Friday, December 30, 2011

God in Our Writing

When you write do you consider God? Is God part of what you write? If so what part does He play, is He integral to your story?

I have done both non-fiction and fiction writing. I try to put a message of hope and love and God’s plan of salvation in everything I write. Though how I do it is different depending on what I am writing.

When I write non-fiction, which are mainly devotionals I obviously pick a scriptural reference. A verse that goes with what I am saying or have learnt. So when I am writing them I ask God to give me the message that needs to be said. To have it be received in the way it needs to be.

If is different when I write fiction. How much do I include God in my writing? Do I make my characters Christian or do have them struggling with the idea of following God? I generally write romances and I want them to be Christian and follow Christian values.

But you may ask where does God fit in? When I write I don’t like to be preachy which I know can turn people off. I might explain a few things, using the Bible or I may have my character struggle with something in the Bible. I hope that what I write shows others, the readers, things that they may not have thought of.

I like to think God gave me the talent and the gift to be able to write. He also has given me the love and message of His plan for our lives. I believe the plan for my life is to write, whether it be fiction or non-fiction.

I always ask God to bless my writing. If I bring out a Christian value let it be something that others may deal with. I think we all write pieces that may be slightly biographical. I know I have and through my characters learning things, so do I.

So I don’t mean just thinking about God in your writing. We need to ask God to be with us and guide us in our writing. It is only by His grace that we are here and doing what we love, writing.

I don’t always ask God to help me with my writing but I always remember Him as I use Him in my stories at some point.

Maybe the characters were brought up as Christian and have gone away. Maybe the person didn’t have Jesus fully living in their heart. Maybe the person has never heard the story of salvation. Maybe someone is dealing with how being a Christian meshes with their life.

If I can touch just one person’s life with my writing. If just one person finds a deeper understanding and relationship with God it will all be worth it.

Melanie Carter Winkler

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

I am reading 'In Celebration of Simplicity' by Penelope Wilcock. A couple of weeks ago I read 'The 100 Thing Challenge' by Dave Bruno (if you are intrigued check out his Facebook page). Both books are on simple living. I just love how books can inspire and inform you, how they point you in the way you should go. These writers have listened to God's call on their lives and have each agreed to be a pen in God's hand. Isn't this what we all want to be? 

As someone who aspires to live simply I need, more than anything, the encouragement that there are others out there who feel called to the same way of life. And so in turn I have been blogging about this topic at astalander.blogspot.com. I have been surprised by comments left there, and on Facebook, by those I know and those I don't know. I have even made some new friends: the mother of a young friend (former work colleague), and a simple liver in San Diego. And a happy coincidence- or Godincidence - is that they are also animal lovers like me. 

Now that we are getting ready to step over the threshold and into 2012 I am again considering how I might live more simply. I feel for too long I have spoken about it, but not much has reflected my words. But now I have a deep conviction, one that has been noticed by the ones I live with, and know me the best. Someone asked me what had happened - she was surprised that I was giving things away so freely - things that I have absolutely treasured. My daughter agreed that it was most unusual. She could even remember when it all started, just a couple of weeks ago. All I can say is that perhaps it is impossible to live this way unless you are called and unless God convicts you, and maybe it is a gentle process. It may seem to have started only a couple of weeks ago but I have been thinking and praying about this for years and years. 

 Yes I have re-gifted many loved items. Yes this is the year we thrived through a mostly no present Christmas day. Yes I am now unavailable for work on Mondays and Fridays so that I can focus on writing and other creative endeavours at home. Yes I am cutting back on my wardrobe (weirder and weirder). We have made space in our home and hearts for a rescued greyhound. (How is that simple living? It is making way for what is important in my life.) And the boldest thing I have done is to stop hiding behind make up! 

  I love this spacious place, the end of the year - this time of rest. What a gift it is. I sit and read and jot down notes and play in my visual journal. I sit on the floor next to my placid, handsome dog cutting out images, articles, words from magazines and creating a picture of how I might live in 2012. I feel nothing but gratitude for the abundance in my life and the wonderful, wonderful gift of words and those who write them down. 

I wonder what 2012 might hold for us. May we faithfully write the words our Lord has stirring in our hearts - you just never know what affect they will have. 

Asta x




Friday, December 23, 2011

And the Word Became Flesh

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, 
the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. 
(John 1:1&14)


As writers we are wordsmiths; we work with words in order to communicate. And then these words take shape in the minds and imaginations of our readers and leave an impression. Have you ever considered that even in this sense we carry the image of our Creator?

He is the Chief Communicator, and as the Word of God He took up residence in this world. The Word became flesh and was given the name Jeshua, meaning 'Jehovah is Salvation'. He left an impression on everyone who met Him, and still today He changes lives.

If we want to reflect Him in this world and leave an impression of Him on others, our hearts and minds need continual bathing in the Word of God. Only then can we become effective ambassadors for Christ (Rom.12:2) and achieve His purpose. 

And along this line of thought, here's the perfect Christmas gift for you: once the festivities settle down, visit www.e-sword.net and download their off-line bible study and research tool. It's the best I've ever come across, and it's FREE!  And no, I don’t get a commission :) 

Expecting that none of you will have time to read a long post today, I've kept it short and sweet. Enjoy the festive season as you remember the reason for this season, and all the best for the coming year! It's been a pleasure meeting you all and being part of this blog.

Read more about Margaret Lepke's work and ministry at www.DrLepke.com.au.    

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

WORDS Words words

Yesterday, I did some gardening. Trimmed palms. Planted out some choy sum. Tied up and tidied up my tomato bushes. Pulled weeds. Swept paths. Spread around snail pellets. Put liquid organic fish emulsion in my watering can and watered everything.

And then I realised that I’d done the last two jobs in the wrong order.

I’m sure the pellets will still work, but they won’t be as powerful because the instructions say that they’re best put out after rain and, therefore, after watering.

I had the right tools and provisions to do the job perfectly but the order mattered to get the best benefit.

