Thursday, 16 September 2021

Unbind him! And let him go!

by Julie Archer

We all know the story. 

            Lazarus falls ill in Bethany, the hilltop village a couple of kilometres north east of Jerusalem. Someone is urgently despatched to tell Jesus, who is taking a quiet break on the far side of the Jordan. 

            And Jesus, to everyone’s astonishment and dismay, does nothing for days. 

            Finally, he leaves the place where he has been preparing for his approaching suffering and death, and heads back to Judea, disciples in tow.



             As they trudge up the hill towards the village of little whitewashed houses, they are spotted. Someone runs to tell Martha, one of the bereaved sisters. 

            Out she comes, in a whirlwind of emotions, not knowing – as we wouldn’t – what to say to Jesus. So she blurts out, ‘Lord! if you had been here, my brother would not have died!’ 

            ‘I am the resurrection and the life,’ Jesus tells Martha. 

            And Martha, even in the depths of her grief, affirms, ‘I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.’ 

            So she goes back to the house, and tells Mary that Jesus is here and asking for her. 

            Mary leaps up, and followed by the mourners sitting with her, hurries to meet Jesus. 

            And falls, weeping, at his feet. 

            ‘Lord! if you had been here, my brother would not have died!’ 

            The mourners, from the village and from nearby Jerusalem, are all weeping as well, and Jesus’ own grief is obvious to everyone.  

‘Where have you laid him?’ he asks, through his tears. 

So the crowd heads off to the tomb, those trailing behind whispering and muttering. 

            Through the village they go, past the drying clothes, and scratching chickens, the goats in the pen and donkeys tied in doorways. Past the solemn little children too young to understand, and the toothless elders sitting in the winter sunshine. 

            Over to the hillside where the tombs of village families have been for generations, each sealed by a heavy stone. 

            Jesus, still visibly emotional, stops outside the tomb that Martha indicates. 

            ‘Take away the stone,’ he says. 

            Martha, who had earlier given voice to a last shred of hope, seems to have lost even that. 

            ‘By now there will be a bad odour. He’s been there four days!’ 

            ‘Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?’ 

            So the villagers roll away the stone, and the cave holding the dead man gapes open. 

            Jesus prays out loud to the Father, then he shouts, ‘Lazarus! Come out!’ 

            And out came the dead man, says John, hands and feet and face wrapped up like a mummy. 

            Now follows the line that grabbed me when this story was read in church recently. 

            ‘Jesus said, “Unbind him and let him go!”’ 

            We who belong to Christ have also been raised from death to life. ( John 5.24, 1 John 3.14, Ephesians 2.5, Colossians 2.13).  

But are there things that still bind me, even though I am raised to life? Tangle me up in my walk with God?  

Hinder me from writing what and how Christ calls me to write? 

            Imagine Lazarus trying to walk or run entangled in those grave clothes!  

            No, ‘unbind him and let him/her go’, says Jesus. 

            It is for freedom that Christ has set us free,’ (Galatians 5.1) Let us write in the freedom Christ has given to us, write to please him, throwing off whatever hinders us. 



Julia Archer writes short fiction, mostly for Young Adult and Middle Grade readers. Her writing is influenced by almost twenty years lived in Asia, mostly in cultures not so different from that of the Bible. She now lives in Adelaide.


Monday, 13 September 2021

Write Amidst the Storm

 I need not remind Australians that for the majority of us, the past eighteen months have been a period unlike any other in our lives. That includes writers. Bookstores have been shut, many never to reopen. Sales have been down. Libraries have been closed, so no PLR. Publishers have been hit hard. Events have been cancelled, and re-cancelled. Gatherings have been forbidden by government edicts. Homes with children usually at school have been thrust into the realm of home schooling, and a pandemic of fear has seen panic buying and frenzied behaviour uncharacteristic of our usually “laid back” Aussie culture.

What’s a writer to do?

I know for a fact people have been very creative in their responses to this. Many have established online groups, often expanding their reach in innovative ways. (I’m talking to you, Tamika Spaulding, and your Tassie crew!) Others have managed to use this opportunity to get writing done and release more books. (I’ll confess a twinge of envy.) Others have got stuck into making promotional book videos (Meredith Resce). The list is impressively lengthy.

For myself, in addition to the whole “close the country” down thingy, I had my own “shut down” of sorts. This wasn’t as dramatic as it sounds and without boring you with details, essentially I had to pull back from pretty much everything I’d been involved with to that point—which was already reduced due to a crazy-busy three years preceding that. I’ve been gradually crawling out of my hole, but my productivity was downright lousy for most of 2020.

What can we do when writing gets hard? Here are a few tips from my “Top Ten Block Busters” presentation, shared at a recent visit with the Rose City Writers:

1) Embrace the season and cut yourself some slack:

Frustration is unhelpful and takes a lot of energy. Even social media can be exhausting during such periods, which makes promotion an even bigger mountain. Our goals might look completely unattainable. It’s okay to cut ourselves some slack and let things slide on occasion, but don’t give up the ideas that will occasionally filter in. Jot them down for another time, for seasons come and go. Swings and roundabouts, as my significant other would say.

2) Do what you can to keep the creative muscle alive:

It just happened that when this conundrum hit, a couple of Quirky Quills (our local writing group), Kirsten Hart and Nola Passmore, and I were regularly meeting to work through online writing development courses. Although things struck a bit of a snag, I already had accountability and something I could focus on to keep things creeping forward. Even when our meetings were sporadic and my motivation negative ten, we were still able to set little goals that were feeding our inner creative capabilities. And out of that, when an opportunity for a short story did arise, I was able to apply what we’d been working on and submit a short story to the recent “Crossed Spaces Anthology” released by Rhiza Edge Press.

