Thursday, September 18, 2014

A tribute to Stealth Authors and Artists


 A geocache we discovered. A perfect example of anonymous generosity, in the spirit of stealth gardeners, writers and artists. 

I visited Great Britain when I was a University student. It was a holiday with my parents, and we visited a countless number of breathtaking churches and cathedrals. The abundance of stone craft and marble work amazed us. There were Biblical heroes with finely-honed facial expressions, and anatomical details, such as veins and Adam's apples, which we would never have imagined could be chipped into stone. A little creepier were the models on top of tombs and crypts of the people who lay beneath; kings, queens and statesmen staring up at us. What intrigued me most was the incredibly high quality of these works of art.

We all associate the Statue of David with its creator, Michelangelo, to the extent that both names are paired together instantly all around the world. But these long ago British craftsmen, whose work had just as much of a Wow factor for me, remain anonymous. If we looked closely enough, we might have seen tiny initials etched into the clay or stone, but just as often we couldn't. It would seem the artists were working solely for love of it, and to bring God glory. It was simply their calling. Being unacknowledged didn't seem to enter their heads or detract from the standard of their work.

I wondered whether writers would be equally happy to remain unnoticed, for even the most self-effacing author knows that his name will appear on the cover of his book, along with the title. Since I asked myself that question, excellent modern authors, who don't mind reminding anonymous, have been drawn to my attention everywhere.

My husband is a musician trying to build a repertoire of old songs, as he plays for senior citizens in nursing homes. He and I have been listening to the free Pandora radio station on our Ipad, especially interested to read the histories of the bands and solo artists who are being highlighted. There are pages and pages of well-written information, including great descriptions, fantastic imagery and impeccable research. Yet the authors don't sign their names. They make me think of the thousands of people who spend painstaking hours editing information on Wikipedia, not to earn a name for themselves but because they are passionate about the topics.

You might have heard about Stealth Gardeners. Their hobby is also known as Guerilla gardening. They creep out at night and beautify ugly patches of land and other eyesores, at the risk of being arrested for trespassing. Personally, I'd welcome them anytime they wanted to visit my place. I guess the Wiki editors and other people who write content for websites may consider themselves Stealth Writers. 

I find these people such an encouraging example. When we're working at fulfilling our calling, there is no rule that says we always need our name connected to it? If that's necessary, we may be working in the wrong spirit. Those of us who have written books and articles may consider their anonymous examples. Some of our work, although not completely secret, may be more hidden, such as blog posts that disappear into cyberspace and book reviews which join hundreds of others. If we're tempted to skimp and not put as much TLC into these things as we do for our more visible work, perhaps we should consider our motivations. Even our smaller bursts of writing may be little geocaches, which may be discovered by anyone at any time.


I take my hat off to big-hearted people everywhere, who are simply committed to making the world a more beautiful place through their passions, even if it's anonymously. Just below is a photo taken last week at the beach. The work of art sitting beside me is a good example of what I'm talking about. Although the plaque is there near my feet, who bothers to stop and read plaques? Not me apparently, for I cannot tell you the name of the fun artist, but I enjoyed his (or her) input.


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.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Thankful Times Ten


With the way things are in our world and all the trouble going on in various places, it is very easy to become despondent. Instead of being despairing and negative, it makes me thankful for the country we live in and the freedom we have in this land. Being an island has its advantages.

The almost constant rain we have experienced recently is another bone of contention for a lot of people at present. I admit rain affects my equilibrium very quickly. So instead of complaining about our world and the rain which was pouring as I typed this, I decided to praise God for a warm dry house that has not let in one drop of water during the onslaught.

The reality is it’s always easy to see the negatives instead of the positives. So I decided to make a list of some positives in my life.

First is having a relationship with the living God and knowing that no matter what happens He is always in charge. Even if I don’t understand what is happening or why, God knows and has a perfect plan.

The second positive is having a husband who shares that faith.  I can’t imagine how hard it must be in a marriage where one is a believer and the other is not. It would be like being pulled in two different directions.

My third thing to be thankful for is a son and a daughter who are following the Lord and serving Him. They married Christians and are now bringing up the next generation to believe in God and follow Him. As I talk to some Christians whose children have walked away from God and His teaching, I realise how blessed we are.

Fourth is living where we live on the beautiful south coast of New South Wales.

Just to go for a walk along the bay is such a blessing. To see that bay at sunrise and know God has given us another day is something to be thankful for. This was the sunrise last Christmas morning. What stunning colours. Like a special Christmas gift from God.   

Living where I am, may mean that I am not living as close to family as I would like,  or that sometimes I can’t travel to get to events or that shopping for certain items is difficult but despite the negatives I wouldn’t swap it.

