Thursday, September 21, 2017

Writers: constructive feedback isn't going to kill you.

Writing is such a personal thing. We’re told to ‘bleed’ on to the page, in a popular writing meme. We’re told to write what we know, and put our hearts into it. We inhabit our words and search our souls for meaning.

And then we ask for feedback.

And we’re supposed to just sit there and take it.

I’ve been on both sides of this experience. I’ve left my writers’ critique group in tears more than once. “They don’t understand what I’m trying to do,” I’ve raged. “It is good. The character is loveable. Sure, she’s mean, and says stupid things, but that’s just her age.”

It can really hurt when not everybody loves and adores and raves about that piece you’ve poured your whole self into. It feels like you’re getting kicked to the ground, shamed, beaten and humiliated.

As an editor, and the one giving the feedback to lots of different writers, I have an entirely different perspective. I don’t see the writer. I only see the story, the phrasing and the words, the characters. I rarely, if ever, think about the person behind it who has lived and breathed their manuscript for months on end, unless I hear their voice instead of the character’s voice, or see their hand in an awkward plot twist, rather than following the natural course of events.

For me as the editor, the writing I’m working on is completely separate from the person who wrote it. And my aim is not to help the writer feel better about the piece of work they’ve sweated over and loved. I’m aiming to challenge them to improve even more. My task is to help them get that writing and that story as good and as perfect and as rounded and whole as it can possibly be. The best writers I’ve worked with are the ones who have listened, heard and come back with work that’s ten times better than what they started with.

(As an aside: I don’t think I’m a mean editor, but I’ve been told I should probably be a little kinder, or at least, perhaps drop in a compliment or two where something is really good. I’ve started writing ‘great’ or ‘awesome’ where something is really stand-out, but I don’t do it a lot. My time costs that writer money, and, frankly, compliments take time. I’d rather give full value to the writer and use their money to help them polish as much of their piece as they can.)

Over the last three years I’ve been learning the cello, as an adult beginner. I imagine it’s been for me much like writing is for many people. I love it. It feels personal to me, and I work hard at it. I want to eventually play in a community orchestra, and not embarrass myself. So I spend my week of practice trying to get a piece sounding just right, and then Tuesday morning comes around, and my teacher turns up.

He’s given me just two compliments in three years. Two! But in that time he’s gotten me through to working on fifth and sixth grade pieces, reading tenor clef, and working on my vibrato, all the while challenging everything I knew about music. He just laughs at me when I whinge at him (which is a little too frequent, I admit) and try to make things easier for myself by skipping practice steps.

“The thing about music is it’s a meritocracy,” he told me once. “If you do the work and take the feedback and use it, you’ll improve. You want to play with the big kids? You’ve got to work as hard as the big kids.”

A few times I have let his challenges get to me and felt depressed for a couple of days after the lesson. “I can’t play. I’m hopeless. He’s mean.” And then I’ve realised I’ve been silly. I want to play the cello: he’s teaching me how to do it (and he’s not mean, by the way – just honest) and it’s working. I’m improving. Yes, I could have taught myself by watching YouTube clips and sawing away, but I’d still be back in first position with lousy technique and a bad ear.

Writers, just like adult beginner cello players, need to carefully consider the feedback we get, and be able to separate our own sweet, sensitive selves away from our work – if not for our own sakes (hello, mental health, I’m talking to you!) then at least for the sake of our work. It won’t improve and we won’t grow as writers if we can’t be challenged by constructive feedback and take on an attitude of learning.



Cecily Paterson writes Middle Grade novels for girls, publishes Christian colouring books, and is working on an online 'Write Your Memoir' course to be launched in early 2018.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Through the Maze

By Mazzy Adams

As a child, I loved working my way through fun activity books, ones with colour-by-numbers or dot-to-dots. 



If I followed the instructions, a completed picture would emerge. Seeing my efforts come to fruition was such a thrill.




My all-time favourites were the MAZES! Helping Fido find his bone, or helping the lost bunny find his way home was more than fun; it was satisfying. I confess I rigorously planned the route in my head before my pencil touched the page, so I wouldn’t end up drawing messy detours.



Those fun activities reinforced important life lessons, like the wisdom of following directions, the blessing of assisting others, and the value of planning. All of these principles have helped me negotiate life with satisfaction and some success. They inform my efforts and habits as a writer, as, no doubt, they do yours.  

Writing, like many of life’s activities, can be fun, but it is not always child’s play. At times, connecting the dots is complicated and messy. Putting the ‘right’ colours in the ‘right’ places doesn’t always work out, especially when numbers are missing, or your green felt-pen runs dry halfway through the leaves. Fido bites your finger on the way to his bone. Or, like Alice in Wonderland, you chase the bunny and fall down a rabbit hole into a whole world of confusing encounters and unexpected challenges.



