Thursday, September 1, 2016

How Do We Answer?

A question most fiction writers are asked: Where do the ideas of your stories come from?

I am still scratching my head about the answer to that.
All I can offer is that it's something like a seed being planted into fertile ground. (And no one can dispute we writers have fertile imaginations.) It's bound to shoot and wiggle its way up until we see the possibilities of a story. That's when it needs watering.

So what is the watering process for you? Do you get to work and begin laying out your ideas until you see the story emerging fresh, original and tempting?

Or do you take an idea ( or many ideas) you've read before and rewrite the plot with a twist - as agents love to encourage us to add in our book proposals?

Or is it something you've been struggling with in your own life and you place this into you main character's personality? This naturally introduces a spiritual dimension. And may help you discover along the way in figuring out your own life's answers.


The possibility exists that all of the above are true. Now is there something I've missed? I am curious about where we writers differ and where we are similar. As a pantser myself, I wish I could see the end from the beginning. But it seems I need to concentrate on understanding my characters and let them make the right choices ... or wrong as the case may be. Actually wrong choices do make them more human. Then it's interesting to find out how they'll extricate themselves from the consequences of their stupid decisions!

Sigh. All the above is a glimmer, but doesn't prove how we come up with our stories. I'd be glad if you could add some ideas of your own to enlighten me. OR do you have a good answer when posed with the question of where your stories originate?


Rita Stella Galieh is a co-presenter on a Christian radio program broadcast Australia-wide. She was a contributor to several US anthologies published by Adams Media. An attendee at several conferences, she has judged for ACFW, contributes to several other writers’ organizations, blogs weekly, and participates daily on Facebook. After several years study at the Sydney National Art School, she joined the family ceramics business before attending Emmaus Bible College. Each year, besides Australia, she travels with her violinist husband throughout Thailand, with permission from the Buddhist Government, to explain the true meaning of Christmas. 

This past year she has enjoyed presenting the amusing Etiquette of the Victorian Era to ladies and seniors fellowships, dinners, coffee evenings and similar functions. Her website is www.ritastellapress.com

Monday, August 29, 2016

Great Australian Stories

Early this year I was invited to make a contribution to an online site that I'd never heard of before - Great Australian Story. I read some of the other stories on the site and was very moved, amused and intrigued by these offerings. They give a great insight to so many aspects of life in Australia, honouring the brave, sharing funny stories and great achievements, and appreciating the extraordinary in the ordinary. 
I decided to contribute a story about my great aunt, Mary Oakes. Her story was part of one of my early novels, The Price of Peace, and because it's now 100 years since WW1 and there have been so many commemorations of those who fought and died in the battles of the war, I thought something of the battles faced by mothers of those soldiers should also be told. Part of short story I wrote follows.  


Mary Oakes was born in 1856 and was raised in the small country town of Murringo, near Young, in New South Wales. He mother, Suzannah, died in 1843 when Mary was just 17. A year later Mary married John Coddington and they had two children; Susan and William. Sadly, after just four years of marriage, John died of a fever. In that same year, 1878, Mary’s father, George Oakes, also died. In anyone’s estimation, that’s already a lot of loss for a young woman. At that time, continuing on with two small children would have been a great challenge.
In 1880 Mary married James Taylor and over the following sixteen years eight more children came along; six sons and two daughters. By the time the eldest children began to marry, it was clear that James came and went from the family quite regularly. Perhaps for work, or perhaps he was one of those men who wandered and returned unreliably. From remarks on the wedding certificates, his whereabouts was often unknown to Mary.
After the death of their twelve year old son, David, in 1903, James was never heard of again. David died from Tetanus after an accident on their small farm in Murringo. In 1912, Mary’s eldest daughter, Susan, died in childbirth. So much loss and pain to bear without the comfort of a husband.
When war was declared in August, 1914, Mary had three of her boys at home; James (27 years old), a labourer, Frederick (21), a horse breaker, and Herbert (18). No doubt she relied heavily on them for support and survival on the farm as there were no other social supports for women. Charles (29) worked in a nearby village as a blacksmith. The two older sons, William and George, were married and had families of their own. No doubt the war seemed an exciting thing for the young. There was enormous pressure for men to go and fight for the empire. It was considered cowardly by many for young men not to go.
Frederick, aged 21, was the first of Mary’s sons to go. He enlisted on September 4th, within weeks of war being declared. At that stage there was speculation that it would all be over by Christmas. However, that was not to be the case. In January, 1915, Charles enlisted and in March James signed up. In August that year, Mary received a card from Charles, from Egypt, saying they were off to the front. By the front, he meant Gallipoli, where the ANZACS had landed in April and were dug in on the sides of steep hills, held off by the Turks. All of these names and details must have been terrifying and mystifying to women like Mary, waiting at home, hoping and praying that the war would end soon and their boys would come home safely.

