Thursday, April 23, 2015

Well, this is embarrassing...!

I, like most here, love writing devotionals. I see the world in pictures, and often find myself chuckling at rather inopportune moments at the things God reveals to me in my head.

Devotional writing tends to come easily to me; it's a great blessing and one I don't take for granted.

At least I didn't think I did. Until today.

Unlike my last sheduled CWD blogspot, which I quite simply forgot about - my apologies once again - I have had this one at the forefront of my mind for some time now. And I've been actively using my senses to hear/see from God as to what he wants me to write about.

Nothing.

More looking, more seeking.

Still. . . nothing.

As the days moved closer, my senses started going into overdrive! God, what do you want me to share?!

Silence.

Even now, as I sit here and type, I am pleading with God to give me something - anything - that might sound better than this confession.

Because it feels feeble to write that I have nothing. 

Have I failed God?  Did I not pray hard enough or look hard enough? Surely I could scrounge up something that would "meet the criteria" and sound so much better than...well, than writing about my desperation!

I wonder if I should have handballed this spot to someone else, someone with a pre-scheduled, fully edited and truly awesome message ready to go?!

No, that's not the answer.

So then God, tell me, what is the answer?! What do I do when I have nothing to say?!

You always have something to say Helen; you can praise me!

When it feels that I am silent, praise me.
When it feels that you are getting nowhere, praise me.
When you are doubting where you are walking, praise me.
When it feels that the road ahead is blocked, praise me!

Remember that King Jehoshaphat won the battle when he and his men praised me! They did not put their trust in their own strength, but called upon my name and sang praises to me before facing their enemy.  And then I moved in power and in might, and I defeated their enemies before them! 

Ahh, yes, this most wonderful tale of King Jehoshaphat, found in 2 Chronicles 20. It has always been one of my most treasured scriptures, revealing to us the importance of praising God when facing our enemies.

And so today I have been reminded of two things; firstly, I never have "nothing" to say! No matter what blockages I might be facing in my mind, my spirit is never without praise and exhortation of my God, who is my everything! 

And, secondly, as I begin to praise my God, he will start to move things in the spiritual and natural realms, allowing my gift of exhorting and encouraging others might flow as it should. 
Not for my sake alone, but that I might be blessed to be a blessing to others. 

I pray that as I have struggled and shared today, that my revelation would be one that opens up the gates of your praise, and brings breakthrough in whatever areas might feel blocked in your ministry. Keep on praising Him, no matter what, and trusting in his strength to flow through your natural abilities, and your breakthrough will happen.

With many blessings,

Helen Curtis


Monday, April 20, 2015

Faith, Hope and Love



We need never be hopeless because we can never be irreperably broken. 
John Green


I love this quote from young adult author, John Green. It says so much in a few words. We all have an essence in us that survives even the most tragic or unfortunate circumstances.

Stories of holocaust survivors, overcomers of abuse and cancer conquerors are inspiring.  Overcoming the odds, persevering, coming out the other side stronger, and other phrases like this cause us to have hope that if we too had to go through something, we could thrive and not just survive.

In the midst of struggle we often feel helpless and hopeless. We can be paralysed by fear, or just plain run out of energy.

To reach that part deep down inside of us that is still alive, to reignite the spark we once felt, to rebirth our passions and have the courage to start again takes three things, faith, hope and love.

As writers we all need to have faith, hope and love in order to keep going on a path that is often filled with rejection, loneliness, discouragement or just plain weariness.

We need faith in ourselves. God has created each one of us to have something specific to write. Something he wants us to bring to the world. Have the faith that you were created unique for a purpose and that, no matter what, you can still achieve that.

We need faith that there is a God, a force bigger than us, who has everything in control, even when we doubt or filled with unbelief. Or even when our work is rejected or we just can’t find the energy to write one more word.
















We need love. The love of those around us: friends, family and community is crucial to unleashing hope.  We need a cheer squad-even if it’s a squad of one. God can be our biggest supporter, but we need the warmth of flesh and blood. The right people around us can love us through our situations and hope can rise.

A mentor empowers a person to see a possible future, and believe it can be obtained. It’s that feeling that someone is concerned about you, that they want you to succeed.  Shawn Hitchcock

Having critique partners and writing groups such as Christian Writers Downunder give us connection and love in a very lonely profession. We sit at our desks and write alone, day after day. Without the connections with other writers, we may be tempted to give up.




















We all need hope. Without hope, our soul becomes sick. Nothing is joyful, we can’t even enjoy the moment. Hope gives us the capacity to live in the now, without seeing what we hope for. Loss of hope causes us to see life as purposeless and meaningless.

Maintaining hope that our work will be published, will be read by our intended audience and will fulfill the call God has placed in our hearts will keep us pushing the pen or clicking away on the keyboard.
















A blend of faith, hope and love weaves a pattern into our lives that will sustain us even during the darkest of times.

Our lives are not perfect and we are often challenged by our insecurities. Every now and then, I need a reminder to plough ahead in faith, hope and love despite the challenges.

Elaine Fraser
www.elainefraser.co







Thursday, April 16, 2015

Your Turn!


So, it’s my turn to blog, and I thought: “It’s hardly fair that I get to do all the writing and you get to do all the reading.” So what about we all have a go this time. I’m going to post a synopsis here, and invite you to choose a scene to develop either as a piece of prose or screenplay, and then post in the comments. I’d suggest you check the comments and try to write in chronological sequence. Of course that might not always work, as two or three eager beavers might be away working on the same scene at the same time. It doesn’t matter. In about a week, I’m going to check the comments and see how the story looks. I might choose the scenes I like the best, stitch them together and post on my website. Don’t forget to post a name for the story as well. OK then. Ready. Set. Go... Here’s the synopsis:

Setting – small rural Australian town, mid winter
Main characters Michele (pronounced Mick-el) named after his Italian great-grandfather, 30 year old farmer who has just taken the reins of the farm as his parents have bought a caravan to take a year travelling around the country. He agrees to take in a house mate to help the local school with a short-term accommodation for one of their temporary teachers.