When it comes to life’s mazes, some walls are so high, planning the route is impossible. Dead ends leave you backtracking, or stuck in a corner, puzzled, stunned, confused and exhausted. Where’s the fun in that?



Over the last year, I’ve had plenty to hinder my writing progress. Just two weeks after I had major surgery, I broke my wrist and spent the following four or five months stuck in a corner, healing slowly. I struggled to link the simplest of thoughts together and the big picture eluded me completely. 



I found myself thinking thoughts like … I don’t have to write. No-one’s making me. I could just … stop.

Then again, where’s the fun in that?



Writing may not be child’s play, but it does bring joy and satisfaction. Writing creates images with words. It orders our thinking and colours our world. It helps us connect the dots when it comes to important issues of life, faith, purpose and destiny. Writing helps us make sense of the journey, keeps us on track and moves us forward. When we write right, we help our readers enjoy these things too.   
  

I’m grateful that my body is healing and ideas are flowing again. I've been able to review my novel with fresh eyes and a fresh perspective. I've actually enjoyed giving it an overhaul. Although the messiness of life hindered my progress and satisfaction for a time, it also gave me breathing space, and permission to go easy on myself for a while. Most importantly, it reminded me that writing truly is worthwhile. And ... it’s fun!






Mazzy Adams is a published author of poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction. She has a passion for words, pictures and the positive potential in people. 
Website: www.mazzyadams.com 
Email: maz@mazzyadams.com

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Lessons from a Book Release

Two weeks ago, I released my science fiction novella, Jewel of the Stars into the world. This book is the first in what will be a long-running episodic series. In this post, I go over some of the strategies I used when releasing this book, and some of the things I have learned.

Platform

My primary marketing strategy for releasing this book was to let those in my platform known about it. I have been steadily building my platform for a number of years. My primary tool for this has been youTube. I have tried various different types of video programming, but the format that has brought me the most success so far has been my monthly Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Bulletin. This was a niche with a passionate following, that wasn’t being served on youTube. A large part of this success was the discovery of the Realm Makers Consortium.

I had also become a part of a number of valuable Facebook groups. The previously mentioned Realm Makers group, along with a science fiction themed group - Sci-fi Roundtable, and, of course, Christian Writers Downunder. I posted announcements of the book with a gentle sales pitch in each of these. I had previously established, through spending time in these groups, that they were open to, and encouraging of self-promotion. I also posted about it on the Christian Geek Central forum, where I've made some good friends. I was rather blown away by the outpouring of encouragement and support. I made 15 sales in that first day, due to this promotion.

Most of my existing platform was made up of Christians, in particular, Christians who are fans of science fiction and fantasy. This is a group of people that I am very comfortable around. They are “my people”. This book was not a specifically Christian book. Rather, it was written for the general market, although there is a Christian character among the ensemble cast, who can serve as the mouthpiece for my worldview, from time to time. Writing a book with crossover appeal to both Christian and General markets is a challenge. It’s early days yet, but so far, it seems to be doing well in both camps.

I was offered an interview by Author Eric Klein, from the Sci-Fi Roundtable. This wasn’t planned, just a case of being in the right place at the right time. This is why I love author communities. Everyone is always so willing to help each other. There’s something beautiful about our industry in that regard. We don’t have competition, just fellow adventurers on the journey.

I capitalised on my youTube audience by making an announcement trailer for the book.

Pre-Order

Once I’d settled on a release date, I had to figure out when to click the publish button on KDP. Amazon advises that publication can take up to 72 hours. In practice, it never seems to take that long. I have planned to use a pre-order so that the book would go live at exactly the time I had advertised. I realised, however, that you need to give approx 1 week’s notice (I don’t remember the exact number of days). I’d left it too late so I couldn't use the pre-order feature. Instead, I pushed the button mid-day the day before advertised release. The book went live late afternoon. Did it matter that it was live a little before I had advertised? Probably not. The lesson here was, if you want to use pre-order, make sure you set it up early enough. Also, note the pros and cons of Amazon Pre-orders (which are different to pre-orders on other stores.)

Format and Price

Novellas lend themselves beautifully to the eBook format. My plan is to collect 6 episodes into a “box set” which I will release as a paperback, but for this launch, I concentrated on eBook only.

I chose the 99 cent price point to encourage initial sales. I created scarcity by being honest that I planned to raise the price to $2.99 after one week (which I did). One commenter on a Facebook group said “for 99 cents I’ll risk it”.