In September Mary received word from the War Office that Frederick had been injured at Gallipoli and hospitalised. That same month another telegram came, to say that Charles and James had gone missing in action between the 6th and 25th of August, one at Lone Pine, and one at Hill 60.  Many soldiers’ bodies were identified and buried when their fellow soldiers had a chance to get out of the trenches and retrieve them. Many were not retrieved, not identifiable. For many months Mary did not know whether her two boys were dead, injured somewhere, or buried in mud.
In October, word came that Frederick was back in Egypt, hospitalised with fevers, but still no news of Charles and James. It was May, 1916 before Mary got word from the War Office that her two boys, James and Charles, could reasonably be presumed dead. About that time, she found out that Frederick was to be sent home to Australia with permanent damage to an arm. 
It’s hard to imagine what pain she then experienced to hear that two of her other sons, George and Herbert, were about to enlist. George was 33, married with 2 small children. Whether he thought he was going to find his younger brothers, or to avenge them, or whether the pressure at home was so great, it’s hard to know, but he left his wife and children, took his youngest brother, Herbert, and off they went to war. Mary’s nephew, Arthur, son of her brother, also went with them.
These boys were sent to the Western front where the allies were trying to keep the Germans out of France.  Arthur was killed in March 1917 in Villers Bretonneaux.  Mary’s son, George, was injured in France in France, and returned to England to repatriate. Herbert was also injured, taken to England for treatment and returned to the front. The two boys returned to Australia in mid 1919. Both married and went on to have families of their own. I can only imagine their memories and nightmares as, along with thousands of other young men, they struggled to resume some kind of normal life.
It’s also hard to imagine the agony for Mary and her sister-in-law, Sarah Oakes.  It was 1920 before both of these women received notification from the War Office, attempting to finalise their deceased sons' affairs.
I can still weep for those women and marvel at the fortitude which enabled them to survive their pain, a pain and sacrifice that is often forgotten as we remember the fallen of the war. 
Last year I attended a memorial service at Murringo (now called Marengo), to unveil a cenotaph honouring the Murringo boys who gave their lives. I couldn’t help but think of mothers like Mary and Sarah, and wish that their sacrifice and pain was also acknowledged and honoured.

This, along with many true stories; sad, funny, inspiring, can be found on Great Australian Story. (www.greataustralianstory.com.au) I'd encourage any of you as writers to consider making a contribution to the site. I've had numerous responses to my story and was able to link it to my author pages so that interested readers could find my novels if they chose to. It's also an opportunity for writers to practice their skills and get some feedback. Most of all it's a great way for down to earth, everyday Australian history to be documented.  

Carol Preston 

Carol writes historical novels based on her family ancestry in Australia from the First Fleet. They 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 new novel, Next of Kin, was released last year by Rhiza Press and her latest novel, Beyond the Fight was released this April. You can see more about Carol and her novels on her website, her Amazon author page or FB author page.


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Becoming an Elephant


I stumbled across an old email the other day—it hinted at a true story about elephants. I’ve always been fascinated by these creatures (who abounded in the land of my birth), so I eagerly read on. What an intriguing tale! Lawrence Anthony, nicknamed ‘The Elephant Whisperer’ had been an international conservationist, environmentalist, explorer and bestselling author. I quote from the narrative:

On March 7, 2012 Lawrence Anthony died. He is remembered and missed by his wife, 2 sons, 2 grandsons, and numerous elephants, italics mine.

How did those ‘numerous elephants’ show that they remembered him?
How did we know that they did?
But first, what had they to remember of him?

Lawrence Anthony had been a legend. Rogue elephants who would usually have been put down, had been calmed, rescued and given refuge in a large sanctuary he established for them. Anthony was known to be exceptional in caring for traumatised elephants. When the ‘Elephant Whisperer’ died, something mysterious and profound took place. From miles away, wild elephants—dozens of them, silently began a long trek to his home, in solemn single file, taking at least 12 hours to reach. They stayed for two days, refusing to eat or drink, saying goodbye to the man who had championed their cause.

What an amazing story! And what a brilliant example of remembering. How did they even know he had died? We human beings are good at recalling the bad done to us. Do we also bring to mind often the acts of kindness we’ve received? I've been inspired by the life of King David as I've studied it recently. I was struck also by an occurrence that took place when King Saul died. Men in the small town of Jabesh Gilead came stealthily at dead of night, and took his body away with them so that his enemies would not taunt his body. These valiant men risked their lives for a dead king, because years before, King Saul had helped them. They too had remembered.


Would you like to be an elephant today? Not in size of course. Nor in looks, so you can rest easy. But would you like to be an elephant today in the act of remembering?

