Monday, 29 July 2019

Whatever could go wrong? A pantster tale by Jo Wanmer

It was a great idea. Whatever could go wrong?

‘I’ll make your wedding cake. Would you like a two-tiered cheesecake decorated with fresh flowers.’ It was my idea. The bride loves my cheese cake so jumped at the offer. At least we had one thing organised for the wedding that was bearing down on us. A wedding organised by a pantster! 

She had a general idea of what they wanted. Casual, and held in their back garden. A grazing table. She was confident it would all come together, but we agreed we really needed a plotter – someone with a plan. Somehow it never happened.

Are you a plotter or pantster? I suspect our writing styles follow our personality types. Are you a carefully organised list-maker? I’m guessing your writing would happen the same way.
Or are you an impulsive, last minute, throw-a-function-together sort of person? I am and I write that way. Of course there are many different personality types and many writers who mix styles very successfully.

But back to our two tier wedding cake. I could see it, covered with cream, smooth sides, soft flowers flowing down from the top to the cake board. It would be so pretty. When I was mixing the beautiful, rich, fluffy concoction, I began to think the model through. Can one cheese cake hold up another? The answer was obvious. No. But there is always a solution. I’d leave the lop layer on the base of the spring form pan and support it with shortened skewers. I walked around the garden and checked for flowers a couple of days before. Yes, I felt organised and so I ignored my daughter’s pleading to make a trial one.

In the middle of the night before the big day, I wondered if soft cheese cake would hold the skewers upright.  Would the biscuit-crumb sides cave in under pressure? I dreamt I should wrap it in sandpaper and smooth cream over the rough side of the paper. In other words, I suffered a pantster panic!

Undaunted, I whipped the cream, having researched how to stabalise it. I washed flowers and leaves, packed everything ready to be assembled on site. Ever cautious (haha) I decorated the top tier, covered the bottom tier with cream, and carried them separately to the table to finish the work of art. Yes, it worked. The bottom cake held up the top tier. The flowers flowed. It was beautiful. 

But…The groom wasn’t quite ready to cut the cake. Then he wanted it moved to another table. Eeeekk. But he was the groom. So with much trepidation I moved it. More minutes passed. This was when I realised making a gelatine based cake wasn’t the smartest idea. It needed a refrigerator. I held my breath. Finally, the bride and groom stood behind the cake and I  began to breathe. But no, they launched into speeches! Others clapped. I prayed.

At last. The words I was waiting for. ‘We will now cut the cake.’

Just then a guest  yelled, ‘It’s falling!’

I ran and caught it on the slide. I held the top tier while they cut the bottom one – the one that had disintegrated on one side, the side away from the crowd.  It caused a lot of merriment and the guests ate every last bit – even creeping into the kitchen to clean the board with spoons.

As I think about this disaster, or near disaster, I am reminded of my writing, of my book in progress. It’s been stalled for a long time. I had a plan for it – a one line plan. From there I’ve written by the seat of my pants. As I’ve progressed, the story has taken on a life of its own, as books do. Dan has run into many adventures I had never imagined. The only planned event was Dan’s encounter with God. Not just learning about Him but having a life changing experience of the living God. 

And now Dan is ready, the plot is ready but this pantster is clueless of how to proceed.

In a previous book, my protagonist found herself locked in a remote hut. When I returned to my manuscript the next morning I realised the whole story was locked up with her. She told the story. Hers was the only point of view. I spent four days wandering around muttering to anyone who would listen, ‘Milly is stuck in a hut and I don’t know what to do.’  Just as the whole plot was about to slide (read hit delete button) the penny dropped. There was a reason for her being there. A great reason. A plot solving reason. My fingers once again flew over the keys.

So now I’m circling this current work in the same way I watched the cake. God encounters are usually orchestrated by God himself. I’m out of my pantster depth. I’m hoping the Spirit gives me revelation soon or maybe this bit of creativity may slip away as well.

Have you had any pantster disasters or are you all calm controlled plotters? Please share your adventures.

Jo Wanmer has decided to give up organising weddings and return to her computer. She is thankful for editors who catch most 
disasters before publication. She lives with her husband of 48 years on the northern outskirts of Brisbane. Her book, Though the Bud be Bruised, was published 7 years ago. Three other manuscripts are currently recovering from pantster writing and being edited by her plotter brain.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

CWD Member Interview – Penny Reeve

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

Today interview: Penny Reeve

Tell us about your writing. What do you write and why?

I’m a children’s and YA author so I enjoy being able to write in a variety or genres and styles. I’ve written picture books, non-fiction for children and junior novels (including the 2018 CALEB Prize winning Camp Max). Most of what I write explores Christian themes for young people, but in 2018 I launched my first YA novel (as Penny Jaye) for the general market. It’s called, Out of the Cages, and tells the story of two young girls trafficked into the brothels of Mumbai and one of them who escapes.
I probably enjoy writing for children because I have such strong memories of growing up and wondering about the world myself. I try to write stories or resources for young people that might help them navigate the world they live in. Stories that recognise their unique potential and value their contribution to life. I also try to write stories that point to hope. Our world can be pretty confusing and, at times, depressing. But it’s also amazing, and beautiful too. And God is still at work despite it all. I hope my stories gently highlight this.

Who has read your work? Who would you like to read it?

Most of my Penny Reeve titles are available in Christian bookstores like Koorong, so they are readily available for Christian families and schools. I’ve had some lovely feedback from people using my tween Bible studies both in church groups and family settings. 
My children’s novels and books often find their way into school libraries, and playgroups appreciate my picture books too. 
Books under my new author name, Penny Jaye, will have a wider audience as they are targeted at the general market. Out of the Cages is classified as a Young Adult novel, but – as commonly happens with YA titles – it’s been read by a lot of adults also. I’d love to see more young adults reading it too, as I believe it has some important things to say, not just about human trafficking and modern day slavery, but about the courage and hope it takes to heal.

