Not Knowing but Still Going – Blog Tour Day #2

I’m delighted to have joined the blog tour for Jocelyn-Anne Harvey’s new book, Not Knowing but Still Going: A buoyant hope for uncertain times, published by Instant Apostle on 21 April 2021. Jocelyn-Anne is a fellow member of the Association of Christian Writers here in the UK.

The book focuses on the story of Noah’s Ark, but this is far from a Sunday School telling of the story. Jocelyn-Anne takes us through the chapters in Genesis. Giving names to Noah’s wife and daughters in law, she explores how these women might have reacted to what was unfolding. All the while, rooted in the biblical narrative.

In the introduction we read how the idea for this book about how a family dealt with their own lockdown and the aftermath of it, was planted in 2008. What amazing timing for the book to be published now. “The women had to go about their daily lives, while being conscious of the future change they all faced.” (Pg 28) Sound familiar?

Though it is an easy read, there is still much to stop and ponder. Each chapter helpfully ends with a prayer, a Chapter Contemplation section, and some blank journaling pages. The writer examines the human responses and practical issues that are hidden within the story. There are a number of helpful themes dealt with, such as, taking life situations a day at a time, what to do when you’re not sure what to do, having to fly in the face of popular opinion, waiting, family, human frailty and the respect we should show one another. Throughout the book, Jocelyn-Anne is honest in sharing her own struggles and mistakes, grounding her contemplations in Scripture and personal experience.

She takes us through familiar elements of the story, Noah the person, the building of the ark etc, but there were also pleasant surprises. I was reminded that they were the first to hear the sound of rain and a host of other new experiences that awaited them. There were practical implications to the changes of the landscape. There were also spiritual changes. Jocelyn-Anne reminds us, though the flood came because of sin, but, “sin hadn’t been swallowed up in the floodwaters.” (Pg. 224) Also, I had never noticed the significance that God closed the door of the Ark, but it was Noah who opened the window after the flood. In fact, the Ark Window chapter is particularly beautiful. The section about what windows can mean to us really resonated with me as we consider the lifting of lockdown restrictions.

This book would be great for a Bible study group and for personal reflection alike. It’s a book you could dip in and out of, or use for deeper study.

Follow the blog tour, if you want to read more about Not Knowing, but Still Going

You can get the book in good bookshops or a variety of online shops, including: FoylesWaterstonesAslan EdenAmazon (if you use affiliate links then also on Amazon US), and The Book Depository (this has worldwide free shipping).

Jocelyn-Anne loves the Lord, learning and literature. She has a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Chichester, and her flash fiction has been published. Jocelyn-Anne is passionate about supporting others through theirs and helping them develop. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her in a coffee shop with friends, exploring coastal paths or trying out recipes.

Where is God in our 21st century world? – The Chaiya Art Awards

photo credit: Jonny Back

I have the immense pleasure of starting the blog tour celebrating the launch of  the accompanying hardback book to the Chaiya Art Awards exhibition, ‘Where is God in our 21st century world?’ written by Ann Clifford. The awards website tells us this book is “for the curious and open-minded, for people of all faiths and none. It is bursting with richness and diversity, vulnerability and exploration, colour and fragility, treasure and beauty.”
It showcases more than 60 of the shortlisted artworks.

It’s not easy for me to sum up how I feel about this book. I was moved through so many emotions and reactions. Some images I swept past in an instant. Others held me. One thing I do know, it is a book I will look at and share often. Very moving and thought provoking, and potentially the best conversation starter about things of faith that I’ll ever come across.

There were some poignant examples of ‘Kintsugi’, which is mending a broken item using gold. Making that item more valuable after the mending. The piece I’d love most to see in real life is, ‘The Storm’ by Chris Evans-Roberts. I almost dismissed ‘Koryo’- an image taken in North Korea by Yue Wang, as simply a tourist’s photo. But there’s a powerful underlying significance that once you see, you can’t unsee.  ‘Grenfell 2017’, by Matthew Askey, is a deep and dark portrayal of that awful tragedy, which brought me to tears. ‘The Real Thing’, by Simon Shepherd and ‘The Last Fish Supper’, by Gina Parr – well I couldn’t decide if they were comical, challenging, ironic or just plain irreverent.

