Thursday, October 8, 2015

Ten ways to succeed at a writing conference

That's right folks, I got to meet Francine Rivers!
Hey! I’m Jessica Everingham, I write romantic comedy, and last month I attended my first ever writing conference. 

The American Christian Fiction Writers conference is probably the biggest Christian fiction event around, and this year’s event kicked off in Dallas in September. 

From my experience, here’s ten ways to succeed at a writing conference:

1.      Chill out. If you have to run to the plane, forget your make up, and go to the wrong hotel (like me), don’t despair. It all works out. I met another author who also went to the wrong hotel, and we traveled to the right location together. Instant friends!

2.      Get there early. I arrived on Wednesday morning, and the conference didn’t start till Thursday afternoon. I met other authors in the hotel restaurant, proofread my writing samples, and got used to the whole conference experience. By the time the rush came on Thursday morning, I wasn’t intimidated by the hundreds of authors descending on the hotel.

3.      Network like crazy, and have a professional-looking business card. I collected almost 90 business cards, and gave away even more. The real point of the conference isn’t the teaching—you can download the conference audio for a fraction of the price of attending a conference. It’s about meeting people. Some of my informal chats later led to opportunities with agents and editors.

4.      Market yourself. I write romantic comedy, so every day I wore a bright, fun dress that looked professional but also stood out. It represented my genre and my style. My business card also has a fun photo on it, so even before I said, “I write romantic comedy”, people had a good idea of what was coming.

5.      Be over-prepared. I’d been told that I would never need a physical copy of my book proposal at the conference, but I brought it anyway. (Over packing is kind of a compulsion). On the last official conference day, an agent I wanted to meet ran a class on proposals. After the class I grabbed mine and took it to him to get his advice. He read it and asked me to send him information on my book.
Aussie writers represent! From left is me, Rose Dee and Narelle Atkins.

6.      Meet as many professionals as you can through appointments. Every attendee has the chance to sign up for two agent and two editor appointments, plus extra paid appointments with authors, mentors and specialist professionals. On the day, you can line up at the appointments desk to get extra meetings. Definitely do that.

7.      Talk to everyone, whether they are the agent/editor you are aiming for or not. Industry professionals talk to one another. In my case, one person talked about my work to another and it lead to a great—and unexpected—opportunity for me.

8.      Go to the after-party. By the time the gala finishes, everyone is tired. Go hang out anyway. You might get to chat with your favourite author over a drink!

9.      Stay late. I attended the post-conference session, which ended at noon, but my flight didn’t leave until 10.30pm. Those hours hanging out in the hotel lobby with the other late-leavers give you a chance to really get to know people. It also gave me a chance meet one of my favourite authors and have an unscheduled meeting with an agent.

10.  Have fun. Don’t pin all your hopes on one agent, editor, or conference. The point is to learn, put yourself out there, grab the opportunities that arise, and trust God with it all.

Jessica Everingham is a 24 year-old Australian who writes romantic comedy for a messy world. Her manuscript, Hating Jeremy Walters, was a finalist in the 2015 My Book Therapy Frasier Award. Jessica loves it when readers and writers connect with her on social media or shoot through an email message. Smoke signals are also acceptable.

Monday, October 5, 2015

It's a Risky Business

Don't mention the song
A landmark decision by a US Federal judge last month left me both delighted and a little disappointed. Delighted because the decision was the right one to make, but disappointed because I’ve lost one of my best examples of the risky business of writing—particularly when quoting lyrics or poetry.

What was this landmark decision? Well, in case you haven’t heard, the copyright on the lyrics of Happy Birthday to You was judged as not being held by Warner/Chappel Music, a decision that will cost the company approximately two million dollars each year.

You read that right. There are big bucks to be made in copyright, and now the question is whether all that copyright moolah should be returned to those who previously paid to use the oh so simple lyrics. The water is still a little murky because Warner/Chappel does own the rights to a piano arrangement of the song; they just don’t own the lyrics.

So who does? Well, sisters Patty and Mildred Hill wrote the lyrics to the song back in around 1893, and believe it or not, copyright on those lyrics will not expire until the end of this year. Unfortunately, no one knows who holds the copyright now. So the birthday party celebrations may need to go on hold for the time being.