Crossed Spaces Anthology, Rhiza Edge Press

 3) Something is better than nothing:

You’ve heard me say it before, but it’s true. Even ten minutes once a week will see you write more than nothing. And when those swings and roundabouts turn, you’ll have something to keep going with. This also gives you a chance to celebrate a little win here and there. And who knows, it might just turn into a submission opportunity when you least expect it.

So even if it your writing productivity currently feels like you’re swimming in a pond of slowly solidifying craft glue, be encouraged: seasons change and opportunity comes to us all. Eventually.



Queensland author Adele Jones writes young adult near-science fiction (that is, until reality catches up with her stories!) exploring the underbelly of bioethics and confronting teen issues that include disability, self-worth, loss, domestic conflict, and more. She also writes historical fiction, poetry, inspirational non-fiction and short fictional works, with themes of social justice, humanity, faith, natural beauty and meaning in life’s journey. Adele’s first YA novel Integrate (book one of the Blaine Colton Trilogy) was awarded the 2013 CALEB Prize for unpublished manuscript. As a speaker she seeks to present a practical and encouraging message by drawing on themes from her writing. For more visit www.adelejonesauthor.com or contact@adelejonesauthor.com

Monday, 6 September 2021

The Cinderella Experience


Once upon a time, a beautiful young woman falls on hard times as a result of a tragic death in her family. She is forced into manual labour. Then a complete reversal occurs. She fortuitously meets a wealthy, well-respected member of the community who falls in love with her. They marry and she is rescued from a life of poverty and hardship. They live happily ever after. 

This is the basic plot of Cinderella, several other fairy tales and many fictional stories. Perhaps you have even written one yourself. It’s also the storyline of all our lives.

Our Cinderella Story

We were created ‘beautiful,’ made in the image of God. We have worth and value because we bear God’s image. We fall on hard times because we live in a broken world. Hard times take many guises. Cinderella experienced the tragic death of her father which changed the family dynamic. We may experience conflict in our family due to divorce, addictions, abuse, neglect. Or our hard times may come from unfortunate circumstances, illness, economic downturns, floods, fire. Or our hard times might be unseen, mental health issues, emotional distress, disappointments, broken dreams. None of us escapes difficulties, though the severity varies greatly. 

We are all faced with a choice, a call to action or adventure. Cinderella didn’t have to go to the ball. She could have stayed home and bemoaned her unfortunate life. Will we allow our hardships to define our lives or will we carve out a life of meaning and purpose outside our difficulties? 

Our opportunities to overcome physical difficulties may be limited, perhaps ill-health or financial restraints mean we’ll never achieve all we hoped for. Yet this doesn’t mean we can’t achieve something worthwhile for our family or community. We can change the lives of those we come in contact with through our kindness, by being a listening ear and by our prayers. Yet it’s a risk.

The risk of engagement 

Cinderella took the risk of becoming involved in the king’s affairs and the danger of being exposed if she was home late. Likewise, we’re called to take a risk, maybe not to go to a ball, but to take the initiative and pursue a course of action outside the expectations placed on us by others. 

Our course of action may simply be to abandon our plans and commit to God’s plans, not knowing where this might lead. Though it’s unlikely to lead to marrying into a royal family or even a family of wealth and privilege. Yet from a spiritual perspective when we commit to God, he welcomes us into his family and we experience spiritual wealth and privilege. Even as part of God’s family, we may not experience release from hardship in this world but we know we will in the next. By faith we know, we will receive our happily ever after ending.

The Cinderella of the Bible

Of all the characters in the Bible, the story of Ruth reads like Cinderella.

Ruth is still a young woman when the early death of her husband leaves her destitute. She travels with her mother-in-law to Israel, the birthplace of her husband and her deceased father-in-law (Ruth 1). She works in the fields, gleaning grain and meets Boaz, a wealthy, well-respected member of the community (Ruth 2). They fall in love and marry (Ruth 3 & 4). Ruth is rescued from a life of poverty and hardship. It’s a “rags to riches” story where God works unnoticed behind the scenes.

The complete reversal of Ruth’s circumstances comes about because she makes the decision to abandon her Moabite religion and puts her faith in the God of Israel. Her situation isn’t instantly improved as Ruth has to work long hours in the heat of the day gleaning grain, but she has hope in God and her faith is rewarded. She is blessed beyond expectation. 

Ruth was a foreigner, widowed and poor. Through her marriage to Boaz, Ruth joins his family and is released from poverty. Ultimately, she becomes an ancestor of Jesus (Matthew 1:5). Destitute Ruth is the Cinderella of the Bible.

Happily ever after?

Ruth’s story finishes with great blessing but also unanswered questions. Ruth marries an older man, will she be widowed again? Does she ever see her parents again or her sister-in-law, Orpah? 

In this life, we will always face uncertainties and disappointments but we have great hope in the God who makes Cinderellas of us all. 



Susan Barnes, writes insightful blog posts that 
encourage readers towards a more meaningful 
relationship with God. 

Sign up for her weekly devotions on her website: 
and receive a free chapter from her book, 
10 Biblical women who made a difference.