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

Well, I’m not sure my process is something set in concrete but there do seem to be some trends emerging the more I write. I generally start with a preparation stage: this involves initial research, brainstorming, basic character construction etc. I then may – or may not – do some planning and outline the general gist of the project. (This stage is usually more in depth if I’m working on a non-fiction project). Then I get to writing and try to produce a first draft. The ending is typically rushed and incorrect at this stage, but at least I’ve got something finished! I then head towards my editing process which usually involves more research, careful plot re-analysis, structural changes, ending rewrites and general rewriting. I genuinely enjoy all stages of the journey, even when I find them hard work. 

What is your favourite Writing Craft Book and why?

I’ve really valued Libby Gleeson’s writing craft books: Writing Hannah and Making Picture Books. (Unfortunately, I think they might both be out of print now.) I love the way she shares not just the tips and tricks, but the process of creating stories for children. 

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

Too hard to ask for just one! But since that’s what I’ve been asked I’ll say Cecily Paterson. I really respect her tenacity and commitment to her craft. She’s written some great books for young people, as well as producing beautiful colouring books through her Firewheel Press. She’s also a terrific mentor and writing coach (check out her Red Lounge for Writers.) Personally, she’s been a real encouragement and valued writing friend who won’t let me settle for whinging when things get tough, but helps me see the big picture and get back to work.

What are your writing goals for 2019? How will you achieve them?

My main writing goal for 2019 is to complete my master’s thesis. I’m writing on how Christian spirituality is represented within contemporary Australian YA fiction. I’m really enjoying it.
Creatively, I've got a middle grade novel I'm rewriting and a couple of other projects brewing also. I find the best way to achieve my writing goals is to be deliberate about them. This means I schedule them into my weeks, make sure I hit word count targets and don't short cut the research processes along the way.

How does your faith impact and shape your writing?

My faith impacts my writing by shaping my perspectives. The writing life can be very frustrating at times, and also quite draining. We’re urged to market this way, and network that way. To keep putting ourselves forward and write more, write better. By keeping my heart on what I believe God has asked me to do it helps me keep these clamouring voices in perspective. To put my energy where it matters and to write the best I can. 

 Penny Reeve, also writing as Penny Jaye, is the award winning, Australian author of more than 20 books for children, including the popular Madison and Tania Abbey series.

Her books are are fun, real and empower kids to engage with - and respond to - the world around them.  Her most recent book, Out of the Cages, is a general market YA novel published by Rhiza Edge.

Monday, 22 July 2019

Working in a collaborative writing project: is it for you?

While I love being a writer, there are a few things about it that I sometimes find hard.

Going solo on a project from start to finish is one. I was never much of a ‘group assignment’ person even in high school, and always thought I preferred to work on my own, but it turns out I like having a team to help share the highs and the lows.

Another thing I find hard is coming up with plot ideas. That might sound surprising for someone who is working on her eighth novel. I’m good at character development, and for that reason I tend to write stories that are strongly character-driven. But the truth is, I find it hard to nut out a plot.

Working in a collaborative novel project has been a great solution to these two problems. Early in the year I was approached by a person with an idea for a novel. The plot was all there; the characters were created; it was even part of a trilogy of trilogies. This person had all the ability to make it happen, except for one thing—the ability to get the words down on paper. The question was: would I write it?

I considered it for a while. The genre was not something I had any interest in. I’d never read a book like it, and to be honest, I’d probably leave the movie version of it as well. But it was an interesting idea, the main character sounded like she had some depth to her, and as every freelancer can appreciate, it was a job. I’d take it, I said. How hard could it be?

As it turns out, not terribly hard.

Scoping it out

Before I started writing anything, I asked for information.

I needed to have the broad outline of the plot and the general direction of the trilogy in my head, so I could see if it stood up in terms of story structure. I suggested moving a few things, increasing a few sections and decreasing others so that it fell into the usual Blake Snyder ‘Beat Sheet’ that I use.

I also asked for character outlines as well as photos for a visual guide to the people I was writing about. I needed to know who these people were: what motivated them, what they feared, what they longed for. My collaborator also sent me music tracks to listen to, rather like a theme in a movie.

I also needed to work through how I would approach Point of View. My collaborator had outlined the story using multiple points of view, rather like movies are made. I’m not a confident user of omniscient point of view, and I far prefer to write in a deep third person. The problem with that, however, is how to reveal different pieces of information and bring in the variety of characters who populate this trilogy. In the end we decided to use deep third person, to bring the story more depth and colour, but with multiple points of view, focusing mainly on the key character. It’s ended up being approximately three chapters in her POV, one chapter in another.

Writing process

Once we began the process of writing, my collaborator would send me a chapter outline. Some of these were more detailed than others. With the less detailed ones, I’d send back questions to be answered: what’s the setting? Why is that thing there? What’s the mood of the setting? Why did he say that—I feel like I’m missing something? We quickly worked out that the more detail that got put into the chapter outline at the beginning, the more speedy the writing could be.

And it has been speedy. Because the thinking has all been done for me, all I do is write to the plan. I can get 2000 words of a tidy first draft done per hour. Occasionally the characters decide to do slightly different things to the plan, but mostly their actions or words enhance the overall story rather than change or redirect it.

