Thursday, 30 October 2014

Have We Gotten Used to Speed Dating?

 By Jessica Everingham

Copyright Creationswap, by Richard Wong

Romance-junkies, which relationships do you find most engaging—those in television, or those in movies?

As much as I love movies, for me the answer is definitely TV. And as an aspiring romance novelist, that holds implications for the way I develop my stories.

The biggest difference I see between the relationships in TV shows, and those in movies, is time.

 In a show it can take six seasons for characters to declare their feelings. By this point they’ve built up a strong friendship, probably endured some life-and-death experiences together, dated other people, gotten jealous, fought, made up, and sacrificed for one another. And then, finally, they’ve both admitted their love.

In a movie, two people see each other. Five to fifteen minutes later, they’re soul mates, and spend the rest of the movie fighting the bad guys or their respective inner demons.

Nothing wrong with either method. But personally, I find television far more addictive. Which raises the question; have us novelists (or aspiring novelists, in my case) gotten far too used to speed dating?
Imagine for a moment, if there was a book version of Castle? The Mentalist?  Or [insert your favourite TV show here]? Dozens of shows capitalize on the slow-burn-friendship-turned-true-love. And while the ‘instant heat’ method is a proven success for books, is the alternative an under-utilized tool?

Jenny B Jones has pulled this off with flair in her novel, Save The Date. There’s heat in the book from the start, but Lucy and Alex’s relationship is built on shared experiences and a whole lotta sarcasm, over a period of several months. By the end of the story you know this romance will survive anything— whether it’s temperamental teenagers, a political rat race, a family tragedy or outrageously embarrassing relatives. Because they’ve already done it all.

Another great example in mainstream fiction is Veronica Roth’s Divergent series. Four and Tris have very realistic insecurities that affect their relationship, yet they’re mesmerizing together. They fight, they doubt, and they fear, but above all, they make the decision to stay together. The third book, Allegiant, contains the most romantic line I’ve ever read, spoken by main character Tris:
“I fell in love with him. But I don't just stay with him by default as if there's no one else available to me. I stay with him because I choose to, every day that I wake up, every day that we fight or lie to each other or disappoint each other. I choose him over and over again, and he chooses me.” 

Doesn’t that just make you go, “Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwww”? Wouldn’t it be fabulous if a love like this was not so rare, even in fiction?

It’s a little outside the box. It’s a little unique. It’s a little scary. 

But it’s a lot of fun.

P.S. To all Castle fans, after writing this I discovered that there IS a book version. J J J

Jessica Everingham is a 23 year-old Australian who writes about God and love, and often combines the two. Her novel-in-progress, Hating Jeremy Walters, is a prime example.
Check out a sneak peek of her book through her website,, or connect with with Jess on Facebook, ( and Twitter (@JessEveringham). 

Sunday, 26 October 2014

My Blog: 10 Minute Daily Retreat by Susanne Timpani

Photo by C.Timpani

I have just arrived home from the Christian Writers Conference and my mind is spinning with a wealth of material to improve my journey as a writer.

 In one session, children’s author, Penny Reeve, shared her experience of marketing her work. It’s a part of the trade not too many writers enjoy. Most of us would much prefer to be locked away tapping on a keyboard than out on a platform telling the world why they should buy our books. What Penny did say was to narrow down the marketing mediums to reflect our uniqueness.

This is something I certainly thought long and hard about when I was developing my author website and blog. How could my blog reflect who I am as a writer? 

My decision to create the 10 Minute Daily Retreat was a scary one. I’ve been praying with scripture in this way for many years now, and it has completely revitalized my relationship with God. But prayer is deeply personal. Who wants to share their spiritual journey with the world? Yet isn’t that what Christian writers are called to do? Using our gifts and talents to bring others closer to Jesus was definitely a theme of the weekend.

The Gospel story that best describes the elements of the 10 Minute Daily Retreat is ‘Mary and Martha.’ Luke 10:41-42  It’s so easy for most of us to get caught up in the frantic pace of everyday life and forget to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen.

