Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Poetry and Me

Poetry and Me

At school poetry for me, was anathema. Keats, Pope, Wordsworth couldn’t capture my interest. Shakespeare was on another planet. (So called ‘poetic justice’ has fallen on me. Our son, Lance, is a Shakespearian actor, among other things).

What changed me? Many little things but major amongst them was, and remains, G.A. Studdert Kennedy’s book ‘The Unutterable Beauty’. He was a chaplain in the World War 1 and wrote with a soldier’s eye. In verses he wrestled with God’s grace and mercy in tragic circumstances.

Interest aroused I gave poetry a go on matters that interested me: Love, family, faith and the person and work of Jesus. Trial and error are strewn across my path as I look back. However with Mary’s assistance I have been able to write some things readable and publishable.

I leave you with a simple example. Thanks for the privilege of sharing.

Embraced.
Shivering within the darkness,
An ice cold heart
Numbed by despair
Made me tearful
Fearful
As I stood there
Confused,
And alone.

Piercing into my darkness
Love’s holy fire,
Melted my coldness
Made me fearful
Hopeful
As I stood there
Confused,
Not alone.

Yielding to Christ’s holiness
Brought me alive,
Flamed my heart
Made me hopeful
Grateful
As I stood there
Consoled,
Not alone!
Raymond N. Hawkins
Ray has just had his 31 Day devotional meditation ‘Captured by Calvary’ released by Even Before Publishing. It presents the cross as the central theme of Scripture which draws us to a deep understanding of God’s heart for us and the cost He was prepared to pay for our salvation. It is available in all Christian bookshops or direct from the author.





In a few months time ‘Bethlehem’s Warrior Baby’ will be released. This seeks to help us to appreciate Christmas is  a declaration of spiritual war. More details later

Monday, June 25, 2012

Inspiring Advocates to be Carriers

I'm sorry! I really am. I ignored you, all my fellow Aussie authors, for years. 


What is my excuse for such rudeness? Although I love to read, I'm picky about my books. I like a GOOD novel. You know what I mean - a book that, in my opinion, is...well... good. One that satisfies me. I like a strong story that is low on sex but high on relationships, relating minimal violence but deep with intrigue. Having read many books I didn't like, I stopped buying books unless perchance I stumbled across one that looked good or was written by Francine Rivers.


In my ignorance I didn't even know there were Australian authors! I had never heard of Mary Hawkins, Paula Vince or Meredith Resce. The shame! I was so Americanised, that I hadn't considered the possibility there were Australian books, let alone good ones.
So I humbly seek your forgiveness for my appalling ignorance and bad manners.


But then I became and author - an Australian author!


When I began to write, I assumed I would seek a publisher in the US. After all isn't that the centre of the book universe? Fortunately fate (God) intervened! I met Rochelle (Even Before Publishing) and Omega Writers. Little by little, I was introduced to the rest of you in CWD, and this rookie learned the truth about the richness of Australian Christian writing.


So having  morphed from an ignorant Aussie reader to a rookie Aussie author I asked myself; how will I be able to sell my unknown book written by an unknown author to a public that is largely as ignorant as I? I've talked to other authors and publishers.I have attended every seminar I could on marketing books.  Julie Cave challenged me when she told me that successful authors spend 25% of their time writing and 75% marketing. I put down my keyboard. I had a lot of hours of marketing to catch up on!  


So I began to build a platform. Then loomed the greatest marketing opportunity of them all. My book launch! I invited everything that moved! If I had a contact, they received an invitation. If I met someone in the street, a pink and black brochure was quickly offered. Two days before the event I was still tracking down another phone number or email address of someone who I thought might be interested. 


And we planned a great event, determined that everyone would enjoy themselves. The aim of all this activity? Sell books? Yes, but much more. Our aim was to inspire and train advocates for my book. There were 200 people in the room that night. We talked about the message of the book and explained that they were responsible to help spread the novel like a virus. Every person went home with a pink rose and the postcard below.


Has it been effective? I believe we built a strong awareness. Some are carrying my book to sell at conferences, others keep ringing to get another couple of copies for friends. Some have written reviews or talked to schools. Many are making way for speaking engagements. As I told the crowd at the book launch, I have multiplied myself 200 times!