My favourite though, was a work in oil on canvas called, ‘Seek and You Shall Find’. It was painted by Karl Newman, and stopped me in my tracks as I looked through the book. I got to ask the artist some questions and am delighted to share his answers with you.

photo credit by Jonny Back

1. Karl, your painting grabbed me the moment I saw it. I spent ages looking at it and through it, and have come back to it many times. Congratulations on being a finalist in this award-winning collection. How does it feel?

Thanks. It actually felt very good to be a part of the Chaiya Arts Awards exhibition. I occasionally enter similar competitions and I’m not always selected and so I certainly wasn’t assuming that I would be selected for this exhibition. When I saw my painting in the show I was really pleased to see it placed as prominently as it was. It made me smile inside to think that this little fishing hut that I’ve known since childhood and which is really remote is placed facing the Thames under the Oxo tower on London’s Southbank. You really couldn’t get a greater contrast!

2. I was struck by the concept of peace needing to be “sought” in the busyness of life. Is this your own personal experience?

Yes, I think it is my experience that you have to find a place of peace. I don’t think peace is something we are entitled to or that comes knocking on our doors. We have to seek it out. And then it’s very easy to lose your peace in a world that crowds in, demands time, energy and resources. Being quiet, getting away from things and resting are important for wellbeing and for creativity. We have our best ideas when we are relaxed and resting not when we are tired and stressed.

3. I love the layers in the image. Did you see the image layer by layer, or was it all there before you started to work?

That’s interesting. For this image in particular the painting process was one of revealing and disguising in equal measure. I’d make a mark and then paint over it, scraping, scratching, smearing the paint in a variety of ways to try to find the feel of the dense forest I was trying to depict. Working in this way helped me to think about the subject, of seeking and finding. That is literally what I was trying to do, I was seeking the image I saw in my mind and then in the end, partially finding it. I started with the most distant layer, the sky and worked forwards. The red shoes were painted last.

I work in a tiny studio and so most of the time I am really close to the surface of the painting and I don’t see the image as a whole until I carry the canvas outside where I can stand back. Over the years of working in this way I think I have focussed more and more on the surface and I love what paint does when it is applied layer upon layer. I get very absorbed in the process of applying and manipulating paint and lose sight of the overall image, which is why in this case I chose such a simple, solid composition with the fishing hut placed centrally and the triangular shape of its roof the focal point. It allowed me the freedom to play with the paint and colours in order to achieve the feel I was after.

photo credit: Jonny Back

4. What other piece in the collection has impressed you most ? Would you share with us why?

There were several works that I really liked. I think Marian Wouda’s sculpture ‘The Other Lamb’ is a particularly compelling piece. It’s an ambiguous image, beautifully made with plaster and straw, which asks questions of the viewer. Is it sleeping peacefully, or is it dead? It invites interpretation. Within the context of this exhibition and the question asked of the participating artists it alludes to John the Baptist’s proclamation ‘Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’. It is a powerful and arresting piece that I find myself drawn to more as time passes. It isn’t a work that draws attention to itself initially.

5. Is art your main expression of faith? Has it always been?

I guess so; both making and seeing art. Images resonate with me, they gain traction and meaning in my life as time passes and I find myself repeating motifs in my own work. Viewing work and making my own paintings allows me to meditate on things, issues, ideas and on God too, it is an art form that is not hurried by the constraints of time as theatre, dance or watching a film are. The act of making art is itself an act of faith, of reaching for something that doesn’t yet exist. Faith and imagination are closely linked and therefore I think God often speaks to us through the arts.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us Karl, and congratulations again.

So there you have it folks. The blog tour is well and truly off and running. Make sure to keep and eye on the other blog posts as the tour goes on, by going to the web addresses on the list or following #isGod21

You can follow Karl Newman on Twitter. The photographer for the exhibition was Jonny Back

Where is God in our 21st Century World? (ISBN: 9781909728905, Non- fiction, paperback, 96pp, £15.99) by ­­­­­Ann Clifford was published by Instant Apostle on 21 September 2018. It is available from bookshops, online retailers and the Chaiya Art Awards website.

10 Day You Challenge, Day 7 – 4 Books

Day 7 of the ’10 Day You Challenge’ 10-days-you-challenge2 copy Today – 4 books… 😉

cujo1.Cujo by Stephen King
This is one book that has stayed with me since the day I read it. I’ve never seen the film, but the memory of what I read plays in my head like a film reel. I can’t dwell on it too much or I’ll lose sleep. Chilling!

