My obsession with audiobooks probably started last year when I listened to the three books in "The Broken Road" series by Richard Paul Evans. I listen to audiobooks primarily through the subscription service Sribd, and I almost always have a book playing while I'm driving. I even bought a Bluetooth speaker so I can connect my phone and listen to audiobooks in the shower. I listened to some fantastic stories this year, and I'm excited to share the list with you.
The following are in no particular order, and there's a chance that I actually listened to some of them late last year. (I didn't track the dates and time is running together.) I'm also quite sure I'm forgetting some. But all of the books listed below are wonderful.
Now that I've shared some great books with you, I feel it's time to share my shameful secret. I've been dreading this for a while.
I wasn't a reader of Christian Fiction before I started writing Christian Fiction. To be fair, I didn't set out to write a book, either. When a story struck me one day back in 2017, and I felt compelled (obsessed) to write it, I was excited that I could create a piece of fiction and tell people about Jesus at the same time, It was only after I dove headfirst into writing and publishing Grace & Lavender that I realized there are thousands of brilliant people with the same goal.
I actually was not a big reader when I started writing, which I felt guilty about. I had read everything written by Fannie Flagg (except the most famous one made into a movie) and I had been enamored for years with Gone with the Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird. I really enjoyed Robert Beatty's Serafina series, too. But how could I love writing so much and not be passionate about reading? It made me feel like an imposter.
I quickly learned that, along with studying writing through conferences, craft books, blogs, and podcasts, I needed to study other writer's works, too. For a long time, that made reading even harder because I analyzed everything I read, rather than simply enjoying it. That, combined with my lack of time to sit down and read, is one of the reasons I love audiobooks so much. Having someone read to me takes away some of the inclination to analyze sentence structure and verb choices. Plus, I can listen while I do so many other things. Some of the books I listed above have sparked a renewed passion for reading. Now I can't seem to get enough. Maybe audiobooks would be a good choice for you, too.
I truly hope Songs for a Sunday will be released as an audiobook, but I won't know that for a while. Three of my books are available on audio now, though. (Where I Was Planted is my favorite.)
Happy reading and listening in 2023!
Bible Story Adventures for Grown-Ups
The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword. (Hebrews 4:12) So, when someone says that a movie, book, or sermon "brings the Bible to life," it doesn't mean the Bible needs reviving. At least, it shouldn't. But as fans of the wildly popular television series "The Chosen" attest, retellings of Bible stories can help us understand and relate to those historical events in a new and powerful way.
In Bible story books for children, the thoughts and feelings of Biblical characters are often imagined, and details extraneous to the Biblical account are included to help the reader visualize what the scene might have looked like. Biblical Fiction for adults does the same thing, but often with plotlines and character arcs that go much further into the "what might have happened" realm while staying true to Biblical information and the overall theme of Scripture. My dad, Bobby W. Norman's, first published book, In the Days When Judges Ruled, is a bit of a mix between the two. While you won't find the story of Jael driving a tent peg through Sisera's head in most Bible story books, it is included in his anthology about the judges of Israel, though in a standalone story about Deborah and not a novelized account of the Biblical period.
As a devoted pastor for over forty-five years, my father has spent countless hours studying the Bible. His studies, combined with his love of story and his creative imagination, resulted in TWO books released this year, both Biblical Fiction with some very unique elements, and I was honored to assist him with editing and publication.
Before the time of the judges, the nation of Israel had strayed from her godly heritage and into idolatry, and God had allowed them to be sold into the hands of their enemies as punishment. When the people repented, God sent judges to rescue them from bondage and restore their land. In the Days When Judges Ruled, which released in April 2022, is a retelling of the stories of those sixteen men and one woman, based on the record of Scripture. The unique part of the anthology is the Biblical commentary weaved into the creative writing. The stories of the judges reveal life-changing lessons for us today.
My dad's second book, The Generations of Adam, released in October 2022, and the imagination involved in the telling of the creation account is spectacular. The book takes us from the beginning of the world and Adam's fall, all the way to Adam's being redeemed from sin by the resurrected Messiah, with many thought-provoking scenes along the way. Have you ever wondered if Adam might have had a special pet in the Garden of Eden? What if it was a pet dinosaur? How perplexing it must have been when Adam and Eve realized their child had a belly button and they did not. What if Adam kept a diary of the first human experience? Told in a narrative style, this Biblical Fiction work also has a good bit of sound Biblical commentary interspersed. The first and last chapters of the book are my favorite, and the powerful message of the Gospel is brought full circle.
My dad has always been the most enthusiastic supporter of my writing career, and I am so proud he's now realized his dream of being a published author. There is much more on the way from him. Follow Bobby W. Norman on Amazon to learn more.
As the name suggests, music is an important theme in my upcoming novel, Songs for a Sunday (available for pre-order now.)
THREE SONGS, in particular, play very important roles in the story.
1.) Amazing Grace, by John Newton
Written in 1772, this beloved anthem of the church is very important to the plot of the story. After not singing in public for many years, a character in the book is encouraged to perform at a party. But the song she’s asked to sing isn’t a “party song”. It’s Amazing Grace. How can she possibly sing about a grace she gave up on a long time ago?
One of the hardest parts of writing the book was imagining that someone could sing Amazing Grace without being moved by the words. But certainly, many of us have different hurts and circumstances that, at one time or another, have hardened our hearts to truth. The beautiful thing is that grace is still alive and available, no matter what we’ve been through.
I love singing and leading others in singing Amazing Grace. After the last verse in the hymnal, at my church we often sing "Praise God" over and over to the melody.
2.) O Holy Night, by Adolphe Adam
Although not a "Christmas book," a large part of the present-day timeline in Songs for a Sunday takes place at Christmastime, and "O Holy Night" plays a MAJOR role. Don't you love this song? It has to be one of my favorites. I think my favorite line is:
"The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
3.) Peace in the Valley, by Thomas A. Dorsey, performed by Elvis Presley
I absolutely love the video of Elvis Presley singing Peace in the Valley on the Ed Sullivan Show. Something about it moves me to tears. It's been said that Ed Sullivan was hesitant to let Elvis sing a gospel song on his show and that Elvis responded, “But Mr. Sullivan, I promised my Mama.”
I'm not going to spoil how this song is used in my upcoming novel, Songs for a Sunday, but it's very important to one character in the 1960s timeline!
So far, in looking at real locations in Songs for a Sunday, we've talked about University of North Carolina School of the Arts and Reynolds Auditorium. This next location is somewhere very special and is the setting of the entire second chapter of the book.
Hanging Rock State Park is located about 30 miles north of Winston-Salem in Stokes County and was started as a project of the Civilian Conservation Corps. It was completed in 1942. The father of the two fictional sisters in my 1960s timeline was a member of the CCC and helped build the park.
The 9,011-acre park gets its name from the rock formation pictured and is a fantastic place for hiking, swimming, biking, climbing, and just enjoying nature.
My children and I spent a wonderful day at Hanging Rock State Park in May of 2019 that doubled as book research. I didn't get to visit the specific waterfall used in the story on that day, so I had to rely on pictures, but my family did hike to it on a return trip in 2021.
Songs for a Sunday releases 2/7/23, but you can pre-order now: https://www.amazon.com/Songs-Sunday-Heather.../dp/1563096137
(Image: Brett van Beynum/Google)
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Thank you for visiting my blog. I share devotional articles and musings about life, parenting, and the writing journey, as well as important news about my books. I hope you find something of interest here!
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