Now, I hear you saying, that’s all very interesting (or not), but what’s that got to do with me?

I’m glad you asked. As writers, copyright has everything to do with us, but we tend to think of it only in terms of protecting our work. We don’t always give a lot of consideration to the other side of the coin. We blithely quote bits and pieces from books and songs without realising we may be infringing on someone’s copyright.

First things first, let’s look at how a song written way back in 1893 could still be under copyright. Did you know that copyright exists until the death of the creator of the work, PLUS 70 years? In the case of Happy Birthday, the last sister died in 1945, which means copyright on the lyrics of that song should pass into public domain at the end of this year—provided no other entity has chosen to extend the copyright (tough luck to Warner/Chappel).

Oh, and when it comes to hymns, the same is true. Even some of our old favourites may not yet be classed as public domain. Great is Thy Faithfulness was written by Thomas O Chisholm in 1923, but he died in 1960. You do the math.  

If the lyrics fit ... don't use them?
Let’s take a more recent example. Let’s say you are writing a novel where the main character is driving down a highway listening to Hotel California on the radio. He has the roof down on his red Jag, and he’s singing up a storm as you quote the opening lines of that song ...

Oh no, you didn’t!

Don Henley wrote the lyrics to Hotel California, and although he is getting on a little bit now, he has just released a new album and looks to have plenty of life left in him. Let’s say he lives to be 100. He’s 68 now, so that means he would turn 100 in July 2047. (Happy birthday, Don.) But wait … then we have to add on the 70 years. So based on that, Hotel California would not become public domain until at least 2117. (Had to get the calculator out to check that.) Even then, if someone renews the copyright, it may be a long time before anyone can safely use those lyrics for free.

Ah, but what about fair use, I hear you ask (you are a talkative one, aren’t you?).  Okay, what is fair use? Did you know that “fair use” is only a possible defence if someone sues you for copyright infringement? Even then, there are no guarantees. It depends on what you are writing. Fiction does not rank highly when using this defence.

Lyrics and poetry are best avoided
“Fair use” also pretty much goes out the window when it comes to lyrics and poetry. This is because even quoting a small amount of a song or poem will constitute quite a large percentage of the overall work. If you are determined to use Hotel California in your novel, your publisher will probably tell you to get clearance for it or leave it out.

And yes, you—the author—are most often responsible for obtaining clearance for the use of any material under copyright. In your contract, you probably agreed to something that said you were the author of the Work, that it is original and does not infringe on any existing copyright. This places the responsibility for obtaining copyright clearance on you.

So about using that snippet of lyrics from Hotel California in your next novel? Maybe not quite so appealing now, unless you are planning a 2117 book launch.

When it comes to using material under copyright, clear it or leave it out. 

* * *

DEB PORTER is a publisher (Breath of Fresh Air Press), writer, editor, and popular public speaker, with a particular gift for communicating in a way that is both enjoyable and easy for readers and listeners to understand. Deb has been the right hand person at since 2003, and is a regular speaker at conferences, but prefers to spend one-on-one time with authors at these events. As the Coordinator of the FaithWriters Writing Challenge since its inception, Deb has helped shape this weekly contest into arguably the most popular aspect of, and she now publishes the winning entries in the Mixed Blessings book anthologies.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

New owner, Jesus

During our recent trip across to South Australia I was struck by the number of stone ruins we saw in the outback regions. I couldn’t help but wonder about the stories those remaining, broken and lonely walls could tell; stories of challenge and hardship on land where now even salt bush struggles to grow. Stories of families whose dreams of a country life and a thriving farm, clashed with the elements, the environment, native animals and the relentless Australian climate, or perhaps with family tragedy, maybe even treachery.  

These remains whisper of a life once lived in Silverton where a small community of artists still reside, mostly dependent on the tourist dollar for survival. Bus loads and carloads of visitors arrive to see their work, and also the Mad Max museum, which boasts of the movie's location. It’s a place for an interesting hour or so, but one which is hard to imagine as a permanent place of residence. However our wander around the old courthouse and pub, the homes-turned-art galleries, the historical remnants, caused a few stories to form in my mind. 

It was beautiful to see the occasional remains of an early house close to the road, replaced with a home further back on a rise, overlooking what is clearly a successful property. My mind ran to stories of overcoming, of adaption and determination, of hope for the future.  