As a writer, the same thing happens.

Words are my tools, just like a hammer, chisel and nails are tools for a carpenter, or snail pellets and fertilizer are for a gardener. And if I find a word to use and put it next to another word, then I’m building a story. But what if I chose the wrong words or put them in the wrong order? Or what if I chose a word that’s just ok, and put it in a ‘just ok’ order? I guess the story will be just ok.

Some time ago, I read (and I wish I could remember where) about a published author who was asked by a writer on how to edit a book. The author’s advice? ‘Read the first word of the manuscript. If it’s right, read the next one. Keep going until you’ve finished the book. Get every word right.'


So now I start a sentence with two words. I try to make sure those two words are the best words I can find. Then I write the next word. And now I’m learning but I’m not getting it all right yet.

But it’s important because, whether words are in a book, a song, a sentence spoken by a friend, a movie, or even a thought, they have the potential for power. And they also have potential to flit away on the breeze and make no impact.

Well, now it’s nearly Christmas and what an amazing time! But it’s not always good for everyone. Three years ago, two days before Christmas, I lost my mum to a very quick dose of cancer. Our family had a terrible Christmas that year, waiting for the small country town near where my parents lived to wake up after the Christmas break so we could have the funeral. No one could even buy flowers. Christmas will never be the same. The pain morphs a little each year and casts a shadow over Christmas for my family and I.

But, what I love about this time of the year is that it makes it ok for songs of worship to be played everywhere for weeks on end. And people, even many who don’t believe, sing ‘O Come Let Us Adore Him’, ‘O Holy Night’ and ‘Away in a Manger’ - and so they sing of Jesus.

I believe that when even non-believers sing these songs they’re speaking powerful words to themselves, and I pray that these amazing words will speak to each person’s spirit and break into their lives and, even after this season is over, that the power of the Word, our Christ, will bring salvation to each one.

Because... Jesus is called the Word. And it’s because of the amazing power of words that we can use words for His glory in the most subtle ways in our writing. We only need to get the right words in the right order. (For more information on the power of words see Genesis chapter 1 and John chapter 1.)

Jackie Randall is an English Aussie, raised in WA and living in NSW, and trying to find the right order for words in order to begin the change in readers' lives.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Routine

Packing, packing, packing. I'm in the busy process of packing up 7 years of work and family to move to a new home and job in Redcliffe Qld. It's been sad to leave north Qld, a place that has embraced us and been very fruitful in our lives and ministry. All ten of my publications have taken place while up here! We do look forward to the new phase of our life and what God has in store for us.

Perhaps the hardest bit for me these past 4 months is being out of routine. I don't want to sound like an anal kinda person, but being out of routine has been unsettling. I find the simple routine of having a purpose and direction and working towards that each day and week grounds me. With a move on the horizon the vision has an ending and a new beginning, a new beginning you can't properly start till after the move.

Everything is 'up in the air'. Things ending, things beginning. I couldn't sit in my groove [not rut] and work and write as efficiently and carelessly as before. So one of the things I am looking forward to is being settled, and getting back into routine.

What has this to do with writing? My writing needs routine! I've been writing less, feeling less motivated to write and having less ideas. I'm actually also anticipating the opportunity to get into a new routine where writing is a more prominent feature of my week.

I'm in the privileged position of being in a 'writing' occupation as a minister - meaning I have to write something inspiring each week - it's expected so I'm given the time for this. This is a fantastic thing [apart from the fact that I'm passionate about the good news] it means I am constantly developing my writing, thinking and ideas.

But while sermon writing is part of my routine, other writing has been squeezed in. Now, with the blessing of my new congregation, my other writing will be given time in my routine. Wow, what a blessing!

At the early stages of my writing I would wait for the inspiration to flow and then sit down and write. But with writing a big part of my occupation I can't sit and wait for the 'inspiration' which sometimes is really just 'feeling like it'. I don't have the luxury of 'feeling like it' - I've got an every week deadline, publishers, magazines, kids and radio looking for stuff. Now I find that it's the other way. I need to sit at my desk, work at my prayer, research, thinking, dreaming, and often simply start writing, get some thoughts and words down, and then the inspiration flows. [I still do get up at 5am or midnight to write from inspiration from time to time, or file these ideas in my head for a later time when I'm awake!]

I would encourage you to develop a routine where you write regularly, not just on times of inspiration. Agatha Christie reflected that her first few novels were a delight, a hobby, a joy - after that it was work. [I'm sure work she enjoyed and delighted in, but work.]

As an aside it's like falling in love. At first all the emotions flood you so that you love your husband or wife by opening doors, saying nice things, spending time with them. After a time the emotions reduce, so you can fail to do all these things for your spouse. But if you work on it, if you choose to do the love actions even if you don't feel like it, suddenly all the love emotions come flooding back.

Pack, pack, clean. We are now entering the cleaning phase - M-day is less than 2 weeks away! While the move has put me out of routine, it has given me a forced holiday from many things, so I anticipate arriving in Redcliffe, fresh, feeling good and with lots of energy to get back in routine and go!

Cheers everyone and have a great Christmas!