WHAT CAN WE, WHO CALL OURSELVES CHRISTIAN WRITERS, REMEMBER?

1. That Jesus bought us life, freedom and salvation. Praise Him.

2. The inspiring books we’ve read and how we’ve been changed through them.

3. Writers, role models and teachers in our writing sphere who have taught us, shaped our writing and grown us. Let’s appreciate them.

4. That our dreams, talents, abilities, time and even opportunities to write, all come from Him who reigns over all. We are stewards. We owe it all to our Lord.

5. That everything we’ve achieved are gifts from Him, so any praise directed at our writing and speaking efforts should be boomeranged back to our Creator.

6. The encouraging ways that God came through for us in the past, so with grateful hearts, we can entrust the future of our creativity to Him.

7. The deep joy we have in being writers called of God—how thrilling the journey. Let us never take our calling for granted.


And so today, I pause, reflect and give thanks. To God—for calling me to write for Him, for His guidance and inspiration. To you, my fellow writers who’ve taught me over the years and encouraged me stay on course. To those whose insightful books have showered God’s truth over my being. I look forward to new mountains yet to climb, because all I know of our God tells me that if He’s come through for me in the past, I can count on His faithfulness in the future.

I’d like to be an Elephant today.
Would you care to join me?

And now my Christian Writer Friends, this is for you:
“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Phillipians 1:3-6


Anusha’s been on many interesting detours in life, as a lab technician, a computer programmer, a full time Mum, a full time volunteer, a charity director, a full time job chaser, until one golden day (or was it a dark moonless night?) God tapped her on her shoulder and called her to write for Him. She has never recovered from the joy it brought her. She loves to see others enjoying life with Jesus and does her mite to hurry the process in her world through her writing and through her life. The goodness of God is her theme song through each season, as she dances in the rain with Jesus. Please stop by at her website Dancing in the Rain to say G’day. She’d love to see you.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Searching for Treasure


I dig around – it must be in here somewhere. I’m sure it’s here…

I keep searching – going deeper – getting to the bottom and finding fluff and broken bits and things that haven’t seen the light of day for a while.

I strain my eyes – sometimes when looking for something, my eyes pass right over it. I’m sure you’ve done the same. So I look at each item and name it, just so I can’t miss what I’m looking for.

There’s a lot of stuff in here: treasures, junk, forgotten things, insights, incomplete thoughts, words from other people, words that belong to other people, half-started piece of writing…

Surely amidst all the experiences of my life, I can find something to write about. I have friends for whom there simply are not enough hours in the day to get it all on paper. But I rarely write like that. I have to discipline myself to stop and listen; to chew over experiences and insights; and to listen to what God is asking me to put on paper. It’s all too easy not to be a writer! I even struggle with calling myself a writer – more than 20 short pieces and a booklet in print and I hesitate with the epithet ‘author’. An author? Are you sure? I don’t write much really. In fact not at all sometimes.

And I realize, I’m letting my thoughts undermine my ‘work’ as a writer. And that leaves me wide open to the enemy undermining who I am and who I can become: ‘A testimony? You? With your safe little life? Ha, ha, you’re so ordinary.’
I’ve started two new jobs recently – it’s pretty busy. There’s not a lot of time to write, (or market my booklet!), and I’ve been wondering how to go about meeting my writing commitments. However, my new jobs provide me with plenty of driving time, mostly alone, and I try to discipline my mind to prayer and meditating on Bible verses.

I think over books I read last year – books that talk about who we are and who we can become with the power of God in our lives. Our application of faith to our lives is often so small – we see our lives empowered within the context of who we are and what we do with each day. Our Heavenly Father sees our lives empowered by His Spirit within the context of the world with all the resources of Heaven at our disposal.

So I refute the arguments that try to destroy my identity and my inheritance.
I have the Spirit of the Living God dwelling in me
I have all the resources of Heaven at my disposal and for the glory of God
I am being changed into the perfect image of Christ
I have a strong testimony about the work of God in me and in my life
And there is a whole world out there needing to hear about the saving grace, goodness and love of God through the written word

I am…a writer.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

LIFE IS A BATTLEFIELD . 

Robbie is a soldier who grew up as a fringe dweller on the edge of town in drought ravaged sheep country. He experienced the challenges of a homeless family knowing what it was to really struggle and even face horrifically terrifying events as a child. These things though could not prepare him for the shocking realities of battle he had experienced in the Middle East. Robbie may be a central fictional character in the narratives I am expressing, but he is also an expression of the challenging realities I have personally faced, and also the empathetic acknowledgement of what others are dealing with. Robbie (from the fictional platform of my writing) can express and engage at a deep level what many people grapple with in their day to day realities. Perhaps this can also help people find solutions to their issues: solutions that are perhaps less about solving things from our own strength, self-focus and material success, and more about discovering purpose, hope, meaning and even supernatural answers in life from The Source of all Life.

