Monday, 9 December 2019

When You Are Disappointed

It may not seem appropriate to think about disappointment as we approach this Christmas season, but disappointments abound. Perhaps it was the year you hoped to be published, republished, published again, or some other writing goal wasn’t achieved. Perhaps other career or personal goals didn’t eventuate either.

Some are disappointed they won’t be spending Christmas with their loved ones. Perhaps they live overseas, perhaps they have passed away during the year or perhaps they don’t think getting together at Christmas is a priority. Perhaps you are disappointed with other aspects of your relationships. Perhaps your children aren’t Christians or married to an unbeliever.

I’m finding people in our churches are struggling with issues they haven’t had to face before. Christmas can bring a clash of values, culture and traditions that make it a stressful time. We have Christian friends who struggle ethically with the requests their children make of them. Perhaps their children want to bring their unmarried partner with them at Christmas and stay at the family home in the same bed. Or bring alcohol into a home where there has never been alcohol, or act in other ways that disagree with the values they were taught as a child.

Zechariah and Elizabeth

This Christmas season, I’ve been thinking about Elizabeth who lived with a great deal of disappointment: “Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old” (Luke 1:6-7).

In Jewish culture not having children wasn’t just unfortunate, it was seen as a disgrace. We see this later when Elizabeth discovers she is pregnant: “‘How kind the Lord is!’ she exclaimed. ‘He has taken away my disgrace of having no children’” (Luke 1:25).

Jewish wives were expected to produce children and if none were forthcoming, it was a valid reason for husbands to get a divorce. Children were important to look after aging parents, to pass on property and continue the family line. If a wife didn’t have children, the family name didn’t continue in the genealogy records. It was like being obliterated. Children were a blessing from God, and childlessness was seen as a curse or punishment, and a sign of God’s disfavour.

Luke states that both Zechariah and Elizabeth were from priestly lines (Luke 1:5), but also tells us that they didn’t live in Jerusalem (Luke 1:39). This godly, priestly couple chose to live away from the centre of religious worship. Why would they do that?

It may have been because of shame. Many would have felt that Elizabeth was guilty of some secret sin, and since Zechariah stuck by her, he must be guilty too. To complicate matters, we know from archaeological discoveries that the priests in Jerusalem were wealthy and corrupt, but wealth was seen as a sign of God’s favour. Meanwhile Zechariah and Elizabeth, “were righteous in God’s eyes,” but lacked the obvious sign of God’s favour.

It made no sense. Life hadn’t worked out the way Zechariah and Elizabeth anticipated.

Then, Elizabeth gave birth to John and there was much rejoicing. However, it seems Zechariah and Elizabeth died before John reached adulthood and John himself died young and childless. He wasn’t able to do any of the things that parents hope for: look after his parents, pass on his inheritance or continue the family line.

A Hope Greater Than Disappointment

The writer to the Hebrews talks about people like Elizabeth, “All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it” (Hebrews 11:13).

Elizabeth didn’t live long enough to see all that God fulfilled through the ministry of her son John the Baptist, and later Jesus. Nevertheless, she saw it from a distance and welcomed it. She rejoiced in the prophesies that she saw fulfilled and the answers to prayer that she did see. While she didn’t see all that God promised, what she did see, gave her hope for what she could not see.

Likewise, our hope in God overcomes our disappointments. We may not see or understand all that God is doing in our lives and in the lives of those we love, but we know God keeps his promises. Our hope rests on the character of God. We know he is a faithful God who loves us and acts in our best interests. Our hope in God is a “strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls” (Hebrews 6:19).

Anchors are needed in rough weather to keep us from being swept away in a storm, but they are also needed in calmer times to stop us from drifting. Our hope in God keeps us connected to his promises in the crises of life and in the times of relative calm. He promises to be with us, to care for us, to strengthen us and to never forsake us.

Elizabeth shows us that it’s possible to live a life of faith in the midst of disappointment. It’s possible to love and serve him, even with a broken heart because we have a gracious God who fills us with a hope that is greater than our disappointments.



*****
Susan Barnes is a writer and pastor. She loves to challenge people's thinking and regularly blogs at www.susanbarneswriter.com. Visit her website if you are looking for free devotional articles for your church newsletter, ideas for Bible Studies or sermons, book reviews and more. Receive her free ebook, 10 Things My Children Taught Me About God, by signing up for her monthly newsletter via her website.

Thursday, 5 December 2019

CWD DNA

by Jeanette O'Hagan



Christian Writers Downunder - Who are we? What do we stand for? What do we offer?


CWD has been going since 2009 as a Yahoo Group, then as a writers' blog and Facebook group since 2010. I joined in 2012. I still have a clear memory of being invited into the group by the lovely Paula Vince (who I'd recently met at the World Word Conference - the progenitor of the Omega Writers Conference).

Both the conference and joining CWD transformed my writing journey - in terms of networking, mentoring, encouragement and friendships.

Over the last couple of years, CWD has highlighted and interviewed some of our members (e.g. Meet Our Member posts on Thursday). So far we have interviewed 52 great writers, editors & illustrators out of our more than 1100 members. We're a diverse bunch, from different backgrounds, different life experiences, different genres and different writing goals, but all with a love for Jesus and for writing,  and are connected in someway to Australasia.

