Friday, 30 September 2016

An Expectant Heart

Image courtesy of Tuomas_Lehtinen
FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Late last year a pastor spoke a word over me about the Lord wanting to give me a new book, a new optimism and referenced Habakkuk 2:2-3 which talks of waiting on a new vision. I stored it away and got on with life.

Over the last couple of years I’ve felt an increasing urge to start writing non-fiction material in addition to my fiction. A dear friend who has read some of the material encouraged me to give it serious consideration.

In May I determined I would head to Nashville in late August to attend this year’s ACFW Conference. I’d been to one in 2012 and have longed to return. Soon a bunch of things fell into place: Ted Dekker (an author hero of mine) was announced as keynote, my Angelguard publisher (Lion Fiction) would be present, an editor friend who I’ve never met was attending, and other friends from the US and from down under were going. In addition, I submitted the manuscript to the sequel to Angelguard, Wrestling with Shadows (WWS), to Lion in early July.

There was a lot to be excited about. I left Sydney with an expectant heart. But with no expectations. I sensed the Lord would reveal something, what, I didn’t know and was excited to find out.

“There is an ocean of difference between expectations and expectancy.”1

Meeting old and new friends

My wife and I arrived a few days before the conference. We’d both wanted to visit Nashville. One of our favourite TV shows in recent times is “Nashville” and so having the conference in the same city was a great reason to pay a visit. Fiona had to head off to Baltimore for work while I was conferencing so we got to be tourists for a few days before she had to fly out. It certainly is a fun place especially if you like country music.

As I waved Fiona goodbye at 4.30am (yes, she had a very early flight) my sense of expectancy grew. It was still 2 days before the conference started and I had set up a few meetings with various people. I had lunch with our very own David Rawlings (we’d never met before) and breakfast with friends Rel Mollet, Dotti Adamek and Ronie Kendig. It was a special treat to finally meet Rel after being buddies for a number of years.

Surprise, surprise

One of the wonderful aspects of conferences is running into people who you've connected with virtually but have never met. I continued to have some delightful catchups.
Dotti Adamek and I getting ready
for Allen Arnold's workshop


The Lord kept on surprising me. I unexpectedly got to spend ninety minutes over coffee with Ted Dekker and his business partner. Talk about wow! Then another author hero of mine had a cancellation and we shared dinner together. My heart was buzzing and the conference hadn’t even started.

I set up a meeting with my publisher on the morning the conference started. I hoped he’d give me an update on WWS but hadn’t anything new to share as it was still doing the rounds within the publisher. Then he asked me whether I had any interest in writing non-fiction? You could have knocked me over with a feather.

I lifted my jaw off the table and realised I had an opportunity to give him a pitch. I wasn’t prepared (hey, it’s a fiction conference) and it showed. Tony was kind enough to chat over possibilities and we agreed I’d prepare a proposal and get it to him as soon as possible.

Heart overflowing

And then the conference began. Wow, so many great things happened. Not just for me but others. New friends (you know who you are) got asked to submit manuscripts, Iola and Jebraun won their Genesis Awards and golly gosh it was so good being present when their names were read out. I felt like a proud dad or older brother. And let’s not forget David Rawlings was a Genesis finalist. So great that authors from down under are making inroads at ACFW. One of the thoughts I had at the Gala was how blessed we are that ACFW have opened memberships to "beyond their borders". 

David & Jebraun a few moments
before the Gala Event
The workshops, don’t get me started as I could write another entire post on those, the special worship time, witnessing God’s power and peace in the prayer room, new friends, and on it goes.

“Staying expectant is the opposite [of expectation]. It reflects anticipation for what’s to come. It is being open to what does happen regardless of what you think should happen. Life is not meant to be something we control but something we experience.”2

A few weeks have passed and as I was thinking about what to write for this post I read Allen Arnold’s words quoted above and the Lord reminded me of the word I received late last year.

Will I become a non-fiction author? Maybe. Maybe not. But I sure want to savour the experience writing with the Lord as we discover whether I will be or not. And that’s more than enough for me.

When have you approached a situation expectant and been surprised by the Lord’s goodness? I’d love for us all to be encouraged by each other’s experiences.

Notes: 1 and 2. Allen Arnold, “The Story of With” p103. Self-published.




Ian Acheson is an author and strategy consultant based in Northern Sydney. Ian's first novel of speculative fiction, Angelguard, is available in the US, UK, Canada and Australia. You can find more about Angelguard at Ian's website, on his author Facebook page and Twitter

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Review of An Aussie Summer Christmas with Giveaway

By Jenny Blake
An Aussie Summer Christmas 

Blurb
Melbourne Memories by USA Today bestselling author Marion Ueckermann 
Escaping his dangerous past, former British rock star Justin “The Phoenix” Taylor flees to Australia. Intrigued by the bearded stranger visiting her coffee shop, Ella Anderson decides to discover his secrets. But when Justin’s past collides with their future, Ella must decide whether they have a future at all. 