Usually my collaborator is very happy with what turns up on the page. Very occasionally we’ve had a misunderstanding with what the story or a character is doing, but after a second go-through things are fine. (Once I lost a whole chapter outline… oops… and it had to be redone. I apologised big time for that…) I feel like I’m bringing a story to life, and my collaborator is enjoying seeing the fruits of many years of planning and mental labour.

At this point we’re about three quarters of the way through the project. (No names, no details yet... it's a secret!) It’s one of the most enjoyable freelance projects I’ve ever done, and I like having a little ‘team’ to bounce things off about the story. It’s even inspired me to think about another collaborative project.

What about you?

If you’re interested in being part of a collaborative writing project, the benefits can be immense. You’re not on your own. You can focus on the thing you’re good at and excel at it. You can celebrate when it does well, and commiserate when it doesn’t.

Don’t go in starry-eyed, though. You’ll need a contract between the two (or more) parties. (Even if you’re best buddies now, we all know what can happen to even the greatest artistic partnerships.) You’ll need to nut out how the process of writing will work, and how you’ll overcome any differences of opinion. You’ll need to allocate responsibilities, set your limits and boundaries and respect them. You’ll need to decide on who you’re writing for, what your tone and mood will be, what the story will do. There’s a lot to figure out. Plus you need an escape clause in case it all goes terribly wrong.

I’ll definitely pursue collaborative partnerships as part of my writing toolbox in the future. What about you?

Cecily Anne Paterson writes brave-hearted novels for girls aged 10-14 as well as being a freelance writer and editor. Find her at and her Write Your Memoir course at

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Meet Our Members: Jan Morris

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

Today interview: Jan Morris – author name Janet Elizabeth

Question 1: Tells us three things about who you are and where you come from.
I am 61 years old and live in Brisbane and have been married to Philip for 30 years. We have a son and have been in Australia for 16 years and became citizens 12 years ago. We love living in Australia and love being Aussie Citizens. I was saved in the rivers Apostolic Centre in Slacks Creek 10 years ago followed by both my husband a week later and son within a couple of months.

I am an army kid and was born in Malaya before it became Malaysia, and have also lived in Singapore, Germany, Spain, Mallorca, Tenerife (Canary Islands) Scotland, London and Wales. We seem to move a lot – even here in Australia we have moved over 8 times in 16 years. Itchy feet!

My work background is diverse, Holiday Resort Manager, looking after holiday makers overseas, Travel Agent, Training and Personal Manager. Business owner and trainer in MLM for 7 years. Now an author / illustrator – which is a total dogleg! I don’t ever remember wanting to be a writer or illustrator.

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

About a week after I was saved, my mentor and friend, Christine Gear (who has since gone to heaven) suggested that I journal. She told me to write my questions, worries, ideas, ‘thank you’s’ and general chitchat in my journal as this would give me answers and bring me closer to God. I really liked Christine and, even though I thought that was very weird to suggest chatting to God through a journal, I chose a posh, velvet-covered, gold-embossed journal, and started meeting with God every morning for an hour, writing down everything that was in me. That’s when the rhymes and poems started emerging.  I would read back through my week and think, “I must have seen that somewhere before”, because it didn’t seem like something I would write. Even now, as I dip into a poem in my book “Heaven is all about Him” I often think “wow — that’s so beautiful! Go, God!”
God would prompt me to share these little poems with specific people and they would deliver words from Him and insights into things they were dealing with. It was pretty mind-blowing to me because I’d never come across this before!

After Christine went to heaven, my friends were so encouraging about me putting it into print and continuing to share them with people. Today when someone buys a book - they also get a poem that is specifically for them. The results and feedback from these little poems have been amazing!

The rhyme about the Good Samaritan popped up in the journal too and I felt that God was saying how important it was to teach children about loving everyone in these very diverse times. So The Good Samaritan came from that and as I was searching for someone to illustrate it, a friend told me she thought God wanted me to do it, which was a bit strange because she didn’t know that I could draw.

Anyway she went to her cupboard and presented me with some watercolor paints and brushes. I was scared out of my wits because I really didn’t think my very scrappy hand-drawn style was suitable for books. However, since then I have progressed to watercolor pencils and am really enjoying it!
The Good Samaritan was joined by The Good Samaritan Companion (Puzzles and Colouring) in 2018.

The Prodigal Son was launched in May this year and we had some lovely children who joined me in reading it to our audience. I feel that God has given me 2 more to work on next. Watch this space!

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

I have my books in 5 libraries in Logan and online at Vision Christian Media Bookshop and Koorong.

I also sell through my church, have several of the books in local school libraries (Carindale area) and sell through my own website

I would love them to be in more schools and am looking into home schooling with downloadable lessons to go with the children’s books both for schools and home-schoolers.

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

I don’t really have a process. So far the ideas and subsequent results are as a result of questions and prayer, downloads through my journal. I have to be very discerning because my head is so full of ideas that I can be taken off track very easily. I know that God wants the writing and poems to be simple, there are many many awesome prophets, teachers and writers out there with amazing books and teachings. I feel God wants me to be a 1st step. A little trip to what’s possible starting at ground level. Keeping it super simple! K.I.S.S. Listening to Him helps me the most and my main challenge is the marketing. I love the writing and illustrating and have had to learn a lot about Facebook, website creation and have so much more to learn!

Question 5: What is your favourite Writing Craft Book and why?
I have never sought out writing craft books, I wouldn’t know what one looked like to be honest. I have an enormous respect for authors who work for years on their manuscripts, perfecting their craft. As I have described, the poems and rhymes have been coming as a download and are not something that I sit and ruminate over. They are very simple and come in a note format which I sit on, re-read and work out….always asking, questioning. If something doesn’t feel right I scrap it and start on another tack. My head is so busy I have to have ‘Be still and know that I am God” time-out!

