Monday, 28 April 2014

5 Tips for a Writers Research Trip


By Skye Elizabeth Wieland

Last year, I planned my very first solo trip overseas to Ireland. This was to be a soul-searching trip for me as well as research trip for my upcoming series set in Medieval Ireland and the UK. While simply saying I wanted to go to all the castles as well and good, I found that I needed a plan to make my time efficient. Below are 5 tips that I found were pivotal in making my Emerald Isle trip a success.

1.)     Plan ahead, but be flexible.

Have a rough outline of the places you would like to see, but be open to change if you stumble upon something better.  Do some research ahead of time on the kind of things you need to investigate and find out where they lie.  Create an itinerary with these items and prioritize them. 

      2.)   Contacts
Cold canvas some contacts via the internet and social media groups that would be involved in the sort of things you want to research. Write a lovely intro email/letter formally introducing your self and what you are wanting to research. These people will be great to a.) meet b.) keep in contact for the writing process and c.) you may even be lucky enough to be offered to stay with them.

3.)   Time out
We all get excited with the prospect of being in another country, particularly a place we want to write about. But while you are busy soaking in information like a dehydrated sponge, you mustn’t neglect timeout.
Find a quiet spot (like a grassy hill) and sit and meditate. Seek God on what you need to discover and find while you are there. Observe the sites, close your eyes and observe the smells, the feel and the sounds. What birds can you hear? What kind are they? Can you describe their sound? What season is it and what does that smell like?

4.)    Record everything and collect
Gather as much information as you can. Photos, journals, even if you don’t think you need it, it MAY come in handy and it’s not like you can just skip back over to that country tomorrow. Collect catalogues and brochures on the sites you visit and see if you can buy books from local heritage sites and gift stores.

5.)    Double up

As an author, it’s sometimes hard to get out to new places. So if you are planning a long distance overseas research trip. Make some arrangements in advance to promote your previous novels. Contact bookstores and radio stations and organize some book signings. You’ll find that most bookstores in other countries are very welcoming of international authors.

 Ultimately though, it's your trip! Have fun! Structure it how you want it. Have that balance of you time vs work time, because who knows "if" and "when" you'll be back there.

If you are interested in seeing more photos from my trip, or viewing some of the video blog's that I filmed and stuck on YouTube from my trip, feel free to visit the following links.




Thursday, 24 April 2014

The ANZAC Legend

ANZAC Day – the Legend
This last couple of years I have been studying a Bachelor of Arts/Education at University, and one of the subjects studied was Myths, Legends and History. It was a history subject and I absolutely loved it. We looked in depth at the Trojan War and the Arthurian Legends, but also touched on more modern legends: Robin Hood, Ned Kelly, Jesse James and, believe it or not, the ANZAC legend.

Now what were they inferring by calling ANZAC a legend. By definition a legend is something that has historical basis, but that has been enlarged and exaggerated. Perhaps this idea triggers a defensive response in you. I admit that I certainly had my defensive hackles raised when they began to look at this subject with insinuations that perhaps ANZAC is a figment of somebody’s imagination, but as we went along, I began to see what they were saying.
One hundred years ago, the diggers were just members of the British defence forces. They were commanded by the British and served on behalf of the British interests. They were young men and women who were a half a world away from their own homes and families. Today it is a common ideal that the original ANZACS (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps for our Northern Hemisphere readers) were heroes who fought for our freedom. The ideals of larrikinism, mateship, and irreverence seemed to have emerged as synonymous with Aussie (can’t speak for the Kiwi’s). These ideals, even if we don’t actively engage in irreverent acts of larrikinism, we almost certainly would laugh about it with some sense of cultural pride. But for all this, is that what Gallipoli was all about?

My grandfather was a Sergeant Major with the AIF during the Second World War, and on his return trip home he was put in charge of a prison ship. These were not prisoners of war; they were Aussie soldiers who were on criminal charges, including murder. The following is an excerpt from his diary:

“Well this is nice kettle of fish. I’ve been made a ships patrol and that means policeman and believe me she’s a great ship to be anything on. She’s got prisoners S.N.L.R. (Service no longer required) A.B.C. class men of whom a lot are just thugs and wasters. I’m afraid we are going to have a lot of trouble on board before we get home but still so long as I get home that’s all that worries me.”