Review Copies

I offered free advance review copies to my mailing list a week before release. Four people took up this offer. Within a week of release, I had a couple of reviews on both GoodReads and the Amazon sales page. Had I been more organised, I would have sent these out a little earlier, to give reviewers more time.

One of these advanced reviewers was a strong influencer in the world of Christian Sci-fi and fantasy. Not only did he write a great review, but also provided me an Author / Novel Spotlight on this website.

Cover and Blurb

If you want to sell books, a great cover and blurb are essential. I commissioned a custom cover from Inspired Cover Designs and was thrilled with the result. I actually delayed publishing for a few months so I could save up for this. That said, I found the price very reasonable. If I’d had a larger budget, I might have purchased a blurb from Bryan Cohen’s Best Page Forward. Since I didn’t have the money for that, I read Bryan’s book How to Write a Sizzling Synopsis, and followed his recommendations and forumula.

Other Media

In preparation for my release, I took a big step. I contacted one of my favourite podcasts, Lasers, Dragons and Keyboards. The hosts of this show interview speculative fiction authors, usually Christians. I gently, but confidently, asked whether they would consider interviewing me on their show. They were happy to have me and an interview is in the works. The lesson here is don't let imposter syndrome hold you back. Ask (in an appropriate way). The worst they can say is "no," but they might say "yes".

I also submitted a short story, set in the same universe as the book, to the Untold Podcast. This podcast plays audio versions of speculative fiction from a Christian worldview. I was told that my story had been added to a fairly long list, so it may take some time before anything happens with this one. When it does, that’s another magnet that may draw readers into my book. The big lesson here is that I should have submitted it much earlier. Ironically, I deliberately held off submitting for a while, because I wanted to ensure that my book was published by the time the episode went to air (assuming it would be accepted), so as not to waste the marketing opportunity. Timing is everything, and it can be very difficult to work out your first time around, as you have no previous experience to draw on.

Wide vs Exclusive

I’m a big believer in publishing wide. I’ve been on the unfortunate receiving end of exclusivity many times in the past, when I wanted to buy something, but was unable. My long-term plan always has been, and always will be, to publish widely in all available places, so that readers can find my books in their preferred store, to read on their preferred device.

All of that said, I made the very difficult decision to launch the book into Kindle Unlimited (which requires exclusivity on Amazon) for a period of time.

My reasons for this were:

  • Even Joanna Penn, a big proponent of publishing wide recommends staying in KU until you have at least three books, as that’s when you can start having success in the other stores.
  • Space Opera is known to do well in Kindle Unlimited.
  • I hoped to raise a little extra money through KU page reads to help fund editing and cover design costs for book 2.
  • As I don’t yet have a fan base to disappoint, this is the best time, if ever, to try KU,

I haven’t decided exactly when I will make the transition to wide. It may be after my initial 3-month term is up, or I may wait until I have another 1 or 2 books in the series, but it may be expedited if people start asking for the book on other platforms.

Paid Advertising (or lack thereof)

I haven’t used any paid advertising while releasing this book. The real benefit of this type of promotion comes when you have multiple books available in a series. You may make a loss while advertising book 1, but you’ll make up for it down the track with sales on books 2 and 3. Once I have a few more episodes out in the world, I will begin to look into Facebook and Amazon ads. For now, though, I’m just leaving that one alone.

Mailing List

At the time of release, I had a mailing list of 28 people. I placed notices at the beginning and end of the book, inviting readers to receive a free prequel story, to get additional background to the events of Jewel of The Stars. As a result, I gained an additional 7 subscribers.

What's next?

All that I've done so far has been a 'soft launch'. I haven't yet held any kind of official launch event. The plan was to have a Facebook party, which I haven't yet organised. I may still do this, but I'm wondering if it will reach any additional people that haven't already been reached. Still, they say readers need repeated exposures to a book before they'll take the plunge and click buy. Above all else though, my focus now needs to be on getting the second book ready to ship. The longer the time between releases, the more likely I'll lose the interest of readers who would otherwise progress to subsequent books in the series.

Result

As you can see, from the KDP graph below, I had a release day spike of 15 books, selling 28 in the first 3 days. After that initial spike dropped off, I have continued to sell one or two copies every couple of days. In addition, the book has been read twice on Kindle Unlimited.

I’m thrilled with this result. Sure, we’re talking little numbers here, but for an unknown author, with only one novella in the series, it’s a confidence-building start.

It's been exciting to see some of the strategies I've heard about for so many years begin to work for me, in a small way. I didn't pick up hundreds of email subscribers, or sell thousands of copies, but writing is a long-term game, and for me, the adventure is just beginning.