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

My shout out must be to Maree Cutler Naroba.
She was the first person to acknowledge that the path God has me on is where I should be – not only that but that I’m a fit for it. She invited me to be on a panel of authors at her Deborah Conference. She didn’t know me personally and so it was an absolute thrill to be asked.

We expect that family and friends will encourage us (though some don’t) but when complete strangers start to take note and make wonderful comments and really ‘get’ where God has you; that’s the catalyst of ‘I am where I am supposed to be’
At her conference I also had a prophetic word delivered by Wes Leake that said there would be children’s books. At that stage no - one knew that a rhyme about the good Samaritan had popped up in my journal and I had no inkling that God would be leading me in that direction. I started having conversations with God about teaching children kindness, love, gifts and forgiveness. So it was very on point and gave me permission to explore those subjects further with a sense that I was on track.

I see how many lives she is touching, and I love that she does it with such humility and grace. There’s not one single ‘look at me’ or ‘look how good I’m doing‘ in her. She knows 100% that it’s all about Jesus. Plus she gives the most incredible hugs.

Question 7: What are your writing goals for 2018? How will you achieve them?

I am in the middle of a project that will be released for Christmas. The perfect gift for your family and friends. I also have 3 online courses that are in the ‘ideas and set out’ stage. I am sure that it not only is on track with what God wants me to do but that it will bring me a residual income that will release me to do other things without the worry of finances. (not that it’s worry – but I’m sure you all know what I mean) I have peace. He delivers me peace and joy and they are my most favourite parts of me. I have to be disciplined and on task to achieve this. I’m doing ok so far!

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

Fixed front and centre – there is no Janet Elizabeth - author without Holy Spirit, without Jesus and the Father. They are what I write, how I think, how I love and how I encourage others. They are who I am. My prayer is always that I can be a person that even the most anti-Christian person would be drawn to, so many are lost in the world of me, me, me that I was a part of before I saw that there was another way. He’s got me!

Short bio

Jan Morris writes under her Christian names Janet Elizabeth and she lives in Brisbane with her husband of 30 years. She has been an author for just 3 years.
Her first book is a collection of prophetic poems “Heaven is all about Him” taken from her journal over 7 years. She loves to gift a specific poem to the people who buy the Heaven book and finds that they deliver a special word from God and are usually spot on.

There are also two children’s books featuring her own hand-drawn illustrations and rhymes, re-telling the two most well-known parables of Jesus ‘The Good Samaritan’ and ‘The Prodigal Son’. Plus, she has downloadable colouring pages for everyone who buys a book. You can connect with Janet and on Facebook Janet Elizabeth - Author

Monday, 15 July 2019

Five Things Wimbledon Can Teach You About Writing by Nola Passmore

Did you spend more time watching Wimbledon in the last two weeks than working on your manuscript? If you’re feeling guilty, fret no more. All that ‘tele-tennis’ can actually help with your writing. Here’s how.

Practice Makes (Almost) Perfect

Top players like Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams make the shots look easy. Powerful serves, effortless backhands, precision volleys. If only I had their talent! However, they didn’t master those winning strokes overnight. They practised each one thousands of times before stepping out on court. Now imagine doing all of it in a wheelchair as well. That's exactly what Australian Dylan Alcott did to win this year's inaugural quad wheelchair singles and doubles. You can read more about Dylan's incredible achievements here. If we applied the same discipline to our writing, readers would marvel at our powerful metaphors, effortless dialogue and precision plotting. It’s especially important to practise in your weaker areas. Study the craft, do writing exercises, seek feedback and practise, practise, practise until your words sizzle on the page.  For more detail on the benefits of practice, click here.

The Follow-Through is Key

In tennis, you don’t stop your swing as soon as the racquet makes contact with the ball. You have to follow through to add power and keep the momentum going. ‘Following through’ is just as important in writing. Have you heard or read some great writing tips? Then apply them to your writing in order to cement your learning. Did you promise yourself you’d write more this week? Month? Year? Then do what it takes to fulfil that promise. For more tips on following through, please see a longer post here.

Bad On-Court (Online) Behaviour Comes Back to Bite

There are a lot of wonderful players who show sportsmanship on and off the court—Evonne Cawley, Roger Federer, Ash Barty and Pat Rafter to name a few. However, we’ve also seen the dummy spits. Not only does bad behaviour alienate the player from the public, but it can also result in fines and loss of endorsements. Writers can also lose the good will of the writing fraternity through uncharitable behaviour (e.g. ranting about publishers who’ve rejected their work; debating with readers who’ve given unfavourable reviews; joining online writing communities purely to market their own books without giving back). In the writing world as in other spheres, we’d be wise to ‘do unto others as we’d have them do unto us’.

No Adaptability, No Grand Slam

In order to win a calendar year Grand Slam in tennis, you have to win Wimbledon, the Australian Open, the French Open, and the United States Open in the same year. In adult singles, this feat has only been won accomplished by two men (Don Budge and Rod Laver) and three women (Maureen Connolly, Margaret Court and Steffi Graf). One reason it’s so difficult is that the tournaments are played on different surfaces: grass for Wimbledon, clay for the French Open, and hard courts for the Australian and US Opens. (Though some surfaces have changed over the years). If players can’t adapt to different surfaces, they won’t win all four events. While you don’t have to ‘win’ at all types of writing, you can increase your opportunities by learning to write across various styles and genres. Different types of writing can cross-pollinate. Writing poetry can help you develop fresh imagery in your fiction; writing fiction can help you add more creativity to your nonfiction pieces. Why not experiment with those different surfaces? You might be surprised at the results.