Charlie – 23 years old, is named after her grandfather. Fresh out of Uni has won a short-term temporary contract at the local primary school for a maternity leave staffer. Charlie is from the city but has been assured they will find her suitable accommodation.

Scene One – Charlie has left the city at 4am to reach her new school in time for classes, but she has a flat tyre. She You Tubes ‘How to change a tyre’, but wheel nuts won’t loosen. Michele comes along, is condescending, she is offended. The tyre is changed. It is raining.

Scene two – Charlie reads instructions to Michelle’s house. When a man opens the door – the man she has already met on the road, she asks after Michelle, and he is annoyed, as he is Michele. She’s expecting a woman, he is expecting a man. Charlie says she doesn’t feel comfortable moving in with a man. He says ‘suit yourself’.

Scene three – Charlie goes to the local pub. It is run down, poorly run, and the owner is a bit sleezy – as are some of the patrons. Charlie gets a key to a very run down room. She goes to have a counter meal and gets propositioned. She stands her ground, but not very convincingly. Michele has come to the pub to see how things turn out. He plays the hero and fends off the unwanted attention. Charlie is annoyed with him, as she says she can look after herself. She decides she would prefer to trust Michele than the men in the pub.

Scene four – Charlie’s second day at school. The classroom is a little chaotic. A ten year old informs her she is Michele’s cousin, and tells Charlie all about what her mother thinks about Michele and his impossible love life.

Scene five – Charlie discovers she and Michele have something in common: they both love footy (AFL). She agrees to go watch him play on Saturday. She sits in his car, pulled up around the outside of the oval. It’s all good until he takes a hit in the head and is carted off the ground on a stretcher. She waits until his mates come to get his car. When they see her, they suggest she could take him to the hospital in the next town. She has the car and the keys, and they basically leave her with it.

Scene six – The doctor says Michele can’t drive, and someone should keep an eye on him for his concussion. Everybody makes assumptions. She sits up with him for the whole night.

Scene seven – They have something else in common: they both go to church on Sunday. Charlie drives. More raised eyebrows and assumptions.

Scene eight – Michele’s young cousin if full of gossip and what her mother thinks of the situation. Charlie sets her straight, and determines to set the record straight with Michele’s aunt.

Scene nine – The six weeks are up, and Charlie has packed ready to go. She has a little farewell party with the kids at school. Michele’s cousin tells her that Michele doesn’t want her to go. He’s never said anything to her, so she is a bit confused by this.

Scene ten – writers, choose your own ending. Let’s see what you come up with.

Hope you have fun with this. Don’t forget to keep an eye on the comments and see how the story grows. I will post your compilation (or selected parts of it) on my website later.

www.meredithresce.com

Meredith Resce has sixteen books published. She is currently preparing the sixth title in the best-selling ‘Heart of Green Valley’ series.

Monday, April 13, 2015

What should God's writer do?


by Jenny Glazebrook


I'm on the phone, the doorbell is ringing, the house is a mess, friends are lonely, I have Bible study to prepare, the church bulletin to edit, accommodation to arrange for my daughter's hospital visit, and all I want to do is write. In fact, my heart is yearning for it, my mind is working so fast the thoughts feel like a volcano about to erupt.
What should I do? There are so many 'shoulds' and I am driven by them.

The shoulds are never-ending so there's no time left to write and no time left to sit with my children and listen to what they have to say about their day. And there's no time left for God.
Because I'm busy doing things for God.
I don't sleep well. In the quiet of the night there is finally time to think and my mind starts to race with all the interrupted thoughts and ideas of the day. When I sleep I write in my dreams because God has given me this innate need to do it. It's like breathing.

When I wake I manage to fight through the tiredness, send the children off to school and prepare for Bible study.
As I prepare I read these words:
'Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.' (Matthew 7:21-23)

And a still, small voice breaks into my racing heart and mind: 
Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, did we not listen to our neighbour and put together the church bulletin and run a Bible study? Did we not answer every call for help, did we not let good things drive us?'

Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

'But Lord,' I cry, 'didn't I do it all for you?'

Those words come back: ‘I never KNEW you.’

I find my heart breaking because I long to spend time with Him and know Him more. I long to worship Him and writing is the way I worship best. Loving my children and sharing Jesus with them is the way I worship best. Deep in my heart I know these are the things God has given me to do. They are not 'shoulds', they are a joy because I do them with him, not for him.

Where along the way did I start to listen to the guilt that said if I enjoy it or find it satisfying it can't be pleasing to the Lord?
When I am trying to please everyone, then I am not loving Him and knowing Him.

Lord, may we do the good works you have prepared for us. Please drown out those voices telling us writing is not good enough, not important enough, not spiritual enough. If, like Noah, we find it takes 100 years to accomplish our task, help us not to give up, not to be discouraged by those who laugh at us, who pressure us to build something else, not to be disheartened by those who built their arks years ago and are already safely floating through the storm, those who have managed to reach hundreds and convince them to come on board. Even if it is just our family you want us to reach, we will be satisfied with that, because we will have satisfied you.
May we write, not because we are driven, but because it refreshes our soul and deepens our relationship with you.


Jenny is the wife of Rob Glazebrook and the mother of Micah, Merridy, Clarity and Amelia. They live in the country town of Gundagai with lots of pets. Jenny is the author of 4 published novels with the final 3 of her Aussie Sky Series due out this year.  Jenny enjoys inspirational speaking, and is passionate about sharing her writing knowledge and experience and encouraging others in their walk with Jesus. To find out more about her and her books, go to www.jennyglazebrook.com

Thursday, April 9, 2015

How to Have Originality

by Charis Joy Jackson

                       “Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality 
          will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring two 
            pence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become 
                                           original without ever having noticed it.”
                                                                                                                    - C.S. Lewis

I want to be original.

