Thursday, 22 April 2021

Behind the Scenes: Down by the Water by Jo-Anne Berthelsen


Today we go 'behind the scenes' as Jeanette (Jenny) O'Hagan interviews Jo-Anne Berthelsen.

Jenny: Congratulations on your new release. What inspired you to write Down by the Water?

Jo-Anne: I often wonder what my maternal grandparents would think about being a large part of the inspiration behind my latest novel, if they were still alive! Down by the Water is set in the early 1900s in various places in south-east Queensland where my grandparents lived. It follows the journey of Meg Porter, whose plans to study art are cut short when a family tragedy occurs. 

I kept my grandparents’ photo in view on my desk to inspire me as I wrote this novel, but it was my own memories of them—their personalities, mannerisms and even the sound of their voices—and also the things my mother and they told me about their lives that helped me shape Meg’s story and add more colour, depth and authenticity to the novel.

But beyond that, I had what I hope was a God-inspired, deep desire to write a novel that would highlight some key themes I believe are so important for us all such as experiencing God’s love and grace, giving and receiving forgiveness, dealing with guilt, coping with grief and using our God-given gifts to build others up. I wanted to highlight too how God calls us and draws us closer in different ways, according to our own unique personalities and temperaments. The more creative, artistic people may come to faith in God in an entirely different way from the more rational and intellectual among us, but their experience of God is real and valid too.

Jenny: It sounds like a treasure trove of family history-inspired story telling and spiritual insight. Fill us in more about the book. Does it fit in with your previous fiction titles or is it stand alone?

Jo-Anne: Down by the Water is a stand-alone novel, although it may end up with another to stand with or alongside it eventually—we’ll see! After I wrote my first novel, Heléna, back in 2004, I vowed and declared I would never write another historical novel because it adds another whole layer of complexity to the writing journey, with so many facts needing to be researched and verified. But then the idea for Down by the Water began to emerge—and soon I was hooked. As it turned out, I loved delving more into the history of Brisbane in particular, where I myself grew up, and also that of towns such as Helidon, Rosewood and Harrisville, where my grandparents lived.

Jenny: Having adopted the city as home since my Uni days, I love books and shows set in Brisbane. Something to look forward to :) What do you enjoy most about writing fiction?

I love the freedom of being able to create my own story and my own little world, so to speak, bringing my characters to life and giving them a voice. So often as I write a novel, I sense God right there beside me, almost whispering in my ear and enabling me to listen to where the story seems to want to go. And that can be such a fulfilling, rewarding experience.

Also, while I love writing non-fiction, I have found I can get away with sharing concepts or challenges in novels that could well be harder for people to consider or accept in a non-fiction work. For example, as one of my characters grapples with forgiving someone, I can show what forgiveness involves and how it can impact our lives so much, hopefully without sounding too ‘preachy’, rather than merely explain about forgiveness to my readers. And that gives me great joy.

Jesus’ own words about why he used parables—or stories—when he taught encourage me too in this regard:

The disciples came and asked, “Why do you tell stories?”

He replied, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn’t been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories; to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they’re blue in the face and not get it. Matthew 13:10-13 (The Message)

Jenny: You have written some memoir/non-fiction books. What motivated you to write Soul Friend and Becoming Me?

Jo-Anne: I loved writing Soul Friend because I wanted to inspire others not only to seek out someone to be their spiritual friend or mentor but also to encourage them to be a spiritual friend to someone else. Soul Friend is a personal and quite intimate account of my own journey with my lovely, wise soul friend Joy and the warm, life-giving relationship that developed between us during our fifteen years of meeting together. I wanted to share my struggles with self-doubt and the challenges I faced in this period of my life openly from the heart, so readers could identify with my journey and see the value of having someone help them deal with such issues. I used to call Joy my lifesaver often. Above all, she truly believed in me and encouraged me to become all God had called me to be as a woman in ministry, then as a writer—and this helped me so much.

Then a few years after writing Soul Friend, I sensed God prompting me to write another memoir that would look at my whole life rather than only part of it—and eventually Becoming Me: Finding my true self in God was published. I chose the image of the Russian dolls for the cover to convey how God can gradually remove those things in our lives that restrict us, until we are free to become more of the person God created us to be. And I decided to include questions at the end of each chapter to encourage readers to undertake their own journey of allowing God to remove these layers, as they too experience God’s deep love and grace and wonderful acceptance.

Jenny: You've touched a bit on this already, but how does writing fiction differ from writing non-fiction?

For me, writing fiction is a lot harder and more time-consuming than writing non-fiction, for a start! I think both my non-fiction books took around eight months to complete the first draft, whereas each of my novels has taken at least a year and often much longer, as in the case of Down by the Water, which took around four years.