I am a School Chaplain pastorally caring for many students, staff and families often in very difficult circumstances. I am also engaged in discipling University students, ministering in indigenous communities, and serving in development opportunities internationally. Life is like a battlefield for many of these people. All of these opportunities give pause for me to reflect on the vagaries life throws at people, but also gives opportunity of seeing people call on help from outside themselves when all goes wrong.   
I am presently supporting our returned servicemen and their families by bringing attention to the scourge of depression and the high incidence of suicide among their ranks. The 22 day challenge sees me doing 22 pushups per day and remembering their Post Traumatic Stress Disorder struggle (https://www.facebook.com/22PushupChallenge/).

Today (the 18th of August) marks the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan in Vietnam. An incident recognised in the history of military service in Australia as one of the most horrific and heroic battles experienced by our soldiers. This is outlined clearly in a documentary I recently watched directed and produced by Damien Lay (battle of Long Tan Documentary Trailer  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSoi28LPbfc) . For 3 and a half hours just over a hundred Australian soldiers held off over 2500 North Vietnamese soldiers in a rubber plantation to the East of Saigon. 18 Australians and more than 500 Vietnamese were killed.
Many of the returned soldiers who shared their stories on the documentary wept as they recounted their terrifying ordeals, acts of sacrifice, and what could only be related as incidents of miraculous survival.

In reflecting on all this I began to consider what many of these soldiers testified that when soldiers face life and death in the field, they cry out for spiritual direction. Others have related a similar notion that in the heat of battle there are no atheists. When faced with desperate, impossible situations people cry out for help beyond themselves. This is not just the reality for soldiers in battle, it is a human condition. As one soldier has related:
“What really sustains, in my view, is something more than this – something far bigger than ourselves, something bigger and deeper than we can imagine or rationalise for ourselves.”
This same soldier gives this account of a battle he found himself in:
“My platoon got involved in a fierce gunfight – two of the enemy were killed, two of my soldiers were shot and one died. Everyone that day was really frightened, despite our denials. That experience told me that even the toughest of men, when the chips are down and the reality of life and death confronts, are reaching out into the spiritual dimension, beyond the rational “(Richard Dannett).

It is a well attested reality that people in the thickest of battles in the traumas of life people call out to God for help.
Fundamentally,  Life (when under trial) begins to recognise that there must be, there needs to be,  a higher source to rely on for help.
That’s why my character Robbie ends up coming to the end of himself in my story telling. It is not just to tell his story, but to relate the human story. Perhaps others can relate. When we come to the end of ourselves, when we need more than what we have to give or think we can handle, when things are impossible, we need a power higher than ourselves, we need a Saviour, we need The Source of all Life to reach in to our existence with His merciful hand and do what is only possible with Him.

 So I will continue to do my 22 pushups each day for 22 days. I will keep bringing hope to the generation of young people and families I work with. I will keep promoting the reality that we also don’t just have the opportunity to call on this Saviour when everything is falling apart, but perhaps more vitally He is there to do our Life journey with (through the struggles yes, but also) in relationship with us every day through the highs and the lows.

Oh, and I will keep expressing this reality through the interwoven complexities of my characters and their experiences, not just because it tells a good story, but because it is our human story and that means that perhaps this story telling can help others reach out for their Life Giver. 


SHANE BRIGG

Here with a friend he met in Vietnam. Ex Viet Cong. Who also testified of a Saviour who helped him survive after having his arm traumatically amputated by a tank shell in battle, 