From other excerpts in his diary he used other words to describe these Aussie soldiers including “Swine”. He was not impressed, and according to his diary they were violent and troublesome. This image of Aussie soldiers is in conflict with the legendary ANZAC hero. Our youngsters today are hearing about heroes. I bet in a number of cases the word hero is an accurate reflection. But it obviously wasn’t always the case. The lads who enthusiastically signed up for the First World War probably didn’t have any concept of what it was they were signing up for. They were feeling patriotic and up for an adventure, but when they were deathly ill with dysentery, or their feet were rotting with disease from being forever damp; when they were in fear for their life and fled from a call to charge and were subsequently convicted of cowardice; when they got involved with women in various foreign places and caught STDs or left fatherless babies behind. These men were human like the rest of us, but they answered a call to service. It is good to honour the sacrifice of those who died. It is good to honour the mental, emotional and physical price that returned veterans have had to pay, but it is also good to remember that these men and women were human and vulnerable to the weaknesses of character that is common to us all.

As we commemorate ANZAC day tomorrow, April 25th, the day that marks the ill-fated Gallipoli landing, let us honour the service both past and present of those in the armed forces, but let us keep in perspective that they were ordinary young men and women and that war was not then, and is not now, a glorious pursuit, but a terrible conflict of states that requires the blood of those who engage, whether voluntarily or by force.

Re-reading this puts in sharp relief what the subject was saying by ANZAC legend. We want to think of our heroes as above reproach, full of courage and honour, self-sacrificing and willing to die for the sake of others. I know that there were ANZAC heroes who did and do fit that description, but the thing that we can focus on now is that there is a hero who fits this description every time. Of course I’m referring to our Saviour, Jesus Christ, whose story of life, death and resurrection - also a story full of horror - yields to us everlasting hope.

Meredith Resce
Author of 'Mellington Hall' and 'Cora Villa'

Monday, 21 April 2014

Christian Writers' Conference Update

Thanks to CWD for the opportunity to bring an update on the Christian Writers' Conference. Plans are going well and we have confirmed sixteen workshops with another six on the waiting list. They cover the following topics:

Fictional Writing for published writers/unpublished writers; Non-fiction Writing; Publishing; Self-editing; Characters; Metaphors; Bible Stories; Freelance Writing; Motivation; Marketing; Rejection; Spiritual Obstacles; Time Management; Children's fiction; and Ergonomics.

There is more information about these workshops with presenters' bio's on the website:

We have also confirmed Rev. Dr. David Wilson as our opening speaker at the Friday night plenary session. I first met David when he was principal of Kingsley's College (the Wesleyan Bible College) in Melbourne. Since then he has worked as the Director of Sophia Think Tank with the Bible Society of Australia and in this role he wrote online articles for their website. He is currently the CEO of Urban Seed – an urban community development unit working with homelessness, substance abuse, and mental health issues.

In one of David's articles he made the comment: "Give me a piece of media, any piece of media on any topic and we’ll be able to find principles in the Bible that are relevant in their application." David will speak on this topic which I believe is relevant for all Christian writers regardless of whether they are writing non-fiction or fiction, overtly Christian or subtle Christian material.

Iola Goulton, Nola Passmore and Rowena Beresford have agreed to be editors at the conference. In order to get the maximum benefit from editors' appointments Iola and Nola will be asking delegates to send material in advance, up to a maximum of 20 pages – double spaced which is approximately 5,000 words. So if you would like to see an editor start preparing now!

Publishers Rochelle Manners from Wombat Books/Rhiza Press and Kris Argall from Acorn Press will also be taking appointments. More details about what to send and appointment request forms will be available on the website in August.

There will be an extensive Light the Dark bookstall with all the newest titles.

Check out our website for costs, timetable, venue and other details. Registrations will open in early May.

Hope to see you there.


Susan Barnes likes to write devotional thoughts on Bible passages, book reviews and inspirational articles. She loves to challenge people's thinking and regularly blogs at She is also a librarian and pastor's wife.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Our Creative Natures By Buffy Greentree

There are so many places in the writing journey that we can get caught up and come undone. There are also various strategies we can put in place to combat these obstacles. However, today I want to look at just one simple idea which has saved me numerous times from problems in both the drafting and editing stages.