Thursday, 2 September 2021

Being Professional -- Marc Z Jeffrey

Photo by Oli Dale on Unsplash

Professional. It is a word we hear all the time: ‘He has turned professional. She needs to be more professional.’ The word has several nuances of meaning. Macquarie Dictionary (MacMillan Publishers Australia, 2021) lists ten. Three are: 

a) ‘someone who makes a business of an occupation etc., especially of an art or sport, in which amateurs engage for amusement or recreation,’ (noun), 

b) ‘following an occupation as a means of livelihood or for gain,’ (adjective), and 

c) ‘as would be done by a professional; expert,’ (adjective).

So, you want to make money from your writing; or have at least toyed with the idea? No? Then, am I right you want to communicate with your intended audience; you want to honour God, who put the desire to write within you? You want to do it well? Produce something that would please a professional? Then read on.

Being professional gives us credibility in a world that can devalue creativity. For a nation that loves story, Australians can sure be critical of those creating them. The statement, ‘You need to be more professional,’ may mask bias. Many writers and artists, especially those who are trying to make a living through their art, battle stigma. There is a prevailing attitude that unless someone traditionally employs you for what you are doing, then you are wasting your time. Income derived from what has the look of hard work can give much status. But doing a lot where there is no clear connection between effort and financial reward can appear ‘wasteful.’

Now, shake the negative stuff off. What does a professional writer do that distinguishes them from one writing purely for fun or personal fulfilment? What do we need to consider?

In summary, to be professional, we need to research the market, understand our readers, and be engaged with the writing community – which all helps us surf change whenever that’s needed.

First, a professional writer researches the market. The writer needs to understand what readers want and don’t want to read, as well as how and where they choose to access content. We might work our fingerprints off to create; but building our knowledge of marketing is just as important. How and when we sell or distribute our works is as important as the writing and editing them. Being able to judge whether it is time to reinvent how we are promoting ourselves rings true whether you have an agent or are self-publishing.

Second, if we explicitly or implicitly promise a reader something, we need to deliver. That might be as simple as not using cover art that suggests the content is a thriller, when you’ve written a romance. It damages our brand if we fail; and it could scuttle our business. A professional knows how to create an expectation and knows how to deliver on it. If we give the customer over and above what they expect, they are more likely to come back. 

Finally, writing can be a solitary occupation, but if you are a writer, you are a part of a community of people. Christian Writers Downunder is such a community. You can find us on Facebook or via this ‘blog spot’. 

Professional people take time to build their brands. Sharing knowledge is brand central for writers and creators. If you need to make a change in what you are doing, a little knowledge is invaluable in getting it right, so share yours. Sharing knowledge is not giving away trade secrets, it’s sharing what you know and what you have learnt. Knowledge is like the ocean, an open resource of facts; what you are doing is drawing attention to what you’ve found helpful in that ocean. 

Photo by Avi Richards on Unsplash

So, if you want to write for a living, or supplement your other job by writing, or just have fun with your words — then be professional because God calls us to be excellent in all that we do. That is: research the market and understand your readers, deliver on what you promise and engage with your community. Have a clear, well-thought-out plan of action and execute it. When things don’t work, rethink, pray. Then try again.


Marc Jeffrey is an Adelaide-based author and poet who loves to craft words in times when his beautiful wife and lively dog (Shih tzu cross Chihuahua) are asleep. He writes of hope and justice, depositing his characters in the nexus between the ‘what is’ and the ‘what if’ – while wondering if he can leave the house without waking anyone up. 

He is long-time member of the ‘Literati’ writing group, that grew out of the Tabor Adelaide Creative Writing program. When he’s not writing, Marc listens to his favourite music, which ranges from Cold Chisel to Claude Debussy



Monday, 30 August 2021

Simple vs Complex

By Mazzy Adams

In a world overrun with complex problems and dilemmas, it’s tempting to embrace the ‘Keep it Simple’ mantra as the only sensible solution, if not the obvious saviour. Undoubtedly, the Keep it Simple principle has merit, but complex problems, situations, or opportunities do arise that may require a complex problem-solving approach.

(Background image (c) Catie Jay used by permission)

Recently, when a maths student requested ‘complex unfamiliar’ practice problems to do, my beloved recommended she work through the examples provided in a textbook. ‘That’s no good,’ she said. ‘I need problems that are complex unfamiliar, ones I’ve never seen or practiced before!’ He was hard-pressed to convince her that ‘unfamiliar’ meant ‘unrehearsed’, not ‘unknown’ which, unfortunately, is a common misconception. 

Testing a student’s ability to solve a problem that’s unlike anything they’ve encountered in the classroom, seems unreasonable if not unethical. In reality, learning how to solve the ‘complex unfamiliar’ is a process; students are first taught how to solve simple familiar, simple unfamiliar, and complex familiar problems. In this way, they acquire the skills they need to solve complex unfamiliar problems. 

I see senior highschool students (grades 10 – 12) being asked to tackle complex English assignments which require them to analyse, compare, and contrast a literary text and a film then write an online literary article that shows 

a) they’ve understood how authors and directors use aesthetic and textual features to highlight a theme and/or position their audience to accept a particular point of view, and 

b) they know how to write a persuasive media article appropriate to a specific audience.

At times, requirement c) in which they must relate the theme to a contemporary issue, is thrown in for good measure.

It’s complex. Again, working through a step-by-step approach helps.   

Writing, like life, occasionally confronts us with challenges that are both complex and unknown. Some are unexpected; others are invited.