Since 2009 (and the very first blog post in 1 September 2010), we've published an anthology - Glimpses of Light. We've become an affiliate group of Omega Writers (along with our sister group Australasian Christian Writers). Our members have published or are on the journey to publish or just staring out, writing their first pieces. They have won prizes, taken workshops, organised retreats, book fairs and conferences. We still have a writers' blog (i.e. this one) and, though the Yahoo group is long gone, our Facebook group remains a supportive place for Christian writers from Downunder.



In 2014, our previous fabulous coordinator, Nola Passmore, wrote about the aims and mission statement of CWD:

"Through the CWD Facebook page and the bi-weekly blog, we seek to encourage each other, provide tips, share prayer points and circulate news relevant to Christian writers."

She then goes on to propose our mission statement.

CWD's mission statement:



To glorify God with our writing


As Nola says:

"This doesn’t necessarily mean that every piece we write has a specific Christian message." 


While many CWD writers write Christian fiction, many of us write for the secular market. Whether explicit or implicit, our fiction and non-fiction is influenced and undergirded by our Christian worldview, by Christian values, themes and choices. How this plays out will read differently for each of us as God has gifted us and led us on our own faith journeys.



As Nola reminds us, it's not just what we write but how we live that glorifies God.

"Honouring God in our writing also means that we endeavour to live a life that is consistent with His Word (e.g. demonstrating a servant attitude, ethical behaviour, love, forgiveness, patience, perseverance, generosity, gratitude)."

Christian Writers Downunder wishes to glorify God through affirming Christ and faith in him, and by providing a community of grace and generosity. This means holding to what is true while respecting each other in humility and grace even when we disagree, recognising that we are all fallible and, on occasion, mistaken, and in constant need of God's grace and provision.


To develop our God-given creative gifts.


Nola says:

 "God has given each of us gifts to be used in building His Kingdom, including creative gifts such as writing.  However, we still need to hone our gifts to be the best we can be at our craft."

Christian Writers Downunder aims to help Christian writers, editors and illustrators to develop their creative writing gifts through practical tips and encouragement on the bi-weekly CWD blog. And through celebrating achievements and providing opportunities to blog and contribute in different ways. Posts on Writing Craft on Genre or Marketing help our members to hone their skills, while inspirational blogs inspire and encourage members to 'fan the flame of God's gift within you.' (2 Tim 1:6)



To encourage other Christian writers 


1 Thess 5:11 exhorts Christians to encourage each other and build each other up. In fact there are 59 'one another' verses in the New Testament, showing how important Christian community is.

We don't need to see other writers as competitors, rather we are stronger together when we support each other.

We can encourage other fellow writers, editors and illustrators by:


  • sharing our own journeys (including the hard parts), 
  • cheering each other on, celebrating each others' victories, commiserating & praying when things get tough. 
  • answering questions & sharing our acquired experience
  • providing constructive, balanced and honest critique as beta readers and critique partners,
  • buying (or borrowing), reading and reviewing others' books (on Goodreads, Amazon, our blogs) - especially those in our genres or target audience, 
  • recommending (or buying) other authors & books to our fans, friends and family, 
  • praying for other writers and writing groups, 
  • mentoring less experienced writers or sharing great resources we've discovered,
  • being supportive and interactive on social media - through commenting on blogs, liking pages and posts, replying to tweets etc 


Christian Writers Downunder aims to encourage its members through the bi-weekly blogs - inspirational and practical posts from our dedicated blog team, Meet Our Members posts & the Highlights posts that celebrate the achievements and diverse journeys of our writers. 

The CWD Facebook group is also a place of encouragement - a forum to ask questions, to share your journey or your tips or resources. Share Wednesday provides an opportunity to interact with other CWD members and to support them through social media and in other specific ways.



The blog and FB page act in tandem, like two hulls of a catamaran - to provide knowledge, support and encouragement to our members.

Working together with other Christian writing groups



Nola concludes:

"The goal of encouragement doesn't just apply to individuals, but to our support of other Christian writing groups.  We all have a part to play, just as Paul and Apollos each had different roles in partnering with God (see 1 Corin. 3:5-9).  Let's work together as a community of Christian writers, editors, publishers and illustrators; knowing that we can achieve more together than alone.)"

Christian Writers Downunder has been delighted to work with and support other writing groups. In particular Omega Writers and Australasian Christian Writers. CWD has done this through cordial relations with the different admin and the cross-posts with ACW and Omega Writers. Each group has a slightly different focus and provides different things  - together we work for God's Kingdom (not our own) and pray that Christian writers will be encouraged and strengthened and published.

How did you hear about CWD? What has been your experience? What do you like best? Are there things you would like to see more - or perhaps - less of?' Let us know what you think.





Jeanette O'Hagan is currently the coordinator of Christian Writers Downunder. She works along with a great team - Mazzy Adams, Sue Jeffrey, Kirsten Hart and Paula Vince.