I love the family of Aussie writers and readers that have embraced me so warmly. In the same manner, we too can support each other and continue to encourage the Australian reading public to embrace our wonderful literature. Here's to lots more great Australian books!


My apologies for any strange highlighting. Blogger added white highlighting to odd passages and not being able to remove it, I have changed it in an attempt to make it blend with the background!


Jo Wanmer has just released her first book, Though the Bud be Bruised. Although this faction tells a strong story of one family's recovery from their child's sexual abuse, it is a book of hope and grace, relating the miraculous intervention of our amazing God. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

ROYALTIES AND GIVING



                              
 Over the last few months I have been praying and wondering how I can increase my support of women who suffer from obstetric fistulas. I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to write and have published “Broken Pottery the life of an African girl” a fictional book that highlights the plight of these women. But I felt led by God to do something more tangible.
So I am thrilled to announce that HALF of all royalties received by me from the 16/6/2012 from sales of my book in any format will be donated to one of the fistula projects listed on my website.
It’s really a WIN – WIN – WIN  scenario.
I WIN because I am priviledged to give to these projects.
The reader WINS because as they relax and enjoy the book they are at the same time helping to support these women.
The fistula women WIN because their health care and education can continue.
Gods’ blessings to you all,
Jennifer Ann

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Storms Pass; Love Remains.

Perth has faced some pretty wild weather over the past few days. It is predicated that a storm will hit again later tonight. Many are praying that tonight is simply a storm in a teacup.

The weather over the weekend was pretty scary. My suburb  experienced lightening, thunder, strong winds, teeming rain and hail. My patio flooded and we had water pouring into the kitchen through the back door.

Really the damage to us was minimal. Some broken trees, everything soggy and some extra loads of washing after using all my towels to mop up puddles.  Others have had major damage caused to their homes and cars. Some schools and hospitals have been closed due to severe damage. As we all know, our friend Lee has lost so much and we continue to pray for her and her family.
The weekend storm (and the potential storm later tonight), has caused me to think about life. We watch storms come and go. Sometimes they are severe and leave some kind of devastation behind and sometimes they are just a minor disturbance on our radar. There may be puddles to clean up afterwards or maybe some more serious consequences to deal with, but one thing is constant, God is with us throughout all the storms we will face.

I know from personal experience as well as from stories and people in The Bible that God is with us as we weather the storms and manage the clean up.

Whatever the storm is in your life right now, hang on to your Saviour. The storm will pass and you will move forward.

Years ago a friend gave me a poster with a beautiful stormy scene and the words : STORMS PASS, LOVE REMAINS BEHIND.

His love does indeed remain.

Much love,
Narelle

Narelle Nettelbeck
www.momentsformum.blogspot.com

Monday, June 11, 2012

Writing: A Ministry or a Business?

by Narelle Atkins

In recent weeks I’ve been thinking and praying about the direction of my writing journey and how I perceive my writing. I write in three different genres: nonfiction Bible studies, inspirational romance and sweet romance.

I definitely view my sweet romance writing as more of a business than a ministry. I’m seeking traditional publishing opportunities and I’m striving to write high quality stories that will appeal to a specific market. These stories have underlying Christian values and potentially a subtle spiritual theme because I’m writing from a Christian world view.

My inspirational romances have a stronger ministry focus. These stories are the ones that I feel have put on my heart for a reason and, like my sweet romance stories, I’ve sought out traditional publishing opportunities.

I’ve come to the conclusion that if we’re considering traditional publishing opportunities then we have no choice but to think about our writing as a business. Traditional publishers are bearing all the financial risk when they contract a book. The staff and owners of publishing companies need to sell books to pay for their salaries and feed their families. An author may not receive a new contract or the next book in their publishing deal may be cancelled if they have poor book sales. And the publisher will go out of business if they aren’t selling enough books to ensure their business is financially viable.