The most interesting of the ruins we came across was one set in what seemed to have once been a small village, now a ghost town; a couple of streets, an abandoned church, a few farms in the distance. On closer investigation we noticed the writing on the front wall. After feeling relief that it wasn’t the usual blasphemous graffiti, my imagination again strayed to the possible story behind the remains of what was perhaps a substantial home.

Who would write “new owner Jesus” on the wall? Perhaps the previous owner, as they left after a battle to survive they could no longer sustain?  A message of goodbye to a much loved home which had become unsellable? A note of acceptance and letting go, allowing Jesus to do what He willed with a lifestyle they had to walk away from? Perhaps an invitation for passers by who needed shelter; an empty dwelling for the taking? I wondered if it might once have been a pastor’s home as the dilapidated and empty church was just across the road; the message one of resignation.

Whatever the real story, as we drove away sadness washed over me. The message became a contradiction, for I cannot imagine any place where Jesus resides being a ruin; abandoned, dilapidated or forsaken.  Whatever hardships we face in our lives, whatever challenges are ours, isn’t it a blessing to know that Jesus sustains us? Whatever we have to move on from in our lives, we can be sure Jesus comes with us, and in fact leads the way. Wherever Jesus resides there is always new life, fresh starts, renovation, restoration.

So the sign on this wall gave my imagination food for interesting thought, as had many of the other abandoned properties and homes we saw. But most of all my wonderings left me thankful for the grace of God that sees us through all of our battles, and for the presence of Jesus in our lives, which gives us the assurance that we will never walk alone, never be abandoned or forsaken, that there will always be hope and new life.


Carol writes historical novels based on her family ancestry in Australia and include the Turning the Tide series; Mary’s Guardian, Charlotte’s Angel, Tangled Secrets and Truly Free. Her earlier novels Suzannah’s Gold and Rebecca’s Dream have been re-released by EBP. Her latest novel, Next of Kin was released this year by Rhiza Press. You can see more about Carol and her novels on her website or her FB author page.


Monday, September 28, 2015

Readers Are Like Pickled Onions by Paula Vince

A 'Blast from the Past' Post

That's us, everyone. Pickled onions. Writers and blog-visitors alike are also readers. I'm sure many of us have been avid readers since our childhood. The longer we've been reading, the more pickled we are. Let me explain the analogy in more detail.

You peel your raw onions and soak them in a delicious, briny solution that you've made up with yummy ingredients such as vinegar and brown sugar. Eventually, a chemical reaction takes place. The onions you take out are nothing like the hard onions you put in. They are soft enough to bite chunks straight out of in a way you'd never manage with the original raw onions. Some people think they are a delicious treat. Whether you like them or not, one thing is clear. They can never go back to being the same hard, raw onion they started as. They've been changed to the core.

Books are like the delicious brine and readers are like the onions. We get to soak in stories, biographies, reflections, inspired thoughts and knowledge. These are the ingredients that make up the brine. We come out better and different. We're spicier people with softer hearts. We can have more interesting conversations. We're more creative than we would have been, more clued-up about the world, more empathetic, less inclined to be self-focused.

From the time we were young, the brine has been working its special chemical reaction on us. We get to wonder, 'Would I have succumbed to the White Witch's turkish delight if I had been Edmund?' We see Milly Molly Mandy living with all her relatives in that thatched roof cottage, loving their simple lifestyles even though they had hardly any money. Like Beauty, we grow to understand the Beast's many great qualities, fall for him too, and realise that judgment based on first impressions is limited. We follow the whole process of the work on Marilla Cuthbert's heart until she decides to keep Anne at Green Gables. And how could Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy end up together after the bad start they had?

We're pickled onions, and we wouldn't have it any other way. We have softer hearts. We've been given insight into human nature which makes us more understanding than we might otherwise have been. We're simply nicer people, based on our reading history. And those of us who are also writers have the fun of making up our own special brine recipes to help pickle more onions.