Fifth is belonging to a church where God’s Word is faithfully preached.

Sixth being involved in that church and being able to serve the Lord as part of the music ministry. Music is such a blessing in life and I don’t only mean church music but lots of different kinds of music. Just as I can’t imagine a church service without music, I can’t imagine a world without music.

Seventh, I’m thankful for eyesight to be able to see the wonders of God’s creation around us, whether that is the scarlet and blue rosellas, the king parrots, the kangaroos that inhabit our area or a flower in the garden or maybe one in a pot indoors.


Eight is the gift of friends who care about us, who spend fun times with and who will pray with and for us.

Ninth is the gift of words- whether we are using them to write a poem, devotional, novel or to share the gospel truth with another person in conversation.

Tenth is books. To be able to read firstly God’s Book and learn more about him. But also to be able to read novels, poetry, biographies, articles.

It would be easy to keep going of things to be thankful for. But this is enough for now. What I would like though is to hear one or two things you are thankful for.
Dale writes fiction, poetry and children’s fiction, and has written bible studies and Sunday school lessons. As well as writing and reading, Dale loves to sing. She is involved in the music ministry at her church. More information about Dale can be found at www.daleharcombe.com or on her Write and Read with Dale blog http://www.livejournal.com/users/orangedale/
 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Support an author when you have no money to buy books

I am a single mum with two kids and I love books. As much as would love to buy all the books my writing friends publish, I just can't afford it (and I'm rapidly running out of shelf space!). I know I'm not the only one out there in this situation.

There are a lot of authors talking about the only way you can support them is to buy their books. There are other ways.



Here are some tips to support your fellow authors if you have no money:

Request the book at your library - I am a member of my local library and have become good friends with the librarians. If there is a book I want to read, or my kids want to read, we request the book at the library and they purchase it for us. There is a program by the government called "Lending Rights" so authors who are registered don't miss out on royalties and the books are available for other library members to read.

There have been a couple of times I've suggested the library get in books that I have purchased and loved. Because I know the librarians, I usually drop them an email with the details of the book so I don't have to reserve it, and they often get these books in.

Buy a gift - I know that even if I have no money, I do have money set aside for gifts. I've been known to buy books from my author friends as gifts for friends and with either read the book before I give it, or give the gift with a request to read the book after they have read it! This still gives the author a sale and I get to read the book.

Add to your wish list - my birthday is coming up in October and already I'm getting family asking what I want as a gift. I'm prepared with a list of books I would love to read and own. This is one of the easiest ways to get a new book and support some of your favourite authors - ask people to give them to you as gifts for your birthday, Christmas, or other gift giving occasion.

Spread the word - If you've heard good things about your friends books and you don't have the money to buy a copy, you can still shout it from the rooftops that there is a new book out there. You can participate in blog tours, interview authors or characters on your blog, share the links through your social media channels, and simply talk about the books and authors.

These are just a few ways to support authors and their books when you have no money. Do you have any ideas you can add to this list?



Melissa Gijsbers is a Melbourne based author and the mother of two boys. She has had flash fiction stories published in anthologies and her first children's book, Swallow Me, NOW! is due for publication in October 2014.
Follow her writing journey at www.melissawrites.com.au and visit her website at www.melissagijsbers.com

Monday, September 8, 2014

"Fear Not" by Sally Graham


As a young girl my favorite subjects were Art and  English. As a teenager I wrote pages and pages of bleak dark poetry which I dutifully typed into pamphlets on my old typewriter and handed out for free in Rundle Mall. After a 15 year detour into drugs, alcohol and crime I finally landed in the arms of Jesus.

My return to writing occurred when God spoke to me from John 4. The story of the woman at the well  gave me the mandate to tell my town what Jesus had done in my life.  Writing a book seemed a natural extension of that mandate and so I began to pray that God would give me words that painted a picture.
I approached writing as an art form. I am an artist in the more traditional sense. I paint and draw.  As I researched writing I heard terms which strengthened my belief that I could approach writing as an art form with a different brush. I encouraged myself by excavating my old moth eaten poems and endeavoured to grow in this medium.

We self-published my first book "As Black from White" initially out of frustration.  I was tired of the growing pile of rejection letters from traditional publishers. My book was "too topical." 'too short." (36,000 words) "too Australian." 

Over the years I have lost my cringe factor associated with self-publishing and continue with it as preference. It has allowed me once again to sell or give away copies at my discretion.  We independently print and import our own books and have found a system which works for us hand in hand with public speaking events.