I know authors do struggle with all the marketing and promotion that is expected of them compared to the ‘old days’. The eBook revolution and the flood of cheap self-published books hitting the marketplace have changed the publishing landscape. Traditional publishers have lost some of their ability to dominate the market because the main book buying channel is no longer limited to print books sold either in a book store or online. Traditional publishers, large and small, have to work hard to get their books noticed by readers, and authors are expected to be partners in this endeavour.

In contrast, I perceive my Bible studies to be a ministry rather than a business. We set up the 30 Minute Bible Studies website six years ago and we provide free Bible study questions that we had previously written for our small group. This year the ‘ducks lined up’, so to speak, and we have added a blog to the website and started publishing eBook leader’s guides on Smashwords. Six years ago I had a vision to sell affordable leader’s guides in eBook format but the timing wasn’t right and the necessary resources didn’t exist.

We’re releasing an eBook per month and writing articles on the blog that relate to the Bible studies. I chose to self publish the leader’s guide precisely because our primary goal isn’t to sell bucket loads of eBooks. We hope to encourage people to join a group that studies the Bible and we provide free or affordable Bible study resources that they may find helpful. The leader’s guides are an optional extra that we are charging a small amount for to potentially compensate for the time and effort it takes to put together the information.

How do you perceive your writing? Is it a ministry or a business or both? I’d love to hear your thoughts.




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.

Narelle is a co-founder of the 30 Minute Bible Studies website. She recently launched the new 30 Minute Bible Studies blog. To learn more about Narelle, please visit her website.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Pot-pourri books


I've had the privilege of reading some unpublished manuscripts and writing reports on them for their authors. A couple of outstanding ones have come my way, full of whimsical, incredible originality combined with the sort of plot I'd imagine only dreams are made of. They shine with the outstanding and unexpected on almost every page. Such stories are clearly inspired because nobody else could possibly have written them.

When I ponder what I know about the public as an entity, I wonder, if these stories were published, how would they fare in the big wide world? Would they be received well by the masses in general? We live in a world in which some publishers even give perspective authors formulas as required reading because they fill such a niche in the market and know what they want to sell.

An editor once asked me what genre a manuscript of mine was, because she'd got a few chapters into it and couldn't tell. "Is it inspirational, sweet romance, adventure, chit-lit, family saga or what?" She said it was important that I tell her as the knowledge would influence the way she approached the editing. And I couldn't really tell myself. I simply wrote a story that appealed to me. I thought it a pity there is no genre called pot-pourri but it's easy to understand the reason there isn't. Many readers don't want to risk pot luck when it comes to spending their hard-earned money on books.

I've heard of authors writing stories out of their established 'genres', receiving flak from their fan bases and suffering in resulting sales. It seems the only viable option for these writers may be to consider using pseudonyms for certain projects.

My pot-pourri manuscript was eventually worked on by another editor who enjoyed all the disparate elements. It was published as A Design of Gold and its cover was once featured on a romance double page of a Koorong catalogue. I flinched when I saw it there because it is definitely not pure romance and looked odd among all the covers and blurbs of books that were. My kids even laughed at me and I gloomily predicted, "I don't think many will sell." I turned out to be right.

So what is the phenomenon we have? Sometimes I think of it as the "McDonalds" system of marketing books. Many people want to feel safe. They like the predictability of knowing exactly what they can expect when they buy a burger or a book. That's why I've come across many blurbs like the following.

Mary-Belle is contentedly preparing for her wedding to small town lawyer, Tim, when the brash and rude town-planner Hugo sweeps into her peaceful, rural life, determined to raise a civic shopping centre. As she fights him on this, mayhem ensues. Could the brusque villain really be nursing a broken heart? 

Have you read that book before? Well, in one way, it's impossible because I just made up that blurb now. On the other hand, yes, you have, if you're coming from the, "seen one, seen 'em all" perspective. My Design of Gold was up against several similar blurbs to this. Would you feel tempted to read about Mary-Belle and Hugo based on that blurb? I'm sure many people would, in the same way they like to grab a chicken fillet meal deal at the end of a long day. We're worn out and we know we'll get to see the pompous guy with attitude eventually kiss the sassy girl with the perfect figure.