Paula Vince is a South Australian author of contemporary, inspirational fiction. She lives in the beautiful Adelaide Hills, with its four distinct seasons, and loves to use her environment as settings for her stories. Her novel, 'Picking up the Pieces' won the religious fiction section of the International Book Awards in 2011, and 'Best Forgotten' was winner of the CALEB prize the same year. She is also one of the four authors of 'The Greenfield Legacy', Australia's first and only collaborated Christian novel. Her most recent novel, 'Imogen's Chance' was published April 2014. For more of Paula's reflections, please visit her blog, It Just Occurred to Me. You may also like to visit her book review blog, The Vince Review where she also interviews other authors.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

There are people trapped in a dark airless place, and only you can save them...

It's my turn to blog - Yah!
Now if only I could think of something witty and clever; innovative; ground-breaking...cue crickets

Writing a blog is my opportunity to share my thoughts, my heart to the world—but what if the world never reads it? Let's face it, in this new era of the 'information super-highway' there's only so much time and brain-space that an individual has, and one person can't read it all. It's an impossibility. So what if I spend the next half hour pouring out my deep thoughts and innovative ideas, upload it and share the link to all my Facebook connections, and not one person has the time or brain-space to read it? Then everything I have done becomes just a bunch of key-strokes converted to digital data that is floating out there—in the mysterious depths of cyberspace...dah ,dah, dah! (the music to indicate the plot has now darkened to a terrifying degree).

And so it is with anything we write, blog, article, deep and meaningful Face Book post that goes beyond posting a cat video, and horror of horrors, a novel.

The characters I have presented in my latest novel—their life dramas, their lows and highs, their smashed hopes and points of redemption, their love and promise—are trapped inside the pages (or the digital file), and mean nothing unless a reader reads it and connects with it. So Alex and Grace, their family and friends, are wedged tightly in a paperback (a bunch of paper), locked up on a shelf in a bookshop or packed in a box of paperbacks, or floating helplessly in a data file in cyberspace. Their lives and loves mean nothing. They are helpless and cannot be set free until someone reads the book (paperback or eBook). All those words, carefully put together to help you know Alex and Grace; crafted so that you feel the depths of despair, the hopelessness, the light at the end of the tunnel, that point of redemption—all those words are simply keystrokes and have no purpose, energy or power unless you, as a reader, let them free. Unless you, as the reader, engage with them emotionally.

Why would Alex do such a thing? Now there's a question that cannot be answered unless the book is read.
So if you've come this far, and transformed my keystrokes into meaning, you will understand that I am not only promoting that magical process (almost like a chemical reaction) that is the reader engaging with the writing, the characters and the plot, but I'm also promoting my new fiction title.

Echoes in the Valley is now available as an eBook or a paperback WORLD WIDE. Alex and Grace are there, trapped in a dark airless place, and I beg you, set them free...cue 'The Hills are Alive' music.

Are you too busy? Probably. Do you have too much information to read? Well, I'm guessing, if you've got this far in the post, you've either been distracted from your real work, or you have time, so go ahead, click the link. Echoes in the Valley . Here it is again, in case you missed it the first time.

Meredith Resce

Author of 'The Heart of Green Valley' series, Mellington Hall and Cora Villa

So many links to click on...the dramas we have to negotiate in life!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Let's Twist Again by Nola Passmore

Photo credit: beautyfromashes / FoterCC BY-NC-ND

Picture this. Businessman, adult son, and work colleague go into closed room while businessman’s wife waits outside. A shot rings out. Wife enters room to discover husband dead and son grappling with work colleague. Work colleague runs from room with gun, and the rest of the novel is spent hunting the murderer.

When I read that scenario, I thought to myself, ‘Oh I bet the son turns out to be the killer’. And guess what? He was. Although the novel was well-written, with lots of suspense, the fact that I picked the twist in the first 20 pages did dampen my enthusiasm.

When I read Ian McEwan’s Atonement, I had a totally different experience. While there are some aspects of the book I didn’t enjoy, the twist is the best I’ve ever read. It turned the whole novel on its head.

So what makes a good twist?

Avoid the Obvious

There are some really well-worn plot twists that invariably let down the reader. Here are some examples.

  • You follow your protagonist through an incredible series of events, only to find it was all a dream.
  • The strange man you saw kissing the married woman turns out to be her brother.
  • The protagonist is behaving out of character and you discover he has an identical twin.
The more original you are, the more likely you’ll create that ‘ah ha’ moment for your readers.