It’s Not All Strawberries and Cream 

Did you know that 28 000 kg of strawberries and 10 000 litres of cream are used during Wimbledon? Well, some of that cream probably goes on the scones, but that still leaves a lot of strawberries and cream to tempt the taste buds. Tennis isn’t just about those delectable moments. It takes a lot of hard work and persistence to succeed. The same is true of writing. We’d all like to be the person who wrote their debut novel in a few weeks and then sat back as it climbed the bestseller lists. However, ‘overnight’ success occurs when writers buckle down and write through the hard times as well as the good. Some days, writing is pure joy. Other days, you want to kill your protagonist for creating so many plot problems for you. Hang in there and it won’t be long before the strawberries and cream are tantalising your writerly taste buds again.

(N.B. Blog Photos from Pixabay and Stencil, free creative commons use; Author photo by Wayne Logan. An earlier version of this post appeared on The Write Flourish writing tips blog.)

Author Bio

Nola Passmore (aka Nola Lorraine) has had more than 140 short pieces published including short fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, devotions, magazine articles and academic articles. Her debut novel Scattered, an inspirational historical novel, is being published by Breath of Fresh Air Press in 2020. She and her husband Tim run their own editing business called The Write Flourish. When not writing herself, she loves to nag (oops ... encourage) other to write. One day, she should read through all of her blog posts and take her own advice 😄

The Write Flourish website:

Monday, 8 July 2019

Omega Writers | Announcing the 2019 CALEB Finalists

The results are in!

The books have been read. The score sheets have been completed. The scores have been totalled, and Omega Writers are delighted to announce the finalists for the 2019 CALEB Award.

First, a big thank you to our first-round judges. No writing contest can operate without judges, and we appreciate the time and effort you've contributed.

Published Awards

Picture Book

The finalists in the Picture Book category are:
  • The Invisible Tree: Goodness, written by Kirrily Lowe and illustrated by Henry Smith
  • Lily's Balloon, written by Katrina Roe and illustrated by Helene Magisson
  • Wilbur the Wooly, written and illustrated by Nikki Rogers

Sponsored by: Simon Malcolm Productions

The Picture Book winners will receive their choice of a $400 voucher from Simon Malcolm Productions, or two $200 manuscript appraisals from a children's book specialist.

Young Adult Fiction

The finalists in the Young Adult Fiction category are:
  • Finding Kerra by Rosanne Hawke
  • Out of the Cages by Penny Jaye
  • Being Jazmine by Cecily Anne Paterson

Sponsored by: Christian Editing Services

The Young Adult Fiction winner will receive a $400 voucher from Iola Goulton at Christian Editing Services.

Adult Fiction

The finalists in the Adult Fiction (General) category are:
  • Under a Blue Moon by Phillip Cook
  • Grace in the Shadows by Christine Dillon
  • Iscariot by Mark Worthing

Sponsored by: Fire Wheel Press

The Adult Fiction winner will receive a $400 voucher from Cecily Paterson at Fire Wheel Press.

Biography or Memoir

The finalists in the Biography or Memoir category are:
  • The Sides of Heaven by Hazel Barker
  • Hudson Taylor and China: A Dramatic Biography by David Bennett
  • Hidden Thorns by Marie-Rose Fox

Sponsored by: Apricot Editing

The Adult Fiction winner will receive a $400 voucher from Shona Weston at Apricot Editing.

Unpublished Adult Fiction

The finalists in the Unpublished Adult Fiction category are:
  • Catherine Murray
  • Claire Steel
  • Carmen Thornton

Sponsored by: Book Whispers

The Unpublished winner will receive a $400 voucher from Rowena Beresford at Book Whispers.

Congratulations, everyone!

These entries are now on their way to the final-round judges—I don't envy their jobs!

The winners of the CALEB Awards will be announced as part of the 2019 Omega Writer's Conference. The keynote speaker this year is Christian agent Steve Laube, of the Steve Laube Agency.

Omega Writers Conference

The conference will be held from 11 to 13 October  2019 at the Edmund Rice Retreat Centre, Mulgoa. Transport is easy, as there will be a bus transfer to and from Sydney Airport.

Sign up now—earlybird registration closes on 15 July.

Click here to find out more and register.

Conference Scholarships

Omega Writers have been able to offer are offering one full and two partial scholarships to the 2019 conference. To apply, email with:
  • 500 words of your best writing.
  • 25-100 words telling us what you hope to achieve by coming to the conference, and why you haven’t been able to come before.
Click here to find out more.

Applications close on 11 July 2019, so get in fast!

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Indie Publishing anyone?

by Jeanette O'Hagan

What is Indie publishing? 

What is Indie publishing?  In the past there were two main routes to publishing - through a traditional publisher or through a vanity press. With the advent on e-books, print-on-demand, and online sales, it's become more and more viable for authors to become their own publishers. This means much more than finishing a book and then banging it up with a cover and no editing or proofing on somewhere like Amazon (though that can happen).  A serious Indie publisher is committed to producing a quality book with professional covers, with well edited and structured content that will connect with readers.

Like most authors, my aim was to be traditionally published. I became involved in Indie publishing through writing short stories and anthologies, first with some hands on involvement with the publication of the Tied in Pink anthology (which included my story, The Herbalist's Daughter) in 2014 and then publishing two anthologies in December 2015 - Let the Sea Roar (editor Madeline Calcutt) and Glimpses of Light (editors Jeanette O'Hagan and Nola Passmore). In 2016 I decided to publish a couple of the short stories and then a novella - Heart of the Mountain. The rest, as they say, is history.