Friday, December 16, 2011

A New WritingTool

In my writing, organistion has been one of the biggest challenges I've had to face. When I first started writing articles it was easy to find what I was looking for in the one to three thousand word documents. However, when it came to writing an 80,000 word novel I had to rethink the way I wrote and organised my notes and research.
When I started writing novels I used to just write and continue until the work was done. However, half way through I'd lose track of where I was heading with the work. I'd get sidetracked and then confused as I realised the work wasn't coming together.
To remedy this I decided to plan my novel by doing a short outline and build this outline like Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake Method of writing. This was terrific until I'd become lost once again and have to find a thread I needed to develop way back in chapter two or when I was at the end of the work I needed to look back in the middle of the work to find where the action took place. The frustration was overwhelming!
I prayed for patience! Wrong move, now God brings me situations to be patient with in my work every day. This is good for me, I need to learn patience! In the end I arranged my manuscript on the floor and with a marking pen went through and wrote the major turning points on the top of the pages. I prayed, 'Lord, this is more than I can handle, please give me discipline to get the work organised from the beginning of the project or give me a tool to keep me organised.'
God is good! He answered my prayer and I thank Him every time I sit down to write. The tool he gave me was Scrivener, a program that was once only designed for Mac users. However, in the last couple of months Scrivener has come out in PC form and it has been the best $37 I've ever spent.
Scrivener has the ability to save your research including links to the web pages you used for your research. This would have been invaluable when I wrote African Hearts. I had two binders of reasearch for that novel.
With Scrivener, the binder down the left hand side has a short description of each scene of your draft so that you can find the scene you want to add to or refer back to to find what the character was doing then. Character profiles and settings are easily referred to by clicking the profile on the binder to check you are consistent with the eye and hair colour etc. Also the order of the scenes can be shuffled and re-shuffled to any order you want.
If you're the kind of person who likes to arrange your ideas more visually, there's a cork board feature, too. Another great feature is the ability to complete a short synopsis of each scene and make notes for follow up in a later scene. There's a general data area that enables you to state whether it's a scene or sequel and what draft number it is. You can change these status headings to whatever you like as well. There's also the ability to easily retrieve work you've deleted, eg., if you write a scene in one character's point of view and decide it might be stronger written in another's point of view, the first draft can be saved to be retrieved later if you change your mind.
At the end of the project the work is compiled to make a full document in Microsoft Word so that the final editing can be done to the work as a whole. I've imported my latest project into Scrivener and am merrily working away, so I haven't gotten to the compilation stage.
Already I can see my productivity has increased and my creativity flows more freely because I'm not wondering where in the manuscript Dusty had that argument with Alex. Instead I'm focussed on the interaction and motivation of my characters.
Download time for the program was only a few minutes and it took me an afternoon to learn the basics of this program. As I become more familiar with the program I'm finding more useful tips to make my writing life easier. It's been worth the investment of time and money.
So if you've been like me, lost in the organisation of your mansucript take a look at Scrivener and see if it will help you manage your work and take the tyranny of organisation out of your day.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Waiting on me?

Writing is a waiting game:
Waiting for inspiration to write - or a great new idea.
Waiting for time to write (around distractions - finding just one hour to sit still!)
Waiting for an editor or appraiser to get back to you
Waiting for a publisher (yes we can take ages!)
If you get a contract now you wait again - wait for the next lot of edits, the cover preparation, to get it proofread, to get it printed and so on and so on.

But despite it being a waiting game sometimes I find it amazing that most of the time I am waiting on myself.
Waiting for the inspiration to write is a funny one. We writers almost always have a good idea – or at least an idea that we can get started with. So most of the time I am waiting on myself; to simply get into it – to write it down.
Then finding time to write. We all have 1000s of distractions – other work, kids, husbands (or wives for those male writers!!!) friends, the TV, or another good book to read. But really if we want to write we can find time. Even if it is half an hour before everyone else is up or after everyone else goes to bed. So am I really waiting for time to write?
While we wait on an editor, appraiser or publisher we can start something new. We don’t have to be waiting. And then when we wait for publication we can be preparing for that publication. Getting ready for speaking engagements, promotion, launches, book signing and so much more.
So why am I always waiting?
Where is my motivation? I think what makes me think like I am waiting is my motivation to get moving is lacking. So why is it lacking? Am I not really a writer? Do I want someone to tell me what to do? Am I giving up before I have even started?
I have been thinking about this for a while and I think what I rely on is God. My inspiration and passion is God inspired. Sometimes however I get so caught up with life – the busy-ness of it, the adventure of writing, the chaos of life – I forget to ask God what he wants. And I forget that God can steer me, but if I am not moving it is hard to be steered (you know the old analogy that a car that isn’t moving can’t change direction but if you are moving you can be directed). So I am returning to God. Returning my motivation for writing to what God wants. And I am going to keep moving in faith.
Whenever I am waiting on will reflect on this. Who am I waiting on – myself or someone else? And if it is someone else what can I be doing instead to keep up my motivation and passion?
If this is just me I am glad, but if anyone else knows where I am coming from let’s find our inspiration and remember who inspires us each day.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Wise Words


Apparently Ecclesiastes is the flavour of the month. Nicole Watson stimulated my interest once again through her ‘nothing new under the sun.’ Then Carol Preston’s ‘A time for everything in Season’ got me swaying to its beat. I had chosen a section out of this Old Testament book for my blog and hope it has some morsel for your writer’s heart.

The preacher, as he is called, concluded his insights to life and his testimony with incisive words for all writers, especially Christian ones. ‘The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true. The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly imbedded nails — given by one Shepherd.’ Ecclesiastes 12:10-11.

Whether we write fiction or non-fiction in any genre may our words have in them some goads and nails. As the reader journeys with us through the story, let us hope and pray something written goads them. Such a reaction may well produce a quickened conscience, a u-turn in behaviour, an awakening to a greater understanding of our Lord and His call upon their lives.

Apparently in the days of the Preacher you needed to insert any nails where you wanted them as you built the wall. This was due to the fact that such structures were either too hard or fragile to have nails hammered in. Be that as it may, when applied to our writing the principle is correct. The penetrating force of our words is woven into the story, not something simply attached later.

Being bookish type people we know the quote, ‘Of making many books there is no end and much study wearies the body.’ Eccl.12:12b. Your shelves probably echo “Amen!” However if my understanding is correct this statement is actually a warning. For in the preceding verses he is highlighting the words, proverbs and sayings of the one Shepherd. By my understanding that is a significant term for our Lord.

Therefore as the writer of Ecclesiastes concludes his own insights, he calls for the recognition of priorities for writers and readers. There will always be new books and reprints on the market to capture our time, hearts and minds. Just make sure you do not neglect the most important, the most stimulating and the most spiritually enriching book for all time. That is, the book written by the Shepherd through the life experiences of His ‘pens’, the prophets, priests, apostles and faithful servants.