Who doesn’t?

As an artist, I paint pictures with words and words are awesome. They invoke emotions and take us on wild adventures through time, space and alternate realities.

They remind us of what’s important.

Sometimes, though, those words seem traitorous. My magical fingers will weave a tale and lo and behold when I read back my masterpiece I discover something. It’s not original. The story’s already been told.

Alas.

Once, I created this character who was sure to warm the readers’ hearts. He was a doctor, or in his world a “healer”. He was a small character, but still needed the perfect name, so I popped over to one of my favourite writing resources babynames.com and found one so perfect it actually meant “healer”. About a month later I picked up a book by one of my favourite authors and discovered he had used the same name!

Not just that, but the character was the same. EXACTLY.

ENTIRELY.

I was crushed. If I ever got it published it’d look like I’d stolen the character.

After beating my head against the wall for a bit I came to another conclusion. I was growing as a writer. If I could come up with a great character, like my favourite author, then I’d come up with more. Yes. Success.

I also discovered the quote above.

Personally, I believe the fear of not being original lays at the foundation of writers block. Think about it. How many times have you opened a fresh document and instead of filling it with all the goodness waiting inside your head, you just stare at it?

Stop staring!

Each of us are an original and so are our stories.

How about we take the lead from our good friend Clive and say, “I don’t care two pence how often it has been told before. I’m still gonna tell it!”

Now stop reading this. Go write.


Charis Joy Jackson is working as a missionary with Youth With a Mission (YWAM) a non-profit organization & is part of The Initiative Production Company. She loves creating stories & is currently writing a novel, which she hopes to create into a seven part series.

Here's to a life lived in awe & wonder.
Welcome to the adventure.

www.charisjoyjackson.com

Monday, April 6, 2015

Easter - The Same Old Story? by Nola Passmore



When Monica Andermann asked a friend to church on Easter Sunday, her friend replied ‘No thanks … I’ve heard that story before.  I know how it ends’.  Do you ever feel like you’ve heard it all before?  It’s easy to become complacent about well-known Bible stories, especially when you’ve been around Christian circles for a long time.  If I’m in a church service and the minister announces that we’re going to look at The Prodigal Son or the Parable of the Sower, I groan inwardly.  ‘Not that one again.’  How sad is that though?  How sad to lose our wonder at the amazing things God has done on our behalf. 

At Easter we celebrate all that Christ did for us on the cross.  How phenomenal is it that God sent His Son to die for our sins so we could spend eternity with Him?  God’s word is just as ‘alive and active’ as it was 2000 years ago (Hebrews 4:12).  However, I think part of our challenge as Christian writers is to communicate Biblical truth in fresh ways.  How could we do that with the Easter story?

A few years ago, our minister invited the congregation to read a book of devotions by Walter Wangerin Jr. for the 40 days leading up to Easter.  I bought a copy of Reliving the Passion thinking that it would all be pretty familiar to me.  However, it was more than a set of devotions.  It was told with drama, dialogue, internal monologues and great emotion.  As I read each day’s entry, I was able to look into the thoughts of Peter and Mary Magdalene.  I was able to see and hear what was going on and it helped me to gain fresh insights.  Here’s a sample based on Mark 15:1 after Jesus has been delivered to Pilate:

Jesus, how do you feel?  What are you thinking?  You don’t talk.  Your mouth has been closed for such a long time now.  Last night, before the legal machinery caught hold of you and began to grind you in its wheels, you said your soul was sorrowful, even unto death—and then your eyes revealed the grief.  I saw it.  But now, in the dawn of your deathday, your face is expressionless.  I can read nothing in your eyes.  Jesus!  Jesus!  How do you feel right now?  What moods contend within you?  What worlds collide inside your soul?  O Jesus, are you hating?  Are you praying?  Are you screaming silently?  Are you thinking about me now? (p. 94)

Singer-songwriter Don Francisco also used first person in his classic song He’s Alive which is written from Peter’s perspective.  Through the lyrics, we see Peter move from doubt to hope to belief as he sees the empty tomb and later encounters the risen Lord face to face.  The song always gives me goose bumps.  To listen to it, click here.

I tried my hand at a ‘different’ kind of Easter poem by writing from the perspective of Barabbas, the criminal released at Passover in the place of Jesus.  There’s not a lot of information about Barabbas in the Bible, so I had to try to imagine how he would have felt.  I took the perspective that he may have thought they were leading him out to be crucified, but instead he found himself a free man.  To read it, click here.
  
As you contemplate what Jesus has done for us this Easter, try looking at it with fresh eyes and meditate on how amazing his sacrifice of love was both then and now.  If you were going to write a story, song, poem, script or devotion about Easter, how could you give it an original spin?  Or perhaps you’ve already written something along those lines.  I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.

References


Andermann, M. A.  (2014).  Same old story.  In M. Nutter (Ed.), Penned from the heart (vol. 21, p. 57).  New Wilmington, PA: Son-Rise Publications.

Wangerin, W., Jr.  (1992).  Reliving the passion.  Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.




Nola Passmore is a freelance writer who has had more than 140 short pieces published, including devotions, 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 weekly writing tips blog at their website: http://www.thewriteflourish.com.au

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Everything Old Becomes New Again.