Work on the ‘Set Up’

While it’s important for a twist to surprise, it shouldn’t come ‘out of the blue’ or trick your readers. There needs to be some foreshadowing so that when your readers get to the big reveal, they think ‘Wow, that all makes sense now’. Kate Morton does a brilliant job of this in The Secret Keeper. The twist in itself isn’t the most unique I’ve ever come across. In fact, I read another novel recently that used a similar device. However, her plotting and foreshadowing is brilliant. While I didn’t see the twist coming, it explained everything and I felt like I wanted to go back and read the book again in light of the twist.

It Advances the Story

As K.M. Wieland notes, a plot twist shouldn’t be an end in itself. It has to contribute to the plot in a meaningful way so that readers will be excited about the ensuing developments. The twist should actually make the story better.

All of that is easier said than done of course, but if you can develop original twists that avoid gimmicks, are set up well and raise your story to the next level, you’ll have thousands of happy readers.

Which novels have you read that have great twists? I’d love to hear your suggestions (without the spoilers of course).

More Reading

Scheller, R. (2014). 4 Ways to Write a Killer Plot Twist. Retrieved from:
N.B. Most of this article is an excerpt from Story Trumps Structure by Steven James.

Wieland, K. M. (2013). 5 Ways to Write a Killer Plot Twist. Retrieved from

Nola Passmore is a freelance writer who has had more than 140 short pieces published, including devotionals, true stories, magazine articles, academic papers, poetry and short fiction.  She loves sharing what God has done in her life and encouraging others to do the same.  She and her husband Tim have their own freelance writing and editing business called The Write Flourish.  You can find her writing tips blog at their website:

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

“So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact. And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed) Kid, you’ll move mountains.”
Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You'll Go!

TM & copyright © by Dr Seuss Enterprises, L.P. 1960, copyright renewed 1988.

Ninety-eight and three-quarter percent guaranteed? That’s pretty good odds, and this is how I approach author visits. With great anticipation. In the past few weeks I’ve had a string of events, many for CBCA Book Week, 2015.

For Book Week, I went touring in the Western Downs to libraries and schools: always fun. Workshops, author visits and signings were squeezed around work days, and then there was another event in Brisbane. Good travel week, that! Last week I also got to visit a group of students who’ve been reading my YA novel Integrate as part of their English studies. All in all, I’ve been privileged to meet some amazing young people through these opportunities.

But as you’d know, not every event goes swimmingly. One must not overlook that one-and-a-quarter percent exception.

Over the past year there have been signings and events where I’ve sold a reasonable number of books. Other times I’ve sold none. (Not much compensation for hours of travel and overnight accommodation ...) There have been events where the group has been wonderfully interactive and attentive. I have also had the experience where a portion of attendees simply weren’t interested in what I’ve had to say or sell. Frustrating, but thankfully, rare.

This is the roller-coaster of an ‘unknown’ author. And even for better known writers, it seems it can be hard to draw a crowd, which can be disappointing. Does this mean we authors are foolish to persist engaging in this way? It's a lot of hard work and certainly doesn’t pay a great deal.

Just remember the 98 and ¾ component.

For this reason it is all the more meaningful when people actually make the effort to come and, even more so, purchase one (or more) of your novels. And when the audience at a workshop or speaking engagement are leaning in, interactive and enthusiastic, it makes any preparation and travel time worthwhile. It’s also great motivation to ensure our social media efforts are strategic, and this is something we can only grow and develop over time. It's also a great reminder of just how important it is to support each other as writers and 'spread the word' as we each work towards building a solid author platform.

All in all, I believe author visits are a wonderful experience. Not only does it raise the profile of local writers and publishers, even when the event doesn't yield much in the way of sales, but I’ve engaged with some remarkable individuals through such opportunities. Further, I’ve been honoured to invest in the writing journey of future authors, and have been able to introduce my novel to attendees' TBR list.
So ...

“You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So... get on your way!”
Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You'll Go!

Adele Jones lives in Queensland, Australia. She writes young adult and historical novels, poetry and short works. Her first YA novel Integrate was awarded the 2013 CALEB Prize for unpublished manuscript, with the sequel Replicate being released in October 2015. Her writing is inspired by a passion for family, faith, friends, music and science – and her broad ranging imagination. To find out more visit or email