Nine years ago, as part of my creative writing degree, we were shown an image of a kid on a train as a ‘quick writing exercise’ prompt. 

In that moment, I encountered a character with a tale to tell, begging me to tell it. Whether by my own curiosity or a higher power, the calling to unravel the mystery of that kid-on-a-train grew and intensified until finally, my debut novel, Licence to Die (GRUnGE.001) was conceived … as a complex, converging narrative with not one, but three protagonists and a timeline that followed them from youths to new adults. I’d just become a first-time book-baby parent raising problem triplets. Oi Vey!  

Despite my formulating ideas (and outlines) for two other novels, at least one of which promised an easier one-protagonist confinement and labour, the story of the kid-on-the-train et al kept nagging until I surrendered and began the complex learning curve to bring it into being.

While the dominant advice for first-time novelists was ‘Keep it Simple’, I scrambled for information on how to make a complex structure work. When you’re tasked with solving a complex unfamiliar problem, you need progressive instruction that builds your skills. I was thankful for Elizabeth Lyon’s, ‘Manuscript Makeover’ which doesn’t shy away from complex structures, characterisation, etc, but tackles them logically and methodically. Also thankful for my wise and experienced editor, Iola Goulton.   


(Image: Excerpt from Elizabeth Lyon's Manuscript Makeover: Whole Book: Journeys and Less Common Structures)

Unlike me, you may be sensible enough to progress logically, start writing the simple familiar and work your way up to the more complex. To be fair, I’d written a lot of stuff before I commenced formal writing studies, then written better stuff—including poetry, creative non-fiction, devotions, and short fiction which has been published—before I began writing a novel. So I’m not merely advocating a ‘jump in the deep end before you’ve learned to swim’ approach.

But I would like to encourage you not to fear, or avoid, the complex unfamiliar just because it is complex, and unfamiliar. This applies to any situation (she sighs as she thinks about marketing and promotion), not just writing. I’m currently adding the steep learning curve of Indie Publishing to my problem-solving repertoire; I feel like a novice, I’m progressing at a snail’s pace, but I’m not sorry I chose to try. There is a wealth of helpful advice out there, even if you must search diligently to find the answers you need to solve your specific dilemma.   

But, as my beloved maths/science teacher husband reminds his students, it’s easier to redirect a moving body than to energise a stationary object.

Sometimes you just gotta start,
and learn the 'how to' as you go.

As we research, learn, practice, develop skills, and persevere, the complex unfamiliar becomes less so; the challenge becomes less daunting; success becomes more attainable. And your specific, personal, unique contribution to the world of literature will find its niche …

Yes, we can learn and apply formulas and writing principles and helpful tried-and-tested methods, but no two writers will follow the same, precise path to or through a story. The discoveries you make as you work to solve your unique story challenges, could hold the precise answer or encouragement your reader needs. 

Still feeling reluctant to tackle that complex, nagging problem? Or writing project? Or marketing and promotional strategy?  

I’m sure you’re not alone.

When the complex seems beyond our comprehension, it’s good to remember that nothing is too difficult for God. He’s a wonderful, patient teacher who’s always on call.

When unfamiliar circumstances or writing opportunities and dilemmas challenge you to reach for a solution, how do you go about it?



Mazzy Adams is a published author of poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction. She has a passion for words, pictures, and the positive potential in people. 

Website: www.mazzyadams.com

Email: maz@mazzyadams.com


Thursday, 26 August 2021

Never too Soon to Connect

 by Jeanette O'Hagan


Can't it Wait?

 

'I'm just starting out as a writer, why should I worry about promotion and marketing now?'

'If God has called me to write, then surely that's all I need to do? Once I've written the book, people will read it."
"I'm an introvert. I hate the thought of promoting myself. Isn't there some way of skipping that part? Can't the publisher do it for me?"

The Panel

It's hard to believe it's almost a month since the Fifth Omega Writers Book Fair. Two years in a row, the Book Fair has managed by God's grace to slip in just before a lockdown.  The committee's aim for the Book Fair is to connect new and established authors with readers through author tables and readings, but it also provides networking opportunities between authors as well as workshops and panels of interest both to writers and readers. This is not something the committee can do no matter how hard they work behind the scenes without the support of the writing community. 

This year, I was on the Panel on Marketing and Promotion for authors - along with the vibrant Sally Eberhardt and the talented Lynne Stringer. Our moderator, Nola Passmore, added her expertise and gentle guidance. We interacted with interested and enthusiastic participants who were happy to ply us with questions. Both Sally and Lynne gave some brilliant answers drawn from their experience and skills.  I added my ten cents worth as well. I thought I'd share my thoughts with you on marketing and promotion. 



Are Marketing and Promotion the Same Thing?


Yes, I mean, no. I get confused about this too. 

One answers seems to be that Promotion is about keeping the brand in the minds of readers and building a positive reputation - building 'a platform' as it were - to make you and your books visible and attractive to the audience.  While Marketing focuses on a single product (the book). 

However, other definitions see marketing in a much broader way - as the whole process starting with market research, creating the product, determining price and placement as well as promotion (launches, adverting, publicity, etc.) The idea of 'writing for market' fits under this umbrella - that is, researching a genre or sub-genre that sells well and writing specifically for that market.  

However, for many of us, our aim is not (at least primarily) to make money (to sell a product), but to communicate, to reach readers with a story, to inspire or transform, to follow a calling. 

Marketing - and promotion - can seem almost grubby, even sleazy.