What happens if readers think what you're offering may appear a bit unpredictable at first sight? That, I believe, is one of the things I've struggled with over time, although I wouldn't change it for the world. My books are sort of eclectic with bits from all sorts of sources. Just like real life itself, I like to think my stories have body, flavour and offer a substantial feast.

Do they suffer in sales from being hard to squeeze into cut-and-dried genres? Yes, probably. I call my books 'contemporary dramas' as pot-pourri books would probably get raised eyebrows, and I add that there are elements of romance, mystery and suspense. They aren't totally off-the-wall, like going to a smorgasbord restaurant with goulash, meat pies, pavlovas, mi-goreng, baked trout, chocolate mousse and a Sunday roast all offered on the same table. That would be like having vampires in a time machine suddenly appearing in the middle of your Amish community to whisk Jacob and Rachel away just as they're about to have their first kiss. My books aren't that weird.

But would I struggle to write a novel according to a formula to fit squarely into a defined genre on the off-chance of more success? No, I honestly think that would take the heart out of writing for me. I prefer to keep doing what I've been doing because they have to reflect me and have lifeblood in their veins. Some readers can do that within the confines of definite genres and I think they're lucky, but I prefer to plod on, perhaps making pot-pourri drama romances my own particular brand for the sort of reader who may consider trying something like cayenne pepper in their hot chocolate and discovering that it goes together really nicely.

Paula Vince is an award-winning author and homeschooling mother who lives in South Australia's Adelaide Hills, a beautiful spot for inspiration. Her novel, Best Forgotten, won the 2011 CALEB prize for fiction and Picking up the Pieces won the 2011 International Book Award in the religious fiction category. She believes a well-written story has a way of igniting the imagination like nothing else.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

OUR PRECIOUS TIME

None of us seems to have enough of this precious commodity. The Lord tells us to make the most of the time we have because of the very times we live in. As authors we have the great privilege having our words read by people we will probably never meet, so do we take enough time to make our stories count?

Anyone can dash off a story - it's done all the time. Yet to allow your reader to personally identify with our main character's struggles and triumphs means digging into our own soul. Even to baring things we'd hesitate to tell our best friend. Oh yes, creating genuine, true-to-life characters takes a lot of time. And it's time invested well.

Reading through some of our authors' posts gives a glimpse into the amount of time and effort involved in crafting a story with a great plot and characters with failings who finally win the battles they face outwardly and within themselves. To be able to trace how they deal with God's Holy Spirit working in their lives without a heavy hand takes loving finesse. Jesus, the master storyteller, shares His message beautifully without labouring the point. Likewise if we allow our readers to simply absorb our message it will stay with them for a long time.

The following is from the vantage point of someone who just ran out of TIME. Set to music on CD, if you'd like to be placed in a draw add your email (with spaces) to your comment.

Life was always full and busy so I never had the time 
To ever get to know Him very much at all,
So I told Him that I would someday, I really meant it then,
Still I was occupied and never heard Him call.

When His final call is given and the universe stands still,
When the sands of time run out and clocks won't chime,
When silence reigns and earth is hushed to hear the Father's will,
Eternity begins ... farewell the end of time.


So I asked myself the question when my time came to an end
Why I didn't even spare the Lord a glance
For I've found he is my judge and yet He could have been my friend,
Now time has gone and I've forever lost my chance.


I don't have time ... I don't have time.
That's how it was and how it ever more will be.
There'll be no time ... there'll be no time,
There'll be no time left in Eternity.

Rita Stella Galieh has two Australian Historical Romances published.
Fire in the Rock & Signed Sealed Delivered, Book I of the Watermark Women Trilogy
See her website at www.ritastellagalieh.com

Monday, June 4, 2012

5 Ways To Secure the Long Term Health of Your Writing Career


What's going on when you're writing? Are you slumped over the computer or slouched in bed with the laptop and a few... ok, a packet of Tim Tams?