Monday, 2 December 2019

Exploring Genre | 2019 Roundup and Master List

We've come to the end of another year of genre crossposts between Australasian Christian Writers and Christian Writers Downunder, so it's time for one final summary post.



Jeanette O'Hagan kicked off 2019 with an excellent roundup of all our previous posts.

We then moved into some exploring more genres in fiction, from well-known Westerns to newer genres like slipstream.

Jessica Kate discussed romantic comedy—the history, some writing tips, and recommendations of her favourite Christian rom-com authors.

Amanda Deed and Jeanette O'Hagan discussed fairytale retellings, which can fall into the romance genre (because every good fairytale ends with a wedding) but also have elements of fantasy.

Christine Dillon discussed women's fiction—issues-based fiction that's not just for women (and which may or may not have a romantic thread).

Roger Norris-Green discussed his prolific career writing Westerns, where the hero is a good man (or a man who is changing for the better), who treats women properly, and who always gets the girl.

Jeanette O'Hagan explored the history of dystopian fiction, and current trends in the genre in the Christian and general markets (and it's interesting how even general market dystopian often has a religious underpinning).

David Rawlings introduced us to slipstream, an elusive mix of fantasy and literary fiction, set mostly in world we know, but introducing speculative elements.

We then moved into nonfiction.

Anusha Atukorala shared an excellent post on writing devotionals, with plenty of links to some great resources.

Cecily Patterson discussed why she loves reading memoir, types of memoirs, and three tips for those writing memoir.

David Malcolm Bennett discussed writing biography, a genre that appeals to him because of his love of history.

We're currently discussing what we'll cover in 2020.

Quick Links

Meanwhile, here are quick links to all our genre posts:

Why Genre Matters by Iola Goulton 
Genre and Marketing by Iola Goulton 

Collaborative Writing by Jeanette O'Hagan 

Fiction

Short fiction: flash fiction to novellas by Jeanette O'Hagan 

Biblical Fiction by Susan Preston 

Dystopian by Jeanette O'Hagan 

Fantasy: Secondary World and Portal Fantasy by Jeanette O'Hagan
Fantasy: Steampunk and Gaslight by Alison Stegert 

Mystery and Suspense: Introduction by Virginia Smith 
Mystery: Crime Mystery 

Romance by Iola Goulton 
Romance: Novellas and novelettes by Narelle Atkins 
Romance: Regency and Historical romance by Carolyn Miller 
Romance: Rural and Medical Romance by Nicki Edwards 
Romance: Romantic Comedy by Jessica Kate 

Romance: Fairytale retellings by Amanda Deed and Jeanette O'Hagan 

Speculative Fiction by Iola Goulton
Science Fiction: Space Opera by Adam David Collings
Supernatural Fiction by Ian Acheson 

Suspense: Writing Tips by Sandra Orchard

Westerns by Roger Norris-Green 

Women's fiction by Christine Dillon 

Nonfiction

Creative Nonfiction by Nola Passmore 
Biography by David Bennett 
Memoir by Cecily Patterson

Poetry: Introduction by Valerie Volk 
Poetry: Free verse and Verse novels by Jeanette O'Hagan 

Devotionals by Anusha Atukorala 

Books by Age Range

Picture Books and Chapter Books by Penny Reeve 
Young Adult Fiction by Cecily Patterson 
New Adult Fiction by Jeanette O'Hagan

Thursday, 28 November 2019

CWD Member Interview – Anne Hamilton



Most Thursdays in 2019 we will be interviewing one of the members of Christian Writers Downunder – to find out a little bit more about them and their writing/editing goals.

Today’s interview: Anne Hamilton


Question 1: Tell us three things about yourself.


I’m from Brisbane in Queensland, I used to teach mathematics and a fair chunk of my time is taken up in prayer ministry. 

Question 2: Tell us about your writing (or editing/illustrating etc).  What do you write and why?


I’ve been incredibly blessed to be able to develop a unique niche both in terms of content, as well as style. Back in 2010, I wanted to get a book about names off my chest and it was fortunate that Rochelle Manners of Rhiza Publishing was interested in names. I didn’t know that the book, GOD’S POETRY, was going to open up a floodgate of inspiration about name covenants and threshold covenants. I’ve now written eleven books of devotional theology I have plans for at least eight more. (“Devotional theology” means “theology with a devotional purpose, not an academic one.”) I also write YA speculative fiction—but it’s been pushed to the backburner in recent years. 
In terms of style, all my writing has built-in mathematics. Mostly because I love mathematics. But also because that’s the way it was done back in the first century and because it forces me to think when I’m editing. 

Question 3: Who has read your work? Who would you like to read it?


Hundreds of people have read my books. I’d like to be able to say thousands, but I’ve only got half a handful of titles in that category. I’m not a big name writer and I haven’t pastored a church, so I don’t have the street cred to make a big splash in either devotionals or theology (let alone a combination.) 
It’s been extremely hard to build a platform from scratch without the benefit of a church network—but it’s a testament to God’s grace that I’ve been able to get so far. Because I write on the kind of topic that very few authors address—the constriction and wasting that just about everyone experiences as they try to come into their calling—people in desperate trouble tend to be my readers.  And then they contact me and ask me to pray for them. 
I am (finally!) confident that my work has longevity. Most books in the publishing world get 90% of their sales in the first three months and then fade to nothing. The books I’m publishing (I’m now my own publisher as ARMOUR BOOKS) start very slow and grow steadily. As each book pays for itself, I publish a new one. I’d like millions of readers, of course, because then I’d be able to publish many other authors as well! 