However, it doesn't have to be like that.  Rather it is about connecting with potential readers and making our books visible to those who want to read them. 




Jesus urges his disciples to be a city on top a hill, like a beacon, or a lamp lighting up the house rather than hidden under a basket or bin  (Matthew 5:14-16). He also told his disciples the parable of the talents, making it clear that He asks us to invest, take risks, to work with Him in the calling He gives us. 


Promotion is about making connections with people who will enjoy and/or will benefit from reading our writing. At the heart of promotion, is discovering our future readers.

The questions


Why do authors need to promote their books? Isn’t it enough to write them? Isn’t that something that the publisher does for you?

Long gone are the days when a publisher did all the promotion for an author, if those days ever existed.  Yes, traditional publishers plan for promotion around the launch of the book, but if the book doesn't make a splash they can be quick to move on. Small presses have less resources. Whether you Indie publish or go the traditional route, promotion will still be largely up to you as the author. 

Also, publishers may be more interested in someone with an established 'platform', in other words, someone who has already built up a name or following.
 

What have you done to market and/or promote your books? What have you found to be the most successful promotion strategy?

I've tried a range of strategies - networking, being part of groups interested in my genre or reading, engaging with social media - such as Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Instagram, Bookbub, Pinterest, Linkedin etc. I have a website (jeanetteohagan.com), have established an email list, used reader magnets (a freebie to encourage people to sign up to my email newsletter - in this case a story), had regular price reductions and promotions and giveaways, and dabbled in advertising. 




Online launches and connecting with people through groups and social media have been useful ways to connect with new readers.  The most successful by far, has been face-to-face events like Supanova and OzComic Con (attended by avid readers who love the genre I write) and the Book Fair. 

To me this underlines the importance of 'finding your tribe' - the people who will love what you write - and also of patience, as it takes time and perseverance to build up a presence. 

Out of the various strategies, what hasn’t worked for you? Would you do something different?

 So far, I haven't had much success in advertising. I've done two courses in this area (Mark Dawson and Bryan Cohen) which have been immensely helpful in understanding the mechanics and strategies of both Facebook and Amazon ads, but so far I haven't seen significant results. 

However, I have learnt a lot and my 'failed' experiments with advertising has given me pointers about a couple of areas I need to improve on. 

So I think, really,  what doesn't work is becoming discouraged and giving up when results don't come quickly.  At times, I put so much pressure on myself to do everything that I'm in danger of burning out.  Staying on task is important, and learning from mistakes is important. So too, is being kind to myself. 




One advantage of being an Indie author (I am my own publisher), is the power of the long tail. In a brick-and-mortar bookstore, books often have a six week shelf life before being replaced. But with publish-on-demand and e-stores (like Amazon), one's books can be evergreen. Persistence and perseverance become key - and so does pacing oneself. 

When is the best time to start promotion? 

The best time to start, is now - but certainly six months or more before publication.  Start connecting now with your tribe whether through social media, groups or a blog or website. Build anticipation. Make connections. Share interesting and intriguing content. 


What tips would you give to someone just starting out?

Start small.  There are so many different things to do that if you try to do it all at once, you will be overwhelmed. It's better to start with one or two things (say a Facebook page, or Instagram or a blog) and take time to learn how to make it work for you before moving on to another part of the picture. There are books and courses and you can ask questions in CWD or other writers groups to help. 

Experiment but don't try to do it all.  Not everything is going to work for everyone. Find out what works for you. 

Don't make it all about you.  If all you focus on is selling your book, you become like the bore in the party who only ever talks about themselves. Support others, provide interesting but related material, ask questions, make people laugh. 

And have fun. Promotion is not about forcing someone to read or buy your book. It's about making your book or writing visible to those who are looking for it (even if they didn't know they were). So, relax, be yourself, have some fun. After ploughing and tilling the fields, trust God to bring the harvest - in His time. 




You know, I may never make it 'big' or even earn a modest living from my writing, but I still have so much to be grateful for - a line of my books on the top shelf of the book case, having readers come back at a convention eager to read the next book, having numerous people comment about one or other of my stories have made them think or has given them hope - knowing that my stories have radiated a little of His light where it can be seen.





 
Jeanette O’Hagan has published ten books through her own imprint, By the Light Books —seven fantasy novels set in the world of Nardva, a collection of short stories and two anthologies. Many of her short stories and poems have been published in a range of anthologies. As an Indie author, Jeanette can vouch that marketing and promotion requires persistence, flexibility and a willingness to experiment.

Jeanette lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.



Facebook |Jeanette O'Hagan Writes | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest



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Monday, 23 August 2021

Omega Writers News | August 2021 | Retreat and Book Fair News

 

2021 Omega Writers Retreat

Unfortunately, the latest lockdowns have meant the Omega Writers Committee have made the difficult decision to cancel the 2021 Omega Writers Retreat. Instead, the Committee have put together an online event.

Hold your diaries for the evening of Friday 8 October, and all day on Saturday 9 October from 9am.

Yes, we'll miss meeting in person, but an online event is a good alternative.

  • Friday night will start with the Omega Writers Annual General Meeting at 7pm, and there will be a fun activity for everyone at 8:30pm.
  • Saturday will include a welcome from our President, Penny Reeve, genre discussions, presentations from Psychologist Collett Smart and author Nicole Partridge, and panels on publishing and marketing.

All times are Sydney/NSW time.

The CALEB Awards will begin at 7pm on Saturday. Attendance is free, but you will need to register to receive the Zoom link. Click here to register.