I tend to believe that when His book is our priority, then our writings will be upright and true, laced with goads and nails as well as food and drink for the soul.

Ray Hawkins.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Anyone suffer from cold feet?

It seemed simple at the time. 
A quick signature and, unlike that picture, I was committed. 
The manuscript must be with the publisher by 1 April.
Though The Bud Be Bruised will be published next year.
But within an hour, reality slammed into my thinking. Everyone will be able to read it! 


Isn't that what I've wanted? Didn't I write and rewrite, edit, check and edit again so that people would read it? Haven't I always wanted it to be a book people want to share?
But what if they don't like it? What if they reject my best efforts? 
But besides that, this book contains me. It is more than a fiction; it is a faction. It tells my story, masked by different characters, locations and conversations, but still my story.
Why would I do such a thing? 
Why make myself so vulnerable?
What if my friends take offence? 
What if they think I've misrepresented them, even if I haven't included them? What if they feel rejected if they can't find themselves on the pages?


I wonder - did Jesus have any second thoughts after He stood in the temple and read from Isaiah sixty-one. From that day on He was misunderstood and persecuted, talked about and judged. 
Will I be misunderstood?
In the last few months, I've met several friends who were part of my life in the era of the book. As we've chatted, it has become obvious they aren't acquainted with the circumstances. They don't know of the deep grief and trauma we have suffered. Why? Because some events are not talked about. For those people, this book will be a shocking read. 
Please, Lord? What have I done?


       The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5)
God's light has shone in our lives. Sometimes it seemed weaker than a single birthday-cake candle. But never was it snuffed out. 
Now it is time to turn up the light, to shine the torchlight of the power of God into the dark places. It's time for light and truth to overcome darkness.
My excitement returns. Everyone who takes the time to read my book will know what my God has done. I can share the amazing lessons I learned in the deep dark places, to shine the light for others, to help them avoid pitfalls. 
And if am misunderstood, rejected and laughed at, so be it. For every person that rejects my story, others will know God a little better, walk a little closer to Him. That is enough for me.


Confessions of Jo Wanmer, a soon to be published writer! 
I wonder - Am I the only one who gets cold feet?
www.jo-wanmer.blogspot.com

Monday, December 5, 2011

Getting about the ‘Business’ of being published.

Here’s one thing I know for sure: Post published activity is every bit as important as pre-published activity.

As we all do, I worked hard on my manuscript. I edited and proofed until I was completely satisfied that my book would be the very best work I could produce. When it was launched I wasn't quite sure what came next. I know that my publisher worked hard to sell the book and used every avenue available to ‘get it out there’ (she still works tirelessly at this job – thank you Rochelle). But the business woman in me also knew that it was my job to do what I could to sell, not only the book, but myself as an author.

The plan I came up with was to explore every promotional avenue that came into my head. Then pray like mad for the Lord to work. I wanted what He had for me, because,( truth be known), I knew He had a place for my work, I just wasn't entirely certain where that was. So I e-mailed, cold called and offered my newly published book to a variety of outlets, both Christian and mainstream.

The response astounded me. What came back to me was overwhelming. It was also surprising. The avenues I had thought would open up didn't, and the excitement and interest came from unusual sources. For a second I became a little despondent. What was going on? Then I remembered my prayers; that the Lord would bring back everything He wanted and assign His place for me.

I suddenly started to rejoice in, not only the incredible things He gave to me, but also for the things He did not.

I also realised another very important factor. You have to work. All the time I spent on pursuing the avenues that did not yield a return was still time well spent. I know my work is where the Lord wants it to be, where He can utilise it to His glory, and where I will reap the most joy.

So my conclusions are: Work hard. Do all that you can. Explore EVERY avenue. Don’t sit back and wait for direction – just do it. Then leave it to God.

And finally: Rejoice in the wonders of His work.


Rose Dee's first novel 'Back to Resolution' was launched in November at The Word Writers Fair in Brisbane last month. A 'Public Launch' will take place next Saturday in Mackay North Queensland. Visit Rose at: www.rosedee.com

Saturday, December 3, 2011

FORGIVE OUR HIDDEN FAULTS

I was reading on Facebook recently, the following quote by Albert Edward Day

{Methodist minister, died 1973}

God is nearer to our minds than our own thoughts; nearer to our hearts than our own feelings, more intimate with our wills than our most vigorous decisions….’

As I pondered these words I felt a sense of delight that God was closer to me than even any ideas that I had. Before I do any thinking, He is already there.

I then clearly sensed the Holy Spirit opening my mind to the realization that for many decades, I had subconsciously taken pride in any thoughts that I had that had been in any way wise or astute.

3 things then occurred:

  1. I immediately knew it to be true.
  2. I agreed with God that this certainly had happened many times and sought His forgiveness through Christ.
  3. God gave me a deep sense of thankfulness that His kindness extended to correcting me for sins that I had not even been aware of.

It reminded me of Psalm 19:12 – 14 where the psalmist asks God to forgive his hidden faults, to stop him from presumptuous sins so he can walk blamelessly before God.

Just like the chameleon in this photo hidden faults can blend into our lives and be almost impossible to recognize.

So I start this week with a new sense of awareness that:

  1. All good thoughts {of course our writing included} are from God, may He be praised.
  2. God is great in mercy and when we desire to please Him in every aspect of our lives. He has us covered and will indeed bring to mind those things that we need to repent of and allow our meditations to be acceptable in His sight. We can trust Him to do so.

May God bless you all this week, Jennifer Ann.

Bio –Jennifer Ann is the author of “Broken Pottery the life of an African girl” published by Ark House Press Australia. It is the fictional journey of an obstetric fistula sufferer.

