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/

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Experiences of a Nervous Book Signer

In the Sydney KOORONG bookstore
I have mixed feelings about sharing my recent experience of book signing. Do I think I have "arrived"? Hardly. It's just the beginning of another stage in my life. Before I was published  I used to feel as if I was engaged in a never ending uphill climb. When would it ever happen? Was it because I wrote what no one was interested in? Were my stories up to par? I'm sure you've experienced all those niggling self doubts that bog you down. All this while asking the Lord  was my writing pleasing and honouring to Him.

At this difficult stage I believe all authors pass through, you need a big dose of perseverance and a willingness to learn as much as you can to hone the craft. And then realise that if you have a burning desire to write, the Lord gave you the gift in the first place. Stubbornly believe that things will happen in His time. (Jer 29:11) AND forget about making loads of money out of it, simply write as unto the Lord. A real pleasure comes from that, as it's like offering your precious talent (similar to OT times) back to Him.

NB: The following is not for authors who've already experienced this!
Sitting at a table in a busy bookstore can be quite a challenge. Some people won't meet your eye, just in case you might try a "hard sell". Oh, if only they knew! I just prayed that I'd have the opportunity to speak to anyone lonely. And it happened. Several people just opened up to me, and I was so thankful to the Lord for that. On the practical side, I had a little table banner made by Office Works which showed characters from my book. It only costs $25 dollars and can be eye-catching. Then I had to be ready to briefly explain what the book was about in a couple of sentences which I'd worked out beforehand. I also wrote ideas in a notebook so I wouldn't look bored just sitting there. It also helps to have a friend (or helpful husband) to stand nearby to chat with you occasionally.

These are just a few random ideas to help should you be published one day. Some bookstores won't be interested, while others are happy to have a local author help sell their books. It's good PR for them. I honestly did not relish ringing the managers and asking, but I remembered I am an ambassador of the Lord Jesus and I am offering books that will uplift readers, so that thought gives you confidence, (even if the nerves still flutter!)

Right now I'd really value your prayers as I'm soon to leave for a month's ministry to Thailand.  Malaria is a concern because of all the water around.  We've had all the other shots but we need strength to keep up the pace of meetings. We never know what we'll be doing or where we're going  until we arrive. We love the Thais and pray that many will find faith in the Lord. We're able to hand out thousands of the Gospel of John translated into Thai which have details of a correspondence course at the back of each.

* Rita Stella Galieh has just had her second historical romance,  SIGNED SEALED DELIVERED released by Ark House Press. You can read an excerpt at www.ritastellagalieh.com

Monday, November 7, 2011

Living in the past or enjoying History.

One of my favourite memories from childhood was time spent with my grandmother. She was the greatest story teller, and what was even more special was, her stories were always true.

One story she told us on a number of occasions was about how when she was eleven years old – 1911 – her mother and father packed the family, 2 little girls and a baby, onto a horse drawn cart, and joined a convoy of several other families, and set out on a cross country pioneer expedition.

They lived in the mid-north of South Australia and decided to set out for the unsettled district of Ceduna. At the time, no white man had settled there.

They tied the milk cow behind the cart, and loaded crates of chickens beneath. To hear her describe the journey and the adventure used to stir my imagination. Below I have a couple of paragraphs in her own words taken from a recorded interview she gave just before she died:

“In those days on the West Coast water was very scarce. Water was like gold, in fact water would save your life but gold wouldn’t. Washing for the baby was so difficult, poor old mother had many a struggle to get enough water to wash the babies naps, and some of the water holes we got to, old dams, they’d have dead beasts or sheep all over them and we had to drink that because we had no other water, but it had to be boiled, all boiled before it could be used. Every night at camp everyone would do their own cooking, mother used to make what she called scone bread, baking powder bread, cooked in the camp oven with coals on the top and underneath and believe me it was lovely, we enjoyed every bit of it.

I don’t think anything tasted as good to me as that bread with boiled potatoes and onions, oh you’d have an appetite like a horse and it tasted so nice. One night we had to peel the onions and we peeled a stew pan full of them so everyone had onions that night. Gee they were nice.”

When I listened to her stories, it really stirred my imagination. I could sort of relate. She still lived very much the way she had lived during the depression era. Nothing was ever wasted, and everything was recycled. What she had was precious and used very carefully.

I remember when we used to stay at her place, I’d often want to call my mother on the old big black dial telephone. She would let me, but would always say, ‘Well that’s five cents gone west’. She could never really understand why we would want to spend a whole five cents on talking to someone, when we would likely see them at church come Sunday.

Haven’t times changed! Here I am feeling very much like my grandmother. The kids all have mobile phone plans with certain amounts of Gig download. They facebook, twitter, download movies and play scrabble on their mobile phones.

Talk about ‘five cents going west’!

Anyway, who am I to talk – here I am blogging!

What would my grandmother say to all of this technological interference in life? She came from a childhood where they were thrilled to have a pan of onions to eat. She used to tell us of how she and her sister used to amuse themselves on the new piece of uncleared land. One would climb the tree, and the other would chop it down – true story!

My grandmother was a very real person, and her world was a very real world, but it was so far removed from the crazy digital technological world that we live in.

That, my friends, is one of the reasons I write period drama romance.