My son recently turned nine. He desperately wanted the theme of his party to be Pokemon. He’s crazy about this childhood phenomena that swept through the 1990’s generation, then died significantly, only to live on in the shadows of diehards fans. Now it’s back, as popular and lucrative as ever. I pondered the dramatic return of these slightly annoying creatures, and came to a strange conclusion: Everything old becomes new again.
Cinderella, the timeless fairytale re-told through generations, has undergone yet another re-vamp and is currently playing to audiences around the globe. I can’t wait to see it (if I can drag my son away from Pokemon to do something ‘girly’, that is.) Then there are television shows. I googled ‘old TV shows being remade’. The results claimed that over fifty movies, and at least eight television shows are currently in the process of being reinvented for a new generation.
And, of course, many movies are actually adaptations of books, including The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and Fifty Shades (no, I haven’t seen the movie or read the books). Fifty Shades is itself an adaptation, of the Twilight series, which I did read. Although I managed to ignore the controlling male character in Twilight, I found some interest in the romance factor – something I am told Fifty Shades lacks.
Even Twilight is said to be a reinvention, with a contemporary American setting, and the addition of vampires and werewolves. The first book is apparently a retelling of Pride and Prejudice, while the second is Romeo and Juliet (I’m told the third and fourth are also retellings of famous romances, but I can’t recall which ones). 
With so many remakes over so many creative genres, I had to ask myself the question, have humans run out of ideas, or are we so invested in a sure thing (money-wise) that we are unwilling to take a risk on all things new and untested?
What do you think? Are we taking enough creative risks? Or have new ideas been replaced with the greater-valued sure thing?


You can visit Rose Dee at: http://rosedee.com/
A special thank you to Iola Goulton for the extra information about the Twilight series.  

Monday, March 30, 2015

You're not a real writer...and other oft repeated lies by Jo Wanmer



I have banished the accusation!

It comes from the accuser and I'm not buying his lies any longer. I'm going to walk in the truth.

"Did God really say...?" From the Garden of Eden until today it is still Satan's favourite lie. He loves to sew seeds of doubt which, in turn, feed on our insecurities until they become full blown paranoia. Then his purpose is achieved. We give up, turn away, ignore the voice of God.

A couple of weeks ago a teacher at our disciple training school made a simple statement. For me it was one of those golden sentences, a 'ah-ha' moment or as my husband would say a BFO (blinding flash of the obvious.) He was talking about hearing the voice of God. He must have been looking inside my head cause he described it accurately.

        'As soon as you ask 'Was that me or God?' you lock the door to revelation. You can no longer hear God's voice.'

I can hear you arguing with me. Every thought must be tested, taken captive and made to obey Christ. The Bible says so. The Bible also says we walk by faith, we know His voice and if we ask of Him, he will gives us treasures stored in dark places. Any question that raises doubt is anti-faith.

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?" Luke 11:11

If I ask God to speak to me, I know he's not going to send the snake. However the serpent will slither in and cast doubt if he can. From now on he's not getting any air time in my head. I'm believing everything I hear is from God. I will record, test it and ask for confirmation. I can delete it later if necessary. But no longer will I allow a thought to be aborted before it has been given time to fully form.

Likewise, this week, I have banished the lie, 'You're not a real writer.' I've been haunted in the middle of the night by rules telling me a real author writes at least 15 minutes everyday, reads a book a week in their genre and reads other genres widely. My concern about not achieving this guideline gave the enemy fertile ground to plant his seed of doubt.

So let me confess. Until yesterday I hadn't read a book since holidays in January. I haven't looked at my edits since the February Omega Writer's meeting where I said I'd edit a certain amount six days every week. I'm grieved about this and I apologise to the rest of you in book world.

But when I pushed past my remorse and talked to God, the fog cleared. He's never as judgmental as I am on myself. He pointed to the truth.

I have read a least four books of the Old Testament, countless snippets of other biblical passages, many prophetic words re our times, blogs, emails, Facebook and the ingredients lists on food packaging. I have written pages in journals, drawn illustrations, typed countless messages, texts.... And I have taught at the ministry school and watched as understanding of His love dawned in student's eyes.

So what if my edits are behind and ideas burning in my head aren't written down? Soon the season will change and these books I'm passionate about will emerge. I am a writer, a real writer...but I may move to the beat of a different drum. And therein lies the wonder and diversity of the body of Christ.

What about you? Do you have lies the enemy uses to close the door to revelations from God, or to discourage you, divert you?


Jo Wanmer is the author of Though the Bud be Bruised, published by Even Before Publishing in 2012. She loves to write stories about real people, bringing the God of love and wholeness into real-life messes. Meanwhile she is a pastor, bookkeeper, grandmother and a few other assorted things as the Spirit requests.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Comedy in Writing

By Jessica Everingham




Someone just whispered the secret of comedy to this monkey.

Unfortunately I don’t speak monkey (despite what my housemates may claim.) So my only consolation is this adorable photo, and the inspiration to go find the secret to humor myself.

Let’s face it, good comedy in writing is difficult. Good comedy in Christian writing, where everything is squeaky-clean, is even harder. So what is an author to do?

A great place to begin is with the experts. Find a book, a podcast, a blog—any professional funny-bone tickler willing to share their secrets. The American Christian Fiction Writers conference session recording called Humor in Fiction is what got me started. (You can view their conference recordings in the sidebar at this link: http://www.acfw.com/conference)

Once my eyes were opened to the analytical side of humor, I began to observe and study it. Real life and TV gave me plenty of material to jot down a list of ‘what makes stuff funny’. Hilarious books were another goldmine—Jenny B Jones is a stand-out in Christian fiction, while Sophie Kinsella is great for a giggle in the mainstream market.

Then I practiced.

I’m still unpublished, so I have a lot more practice ahead of me. But as I’ve put my mind to it, the feedback has grown increasingly encouraging.

Comedy in writing isn’t for everyone—not all novels are meant to be funny, and not all readers want light-hearted books.  But if you’re keen to give it a whirl, here is a list of thigh-slapping crack-ups I’ve observed in the world of writing.