I remember once how relieved I felt when switching from writing a novel to a non-fiction book. Now I could simply state the truth and get straight to the point. Now I did not have to think about how to build my story or how to develop my characters or how to keep that tension going until the last page. Yet in writing memoir, such things still need to be taken into account to some degree at least. But I cannot let my mind roam free and invent facts about my life or someone is bound to let me know! And I cannot invent anything about my inner journey with God either, as I am accountable to God, I believe, to write with integrity. And the same applies when I write my weekly blogs (see

In writing fiction, in a sense everything I write still has to be ‘true’, in that it needs to present God and those deep spiritual themes I love including in my novels to my readers as best and as truthfully as I can. Yet now I can let my imagination soar. Now I can allow my characters to grapple with these truths in all sorts of ways. Now I can weave a story that will hopefully draw my reader in so that they not only enjoy the story for itself but also are gently drawn closer to God in the process.

So much more I could say here—but perhaps that should be my next book?!

Jenny:  That sounds like a great subject for your next book. :) Do you have any plans for further books? If so, what are they?

Currently, I am considering exploring the journey of one of the other characters in Down by the Water, rather than writing a sequel that continues Meg’s story, which was my original plan. But more and more, I am thinking what fun it might be to write something quite different—perhaps a novel set in a retirement village far, far away from the one in which we live?! Alternately, I have been thinking of reworking some of the over six hundred blogs I have written and shaping them into some sort of themed collection of devotionals. So many possibilities!

 Jenny: Indeed! And some great possibilities for future books. Thanks you, Jo-Anne, for taking the time to share about your books and experiences.


Jo-Anne Berthelsen is a Sydney-based author of seven published novels and two non-fiction works, Soul Friend and Becoming Me. She holds degrees in Arts and Theology and has worked in teaching, editing and local church ministry. Jo-Anne loves encouraging others through both the written and spoken word and is a keen blogger.

Monday, 19 April 2021

The CALEB Awards | Christian Authors Lifting Each other's Books


2010 CALEB finalists

Today's post is from Meredith Resce, Author and Publisher, and member of the Omega Writers Management Committee.

Back in 2010, I entered the CALEB awards for the first time. I even flew to Queensland for the gala dinner that, at that time, was a completely separate event to the Omega Conference. I was a finalist in the fiction category along with my good writing friends, Paula Vince, Amanda Deed and Mary Hawkins.

It was great to be with other writers celebrating writing achievements. That year, Amanda Deed won the award with her debut novel ‘The Game’.

From that time to this, CALEB has grown through some learning times, and some times when we didn’t know if the award would continue. But there has always been a handful of people who believe in the concept: Christian Authors Lifting up Each other’s Books.


2011 CALEB Finalists

The Omega Writers’ Management Committee strongly believe in the concept of encouragement and celebration. It is true you might win money with other competitions. It is also true that other competitions have a greater reach. But the central concept of CALEB awards is that we recognise other Australasian Christian authors, and celebrate achievements.

We have traditionally featured many Christian fiction works, which is a category that doesn’t receive much recognition in other Australian Christian writing awards. There are many fine Christian fiction authors in our networks.

There has also been a plethora of Children’s picture books published and celebrated in CALEB. These books have been a credit to the small publishing groups that work hard to produce and market these works.

Young adult fiction has been an emerging group in Australasian Christian writing, and I personally have noted the quality of books that have come through in this category. I’m looking forward to reading more.

Non-fiction has also been a feature in our awards, some fine biographies, memoirs, devotionals and inspirational works.

If you have a work published in 2019 or 2020 I encourage you to enter it into our CALEB awards. Your entry not only encourages you, it encourages us. It is a testament to Australian and New Zealand authors at work. We see you. We appreciate you. We celebrate your work.

I look forward to seeing your work soon.

Oh, and by the way, we do have a prize to the value of $400 for each category.

Entries for this years’ CALEB awards have been extended, and now close on 30 April 30 2021.

Click here to find out more and enter.

Thursday, 15 April 2021

Blitzing Blurbs

 by Jeanette O'Hagan

Blurbs, book descriptions, pitches - the art of summarising our carefully crafted novel with all its intricacies, amazing characters and subplots into a few hundred words or less. Easy? Right? Right!

There is a reason authors hate blurbs. It's like squeezing a unicorn into a matchbox. Impossible.

But, here's the thing. Authors need to learn how to write them - whether it's adding a book description on the back cover or the selling page of our ebooks or as a pitch to publishers and agents.  

Having written, edited, rewritten and reedited Rasel's Song, the second book in the Akrad's Legacy series, revealed the cover and set up the pre-order - I really need to get my book description nailed down. Not an easy task for the books in my novella series, but even less so for an epic fantasy novel with an intricate plot, an army of characters and four main point-of-view characters. 

I'm also currently taking Bryan Cohen's ad course, getting ready to go to Supernova this weekend with Rendered Realms and part of the committee putting together the details of the Omega Writers Book Fair (Brisbane) on 31 July (more about in a later post). 

Here's my first attempt:

Rasel of the Forest Folk is intrigued by the warrior Tamrin and their dashing young prince, Mannok, despite the tragic and deadly events of the past.
Pressure is mounting for Prince Mannok to marry for the sake of the realm, but following the banishment of his half-sister Ista, he is in no hurry to comply. That is, until he meets a mysterious stranger.
Meanwhile, Dinnis finds the would-be assassins of the Kapok dead in their prison cells, hours after the young men intimate that someone else was behind the plot to destabilise the throne. 
Will Rasel's curiosity spark new possibilities of peace between two opposing peoples or result in further tragedy? Will Prince's Mannok's choices bring stability or chaos to Tamra. Will Dinnis be able to uncover the mastermind behind the assassination attempts before someone else dies?