Question 4: Tell us something about your process. What challenges do you face? What helps you the most?


The process varies, depending on whether I’m writing fiction or non-fiction. Non-fiction is a snack compared to fiction (though having said that, most of the awards I’ve won have been for my fiction). For non-fiction, I write a blog-length piece and then another and then another (all carefully mathematically crafted) and then string them together. For fiction, structure is a challenge—as well as the fact that you can’t hide your heresy in fiction behind standard Christian clich├ęs. I like tackling deep issues in fiction—and making it seem simple. DAYSTAR, for example, is the children’s fantasy version of GOD’S PANOPLY. I tried very hard not to let the theology get in the way of the story and wasn’t entirely sure I’d succeeded until it was nominated as a Notable Book in the CBCA Awards. To say I was stunned was an understatement: I thought it was too Christian for the secular market but not Christian enough for the faith market.

Question 5: What is your favourite Writing Craft Book and why? 


Tough question. Truthfully, and I hope this doesn’t sound too pious, it’s John’s gospel. Not just because of the mathematical structure built into it (which I’ve copied a lot) but because it’s got a mirror-pattern in its scenes. But that aside, I think it’s THE SEVEN BASIC PLOTS by Christopher Booker.

Question 6: If you were to give a shout-out to a CWD author, writer, editor or illustrator – who would they be?


The Quirky Quills group of Toowoomba!  Amazing supportive writers who run a Writer’s Retreat each year and who truly understand how much you have to be committed to hard work (and faith) to achieve your writing goals.

Question 7: What are your writing goals for 2019/2020? How will you achieve them?


I’m currently working with two different writers on some co-authored books. I really love doing this as I can help others start to build their own platforms. I’ve also got a series in the pipeline on JESUS AND THE HEALING OF HISTORY. I’m expecting that one or perhaps two in that series will be out next year.  

Question 8: How does your faith impact and shape your writing?


Faith forces me to hold off publication when something’s not right and sometimes it forces me to publish without delay! DAYSTAR sat in my computer for over twenty years because, although I had many great assessments of it, I felt the Holy Spirit say there was something wrong with it and that the ‘wrong’ was a spiritual problem, not a craft problem. It took two decades to work out what that ‘wrong’ was. DEALING WITH ZIZ, on the other hand, was written and published in three months. I simply wrote down different things I felt God was telling me, and very quickly I realised they all belonged together in a book on the spirit of forgetting. 

So faith is never a formula when it comes to writing or publishing. It’s a way of learning more about God.






Monday, 25 November 2019

Learning about honesty writing about honesty

My new novel is out next week. A second novel, another modern-day parable hot on the heels of The Baggage Handler, which I’m humbled to say was named as the best Christian debut novel of 2019. (My publishers make me say that …)

It's called The Camera Never Lies. 

I wanted my next modern-day parable to cover the issue of truth. We live in a post-truth world where honesty can be sometimes subjective, and sometimes denigrated. And the best place to explore the concept of honesty – in a context that is most relatable to us all – is in our closest relationships.

What would you do if your secrets were revealed to those closest to you?

I asked myself this question before I started writing my new novel, The Camera Never Lies.  I also asked that same question of a number of people around me as part of my research for the book. Their responses – as well as mine – surprised me. I think deep down, we’d expect that our answer would automatically be: ‘of course, I’d happily manage the situation, and come clean.’

But very few responses went like that. The responses I got ranged from a shy silence to an aggressive narrowing of the eyes. All good research that went into the novel.

This is why I write modern-day parables. The Baggage Handler started a number of conversations about people’s baggage, and why they carry it. I got a lot of messages from people thanking me for helping them see what was slowing them down. A story had cracked the cover people had placed over their baggage.

So back to writing The Camera Never Lies… a lot of those research conversations stopped as the defenses went up. So I’ve built a story around the concept of honesty – particularly in relationships – and if you read The Camera Never Lies you’ll discover a few secrets about secrets that I uncovered. And you might learn from some major mistakes made by the protagonist – a marriage counselor who encourages others to be honest while hiding his own secrets.

1. Keeping secrets is tiring

I spoke with a range of pastors and counselors in the research phase of the book. They all agreed on one point – that keeping secrets and hiding truth takes a lot out of you.

My protagonist ties himself in knots trying to keep the truth buried, and it takes its toll. A big, big toll.  I’m sure you know someone that is trying to be something they’re not, or be someone they’re not, and you can see – as I do with some people around me – that it’s taking it out of them. All the pastors I spoke to talked of the relief people felt when they realized keeping secrets wasn’t good for them, and they opened their arms to truth.