Next Door Santa by USA Today bestselling author Lacy Williams 
Will Harris is proud of his no-complications life. So why is he drawn to his upstairs neighbor, who seems obsessed with Christmas? Can Bridie soften Will-the-Scrooge’s heart in time for Christmas? 

Seaside Christmas by Narelle Atkins 
Political advisor and former bad boy Gus Donovan is intrigued by Chelsea Somers, the girl he didn’t call after their one and only date, six years ago. Chelsea is impressed by the new Gus, but can she trust him with her family secrets ... and with her heart? 

A Christmas Resolution by Rose Dee 
Breeah has avoided returning to her Australian coastal hometown of Kiisay Point for ten years—avoided the mistake that changed her life, ruined her friendships, and soured her first love. She’s never returned to Resolution, the island where it all happened. But now she’s back, and having to face up to the childhood she loved, the man she can’t forget, and the future that won’t start until she lets it all go. 

All is Bright by Andrea Grigg 
Amy’s always been a good Christian girl…except for being in love with her brother-in-law. Josh is looking for love again, surprised to find it with his late wife’s sister. But will a mountain of guilt and an unexpected letter stop them from making it to the altar? 

Falling for Maddie Grace by Meredith Resce 
Australia’s first professional female football umpire, Maddie Grace, gets knocked out in an on-field accident, crushed beneath the weight of an athletic sports star. What is it about the visual images that has the media making up stories of a secret love affair? Escaping the paparazzi is one thing, but escaping each other is quite another.

My Review
I really enjoyed this box set. Each story is different but has the Aussie connection and a beach connection.

Melbourne Memories by USA Today bestselling author Marion Ueckermann 
This is the first book and I have to say I wasn't sure how I would like this book as Justin was a rock star and its not my sort of hero but I actually really liked the story. It shows how a chance meeting when someone has hit rock bottom can help change a life. Justin ends up in Australia where he comes in contact with Ella who wants to learn his secrets not knowing how it may affect her. I really loved the way it showed how Justin turns his life around and his wanting to make amends for his past. 

Next Door Santa by USA Today bestselling author Lacy Williams 
I love Bridie, I think I like her cos shes has a job I would love. She is full of life although she has had plenty of heartache in her life. Will on the other hand seems to be more focused on working and not doing much else. We see an incident happen in which the two will be brought together and then need to work together. I enjoyed the story and learning both stories of why they are how they are. It also teaches not to judge by appearances as there is often more to a story than one thinks. 

Seaside Christmas by Narelle Atkins 
In this book we see Chelsea and Gus meet up again after 6 years. Chelsea wonders if Gus really has changed or if its just an act. She is also still grieving the passing of her sister. She has also told her father she will never reveal some of the details to her sisters death. She also wonders if she can handle someone who is in the political arena. I enjoyed their story and seeing how it unfolded. 

A Christmas Resolution by Rose Dee 
Breeah has returned home after the passing of her uncle. She hasn't been back for 10 years and wants to avoid some people. She made a mistake 10 years ago and still feels guilty. This story deals a lot with forgiveness and not just of others but of yourself. In many ways I felt like Breeah found herself in this book along with reconnecting with a former friend.


All is Bright by Andrea Grigg 

Amy feels she is bad because she loves her brother in law, she has loved him for a long time but knew he was off limits and never acted on the feelings or told anyone, she would never to that to her sister. Even with her sister gone for many years she still hasn't told anyone. Josh gets a letter from his late wife which changes everything between them. I actually found this book refreshingly in the way it showed Amy and her feelings and how she struggled with them. 

Falling for Maddie Grace by Meredith Resce 

Now here is a story I can appreciate. While I love cricket more I am an AFL fan. Maddie Grace is a umpire who has the misfortune of being knocked out by a star Zac. The media have a field day with this as Zac is also referred to as the Rev due to studying ministry and being squeaky clean. They know each other from years back when her father was the coach of Zac's team but nothing more. Seeing this story play out was interesting. Once again another good read.

Giveaway
Thanks to Narelle Atkins we have one copy to give away to one reader. Just leave a comment and the winner will be announced in the comments next Thursday.
Leave a way to get in touch with you like (myemail   at email dot com)

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Online Book Advertising - Does It Even Work? + Giveaway!!


Last week I had a surreal moment. I was working away, clearing emails, when I happened to glance to the sidebar on the right hand side of my screen and saw my own soon-to-be-released book, Can't Help Falling, being advertised to me. I laughed about it, mentally congratulated whatever robot it was operating in cyber space on picking up from an inbox filled with emails about this very book that I might be interested in it, and moved on.

A few days later, an email landed from my agent talking about marketing Can't Help Falling. You need to think about spending some of your marketing budget buying online advertisements read one of his recommendations.

Really? I thought. Does anyone even pay attention to those? I mean sure, I've paid for the occasional Facebook post from my author page to be boosted if I'm doing a giveaway or I have something that I wanted all of my page followers to know about but real advertisements? The kind that pop up on websites and irritate people rotating on the side of their screen? I know nothing about this world, least of all how to know that I'm not throwing my limited marketing budget straight down the virtual toilet.