Monday, August 15, 2016

'The Artist' - A Blog About Time

The Artist: Oil on canvas by Avril Thomas.
Used with permission 

My husband, Marc, and I recently celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary. We booked a gorgeous B&B at McLaren Vale and snuggled together in the warmth as the wind blasted rain against the windows. It was great to spend quality time together in this cosy retreat.
      When we checked out on Sunday morning we decided to look at some art galleries. We considered a list of local galleries but in the end we only braved the weather to take in one exhibition, that of South Australian artist, Avril Thomas, at Magpie Springs winery in Willunga.
     Avril’s works are striking. I immediately liked the large portrait of South Australian politician, Alexander Downer, and a series of paintings commissioned by the Flinders Medical Centre. These are unusual: Oil paintings of medical professionals, including doctors and nurses working in an operating theatre.  I enjoy Avril’s ‘tonal realism’ style and the humanity that seems to imbibe her work.
     But there was one painting that stood out for me. The Artist (pictured above) depicts a woman in the act of creating. Colours on her palate stream onto brushes and onto the canvas as the woman paints an image of herself in the act of painting. On first impression I thought it a passionate, unusual work, but then I saw the small hourglass in the lower right quadrant of the painting.
     The beauty of art, whatever its form, is that it can pierce us in that place which is the core of who we are. It doesn’t matter whether the medium is oil paint or music or words, art can get inside us and bring conviction. The small hourglass in the painting suggests that time is passing. The notes to the side of the painting explain that the hourglass symbolises the finite nature of time – the artist only has so many days to do the things they’ve been made to do.
     As I looked at this painting I sensed that God was speaking to me. ‘Are you doing what I made you to do?’
     The conviction didn’t come with judgement. There was no, ‘Come on Susan, you need to do more. MORE!’ It came instead with a sweet sense of grace. I’m in the middle of my life and God has spoken things over me along the way: A call to ministry, a call to write and I think to visual art as well. He has given me some wonderful promises that have budded but are yet to fully flower and fruit.  Am I tending those promises as fully as I can? God reminded me that the time available to do that is finite. I need to seek his face and make some tough decisions.
     In Ecclesiastes 3:1 it says there’s a time for everything under the sun. So I don’t think Jesus wants us to drop everything and make our art the sole priority. There’s a right time and place for everything. But I sense that for some reading this, like me, God is saying, ‘You’ve been patient, you’ve waited, now it’s time to do the things you've been made for.’
     What things has God put on your heart to do?





Sue Jeffrey was born in Scotland but moved to Brisbane, Australia with her family when she was just a wee lass. After a childhood spent reading, drawing and accumulating stray animals, Sue studied veterinary science and later moved to Adelaide where she worked as both a vet and a pastor. After a sojourn of several years in the Australian Capital Territory, Sue returned to Adelaide with two dogs, a very nice husband, and a deepdesire to write. Sue has a MA in creative writing and her short stories and poems have appeared in several anthologies including Tales of the Upper RoomSomething in the Blood: Vampire Stories With a Christian Bite and Glimpses of Light. Her e-book Ruthless The Killer: A Short Story is available on Amazon.com. Sue also paints animal portraits.


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Apologies and The Report of My Death Was An Exaggeration
                                             The picture below is not me. :-)


That quote from Mark Twain has been greatly misquoted. He said it as I have it above. But there are many variations of his words. I used it because for three months I hardly wrote a word, crashed inside myself, lost a sister-in-law, left the writing world and left some of the best friends I have ever had. Anusha, Jenny, Nola. Not to mention our MOP group. I like the way Mark Twain said it better than the other versions. He never said GREATLY. I wonder if he was in the place I was. This was part of the real letter he wrote to that reporter who printed the obituary. 

Mark Twain was undecided whether to be more amused or annoyed when a Journal representative informed him today of the report in New York that he was dying in poverty in London...
The great humorist, while not perhaps very robust, is in the best of health. He said:
“I can understand perfectly how the report of my illness got about, I have even heard on good authority that I was dead. James Ross Clemens, a cousin of mine, was seriously ill two or three weeks ago in London, but is well now. The report of my illness grew out of his illness. "The report of my death was an exaggeration.”

I was going through some biopsies and my world turned topsy-turvy. (I love those words. They feel so good in your mouth when you say them. Go ahead. Say them. Topsy-turvy. That's a little thing. But I have that pleasure back in my life. In those hard months, I didn't care. I know Anusha, Jenny and Nola were whispering my name in prayer. I felt it.

 I don't have cancer, but I have something close. Precancer. I never knew you could have that. I came to realize that I missed writing. I missed my friends. Our group. And now I'm rushing to finish my 12 poems for our anthology. So I wasted time while throwing my pity party. 

I apologize to all of you. For not getting by to read your words. I will from now on. I've learned that we can't live in fear. That's no fun. So I picked up the pieces, glued them back together and now look like the picture above. Hahaha. 

 Anusha sent me an email. She'd realized she never answered my email. It was in her draft folder. That was on July 10th. The very day I started trying to pull myself out of the mire. I was writing again. Her email made me smile. And I knew I would write my poetry and novels and picture books. This verse she sent snatched me out of that miry pit. 


Isaiah 30:15
Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion.
For the LORD is a God of justice.

Blessed are all who wait for Him. (Wait for Him.) Yes. 

Anusha and I had a retreat. And it was lovely. It was right before my crash. God uses people in our lives to bring us back from the brink. That retreat was another way God used her to help me and she didn't know it. Well, she does now. 

I prayed about this post. I actually intended to write something else. But He impressed me to write this. I believe someone needs to see it.

Thank you for making me a part of your lives I tell everyone I'm an honorary Aussie. I love Australia for many reasons. And you have short elections. Not like our three years of election talk. BLEH. 