1.      Hyperbole is the most amazing form of humor EVER!!!!!
2.      Sarcasm. Jenny B Jones does not use this at all.
3.      Using specific nouns, e.g. “Kate knew she was the picture of class, jogging down Johnson St in $3 Target thongs, Broncos footy shorts and her Elders Rural cap.” (OK, I used sarcasm there too but it was better than, "Kate knew she was the picture of class as she jogged down the street wearing her daggiest clothes.”)
4.      A serious character in a ridiculous situation. (Or a ridiculous character in a normal situation, e.g. Thor taking the train in Thor 2.)
5.      Physical comedy (with the exception of anything banana-peel-related.)
6.      Under reaction. (The character of Phil Coulson in ‘Agents of Shield’ is a champ at this.)
7.      Over reaction. (Think the dad out of ‘King of Queens’.)
8.      Any case of ‘that escalated quickly’.
9.      Good old-fashioned insults.
10.  Unexpected honesty, particularly from a young child or older person. (Again, Ms Jones is a legend in this area.)
11.  Ridiculous situations, particularly ones that don’t occur by co-incidence but by a series of decisions the character made. (Sophie Kinsella does this like a boss.)

So what about you? What’s the funniest thing you heard or saw this week, either in fiction, film or real life? And what are your tips for comedic writing?



Jessica Everingham loves God, romantic comedies and writing, and is combining the three in her work-in-progress, Hating Jeremy Walters. She loves to connect with fellow readers and writers via Twitter (@JessEveringham), Facebook (www.facebook.com/jessicaeveringhamwriting), email (jessicaeveringhamwriting@gmail.com) and her website jessicaeveringham.com.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Giving Birth

My new book is released today. The lead-up to this has left me thinking about the similarities between launching a book and giving birth to a baby.

Like a baby, this book has been part of you for many months (in this case, years.) You alone have nurtured and protected it. You alone have known it as it came to life, took shape and grew. It carries your DNA, the very essence of yourself, of who you are. There is a bond between you and it that nobody who has not had the experience could possibly understand.

However, you cannot hold this baby within you forever, or it will die. The time has come to push it out into the glare of the world, where it will face the scrutiny of strangers. Does it really have the requisite ten fingers and ten toes? Do all its functions operate as they are supposed to? It is a bitter-sweet experience, seeing your baby for the first time “in the flesh” yet at the same time knowing that it is not longer exclusively yours.

Of course, you will still lavish love, care and attention upon this child. But more and more, like a baby growing to childhood and on to adulthood, it will have to stand on its own two feet. It will be judged according to its own qualities, not according to yours. People will not come to know it by knowing you, but rather will come to know you by knowing this child you have produced. The opinions they form will depend upon how successfully you have instilled your values into it.

Essentially, giving birth - or releasing a book - is the beginning of a long letting go: setting this child/book free into a world that may either accept it or reject it, and knowing that ultimately it will stand or fall according to what it is, not according to who gave it birth.

Read more about my new book at http://rrr.lynnbfowler.com

Monday, March 16, 2015

Tools of the Trade

by Jeanette O'Hagan

Writing can be as simple as inscribing thoughts on a scrap of paper. Yet as we progress along the writing journey, we often need more than pen and paper to jot down ideas, brainstorm, plot out structure, write our stories, keep track of characters, relationships, timelines, settings and research insights. 

Just like an artist or a carpenter, a writer benefits from the right tools of the trade.

So what tools do you need? 

Only you can say- for what works for one writer may not work for another and vice versa. After all, writers come in all different, shapes and sizes. Some of us are plotters, others are pansters or ‘tweeners. Some prefer pen and paper, while others of us are at home with a keyboard and the digital world. 

I’m still exploring the possibilities, trying to find what works for me. Here are some tools I've stumbled on that you may find useful.

The Basics


Pens or sharpened pencils with reams of paper, note books, files and journals.

Word Processor such as MS Word (PC) or Pages (Mac) or Open Word.

While I generally type my stories, I like to have a notebook handy to jot down ideas wherever I might be. I usually have a separate notebook for each project I’m working on. Some writers have scrapbooks in which they record snippets of dialogue, descriptions, photos, drawings or mementos of place (a dried leaf or flower, a ticket stub, a scrap of fabric) that can be used to stimulate memory and ideas. In addition, journaling can be a good way of working through specific writing issues like writers' block or a tricky plot problem or applying insights from other writers or theorists.

Additional programs


MS One Note
Notes can also be kept electronically. Programs like MS One Note or EverNote can store text, diagrams, images and links to webpages. I particularly like MS OneNote which has a journal-like structure – major topic areas can be put in a titled “journal” which has major sections and pages within the sections.

With Pinterest it is possible to set up specific boards and ‘pin’ images or websites relevant to characters, settings or specific books. Boards can be public or private. I have a public one for my Tamrin Tales.

Mindmaps can help with brainstorming and planning. They are visual schemas/drawings that arrange concepts in a nonlinear organic fashion. The first mind maps were on paper but these days there are many digital mind mapping programs that can also include images, audio-visual files, web links etc.  

Other programs may help you draw diagrams, tree structures or even genealogies and maps.
Spreadsheets like MS Excel can you keep a record of your submissions or chart plot structure and timelines. Time management systems like Todoit or Trello are helpful to keep track of the different tasks, competitions and submission opportunities.

Then there are sites that provide royalty free graphic and digital programs that help manipulate the images.

While the more sophisticated programs can be expensive, many useful ones are available free of charge, give a free trial period or are available for a minimal price.

Specifically for Writers


There are also specific programs designed for writers. While yWriter provides a distraction free text pane for typing; Scrivener, WriteWay or WriteItNow include a basic text editor with sophisticated organizing and formatting functions.