The programme will cost AUD 50 for members of Omega Writers, and AUD 70 for nonmembers. Click here to reserve your place via TryBooking.

Omega Writer's Retreat Scholarships

There will be five scholarships available for the online event. Click here to apply.

Encouragement Award

Nominations are still open for the Caleb Encouragement Award.

If you’re a current paid member of Omega Writers, we would like to invite you to nominate a fellow Christian writer for an Encouragement Award.

This could be:

  • A writer who has gone out of their way to support other writers (this will be a NEW CALEB award launched at this year’s Online Retreat)
  • A writer who you believe needs encouragement.

We have three simple guidelines for the writers you nominate for either type of award:

  • Nominees must be Christian writers currently living in Australia, New Zealand, or the South Pacific.
  • Nominees can be published or unpublished writers in any genre.
  • Nominees do not have to be members of Omega Writers.

Please email caleb @ omegawriters.org and tell us:

  • The type of Encouragement Award you would like to nominate a writer for
  • Your name and email address
  • Up to 200 words explaining why you believe this writer should receive this prize.
  • The name and email/website address of the author you’d like to nominate (so we can contact them if they win)

Nominations close on 31 August 2021.

Omega Writers Book Fair

The 2021 Omega Writers Book Fair went ahead almost as planned. A snap lockdown for South-East Queensland was announced as the sixteen authors set up their tables. The day went ahead anyway, although the turnout was (unsurprisingly) lower than anticipated and the event finished early to allow people to get home.

Visitors enjoyed readings from the attending authors, as well as a workshop by Anne Hamilton and a panel on Marketing and Promotion for Authors.

The winners of the Book Fair writing competition were also announced, with entrants writing a poem or short story with the theme of Hope.

The winners of the four categories, as announced at the Book Fair on 31 July 2021 are:

Unpublished Writer

  • Poetry by an unpublished writer - Helen Bishop with her poem Hope
  • Shorty Story by an unpublished writer - Warren Brooks with his short story Christmas Hope

Published Writer

  • Poetry by published writer - Joy Mal with her poem Waiting
  • Short Story by published writer - Hazel Barker with her short story Hope Springs Eternal


Are you planning to attend the online retreat?


Thursday, 19 August 2021

Transformation Stories - Our friends or foes?





For years, I'd devour self help books, trying to discover whatever I lacked, so I could fix it. I was the sort of person who believed I never measured up to whatever high standards made a person acceptable. It shook me up when I came across a list experts had compiled of the best self help books ever written. I'd read many of them already, and sincerely tried to take their advice on board, yet there I was still searching for more. At that point, I decided that my sense of self esteem had to come from Jesus' words about me, and from looking within. I had to decide that I was already worthy, rather than wait for all these authors to convince me to jump through hoops before I would believe it.

Since then, I've come across many people who avoid self help book altogether. 'If you don't think there's something drastically wrong with you before reading these books, you surely will by the time you finish,' is their philosophy. The most cynical among these critics may add, 'It's the mission of self help books to make people believe they're deeply flawed and need fixing. If you don't want to buy into the restless premise that you must forever work on self-improvement projects, just stop reading all that stuff and be kind to yourself. Stick to fiction stories instead.'

I'm certain this advice is far too reactive, since many self-books on the market are absolute gems. And is their point even valid, that sticking to fiction stories is the solution? For they may help convince readers that we're flawed in a far more emotive and subtle way than self help books ever can.

In his book, 'Waking the Dead', John Eldredge makes the following observation.

'The phoenix rises from the ashes. Cinderella rises from the cinders to become a queen. The ugly duckling becomes a beautiful swan. Pinnochio becomes a real boy. The frog becomes a prince. Wretched old Scrooge becomes "as good a friend, as good a master and as good a man as the good old city knew."'

Wow, stories of transformation really are prolific! If we live and breathe this sort of literature, if we were brought up on it, has it really been good for us? Doesn't it convince us, in a very palatable and surreptitious way, that we need to become something completely different in order to be acceptable? That we're not good enough as we are? Are transformation stories the feel-good treats we consider them to be, or unhealthy food-for-thought which damages our self concepts and make us discontent with where we are? I hate to think that we put ourselves on a treadmill of frustration whenever we open up any book, whether personal development or engrossing fiction. Isn't that enough to make you wonder whether non-readers are onto something?

Eldredge thinks transformation stories have always comprised part of the fabric of literature because they mirror the essential Christian gospel message. The sin-steeped, darkness of the human heart is such that we need to be completely transformed. That's what being 'born again' is all about, and humanity has always known it deep inside.

I agree with him, but after lots of reflection, would take it a step further. Rather than advocating complete change to become someone totally different, transformation stories aim to ignite the innate value that lies in our hearts all along. Although our human natures may indeed be too dark to change without celestial help, God doesn't desert us. He knows the value of what He created. He probes to stir up goodness which has been lying there latent, so deep we've missed it. And he uses stories, particularly transformation stories, to help do it.

The term 'character development' is often applied to a good novel. When you think about it, it's simply part of the transformation process. When the circumstances of the plot bring out the best in characters, it's like excavating what was already there. It isn't making something brand new from dross, like alchemy. It's highlighting what was within the heroes already. If stories can do this with characters, then readers' hearts are often pulled along for the ride.