Image may contain: meme and text

All my love to all of you.

Robyn

Monday, August 8, 2016

Chilly Bins and Jandals.

lightstock.com
I had a call from my sister yesterday. She is an avid reader of Christian fiction, far more than I am, and she knows what she likes. I had recommended one of my recent reads to her—Close to You by Kara Isaac—and she had rung to tell me how much she enjoyed this entertaining book. We went on to have a conversation about New Zealand.
Neither one of us has visited the ‘land of the long white cloud’ and we both decided Kara’s book had piqued our interest in travelling there one day.
Kara’s novel is so full of visual pictures of her country that even I (who hates the cold) am excited to visit. My newfound desire to trek the wilds of Kiwiland was cemented by watching the movie, Hunt for the Wilderpeople. If you are looking for a great movie to see, this is it. The spectacular New Zealand bushland is a major feature in this movie, not to mention the wicked Kiwi sense of humour that tickled my Aussie funny bone. But what also struck me was the truly talented work that is coming out of this small country.
This is not to say that truly talented work hasn’t always come out of New Zealand. It’s just that, for me, I’ve been impressed with the recent offerings. So impressed that it has sold this tropical ‘princess’ on chilly NZ adventure—though, I don’t know if my jandal collection will suffice. I might need some proper closed-in shoes for the journey.
I would like to dedicate this post to my talented and superb friends from ‘across the ditch.’ And I want to recommend the creative work coming out of this country, after all, they are most certainly a vibrant and vital part of our Down Under body.
Apart from Kara Isaac’s novel, Close to You, and the new movie, Hunt for the Wilderpeople (in cinemas now), please find below some NZ work on my ‘to read’ pile. Please check out these titles for yourself.
The Pounamu Prophesy by Cindy Williams
Where Lions Roar at Night by Rosie Boom
Where Arrows Fly by Rosie Boom
Where Crickets Sing by Rosie Boom
Where the River Rises by Rosie Boom
Broken Shells by Debbie Roome
Fragrant Hope by Debbie Roome



Rose, who holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree, was born in North Queensland, Australia. Her childhood experiences growing up in a small beach community would later provide inspiration for her first novel, Back to Resolution. Beyond Resolution and A New Resolution are the second and third books in the Resolution series.
Back to Resolution won the Bookseller’s Choice award at the 2012 CALEB Awards, while A New Resolution won the 2013 CALEB Prize for Fiction. She has also released The Greenfield Legacy, a collaborative novel, written in conjunction with three other outstanding Australian authors, and has recently released the standalone novel, Ehvah After.
Her novels are inspired by the love of her coastal home and desire to produce exciting and contemporary stories of faith for women. Rose resides in Mackay, North Queensland with her husband and son.

Visit Rose at: https://rosedee.com/


Thursday, August 4, 2016

Writing with Ambient Sound

It’s a common question for writers. I’m sure you’ve been asked a few times in the past. Do you write with music or silence? It’s almost up there with “are you a plotter or a pantser?” I’ve always come down on the silence side of things. If I’m writing I need to be free from auditory distractions. Even if it’s just instrumental music it can pull me away. Interestingly though, I can program while listening to music, unless it is really intense algorithmic code. But enough about my day job.

I do find music very inspiration for setting the scene, but I’d prefer to listen to it before I write.

Recently, however, I came across something new and a little bit weird. It may work for some people. Writing with scene-appropriate ambient noise.

I write a lot of sci-fi, so many of my scenes are set on a space ship. When Star Trek: The Next Generation was first produced in the late 80s they made the decision to layer the engines of the Enterprise subtly rumbling in the background. If you pay attention you’ll hear it in every single scene set on the ship. It was probably a hotly debated decision. Would audiences really want that sound constantly in their ears while watching the show? It worked out well for them. It really added to the realism of feeling like you were on the ship with the characters.

Did you know that people have made looping videos of the Enterprise engine ambient noise on youTube? Want to get away from it all escape to the 24th century? Just close your eyes, pop on some headphones and listen to this:

That’s right 24 hours of engine humming! Don’t have it up too loud, though. It’s got to be subtle. Some people even fall asleep listening to this.

Getting back to my writing, I thought it would be cool to put this on in the background to enhance my setting. Make me feel like I was on a spaceship. It was pretty cool actually.

That’s when I found that ambient noise is a big thing on youTube. I was writing a story with a Victorian (1800s England, not the state in Australia) setting. Sure enough, I found a nice little video with ambient sounds of a Victorian street at night. It helped me get into the right head-space.

Writing a scene in a jungle?, writing a modern warfare scene? Have a scene on a tropical beach?, a restaurant?, the wild west?, a sailing ship? a city street or perhaps you’re writing a medieval battle scene. And we can’t forget everybody’s favourite sound of all - rain.

