding: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=icop3nTkfG8

I really appreciate that they prepared so many different options for the David Jeremiah title. 

Use this one on September 25th:

This series has done really well for us lately. There’s actually a sixth book, but the cover art available doesn’t quite match. In hindsight, I would have done a bolder graphic since these are bigger books!

Let us know if you’re using these.

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New Brunswick Store Closing After Just Three Years

Less than three years ago, we reported on the opening of The Word Is Out Christian Bookstore in Rothesay, New Brunswick, a town adjacent to the north border of Saint John. This week, we learned of their decision to close. The store changed ownership early in February and became known as Blessings.

In a short note on their Facebook page, Brian and Teena Bourque announced:

Due to the conditions of Covid 19 and the regulation for operating a business it has made things very difficult for us to remain in business so I want to let you all know that Blessings Christian Book store , previously known as The Word is Out will be permanently closing at the end of September, there will be great sales on all items starting September 9-30.

In three short years, the store definitely had a following: Just 6 hours after the announcement, the Facebook post had nearly 100 reactions and 30 comments and had been shared nearly 40 times. Although it was a comparatively new business — especially under the current owners — its closing is going to leave customers surprised and disappointed.

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Guelph, Ontario Author on The Father’s Love and How We See Ourselves

September 1, 2020 1 comment

My first contact with Jonathan Puddle came when he was  overseeing the Catch The Fire bookstore (now Attwell Books) in Toronto. More recently, I checked out his podcast, The Puddcast, after Hamilton author and pastor Kevin Makins described it as his favourite interviewee experience to date. Other guests have included Brian Zahnd, Kim Walker-Smith, Priscilla Shirer and Wm. Paul Young.

Jonathan was born in New Zealand, lived in Finland for five years, and then moved to Toronto. Today he calls Guelph, Ontario home. He writes about marriage relationships and parenting, does business consulting and support for pastors.

However, the major theme in his new book release is knowing and experiencing God’s love and then, knowing that we are loved by the Father, being able to love ourselves. You Are Enough: Learning to Love Yourself the Way God Loves You is being self-published but is available to retailers through Ingram/Spring Arbor at standard trade terms or in bulk from the author.

Here’s the marketing info about the book:

If I asked you to name your favourite things—the things you love—how long would it take for you to name yourself?

Drawing from Scripture, trauma-informed therapy, Christian inner-healing, breathing and embodiment exercises, and silent prayer & contemplative spirituality, You Are Enough is a 30-day holistic healing journey towards abundant life. Daily readings are easy to understand, with practical exercises to help you embrace the truth of your beloved-ness in every part of your mind, body, soul and spirit.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve tried to love God and love others without thinking too much about yourself. Wanting to avoid self-centeredness, I doubted myself and condemned myself—I even hated myself—until I noticed the ancient words of Mark 12:31, “Love your neighbour as yourself.” A gentle whisper led me in a new direction and everything in my life began to change.

In You Are Enough, Jonathan Puddle teaches how to:

  • Love your body and embrace the space you take up.
  • Discern God’s presence and feel safe with your creator.
  • Get to know your emotions and inner life.
  • Encounter love in the most scarred, scared, and sacred places of your heart.
  • Love your whole self the way God does, with gentleness and compassion.

The 222-page book can be consumed in one sitting but is intended to be read following a 30-day format with each bite-size chapter being only six to eight pages in length.

Canadian Dollar Up: Buying USD Ends Week in $1.30 Territory

If the pandemic hasn’t provided a wild enough ride, the Canadian dollar’s journey over the last six months has proved equally exciting.

Buying a US dollar on March 2nd would cost you $1.3356 but by March 18th that had skyrocketed to 1.4496.

But on Friday, the rate — and remember, this is before bank transaction charges — was the lowest it’s been since January, closing at 1.3097.

In an industry where so many goods are indexed to their American MSRP, keeping track of the exchange rates is always a good practice.

Graph and information, Bank of Canada.


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Do Christian Musicians Still Have the Same Influence?

Tonight is a pretty big deal. Compassion, World Vision and Food for the Hungry are combining to present “Unite to Fight Poverty,” a two-hour music saturated fundraiser streaming live on YouTube, Facebook, PureFlix, and Daystar, with the audio portion also heard on The Message channel on Sirius Radio. It starts at 8:30 PM Eastern, 7:30 Central.

I love that these organizations are joining forces for the event, and that so many musicians are cooperating. I hope they do well financially. And I hope that Contemporary Christian Music fans are excited to see their favorite artists, especially in light of the lack of concert activity over the past six months.

But I’m wondering if those same artists carry the same weight, or influence as they did in days of yore? The barometer of Christian music’s popularity was always sales charts based on the number of physical product units sold. With the single now replacing the album as the quantifier of popularity — as things were in the early 1960s — and downloading available from multiple platforms, it’s really hard to tell if the impact of a given artist or group is the same. People may be downloading millions of copies of a single, but with a much higher financial outlay, one’s commitment to an artist when measured in sales of the full album was perhaps more meaningful.

Anecdotally, because I own a Christian bookstore, I get a first-hand view that Compact Disc sales right now are dead. Really dead. I don’t see us ordering new releases beyond September 1st. Even the elderly “Gaither” customers have abandoned the CD. They all spent their retirement money on new cars, and those vehicles didn’t come CD-player equipped.

So I hope the concert does well tonight, but I think that, moving forward, those Christian relief and development agencies might have to tweak the model and create a new paradigm beyond reliance on CCM artists

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