In case you didn’t know, I’m self-publishing a collection of short stories in October. You can find out all about it over on Fictitious Amo. I’m very excited and look forward to getting it out there. It’ll be available on Kindle and other e-platforms, also in paperback.

p&P3. Pride and Prejudice
I can’t count the amount of times I’ve read this book. It is my favourite fiction book in the whole world and I can’t imagine anything topping it. Jane Austen is so clever in how she describes people and their interactions with each other. She also describes her own culture and environment with great humour and insight. She’s the man! 🙂

4. The Bible
Come on you knew that was coming! 🙂 As I’ve mentioned many times before. My handbook for life; one I don’t read nearly often enough!

John 21:25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

Photo credits:
The 10 Day You image above doesn’t seem to come from any central website but can be found on many that have done the challenge. Many use it but there does not seem to be any original source info available
The P&P image was taken by me.
The image of the Cujo book was taken from one of its profiles on

Between a thing and a whatsit…

I’m about to read a book, that I’m hoping will change my life.  

Don’t worry, I haven’t gone mad 🙂 I’ve never been a fan of self-help books. A number of them have been recommended to me over the years, but I haven’t ever read anything that has influenced me more than the Bible. I’m not saying I rule out everyone else’s wisdom. I read ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Stephen Covey and that, and his book ‘First Things First’ had a huge impact on my working life.
In general though, I’m not one for that genre.

The-In-Between_KD-171x260But my interest has been piqued by Jeff Goins new book ‘The In-Between’. I’m taking Jeff’s ‘Tribe Writers’ course and am really enjoying it. I’m encouraged to find that I’m already doing some of the things he recommends. I’m learning that I have a lot to… well… learn. There are plenty of good habits to get into and a few bad ones I need to break.

I can’t review a book I’ve yet to read but the concept of ‘the in-between’ is one I’m really interested in. I have struggled to enjoy, to savour, and to learn from ‘the in-between’ stages in life. At times I have resented them or at least felt frustrated by them. There have been so many things that I have hoped for and those hopes have not been realised. I’ve spent years searching for where I’m supposed to be, what I’m supposed to be, who I’m supposed to be.

“What should I be doing with my life?” has been my mantra for so long that I have neglected to look at what I AM doing and how valuable it might be. It’s hard not to look back and mourn the wasted time, and to be honest I still feel things have yet to fall into place. Me and my husband and both in our 40s and still waiting…

I am looking forward to reading the book as I’m hoping it will give me a different view on ‘the in-between’. It would be beyond liberating to feel different about it.

I’ll let you know how I get on.

Starting 2013 with Guest Post

HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone!

I hope you had a great time over the Christmas and New Year break. Most of the writing I did over the holidays was with pen and paper! So I’m hoping to be able to read it all now…

While I try to work out my hieroglyphics and put a post together I’d like to introduce you to Sam Hailes. Sam is a Journalist based in Southampton. This is his review of Don Carson’s book The Intolerance of Tolerance

So! over to Sam…

intol tolMost will know DA Carson as a popular reformed theologian who writes on subjects like the love of God, the cross and how to read the Bible. But just when we think we’ve got Carson nailed down as a theologian who writes on theology, he surprises us. Not only is his latest topic unexpected but the title – The Intolerance of Tolerance is at best shocking and at worst, well, intolerant!

This is where Carson’s thesis begins: To be labeled ‘intolerant’ is a very bad thing indeed! This charge of intolerance is often thrown at people like Carson.
“Christians say salvation is only found through Jesus Christ. They’re intolerant of other people’s beliefs!” the secular world screams.

Before reading this book I disagreed that such a view of salvation was intolerant, but I would have been unsure of how to convince a secular audience that my view was not intolerant. I suspect I’m not the only one and that Carson was writing his book for people like me.
The theologian’s entire thesis is more or less delivered in his 17 page introduction. This is both a strength (brevity) and a weakness (what’s the point of the other 159 pages?)

The author describes two types of tolerance: The old and the new. The old form is to recognize and respect another’s view while not agreeing with it. Therefore I can respect my Muslim friend’s view that Mohammed is God’s prophet and not agree with it. But the new form of tolerance is very different. It moves from accepting the existence of other views, to accepting other views. Carson says this shift is “subtle in form but massive in substance”.