What strategies have you found helpful when releasing a book?



About Jewel of The Stars

Haylee was more confident designing starships than raising an autistic child. She just wants a relaxing holiday with her family. But when Earth falls to an alien armada, she knows life will never be the same again.

Les was just a cruise ship captain. Now, he must rise up and become something greater, if he is to keep his crew and passengers alive.

Braxton never wanted to leave the space navy, but now, taking a cruise is the only way to feel the stars around him. This crisis may be his ticket to regaining the life he thought was gone forever.

Can they overcome their differences and save everyone on the ship?

If they reach unexplored space, they might yet survive, but an unstoppable enemy stands in their way…


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 short story.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Looking but Letting Go

by Anusha Atukorala


I was rushing through the shops. Visitors were due for lunch that day. I’d planned to spend one hour at the shopping centre, then return home to add the last minute trimmings to my luncheon table before my guests got in. As I strode past my favourite clothing shop, I noticed a sale was on. Just a quick look, I told myself. A red jumper grabbed my attention, especially because it was less than half price. I tried it on. It fitted perfectly.

The truth was that I should not have been buying any clothes that day. 1) I didn’t have any extra time to check them out and 2) I needed to be careful about my spending. My beloved had given me a generous cash gift for our special Anniversary a few weeks before. However, one trip to my favourite bookshop and a good portion of it was swallowed up by a DVD (The Case for Christ), a book (Beauty will save the world by Brian Zahnd) and a worship CD. The $20 left, I’d planned to give away. That day though, temptation yanked me hard like a toddler’s tug on his mother’s skirt. I had a little chat with my Heavenly Father


“I won’t get another jumper at this price, Lord’
“Do you need it?”
“Well no, but … I don’t have this colour!’
“But red isn’t your favourite colour.’
“I know … but doesn’t it look good on me Lord?’
No response.

I knew what I had to do. You will be proud of me. I did it—I placed the jumper on the rack and walked away. It’s a skill God’s been teaching me over the last few years. I’m finally able to glance at what’s on offer but to choose to say ‘No’, even when sorely tempted. The world does have a lot of attractive specials of all kinds on offer. Have you noticed?

As a Christian Writer I don’t have a supervisor breathing down my neck—it’s just me alone with my computer. But how accountable am I to my invisible but ever present Boss—God  Himself?


Here are a few issues I’ve needed to think about and work out with godly wisdom.

  1. Keeping my daily Time with God sacred and as my top priority
  2. Writing not what I want to write but that which God asks of me
  3. Remembering to ask His help when I write that which comes effortlessly
  4. Soaking up the praise I receive versus giving God the glory
  5. Being willing to give up my writing time for the good of others, when required
  6. Remembering it’s not all about me—hooray for other writers’ successes
  7. Choosing only essentials from a writer’s tasks to live a God-breathed life
  8. Being a Disciple of Jesus first and a Writer second
  9. Being more than Doing in a frenzied, fast-paced, frantic world
  10. Letting go of good opinions of others to be a passionate God-pleaser

Life with God is an exciting adventure but sometimes a part of that adventure is giving up the good for what’s best. Sacrifice is never easy is it? And then … there are other times. Two years ago I went to Sri Lanka to attend a sad event—my beloved Mama’s funeral. As I talked to those who’d come to pay their respects, I met the former Captain of my Girl Guide troop, a lovely woman. She told me that Mum had promised to write an article for the Girl Guide Centenary anniversary in 2017. She asked if I would write it instead. Of course I said ‘Yes’ at once. If she’d asked me to jump off a bridge for mum, I’d have done that too. Back home, a few months later, when I recollected my promise, I had second thoughts. Could I do it? A few dozen riotous butterflies fluttered inside of me, having a field day.


The year 2017 arrived and remembering my promise … I checked on that Girl Guide article I was meant to write. I was relieved to discover it wasn’t needed after all. A reprieve. Yay! Sometimes God takes us to Mount Moriah like He did with Abraham and tests us. Are we willing to say ‘Yes’ no matter what the cost? I was so glad I had said ‘Yes’, (especially now it wasn’t needed)! At other times God asks us to say ‘No’ to what we’d like, in order to say “Yes’ to what He has planned for us.


Is there something God is asking of you today?

Or ... is there something He's been asking you to let go of?

What are the lessons you’ve been learning of late on your writing journey? I'd love to hear about them.