2. The truth hurts

This comment came from one particular pastor I spoke to. Sometimes the reason people bury truth is because they can’t face the truth. It’s painful. It can dredge up past indiscretions we’d prefer were forgotten. It can bring back how much we wish we hadn’t taken a particular action.

But acknowledging the truth allows to embrace it and move on. A good friend of mine – a grief counselor – quotes John 8:32 to clients in her rooms who are determined to avoid truth: "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

In the writing process, I found myself analyzing the things I was keeping under the surface … and why. Releasing that truth, as harsh as it might have appeared to have been, brought enormous relief.


3. Truth will win out

This one I find fascinating. We seem to have a number of key business and political figures here in Australia who seem to think that they can say anything as if truth doesn’t matter (you may have similar examples in your own country). And the one thing I notice is that in each case, the truth DOES come out, even if it’s eventually. The TV shows accused of fakery are pulled from the air. The politician claiming no knowledge is forced out when their lack of knowledge is disproved. Dare I say it … the prince who is currently backpedalling at a million miles an hour as facts emerge?

I see that in the people around me as well. From the smallest fibs to the biggest lies, truth does have a way of wriggling free. So why not embrace it, saving all that grief in the meantime?


My hope is that the reader will read The Camera Never Lies and start to think about the concept of truth in their life, like thoughts about baggage were prompted by The Baggage Handler. And I really do hope that they’ll see the benefits of truth in a new, refreshing way. Not just within them, but those around them.

And if you're a writer, what do you learn about the topics you write about? By that, I don't just mean historical romance, but what do you learn about the challenges your characters face?




About David Rawlings

David Rawlings is an award-winning author based in South Australia. His first novel, The Baggage Handler, published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, was named best debut Christian novel of 2019 in the Christy Awards. He writes modern-day parables that combine the everyday with a sense of the speculative, addressing the fundamental questions we all face. 

You can find David at:

Thursday, 21 November 2019

CWD Member Interview – Carolyn Miller


Most Thursdays in 2019 we will be interviewing one of the members of Christian Writers Downunder – to find out a little bit more about them and their writing/editing goals.

Today interview: Carolyn Miller


Question 1: Tells us three things about who you are and where you come from. 


I’m a wife and mother of 4 (3 of them teens – pray for me!), I’ve worked as a high school English teacher, and I live in the beautiful Southern Highlands of NSW.

Question 2: Tell us about your writing (or editing/illustrating etc).  What do you write and why?


I’ve been a big fan of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer for many years, so after experimenting with a few contemporary stories (based mostly in Australia, with Aussie characters) I tried my version of a Pride and Prejudice-type story, but with a strong God thread woven through. This first historical novel of mine became The Elusive Miss Ellison, which was published in 2017. Since then I’ve seen 8 Regency-era books published, with my ninth, Misleading Miss Verity, releasing next week (available for preorder now!). I love this era of the Regency period (1811-1820) because it was a time when England was experiencing so much social and technological change, with wars, exploration and scientific discoveries leading to a treasure trove of fascinating stories waiting to be discovered. Plus, the allure of a certain Mr. Darcy character can never hurt, can it?

 

Question 3: Who has read your work? Who would you like to read it?


I’ve had lots of different people read my work, from teenage girls to elderly grandfathers, which is certainly a surprise as I didn’t expect older men to be a part of my audience! But it’s lovely to see how stories that some might dismiss as mere romance actually have enough grit and realism to appeal to a wider readership. My first two books have been translated into German and Dutch, so I guess that means there must be people in those countries who have read them, which is pretty surreal to this small-town Aussie girl! 
Who would I like to read it? Anyone, everyone! I was speaking at a ladies end-of-year gathering last week, and mentioned some of the themes of my books, and one lady asked for ‘the book about social anxiety,’ (The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey) so I hope (and pray) that people who need to connect with some of these themes, whether it be miscarriage, infertility, family dysfunction, or reconnecting with God, will find these truths wrapped up in fiction through reading these books.

Question 4: Tell us something about your process. What challenges do you face? What helps you the most?


Story sparks happen anywhere: news items, things people share, whatever intrigues me enough to want more. Eg my family and I were travelling to church one day talking about tongue twisters, and I had to google the story behind ‘She sells seashells by the seashore’ which led me to Mary Anning, and early 19th century fossil hunters, something which I incorporated into a story that ultimately became A Hero for Miss Hatherleigh, which released earlier this year. I love how random things can lead to stories! 


I’m not a huge plotter, so once I’ve got my idea I like to try and write down the scenes springing to mind, to not lose the freshness of them – it’s often where some of my best dialogue exists. Usually I’ll have an idea of the opening scene, and what major plot points need to happen, and the ending is not hard (hello, I write HEAs!), so I like to delve into writing to get the first draft out in a few weeks. This isn’t always easy, as I have to juggle family responsibilities (even more so as my hubby often works away from home for up to ¾ of the year), but I do love the sense of flow that uninterrupted writing time gives me – which usually occurs between 9 and 3 when my kids are at school.
I love quiet, so I can talk aloud to myself (well, my characters can ‘speak to me’), and hear the rhythm of words as they flow. Quiet is a valuable commodity!

Question 5: What is your favourite Writing Craft Book and why? 