These programs usually have:
WriteWay with Character pane open
  • a basic text editor,
  • basic templates for different types of writing
  • a tree structure that allows you to access and arrange your file into chapters and scenes
  • cork board and card system that allows you to arrange and rearrange scenes or chapters easily
  • character sheets to record vital information about characters (I like how character information accessible through a character window pane in both WriteWay and WriteItNow)
  • a place for research links that can be attached to a relevant place in the document.
  • formatting options (that can help with converting to e-book formatting etc)


Tailoring it for your own use


All this might seem a confusing array of possibilities, which may or may not be relevant to your current needs. However, it doesn't hurt to experiment to find out what works best for you.
For instance, one problem I find with Scrivener and related programs, is that research links are tied to a single project. This is limiting for me as I am writing many stories in the same world and often with the same characters and settings. A website (something like my own Wikipedia) would be perfect for the task but I obviously don’t want all the details of my unpublished work accessible to the public.

So far I've tried Realmworks – a database system for storing character, setting and story lines for role playing games. While it has many of the features I want, I found it complicated to use and too rigid.

Another possibility might be a wiki like Docuwiki or Twiki – while this is often used as a collaborative website and requires some technical knowledge,it would allow me to have an offline site with hyperlinks to store, link and access the variety of information about my world. Some parts of which I could make public at a latter date. 

So tell me – what are the tools of the trade you use or would recommend to others? Why do you like using them? Do you think there might ones you haven’t tried that could be useful for you?


Jeanette has practiced medicine, studied communication, history and theology and has taught theology.  Her short story, “The Herbalist’s Daughter” was published in the Tied in Pink romance anthology at the end of last year. She has almost finished her Master of Arts (Writing) at Swinburne University and continues to work on her Akrad's fantasy fiction series.  You can read some of her short fiction here.

You can find her at her Facebook Page or webistes  JennysThread.com or Jeanette O'Hagan Writes .

Thursday, March 12, 2015

To plan or not to plan....

When I was at high school, I was frustrated during English classes as my teacher told me how I should be writing. We had to write a detailed plan, then a draft, followed by a 'good' copy that would be submitted. Along the way, the teacher wanted to see the plan and draft, in that order. The plan had to match the draft, which had to match the 'good' copy. If it didn't, then we would be marked down.

This never worked for me. I would quickly write a draft, then the plan, so my first draft was actually my second draft. If I tried to write the plan first, the draft would never match as the story would always take me in another direction.

There were other kids in my class who loved this method, and it was the only way they could write.

My 13 year old is having similar struggles at school with his English teacher and finds it hard to write a plan that will satisfy his teacher before writing the story. On the other hand, my 11 year old finds the plan very helpful and, generally, once he has a plan, the story comes easily.

In the last few years, I've found that having a rough plan works for me. I like to have an idea of where the story is going and where it will end, but it's not a detailed plan by any means. I have friends who can't start a story without the most detailed of plans including character profiles and maps of the world they are creating. I also have friends who just start to to write and follow the words wherever the story takes them.

One thing I've learned is that we need to do what works for us. It takes time and practice to find out the method that works best. If planning works, that's great. If something else works, that's great too. There is no "one size fits all" formula that works for everyone.

As I write, this, I'm in the middle of writing the first draft of my next chapter book. I know how long I want it to be and have an idea of where I want the story to go. It's exciting to see where the story is leading me, already it's starting to take a slightly different shape to the story I started with. This method works for me. What works for you?



Melissa Gijsbers lives in Melbourne and writes in between working as a bookkeeper and being the mother of two active boys. She is a blogger and author of flash fiction and children's books. Her first book, Swallow Me, NOW! is now available.

Follow her writing journey at www.melissawrites.com.au andwww.melissagijsbers.com

Monday, March 9, 2015

Behind Closed Doors by Nicki Edwards


As a child I grew up reading Enid Blyton’s “The Twins at St Clare” then “Trixie Belden” books and “Anne of Green Gables”. From the earliest age I either had my nose in a book or I was thinking about the characters in the book I had just read. When I got older I discovered a wide variety of books in different genres from authors such as Danielle Steele to Lee Child to Nicholas Sparks to Harlan Coben. Then I was introduced to Karen Kingsbury and a whole new world opened up to me. The world of Christian fiction. Now, I’ll admit I’m not a fan of historical or Amish-themed books so that limited my reading somewhat, but I devoured all the Christian books I could find. And I loved them.

When I was prompted to write my own book at the start of last year I automatically figured I’d write Christian romance. After all, that’s what I enjoyed reading so surely it made sense to write one myself. But there were a few big problems with this. Number one, the market is very small, especially in Australia. Secondly, the book I wrote was a 'come-to-the-altar-and-get-saved' type of book. (In retrospect it was so evangelistic I wouldn’t have read it!) And number three was, if I wrote Christian fiction, then it needed to be sanitised. Especially when it came to romance. Didn't it?

There are many things consistent in a romance novel. Love (obviously). A hero and heroine. Passion. Tension. Sex (usually). And ultimately a happy ever after ending. But writing a mainstream romance novel as a Christian presented me with a big challenge. Namely when it came to the sex bit. Writing it. Talking about it. The hero and heroine actually doing it. How was I going to get around that? I wanted to write real-life romance with real-life characters but how was I going to do that if I had to “colour between the lines” and keep it clean? In other words, keep sex out of it? After all, as a Christian, I'm aware that whatever I write must glorify God and be consistent with my beliefs.

So I had a dilemma. I could either write Christian or mainstream romance. After much prayer, I decided to write for the mainstream market, which I did. I was thrilled when it was accepted for publication with the first publisher I sent it to.

Intensive Care is my debut novel – a medical romance set in regional Australia. It 
touches on issues of infidelity, grief, abortion and loss, and focuses on the need to forgive before you can move on. It has plenty of medical scenarios, plenty of emotional moments and a happy ever after ending without my hero and heroine ending up beneath the bed covers. 

It’s been warmly received so far and is currently sitting at #2 in it’s category on Amazon Australia (Western/Rural romance), but I’ve been challenged by some readers that the lack of sex in the book is unrealistic. And you know what? In hindsight, I tend to agree.