Hmm ... well, I asked the Omega Writers Sci-Fi and Fantasy group for some feedback and they made some great suggestions, putting more tension and higher stakes at the beginning, adding a tagline, maybe reading Bryan Cohen's How to Write a Sizzling Synopsis

And if fact, I had already fired up my kindle to read that exact same book. Byran makes some great points and makes the process seem easy.  Here are some of take-home messages I discovered. 

1. The purpose of a blurb (Bryan calls it a synopsis), is NOT to summarise the plot. It is to entice the reader to buy the book (or the publisher to ask for the full manuscript). This means it needs to be streamlined and easy to understand. In other words, leave out convoluted detail, explanations or subplots. Don't mention too many characters. Be succinct as possible. 

2. The way to engage the reader is to tap into the characters emotions and motivations. What does the main character (or characters) want? What is in the way of their achieving this? What stakes are involved? 

3.  Every sentence should count. The very first sentence should hook the reader's interest. Each sentence should flow into the next. The stakes should ramp up. And end with a bang - on a cliff-hanger. 

Bryan gives some other pointers about making each word count and also some formulas to follow. His book is definitely worth reading. 

Of course, theory is one thing. Putting it into practice is another. 

To be honest, I'm still working on what to include and what to leave out, but here's my latest attempt (hopefully an improvement):. 

A rebellious prince, a mysterious stranger, a realm in turmoil. 

Prince Mannok fumes at his royal parents for exiling his half-sister. He rejects all their suggestions of a suitable bride, even though he knows securing the succession is vital to the stability of Tamra.

Rasel is a young shapeshifter inpatient with the warnings of her elders about the warrior Tamrin and their past betrayals. She longs to restore peace between them so her Kin no longer need to live in the shadows.

When would-be assassins are discovered poisoned in the palace cells, Prince Mannok and his friends face increasing danger. Rasel’s arrival in Tarka causes further turmoil, misunderstandings and peril.

Will Mannok and Rasel bring peace or more conflict to Tamra? Will the elusive assassin be unmasked before someone else dies and the realm put in jeopardy?
Rasel’s Song is the exciting second book in the kingdom fantasy, the Akrad’s Legacy series.  Now available at reduced pre-order price here


I've left Dinnis out of this second version (but - rest assured for any Dinnis fans, not out of the book)  and attempted to add more emotion and tension into the blurb. I'll keep tinkering.

Do you have any tips or suggestions with writing blurbs?

BTW I'll be with Lynne Stringer and Adele Jones at the Gold Coast Supernova this weekend - so if you're able, come drop by the Rendered Realms Stand and say hello :) 

Jeanette O'Hagan has spun tales in the world of Nardva from the age of eight. She enjoys writing fantasy, sci-fi, poetry, and editing. Her Nardvan stories span continents, millennia and cultures. Some involve shapeshifters and magic. Others include space stations and cyborgs. She has published over forty stories and poems, including the Under the Mountain Series (5 books), Ruhanna's Flight and Other Stories, Akrad's Children and Rasel's Song (now available on preorder). Jeanette lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.

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Monday, 12 April 2021

Do We Write on Human Hearts?

 Many of us would be familiar with Exodus 31 and 32 where the Bible talks of the Ten Commandments being inscribed on tablets of stone, by the finger of God. Exodus 32:16 tells us that "the tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets". The purpose of the commandments was to bring life as the Israelites were challenged about their obedience to God.

Image by Jondolar Schnurr, Pixabay

Who else wants their words, their writing to challenge, inspire and bring life, just as God's words do?

 Who else wants their writing to be an extension of who they are, just as God's words are?

2 Corinthians 3:3 tells us that " are a letter from Christ...written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on human hearts". 

Image by Daria Nepriakhina, Pixabay

My desire is that my writing and my life draw others to Christ. 

We all have our own unique styles of writing and are interested in varying genres but the one thing we have in common is that we are Christian writers. Whether we write non-fiction, fantasy, mystery, historical, romance etc our writing leaves a permanent record as do our lives. 

1 Corinthians 10:31 tell us to "do all for the glory of God...not to cause anyone to stumble...not to seek our own good but the good of many so that they may be saved". 

May this be our catch cry as we write.  

Janelle Moore lives in Toowoomba with her family and is a member of the infamous Quirky Quills. She is passionate about the Playgroup she leads, aqua aerobics and mosaicking. 

Monday, 5 April 2021

Words that Build

I’ve often marvelled at what we can create with 26 letters. By combining these little symbols, we can write books, encourage others, set legal agreements in place and convey love and admiration. Conversely, we can also use sets of letters to hurt, pull down and destroy relationships and trust. 

James 3:5 warns us of the dangers of our tongue and the words we speak. “Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” (NIV)

In some ways, written words can be more powerful than spoken words. Have you ever received a note or report than has left you devastated, a criticism from a teacher or friend, or just a nasty message from someone who doesn’t like you? Those little combinations of words have the potential to ruin lives and having them written down makes the damage greater. We tend to go back to them and read them over and over.