I like to think of life as a journey, or a quest. Stories of quests have fascinated readers for generations. Tales such as the The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings show the characters overcoming incredible hurdles to achieve a specific goal.  I think that what transforms our ordinary life journey into a meaningful quest are the reflective stops along the way. Even the Greek philosopher, Socrates, pointed out that, ‘the unexamined life is not worth living.’

If you had ten minutes to set aside today, perhaps you could reflect on Jesus’ response to Martha’s busyness. Sometimes I set the timer on my phone if I feel a bit edgy that I might run late for something.  I usually spend the first five minutes reading and reflecting on the verse. It’s important not to speed read, but to savour the words, allowing them to enter deeply into our heart. Sometimes I’ll talk to God during this time, sharing my thoughts or asking Him questions.

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed-or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”(Luke 10:41-42 NIV)

During the second five minutes, stop talking to God and listen. It’s in these few minutes that we make room for God to speak to us in any way He chooses.

I have a great team of people who contribute their prayerful reflections to the 
10 Minute Daily Retreat blog. You are welcome to visit my page and join us in this adventure of daily quiet prayer.

Susanne Timpani

Monday, 20 October 2014

His Hand or His Face?

Photo courtesy of David Castillo/

One of the things I pray a lot about is seeking direction; or for confirmation that I’m doing the right thing. Do you do that?

My work life tends to be lumpy. The life of a consultant tends to be like that, however, in recent times there have been less lumps, meaning less projects and less income. I’m continually seeking God for clarity regarding my career.

As most of us writers know there are very few of us who are earning significant enough monies from our efforts that we’re able to go without other employment.

And what about all the clarity we seek with our writing? Do I keep pursuing publication, but isn’t this my calling, do I go the indie route, why won’t this story come out the way it should, well that $7 royalty cheque sure makes it all worthwhile, and on on we can go.


A while back I read this story about Mother Teresa that provides some great perspective. Many of you may be familiar with it. It goes something like this:

John Kavanagh went to Calcutta to work with Mother Teresa. While there, he asked her to pray for him. “What should I pray for?” she asked.
“Pray that I may have clarity,” he replied.
Mother Teresa responded, “No, I will not pray for that.”
“Why?” he asked.
“Clarity is the last thing you cling to,” she said. Kavanagh then remarked that she always seemed to have clarity.
She said, “I have never had clarity. What I always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.”
Too often I’m got caught seeking His Hand, rather than His face.

If God always gave us the answers, we wouldn’t need Him. Yes, clarity is wonderful but sometimes when we have it we head off and start running the race by ourselves rather than leaning on the Lord. We can find too much comfort and security while trusting in God requires us to continually come to the Cross seeking Him.

He’s interested in the journey, teaching us more about Himself and helping us to better understand ourselves. We’re all probably familiar with the line or one of its many variants:

“God is more interested in who we are becoming than what we actually achieve.”

Many of us love the story of Abraham. God told him to up and leave his homeland without giving any instructions as to where to go. Yes, God gave him a wonderful blessing at the same time but he still had no clarity as to where he was supposed to take his little family.

As that great Proverb says:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He will make your paths straight.” (Prov 3:5-6)

If you’re going through an unsettling season of change or indecision, may I encourage you to seek Jesus, seek to be in His Presence, not for what He can do for us.

Ian Acheson is an author and strategy consultant based in Northern Sydney. Ian's first novel of speculative fiction, Angelguard, is now available in the US, UK, Canada and Australia. You can find more about Angelguard at Ian's website, on his author Facebook page and Twitter

Thursday, 16 October 2014

A Tuscan Writing Retreat by Elaine Fraser

Creativity flourishes when we slow down for a while, take time out of our regular routine and responsibilities and focus on nourishing our creative souls.

In September,  I arrived at the Borgo Caiano to join The Art of Writing retreat. The other participants and I were seeking a place to pause, reflect and to be inspired.

We found it in the Casentino region of Tuscany, a place of meditation, historic farmhouses and medieval sanctuaries. Dante and Francis of Assisi found something special in this region too.