But what are your thoughts? Should Christian authors write romance with 'behind closed doors' sex scenes or leave sex out of it altogether? 

Intensive Care has been published by Momentum, the digital imprint of Pan MacMillan Australia. It was released in January as an e-book and is available where all e-books are sold. Nicki has recently finished writing the follow up to Intensive Care, titled Emergency Response and has just started her next book in the series, Life Support.


Blurb for Intensive Care:

Escaping to the country was meant to be easy…

On the surface it looks like busy Intensive Care nurse Kate Kennedy has it all: a long-term relationship, a great career and a sleek inner city apartment. But appearances are deceiving, and in one fell swoop everything comes crashing down around her. In a moment of spontaneity, Kate leaves her city life and takes a new role as Nurse Unit Manager at Birrangulla Base Hospital, but her dream move proves harder than expected.

Local cafĂ© owner Joel O’Connor finds himself increasingly drawn to the gorgeous new nurse, but like Kate, he’s been scarred by love and isn’t looking to jump into anything. Yet their chemistry is hard to deny and after a near fatal incident, Joel and Kate find themselves opening up to one another.

Just when Kate thinks she’s found love again, their fragile relationship is thwarted by their pasts. Can they both let go of their guilt and grief to move on to a bright new future?

To read the first chapter, click here.

To purchase, click here for links.About Nicki Edwards:


Even twenty-five years of marriage, travel, children, study and work wasn’t enough to keep Nicki busy. In January 2014 she woke up and decided to fulfil a lifelong dream – to write a novel.

Nicki calls herself a city girl with a country heart. Unfortunately the only way she can escape to the countryside of her dreams is by living vicariously through the lives of the characters in the rural romance novels she loves to read. If she could spend her days dressed in jeans and boots out on the farm surrounded by horses, dogs, cows and sheep, she’d be in her element.

When Nicki isn’t dreaming, reading or writing about rural life, she can be found in her scrubs in the Emergency Department or the Intensive Care Unit, where she works as a nurse.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Episodic Storytelling - A New Type of Book

There’s a new form of story-telling that is slowly gaining popularity. I'm going to call it episodic fiction. These stories are not novels or short stories. They’re something else. These stories are based on the sensibilities of television. Terms such as episode and season tend to be used. You have a cast of characters that appear in each episode (essentially a novella). Each book can be its own story but they combine together to tell a larger story arc. This is more than just serialising a novel in pieces. The episodes combined do not follow the same structure of a novel. They follow the structure of a television season.

I think there are two factors that have inspired this kind of story-telling. The first is the eBook revolution. Novellas were not popular for a long time. It was not financially sustainable to print and sell them on shelves - but they are perfectly suited for electronic media (not to mention the shorter attention span of busy modern people). The other factor is what has come to be known as the ‘second golden age of television’. We are seeing a lot of well-written scripted stories appear on TV. This charge seems to be being led by the premium cable networks in America. These stories have inspired writers to pen the same kind of fiction in written form.

Two of the pioneers of this type of book are Sean Platt and Jonny B Truent. Some examples of their series are the fantastical and somewhat comical Unicorn Western (yes you read that right), and the extremely edgy cyberpunk thriller The Beam (big content warning for this one).

 

Christian authors are also getting in on the action. In the speculative arena you’ll find multi-author series such as Colony Zero and No Revolution Is Too Big. Each author will generally be ‘cast’ as a character and write their episode from their character’s point of view. It’s not all speculative though. Christian author Tracy Krauss has released a series she calls Neighbours (no not the Aussie TV show) which follows the exploits of a group of people living in an apartment block.

   

It seems to mainly be indie authors who have blazed the trail with this type of story-telling, but some bigger names are now getting in on the act. Big name Christian authors Bill Meyers, Frank Peretti, Angela Hunt and Alton Gansky are currently working on a supernatural thriller series called Harbingers.

 

Episodic storytelling offers some interesting new opportunities for Christian writers. Novels generally have a single protagonist. In a Christian novel a spiritual journey is often part of the protagonist’s arc. This type of arc can sometimes come across as 'preachy' to non-Christian readers, no matter how much we might argue that it isn't. The Christian message is perhaps too front-and-centre for them to handle. Interestingly, recent TV shows like Falling Skies and The Walking Dead have shown that mainstream audiences will happily accept Christian characters in the mix of a larger cast. This gives us an opportunity to do the same. Not every episode need be "Christian fiction" but through one or two characters we can bring a Godly worldview and perspective into a story.

I have actually been interested in this type of episodic writing for decades. I just didn't realise that readers would accept it in written form. The pioneers of these stories have shown that they will. I am currently developing a series that I call The Remnant. It is an episodic space opera featuring a mix of characters living in an extraordinary and difficult situation. I'm targeting the story at a general audience, but like everything I write it will still be influenced by my Christian world view. I'm in the midst of writing the pilot episode as we speak and it’s proving to be a blast. I'm still working on my novel, but this new frontier offers up just another way to express ourselves creatively, and that's always a good thing.


Adam David Collings is a writer of speculative fiction from Tasmania. His novella Lynessa's Curse is soon to be published in the Medieval Mars anthology.

He hosts a show on youTube called Stories with Adam Collings.

Connect with him at adamdavidcollings.com

Monday, March 2, 2015

God's Plans by Julie Auld


"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare (peace) and not evil, to give you a future and a hope."  (Jeremiah 29:11, ESV)

God can show us so many things when  we allow ourselves to be in a place where it is only us and God.  When we allow our hearts to be still, be prepared to listen for his voice removing the distractions of this world, giving God first place that he deserves then we can hear him speaking.
Recently I did a road trip with 3 small dogs and a cat in the back seat of my 4WD from Longreach to Brisbane ( without radio or cds), taking in the amazing landscape and small country towns along the journey.  We live in an amazing country that is yet to be explored and documented.  Living in the city all my life I never understood the beauty of Australia and how we can take the small things for granted. Moving into an outback town I have seen how tough it is to really survive on drought stricken land, but I am also amazed with the colours of the sunsets and sunrises the outback can give us. 