Your creative nature is not singular. 

The sooner you realise this, the sooner you will know exactly which door to knock on when you need help. So let's look at some of our options.

The Muse:

People talk of a creative spirit or urge, calling it a genius or muse interchangeably as if there were one unknown part of us that performs the creation. As a Christian, we really should acknowledge at least two, our side and God's. Those who have experienced a true creative flow, or have written a work that is so beyond what they thought they knew, must acknowledge that God inspires and helps form anything that we allow him to help on. How can we view anything except God as our 'muse'? Is not the creator himself the thing that inspires all further creation?

For me, the Holy Spirit directly and God's creation indirectly fulfill the ancient role of creative muse. It is the thing external to myself which inspires and encourages my creative work. This is a wonderful realisation, and constantly keeps me on my knees as I write. However, God does not do all the work. There is then the unconscious and conscious work that I must do in the creation of the piece.

The Genius:

A lot of my creation happens unconsciously. I may stare at a computer screen for hours on end, then finally get up and have a bath. Halfway through the bath, while humming along to some tune, a piece of dialogue suddenly jumps out of nowhere that is the perfect answer to my problem. Or I will wake up from sleep, and my character will be there, ready and waiting to tell me what happens next.

While some of this comes from inspiration, there is also the part of me that processes it all. This part I consider my genius. It is not external to me, as the muse is, but it is also not under my control. I cannot force my genius to write when I want to write. He is most secretive. I feed him scraps and ideas, and then leave him alone to digest it all. When he is ready, he will then open up a trap door and hand back out the diamonds he has created.

There are many things that you can do to encourage your creative genius, from the types of food you can feed him to the recreation that best allows him to process. I have found that when in doubt, give him a good meal of problems to solve and juicy words to mull over, then leave him in silence (ie. find a wordless activity to distract yourself with), and see what he churns out.

But your genius is really for when you get stuck. He is not something you can rely on for a steady flow of words. He does not write drafts, he only helps out a bit with the design. For drafting and editing you need your two conscious creative natures.

The Youth and The Elder:

These two aspects of our creative nature were first outlined to me in the wonderful book On Being A Writer by Dorothea Brande (if you haven't read it, it's out of copyright so you can download it for free, which I highly recommend you do right after you finish reading this). She argues that we have two natures that can either work together or against each other, very much like brothers.

First is the youth. He is the creative spark. He loves telling tall tales and playing with words. He is cheeky and a bit irresponsible. He doesn't care about grammar or spelling, and is easily distracted. If you let him have too much control, he will jump from one story to the next, leaving a mess behind him each time. On the other hand, if you restrain him too much, he becomes sullen and won't say a thing. He's a bit of a sulk that way. Without him you will never get through your first draft, but with only him, you will never get a complete book.

Second is his elder brother. He is much more interested in order and control, and he is fantastic at editing. He takes time over word choice, making sure that it is perfect. Then he considers the sentence structure. Did you break any important rules? He's big into rules. He's also pretty good at making sure his little brother sits down and stays on the same story all the way through to the end. Without him, your youth is likely to get overexcited and run off after butterflies. The elder, however, can make sure he stays in his chair until he is finished.

However, the elder can very quickly become overbearing. If you let him off the lead too much in the first draft, he will be watching over his little brother's shoulder, trying to correct the small mistakes or pausing his brother to find a better word. Under this sort of tyranny, any little brother would jack up and hide away.

So you need to balance these two as is appropriate to your stage in the writing process. If you feel you are being stifled or coming up dry in the first draft, it is generally because you are letting your elder creative nature crush your youth. But if you find you have lots of wonderful ideas but never get through them all, you might need to build up and encourage your elder a little, not let him be bossed around so much by his younger brother. Your youth needs to be disciplined just enough to get through to the end of the first draft. Then the elder can take over and brush up in the editing process. 

I find relying on these four aspects of my creative nature, identifying which one has been starved and which I might be trying to rely too strongly on, will get me through most problems. Though, I will admit it is an on going process to build them up and learn how to support them all. But that is part of the fun of being a writer.