I have found The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi to be really good in delving into the experience of emotions. Characters are the portal through which we experience a story, so it’s important to show not just tell their emotions, so the reader can more fully sympathise with the character, and hence engage with the story. 

Question 6: If you were to give a shout-out to a CWD author, writer, editor or illustrator – who would they be?


I first met Jenny Glazebrook at the Omega Conference in Melbourne in 2015, where I knew no one in the Aussie Christian writing scene. I’m SO glad I went, and discovered other Christian writers who had voices in their heads that simply had to be written down! Jenny’s warmth and solid Christian faith and encouragement helped this shy, unpublished newbie feel at home, and we have developed our friendship over the years to the point I’d call her one of my best friends. 
I also want to give a shout out to Narelle Atkins who also spoke at that conference about writing a series – something I’d never really considered before, but after her session could suddenly see how the various historical stories I’d already written could be moulded into a series, which has ultimately led to the publication of three (linked) trilogies, and the ideas for more. 
Go to conferences like the Omega Writers conferences – it can totally lead to God=things.

Question 7: What are your writing goals for 2019/2020? How will you achieve them?


I’ve signed another contract for another 3 book historical series (The Wallflowers) with my publishers, Kregel, which will see a slower pace of one Regency being released per year rather than three. This allows room to develop other story ideas, such as dipping my toe into the contemporary market, which I’m doing through my involvement with the Independence Islands novella collection, which will see five 50,000 word novellas release in the next 2 ½ years. It’s so fun to write contemporary, and not have to worry whether a particular word or phrase was around 200 years ago! I’ve written the first draft of my contemporary novella, Restoring Fairhaven, and this week I’m back to editing the first draft of my historical novel, after which I hope to edit the first draft of my Christmas Regency novella which will be part of a novella collection releasing next year. I work well with deadlines, and knowing Christmas is coming (plus school holidays that won’t allow so much time to write) means I’ve had to knuckle down and get drafts done. So, I’m busy, but I’m also loving it – God is good!

Question 8: How does your faith impact and shape your writing?


My husband and I pastored a church for ten years, and it was really through the challenges and the aftermath of that experience that I learned so much about God’s grace and forgiveness and love, themes I incorporate into my stories. I write unapologetically Christian fiction, so my characters pray, look to the Bible for answers, attend church, and wrestle with some of the God challenges  along the way – just like I do. I want readers to be encouraged and inspired (as well as entertained) by my words.  
The whole process has been a God journey, from praying about whether to enter particular online writing contests, to the agent who ‘just so happened’ to write Regencies, to the publisher who ‘just so happened’ to want to expand into a new genre – historical romance, to the various authors and reviewers and readers who have been kind enough to support my stories and bring them to a wider audience. 
I’m so encouraged to receive emails that say how my fiction has made readers dig deeper into their own spiritual walks, such as the reviewer who said “I am so grateful for the novel Underestimating Miss Cecilia. Carolyn Miller has penned something more than just a Regency-era novel, she has crafted a fictional place that allows the reader the opportunity to wrestle with various internal struggles and hopefully come out the other side stronger in relationship with God. Yes the plot is engaging, yes the characters are well written and endearing, yes the happily ever after is satisfying, but it is the timely themes that make this novel stellar.” That is why I write. I may not be pastoring anymore, but I see my writing as my ministry. I really want readers to come away inspired by the hope that is found in God, and know that He loves them, has good plans for them, and that He is always trustworthy and faithful.



:: GIVEAWAY ::
Misleading Miss Verity comes out next week! I am giving one away to any Australia-based commentator. The lucky reader will be randomly selected by me from those who comment below.



Carolyn Miller lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children. Together with her husband she has pastored a church for ten years, and worked as a public high school English and Learning and Support teacher. 
A longtime lover of romance, especially that of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer’s Regency era, Carolyn holds a BA in English Literature, and loves drawing readers into fictional worlds that show the truth of God’s grace in our lives. Her Regency novels include The Elusive Miss Ellison, The Captivating Lady Charlotte, The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey, Winning Miss Winthrop, Miss Serena's Secret, The Making of Mrs. Hale, A Hero for Miss Hatherleigh, and Underestimating Miss Cecilia, all available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Koorong, etc




Connect with her:        website | facebook | pinterest | twitter | instagram

Monday, 18 November 2019

Are you troubled?



By Jenny Glazebrook

I wanted to share with you my message from conference this year. I know many members of CWD were there, but perhaps you're like me and need to be constantly reminded of what it's really all about.

So here it is in written form, starting with the Bible passage:

Luke 10:38-42

 At the Home of Martha and Mary

Image courtesy of Pinterest  www.pinterest.com.au/pin/394979829810500275/?lp=true
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.

39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

(All Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™)


My question to you is, Are you troubled by many things? 

Sometimes we can live in a constant state of anxiety and intensity, never really settled and at peace. This world places so many demands on us.

And as writers, it's even more so.
          You must follow the rules of writing.
          You must share what you write with others.
          You must have an agent.
          You must be published.
          You must market and build an author platform.
          You must be on social media.
          You must know your target audience and create an author brand.