For more information about Jennifer Ann or her book, please go to www.JenniferAnn.info

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A time for everything in season

As I come to write this blog I find myself thinking, do I really have time to do this? Is this a good way to spend this hour?
With this I’m reminded of my longstanding attempt to keep my life in balance, to juggle all the activities I believe are important, and to keep everything, including my sanity, on an even keel. My conclusion has usually been that in reality I try to do too much and therefore often find myself searching for things I should stop doing, so that I can do other things better.
Recently I was given a book to read, ‘Your Life in Rhythm’, by Bruce Miller, and I feel the urge to share some of the principles with you as I remind myself of them.  
Essentially Miller makes the point that trying to keep life in balance is not only an unattainable pipe dream but it’s also a hurtful, destructive one.
I can see that’s true when my busy days turn into busy weeks and months with so much pressure to keep everything in place that I feel like I’m balancing a dozen balls in the air, or trying to stand on one foot and hop from one commitment to another without falling over. I’ve lived like this at different stages of my life – trying to balance housework, family, church activities, health issues, work, study, friends, socialising, spiritual growth and sleep!
And now I’ve added writing with all the extra activities that involves – editing, promoting, marketing, networking; all while trying to remain creative. I suspect I’m not alone in this challenge!
These are some of the precious things I’ve taken on board from the concept of living rhythmically instead of trying to live a balanced life. To some these ideas may just be a way of reading different meanings into the same words but for me they have been freeing.
“A well-lived life will find ways to harmonize with created rhythms. We’re part of the great symphony of life, but in our technological society we have drowned out the music. The phases of the moon, the tides of the sea, the seasons of the earth – nature is filled with cycles and seasons. Bears hibernate and birds migrate as winter descends. Trees flower and plants bloom as spring arrives. The stars mark time as they march across the sky. The rhythm model recognises and celebrates the rhythms of life.” 

A flower from my garden- perfect in its season

Rhythm honours time and movement; it celebrates variety and diversity, it highlights uniqueness and recognises common patterns. It honours excellence and the sacrifice required for achievements while also providing time for renewal.

Balance is pose. Rhythm is a dance
Balance is static. Rhythm is dynamic
Balance suggests you can have it all now.
Rhythm suggests you can have much, but over time.
Balance is control. Rhythm is embrace.
Balance is maintaining the system. Rhythm is seizing opportunities.

For me these words resonate with those of Solomon, who in his wisdom proposed that there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven… a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak…   Solomon used a Hebrew word for time that refers to more than chronological time; it suggests an occasion or a season of time, what in Greek would be a kairos moment. Rather than seeking an artificial balance, Solomon is challenging us to live full-out in each and every season. When it is time to love, love with all your heart, when it is time to  dance, dance with everything you’ve got. When it is time to write, immerse yourself in it fully. Live full-out. When we live our lives in rhythm, we are free to give ourselves fully to every kairos season.

This has been helpful in all aspects of my life. It has helped me to think of writing rhythmically; to recognise there is a time for creative uninhibited flow, a time for editing, a time for leaving words to mull around in your head, a time for wrestling with single words and a thesaurus, a time for putting it all aside and then coming back and reading it anew, a time for sharing it with others, time for feedback, assessment, for letting go, for surrendering loved passages or words, a time for marketing and networking and promotion and selling, a time for resting from it all, for leaving the creative ground fallow so it is renewed. A time for distraction and self renewal, times for focusing on  other aspects of my life as they call me.
I can’t do all that at once. I can’t assign a balanced schedule to it all. When I try I feel overwhelmed and pressured. If I approach life with the idea of seasons and cycles, I can let it happen more naturally, allow it to flow as opportunity and motivation and creativity cycle through me. I can leave it to God’s spirit to arouse me and lead me.
For every good work that He began in me, He will bring to completion in His timing and everything will bear fruit in its right season.
I hope some of you will find a helpful word here. Carol

Monday, November 28, 2011

Nothing New Under The Sun

This is one of the phrases that resonated through me at the Word Writers Fair in Brisbane.  It was a simple statement but one that has been glued to my memory since.
I struggled with this phrase because I wondered 'Why then do we write? Why then do we continue to craft stories, prose and instruction in an effort to entertain and inspire others?'  Often when you submit a manuscript to a publisher they require that you research into other books that  may be similar to your on the market.  The publisher wants to know how yours is different.  What does your work have to offer that this other work does not?  Why would someone want to read your work? There is after all nothing new under the sun, is there?
Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes that he has discovered there is nothing new under the sun (Ecc 1:9).  And he is right, to a point.  You see when Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes, Jesus had not yet come. Jesus was the first fruits of an entirely new race, the children of the living God.  Solomon could not possibly have imagined the inheritance that God has so mercifully bestowed upon us.  He could not have known that our relationship with Jesus would open up whole new worlds of understanding and experience.  When we become a new creation in Christ, the veil is torn and the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us, giving us new and exciting revelation among a myriad of other things.

 And so although there may not be anything new under the sun, I can guarantee you that there is plenty that is new under the Son.

With God there is always something new. There is always something to keep us wanting more, something to keep us seeking his mystery and holiness.  How privileged we are that he would reveal the secrets of the kingdom of God to us to glorify Him in this age of grace.  I count it as an honour to be ranked amoung those who would give voice to his name upon the earth in this time.  I count it as joy that we struggle and toil in a world that is blinded by darkness.  And so we will continue to weave our manuscripts and herald them to the ends of the earth.  And so we will continue to intrigue others with stories that speak life, when the world offers darkness.  May God be glorified by every word we breathe, published or not.  For we may still toil under the sun, but we live and breathe and write for the Son.

