Monday, 30 July 2012

I'll huff and I'll puff...

On the 10th June my house was destroyed by a freak mini-tornado. 

Ceilings collapsed under the weight of water

Our roof ended up as a striking garden fixture in the front driveway.

Electricity was no longer supplied, which made cooking a tad interesting. Yay for bbq's!

And while this has been a devastating experience and our home won't be fixed until after Christmas, I wanted to share with you some lessons I learned. Lessons I promise I will never do, or say, again.

The first one is...I will never use the words; 'If there's anything you I can do to help...just let me know.' I realise now that those words make the person who uttered them feel better, they do nothing for the one who has experienced an awful event. Dozens of people have spoken those very words to us, but only four or five have put those words to action. Our human nature is such that we won't seek people out for help, we'll do our best to soldier on by ourselves, regardless of the tears or feelings of hopelessness that may arise.

Love is action not vain words.

The second is...'At least you weren't hurt.' No, we weren't hurt physically, even though we dived through the bedroom door just as the roof went, even though the screen door was ripped off as we went through it, even though we stood and watched poles which support the verandah up lift of their stirrups and dangle like legs hanging over a jetty, even though we both died inside when, for a split-second, we thought our son was injured and couldn't find him. 

But we were hurt emotionally. Torn apart inside in a way that can't be explained. A hug or even a coffee says so much more.

The last and probably the most important lesson I learned is this...Never, EVER, uncover a bowl containing home-made chicken liver pate which has sat in a dead refrigerator for over a week. 

It will look and smell like the worst dog poo you can possibly imagine and will have you vomiting until your eyes and throat burn, your bladder gives way and you pray to be released from the torment.

I would also like to thank everyone for your prayers, thoughts and wishes. Without you, I couldn't have gone through this...still go through this....and come out the other end relatively sane.

From our family to yours...

Thank You. 


 Lee Franklin lives in a cottage smaller than most back-yard cubbies while her house is being repaired. Meanwhile the local wild life has moved into the house and is currently using it while the owners aren't. She's hoping they'll be vacating soon. 

Friday, 27 July 2012

Answering those curly questions

Over the past five years or so, I have had some interesting experiences, speaking and promoting my books. I love being invited to share in Christian settings, but I also enjoy talking about my writing journey at secular groups. In fact, part of me dislikes this division between ‘sacred’ and ‘secular’, to be honest. Whenever I speak at a ‘secular’ venue, I believe God is there and has even gone before me, preparing the way. I am always conscious of the setting and respectful of those who have invited me, but I also try to be myself, speaking honestly and listening for what God would want me to say. On most occasions, I get to mention God directly quite a few times. But even if that doesn’t happen as much as I might have wanted, I still try to be a faithful representative of God in that place and alert to the Spirit’s promptings.

And it’s at these secular venues that I am often asked the most interesting and intelligent questions. So many people want to write something, whether it be their own life story or poems that have touched family and friends or children’s stories they would like their grandchildren to enjoy. But even those who never plan to write anything are often curious about how an author goes about it all. They might love reading, but have never thought about what that author’s name on the cover represents and the potential ups and downs involved in it all. Many seem interested too in the nitty-gritty of preparing a book for publication and the actual process of finding a publisher. So when it comes to question time, I have to be prepared for anything!
The most common questions I am asked go something like this: When did you start writing? How long does it take you to write a novel? Where do you get your ideas from? Do you write something every day? Do you sometimes get ‘writers’ block’? Do you plan your book out before you start? What about self-publishing? How has the advent of the e-book affected the publishing industry? Are your books available in all the main bookstores? But perhaps the ones I find the trickiest to answer are to do with selling and money – questions like: How many books have you sold? What sort of print runs would your books have? Can you make a living out of it?

Hmmm!! When it comes to these questions, I try to be gracious – but then again, in our Western culture at least, does one usually ask a stranger how much money he or she makes in their business? The best response I have come up with so far is to tell them I am very thankful I am in the ‘black’ with my books and not in the ‘red’ – that I’m thankful I have so far avoided lots of boxes of unsold books under the bed or wherever they are stashed! But I also tell them it’s a good idea not to give up your day job! And even in the most secular setting, I usually say that, for me, it’s not all about the money. It’s about blessing others and making a difference in this world and about enjoying using the gifts God has given me to share with others.
How about you? Have you been asked curly questions like this? Have you found some good responses to use?

Jo-Anne Berthelsen lives in Sydney but grew up in Brisbane. She holds degrees in Arts and Theology and has worked as a high school teacher, editor and secretary, as well as in local church ministry. Jo-Anne is passionate about touching hearts and lives through both the written and spoken word. She is the author of five published novels – Heléna, All the Days of My Life, Laura, Jenna and Heléna’s Legacy. Her first non-fiction work, Soul Friend: the story of a shared spiritual journey will be released in October and a sixth novel, The Inheritance, in 2013. Jo-Anne loves music, reading, mentoring younger women, and sharing with community groups about writing. She is married to a retired minister and has three grown-up children and three grandchildren. For more information, please visit her website,

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Perspectives - The Hidden Reality of Satan's Influence

This post is not about writing – essentially – but it is about something that may influence your work as a writer. It’s about Satan’s war against God from both a global and a personal perspective. Have you ever read a book and thought, “Every Christian should read this!”? 
I have, but only a few.  