This I have learnt 

 “Fear Not”
1)     Never be afraid to knock on a door ..again.
                   I remember a major bookstore rejected stocking our book. After I got                      a review in  “Christian Woman magazine” I asked if they  would like to                    reconsider. They now stock us.
  
2)     Fear not. Allow your work life beyond its creator.
      As an artist I am stereotypically temperamental, dramatic, and highly critical of my own work. It is this aspect I have needed the most growth to temper. There comes a point with any artistic work where you have to reconcile to live with the flaws you perceive in the work and set it free. 

3)     Go where the spirit leads. Fear not. We have had amazing feedback from surprising arenas.  I have positive reviews, radio invitations and TV opportunities beyond my dreams.  Don't let fear of the unknown or let fear of firsts get you down. Everything is a first at some time.

4) Dream Big dreams. Dont let fear force you into small thinking.
We are all a long way from Kansas

As back from White started as my simple testimony. It has now been made into a 7 minute short film “Sal”,  has been translated to Vietnamese version and there are plans to begin a feature film .I travel, sharing my story and am currently writing a film scrip and two more books. We have just released our updated version of As Black from White.

You can contact me www.asblackfromwhite.com.au


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Intergalactic Avian Mutants on the Prairie (Or – You Read What????)




Have you ever succumbed to ‘random reading syndrome’? That moment when you’re book browsing and before you can blink, you have a title completely outside your favourite genre by an author you’ve never heard of in your hand. This could be because the cover was pretty, the title made you laugh, or there was a beetle precariously walking the edge of the binding and you were compelled to save it from plunging into the darkened crevasse between that and the next shelved title.

Readers are not the only who may suffer this ailment. Writers can also fall prey to a related condition. Not only might they read outside their favourite genre, but they might even WRITE outside it too, trialling alternate techniques within those genres just for fun!

I’m an offender on both counts. In fact, I don’t suffer from random reading syndrome, I enjoy in it! :) By forcing myself to read outside the known I’ve not only stumbled upon some wonderful books I might have otherwise missed, but I’ve learned so much: about me, about writing, about reading.

As writers it’s important to become familiar with our genres. I’ve read a heap more YA in the past year than I have in a decade, simply because I was writing into that genre and it had been a while since I’d read books targeted to that age group. But I think most writers can also identify the immense value in reading beyond what we write (including mainstream titles). Expanding out literary world is good for us. It’s also equally valuable to sometimes write outside our comfort zone. Not necessarily a whole novel, but even a short story or poem.

While studying creative writing I took the opportunity to explore different tenses and points of view while writing outside my most familiar genre. In one submission it was observed my written voice worked well with Chick Lit, so I also wrote a fantasy piece with a male protagonist. (Of course...)

Perhaps that’s why it makes sense I have two titles being released this month in two contrasting genres. Integrate is a YA fiction and was released on Monday this week. A Devil’s Ransom is a maritime historical romance to be released later in the month. I’ve loved writing them both, yet I’ve also realised how swiftly a writing focus can strangle our tendency for random reading bouts. For our own writing sakes we need to foster our inner random reader.

Besides, we might even become a fan of a genre or author we’d never otherwise encounter. Now there’s a great reason, if any, to turn into a different aisle in the bookstore next time we venture there. (And don’t forget to keep an eye for any book-walking beetles or giant intergalactic chickens ...)

Adele Jones lives in Queensland, Australia. She’s had a variety of short works published and has two novels being released in 2014—a YA SciFi and a historical maritime romance. Her writing is inspired by a passion for family, faith, friends, music and science – and a broad ranging imagination. To find out more visit www.adelejonesauthor.com

Monday, September 1, 2014

What is Christian Fiction? By Cecily Paterson

Smarter people than me have debated this, and for a much longer time and my intention in this post is not to necessarily open the debate; merely to explain why I chose to write the kind of fiction I write, as a Christian person.

My definition of Christian fiction has been that the work includes an overt Christian message and usually some kind of commitment or recommitment by one of the characters. It also steers clear of any content that’s offensive, sexual or rude. Using this definition, I decided, when I sat down to work out what I was going to do with this ‘I want to write a novel’ urge that kept sticking its annoying head up into my life, that I would not be writing Christian fiction.

I couldn’t do it without being cheesy, I thought to myself. I’d definitely feel like I was being contrived*. Not to mention the fact that my audience for a book like that would be a lot smaller. And small was never what I wanted to do.

So I made a decision. I would write fiction for the broad market of the age group I had chosen (girls, aged 11-14). I would include big themes (suicide, bullying and anxiety feature in Invisible; fashion, popularity and the ‘it group’ feature in Love and Muddy Puddles) but I would steer clear of offensive language and tackle things in what I considered to be an age-appropriate way for the culture I see my junior high school daughter living in.