Nicole Watson is a non fiction writer, speaker and author of Sam's Heart.  Nicole blogs regulalry here.  And you can meet up with her on Facebook here and here.  It is her passion that all people would know the reality of God's love and precence in their life. 
'Let me introduce you to the God of Miracles'

Friday, November 25, 2011

Being Confident

Recently I completed a first aid course. Whilst learning all about first aid, I also learnt quite a lot about my fellow attendees as they were quite open about themselves.
I passed the course with flying colours, but walked away feeling as if I had failed where it counted the most....I had not shared my faith.
I’m a Christian; I have been for well over 20 years. After my ‘silence’ during my course, I had some serious questions to ask myself, some I am still grappling with.... Am I confident in who I am in Christ? Do I proudly boast of my lifestyle in Him? Am I ashamed to know Jesus? Did I walk away from my first aid course having left a clear impression with the other students about what my life stands for?
I know I let many opportunities slide. I introduced myself as a Childcare Educator. Yes this is what I do, but not once over the duration of the course did I mention that I write, have published books about Jesus, edited magazines and have a faith that gets me through the tough times.
Why did I let the opportunities slide? Why do I lack confidence to share who I am?
I can tell you in all honesty it is because I all too quickly believe the lies of the evil one who whispers doubt into my life. Doubt that tells me I’m not as good as others, doubt that tells me what I do is not important, doubt that tells me I have wasted my life so far... doubt, doubt and more doubt.
I know that I am not alone in this struggle. We all have areas of weakness that satan uses to shake our confidence.
Please, let me encourage you to keep writing, keep speaking and keep sharing our Saviour. Don’t let your confidence be shaken, don’t allow the lies of satan to keep you silent or cause you to give up.  
Let’s be honest with each other so we may be an encouragement to stand together for Jesus!
If you have time today, check out the following verses which are of encouragement to me at the moment: Proverbs 3:26; 2 Timothy 1:7; 1 Chronicles 28:20; Romans 8:37; Colossians 2:2.
One reason we doubt God’s love is that we have an adversary who uses every little offense to accuse us of being good-for-nothings. But your advocate Jesus Christ is more powerful than your adversary. He has cancelled the debt of your sins past, present and future. No matter what you do or how you fail, God has no reason not to love you and accept you completely.
Dr. Neil T. Anderson (Daily in Christ, August 10, 2010)
Blessings and love,

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Write Inventions!

Okay. In all seriousness, it's time we got serious about this writing business.
It's time we showed the world that we've got what it takes; not just to churn out the words, edit a tidy phrase and stimulate the imagination. We need to mechanise our processes. Speed up our production. Streamline and safeguard our creativity from the booby traps that come our way. In this age of gadgets, phones and umpteen numbers of electrical kitchen appliances I proclaim that it's the writer's turn. It's time for some serious inventing of just the write type!


For example why can't we have a DASDAS (Digital Anxiety and Self Doubt Analysis System)? You know those pegs they put on your fingers in hospital to asses the oxygen levels in your blood? Well, a DASDAS works on a similar principle. You insert your finger, ultra shiny light (please excuse the technical jargon) retrieves information from your blood relating to levels of genuine anxiety and avoidable self doubt. Writers are then able to quickly assess if their feelings of "Why bother!? Your writing is gobbly-gook!" are to be justifiably heeded, or pushed aside. A DASDAS is guarantees to speed up the writing process, eliminate otherwise unnecessary supplies of chocolate and keep writers' spouses sane (If I hear her say "Do you really think I'm a good writer?"one more time....!).

Another top seller would be the Author Facadrobe. Based on similar physics principles as the time machine and Mary Poppins' handbag, the Author Facadrobe is an adult sized, conveniently foldable pouch which upon entry turns the nail biting, bed-head, fashion oblivious writer into a snazzy, self assured, dressed-to-impress author. Useful for speaking engagements, school visits and book launches this invention takes the worry out of all public author appearances. There are, of course a variety of settings ranging from 'Casual and Carefree' to 'Professional Prominence'. This invention will streamline all speaking events, reduce cost on panicked purchases and keep writers' spouses sane (If I hear her say "Are you sure this skirt doesn't make me look boring?" one more time....!).

And what about the Never Too Busy Headband? This trendily packaged invention promises to take the hard slogged hours of a busy writer (who also happens to be a parent, cook, gardener, taxi driver, waiter, secretary and toilet cleaner) and multiplies them by factors of 3, 6 and 287 depending on the need. Worn on the head, and covered in neutral coloured hair fibres, this devise sucks ideas straight from the brain. Then, with technology similar to the scanning ability of a smart phone, these ideas are sorted. Dialogue is formatted, characters built, grammar is checked on thought and plot substance mapped. Files can then be downloaded directly to the writer's computer and immediately accessed. This invention ensures optimum power from writer multi-tasking, allows almost effortless plotting and character construction and promises to keep writers' spouses sane (If I hear him say "If only I had more time for my novel!" one more time....!).

And this is only the beginning! The Write Inventions are going to revolutionise the way we work. Authors will be winning awards left, right and centre brain. We'll be selling novels like they're iphones. And all this while doing the most important - keeping our spouses sane!




Penny Reeve is a children's author currently living with her family in Western Sydney. This week she hopes to begin planning gifts for Christmas, bake a pumpkin pie and try to live against the trend of being far too busy!


Monday, November 21, 2011

Aussie Writer on the Journey: What I've learned from my critique partners

by Narelle Atkins

Over the years I’ve been blessed to work with a number of critique partners and participate in critique groups.

A critique partner is a writing friend with whom you swap manuscripts for the purpose of critiquing and helping each other achieve your mutual goal of publication. There are no hard and fast rules. Some critique partners review one chapter at a time, others wait until the whole manuscript is complete before critiquing.

Critique partner relationships often work well if you partner with writers who are at a similar level to you. There needs to be a level of trust in the relationship, where you know you can provide gentle and honest feedback that will be appreciated by the recipient. If you’re looking for someone to tell you that your book is great, then give it to your mother. I believe a critique partner relationship is ineffective if it’s primarily a mutual admiration society.

I do tend to become emotionally attached to my critique partner’s stories and characters, as I’ve watched them evolve and develop through various story drafts. I brainstorm with my critique partners and we support and pray for each other. I value our friendships and we celebrate each other’s writing achievements and commiserate when we receive rejections.