Renald Showers’ What on Earth is God Doing: Satan’s Conflict with God is one of those few. It’s a quick trip through history as recorded in the Bible – from Adam and Eve to the end of this world. "Nothing new in that," you may say. True. But the perspective is surprisingly new and invigorating: it uncovers the active, ongoing, spiritual war behind the scenes of human history. For those of you who are interested in spiritual warfare, and especially its influence on church history, this book is one you would not want to miss.

It’s a fascinating read because it reveals the moves of God, the counter-moves of Satan, and the subsequent conquering moves of God. We all know who the winner in this war will be, and we also know many historical facts, but ahhh… the impact of a new perspective!

Reading this book has re-awakened my awareness of Satan’s hidden influence on world affairs and – in our personal realm - the lives of those who are dear to us.

I recently had the opportunity to witness Satan’s hold on a person that is very dear to me: my father.  I took a couple of months out of my busy schedule to fly overseas and spend time with my dad who is nearing the end of his life. Trying one more time to lead him to Christ had priority over everything else.

My father is not an atheist, but he isn’t a Christian either – despite being christened and confirmed in a traditional church. He bases his hope of acceptance by God on his baptism and on leading a ‘good’ life because that is what he had been taught.  If you were to ask him if he’s a Christian, he would certainly say, “Yes.” But in reality, he has no awareness of his own sin and need of salvation. And despite an occasional church attendance and reciting the creed of faith with everyone else in the pews, he neither understands who God really is, nor does he know Jesus as his Saviour. And therefore he has no pardon for sin – another victory won by Satan through planting strategic lies. What better way of leading many people to hell than by propagating false teachings among the leaders of organised religion?

Can you understand how angry I feel towards churches that make false promises? Being baptised as a baby and leading a ‘good’ life means nothing without personal faith. Every Sunday people’s consciences are soothed when they make a routine confession of sin and think they are forgiven by this ritual prayer. They even confess a faith that they don’t possess. It’s a kind of universal salvation thing. And sadly, most of their teachers never tell them that they will spend eternity in hell if they don’t personally turn to Christ in repentance and faith. Heartrendingly, my father is one of the many who are blinded by Satan in this way. 

So far my trip has not (yet) yielded its desired fruit. But it has made me acutely aware once again of Satan’s moves to hinder God’s plan of salvation and has inspired me to speak out wherever I can. So here I am, speaking out... Read Renald Shower’s book – it may change your perspective on spiritual warfare, and in so doing it may influence your writing.

For those who are interested, this book is available freight-free from

And if you are interested in how Satan works in the life of believers, watch "The Wiles of the Devil" video on Vimeo

With love from one of God’s soldiers,

Margaret is a Christian Counsellor, Educator, Author and Speaker. 
Visit her website for free resources and an evangelistic 'Truth Matters' page.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Nuts and Bolts.

When I got the call from my publisher telling me that my manuscript had been accepted for publication I was ecstatic. The thought that my story would actually become a book was a complete mind boggling concept. In that moment I honestly didn’t give the ‘selling’ of the book much thought, but now I realize that the marketing and promotion of my work has become a great portion of my writing time.
Blogging, interviews, and reviewing are all a necessary, and time consuming, part of an author’s life. We have a commitment to sell our work, as well as selling ourselves as authors. There is no doubt that large promotions born from a dream to do something ‘BIG’ are very worthwhile, and I found my attempt to be very successful, but ultimately it is the little contributions that you do each day that builds your author presence.
The blogging, face-booking, twittering, and other small daily achievements will promote your profile and put you before the masses. People get to see who you are, what you stand for, and become interested in you and your work.
The Christian Writers Downunder e-mail loop is currently conducting a very valuable discussion on marketing. If you are stuck for ideas on how to promote yourself or your work, then this loop is a great place to start. The experience and suggestions shared on the nuts and bolts of promotion will be invaluable. 

Rose Dee is the author of the 'Resolution' Series. Please visit Rose at: 

Monday, 16 July 2012

Writing  To Inspire

Storytelling is powerful. A good story captures the imagination and reaches the heart if it resonates with the reader.

The temptation I have as a writer (and teacher) is to give a solid message and hammer it home with enthusiasm. My obsession is to write and teach. The tension is in how to tell stories without preaching.

I need to write in such a way that gives value beyond any message. It needs to add value to a person's day. They need to feel inspired, entertained, moved and involved in the story for as long as it takes them to read it. They don't want me giving them a lesson. They want a few hours of escape into another world.

My goal is to write stories that function as more than a vehicle to push my own agenda. Stories that remind the reader of beauty, inspire them to relate to others better, to connect them to a time and place and give them vicarious experiences they can relate to. That's the sort of story I want to write.

Religion creates vivid stories that speak to people's hearts and souls. At the heart of all religions there is a meta-story filled with beautiful imagery in prose and poetry. As readers, or followers, we are drawn to be a part of the story and belong.

Stories don't always appeal to our rational selves, they appeal to our emotions.

I want the reader to feel inspired and to connect with God, but my writing is poorer if all I do is give a lesson. I want readers to look at my characters with the same emotional care and passion as I do. I want them to resonate with the characters' lives and to think about what their own lives could be.

We all need role models and I want the reader to get the most out of their own lives. Hopefully, the stories I write will be a tiny part of that process.

I want my characters to have courage and guts, to be fun, honest and genuine. I want readers to see that just as the characters are on a journey of discovery, so too are they. A book ends, but lives go on. 

If I can get someone to read my book and enjoy it, I have achieved success. Even if just one phrase from a three hundred-page book helps someone on their journey or inspires them in some way, that is the icing on the cake.

Elaine Fraser