As writers, we should measure our words, assess them and see if they match God’s standards. Would the Lord be happy with the way we construct our stories and articles? Do they inspire, educate and help or do they put down minorities, poke fun at people and use vulgar language? Do we use our words to write positive notes to others and spread hope?

I encourage you today to think of the words that pass your lips and also those that flow through your fingertips to your laptop. With writing, we have the advantage of being able to edit what we’ve written and change words before the readers view them. When we write a paragraph and leave it for a while, we often see errors when we go back to it. Let’s make a decision today to think before we speak and adjust our thoughts before they spill out unedited and cause pain to those around us.

Thursday, 1 April 2021

The fine art of being a fool


For a blog due on April Fools’ Day, how could my mind not turn to some interesting occasions in my writing journey when I have felt so foolish and so far out of my comfort zone? Perhaps you can recall similar times too when all you wanted to do was run away and hide. Yet, as I look back, I’m glad I experienced these challenging situations, because I learnt so much in the process.

I have always thought being an author is one of the most humbling, vulnerable occupations ever. We know we cannot please everyone, yet when those honest but critical editorial comments arrive, we often feel like curling up in a ball in a corner, don’t we? And when we are finally published, then comes the challenge of book promotion. And that can leave us feeling even more foolish, depending on what ventures we tackle.

Soon after my first novel was released, I remember sitting at a writers’ centre book fair behind a table on which I had placed a hopeful number of those lovely, new copies I was so proud of. Beside me was another author with his pile of books. And beside him was another … and another … and another. We looked at one another’s books—and waited for those hordes of interested readers who never came. In the end, after buying my neighbour’s book and selling him mine, we all slunk off home, feeling more than a little foolish.

On another occasion, I sat at my book table in the hot sun for hours at a church fete where no one much turned up—and certainly no one interested in buying books. That day, I went home feeling both foolish and exhausted, vowing never to do anything like that again.

Then there have been those customers at in-store book signings who, when offered a free promotional bookmark, have looked at me as if I were some weird, alien being and bluntly rejected me. And I remember others too who, when I have shown them one of my novels, have turned their noses up and said in a disparaging tone, ‘Oh, I don’t read novels!’

I could go on.

So … what have I learnt through such experiences? I have learnt perseverance. I have learnt patience. I have learnt not to take things too personally. I have learnt to smile and hopefully not judge others so readily. But above all, I have learnt to ask God for the strength I need to tackle such situations. So earlier this year, when faced with the daunting challenge of holding a Facebook Live book launch for my latest novel, Down by the Water, I decided I would try it. After all, what was the worst that could happen? Only that I would look and sound a fool! Besides, there were some decided advantages to an online launch—and perhaps God might be able to use it in ways I could never have imagined. And that is what happened, despite the poor sound quality on the day and despite my not knowing what I was doing.

I’m so glad we have a powerful, loving God who knows our foolish ways and our weaknesses, yet still chooses to speak through those words we write, aren’t you? See 1 Corinthians 1:27-29!

Sunday, 28 March 2021

EAT MY WORDS by Ruth Bonetti

'A verbose writer in need of a good edit.'

So I have described myself. I'm grateful that editors and beta readers amongst this group have rescued me from indulgent door-stopper tomes.

What if, even after thorough editing, we discover that concepts and attributions of an earlier book were misguided? False, even? Pulp the print run? 

May be an image of 1 person
My concepts of my grandfather were filtered by my father’s life experience as an overlooked middle son. Even written into book two of my Midnight Sun to Southern Cross trilogy.

Older cousins revered Grandad as a shining light, who could do no wrong in their sight. Innovative, an indefatigable worker, a sharp eye for opportunity.

Yet, I viewed a hard-nosed business man who wrote cutting letters to Dad that I quoted–in my innocence–and indeed adopted as an inner vow. I allowed words directed to my father–rather than to myself–to reinforce insecurities about my own God-given talents.

Grandad’s missives to Dad chastised him for an idealism similar to that of his black sheep uncle Karl Johan 'KJ.' In these, Grandad expressed his forcible view that only a realist could succeed and be happy. Witness the damage wreaked by idealists like Hitler, Mussolini and Peter. 

A week before my birth, one such epistle arrived that stated that ‘the idealist pictures things as he would like them to be, but he can never achieve it, or come any way near his desire.’ 

In print, I wondered if Grandad ('WA') would dismiss my careers of musician and author as fanciful, too. 'Don’t I have a duty to use my gifts, Granddad?' 

I imagined he said:
You have been blessed with nice talents, yes, but God has given you children to raise, to feed and educate

Yet Grandad had expressed pride in my achievements as a musician. I discovered recently, while researching Book 3 The Art Deco Mansion in St Lucia; What drove the man who built it? 

I wish he had told me! I so needed affirmation. 

Move on

After publishing that second book, I shut the door on Finland heritage. When a cousin offered yet more letters, I surprised him with 'No thanks, I’m over family history.'

Gulp. I ate those words.