Some critique partners and critique groups are there for a season, and others are more long term or evolve in different directions. I’m currently working in an online critique partnership with my dear writing friends Suzie Johnson and Stacy Monson. I met Suzie and Stacy though the Faith, Hope & Love Inspirational Chapter of RWA and they both live in the US. My dear friend Laura O’Connell and I met through Romance Writers of Australia and for a number of years we have critiqued each other’s work. Initially we swapped chapters and now we exchange complete manuscripts.

It can be hard to find the right critique partner, and it may take time to find someone or a group that works for you. When I was a newbie writer, my first face-to-face romance writing critique group were very kind and encouraging even though my story had massive issues and I was slowly learning the craft of writing. I’ve since moved cities and lost touch with those writers, but I will always appreciate their gentle encouragement.

I encourage you to find writing friends with whom you can develop an effective critique relationship. Sure, you can pay a manuscript appraisal service to critique your story, but you will miss out on the wonderful learning opportunities you can gain from critiquing someone else’s manuscript. And also miss out on the joy of watching your critique buddies publish and achieve their writing goals.

Do you have a critique partner or belong to a critique group? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.




Narelle Atkins writes contemporary inspirational romance. She resides in Canberra, Australia with her husband and children. She can also be found at the International Christian Fiction Writers blog. To learn more about Narelle, please visit her website.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Resilient Heroes



After a wonderful four days in Brisbane, I'm home again. Having taken in the CALEB Awards dinner, Writers Fair and presented a Masterclass on my first three days there, I had a bit of down time to spend on Monday and decided to visit the city. I caught the bus in to the CBD and covered so much of Brisbane on foot, my toes were blistered. I explored the Queen Street Mall and strolled along the river bank watching ferries, river cats and a couple of paddle steamers. I found a great mangrove boardwalk which brought me close to the Botanic Gardens.

As I did all this walking, I couldn't help thinking about the horrific floods that swept through last January, devastating the ground I was stepping on. The river-front Jelly Fish restaurant had a spiel on their window about how they needed to put on flippers and snorkels to get to work and had to battle with octopuses and squid in their kitchen. I found it awesome that they were able to recover from a catastrophe of such magnitude and resume business with their senses of humour intact.

I remembered how I'd watched the TV coverage with disbelief, and when Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh, had addressed the nation with tears in her eyes, assuring viewers that they would all recover and bravely build their lives back again 'because they were Queenslanders'. With all of this in mind, and coming from South Australia, I found my walk deeply moving. God has filled human nature with heroism and resilience.

It doesn't take a natural disaster of this scope to draw the quality out of people. As writers, drawing on reserves of grit and determination is a way of life. We sit at our computers, we devote hours to honing our craft, determined to use our written words as an art form to bless others with what we find in our hearts. Some authors paper their walls with rejection slips from publishers, but keep plugging on.

We take on board feedback from editors, often starting all over again. We slash out entire scenes, we shuffle events in our stories around hoping to increase the tension, we groan at the sight of red marks all over our work but get stuck in to making changes. We pore over Thesauruses in the attempt to find that elusive word which is even more perfect than the one we've originally chosen. We ruthlessly pluck out extraneous words and scan each line carefully for those subtle 'point of view' violations within scenes. We re-phrase huge sections because we realise we've been 'telling' rather than 'showing' in our stories. Then when it's all polished to our satisfaction, we venture out trying to promote our work, often cringing at public places while folk give our books cursory glances, shrug their shoulders, wish us luck and move on.

I was overwhelmed last Friday night to be presented with the CALEB Award for my novel, Best Forgotten. My knees were knocking together so hard, I could barely stand. I'd be surprised if I got a wink of sleep that night. For me, this honour was the culmination of years of hard work during which I often felt like a complete duffer. Writing was a sacrifice in both time and finances. Even earlier this year, I found myself wondering if I should stop, but decided to keep going because I have so much passion and emotion tied up in it. Like many others who read this blog, I'm prepared to accept the uphill climb because I'm a writer.

Thanks to everyone who has congratulated me, and I'm delighted to especially thank my publisher, Rochelle Manners, because Best Forgotten wouldn't even be available without her, of course. She has been too awesome for words, and we all know that coming from somebody who works with words every day, that is saying a lot.

To my fellow writers, keep being resilient. I appreciate you all.

Paula Vince is an award winning fiction novelist and homeschooling mum who lives in the Adelaide Hills with her husband and children. She believes that stories are a particularly powerful medium to touch hearts and help change lives.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Don't you hate conflict?



No one likes conflict, except, of course when it’s in a novel. Then those very things that make our stomach churn or head ache, can draw us in and take us to another world.

As we know each story should have Goal, Motivation and Conflict.

In its simplest forms, conflict is whatever stops our characters from achieving their goals. It doesn’t matter if it’s people, emotional issues, events or things, as long as it stops them from attaining that goal – then it’s a conflict.

In my story, I am Slayer, my heroine saves the lives of Christians. This is her goal. Her motivation? This is a calling, given to generations of her family, by God. The conflict comes from demons in the shape of vampires, and other evil creatures, which try and stop her.

Sounds easy doesn’t it? Well, to a certain extent it is. I’ve just outlined the book’s premise and shown you external, or physical, conflict.

Here’s the more difficult part. In order for Anastasia to become real to my readers, she needs to have internal, or emotional, conflict.

So what could internal, or emotional, conflict be? 

It needs to be something which can be sustained throughout the book. It also has to be something that comes from within the character. 

In my opening chapter, Anastasia searches for a group of Christians hiding in a bunker. She has to get there, and get them back to sanctuary before The Others find them. An external conflict arises, an argument, and they don’t escape in time. In the ensuing battle, she loses one of her charges, a little boy. He’s dragged off to parts unknown by The Others. Anastasia is devastated. Her confidence has taken a battering, and she is now scared to get close to anyone else. She doubts her ability to fulfil her calling. And this affects her decisions for the rest of the book.