These background sounds certainly help me get into the setting. (It helps that I have an unlimited NBN plan). There is still, of course, the potential for distraction, but overall I think it is helping more than hindering, so I’ll continue to experiment with it. Not to mention, it’s just cool fun.

What about you? Do you think ambient sounds would help you get into the setting for your scenes? Have you used it before? What’s the most unusual setting you’ve managed to find sounds for?


Adam David Collings is an author of speculative fiction. He lives in Tasmania, Australia with his wife and two children. Adam draws inspiration for his stories from his over-active imagination, his life experiences and his faith.

Adam is a great lover of stories, enjoying them in books, movies, scripted TV and computer games. Adam discusses these on his own youTube show – Stories with Adam Collings.

Find him at adamdavidcollings.com or sign up to his email list for a free short story.

Monday, August 1, 2016

To Blog or Not to Blog ... that is the Question!


History repeats itself. Last year at our annual Writer’s Conference I spoke on SPEAKING. Today on CWD/ACW, I am blogging on BLOGGING.
What would you say is next? Should I read a book on READING?

The helpful aspect about speaking on speaking was that the material I used to prepare my talk helped me perform my workshop better. So perhaps my research into blogging will help me write a readable blog? My little offering today is for those who are considering the pros and cons of blogging on your writing journey and would like a whiff of its perfume in order to be convinced of its lasting fragrance.


4 ½ years ago, I began my belated blessed blogging journey with a few bumbling baby steps forward. I have now written 220 blogs to date. I must confess though that I came kicking and screaming into it. You see, I couldn’t see the point of adding my mite to the surplus of blogs out there. Who would read them? Google tells me that in 2013 there were 152 million blogs in the world. Not a small number. A publisher friend finally convinced me that I should dive in. Surprisingly enough, once I jumped in (with a mighty splash), you couldn’t get me out of the blogging pool. The lake was cool and refreshing, and I am still being invigorated by its healing waters.


So what is a Blog? A Blog is short for "Web Log" later turned into ‘Weblog’ and finally the simple four letter word: ‘Blog’. As recently as 1999, there were supposedly only 23 blogs on the Internet. The reason for there being so few was that 17 years ago, bloggers needed to be web designers who created everything from scratch. Thankfully, times have changed and we have easy access to free blogging hosts in the 21st century world. So what’s your excuse to not blogging? None!

But let me add that as a Christian writer, you will of course need to ascertain if it’s right for you at this point of your writing journey. “The first thing you need to decide when you build your blog is what you want to accomplish with it, and what it can do if successful.” Ron Dawson.


How does a blog help an Author/Writer/Would be Writer?
1. It helps build your platform
2. It gives credibility to your writing
3. It helps develop publicity for your writing
4. It can promote your work
5. It helps you develop a fan base
6. It helps you keep in touch with your readers
7. It helps agents and publishers take you seriously
8. It keeps you writing regularly
9. It lets your readership enjoy bite-sized flavourful chunks of your writing
10. It connects you to the world—writing can often be a lonely occupation

Some Important aspects to work out before you begin:
1. Name of your website/blog site—think hard. Think well. Let it stand out.
2. A page about yourself—allow your readers get to know you
3. Frequency of blog – daily/3 times a week/weekly/fortnightly/monthly/other
4. Subject matter – what would you like to focus on?
5. Make it readable – not only in content but also in presentation

Are pictures necessary? I’d say they are not essential but having at least one picture in your blog would add to it. I've done a little research and uncovered some sites with free pictures with no copyright issues attached, but please ensure you read the ‘terms of use’ before you download them.
Some Free Images for you: Please click on the links below.
Dreamstime

Gratisography

New Old Stock

Free Nature Stock

Function

What hosts are available? There are plenty of free hosting blog builders that will help you create your blog or website from scratch and with ease. I used Webnode.com and have been more than satisfied with their services—it hasn’t cost me a cent. Other sites like Blogger.com, Wordpress.com, SimpleSite.com, Tumblr.com, and Wix.com are used widely as you may know. If you would like to use your own domain name, you will need to pay for it. Here’s a useful site which shares information on blog hosts: Web Hosting Free Reviews

What kinds of Writer Blogs are out there? There are blogs that teach the writer’s craft, those that talk of the writer’s life, others that write about current issues, some which share their experiences, others that write how-to articles, some which focus on book reviews and more. Fiction writers may share snippets of their stories to hook their readers or even serialise their work through a regular blog. When I started blogging, what a blessing it was to discover that God made it part of my ministry. It was a gift from Him, and has grown me and shaped me as a writer. But we are unique beings—called by God to different tasks. So follow His heart for yourself, not for anyone else. Your blog and mine will be vastly different. And that’s exactly how it should be.