Grandma’s life was physically tough, but you know something, I don’t think she knew the thing we call mental and emotional stress.

So every now and again, I like to visit times gone by, and imagine the trials of making your own bread and washing without the aid of electricity. It’s not too hard on me, as it’s only in my imagination. But I also like to imagine the cosy, easy to manage world, where the troubles in Afghanistan and other far reaches of the world are not dramatically broadcast into my loungeroom. The only thing to worry about is the family, the neighbours, and the handful of folks who live within walking distance.

I haven’t quite made up my mind whether this is a healthy escapism or a huge case of denial…Until then…

Ironically, enjoy this digitally produced blog about the time when life was much simpler, and folks used to dip their nibs into ink wells and write on paper.

Blessings

Meredith Resce

Author of the ‘Heart of Green Valley’ series.

GOD ALWAYS WINS


Allow me to introduce myself. I am a woman who has a lot of life experience behind her (interpretation: I am past the first flush of youth). I do not aspire to grand things. Nothing pleases me more than a walk through a nature reserve on a Summer morning, or a cosy coffee with a friend in a favourite cafe'.

Like many of you, my love of writing showed up early in the journals I would keep, the stories in the school magazine, the positive comments on my English assignments. The next obvious step seemed to be to study English at University. I embarked upon this course and loved every minute of the reading and analyzing and discussing of texts with others. Unfortunately, I fell short of finishing my degree due to family upheaval at the time. Instead, a series of mundane jobs became my lot until, happily, the release of marriage and children. Because, you see, I decided to be a stay-at-home mum. As a young girl, I had often been called a 'little mother', feeding my hapless brother with Farex and dressing up my long-suffering cat in baby clothes. Clearly, it suited something deep within my personality to nurture, cosset and fuss.

As my children grew, I completed my English degree and thought seriously about further study, with the object of obtaining a librarian qualification and becoming an income-earner. A lot of prayer went into this, because my heart wasn't really in it. All I really wanted to do, deep down, was Christian ministry or writing or preferably a combination of both. And indeed, God did seem to be saying very clearly not to pursue a librarianship or any other career. 'Be still at my command' was the gentle word that I kept hearing.

God knew something that I didn't. In the not too distant future, I would need to be there, at home, using all the strength and resources that He would supply to me to supervise, pray for and support my youngest in her long battle with depression, anxiety and alcohol abuse. 'But this can't happen in a Christian home!' someone might be thinking. It can and it did. God can throw a curve ball at us from time to time, but His intentions are always for our ultimate welfare, and through that dark time, my daughter came to faith in Christ and I grew.

My daughter still struggles, but her heart is in the right place and God is polishing her - sanding a rough spot here, highlighting a facet there - until she becomes the beautiful, refined gold that He has in mind for all of His children. I no longer fear trials and troubles, because I know that God always wins. Always.

And the Christian writing ministry? My daughter's journey became the subject of my first book - unpublished yet, but quietly awaiting its time.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

WHEN FICTION ISN’T

I’m a relatively late starter to fiction writing. My eyes were opened to the possible power and influence of fiction by seeing how hypothetical stories can help managers relate to possible future scenarios, which helps them to plan for such possibilities. Even though the stories’ details will almost certainly be wrong, presenting scenarios in story form lets people identify with them in a way that isn’t possible using only a formal descriptions of the scenarios.

This got me interested in the relationship between fact and fiction in ostensibly fictional stories. The key is the distinction between a story’s plot and its underlying theme.

Unfortunately, terminology can be a problem here. By ‘theme’, I mean the story’s deeper meaning, lesson, or moral, such as ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’. It’s usually related to the protagonist’s character development; eg, learning to give the benefit of the doubt. The theme is distinct from (although related to) the story’s genre, topic and plot.

For a reader to be able to relate to a story, the story has to be applicable to the reader. However, a fictional story’s plot is usually directly applicable to nobody! For example, very few readers are actually boy wizards. Even in non-fantasy genres, no reader is ever likely to find themselves in exactly the situation described in the plot of any work of fiction.

In contrast, a story’s theme can be directly applicable to all readers. Even though readers may never have to fight an evil wizard, they can nevertheless identify with the need for courage, tenacity, ingenuity, etc.

The fact that a theme is relevant to people’s reality reveals that it isn’t actually fiction. So, in a fictional story, the plot is fictional but the theme is not (or, at least, it is not intended to be: some readers may disagree with the theme and deem it false.)

The distinction between plot and theme is fundamental to many passages in the Bible. Probably none of us will ever experience the plot in any of the Bible’s parables, but we’re all called to apply the theme behind every one of them. So, regardless of whether we consider the plots to be fictional or not, we treat the themes as non-fiction.

Because readers can relate directly to a story’s theme, it plays a significant role in hooking readers. Our writing can benefit if we give serious thought to our stories’ themes, and not just their plots and characters.

I’ve found that selecting a theme for a sequel, or a follow-on book in a series, can be tricky. While it’s easy to devise a new plot, it’s not so easy to avoid repeating the previous story’s theme—or worse, not having a theme at all. Repeating the theme requires the protagonist to go through the same character development journey, which suggests that they never actually completed the journey in the first volume despite probable indications therein to the contrary. And if there’s no theme, then the character undergoes no development at all.

Do you put conscious thought into your themes, or do they just happen?