Interview - Pros and Cons of Indie Publishing:

At the recent Omega Writers Toowoomba Retreat I was invited to be on the three-woman panel (along with Anne Hamilton and Ruth Bonetti) about Indie Publishing.  Nola Passmore asked us a number of questions and it was great to get three different perspectives as well as to answer questions from the audience. I've reproduced my answers I'd prepared to the questions below.

‘The Road to Self-Publishing’ Panel

Sat 8 June 2019 

Nola: Very briefly, tell us what you have self-published and the genre/s.

Jeanette: Of my own books

The five novella series Under the Mountain. The first book Heart of the Mountain published in 2016 & the last book, Caverns of the Deep released last month.

Akrad’s Children – first novel in the Akrad’s Legacy series

And a collection of short stories Ruhanna’s Flight and Other Stories

I’ve also been involved as either editor, proof-reader, & /or publisher of a number of anthologies

 Glimpses of Light - editor (with Nola Passmore) & also publisher
 Let the Sea Roar – editor Madeleine Calcutt, I assisted & also published the book
& I helped Victoria Carnell publish her first edition of The Call of the Wattle Bird.

Nola: What led you to take the self-publishing route?

Jeanette: I have a few reasons:

The opportunities to be noticed and accepted by a traditional publisher are extremely limited
I like having creative control and while a Indie publisher takes on the brunt of financial commitments up front, they also receive a greater percentage of royalties in the long run, and are not restricted to the publishers timetable and/or change in direction or focus.

Nola: What tasks did you do yourself in the production of the book/s and what tasks did you outsource? Can you provide tips (or lessons learned) from your involvement in any of those tasks? Any useful resources?

Jeanette: The tasks I do are:

  • Write the book & Initial edits
  • Get ISBNs, & register with Library Catalogue, Goodreads etc.
  • Format both e-book & the print book
  • Cover (in most cases)
  • Uploading the book to Amazon, Draft2Digital, Ingram Spark
  • Send legal copies to National Library of Australia (NLA) & State Library
  • Launch, promotion, special offers
  • I also want to work on distribution - to schools, libraries and bookshops.

And I outsource:

  • Editing & Proofreading
  • Cover (in one case)
The mix will be different for each Indie author and there are services like Book Whispers or Lillypilly Publishing or Australian E-Book Publisher that can provide many of these to Indie authors at reasonable cost without taking control of royalties and/or decision making.

I will say that it's important to outsource at least some of the editing and proofing as it's important to get other eyes on the manuscript.

Nola: What costs were involved in producing the book? How did you fund the project?

Jeanette:  For me the main costs are:

  • Pay for professional editing, proof-reading (this is the biggest cost but important not to skimp)
  • Paying for ISBNs 
  • Set-up costs with Ingram Spark (a Print on Demand publisher with a printer in Australia)
  • Software costs 
  • Cost of giveaways – especially print books for reviews or promotional opportunities or giveaways (most will take ebooks),
  • Admin /Promotion costs – such as POBox subscription, domain name, website hosting, Book Funnel subscription,  etc.
  • Also for events & fairs – Table hire costs, Insurance (Duck for Cover), travel & accommodation for book tables at conventions like Supernova or the Omega Writers Book Fair – and a kind gift from one good friend.
  • Advertising – I’ve done a small amount of Facebook Ads but haven’t had the time or budget to invest in this as yet.

To cover these costs, I’ve invested my own available spending money, cashed some shares, also I’ve done some occasional paid editing & formatting. And I do get some royalties from online sales, one anthology & conventions.

It helps if you have some upfront resources to invest, though there are ways to bypass or reduce some of the costs without skimping on quality - but it generally means more time commitment and slower progress. Of course, with God all things are possible.

Nola Passmore: According to Jane Friedman, an author platform is ‘an ability to sell books because of who you are or who you can reach’. What is the most useful or effective thing you’ve done to build your platform and/or market your book/s?

If I discount the early anthologies (Glimpses of Light & Let the Sea Roar) – then it’s a tie between early online Facebook launches & Conventions – like Supernova and Oz Comic Con. 

Nola: You’re all Christian authors, though not all of you were publishing material that was explicitly Christian. What role did your faith play in your publishing journey?

I felt a clear lead from God that this was what he wanted me to do. While my books are aimed for the general market (and I’ve had many non-Christians read and appreciate my books), I write intentionally from a Christian framework and themes. Faith also keeps me going when I feel discouraged.

Nola: What can readers and other writers do to support Indie authors?

Glad you asked :)

Much the same as any author.

  • Pray & encourage them
  • Beta read if requested or critique groups
  • Buy – or borrow their books (& if not in local library or bookstore or school, ask if they can be ordered) & read them :)  (Okay, so my to-read piles are huge - but I enjoy reading other Indie and Small Press authors).
  • Maybe buy their books for friends and family as gifts.
  • Recommend their books to friends, family, other readers – both in person and online
  • Review and/or blog about their books.
  • Subscribe to their newsletter or patreon
  • Like their FB pages, Twitter or Instagram – like, comment, share or retweet their posts. Follow them on Amazon Central, Bookbub, Goodreads. Add their books to appropriate Goodreads lists and/or ask questions.
  • Attend and participate in launches.
Especially, Active support on Social Media, Buy, Review and Recommend their books - and encourage and pray.

Thanks Nola for some great questions and the opportunity to share a little of the Indie journey which can be exhilarating, moving, lots of fun, discouraging and exhausting but always worthwhile. We walk by faith, not by sight. So as someone blessed me today by saying 'Jenny, keep writing' so I say 'Keep writing.' 

Jeanette O'Hagan 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, plasma rifles and cyborgs. 