A new book could focus on Grandad’s part in developing St Lucia Coronation Park Estate and the Art Deco mansion he built. 

I couldn’t just regurgitate the same words from the last book, this needed new material. That wish was granted by Kay Maxwell, who first met Grandad as a week-old baby in hospital. 

A forward thinker

Kay's memories enlarged and revised my own.  Grandad was a well-rounded, cultured man, a patron of the arts. He sponsored his violinist niece to study in Holland, corresponded with luminaries like Doris Lessing. WA was forward thinking to embrace women in the workforce. In the 60s, married women had to resign. Rather than lose his esteemed PA, Kay's mother, Grandad set up an office in their home so she could continue working for him. He worked hard to provide for the family he loved. 

Child Ruth at far right observes family dynamics. This next book has added fresh insights to my family saga. I am grateful that I was prompted to explore these. 

Judge not. Forgive them for we know not...what they really think or believe.

May the words of my mouth and through my fingers pecking at the keyboard, the meditation and inner convictions of my spirit be acceptable to you, Lord.

Life is a journey. Writing propels us forward on that path. 

What words have you revised to edited along your way forward?

Methinks this is why we write?

What words have held you back in your life / writing journey?

The best of us must sometimes eat our words.
JK Rowling

What's in a number? 

Closer research reveals errors of dates. Whose voice is valid? Grandad's niece wrote in her memoir that WA arrived in Australia in January 1902. WA compounded this by giving that date on his naturalisation certificate. How could one mistake such an important date? In an interview for a Finnish magazine he gave his wedding date as 1907, not 1908.

My fortes are Words and Music, not numbers.

WA, and even more so his brother KJ, covered tracks in case pursued to the other side of the world by Russian spies. Sounds paranoid? Not surprising if you’ve lived under a Russian regime around 1900. If you were pursued to Suez Canal by Russian military police, as was his brother KJ.

My great grandfather was known as 'Kyrk Back', which translates as Church Hill. Because he lived on the hill near the church, and he was a church warden. As was his son after him but in Australia, in Mullumbimby and in St. Lucia.

WA ate his words in some of his many letters.

I relate to letters from KJ, self-published author, dreamer, philosopher and creative. Grandad wrote about wool clips, droughts and blow flies. Closer inspection shows much wider scope.

We must keep open minds rather that miss essential truths. 

ABOUT Ruth Bonetti
Child Ruth wrote florid essays, a play about Midas called Too Much Gold! and edited a newsletter. After releasing The Art Deco Mansion in St Lucia (late April/May) she looks forward to the freedom of writing fiction after a decade of family heritage/ biography/memoir. 

Order your early bird pre-pub special until April 2, the anniversary of Grandad's death in 1974.

Thursday, 25 March 2021

CWD Highlights - January to March 2021


Christian Writers Downunder is a diverse group of writers, editors, bloggers, illustrators. As a group we support each other through our Facebook page and blog.

Today's blog will highlight some of the achievements of our members from January to March 2021

Awards and Recommendations

Elizabeth Klein

Elizabeth Klein's The Gryphon Key won the ‘Recommended Reads’ Award for 2021 from Author Shout on March 1st, 2021.

Kathy Hoopmann

Kathy Hoopmann's All Cats are on the Autism Spectrum (Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2020) tops The Independent list for World Autism Awareness best books to read!

All Cats Are on the Autism Spectrum is our best buy; it has a universal appeal, is useful as a social story tool, and is a feel-good read."

Touching, humorous and insightful, this book evokes all the joys and challenges of being on the autism spectrum


Kathy has written over twenty books for children and adults, with translations into nineteen languages and is best known for her photo illustrated books dealing with Asperger Syndrome, ADHD and anxiety.

New Releases and Cover Reveals

Jo-Anne Berthelsen

Jo-Anne Berthelsen launched her latest novel, Down by the Water, via Facebook Live in January. The novel is set in south-east Queensland in the early 1900s and follows Meg Porter’s journey, as she deals with the past and comes to understand God’s love and grace, after a family tragedy cuts short her plans to study art. 

For more information or purchase check out

Jo-Anne Berthelsen is a Sydney-based author of seven novels and two non-fiction books, Soul Friend and Becoming Me, has worked in teaching, editing and church ministry and loves encouraging others through both the written and spoken word.

Elizabeth Klein

Elizabeth Klein has released her last book in the Bethloria series called Oracle of the Dragon Book 7 on 22nd January.


Blurb: With insurmountable odds stacked against them, the trio attempt to fulfil ancient prophecies and release Bethloria and Galfane from Morgran’s evil grip. But all hope seems lost when Morgran captures Dougray, and Belle and Robbie are under siege. This powerful, fast-paced fantasy series will leave you aching for more.

Buy Link:

She has also released the second edition of The Gryphon Key with new cover on 16th February.

Blurb: For the traumatised mind of 17-year-old Cody Prince, Spells Meadow becomes a mystifying, alternate reality with disturbing outcomes after he discovers a mysterious key. If you love Neil Gaiman’s amazing fantasy worlds, you’ll enjoy Spells Meadow, a place with a twisted past and a bizarre future.