He continues: “The new tolerance suggests that actually accepting another’s position means believing that position to be true, or at least as true as your own. We move from allowing the free expression of contrary opinions to the acceptance of all opinions”. So when someone says of X, “He is a very tolerant person”, do they mean he respects my belief that salvation is through Christ alone (old tolerance) or he believes everything is equal and only tolerates the view that salvation is found in many places (new tolerance)?

Caron’s second chapter provides excellent examples that flesh out the tolerance debate. But I found his lengthy third chapter on the history of tolerance dull. In fact it was so dull I nearly gave up on the book altogether. Thankfully the second half of the book picked up and left me again astounded at Carson’s ability to think through and write so clearly and eloquently on what is a very tricky subject.

Best thought of as an attack on the new tolerance, Carson’s book is a must-read for anyone who has ever been labeled intolerant (in the new sense). As the Western world becomes more multicultural and diverse, it goes without saying that the importance of tolerance increases.
But in aiming for this high principle, will culture rightly uphold the old view of tolerance or adopt the new form? If culture continues to opt for the new tolerance, the notion of absolute truth will be eroded.

Carson is right to point out, as he does throughout the book, that truth and tolerance are linked. In writing on both of these subjects in such a clear manner, Carson has not just done the Christian church a favour, he’s helped people of all faith and none to use think clearly about subjects which impact all of society.

Reivew by Sam Hailes. Sam is a Journalist based in Southampton. He’s 23 and later this year is getting married. He blogs at and tweets @samhailes.

The Intolerance of Tolerance by D. A. Carson
Publisher: William B Eerdmans Publishing Co (2009)
ISBN: 9780802831705

A Review of Some Holiday Reading #2 Sons of Cain by Val Bianco

I did a lot of reading in this beautiful spot!

So… if you’ve read review #1 you’ll know that we got drenched to the bone on day 1 of our hols. But the sun shone for the rest of the week. So much so that by day 3 I was sunburnt and wondering where in the attic the Factor 20 might be… We drove to Kenmare – what a beautiful little town! Strolling through the market I picked up some second hand books including an copy of ‘Juno and the Paycock’, an Irish play I studied in secondary school.

We had the most wonderful relaxing time. And as I mentioned, I got lots of reading done.

So to my second book review…

Sons of Cain by Val Bianco

Sons of Cain
by Val Bianco

After I read the prologue of this book I was intrigued but a little skeptical of how the story would progress. The book is a work of fiction but starts with an account of  Pope Leo XIII’s vision on October 13th 1884. This actually happened and is well documented. It surprised me by turning out to be exactly what I love to read. Well mostly…  Style wise – think John Grisham meets Dan Brown meets Frank Peretti with a bit of The Screwtape Letters thrown in for good measure!

Sons of Cain is a story that unfolds in two realms. On earth there is the appearance of a deeply hidden cult that is so extreme in its nature, it is considered by most to be folklore and exaggeration. But it is real and its influence and evil intent reaches far into the corridors of power right to the Supreme Court and the Oval Office itself. Then there is the team of godly men working secretly to fight this evil. (Already you can see why it’s right up my street.) In the other realm, the spiritual realm, demons and angels work to influence, help, hinder, trap, kill, save… and every so often the two realms collide.

As a Christian who loves action/thrillers this was a great combination but every so often it felt as if some very specific doctrine was being ‘crowbar-ed’ in to the story. The author is Roman Catholic and the odd time it felt like he was pulling me out of the story to correct my theology. I was raised Roman Catholic, but have lived most of my ‘committed Christian’ life outside of the RC church – so I realise my antennae were on high alert. There were a few nods towards why Protestants/Evangelicals have it wrong and at times I got frustrated and just wanted to get back into the story.

Having said that, it was fast moving, the story continued to unfold and kept getting better. There was some truly terrifying imagery but it rang true and reminded me that there is a lot going on that we don’t see. It also was a reminder that good eventually triumphs over evil, but at a cost.