Some of you know I suffer from migraines which I try to keep under control with a gluten-free/dairy-free lifestyle. Over the last three years, my writing time has increased to the point where my body is starting to rebel. It not only demands good nutrition, it's been crying out for the right posture and exercise. After a few weeks of sore wrists last month, I chatted to a dear chiropractor friend about the steps I can take to prevent the injuries associated with repetitive hours at the computer. Here's what Dr Alissa Buda shared with me.

1. Look at your posture. Are you hunched over your work? Do your forearms rest on the table or are they too high? Your chair should be high enough that when your feet are firmly on the floor, your hips should be about 15 degrees to your knees. Computer screens should be at eye level.

2. Minimise inflammation in your body. There are a few ways to do this. Take a daily liquid fish oil supplement (which has a higher EPA count than capsules and therefore, more effective for this purpose), minimise grains in your diet, and exercise daily. Even just a 15 minute walk is better than nothing.

3. Learn to move on purpose. Sitting for too many hours is horrible for you health and increases your risk of chronic diseases, so get up and move. Rotate your shoulders when sitting for long periods. You may even want to investigate Pilates, as it has a strong focus on posture and core strength. Take regular breaks, even when you're in a writing groove. Stand up for 30 seconds and stretch.

4. Stretch even when you're sitting. Place your right arm in front of you, elbow extended and palm down. Bend your  wrist toward the floor and pull your hand slightly with your left hand, increasing the bend. You should feel the stretch on the outside of your forearm. Next, bend your wrist toward the ceiling and pull you hand slightly with your left hand, increasing the bend. Now you should feel the stretch in the inner forearm. To increase the stretch, slowly curl your fingers. Repeat with other arm.

5. Jump on a magnesium and calcium supplement which is great for muscle spasms.

These hints are only a starting point, and individual cases should be discussed with a personal physician. I've found the stretching hint very helpful and even in this wintery rain, I'm trying to take more walks.

How about you? Are you with me?

What are you doing to ensure the long term health and future of your writing career?

********************

Dorothy Adamek writes Historical Romance. She lives in Melbourne with her Beloved and their three teenagers, drinks coffee with rice milk, and is not a great fan of walks in the rain. She loves to sift through all things yesteryear and writes about it at Ink Dots.  


(photo source - love reading and writing)


Friday, June 1, 2012

Brass Heavens

From around the year 2000 for roughly seven years, I experienced what my hubby calls a 'brass heaven,' or what I called disappointment with God - and it had nothing to do with writing. The Lord didn't answer my prayers the way I wanted Him to and I became very discouraged, to the point I found it hard to speak to Him (in any kind of deep and personal way). It is hard to explain in a few words, but I felt as though God had let me down. My relationship with the Lord had once been amazing, a giddy kind of romance, but then it all disappeared. A phrase in my head at the time was "oh the heights from which I've fallen." (I now know this was all me of course, God is perfect.)

When it comes to writing, I am a detailed plotter. I plan out characters and chapters, everything, before I start to write. However, in early 2009 an idea hit me so powerfully that I sat down at my computer with my bible and just started typing. Over the course of a year I wrote a whole manuscript and it seemed as though the Lord was speaking to me, waking me up, reshaping my thinking.

It is not a 'Christian Living' book. It is not even non-fiction. It is purely medieval fantasy romance, but it is allegorical in nature. The writing of this manuscript transformed my life and I will never be the same. I learned things about the grace and love of God that fundamentally changed my character.

All throughout that year, everything pointed to this story. The songs on the radio. Sermons preached. God was working in my heart and mind in a very profound way.

You can imagine therefore that this manuscript is closer to my heart than anything else I've written, as though pieces of my soul are stitched in the pages. Funnily enough, it is the one I have the most trouble getting published. I am looking at a complete re-write. But, I have no peace about re-writing. So, I wait.

I wait on the Lord to give me direction. He will bring it to pass in time. He will give me a nudge, or an idea. I am not discouraged or disappointed about the rejections. Ironically, if I had never written this story, I would not be so at peace with the process. And if it never sees the light of publication, so be it. It has done its job in me. Or rather, He has done His work in me.

Have you ever written anything which God has used to teach you?


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, 2011. For more information, see:
http://www.amandadeed.com.au/
http://amanderings.wordpress.com/