Buy Link:

In 2015, Elizabeth and her husband left Sydney and now travel in a caravan full time. Besides having written many short stories, articles, plays and poems, she’s also authored YA and junior fiction books, as well as educational books.

Other News

Hazel Barker Interview 

In January, local celebrity Michelle Worthington interviewed Hazel Barker on her latest book, Count Your Blessings. Colin's Story (Armour Books)

Count Your Blessings. Colin's Story is the memoir of a young Aussie battler who struggles to fulfill his dreams. His mother has mood swings, and his school mates bully him. The Depression Years cast a shadow on his future, and his studies are cut short, but his plucky spirit carries him through one crisis after another and the unexpected turns up.

Hazel's two books, Heaven Tempers the Wind. The Story of a War Child & The Sides of Heaven have been Finalists in the CALEB Competitions of 2017 and 2019 respectively, and her short stories have won awards in competitions.

Check for details. Signed copies of Count Your Blessings: Colin's Story are available from the author for $20. Contact Hazel Barker at:

CALEB Awards 2021 now open

The 2021 CALEB Awards are open for entry in the following categories:

Adult fiction
Adult nonfiction
Young Adult fiction
Children's fiction (early reader and middle grade)
Children's picture books

The contest is open to books by Australian or New Zealand Christian authors, or Christian authors living in Australia or New Zealand. Entries must be written from a Christian world view i.e. they must be consistent with the Omega Writers Statement of Belief and not contain objectionable content (e.g. profanity, sexual situations, or excessive violence.)

The 2021 CALEB Awards are for books published in 2018, 2019, and 2020 (as determined by their copyright date), and which were not entered in the 2019 award (as some 2018 books were eligible to be entered in 2018). Books which have previously been entered in the Unpublished section of the CALEB Awards may be entered.

Entries are open from 15 March (today) to 20 April 2021. Read more here

Rendered Realms

Rendered Realms - consisting of Lynne Stringer, Adele Jones and Jeanette O'Hagan will have a table in Artist Alley at the  Supernova, Gold Coat - Saturday to Sunday, 17-18 April 2021. If you love all things fantasy and sci-fi, cosplay and great books & you plan to attend the con- we would love you to drop by, say hello and look at books, including some new releases.  

Omega Writers Book Fair (Brisbane) 2021

Omega Writers Book Fair (Brisbane) will be held on Saturday, 31 July 2021 at Hills Church, Queens Road, Everton Hills.  The Book Fair will have author stalls, workshops, book readings, and prizes. A great opportunity for Christian authors and readers in southeast Queensland to get together and celebrate books and writing. 

Mark you diaries - 31 July 2021

Congratulations to all our members for your milestones and achievements

Monday, 22 March 2021

Using Transformation to Create Riveting Stories by Nola Lorraine


We all love a good story, whether it’s Luke Skywalker defeating the forces of darkness or Elizabeth Bennett getting her man. However, we can sometimes wander off to the land of mesmerising metaphors or take a detour on the sidetrack of scintillating subplots before we’ve really come to grips with the essence of our story.

Sometimes we use the terms ‘plot’ and ‘story’ interchangeably, but they’re not the same. Good stories have transformation at their heart. Luke Skywalker realises his destiny as a Jedi knight. Elizabeth Bennett overcomes her prejudice. The plot helps us to show these transformations through a series of actions, circumstances, dialogue, revelations and more.

Entire books have been written on this topic, so I’ll only scratch the surface in this post. However, here are three authors whose methods have helped me to see ‘story’ with clearer eyes.

James Scott Bell’s ‘LOCK’ System

For James Scott Bell, the four components of the LOCK system make a good story.

  • L = Lead – A compelling lead character you can sympathise with. This doesn’t mean he/she is perfect. In fact, it’s better if you also incorporate some flaws. However, you need to care what happens to him/her.
  • O = Objective – The lead should be trying to get something or get away from something. This needs to be important enough that the reader will care about the protagonist’s journey towards his/her goal.
  • C = Confrontation – This could be conflict with other characters or it could be some outside force, such as an avalanche. In any case, it won’t be easy for your protagonist to reach his or her goals. We have to see him/her battling the obstacles.
  • K = Knockout ending – Is there a twist? A brilliant tying together of threads? Has the lead changed during the course of his/her journey?

For more information, please see the following book:

Bell, James Scott (2004). Plot and structure: Techniques and exercises for crafting a plot that grips readers from start to finish. Cincinnati, OH: Writer’s Digest Books.

Bell also offers an online course on ‘How to Write Best-Selling Fiction’. 


Lisa Cron – Story Genius

For Lisa Cron, the story is about the protagonist’s journey.


  • What is your main character’s misbelief?
  • Dig deep to find the roots of their misbelief.
  • What situation are they going to be thrown into that will challenge their misbelief?
  • How do they change over the course of the story?

These questions need to be answered before you start plotting. First work out what the character is going to learn over the course of the novel, and then work out what plot will allow them to learn that lesson.

I’ve written another post that fleshes this out a bit more and you can read it here.

You can also find out more in the following book:

Cron, Lisa (2016). Story genius: How to use brain science to go beyond outlining and write a riveting novel. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press.