My characters don’t swear, a kiss is as far as anything ever goes and there’s always a helpful older female mentor, guiding my girls through their lives. There’s also always a ‘hint’ of the possibility of God or a Christian influence on the situation.

My theory was this; far from hiding my Christian faith, I’d aim for the widest possible audience by writing a ‘secular’ book. If a reader liked what they read, they’d go and find out about me on my website, where I am not backward in explaining that I’m a Christian and pointing them to links that will give them more information. I also always answer letters from readers and I’ve had the amazing opportunity already to encourage a few teenagers from different countries to read verses from the bible and to encourage them to find faith.

The age group is tricky though. Lots of girls this age are reading Twilight and its equivalents. (I’ve even talked to 15-year-olds who’ve read 50 Shades of Grey.) For them, my books are completely innocent and non-offensive.

Other girls are in much more sheltered situations and I’ve had three (Christian) mothers tell me that they wouldn’t give my books to their eleven-year-olds.  The first was because her daughter’s dad had suffered from similar bipolar problems as the character’s father in Invisible, and it was all ‘a bit too close to home’ for her. The second mother objected to what she saw as the viciousness of the bullying in the school and said that her home-schooled ten-year-old would be horrified if she read it. Another mother was a bit put off by the fact that my fashionista Coco in Love and Muddy Puddles was a makeup addict and wore mascara and eye shadow at the age of thirteen and she didn’t want to encourage her daughter to do the same thing.

I understand all the criticism, but I also understand that life out there in early high school can be vicious and scary and grownup. Many, many kids go through what my Coco and Jazmine go through and I want to give them hope.

In the end, to avoid the definition debates, I’ve made up my own definition of what I write. I call my books ‘warmhearted fiction for girls’, written by a Christian.

 *Please do not see this blog post as in any way criticising Christian fiction, or saying that it by definition is cheesy or contrived. I’m simply saying I couldn’t do it without a fair helping of mozzarella. Nor is it bad to have a smaller audience. Nor do I criticise mothers for homeschooling their children or guiding their daughters’ choice of fiction. I’ve done both myself. I perfectly understand that we all have lines we draw at various places for our own reasons.


Cecily Paterson is the author of the award-winning memoir Love Tears & Autism and now writes fiction for teenage girls.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Publish or Perish? Part Two

By Jeanette O’Hagan


In Part One of ‘Publish or Perish?’ we looked things to consider in the journey to publication and the pros and cons of traditional publishing. In the not-so-distant past, traditional publishing was basically the only way forward except for the dubious route of vanity publishing.  With the advent of the World Wide Web, e-books, Amazon and print on the demand (POD) technology, the publishing landscape has changed dramatically in the last couple of decades. On the one hand, writers don’t have to wait around like wall flowers waiting for a publisher to offer them a contract if they are prepared to go solo. On the other hand, because the market has become so tight, traditional publishers do less for their authors and expect them to be actively involved in platform building, marketing and promotion.

So what about the other options?

The Vanity and Subsidy Publishers

Some publishers will offer to publish your book for a price (a co-payment). As with a traditional publisher they will negotiate a contract for the rights of your manuscript and in return will pay you royalties. However, they will also ask you to pay upfront a portion of the costs in producing the book and/or may ask you to commit to buying a certain number of books (10, 100, 500, 1000 etc).

The difference between a vanity and subsidy publisher is that a vanity publisher generally charges exorbitant prices and often gives shoddy results in return (e.g. poorly edited work, terrible cover design or low quality materials). Vanity publishers make their profit from the money authors pay them, not by selling and distributing books. So they have little incentive to promote your book.

Some small publishers offer co-payment as a way of reducing their financial risk and to assist in publishing more authors and titles. A true subsidy publisher offers genuine services (such as thorough editing, good cover design, some form of promotion and marketing) at reasonable prices and, often, with access to a distribution network.

It may, at first glance, be difficult to tell the difference between a vanity and a genuine subsidy publisher. If in doubt check out websites like this and this on scammy publishers, ask around about the reputation of the publisher and/or look at the quality of the books it produces. Always check the proposed contract for gotchas. Don’t sign a blank cheque.

