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Posts Tagged ‘Christian bookstores’

Helena CoverAs I sat reading the email enquiry that had just arrived via my website, I felt more than a little surprised. You see, someone had written to ask where she could get hold of twenty-five copies of my very first novel Heléna, first published way back in 2007. She explained how she had loved it and planned to review it at her church’s women’s retreat, so needed to have copies available for their bookstall.

I suggested she check at a nearby Christian bookstore, as I had none on hand. She did this, but with no success. So I agreed to order in some copies from my previous publisher for her—and within less than a fortnight, those books had arrived. I contacted my prospective customer again and she arranged to pick them up from me. I looked forward to meeting her and to discovering where she had first come across Heléna. Had she bought it from me after I had spoken somewhere? Had she found it in a bookstore? Had someone perhaps given it to her?

When she arrived, she was in a hurry. But in those few moments together, she told me a story that blew my mind.

‘Oh, I found my copy of Heléna in a Vinnies store at Ryde!’ she told me. ‘It looked new—and when I picked it up, I realised it was a Christian book, so I bought it. I’ve read some of your other books too since then.’

At that point, I showed her one of my bookmarks that feature my most recent novel The Inheritance and my memoir Soul Friend.

‘I haven’t read The Inheritance,’ she told me, ‘but I’ve read Soul Friend. In fact, I lent it to a friend I worked with. She was unhappy in her job and I thought it might help her. I didn’t want her to leave, but when she read it, it gave her the strength to do just that and to move on in her life. And that has been the best thing for her.’

As I stood clutching the cash payment she insisted on making then and there for all twenty-five copies of Heléna, I felt so humbled. Only God could have arranged for her to buy that second hand copy in Vinnies and be moved by it, then to read more of my books. Only God could have prompted her to lend Soul Friend to her friend. And only God could have used it to inspire this person to make a wise decision and move on. I could never have dreamed up this sequence of events—but God certainly could.

As my lovely customer left, clutching her carton of books, I thanked God for her and prayed those copies would be well received at the women’s retreat. And I remembered once again some verses I love from Isaiah:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9

I could not agree more. How about you?

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Last week, while promoting my books in a Melbourne bookstore, I had some interesting encounters I could never have imagined into any of my novels. They encouraged me so much that I wondered afterwards if I might well have been entertaining one or two of those angels the writer to the Hebrews talks about in Heb 13:2!

Take the gentleman I began chatting to as he was leaving the store. He asked where I was from and, on discovering I was from Sydney, told me he wouldn’t hold that against me! After I informed him I actually grew up in Queensland, we discovered we went to the same high school and that our time there had overlapped. Then when I told him I had ended up teaching at another Brisbane school a few years later, we discovered his wife had been a student there at the time. On and on our conversation went. How lovely it was reflect on the journey God had taken us both over the years since then and to remind ourselves of God’s faithfulness!

Another wonderful encounter occurred when a lady came to the store especially to meet me. We had emailed off and on over the years in relation to recording my books for people with visual impairment. I knew my first three novels had been recorded, but imagine my delight when I discovered two more had been as well, that my non-fiction book Soul Friend was about to be recorded and that this lady planned to buy my latest novel The Inheritance so it can be also. What an encouragement! I had imagined their clients would have had enough of borrowing my books, but no, apparently they want more. I love the idea of being able to bless people in this way who are unable to see the printed word.

I was touched too when a young woman noticed Soul Friend on my display table and immediately came over to give me a warm hug. She had found the book so helpful, she told me, and was delighted to meet me. Later, a similar thing happened with someone who had read The Inheritance. Then just this past weekend, while book selling at a conference closer to home, I had another unexpected and encouraging encounter. I met a delightful lady who works in a Christian bookstore in a small, western New South Wales country town.

‘Oh, it’s so great to meet you!’ she told me. ‘We stock your books in our bookstore—our manager loves them! They’re in our local library too.’

Never would have I envisaged my books in a store in this little town, let alone in their library.

In all this, I don’t mean to be egotistical at all. I’m sure God didn’t allow these encounters for the purpose of boosting my pride! But I do believe God’s heart was to encourage me in these lovely, surprising ways—just as God desires to do for you. In John 5:17, Jesus tells the Jews: My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working. Are your eyes open to see how our loving Father is at work even now in your own life? Or, like me, are you perhaps in danger of not recognising those angels God has for us to encounter along the way?