If you ever watched Under The Tuscan Sun and dreamed of running away to your own Tuscan adventure, you’ll know how excited I was to be in this fabulous place.

As we sat around the table and introduced ourselves on that first night, it was obvious that everyone had a story and something they wanted to produce—short stories, memoir, novels, blogs and poetry. 

We were here to pause for a while and concentrate on our writing, guided by our tutors Lisa Clifford, Jane Corry and Conrad Williams.

Each day was an exercise in creative growth. In this quiet retreat, we were far away from shops, cafes, traffic jams, jobs, family—anything that would draw us away from the reason we were there. It was a pilgrimage of sorts as we sought to unlock the writer within.

Our only excursion was to a castle and then a sheep farm. At the farm we milked sheep and watched as Lorenzo formed the milk into cheese. 

This was a welcome break from the tutorials and critique sessions. The richness of the surroundings and hospitality warmed our hearts and inspired our minds.

I think a few odes to tomatoes may have been written after dinner with the Cipriani family.

In this quiet pause, each person discovered something the story within, birthed something new, or discovered the courage to complete a work begun in their hearts and minds long before the retreat.

The fellowship between the participants was beautiful. It as if we had all been destined to be there at that particular time, with that particular group of people. It was meant to be.

In setting aside a week to be mindful in our writing, we also became mindful of our surroundings. Each moment became an inspiration, a spark and memory that will enrich our lives and creative work.

I’d like to think that I brought some of this mindfulness home with me. I’m trying to slow down, pay attention to the moments and see the miracles in the every day.

The Bible tells us to be still and know that He is God. Being still, unless we are asleep, is not a common state most of us live in. We are so busy rushing and doing, that we forget to just be.

I found that in this beautiful pause, I had time to be still and let the creativity in me flourish. Stillness and intentionality in our everyday, even in the shortest of pauses, is worth pursuing.

Elaine Fraser
Author at Beautiful Books
Find out more at:

Monday, 13 October 2014

Take Every Phrase Captive by Jo Wanmer

I was pleased with the story. It met the criteria! It was different, unexpected. All I had to do was make sure it adhered to the 750 word limit. If not, I was confident I could cut a few words.
Wait! 1250 words! How did that happen? Last time I'd checked it was 350.

The first edit knocked out 150, the second another 50. There was still three hundred words to be eliminated. Sentences, assessed as essential in previous edits, disappeared. Even whole paragraphs. What was the criteria for deletion? 'Does the plot survive without this information?' When I submitted the story, it won a place in a book titled 'Mixed Blessings.' Forty percent of the words had been deemed unnecessary. In truth, the exercise had sharpened the entry.

The next day, I scanned the finalist list of the Caleb unpublished manuscript awards. My book, El Shaddai, was not listed. Firmly I reminded myself, 'You entered to get the feedback. You knew it wasn't in good enough shape to win.' A report,ten pages long, had arrived some weeks earlier. Excited, I had looked for critical feedback, any comment that would help to raise the standard of my manuscript.

What I found stunned me. The work, in the reviewer's opinion, needed a major structural edit as the climax was not near the end of the book. I grappled with the comment. Due to previous edits I knew there were very few pages after the climax. Flicking through the report I discovered the problem. The reader had missed the entire plot.

It took a week to interpret the learning I'd paid an entry fee to acquire. The plot, albeit unusual, was not written clearly enough. One of the subplots had jumped up and usurped the position. This work doesn't need a structural edit, but a strengthening of the story line. Yes, I received my money's worth and my pride will recover!

A week later I discussed this problem with my co-author, otherwise known as the Holy Spirit. I was driving at the time. It is one of those occasions when the particular roundabout will forever be burned into my memory.

'Just as you did with the short piece, take every scene, every sentence, every phrase captive and make it obey.'

Obey what? Scripture calls me to make my thoughts obey Christ, but what must this manuscript obey?

Then the penny dropped. I hadn't really defined the aim of this book. It had begun with a vague idea and developed into a great story.