I also highly recommend her course on called ‘Wired for story: How to become a story genius’.


Jessica Brody – Save the Cat Method

Jessica Brody also sees transformation as key. Give the lead character a problem, a want, or a need. The plot is about fixing the problem or striving towards the ‘want’ or ‘need’. Obstacles are thrown at them, and they often learn lessons along the way that they didn’t expect. The plot shows the protagonist’s inner journey as they learn the life lesson they need to learn.

Once you have the main problem that needs to be fixed, you can start structuring a plot that helps the protagonist learn that lesson.

Using the ‘Save the Cat’ method popularised by screenwriter Blake Snyder, Brody shows how you can structure your novel using 15 beats, from opening image to catalyst to dark night of the soul to a brilliant final image. It’s beyond the scope of this blog to explain all of the beats, but you can find a full explanation and lots of examples in her book:

Brody, Jessica. (2018). Save the cat! writes a novel: The last book on novel writing you’ll ever need. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press.

Also see her online course on called ‘Writing a bestselling novel in 15 steps’.

Summary of the Techniques

Although these three writers approach plot in different ways, they all emphasise the importance of the lead character’s change over the course of the story. The plot isn’t just a bunch of things that happen, no matter how interesting or exciting. The plot allows you to show what your lead character has to learn over the course of the novel. Every scene needs to advance that story in some way.

A Few Comments about Transformation in Christian Stories

In the past, a recurring theme in 'Christian' novels was that one of the non-believers would become a Christian by the end of the book. That still happens in some novels, of course, and there's nothing wrong with that. However, just be careful to show well-rounded characters with real struggles. It's seldom as straightforward as one person sharing a gospel message and the other 'praying the prayer'. 

Also, Christians can go through the whole gamut of issues, problems and struggles that others go through. It's not always about someone being saved. I remember a dear old gentleman who came along to a missions talk one of my friends gave once. Afterwards, he expressed disappointment that she hadn't given a clear message about what her life was like before she met Christ and what it was like after. He came with very clear expectations, but that wasn't the purpose of her talk. She wasn't giving a personal testimony; she was talking about the mission trip she'd been on. But even if she had been giving a testimony, did it have to include a salvation message? It would have been equally valid for her to talk about one issue God had helped her work through. I think the same is true in fiction. Transformation can take many shapes.

In my historical novel Scattered, for example, my protagonist Maggie has abandonment issues and she needs to learn that God is the one person who will never leave her regardless of what other circumstances come her way. 

What examples of transformation have you seen in some of your favourite novels? I'd love to hear your examples.

Author Bio

Nola Lorraine has a passion for faith and social justice issues, and loves weaving words that inspire others with courage and hope. Her inspirational historical novel Scattered was released in October 2020. She also co-edited the Christian charity anthology Glimpses of Light; and has more than 150 short publications, including fiction, poetry, devotions, true stories, magazine articles and academic papers. She and her husband Tim run a freelance writing and editing business, The Write Flourish, from the home they share with their two adorable cavoodles in southeast Queensland, Australia. 

She would love to connect with you through her website:

You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

You can purchase Nola's novel 'Scattered' through Amazon, Koorong, and Breath of Fresh Air Press.

N.B. Featured photo by Tumisu on Pixabay. Free for commercial use.


Thursday, 18 March 2021

Which Path Will You Choose?

Who read adventure books as a kid where you chose your own path and changed the story? Ever read a book and wished the author had gone in  a different direction? And what about that old man sitting on the side of the road who told the protagonist to go left at the intersection instead of right, what’s his story? If these are things you think about when reading a story or writing your own, maybe you need a different outlet.

Aristotle defined storytelling as an imitation of an action … with incidents of pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish its catharsis of such emotions, and paved the way for story structure for novels and even the movies industry.

Now it’s the gaming industry’s turn.

If you love reading stories and watching movies, maybe this is the perfect time to have a look at taking up your son, daughter, niece or nephew’s Xbox or Playstation controller.

Game designers have had to think outside the box because of the countless intricacies and uncertainties associated with game timeline. For example, players can take infinite variables in time to complete a game. Players lacking skill or the game difficulty is too high can halt their progress. Level or quest based games having numerous tasks and puzzles can pull the attention of the player in conflicting directions; and non-linear games allow player’s to take control of the path and pacing of the story.

Skyrim, a game from the Elder Scrolls series, allows you to move throughout the world and discover different locations, people and stories. The main storyline is linear like a novel, however you have the ability to explore the Skyrim world and experience other storylines before returning to the main story whenever you wish.

Life is Strange, is an episodic graphic adventure game, which was released as five episodes periodically throughout 2015. This video game uses a branching narrative model and completely revolves around the choices made by you. These choices affect the outcome of the game and can produce a variety of endings. Imagine trying to write a hundred different choices, obstacles and endings. Now that’s a challenge.

Narrative has evolved so much in the last few decades of video games. Ga
me developers like those who created Skyrim and Life is Strange, even the action adventure game, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, have brought the complexities and emotional, real-life decision making into gameplay through storytelling and narrative.