Her stories and poems have also been published in over twenty anthologies - including The Quantum Soul, Challenge Accepted and Tales of Magic and Destiny in 2019, as well as her Under the Mountain series and Akrad's Children, the first book in the Akrad's Legacy series.

Jeanette has practised medicine, studied communication, history, theology and a Master of Arts (Writing). She loves reading, painting, travel, catching up for coffee with friends, pondering the meaning of life. She lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.

Find her on:

Monday, 1 July 2019

Exploring Genre | Jessica Kate introduces Romantic Comedy

Blast the glitter cannons and dance in the streets everybody, because romantic comedies are BACK!

We all have our favorites, but from Pride and Prejudice to I Feel Pretty, rom coms are one of the most beloved genres by women across the world. And whether they come in book or movie form, they’re also one of the most highly criticized.

Is this criticism justified? How can we make a positive contribution to the genre? What even IS a romantic comedy, and who are the current movers and shakers?

Pull on your fluffy slippers and grab your popcorn – we’re going to Rom Com University.

What Is a Romantic Comedy?

We could debate this all day folks, but for the purposes of today, I’ll keep it short and sweet – a romantic comedy has a romantic relationship at its core, and it’s told in a humorous manner.

What is a rom com? Jane Austen's Emma qualifies, though Anne of Green Gables still has a plot even without darling Gilbert Blythe.

That said, storytelling is generally more of a spectrum than neat boxes.

Recent additions to the genre such as I Feel Pretty and Isn’t It Romantic focus more heavily on the heroine’s journey, but I still count them. If you removed the romance from either of those stories, there would be no plot left. In Christian fiction, I’d say Bethany Turner’s The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck and Wooing Cadie McCaffrey are comparable. However, I wouldn’t count a movie like Bridesmaids that focuses on the female friendship as the core story and just has a romantic subplot.

The humorous part can be tricky too—how funny is funny enough?

I’ll be honest and tell you that some readers call my novel Love and Other Mistakes a ‘romantic comedy’, while others would say it’s a romance with lots of family drama. I consider it borderline so I call it a ‘sassy romance’.

Regardless, I won’t be nitpicky. Much of the advice today will apply to your funny-women’s-fiction-with-a-romantic-subplot or your sweet-lighthearted-romance.

What’s Happening Now in Romancelandia?

In the world of romance, otherwise known as Romancelandia, romantic comedies are making a strong comeback.

Trends in romantic comedies have changed over the years, but the key ingredients stay the same.

Long story short, for movies at least most people consider the 90s to have been the Rom Com Golden Age (all those Meg movies), the 00s to have been the Fall of Rome, and the 10s to have been a barren wasteland. Or more accurately, this decade has seen few true rom coms, but romantic comedy elements have found their way into all sorts of other genres (including a lot of television).

But now Netflix is once again changing everything…

Over in the book universe, Bridget Jones introduced us to chick lit in the late 90s, which was followed by a boom (Confessions of a Shopaholic, anyone?) and bust by the mid to late 00s. Now general market names like Christina Lauren and Sally Thorne are bringing rom com books back in a big way. (Though to be fair, Sophie Kinsella never stopped being awesome.)

Writing romantic comedy in book form means an author has less scope for physical comedy, but plenty of opportunity in author voice and description.

In the Christian/sweet fiction market today, Kara Isaac, Bethany Turner, Kristin Billerbeck, Melissa Tagg, and Jenny B Jones are all major players in the contemporary category. Historicals have their share of humorous romance too, with Karen Witemeyer, Mary Connealy, Deanne Gist and Jen Turano all contributing. I’m sure there’s more that I’ve missed (add them in the comments!) and you could probably question the strict definition of whether these are rom coms, but like I said…it’s a spectrum.

Shifts in the Genre

Now that we’ve had a chance to recover from some of the less-awesome rom coms of the 00s, Netflix has recognized what we knew all along—there’s millions of people out there whose Friday nights just aren’t the same without some swooning and laughter. But this is a new generation of romantic comedy, and it’s worth noting the differences between today’s rom coms and those of the 90s and even 00s.

Questioning the premise.

Recent rom coms such as I Feel Pretty, Isn’t It Romantic and even the TV series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (which its writers call a ‘deconstruction of the romantic comedy) reject the old rom com premise that a man’s love equals a happy ending. Sorry Tom Cruise and Renee Zellweger, but the perfect partner doesn’t complete anyone. These stories focus more on the heroine’s internal journey to self-love, with a strong serving of romance on the side. As Christian authors we believe this can go a step further—to a heroine secure in her value due to God’s love. Don’t be afraid to examine conventions in the genre and flip them on their head.

Smart is sexy.

The modern women in these romantic comedies are far less concerned with the designer brand of their high heels and far more focused on their professional careers or small businesses. These are no damsels in distress—these women kick corporate butt, and the men who pursue them must match their intelligence and wit.

Flip clichés for comedic effect.

Man Up, Isn’t It Romantic and Crazy Rich Asians all find different ways to poke fun at the ‘run to the airport’ cliché—even just by showing how hard it really is to make a grand romantic speech on a crowded airplane. See if there’s any cliched moments that you can twist—your readers will love it!

Write Your Rom Com

Whatever decade (or century) they were written in, the great romantic comedies have the same storytelling principles that serve all genres:

Multi-dimensional characters.

Sweet Home Alabama is one of my favorite rom coms because there’s so many layers to Reese Witherspoon’s dilemma – not just the two men in her life and her flourishing fashion designer career, but complicated relationships with her parents, her friends, her future mother-in-law, her own regrets and her nostalgia. Plus, the secondary characters are more well-rounded the your average ‘best friend’ cardboard cut-out. Everyone has their own flawed lives, not just the main characters.

A strong voice.