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. 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 to say G’day to her. She’d love to see you there. Dancing in the Rain



Her first book Enjoying the Journey contains 75 little God stories that will bring you closer to your Creator. All going well, her second book will be published in 2018 – ‘Dancing in the RainWords of comfort and hope for a sad heart. Stay tuned!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Nothing New Under the Sun

I loved the story of the Three Little Pigs when I was a child. I had several versions of the book ranging from a small paperback to an A4 hard cover in full colour. The large version was by far my favourite with its vibrant illustrations and easy to read text. I was happy to read it over and over, and committed the story to memory.



When I started writing years later, I didn’t want to rehash the story of the pigs - or any other book. I spent hours pondering plots and trying to come up with something fresh and original. It took me a few years to realise the truth in what Solomon pointed out in Ecclesiastes 1:9. "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

As writers, we must accept that there are a limited number of plots out there. We want our work to be original, fresh, and exciting but must realise that our story will be one that has been told before in many ways and many places. The way we put our words across is what will make the difference.

Going back to the Three Little Pigs, I liked the A4 book as it held the most appeal to my six-year old mind. I loved the full-page artwork, the cute cartoon pigs, and colours that drew me in. The text was crisp and clear and the story flowed well, leading me from page to page until the big bad wolf ended up in a pot of boiling water.

As we work on our books, no matter what the genre, let’s ask God to breathe freshness into the story.  Allow Him to inspire us with nuances of emotion, threads of colour and characters that stand out. Ask Him for stories that will prompt change, healing and restoration. This is normally a process rather than an overnight transformation but keep on writing and creating. One day you'll look down at your work and instead of a basic story that lacks colour and movement, you'll see a book bursting with life.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Exploring Genre - Supernatural Fiction (Cross over post with ACW)

By Ian Acheson
This year, the cross posts between Christian Writers Downunder and Australasian Christian Writers are focusing on genre. So far, we’ve had posts on meeting genre expectations, in Space Opera and Superheroes, Portal Fantasy and Secondary World Fantasy, Poetry, Free Verse and Verse Novels , Regency and Historical Romance and Rural and Medical Romance 

Today I’m looking at the Supernatural Fiction sub-genre and will also reference Speculative Fiction together and Paranormal Fiction.

Supernatural fiction. What is it you ask? Let’s look at a few definitions.

It is often included in the “speculative” catchall that features in many places, whether it is award programs (eg, ACFW) to certain publishers that focus entirely on novels that “explore the boundaries of the imagination” to borrow from Marcher Lord Press now rebranded Enclave Publishing. We even have a publisher down under in New Zealand that specialises in such fiction: Grace Bridges’ Splashdown Books.

It’s pleasing to know that the world’s largest Christian publisher, Thomas Nelson, has it’s own supernatural fiction category. It is the home of some of the biggest authors of the genre: Ted Dekker, Jim Rubart and Erin Healy to name just three, all of whom happen to be particular favorities of mine.

Back to the definition. In its most basic form it is simply that the story contains elements that are outside the laws of the physical world. The story typically involves a power that goes beyond natural forces and is attributed to a god or deity. The ghost story is the archetypal supernatural story. However, some commentators would treat a ghost story as “paranormal fiction.” There’s a big overlap in all these genres and sub-genres of weirdness. Angels and demons fit in the supernatural while vampires, werewolves, zombies are probably classified as paranormal. Paranormal would also include extraterrestrial life (think ET, Independence Day), UFOs, etc.

In the past decade or so we’ve seen an explosion in secular artforms showcasing all this weirdness. Whether it’s the Twilight novels and movies to The Walking Dead graphic novels and TV series plus the many spin-offs where other worlds are portrayed that typically collide with our physical world in the shape of creatures including vampires, fairies, werewolves, zombies and such like.

Increasingly we’re finding Christian authors are exploring some of these boundaries with an uptake in horror novels and even the undead. I don’t read such novels but having spoken to readers who do, they have indicated these stories explore how God triumphs over Satan in his various evil guises.

Supernatural Faith

Our faith is a supernatural one. We believe in God who exists outside of our physical world. The Bible is a supernatural book and we’re participants in a spiritual war whether we like it or not. There is another world that exists all around us. In fact, it continually intersects with what we experience with our five senses. It is in the intersection where supernatural fiction typically resides.

I think we’d all be familiar with Frank Peretti’s Darkness duo of novels (“This Present Darkness” and “Piercing the Darkness”) that had such an influence over our generation of Christian readers. Certainly there were other novels before Peretti that portrayed supernatural themes but these two are famous for their demonstration of a parallel world of angels and demons being influenced and influencing what occurs in the physical world.

When I chat with readers who are passionate about such novels, I find three recurring themes.