Images courtesy of Google Images
And then there’s the competition.
        To be successful, you must write this many books.
        You must have good reviews.
        You must enter competitions and have those particular judges approve of your work.
        You must have people willing to endorse your work.

The list goes on.

We can get to a point where we don’t even know who we are anymore, or why we began to write in the first place. We become defined by what others think of us, by what we have done or supposedly achieved.

I just want us to pause a moment and put all of that aside.
I want us to hear Jesus say to us, ‘You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed, only one.’

So what is that one thing Jesus says is needed?

       
Amelia with her gosling, and then again 8 months later
This is my youngest daughter, Amy or Amelia. She is nine years old. This is her with her pet goose. Named Sarah. The second picture is taken 8 months later after we realised we needed to change Sarah's name to Tom.
Amy loves animals and has a beautiful heart, but she also battles many things in everyday life. She has autism, ADHD, anxiety and depression, Van der Woude syndrome (which caused her cleft lip and palate) and has recently been diagnosed with a rare form of diabetes.
A few months ago, we were at one of her soccer games and she was sitting, waiting for the next game. A little girl fell down and hurt herself and Amy raced over and gave her a hug. Then a bit later, a toddler was getting restless and distressed, so Amy picked a flower and took it over and gave it to her. The little girl cheered up. She accidentally screwed up the flower with her chubby little toddler hands so Amy went and found her another one.
And then, a bit later, a lady was speaking to me and I was vaguely aware that Amy was sitting up the top of a grand stand talking to a boy around her age. His father was sitting there, too. I heard her say something about Jesus and I worried because Amy often doesn’t understand social situations or read social cues. But the lady I was speaking to wasn’t giving me a chance to get away.


That night I asked Amy what she was talking to the boy about. She said, as they sat up there, the boy said ‘How cool is it that we can see the whole soccer field from up here?’

And she said, ‘You know what’s even cooler? God can see every soccer field in the world at the same time.’

The boy was amazed and wanted to know more about God, so she told him how even though he’s so big and powerful he loves every person and died for them so that if they or sorry for the things they’ve done wrong and believe in Jesus, they will be forever with him when they die.

Then she told him how each night she reads stories from the Bible with her dad and they talk to Jesus about anything that’s worrying them.

The boy said he didn’t know about God before, but now he knew he believed too.

To Amy, it was an everyday situation coming from her heart of compassion and love for Jesus. But I know there was rejoicing in heaven at that moment.


Then a couple of weeks later was the soccer presentation. Amy doesn’t always understand the rules but she tries her best. Her favourite part about soccer, she says, is making friends with the opposition. Sometimes during a game she’ll miss the ball coming her way because she’s making friends with the player she’s supposed to be marking.
So Amy didn’t receive any special recognition, but another girl on her team received two trophies.
Amy said to me, ‘Mum, it’s never happened before, but I feel a bit jealous. She got two trophies.’

And so I asked Amy, do you think God would be delighted if you got all the trophies in the world? Or do you think he’s delighted that you love him and share his love and tell others about him? 
Source: www.testimoniesofheavenandhell.com

Which is better; to have trophies, or to love Jesus and to see that boy in heaven when you get there because you shared Jesus love with him?

Her eyes lit up and she smiled and I knew she got it.

My question to us, is, ‘Do we get it?’

Are we focused on the trophies of this life? In the recognition, in the competition, comparing ourselves to others? On that book deal we’re desperately striving for?
Or are we focused on Jesus; on letting all we are and all we do flow from worship and joy of knowing Him?

Note that Jesus didn’t say to Martha, ‘you are doing too many things’ … It wasn’t what Martha was doing, but why she was doing it and how she felt about it. She was driven. Exhausted. Frustrated. Doing it all in her own strength. Comparing herself to her sister. She was focused on what she was doing compared to what her sister was doing.

So what is the one thing Jesus says is needed?
Again, we immediately start thinking, ‘yes, what do I need to do?’ But the one thing that is needed … is Jesus. It is not about him requiring anything of us. It’s about us realising what we need from Him!


Jesus said ‘Mary has chosen what is better.’
Mary chose Jesus. Above all else. It is a choice. In our busy lives, we have to choose to come to Him. That is all that is needed. To know and love Jesus.
You’d be amazed how many verses in the Bible are about this!

Jesus said: Matthew 11:28
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

1 Chronicles 16:11
Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!

Philippians 4:6
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God.

Psalm 62:8
Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.

Isaiah 30:15
This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.’

Psalm 46:10
He says, ‘Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’

Exodus 14:14  The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

This last verse is from when the Israelites were being chased by the Egyptians. They wanted to reach the promised land. They saw no way forward – the sea was blocking their path. The enemy blocking behind.

What is your battle? What is blocking your path? 

Don’t give up. Wait for the Lord. Be still.

Maybe you’ve struggled for years to get your work published and your Christian brother or sister has their writing snapped up straight away by a publisher or agent.

What should you do?

Don't be discouraged. Don't strive harder. Come to Jesus.       

2 Corinthians 3:3
‘You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.’

It’s not what you write down on paper that matters, but what is written on your heart … not what you do, but who you are!