Sally Thorne’s wildly exuberant descriptions (like an explosion of rainbows and sherbet for your brain), Janet Evanovich’s deadpan way of describing ludicrous situations and characters, Jenny B Jones’ southern sass—all essential ingredients to the success of their respective stories. Voice isn’t something you can force, but it is something you can cultivate. What tickles your funny bone in rom com books? Take note and make an effort to put your own spin on it.

Witty dialogue.

Is there a rom com in existence that doesn’t have witty dialogue? Jane Austen set the bar high and we’ve been striving to meet it ever since. Good banter takes a while to get right—the first drafts tend to come off abrasive—but seek out feedback and refine, refine, refine. And watch everything Aaron Sorkin ever made.

Comedic situations.

Get creative and see what you can make happen. Janet Evanovich has managed to destroy Stephanie Plum’s car in all 25 novels of the series so far—she even smushed it with a garbage truck once—and it’s a running joke of the series. The ‘proposal story’ one-upmanship scene between Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds in The Proposal is comedy gold, as is Sandra Bullock’s interesting dance moves with Betty White. I Feel Pretty plays with cringe humor, while Confessions of a Shopaholic lets Becky Bloomwood tie herself in knots as she tries to cover up her lies.

Funny description.

In rom com books there’s extra room for comedy in your description. You could compare your heroine’s bed hair to a rat’s nest…or an electrocuted octopus. Contrast a character’s expectations (glamorous night out) with reality (strapless bra cutting off blood supply). Go crazy.

Strong romantic tension.

Stronger than in your sweet romances, these characters feel an irresistible pull toward one another—but they’ll fight it with everything they’ve got! This is why some of my favorite rom coms have characters with history (The Proposal, Sweet Home Alabama, Two Weeks Notice) because the bond of shared history really helps ramp up that magnetism.

An evenly matched hero and heroine.

Power dynamics are important. If one character has an advantage over another (in The Proposal, Sandra Bullock is Ryan Reynold’s boss) then circumstances have to even the scales (Sandy is a fish out of water in Ryan’s Alaskan hometown). Especially in stories with a love/hate trope, the characters will spend the story either fighting one another or fighting a third force side-by-side, so they need to be evenly matched with complementary strengths and weaknesses.

Know your secret spice.

There’s a magic ingredient common to all your favorite books, movies and TV shows, regardless of genre. James L Rubart calls it the theme of your life. If you can’t detect it, go back to that list of favorites and ask ‘what was my favorite moment in each of these stories?’ Knowing this helps you generate story ideas you’ll stay addicted to.

Go deep and make us feel something.

While they’re not romantic comedies, let’s borrow from Pixar’s kid-friendly comedies for a moment. While they’re known for making parents laugh, those movies deliver an emotional kick every time—who doesn’t tear up in Finding Nemo? The pain of the characters’ emotional journeys provide a strong contrast to the humor, like a diamond sparkling on black velvet. It makes us appreciate the laughter that much more!

Whatever brand of romantic comedy you love best, the guiding principles of storytelling remain the same. Study those who tickle your funny bone the most, layer in strong character motivations and whack in some seemingly insurmountable obstacles. And have fun with it! 😊

About Jessica Kate

Australian author Jessica Kate is obsessed with sassy romances.
She packs her novels with love, hate, and everything in between—and then nerds out over her favorite books, movies and TV in the StoryNerds podcast. When she’s not writing or discussing fiction, she’s hunting the world for the greatest pasta in existence.

Her debut novel Love and Other Mistakes releases July 2019, while A Girl’s Guide to the Outback hits shelves in January 2020.

Receive her sassy short The Kiss Dare FREE when you sign up for her newsletter at, and check out the StoryNerds podcast on Spotify and Apple Podcasts and at

About Love and Other Mistakes

Jessica Kate’s hilarious, romantic debut novel proves that some mistakes—including love—are begging to be made again and again.

Natalie Groves once had big dreams. But soon after her fiancé, Jeremy Walters, inexplicably broke off their engagement and left town, her father was diagnosed with cancer. Now tasked with keeping her family afloat, Natalie’s grand plans have evaporated . . . and God feels very far away.

Fast-forward seven years, and Jeremy is back in Charlottesville with an infant son and years of regrets. When his niece, Lili, lands on his doorstep in need of a place to stay, Jeremy needs help—and fast.

An internship opening finally presents Natalie a chance at her dream job, but she needs a second income to work around it—and the only offer available is Jeremy’s. They could be the solutions to one another’s problems, provided they don’t kill each other in the process. When they join forces, sparks fly. But they both know there’s a thin line between love and hate . . . and that love will turn out to be the best decision—or the biggest mistake—of all.

Click here to find Love and Other Mistakes at your favourite online retailer.

A Girl’s Guide to the Outback

Romance author Jessica Kate explores the hilariously thin line between love and hate in her heartwarming new novel. Kimberly Foster needs help from the last man in the world who would give it.

She and Samuel Payton fought so much during their three-year stint as colleagues that they now reside in different halves of the globe. She’s still the business director of the Virginia-based youth ministry that Sam founded, while he’s back at his family’s farm in rural Australia.

But Kimberly can’t find a suitable replacement for Sam, and the ministry is in trouble. She needs him back. What she doesn’t know is that the Payton farm’s finances are scarier than statistics on Australian spider bites.

She and Sam strike a deal: if she can use her business savvy to save the farm, he’ll return to Virginia and recruit and train his replacement.

Soon Kimberly’s on the edge of the Outback, working more closely with Sam than ever before. Can she protect his family’s legacy, the ministry, and her heart?

Click here to find A Girl’s Guide to the Outback at your favourite online store.