1. An interest in the unfamiliar

This is perhaps a key difference to romance novels where certain underlying central themes can be familiar to the reader. Spiritual warfare, a particular personal area of interest, is often not something we hear or read much about. It’s rarely a topic of discussion around the dinner table, catch up with friends nor is it often preached about in some churches.

2. Triumph over evil

Most supernatural novels will feature a strong theme of good versus evil. This can take many forms whether it’s the direct influence of a demon on a human, or villains allowing their fleshly desires to guide their actions. In evil being defeated, the reader is able to witness an expression of God’s incredible love for His creation.

3. Strengthens their faith

This third element can be applied to any genre where we see faithfulness, forgiveness, grace or any number of God’s attributes on display. We close the book with hope in our heart having been reminded of God’s awesomeness.

Writing Christian fiction that’s not preachy is especially challenging. One of the advantages I believe speculative fiction has over other genres is that it is ‘easier’ to introduce a Christian theme by using an otherworldly character, for example, an angel or demon, or a human with a special supernatural gift, or a story that is set on a completely different world/realm/time continuum.

Realm Makers Conference 

Just as the secular world has its Comic Con gigs a group of Christian authors created Realm Makers a few years ago and now host an annual conference. It was recently held in Reno in late July and I understand over 200 people attended to listen to the likes of Dekker, Rubart, Mary Weber and David Farland to name just a few. I’m hoping to get to it next year.

Recent examples of Supernatural Fiction

I’m always looking for good supernatural and speculation fiction. Craig Parshall’s new Trevor Black Series is a good one that combines the grittiness of crime drama with supernatural suspense.

I’m a big fan of the Harbinger novella series. It’s now finished having produced 20 novellas written by 5 authors: Bill Myers, Peretti, Angie Hunt, Alton Gansky and Jeff Gerke. Clever story, form of creation and distribution. We’ll see more of this multi-author style of story in the years to come.

If you haven’t sampled any supernatural fiction recently or ever may I encourage you to put a toe in the water. Perhaps start with one of the Darkness novels, which I mentioned above, or one of Jim Rubart’s. Jim’s latest, The Long Journey to Jake Palmer, is superb and was my favourite novel of 2016. You won’t be disappointed and who knows, you may become a convert.




Ian Acheson is an author and strategy consultant based in Sydney. Ian's first novel of speculative fiction, Angelguard, is available in the US, UK, Canada and Australia. Angelguard was recognised with the 2014 Selah Award for Speculative Fiction.You can find more about Angelguard at Ian's website, on his author Facebook page and Twitter

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Benefits of a Writers Group

If you are reading this, you are obviously part of a writers group, a large Christian writers group that has over 900 members.  This being the case, you are no doubt aware of the benefits of being involved with such a cohort. As well as being part of this large body of writers, I am also a member of a small local gathering, Quirky Quills which consists of seven of us.  For any of you that aren’t connected with a small group I would encourage you to join one if at all possible.

I joined Quirky Quills almost a decade ago, and without these ladies, I certainly wouldn’t be where I am  today.  In fact if  it weren’t for the Quills, I still wouldn’t have put pen to paper. So, I am definitely an advocate of small groups. How have we benefited from meeting as a small group?

Encouragement                                                                                                                                              I am sure that each and every one of us has at times struggled on our writing journey. We may have doubted our ability, been unsure of our ideas, lost the vision and shelved our writing dreams. We have all faced obstacles.  Whatever our issues, knowing that others believe in us can give us the courage to persevere. A little bit of encouragement goes a long way.

Confidence                                                                                                                                                     With the support of others who share a similar passion, we will find that our confidence increases. As we  share our writing in a safe, caring environment, we cultivate our gifting and become more self assured.

Inspiration                                                                                                                                                     Watching others develop their craft has been inspirational. I’ve seen group members grow as writers, publish their books, renew their passion for writing, etc. and this has sparked a sense of hope. Maybe I too could learn more, be more self disciplined, go to that conference, publish the book I’ve long dreamed of.

Knowledge                                                                                                                                                     We are all at different stages in our writing journeys, and those who have blazed a trail have knowledge and wisdom to share with those who are following in their footsteps. Such knowledge can be in any  area related to writing, be it editing, publishing, marketing, expertise in different genres, etc. We all have knowledge that others could profit from.

Information                                                                                                                                                 Maybe someone in the  group  has researched submission dates for different publications. Or another person may discover a workshop or conference that may interest others. At times, we probably all come across information that would be useful for other members of the group.

Feedback                                                                                                                                                       Having others critique our work is invaluable. It is important to be open to constructive criticism, and to allow people to speak into our lives. And it is equally important to be honest and kind when reviewing each other’s work.