There are Bible precedents. Gideon was greeted by God's angel as a great and mighty warrior, while the young man himself was busy threshing his grain in a wine press, to hide from the terrifying Midianites. Peter was given the appellation 'the Rock' even before he lost all his courage on the night of Jesus' crucifixion and denied that he knew him three times. God sees attributes in us which we don't even recognise ourselves yet.

This is biblical history, but our fiction stories follow suit. Snow White was a princess at heart, which was evident in the gracious way she behaved in her humble forest home with the dwarfs. The Scarecrow and Tin Man really did have a brain and heart respectively, for they were using them all along the Yellow Brick Road. And when Harry Potter first met Hagrid, the lovable half-giant told him, 'You are a wizard, Harry.' Not, 'You will be.' Only then did Harry understand some of the weird phenomena which had happened occasionally in his life.

I'll never stop reading wonderful stories, and transformation tales are some of the best around, but maybe that's only if we read them with the ideal mindset. If we aim not to think, 'What do I need to change?' but rather, 'What attributes of mine should I celebrate and highlight?' then they really are like friends, and not foes.


Paula Vince is an award winning South Australian author of Christian fiction who lives in Adelaide's beautiful coastal suburbs. She has been a homeschooling parent and a cleaner, and is currently studying for her Master of Divinity.








Thursday, 12 August 2021

Hindsight

It’s been a hard year. Most people tend to say that about 2020, but that wasn’t the case for me. I’m very blessed that apart from a scary outbreak in the north-west early on, my home state of Tasmania has been largely un-affected by the pandemic raging across our world. I’ve always enjoyed working from home, so that was nothing new, it was just fun to have everyone else doing it with me. It made my little introvert heart dance a little.

But this year? It’s been a rough roller coaster. My wife has faced a number of challenges in her career. This had had a major impact on our family finances. There were times I almost lost hope, but she kept battling on, with me ever at her side. Looking back, I can see God’s hand at work, even in the times that it felt like he wasn’t there, or that he simply didn’t care. But hindsight reveals much that can’t be seen when you’re in the trenches.

After leaving a job that wasn’t good for her, we had a time of waiting. We required a lot of help from family and church during this time, as we did our best to make ends meet. As we waited, we prayed for a new job for my wife. A job that would provide her with the support and mentoring she needed.

Something came up but it didn’t last long, as demand for the work disappeared. Again, we waited.

Then God answered all our prayers. My wife was offered an interview for a job she hadn’t even applied for. And she got it. We thought the story was over.

But that job didn’t last long. It turned out not to be the perfect fit we thought it was. This was the real low point for me. After years of battling, I was beginning to think it was time to accept defeat. My wife’s on-and-off-again income meant that she had to cancel a retreat that she was looking forward to. Something that would have helped and encouraged her.

What had it all been for? Why did God seemingly answer our prayers only to have it all unravel again? My wife was feeling it too. Maybe it was time to stop looking for work. There was only one kind of job she would consider applying for. She described it to me.

Several days later the email appeared. A notification from Seek. Almost word for word what she had described. She put it an application. It was for an interstate company, but the job would be here in Tasmania. Several nights later, her phone rang as we were watching TV. She ran from the room to answer it. I had an inkling this might be related to her application. I turned to my daughter. “I think Mum is having a job interview.” About ten minutes later she emerged from the bedroom. “I just got a job!”

It was later that week, when she was hard at work, getting up to speed with things, that it dawned on her. That retreat was going to be starting today. If she’d gone to the retreat, it would have interfered with her ability to start work when she was needed. It’s quite possible that this story is not yet finished. There will likely be further challenges ahead. But it’s these hindsight experiences that build our faith, when we can look back and realise that God had us in his hands after all.

I also find myself very grateful for the Psalms of lament. It’s encouraging to know that we can pour out our frustration to God with raw honesty. He can take it.

Let’s see what the next chapter brings.


Adam David Collings is a speculative fiction author from Tasmania, Australia. He draws inspiration for his stories from his over-active imagination, his life experiences and his faith. Adam is the host of the Nerd heaven Podcast where he discusses works of sci-fi and fantasy on the big and little screen. You can find him at AdamDavidCollings.com

Monday, 9 August 2021

How Do Genre Butterflies Focus Their Marketing? — Susan J Bruce

Photo by Karina Vorozheeva on Unsplash



I’m one of several authors in the Christian Writers’ Downunder group who are self-confessed genre butterflies—or genre rebels. I use the latter if I'm in an edgier mood 😎. I’ve written about this before in Confessions of a Genre Butterfly, but I wanted to revisit this subject today as it's relevant to me right now. 

How do I market two books—one coming soon and the other next year—when the audience for each of those books is different? Can this ever work?

I’ve been revamping my website as I prepare to release my debut young adult (YA) novel, Running Scared, in the next few weeks. [Bear with me if you head over there and get the 'coming soon' page. I'm having trouble with a couple of settings—it should be sorted soon so check back later.]


I wrote the first draft of Running Scared several years ago as part of my creative writing Masters degree. It’s had lots of nibbles from publishers over the years but hasn’t quite sold. I like this book and I’m proud of it. It’s a good story and deserves to be out there. In 2018, it won the Omega Writers Caleb award for an unpublished manuscript, but for the last year it’s been languishing—hidden from the world—on my computer’s hard drive. I've now decided to embrace indie publishing and send Running Scared out into the world.



There is no problem in publishing a book like this. The difficulty is marketing it when my work in progress (WIP), Dead Again, is a very different book.