These modern games encourage interaction from you, giving you choices that have real consequences and allowing you to make your own story based on the decisions you make. Narrative is becoming more elaborate in video games and an increasingly popular way of expressing stories. If you love writing, creating worlds and characters, maybe this could be a new outlet for yourself.

I’ve always thought a movie based on one of my novels would be cool, but a game? Now that would be epic!

K.A. Hart is a born and bred Territorian who moved to Queensland and had no choice but to stay after her assimilation into Toowoomba's infamous, collective known as Quirky Quills.

Since then, K.A. Hart has had two short stories published. Stone Bearer appears in Glimpses of Light and Tedious Tresses, in the As Time Goes By anthology. She is currently working on a fantasy novel.

Monday, 15 March 2021

Omega Writers Update | 2021 CALEB Awards Open for Entry


The 2021 CALEB Awards are open for entry in the following categories:

  • Adult fiction
  • Adult nonfiction
  • Young Adult fiction
  • Children's fiction (early reader and middle grade)
  • Children's picture books

The contest is open to books by Australian or New Zealand Christian authors, or Christian authors living in Australia or New Zealand. Entrants must confirm they agree with the Omega Writers Statement of Belief.

Entries must be written from a Christian world view i.e. they must be consistent with the Omega Writers Statement of Belief and not contain objectionable content (e.g. profanity, sexual situations, or excessive violence.)

The 2021 CALEB Awards are for books published in 2018, 2019, and 2020 (as determined by their copyright date), and which were not entered in the 2019 award (as some 2018 books were eligible to be entered in 2018). Books which have previously been entered in the Unpublished section of the CALEB Awards may be entered.

Entry Fee

The entry fees are:

  • AUD 40 per entry for members of Omega Writers.
  • AUD 70 per entry for non-members (click here to join Omega Writers, then get the membership rate once your membership has been confirmed).

Members, you will receive an email advising you of the discount code.

Proceeds from the CALEB Award will support the Omega Writers Conference scholarship fund.

Entries are open from 15 March (today) to 20 April 2021.


The winner in each category will receive an engraved trophy plus publishing services to the value of AUD 400 from one of our sponsors:

  • Adult Fiction: Editing services from Iola Goulton at Christian Editing Services
  • Adult Nonfiction: Cover design for paperback and ebook from Lisa Renee at The Collaborative Press
  • Young Adult Fiction: Editing services from Nola Passmore at The Write Flourish
  • Children's fiction (Early Reader and Middle Grade): TBC
  • Children's Picture Books: TBC

Entries close on 30 April.

Interested in Judging?

Thank you to everyone who has volunteered to judge the 2021 CALEB Awards. We are still accepting volunteers.

If you're interested:

Monday, 8 March 2021

Overflow of the Wine Glass of Life


My writing is an overflow of the wine glass of my life.
C. JoyBell C.


We’re often advised to write what we know, however, it could be said that we should write out of what we live


Creativity is birthed in life. 


In spirit. 


In adventure. 


In learning. 


In experiences. 


In relationships. 


In God. 


When I think of the overflow of the wine glass of my life, words like abundance, plenty, bounty, abundance, expansive, and spacious all create images of more than enough. 


The phrase, ‘the overflow of the wine glass of my life’ resonates with my soul. 


The oft-quoted Psalm 23 says, ‘My cup runneth over’ and we use that phrase when we are blessed beyond measure. 


 A phrase taken from The Message, makes me think of a life that is lived beyond the borders of restriction. 

‘I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life.’

My life is full to overflowing but there are questions: 

Is my writing from the overflow of my life? 

Is my life so full that it overflows into my writing? 

Is my life full of the right things? 

 How do we go from just enough to overflow? 


There’s a paradox in that the more you give, the more you receive. In creativity, the more time we give to living, really living, the more we receive a creative spark. Cultivating a creative lifestyle that draws on an abundant life is a challenge for writers. 

That's why Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way suggests we go on artist dates. An artist date is a way to devote time to your creative self. It should be done soloIt may be walking through a stationery store or visiting a museum—anything you find creative and enjoyable.

Ideally, an artist date is best done once a week, but aiming for at least once a month is an ideal way to begin. 

    We don't need to travel the world or have a lot of money to live an abundant life. Living with this mentality is an overflow of faith and a commitment to our craft. So, simply living and enjoying Creation, going for a walk in the bush, swimming in the ocean, or walking around an art gallery can inject something positive into our lives. 

    Filling up our spirits, topping up our creativity, and spending quality time with people can all fill our cups. When our cups are full, they overflow to help others, and hopefully into our writing. 

    I am very fortunate. I spend my life travelling (pandemics aside!), learning, mentoring, loving my family, and, every now and then, when I sit back and toast my life, I realise my life is full to overflowing.

I want a life that is like an overflowing glass of wine. I want a soul that overflows from the goodness of God. 


I want a life where creativity flows like fine wine at a wedding.  I want my writing to come from that overflowing. 

Where does your writing flow from? 

        Do you write out of the overflow of your life? Do you write to live or live to write? Do you try and write what you know or do you write out of what you live?

Elaine Fraser

Find out more about Elaine here