Yes, we are writers. It’s a gift He’s given us. But He doesn’t say we have to publish a book to love Him, to help people, to be who He wants us to be.

That urgency to write things down … God will give you the time you need. He has marked out your days. He has given you all you need. Rest in Him and you will have more to offer.

He is our inspiration. Anything good that comes from us, really comes from Him.



And what happens when we sit at his feet, when we take a moment to be still and know that He is God? To wait on Him, delight in Him as He delights in us?

It becomes a way of life. We learn to listen for His voice, to notice His tap on our shoulder.

And our inspiration is limitless because God is limitless.

Ken Duncan is an amazing Australian photographer. And he’s a Christian. He says that sometimes God gives him a tap on the shoulder and he turns around and there is an amazing photo opportunity he could never have imagined.


It is worth looking at the photo in this link:  The Master Sculptor Most people take a picture of the beach and ocean, but Ken heard God say, ‘turn around.’ And there was this amazing rock, sculptured by God. It’s an award-winning photo.

There’s also an incredible story about how his famous photos of Midnight Oil came about. You can see the photo here: Midnight Oil

This is the most famous shot of Midnight Oil – on this day, some people were making a documentary, pushing one another to get the best shots. Ken had been invited to take a photo and been given priority. But instead, he held back, waiting for others to get their shots.

It wasn’t a good day for photos and it was getting worse. The people making the documentary finally finished and Ken had an idea. He could take a photo on the dry lake. As he set up, everyone came to watch. The clouds were bad, the light was bad. But suddenly a great gust of wind blew, blowing off the hats of the band members, and the sun broke through the clouds.

Everyone watching scrambled over each other, trying to get their cameras out, one even got the cord stuck around another’s neck in his urgency to get the photo. But they were too late and Ken had his

The photos God had given him.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be like those camera men who are just out for themselves, using their own skills to clamber to the top. And then finding when they get there it’s not they dreamed of after all.

I don’t want to rush ahead of God only to find that when I finally hold my dreams and ambitions in my grasp, there is nothing of value left.

I want to wait for God’s tap on my shoulder. To let Him show me the world through His eyes.

So let’s open our hands to receive what God has given us.

Let’s sit at His feet and wait for His inspiration … what He has to say.

I have a friend in Gundagai where I live, who met Jesus at the lowest, darkest point in her life. It was about ten years ago. Her son had taken his own life, and she didn’t want to go on. But Jesus revealed Himself to her.

She has now, after living without God for 50 years, become the Anglican reverend in our small town. The love of Jesus shines from her. And people can see that she is a new creation – a completely different person to who she was.


She told me how, every morning as she wakes up, she asks the Lord what He has for that day. And every time she sits down to write a sermon she lifts her hand up in worship to receive from God, asking Him for His words.

She said that the day the joy in serving God in this way, being in full-time ministry, is gone, that is the day she will stop. And seek Him for what is next.

And though she is often run off her feet, her face shines with His love and joy. From her heart flows love for all the lost and broken, the addicts, every person she sees. She doesn’t have all the Christian jargon, the years of Christian experience and church upbringing. All she has is Jesus and her heart’s desire is to love him with all her heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love her neighbour as herself.

She would like to write her incredible story someday. And she probably will. But a book is not her calling. Loving Jesus and delighting in Him as He delights in her is her calling. And it is our calling, too. It is all that is needed.

A published book might be part of it. It may not be.

You are a child of God. That is enough.

Why do we feel we have to be extraordinary? That we have to stand out? That is what the world tells us.

When Jesus says to come to Him. To receive from Him. Rest in Him. We don’t need to be extraordinary, because He is. And when people see us do amazing things, we want them to see that really, it is all Him.

Brothers and sisters, we share the same gift of writing, but more important than this, we share the same Jesus who gave us the gift. Our Saviour. Let’s not ever let writing or publishing become something we feel we must do, something that is a burden, a scramble to the top, a battle against others who are already there.



If you are tired or discouraged, come to Jesus.

Let’s remember the one thing that is needed – knowing Jesus. To worship Him, delight in Him and depend on Him. To know and love Him as we rest in complete confidence at His feet.

All else will flow from that.

It will be something of infinite value, beyond what you could ever do on your own.

And you will find true peace and rest.

In Jesus.


Prayer:

Lord, you know our hearts. You know our dreams. Each one of us here has struggled. It’s not easy being a writer, there are so many demands placed on us. Lord Jesus, we come to you today, to rest at your feet; to look to you for inspiration, for your plans for us. We don’t choose fame, or money, or a name for ourselves. We choose to come to you and rest in you. We choose you. Above all else.

We love you Jesus.


Amen.



Jenny Glazebrook lives in the country town of Gundagai with her husband, Rob and 4 children along with many pets. She is the published author of 7 novels, 1 traditionally published, and 6 self published. She has another novel due for release on 7th December this year. She writes because words burn within her. She is an experienced inspirational speaker and a chaplain for the Omega Writers' Conference. She loves to encourage others to walk closer with God and hear His voice each day. 
Jenny’s website is: www.jennyglazebrook.com