Running Scared is contemporary YA, deals with social issues, and contains suspense, first love, and lots of domestic drama. While the romance is sweet, and the story imbibes a significant amount of hope, the circumstances have an edge. It's a story of courage and overcoming that will keep you on the edge of your seat rather than make you feel cosy and warm on a rainy Sunday afternoon.  


In contrast, my current WIP, Dead Again, is a lazy Sunday afternoon read. It’s a light-hearted amateur-sleuth mystery with a romantic subplot, for grownups. The characters change and overcome, but offbeat humour is mixed with the mystery and more poignant character moments. 



The above isn’t the final cover for Dead Again. It's a concept I created to help me write the book. But it should give you the general vibe. Since putting it together, I've added a cat to the story so she'll need to somewhere on my final cover 🐈. I'm only about a fifth of the way through the draft but I'm enjoying the challenge. 


With a mystery, you need to create the backstory of the murder, then weave it through the narrative in a way that brings the assailant to justice by the end of the book. You must give enough clues to give the reader a chance to work out whodunit, while hiding the identity of the murderer. Can I do this? I’ll give it a good go. If it doesn’t work, I’ll turn it into a romantic suspense 😁. Flexibility is one of the benefits of indie publishing! The point is, right now I feel like writing on the lighter end of the literary scale. 


I think this is partly because of Covid—and because I spent much of last year doing some intense non-fiction ghostwriting. Right now, I’m up for fun-filled murder and mayhem! I will write YA again—I have a couple of ideas simmering—but for now I’m craving the escapism of my amateur-sleuth mystery series. 


But. And it’s a big BUT. How do we market ourselves as authors, create an author brand, when our first and second books are for different audiences and have a different tone? 


The purest wisdom is to not mix different genres and age groups under one author's name. An eclectic range of books can create confusion among readers on distribution platforms like Amazon. Amazon remembers what books we like to read and suggests others we might like in the ‘also bought’ section of their website. In today’s digital world, authors and publishers must fight for every bit of visibility they can get. We need the right book being shown to the right reader! 


And then there's the mailing list and the website. My site has a mystery and suspense focus which can cover both novels, but how do I create a mailing list that attracts both sorts of readers? Should I create separate newsletters?


I have some non-fiction book ideas too. How do I handle that?


It’s tricky, isn’t it? 


Photo by MichaΕ‚ Parzuchowski on Unsplash

Would it be better to create a new pen name and another website? 


The problem is that each new site means more work, not just in building the site but in maintaining it and using it as a hub for marketing and social media. I’m not keeping up with social media as it is. And I do other things—animal art and author services such as editing and proofreading. I really should have a separate site for those too, but there is no way I could manage four sites.


There is no perfect solution to my problem—other than not publishing Running Scared—and waiting until Dead Again comes out next year. But I think this novel deserves its time in the light and if it inspires just one teenager to have hope when they're in a dark place, it will be worth it. And I do want to write more YA—just not right now. 


My decision? 

  • I’m  going to publish Running Scared as Susan J Bruce and start building my mailing list with some freebies focused on that book. 
  • Once that’s sorted, I’ll add another segment to my mailing list and offer a short story sampler that isn’t just YA focused. People can click on one or the other (maybe both?). I'll also send this out to my existing list.
  • At this stage I’m also going to publish the mystery series under Susan J Bruce. I’ve seen authors successfully combine all sorts of books and services on one site, so it’s possible. Scottish author, Wendy H Jones, is a Christian who writes for the mainstream. Wendy has adult non-fiction, YA, crime, humour, and children’s books all on the one site, under the one name. She tells her readers she’s ‘got them covered from the cradle to the grave’. As I wrote this article I came across three different blogs that said the main consumers of YA books are adult women. So maybe Wendy’s onto something. Get the mother to buy her daughter the YA book (the mother will read it first of course) and at the same time she can pick up an amateur-sleuth mystery for herself. If Wendy can do this, why can’t I? It’s worth a try πŸ˜€.
  • When I get time (ha!), I’m going to create a separate portfolio site for my art and possibly another for author services, but I’m going to keep life as simple as I can and run most things from the hub of my main author site. This may change in the future depending on how my creative business evolves, but it feels like the best way to keep myself sane for now.

This may not be the perfect solution and the marketing purists will groan, but it's the best I can do for now. I'm still early in my writing career and my book writing direction could change a couple of times before I find my groove. It would be different if I had ten books out and they were all different genres. That's fine if your writing is a hobby but not if you want it to be a key focus within your creative business.


What about you? Are you a rebel genre butterfly? If so how do you market your books? How do you bring focus to your website and mailing lists? What solutions have you found? Please let me know in the comments below. And feel free to leave a link to your website so everyone can see your awesome genius at work πŸ˜ƒ.



Susan J Bruce, aka Sue Jeffrey, spent her childhood reading, drawing, and collecting stray animals. Now she’s grown up, she does the same kinds of things. Susan worked for many years as a veterinarian, and now writes stories filled with mystery, suspense, heart and hope. Susan also loves to paint animals. Susan won the ‘Short’ section of the inaugural Stories of Life writing competition and won the 'Unpublished Manuscript' section of the 2018 Caleb prize. Susan is the editor of'If They Could Talk: Bible Stories Told By the Animals' (Morning Star Publishing) and her stories and poems have appeared in multiple anthologies. Her e-book, 'Ruthless The Killer: A Short Story' is available on Amazon.com. You can check out some of Susan’s art work on her website https://www.susanjbruce.com.