Vanity and Subsidy Publishers
Pros
Cons
Generally the publisher may be anxious to accept your manuscript – especially in the case of the vanity publisher – this may be despite of the quality of your work.
They require a substantial up front co-payment and/or a commitment to buy a certain number of books (often regardless of the quality of the finished product).
Publisher arranges editing, cover design, typesetting, printing and possibly distribution.
Despite paying upfront (sometimes an exorbitant amount), the publisher probably still gets a cut of ongoing profits (your royalties).
Publisher may provide some marketing and promotion – though this may be little more than a listing on their website. Make sure you know what they offer.
Your work may be poorly produced and/or the publisher may have a bad reputation.
Publisher may have access to distribution networks.
You will need to do your own marketing and promotion if you want your book to be successful.
It may be a less expensive option than self-publishing (then again, it may not!)
While you have some degree of creative control, this is limited. Some publishers can be inflexible on issues such as price or the format of the book.

You may be locked in with this publisher even if the book is a disaster or it is not selling, preventing you from seeking other publishing options.

Subsidy publishing may suit you if you have a good manuscript which you want to get published sooner or a manuscript aimed at a niche market where you have good contacts (a hobby group, a family history), or a sizeable platform. You are prepared to pay something up front but would like to rely on the expertise and experience of the publisher.

You need to be very wary that the subsidy publisher is not overcharging for their services, is inflexible or has unfavourable contracts that are hard to get out of and/or will give you an inferior result. Buyer Beware.

Indie or Self-publishing

With self-publishing, the author takes the financial risks and retains full rights of their manuscript. Using their own capital, they contract different services required to produce their book – such as editing, cover design, ISBN numbers, barcodes, typesetting, formatting, library rights, printing, promotion, marketing and distribution. They also receive all the net profits on the book (if it makes any).

This model has become more accessible with the advent of e-books and Print on Demand (POD) services like CreateSpace or LightningSource. Also companies like Book Whispers or BookCoverCafe will guide authors through the process of Indie publishing and/or offer different services.

Indie or Self publishing.
Pros
Cons
You don’t have to wait (sometimes for years, maybe never) for a publisher to accept your manuscript. You publish when you are ready to publish.
You pay all the costs involved in publishing your book upfront – this can vary depending on how much you are willing to invest. The more you invest (wisely), the more likely you are to be successful but the bigger the financial risk you take.
You receive full net profits and a higher cut from Amazon for your e-books.
You arrange everything, from editing, cover design, typesetting, ISBNs, barcodes, printing, promotion and distribution.
You have full creative control and flexibility.
You may lack experience and expertise in the industry and knowledge of the market.
You retain full rights on your manuscript.
You will need to do all your marketing and promotion. Having or building a ‘platform’ is vital.
You can join distribution or promotional networks for indie-publishers like John  3:16 Marketing Network
It is much harder for self-published authors to gain access to the big bookstores, including Christian bookstores like Word or Koorong.
Print on Demand (POD) means that you don’t have to print off thousands of print copies that don’t sell. You can print smaller numbers or at the request of the buyer.
You need to understand all the financial aspects of the process, including taxes, getting exemptions for US taxes, maybe setting up your own tradename, etc. Essentially, the ‘buck stops with you.’
Self-publishing has less of a stigma than it did in the past.
Some reviewing sites, groups, awards etc don’t recognise self-published works.
Many indie-authors are successful though they often have multiple titles or built their name through traditional publishing.
Covering all sides of the publishing business means that you may have less time for writing.

Self-publishing may be for you if have a good or outstanding manuscript that is timely or you are no longer prepared to wait for a traditional publisher to discover it or it appeals a niche market or it doesn't fit into the narrow categories often favoured by traditional publishers. You are prepared to pay up front and to invest your time and energy into both publishing and promoting your book.

You need to make sure your manuscript is at an acceptable standard and that you don’t skimp on quality especially in terms of covers, editing and formatting (for the printer or e-book). Unless you only wish to sell or give the book to a small number people (your extended family, friends, fellow hobbyists, church group), you need to tap into distribution networks and/or put a lot of hard work into marketing and promoting your book.
Self-publishing is not for you if don’t have expertise and are not prepared to learn or hire it; if you don’t have or wish to invest money up front and if you lack time and energy to put into it.

Regardless of the mode you choose, if you want your book to reach many people, you will need to put time and effort into promotion. Still, from a spiritual perspective, success does not depend on numbers or even on publication. Our writing may touch lives or change our own without being ‘successful.’
Ultimately, as Christian writers we write to please God and to use the gift he has given us.

Image ‘Hope Definition’ above courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Jeanette has practiced medicine, studied communication, history and theology and has taught theology. She is currently caring for her children, enjoying post-graduate studies in writing at Swinburne University and writing her Akrad fantasy fiction series. She is actively involved in a caring Christian community.


You can find her on her Facebook page or websites JeanetteO'Hagan Writes &   JennysThread.com .