Buffy Greentree was brought up in Melbourne, has lived in Japan and the UK, and now calls Brisbane home. She has a B.A. (Hons) in Classics and Archaeology, a Master of Divinity, and a Grad Cert in Business Management. Yes, she spent way too long at Uni. 
She now writes by day, and works as a boarding house supervisor corrupting young minds by night. So, life is pretty good. 
For a further discussion on creative natures and other ways to overcome your fears of writing, see her first book The Five Day Writer's Retreat, available on Amazon and other online retailers. Or follow her at her writing blog:

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Lego Movie Inspiration.

I haven’t seen many recent mainstream movies with an underlying message of faith. I've seen movies that could potentially inspire the watcher to believe in themselves, in magic, in the power of ‘mother’ nature, or in the love of sisterhood, but I haven’t come across many that would inspire a belief in God. So it was with some surprise that I found a message of faith in Lego.
The Lego Movie was released in Australia last week. 
This is what I took away from the story:
If you believe in ’The Man Upstairs’ He can use an ordinary person like you to do extraordinary things.
In this Lego world ‘The Man Upstairs’ is a small boy who has created the story line and placed the Lego characters in their ‘save the world’ predicament. I won’t go into an extensive review of this movie, suffice to say the Christian message came through to me loud and clear. What struck me about this movie is that it is a story aimed at the mainstream market, and at its heart seems to be a message of faith. It made me think so much about my own writing. Can we, as Christian authors, bring a message of faith to the mainstream world? I think we can. I think we should. I believe that where God inspires the will, He will show the way.
So if it is on your heart to write a mainstream story with a message of faith, but you think you won’t find an audience, think again. If God has given you the calling, I know He will give you the audience.

Hey, If Lego can be used, we can too. :-)

Rose, who holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree, was born in North Queensland, Australia. Her childhood experiences growing up in a small beach community would later provide inspiration for her first novel, 'Back to Resolution'. 
Her novels are inspired by the love of her coastal home and desire to produce exciting and contemporary stories of faith for women. 
'Beyond Resolution', and 'A New Resolution' are the second and third books in the 'Resolution' series. 
Rose's debut novel 'Back to Resolution' won Bookseller's Choice at the CALEB Awards 2012. 'A New Resolution' won the Fiction prize, CALEB 2013. 
She has also released 'The Greenfield Legacy', a collaborative novel, written in conjunction with three other outstanding Australian authors. 
Rose resides in Mackay, North Queensland with her husband, young son, and mischievous pup, Noodle. 

Visit Rose at:


Thursday, 10 April 2014

The Bunny and the Lamb

In just over a week will be the Easter weekend. For most Australians, Easter means:

  • Hot Cross Buns - these days available in the shops shortly after Christmas. My family loves them - though my daughter only likes the nontraditional ones with the chocolate chips.
  • Easter Eggs - mostly chocolate but some of candy or other concoctions. The Supermarket aisles are stacked high with these spheres of chocolate coated air in glitzy coloured foil wrap.
  • The Easter Bunny - many children believe this bunny is the source of all those Easter Eggs. Normally portrayed as small white rabbit with fluffy tail and floppy ears though I had to chuckle at the 6 foot high Bunny with a boomerang in Rise of the Guardians that looked more like a macho kangaroo and spoke like Hugh Jackman.
  • That perennial favourite - an extra long long-weekend. Four days in which families often go camping or visit family.
  • And School Holidays.
For others Easter is the end of Lent and/or the celebration of Jesus' death 2000 years ago and his resurrection some days afterwards. 

I wonder what Easter means for you?

For me it is a time of reflection and wonderment - that the incarnated divine Son would die for me. It tells me how much God loves and values me. It reminds me that I have new life through Jesus, that He can and will mend the brokenness inside of me and that He is a present and powerful.

Easter is an intensely personal. It is both sobering as I think of Jesus on the cross on Good Friday - and exhilarating as I remember that He is Alive - that He has conquered sin (human brokenness) and death itself.