Belatedly, I wrote a synopsis. It summarised the plot, but there was still something missing.

Why does this book exist? That was the question. What right does it have to find a place in the mountain of writings and novels flooding our bookstores, ipads and airwaves? Why should anyone choose to read this story?

I'm reminded I write to bring a message. At a 'Purpose Driven Life' seminar many years ago, my life was reduced to five words. 'I exist to inspire greatness.' It may sound arrogant, but I love to encourage people to higher levels of faith, love, achievement and joy. This phrase has become a yardstick in my life. My writing must be consistent with my purpose.

Likewise, my book needed a purpose statement. How does it inspire my readers to grow? Every scene, every sentence, every phrase must be taken captive and made obey that criteria.

Now I have the aim and the plot clear, it's time to start work. I'm excited. The 'Delete' box may need to be emptied a few times, but the manuscript will be sharper.

How do you sharpen your work? Any tips for this 'L' plate author?

Jo Wanmer loves the beach, but writes from a messy desk, looking over her backyard in the outskirts of Brisbane. Often her fingers are much slower than the ideas, rendering the manuscript a mess of red squiggles. Other times the fingers hang over the keys begging the right words to drop onto the page. To her delight her first book, Though the Bud be Bruised, is still bring healing and inspiration into lives. 'El Shaddai', and 'In the Shadow of El Shaddai' are still being forced to conform to publishable standards.

Thursday, 9 October 2014


What will He write in the way of recording my life and yours?

My first chapter began at birth and followed my growing up years until I reached school age. Then followed fairly uneventful teens filled with longings I didn't fully understand.
Then I grew up only to discover the chapter of romance and love and being cherished in return. I also learned about conflict and resolution. A few years later I became a mother and found another love in my life. Then the chapters fly by and I believe there are more to be written, but I still wonder about the culmination of all that's been written in my final chapter.

His Word, the Holy Bible, was written by His scribes. Even so He is the Author. No one can add or take away from this precious book. It stands for all time unedited.

He is my wise all-knowing Heavenly Father. He is also the lover of my soul who is always there to listen to me...ME! The wonder of this never ceases to amaze me.

He allows things to happen I would never choose for myself. But when I look back I can see the purpose. Sometimes a case of correcting, sometimes a time of learning. Often the special training for patience because He knows I hate waiting. Yet everything, yes, everything is for my good. And only a loving father does that.

My name is already written in His BOOK of LIFE, but there are still many chapters to be written and I cannot read between the lines. And being human with a free will, I can make a host of mistakes. That is why He took the trouble to give us HIS STORY which is even more than mere history. We are privileged to read the Manufacturer's Directions every day... if we choose. And so many genres! Poetry, history, love songs, praise songs, prophecies, guidelines and more ... it's all there.

What will my next chapter be? I can plan a rough outline of my life, but desire His will not mine. He knows best as I've proved so many times in my life. And He wants the best for me ... and you. To think He loves us so much He gave His only Son, Jesus as a sacrifice to pay the penalty for all those sins of ours!

Oh yes, my Lord is a God of variety creating us to fulfil His purposes. And best of all, following Him is NEVER DULL. Our lives can be real page turners when He is in control.

What will be the next chapter in your life? 

*  Rita Stella Galieh is a scriptwriter and co-speaker on Vantage Point,   a 5 minute program broadcast throughout Australia. She is now with the
Living Word Literary Agency and at a "waiting state" for a publisher to accept her manuscript. As a contributor to several US Anthologies by
Adams Media, she has two Historical Romances published by Ark House Press. Each year she and her husband minister in Buddhist Government schools, prisons, hospitals, shopping malls, and churches in Thailand.  
Follow me on Twitter  @RSGalieh

Thursday, 2 October 2014

What is CWD's Mission Statement? by Nola Passmore

Christian Writers Downunder (CWD) started in mid-2011 as a way of connecting Christian writers.  As the name suggests, most of our members are from Australia and New Zealand, though we also have some from further afield.  Through the CWD Facebook page and the bi-weekly blog, we seek to encourage each other, provide tips, share prayer points and circulate news relevant to Christian writers.  However, I’ve been thinking lately about our aim. 