Friendships                                                                                                                                                   Quirky Quills has grown from a writers group to a friendship group. We share our writing journeys and  also our life journeys. How wonderful it is to belong to a group of Godly women, who have each other’s best interests at heart, both in the literary world and in the ‘real’ world.

How about you? Do you have the opportunity to join a smaller writers group? Maybe you could instigate a local gathering of authors? What can you contribute to help build a successful local writers group?





Janelle Moore lives in Toowoomba, Queensland with her husband and two teenagers. She writes devotions and hopes to publish her own devotion book next year.  She is forever indebted to her Quirky Quills friends.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Perfect Priorities

by Josephine-Anne Griffiths


When I first agreed to write today’s Blog post, I had something totally different in mind. However, the good Lord always seems to have other ideas and plans for me. As I was somewhat time-poor at the time of writing this, I decided to draw upon something I’d written in the past. My post from two years ago, initially posted on my old Webnode blog contains quite a few points relevant to this topic. If you’d like to refresh your memory, click on this link: Running on Empty

Hmm, priorities! I don’t just take on too many tasks in my private life, I also manage to do this with both reading and writing tasks. I have even managed to throw a couple of editing jobs into the mix … just because I can.



I don’t seem to have learnt how to simply say ‘No!’
But, didn’t you know I’m a jet? I love to multitask! … ahem.
The oxymoron ‘You must be empty to be full’ was explained in my post ‘Running on Empty', but in case you’d rather not reread it, it equates to this. When our hearts and minds are cluttered with so much junk, we are unable to focus on the important tasks at hand. We need to stay still for a while, sort through the less important stuff, and the unimportant nonsense, and just let it float away. Those things will still be around another day, and perhaps be more relevant then, or if we are lucky they won’t matter at all anymore. Once our tank is empty of nonsense, we can refill and regain energy to do what must be done.

When my manuscript (first draft) disappeared into cyberspace, I thought the world had come to an end. Then I decided to put any plans to rewrite it away for a while. Now wouldn’t you think this would give me a lot more time to play with? Yes of course it did, but I’ve managed to fill this time with ‘other obligations’ … ceasing to ever say ‘No!’.

It could be the manic side of me rearing its ugly head, however, I think not. I’ve got something to say, so listen carefully.

‘I am a Professional People Pleaser’ (PPP)
Now he has his priorities in place.

The problem is I’m pleasing most other people without any thought or regard for what I need. Right now, I need a better system. I have a paper diary, a wall calendar (so HoneyBun knows what I am up to), and my diary on my smartphone. But even with all these tools I still cannot remember what I’ve promised, what appointments I must keep, or even what I was going to buy to prepare that night’s dinner.

So why ‘perfect prioritisation’? Well, it may not be perfect as very few things are, but it will be perfect for me once I’ve finished tinkering with it. The calendar and diaries must stay (there’s a wee bit of OCD here), however, I have come to the realisation that I need to add something to my repertoire, something more immediately visual, and something that gives me more of an overview of the whole week. Introducing ... the weekly planner! ( either bought or homemade) ... Dada!! I desperately need to clean up my act, and I am hoping like mad that this plan will work.

I believe that whether we are working within an office environment outside of the home, on a building site, or indeed writing from home, a solid plan is necessary. Of course, there always needs to be room to move within the plan, considering unforeseen happenings, but I seem to have lost the ability to efficiently organise myself (Perfectly Prioritise). Maybe when I left my paid job four years ago I thought I didn’t need to be so orderly. Well if that’s the case, it’s not working, is it?
Just wondering if this is overkill??


Priority for this week: Make or buy a weekly planner, gather up all my pretty, colourful markers (ahem), and spend time thoughtfully reflecting upon everything I do throughout each day (and that would include time spent on social media, like Facebook and other equally important sites *wink*).


What about you? Are you running on empty? Is it sometimes okay to do that? How does lack of planning impact your writing? Do you have any suggestions or plans that work for you? How do you motivate yourself out of a corner that is filled with 'must dos'? I would love to hear from you.


Cheerio,

Jo’Anne (aka PPP)

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Building That House er Novel

I recently finished reading an enthralling novel, 'No Time For Goodbyes'. In an interview the Canadian author, Linward Barclay, was asked how he began with the idea to form the story. He said "Once you come up with a premise, you have to work out how the story unfolds." Well that's fairly obvious. But what he said next got me. 

"It's a bit like coming up with a spectacular roof design first. Before you can get it up there, you need to build a solid foundation and supporting structure."