Easter has cosmic as well as personal implications.  It is the turning point of the Story of God and therefore the story of our world. Through the eyes of faith, we can see that Easter is the very crux of history. The Bible tells us that story. Yes, it tells many other things about history, morality, worship, spirituality and reality but running through its pages is a love story - God's love for his broken creation - for his broken people. 

It is a simple story - the eternal triune God created the cosmos. He created humans to care for his creation and to be his friends. But the very first humans rebelled against God, deciding to go their own way so that now they and their world became broken. Instead of destroying us and starting again, God decided to rescue us - through calling a people to show who He was and what he wanted. And then He came, the incarnated Son who died in our place. On the cross, the Son won a decisive victory against death and all evil. He has entrusted his people who believe and follow Him with a mission - of not just living lives worthy of Him in faith and love but of taking His message of freedom and love to the furthest corners of the earth - and to the person next door. One day He will make new the whole cosmos and make a home for His people. 
Easter is not just for me or you - it's for everyone.

The Lamb That Was Slain

A flower nodding in the crevice of a rock
New growth after rain.
The sun’s blushed fire climbing above the horizon
A Lamb that was slain.

Praise God who brings beauty, life and hope
In the midst of the world’s cloying darkness.
A world reclaimed at Golgotha, Skull Rock
By the Lamb that was slain.

Before the sun’s fire ignited and
Craggy cliffs rose above the ocean waves,
Before humanity’s ancient parents stumbled
And brother shed brother’s blood,
Father God planned a people reclaimed.

A new perspective, a life regained
Admitting failure, weakness and pain.
We take on His life, walking in faith
Receiving the Spirit’s renewing fire
Sent out by the Lamb that was slain.

The Lamb’s restored people join hands
In prayer and praise.
An emaciated child is given bread and hope
Broken lives are knitted together again
And a message of love and new life spreads like soft rain
Hands, Feet and Heart of the Lamb that was slain.

Earth trembles, nation wars against nation
Tribal enmities ignite, hate inflames
Tall towers and silvery screens pursue greed and fame
The lamb’s people divided, too often lead astray
Awaiting the coming of the Lamb that was slain.

Fruit redolent on the healing tree
Life giving water flowing through brilliant bridal city
Father’s noon-day light shining on pearl and diamond
Spirit healing, tears wiped and death disappearing
The Lamb as Lion victorious reigns.

Praise God who brings beauty, life and hope
In the midst of the world’s cloying darkness.
A world reclaimed at Golgotha, Skull Rock
By the Lamb that was slain.

Jeanette O’Hagan ©2002, 2014

Wishing you all a happy and blessed Easter.

"Easter Egg image courtesy of  sattva /"
"Hand heart & cross image courtesy of  luigi diamanti /"
Jeanette has practiced medicine, studied communication, history and theology and has taught theology.  She is currently caring for her  children, enjoying post-graduate studies in writing at Swinburne University and writing her Akrad fantasy fiction series.  She is actively involved in a caring Christian community. You can find her at her Facebook Page or webiste .

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Ideal Writing Conditions

Jennifer Ann at home, one of her ideal writing conditions

What are your ideal writing conditions?
Here are a few of mine.

EMOTIONS; Sometimes when I am a little on the melancholy side I feel as though my creative juices are really flowing. I will then write and write and in order to keep up with the ideas that are needing to be expressed. Because the writing has all come so quick and easily to me I naturally assume it must be good. Fortunately, I have learn't to never share that sort of writing until I have read it in the cold light of day. And guess what it tends to not be that great at all, lucky I don't show anyone but on the other hand it was cathartic for my emotions at the time.
I do write when I'm happy also but it just doesn't seem to have the same creativity attached to it, for for me anyway. Of course the best writing has been mulled over, again and again until the sentence and wording is exactly what you feel fits the essence of what you are trying to communicate. But how about you, which emotion when you write makes you feel at your most creative?

TIME; What time of day works best for you? I love the mornings, where my brain has not become tired and jaded with work and home activities. I am not an evening person but I know others who find that at 0:00p.m. till 2:00a.m. thay are doing their most creative work. Definitely NOT me but perhaps that is you?