I was asked to take over the coordination of the group at the beginning of 2014. Anusha Atukorala is also an administrator.  In thinking about our purpose, we considered how we might fit within the broader spectrum of Christian writing groups.  Obviously there will be overlap among groups as we all seek to serve the body of Christ and the wider community.  However, we should clarify our main goals. 

The following is a draft CWD mission statement.  We’d be interested in hearing your feedback. (N.B. Although we’ve used the word ‘writers’, we also mean those in related fields such as editing, publishing, and illustrating.)

  • To glorify God with our writing.
As Christian writers, we seek to put God first and honour Him in our writing.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that every piece we write has a specific Christian message.  However, the fact that we are Christians means that everything we write is imbued with a Christian worldview; whether we’re writing a non-fiction book for the Christian market, a mainstream novel with more subtle faith themes, a ‘how-to’ article for a magazine, or a personal blog.  As it says in Colossians 3:17, 'whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him'.

Honouring God in our writing also means that we endeavour to live a life that is consistent with His Word (e.g. demonstrating a servant attitude, ethical behaviour, love, forgiveness, patience, perseverance, generosity, gratitude).  In this way, we will not bring discredit on the message He has given us to share.

  • To develop our God-given creative gifts.
God has given each of us gifts to be used in building His Kingdom, including creative gifts such as writing.  However, we still need to hone our gifts to be the best we can be at our craft.  The Apostle Paul reminded Timothy to ‘fan into flame the gift of God’ that was in him (2 Tim. 1:6).  Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary describes it this way (p. 1611):

The desire to discover, develop, and deploy our specific spiritual gifts should be like a fire blazing within us.  The constant struggle of Christians is to be diligent about our work for God and not to slacken our pace in the spiritual race.  We need to make a conscious effort to exercise our gift for the common good of the body of Christ.

If we apply this admonition to writing, it doesn’t mean that we’ll be perfect.  Even the world’s best-selling authors still need to sharpen their skills.  However, whether we’re a beginner with no publications or a seasoned professional with many books under our belt, we can all strive for excellence in what we do.  This may involve finding a critique partner, joining a writing group, doing a course, reading writing books and magazines, or attending writer’s conferences.  The point is that we’re seeking to develop our gifts.

  • To encourage other Christian writers.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:11, we’re instructed to 'encourage one another and build each other up'.  For writers, this could include providing constructive critique, reviewing a book, praying for other writers and writing groups, mentoring a less experienced writer, and providing support in practical ways (e.g. helping with marketing).

Encouraging others also implies that we value each other's gifts and genres.  We want to create an atmosphere where everyone feels welcome, whether novice or pro, full-time writer or dabbler.  Perhaps you love science fiction or fantasy novels, but don't have as much affection for romance or historical fiction.  Maybe you prefer biographies to poetry, or children's books to screenplays.  In spite of our preferences, we can still lift each other up and spur each person to be all they were created to be, for the glory of God the Father.

Encouraging each other doesn't just mean focusing on positive things or patting each other on the back. We should be free to give honest feedback so that 'iron sharpens iron' (Prov. 27:17). However, we do it in the context of relationships such that we are 'speaking the truth in love' (Eph. 4:15).

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

As noted earlier, this is a draft mission statement.  We would love to hear your honest feedback, whether you agree or disagree.  Have we left out anything important?  Are there some things in the list that we’ve over-emphasised?  We look forward to your thoughts and suggestions.

Nola Passmore is a freelance writer who has had more than 120 short pieces published in various magazines, journals and anthologies (including poetry, devotions, magazine articles, true stories and short fiction).  She and her husband Tim have just started their own freelance writing and editing business called The Write Flourish.  She loves writing about what God has done in her life and encouraging others to do the same.  (Some call it ‘nagging’, but she calls it encouragement).