A few Good Blogging Practices:

1. Determine the length of your blog. 300 – 600 words is a good number.
2. Images will add to the blog—use them.
3. Ask a question at the end or lead them to take action
4. Make it easy for others to share—make it public on Facebook
5. Link up with other writers’ blogs
6. Create a free email newsletter
7. Invite other writers to write guest blogs on your site—a good way of joining hands (and words) with other writers!

I hope I've whet your writerly appetite to discover if blogging is something beneficial to you as a writer. Everything we do as Christian writers must be in response to a call from God. Is He calling you to start one? There are many of us bloggers on CWD and ACW who would be very glad to pitch in if you need a hand. So if you believe God is calling you to it, do jump right in. And may your expedition be God breathed, exhilarating and worthwhile.


If you have other things in your life—family, friends, good productive day work—these can interact with your writing and the sum will be all the richer.
David Brin

“Writing is its own reward.” – Henry Miller

“Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.
Barbara Kingsolver

Anusha Atukorala is a writer and speaker with music in her heart and a message to proclaim. The abundant love of a faithful God is her theme song. God’s call to writing in 2007 led Anusha on a Grand Adventure which continues to surprise and thrill her. Anusha loves to build the body of Christ and to encourage others through the written and spoken word. Her first book ‘Enjoying the Journey’ is comprised of 75 little God stories. She has twelve short stories published in Anthologies and lots more in the pipeline. Do drop in to say G’day at her website Dancing in the Rain. She’d love to meet you.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Stop it!

by Charis Joy Jackson



I feel like I’ve written about this topic over and over again. Coming at it from different angles, hoping to inspire, hoping to encourage and provoke aspiring authors and professionals alike. But today, I’m going to just come straight out and say it.

Stop it!

I get excited meeting other writers and I’ve been meeting a lot lately. I ask them what they write and they tell me they haven’t really started anything yet, but they want to. I ask them what’s stopping them and while the answers vary with excuses, ultimately it all comes from the same place.

They are afraid and they’ve let that fear stop them.

I’m so done with seeing fear win.

There’s a comedy sketch with Bob Newhart where he plays a therapist, Dr. Switzer, meeting with a client, Catherine Bigman, for the first time. He starts by telling Catherine he charges five dollars for the first five minutes and then after those five minutes doesn’t charge anything else. Sounds like a dream come true for Catherine, but then Dr. Switzer says he guarantee’s the meeting won’t last that long.

Confused, she agrees to the payment and they start the session. She begins to tell him of her fear. She’s afraid of being buried alive in a box.

He sits and listens to her like a good therapist. Nodding his head, making noises and asking pertinent questions all to encourage her to continue. Then once she’s finished describing how far this fear extends he tells her he’s got two words for her. He tells her to listen carefully, to take these words with her and to incorporate them in her life.

Intrigued she pulls out her notepad to write them down and that’s when he says it.

“Stop it!”

What if it’s as simple as that? To stop it.

Fear paralyses us, but think about it. We’re the ones feeding it. It’s our own creativity and imagination working against us. What if I don’t succeed? What if I can’t write? What if I’m not good enough? And the “What if’s” continue pilling up like an excellent tragedy.

But, what if we tried?

Even if we don’t succeed we tried.  Even if we find that writing is a lot tougher than we expected, at least we stepped out of our comfort zone. Even if we really aren’t good enough, at least we know where our weaknesses are and we can grow from them.

The truth is, none of us start out as super human wordsmiths knowing exactly what to write. The good news though is we can grow to become great novelists, but it takes time and practice. If we let fear win, we never give ourselves the chance to practice and if we don’t practice then we’ll never learn.

So if you’re feeling particularly stuck at the moment with your writing, or if you haven’t yet put pen to paper, please watch Bob Newhart’s hilarious sketch Stop It and let the simple truth wash over you.

And if you still struggle with fear, then listen carefully to these ten words. Write them out and take them with you. “Stop it or I’ll bury you alive in a box.”

Write! You’re actually more creative than you give yourself credit. Remember all those “What if’s” that pile up in your mind and paralyze you? That’s creative thinking too! Yes, it’s negative, but it still takes energy to come up with all those fears. How about doing something more productive with your mind. Start creating those epic adventures trapped behind the walls of fear. Break the walls down and like Nike says, “Just do it.”

Stop letting excuses take over.

Stop letting fear get in the way.

Stop giving in to self doubt.

Stop it and try believing in yourself for once. Try believing in a creative God who created you to create and go and write.

I dare you.



 

 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, an independent film company. Where she gets to make movies for a living. 

She loves creating stories & is currently writing a novel in her spare time, which she hopes to publish in the next year.

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