I was a bit disappointed that it didn’t end exactly as I’d have loved it too (don’t want to do a spoiler here…) but it was fitting that fulfillment in serving God and his purposes was the priority. All in all a great combo of action and spirituality. If you’re into the things of God you’ll enjoy it. Especially if you’re a Catholic! 😀

A Review of Some Holiday Reading #1 The Terrace by Maria Duffy

Drenched to the bone on hols but who cares 🙂

So am back after a lovely few days away in the west of Ireland. Kerry really is beautiful! On Monday we got soaked to the skin and on Wednesday I got sunburn! We had a great time.

Anyway… more of that anon. I can’t go any further without doing a little happy dance that I’ve made the shortlist of the Grafton Media Blog Awards 2012. Thanks so much to those who nominated me and to the judges for putting me through. I am shocked and delighted in fairly equal measure. There’s 3 weeks til the finalist list is announced but that little blue and brown badge will do me nicely! 🙂

Even though I’ve been blogging for more than 5 years now, the ‘I want to write!’ thing is still quite new to me. I’ve read almost every ‘How to be a better blogger/writer etc’ article that I’ve spotted. Some of it seems nonsense to me but there are some gems that I’ve gleaned and stored away for further peruuuuuusal! 😀 But there’s one tip that has been on almost every list. And that is – if you want to be a writer, you have to be a reader.

All I’ve been reading for the past few years are theology books. (Apart from the odd holiday indulgence and my annual read of Pride and Prejudice.) In 2007 I decided to actually FINISH my Theology degree (after starting in 1994) and then went straight on to do my Masters, which I’m currently in the middle of. So everytime some one recommends a great book, all I can think of is the pile of textbooks I should be wading through. But I’ve decided that I have to read other stuff so am now always going to have one non M.A. book on my reading list.

I got a head start while we were away and read two books. So I thought I’d do a couple of reviews. I should say I’m well aware I’m an ‘aspiring’ writer and these are just my own personal views on what I’ve read. There is a little voice whispering to me… “Who are you to review anyone’s book Amo?! You haven’t a clue what you’re talking about!” But that is the same voice that tells me not to write, not to like what I write, not to like myself and to deep fry everything before I eat it! So I’m going to ignore it 😉 Here’s the first one…

The Terrace by Maria Duffy
As I’m from ‘old Tallaght’ the heartwarming, neighbourly feel of The Terrace reminded me of my childhood. I could see my mam at the gate talking to neighbours as they passed by. The Terrace is about just that – a row of houses, the people that live in them, and the connections between them. There’s a ‘days of old’ open-door culture throughout the book that again, reminded me of my childhood. A lot of the story centres round the other thing that binds them – the missing lottery ticket that someone in the syndicate has, but no one can remember who…!

I am quite convinced that Maria Duffy could walk into the conference room where the script writers of Coronation Street/Eastenders/Hollyoaks/Fair City are gathered, and immediately take her place as part of the team. I reckon that if you like your soaps, then The Terrace is the book for you.
The problem is… I don’t! I gave up on soaps years ago and much prefer my intrigue to be about whether the President’s special advisor is actually the baddie who stole the launch codes – rather than, who had a drunken fumble with who after the pub last night. It’s a preference thing, I know.

I did tire a little of the popping in to each other for tea… and wanted things to move a bit faster. But there are two things about this book which I loved and applaud Maria for.

One is that I consider it an honest and real portrayal of how money affects things. The lost lottery ticket caused a lot of trouble. Accusation and counter-accusation rolled around the houses on the terrace as suspicion fell on almost everyone at some stage. Suddenly this tight-knit community that trusted each other with everything, began to lose their faith in each another and (mis) interpreted every move. Not only that, they began to lose faith in the community itself.
It’s the reason lawyers tell families to put stuff in writing and the reason that God warns us not to love it too much… money changes us!

The other is the fact that Maria does one thing that the soaps tend not to. She portrays marriage as worth fighting for. One of the reasons I hate the soaps is that everything is so temporary and someone can be madly and passionately in love with someone and a few weeks later be equally madly and passionately in love with someone else. Family ties and relationships are strong in The Terrace. They’re worth working at even in the midst of a whole heap of misunderstanding, temptation and heartache. And that is another part of our ‘once upon a time’ culture that is in danger of dying. But it’s alive and well in The Terrace.

Not my usual genre, but a great read. All the more special having met the beautiful lady who wrote it.

The Terrace by Maria Duffy is published by Hachette Ireland. It’s available on Amazon (including a Kindle version) but also available in all good bookshops – so I say, go support your local one 😉