PLACE; I have to write in a quiet place. Or at least be able to shut a door and only hear muffled noises. I know of others who cannot write if there is no noise at all and they need to have the radio switched on and loudly. I heard of a poet who sits down at the kitchen table and amidst all the hustle and bustle of children having breakfast and getting ready for school , he is able to write, no problems. What about you? Do like a quiet or noisy surround?

HOME; I have also discovered that I write best when at home, where all that surrounds me is familiar. I have taken writing work away on holidays with me and I become so distracted by the scenery or activities or the restaurants that I can't possibly think of putting pen to paper. Can you write when you are on holidays or away?

I do sometimes wonder that if I had no chance of writing under my ideal conditions, would I be able to write in the evening surrounded by noise, facing a heavy work schedule, if that was my only choice, could I write then? I think I would definitely attempt to but I'm not sure of how successful I would be.
So that brings me to my last point and that is how fortunate we are that we are able to at sometime during any given year have the ideal writing conditions that suit us because I am sure there are many aspiring writers in the world who write anyway knowing the ideal conditions will probably never present themselves. So as we are privileged by God to write at least sometimes under our ideal conditions let us keep writing the truths that God lays on our hearts.

Jennifer Ann  is the author of "Broken Pottery the Life of an African Girl available at;
Amazon kindle;   Amazon books
She has her own website at
and her own blog, JenniferAnn/aroma of life

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Why Grace Works for Me by Hayley Solich

Over the past eighteen months I have been sitting under the ministry of Ps John Latta, who moved to our church from Tambourine Mountain.  John shifted my thinking about God, life and everything really when he started to share his concept of God and grace.  It changed the way I viewed myself and the way I viewed others.  When you look through the lens of grace and unconditional love, so many small things that previously were beacons of offense become way less obvious because instead of looking at actions you look at motivation and instead of looking at behaviour you look at the real person.  And you recognise that your words have power to create life or death, so you can choose to use them more wisely, more compassionately.

Coupled with John's ministry I have also gone through several of the Carefore LifeKeys training programs and once again received the bombshell of grace and unconditional love impacting my life. And also the impartation of skills for living life walking in unconditional love by better communicating and using words to build up rather than tear down.

In the Search for Life course, Alan Meyers' re-telling of the prodigal son's story was absolutely lifechanging to me.  The story of a father who saw his errant son afar off and against all of the rules of the time lifted up his skirts and ran to him.  He didn't wait for him to apologise, to grovel, to beg forgiveness.  No, this father ran to him.  He covered his shame.  He restored his dignity.  He restored his position in the father's household and his father wanted to celebrate with anyone and everyone who was willing to come.  He was willing to kill the fattened calf which was reserved for very specific celebrations, in honour of a son who had returned.  His words and actions changed his son's future.

As I listened to that story I recognised that God is like that with all of us.  He is not sitting in some distant place with a hammer ready to strike us when we err and we all err.  Regardless of how righteous we think we are, when we look at another with judgment in our heart we have erred, because we are told to 'judge not'.  We are not to be like the older brother, viewing the behaviour of others and making judgments about it based on how good we think we are.  He totally missed the point.

Today, as you go about your business I wanted to encourage you to see life through the lens of grace and unconditional love.

At times I feel trampled by people or life's circumstances and I want to pull out my claws and claw my way back but grace is wanting to teach me a better way, to teach us all a better way.  Grace is wanting me to not react, but to really assess why others have behaved the way they have because it is always a story about them that has led them to that behaviour.  Sometimes our presence is just a catalyst for another's healing.

My exhortation today is to look around you and when you see someone 'lying in their blood' -  Exekiel 16:6 - the image of the rejected person, even the image of the prodigal son - looking to all the world like the yukkiest or most unwise person on the planet, and probably behaving like one, challenge yourself to view them through the eyes of the Father.  The eyes of unconditional love.  For He says to all of us, 'I have loved you with an everlasting love and I have chosen you before the foundations of the earth."  They are not the words of a judgmental, vengeful God.  They are the words of a loving father.

And when you look at yourself, be kinder to yourself.  I truly believe that if we see God through the lens of the new testament, which is a new convenant, where our salvation is not dependent upon our works, then we can move from doing to being, from judging ourselves and others to loving ourselves and others and allowing God's abundant love to inhabit every aspect of our lives.  Then our works will have eternal value for all.