Some may think that the internal conflict would be the argument Anastasia had, but it's not. Anything that could be solved with a few well-placed words, doesn't come under that category.

Internal conflicts come from our emotions; so feelings of abandonment, deep distrust of authority figures, a desperate need to fit in; these perceptions shape us and make us who we are. It’s the same with our characters.

Don’t be afraid to dig deep and find out what really makes your characters tick. What the driving force behind their behaviour is. That way you’ll not only make them more believable, you’ll add a depth to your characters that your readers will love.

Here’s an excerpt from I Am Slayer.

Donatella Sabatini was Lucien’s personal handmaid. She had delusional thoughts that Lucien loved her and would protect her from anything. Stupid girl. She irritated me on more than one level.

 ‘Still a servant, Donatella?’ I shook my head, knowing it would annoy her. ‘I have a pair of boots that need cleaning if you’re not busy.’

A low, ugly sound ripped from her throat. She advanced toward me but Lucien held up his hand for her to stop. Like him, she was dressed in ‘ye olde London style.’ 

On anyone else her dress might have been romantic, but the red and black bustier, full skirt and white puffy sleeves reminded me of a black widow spider.  

How apropos. 

‘Now, now, Anastasia,’ said Lucien. ‘Don’t be like that. You have something I want.’ He took two steps forward and plucked at the fingers of a white glove. ‘And I…’ He grinned and my blood chilled. ‘…have something you want. Perhaps we can trade?’

He snapped his fingers again, and the men behind him parted. 

A guard came forward; his bulging arms gripped a struggling figure. My heart plummeted, bile burned my throat, and I swallowed hard. The scene began to fade, and I struggled to clear my head. 

This couldn’t be happening. I kept my gaze neutral, uninterested, even as a silent scream echoed through my mind.

Billy.









Lee Franklin lives on a small property in Western Australia, along with her husband, son, dogs and cows. She loves all things girly, suspense, pink (the colour not the singer), cold grey skies and the smell of rain. 














Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Fantastic, the Strange and the Ridiculous.


You're crazy. Allow me to tell you, if you don't already know.

Writers are a confirmed bunch of crazy people. It's true. I've been told, so it must be. I don't mean the first dictionary definition of 1. deranged of mind. I prefer the next one down, 2. fantastic, strange and ridiculous. 

Known to dive into crazy situations, we whisper crazy thoughts and hunt down crazy stuff. We sniff out the crazy in others and revel in their stories, mentally storing details to savour later in our scribbles.

It's all part of the job description, and none of us would be game to deny it.

We hear a delicious phrase and tuck it away for our good pleasure. Ponder the title of a book from a list of thoroughbreds about to race. Lose ourselves smelling fruit as we contemplate what best describes late autumn.

We visit places far from home to taste the wind. Just to get the crazy details right. Revisit childhood to unearth emotions only God can strengthen us to navigate again. And let the moon rise, hours after our beloveds have fallen asleep, to continue writing until dawn nudges the sky.

While others go about their normal day, we wander down a pathway no one else can see. We dawdle there, and find something crazy enough to share with the dear one we call reader. And smile as we emerge with yet one more crazy thought.

Last January, as my kids swam in the waters of Phillip Island, I stayed ashore, shivering in the absent summer. I would not play in frozen water... until a crazy thought occurred to me. I wonder what it feels like to step in fully clothed? The way a character might in a moment of despair.


So I waded into the shallows and let the foam of the sea pull at my skirt hem with icy tugs. Let the waves assault my goose flesh until the black fabric stuck to my knees. To my children's horror, I ventured deeper and watched as my clothes billowed under me to the sway of the sea.

I just wanted to know. To feel the sodden skirt as it clung to my skin as I stepped out. To watch as tiny streams of water dripped down my legs and sand stuck to my hem as it dragged along the pathway home. Hours later, I looked again, to see the dusty salt marks in the creases of my skirt.

It was crazy and it was fun. And it was part of whom I've now become. A gatherer of details and experiences. A crazy writer.

Are you a crazy writer? Game enough to share a time when some craziness beckoned in your writing pursuits?

And if you're too shy to admit a moment of craziness, remember crazy also means, 3. very good or excellent. Ask any teenager. They're crazy too!

*******

Dorothy Adamek writes Historical Romance. Visit her at her blog Ink Dots.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Love, Love, Love


This week I am celebrating the release of my new novel, Ellenvale Gold. With it I am wondering what is it that draws people to read the romance genre. In an attempt to answer, I thought I would look at why I love to read romance.


I have always had a soft, gooey spot for a good love story. With a happy ending mind you. I am usually quite disappointed if the couple don't end up together. The King and I might be a classic, but I just can't enjoy it, no matter how realistic the ending might be. Right or wrong I wanted the King and Anna to be together.


When I think about it, the yearning for a fulfilling love story with a happy ending has everything to do with God. Everybody has that empty place in their hearts which needs to be filled with His unconditional love - the kind of love that last forever. And not just the friendly, affectionate kind of love. We want deep, passionate love - love that will sacrifice itself to show how important we are.


A good romance always emulates that. In my belief, the best romances also weave in the truth about Jesus as the ultimate person who can fulfil our needs. He loves us with deep, passionate love and went to the cross to prove it. People will search for love their whole lives, in all the wrong places, until they discover Him. At the very least, I think, I should point them in the right direction through my writing.


As with a multitude of things on earth, love stories reflect the heart of God. In light of that (and the fact that I adore love stories), please share with us either how you fell in love with your partner, or how you fell in love with the Lord. I look forward to hearing your stories. :)

.




Amanda Deed resides in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne where she fills her time with work, raising a family, church activities and writing historical romance novels. Her new novel, Ellenvale Gold was released at the beginning of November. For more information, see:
http://www.amandadeed.com.au/
http://amanderings.wordpress.com/