Yes, that's exactly what I've been working on. I had an unusual idea first, and since then I've been steadily building on the structure, walls and windows, you know, supporting the original idea and letting in glimpses of light so the reader has an idea what's coming, but a little unsure. (Can't give away the plot can you?)

Now you'd think I'd have worked on the foundation first. I tried that but it wasn't too solid so I've been going back, (actually several times so far) and shoring up the groundwork.  I really don't think I could have begun with the foundation first - unlike building a house - because the background could only be written afterward.  You see, I had several different directions (plans) but just had to try out each one before BINGO, it worked. Now i have my solid foundation.

Incidentally, I'm so glad a house isn't built like that or it'd be a disaster. Brick by brick it goes up according to the exact plan. Hah! Many of us pantsers wouldn't be able to work that way. We like our characters to surprise us. That is, after we've fleshed them out, they have their own ideas how they'd react.

I can't wait to get to the roof. That's where my original idea will climax, wrapping up the whole plot. Does this make sense to you when you get your first idea? Or do you know the end from the beginning and then start building?



 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Cheese Hunting




I recently read one of those Facebook memory posts. You know the type. Here's something you posted two years ago; why don’t you repost it?
I chose not to repost. Not because it wasn’t relevant. It was very relevant. In fact I could have written it this week. I didn’t post it because a) no one would want to hear it again and b) I found it confronting.
Ever feel like the cliché ‘going around the mountain one more time’ applies to you? Well this was that kind of moment.
In the post I asked for prayer because of health and work frustrations – frustrations almost identical to those that pushed me to tears this week. Now prayer is good. It is one of the most powerful forces on earth and essential to our relationship with our loving God. It is also a way we can help one another. Writing, while lots of fun, can be a lonely business and online communities like CWD can be a place of invaluable support. Life throws a plethora of plot twists at us and many in this group have asked others to stand in the gap while they negotiated a difficult chapter in their life. Asking for prayer is good. What isn’t good is that my situation hadn’t changed at all.
Who wants to read a story where the protagonist makes no progress and continues in the same story loop chapter after chapter?
Now there are some things that we can’t change. Health issues are often beyond our control. I believe our God longs to heal us but I also know that healing is a mystery. I’m still believing and still trying things. Like many others in this community, I’ve known God’s strength and sustaining power – but I haven’t seen the breakthrough. Yet.
But what of career? The day job issue is a biggie for us creative types. We often need it to make ends meet and it can give us a sense of satisfaction and social connection – yet it can work against us too. I still work part time in a physical profession and have experienced niggling injuries and other issues that make it hard to be creative in my downtime. Much of my mountain circling has involved this cycle of frustration.
Now this frustration is understandable but to still be in the same position two years down the track and not having made changes? That’s not as understandable. If you never make changes how do you expect things to change?
There is a popular motivational book called ‘Who Moved My Cheese’. The story features two little human characters, ‘Hem’ and ‘Haw’ and two mice, ‘Sniff’ and ‘Scurry’. The mice and humans pair up and eventually find lots of cheese (a symbol of happiness and success) at Cheese Station C. When the cheese runs out Sniff and Scurry head off to look for other cheese but the two humans stay behind getting grumpy with each other. Haw wants to look for more cheese but Hem finds his old routine comforting and he’s afraid to try anything different. All he wants is for the cheese to come back. Of course it doesn’t. Eventually Haw sees his own fear and writes on the wall, ‘what would you do if you weren’t afraid?’ Haw heads off and finds crumbs of cheese. He takes them back to Hem who (spoiler) refuses them. Eventually Haw finds a new supply of cheese. Then he hears a sound. Could it be Hem looking for cheese?
So… the call to action? Well I’m not brave, but this post is about me joining Haw in writing on the wall, ‘What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?’ I’ve got some thoughts and I’ll keep you posted as to what happens but I’m determined not to be in the same position by the three year anniversary of that original post. If I am then please feel free to hit me over the head with a very large round of Camembert.
But if I’m in this situation now then there must be others who are stuck too. Are you scared because someone has moved your cheese? Or do you see the signs that your cheese is running out and you don’t know what to do? Let me know in the comments below.
Maybe we can go cheese hunting together ?


Reference: 
Johnson, spencer, Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal With Change In Your Work and In Your Life. New York : Putman, 1998. Print.

Check out the YouTube video 'Who Moved My Cheese?' https://youtu.be/16hxCB1Dvd4






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 deep desire 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, Glimpses of Light and A Chicken Can Make a Difference. Sue won the 'Short' category in the inaugural Tabor Adelaide/ Life FM 'Stories of Life' award and her e-book, 'Ruthless The Killer: A Short Story,' is available from Amazon.com. Sue also paints animal portraits
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