 God had shown me that from each town I visited or drove through there is a story for me to write.  The stories that I write will be an encouragement to others that have gone through a similar journey to me.

My hearts desire is to serve God in missions, to write my book, to be able to  travel overseas and Australia.  I have  also learnt that I need to  surrender all my dreams totally to God so that it is not my doing but God's and he is the one where my success will come from.  

 I have wanted to go to bible college for several years now and in 2015 I have been accepted to study a  Bachelor of Ministries at bible college by distance.
 My road trip to Brisbane meant that I was able to meet with the bible college lecturers and other distance students. 
 The next three years will be an incredible journey as I take my walk with God to a deeper level studying the bible, understanding and trusting what he has planned for me and  be able combine it with my writing. 
I know God has a plan for me and each of us, a plan that he designed for me before I was born.
God  gave me this love for words.
God gave me the desire to want to serve him.
God gave me the desire to want to write.
My life is like a jigsaw puzzle and God is the one who will put all the pieces together the way he planned.
Right place Right timing.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Words and words are all I have... by Anusha Atukorala


I wake up in my hotel room at the Changi airport. The time is 4.40 p.m. Groggy and disoriented, I walk to the bathroom. My eyelids are half closed. I splash cold water on my face. A cup of tea would be nice. I plug in the kettle and make myself a cuppa. I sit back on my bed and sip it slowly. Mmm. That feels good. Very good.

I wake up. I remember. I am here waiting for my connecting flight back home after Mum’s funeral. Without any warning, tears begin to rain down my cheeks. My blouse gets soaked. Mama is gone. My beloved, wonderful, amazing, one of a kind Mother is no more. I miss her so. I can’t reach her. Never again on earth. Never is a sad word. Never is never! I put the cup down. I rush to my overnight bag. I pull out a book. A slim volume with a light green cover. I open it.

“This book is for Anusha when I’m gone. 4/5/07” AA

It’s the journal my Mama left for me. Slowly, I turn its pages and begin to read. The tears continue to fall. But Mum’s journal comforts me, a warm fire on a dark sad winter’s night. Quotations, poems, verses; many in her own beautiful familiar hand writing. What a treasure trove! I read on. I am blessed. Her presence is with me.

That was 6 weeks ago. It’s now almost 2 months since my beloved Mother passed away on the 4th of January 2015. Mama hadn’t been sick for more than a few days, so her death came as a mammoth shock to us her family. We’d been hoping to celebrate her 90th – all 34 of us children, grand children and great grandchildren – only 6 months on. We could hardly believe that we’d been cheated of that special celebration for Mum. She was eagerly looking forward to it and so were we.

In today’s blog I honour the extraordinary woman who was my Mum. Because you see… if not for her, I would not be part of CWD. Mum was a writer. I imbibed my love of books and reading and writing from her. She was a journalist for 72 years – right until she died at age 89. Her Christmas article was published in the newspaper 10 days before. In 2014 she was given the award of Lifetime Achievement in Journalism. Mum was also a counsellor and a speaker and a friend of many. She touched hundreds of people. She used words. To bless and build. To challenge. To build a better world.
The Journal she left me is now my most prized possession. I discover inside an excerpt from an email I wrote to her in June 2007. “I have some good news about my writing. I got my first Aussie acceptance. Isn’t that wonderful? I had a letter yesterday from Strand Publishing. My story ‘A dream realised’ will be printed in a book called ‘Australian stories to inspire the heart…” It touches me now that Mum pasted it in her special journal. She was the "ever-present, totally-for-me" cheer-leader of my writing journey. When I sent her a link to my Amazon Author page just a few weeks before she died, she responded immediately:

Goodness gracious me! I AM vastly impressed, darlintest of authors.
Your devoted fan,
Anne A.


Mum wrote fearlessly to change systems. She challenged injustice and stood up for the downtrodden. Her writing made a difference. Today, though sharing with you a little of her professional career, what I’d like to highlight is something different. For almost 16 years, Mum and I wrote a long daily email to each other every night. Today, the 5093 emails (yes, that many) she sent me over the years comfort me. Her journal blesses me. Mum kept closely in touch with her seven children and their spouses, her eleven grandchildren and their spouses and her 4 great grandchildren. That is a lot of us! Mum was a prolific email correspondent with many people all over the globe; young and old, men and women, people from all walks of life. She was a writer! Not only professionally but all the time.
We writers have one major tool that we use over and over again. Words. Words matter. Words build and create. Like bricks to a builder or paint to an artist, we writers have the time of our lives splashing words about in life's ocean, don’t we? But here’s the question. What of the words we use in our spare time? Are they being put to good use as much as our professional writing? We writers have the ability to touch lives. Do we use words to that end? Are others enriched by our words? All day? Every day? Whom can you bless today through your writing? An email? A snail mail letter? A card? A poem? A few words on Facebook? A status message? A story – not just for publication but to encourage a friend? May you and I continually colour our world with words – words that bless, anoint, encourage, challenge and inspire.

And just as Mum’s journal continues to bring healing to my life – may you and I use words to heal and restore. Are you up for the challenge? And while we are about it – do you have stories of how your words have blessed another? I’d love to hear them.

Anusha Atukorala is a writer with a song in her heart and a message to proclaim. The love of Jesus is her anchor, her strength and her song. Her first book ‘Enjoying the Journey’ is a collection of little God thoughts from every day life. She has been enriched on her writing journey not only by God’s wisdom and inspiration but also by many amazing writer friends just like yourself! You can connect with her on her weekly blog and website Dancing in the Rain. Do drop in to say G'day.