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theinheritancefrontonly--final versionThis past Sunday, our family celebrated not only Fathers’ Day but also the official release of my sixth novel, The Inheritance! Now you might well think I’d be used to all that goes with such events by Novel Number Six. I myself thought I would merely take it in my stride—but no! Not this time. As those copies begin to appear in the bookstores, I find myself holding my breath just a tad yet again.

You see, I know this new novel is a little different from my previous ones. For starters, it feature two main characters of equal importance—and that’s something new for me. The Inheritance explores Michael Trevelyan’s struggle to come to grips with the past, be reconciled with himself, his family and ultimately God, and face the future with courage and integrity. But it also explores Alexandra Hope’s struggle to stay true to her faith in God and pursue God’s purposes for her life. It was quite a balancing act at times to put myself in the ‘head’ of one and then of the other, trying to react as each one might in a given situation. Yet while it was challenging, it was also great fun—especially when Michael chose to be very angry, arrogant and bitter all at once! I hope I have done both him and Alexandra justice. After all, they are real people—aren’t they?!

I feel too I have incorporated more suspense into the story this time around, although it is hard for me to judge this aspect of my own novels. As I wrote, at times I didn’t even know myself what twists and turns my main characters would experience in their lives or how things would turn out for some of my minor characters either. Yet, while the story might have captured and held my interest, will it do the same for my readers?

Finally, I believe the central theme of this novel is so important for us all to take to heart. I have attempted to convey clearly in The Inheritance how anger, bitterness, hypocrisy and pretence can have such an adverse effect in our own lives, as well as in the lives of others, and keep us from experiencing God’s amazing grace. As I wrote, the words of Hebrews 12:15 were very much in the forefront of my mind: See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. I felt responsible writing about such a significant issue and did not want to trivialise it in any way. And I hope and pray God uses this story to touch readers’ hearts and enable them to experience more and more of that amazing grace of God.

So for me, another new and fresh adventure begins, as I journey with my latest creation, The Inheritance. Again, I am so thankful to God that yet another of my stories has seen the light of day, courtesy of my new publisher, Even Before Publishing. If you would like to check out The Inheritance, it is now available not only in hard copy via my website, www.jo-anneberthelsen.com, and my publisher’s website, www.evenbeforepublishing.com, or in Christian bookstores but also as an e-book for Kindle on Amazon or for other devices via the bookstores.

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I did not know quite what to expect with my first bookstore appearance a few weeks ago. Despite having five published novels already, I had not previously done in-store book signings. But for my new non-fiction book Soul Friend, I felt it was time for me to taste such an experience.

It was a week day and there were no great crowds around. But then I noticed my table was positioned right next to the children’s section—surely a trap for any doting grandmother! On top of that, I was slap bang on the edge of the store’s coffee shop—another equally serious temptation! Soon, however, I began to focus on the job in hand. How could I engage the attention of those young mums talking nearby? How could I encourage the few customers who passed by my table to stop and take a look?

After a few moments of thought and prayer, I decided the only way was to step out of my comfort zone and instigate some conversations myself. So I gave out my business cards, explained about my books and chatted with anyone who was willing to stop and talk. And how interesting that turned out to be! One couple even invited me to join them for lunch as they told me about the challenges they were facing. I discovered in that bookstore that, however many books I signed or didn’t sign, God had some special appointments for me along the way.

And that is the attitude I took with me into my second and third in-store book signings. At the second store, I was situated right opposite the front door—a wonderful opportunity to engage with people as soon as they entered. Again, I gave out lots of my cards and had some moving conversations with a variety of people, from those new to Australia to a cancer sufferer to some would-be authors. And in it all, I sensed the grace of God at work in my life, irrespective of how many books I signed.

My third in-store book signing was the most diverse and challenging of all, however. This time, I was in a much bigger store and soon found that many people simply walked past my table, eyes down, intent on where they were heading and too busy to stop and talk. A few times I was mistaken for a store worker, despite my ‘author’ badge, and was asked for assistance. I pointed the way to the coffee shop and the toilets. I gave my opinion about the right cards to choose and the right books to buy. I gave an old lady my chair. I even helped lost spouses find each other and children their parents. And in between, I did sign some books. But more than that, again I had some significant conversations with people—those I believe God had for me to meet that day in that bookstore.

Yes, these three events were rather tiring and challenging. And yes, I would have liked to sign more books in the process. But I did my best and tried to engage with those I sensed God had for me to engage with. And that’s all any of us can do, I believe.

May you, like me, be content with stepping out in trust and leaving the outcome of our efforts to God.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

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