So, since I thought I'd turn to the great minds here. For those of you who are writers - have you ever used online advertising for any of your books? What worked and what didn't? Readers? Do you ever pay attention to online book advertising and if so, in what context? What do you like and what do you hate? (for example Facebook ads, Twitter promoted posts, advertisements on GoodReads, random ones just showing up on websites you happen to be visiting etc.)

One commenter will win a copy of their choice of my debut novel, Close To You, or my upcoming release, Can't Help Falling :)

Kara Isaac lives in Wellington, New Zealand. Her debut romantic comedy, Close To You, is about a disillusioned academic-turned-tour-guide and an entrepreneur who knows nothing about Tolkien who fall in love on a Tolkien themed tour of New Zealand. Her sophomore novel, Can't Help Falling, is about about how an antique shop, a wardrobe, and a mysterious tea cup bring two C.S. Lewis fans together in a snowy and picturesque Oxford, England. When she's not working her day job as a public servant, chasing around a ninja preschooler and his feisty toddler sister, she spends her time writing horribly bad first drafts and wishing you could get Double Stuf Oreos in New Zealand. She loves to connnect on her website, on Facebook at Kara Isaac - Author and Twitter @KaraIsaac


Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Listen to Understand-Be a Contributor Not Just a User





“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand: They listen with the intent to reply”


I’ve seen this meme a number of times in my social media, and I have tried to keep this piece of wisdom in mind during conversations. I admit, I often sit in a position of anticipation, waiting for the opportunity to jump into the conversation and wow everybody with my quick thinking, deep wisdom or cracking wit. However, good listening is a genuine gift of compassion. It is when we seek to understand what others are trying to say, how they are feeling or why they are hurting. 

While most of us would press ‘like’ on a quote such as this one the moment it appears on our wall, I wonder if I could expand the thought to the realms of our Christian Writing networks. Australasian Christian Writers is only one writer’s network for writers Down Under. I’ve been thinking about these networks of late as I’ve been chatting to leaders from Omega Christian Writers, and it has struck me that perhaps those of us who use these fellowship/network groups may be taking the services offered for granted.

As I analyse my own attitude, if I am honest, I see these groups as an opportunity to promote myself as a writer. When put like that, it seems a little self-serving—okay, a lot self-serving. Of course I want other readers in these groups to click on my blog, and reply with encouragement. I want other readers to go to my website and eagerly read what I’ve put there. I want these readers to order not one, but several of my books, and to post reviews and glowing reports. It’s all about ME!!
Well, that is if I’m honest. I guess if you’re honest, you probably want those things too. Is that bad? It can’t be all bad, because that is the idea of marketing and promoting. How else will people know about what we do?

But there has to be more. I consider the likes of Annie Hamilton, Rochelle Manners, Susan Barnes, Simon Kennedy, Heather Monro, Amanda Deed, Judy Rogers, and Jenny Glazebrook. Perhaps you don’t know who these people are. They are some of the prime movers who have either in the past or recently organised our writer’s conference, the CALEB prize and Omega Christian Writers. There are Iola Goulton, Jenny Blake and Narelle Atkins who facilitate this blog. These folks work for little love and no pay and make it possible for others of us to be visible, to connect and to promote.

As I was thinking about these leaders, and others in the various Down Under Christian writing fellowships, I began to realise that the days of using these networks simply for my own self-serving purposes has to end. I know that these networks don’t mind promotion and marketing, in fact they encourage it. But each group needs input and encouragement, and sometimes financial commitment to keep it functioning. 

Australasian Christian Writers and other Christian writing networks can also be an opportunity for me to understand, encourage, support and learn. I encourage all readers here today: make sure you don’t take the leaders for granted, and if you can help in any way, be eager to do so, just as if you put a post up, you’d hope that other folks would ‘listen’ to you, and appreciate what it is that you are offering.

Meredith Resce has a website: www.meredithresce.com – prepare to be amazed!


Monday, 26 September 2016

The Genre Interview with Jo-Anne Berthelsen

Welcome to the Genre Interview. Jo-Anne Berthelsen has kindly agreed to answer our questions related to writing genres.

What genres do you write?
Jo-Anne:  I write ‘faith-based’ novels and Christian non-fiction works (memoir), plus the occasional short story.

What market do you write for (Christian or general, clean reads etc)?
Jo-Anne:  Primarily the Christian market.

In which genres do you have books available for sale?
Jo-Anne:  General ‘faith-based’ fiction and Christian non-fiction, plus short stories in various anthologies (Glimpses of Light, several ‘Aussie Stories’ publications).

How many books have you published in each genre?
Jo-Anne:  Six novels (one general ‘faith-based’ historical fiction and five general ‘faith
based’ contemporary fiction) and two Christian non-fiction works, the first one a memoir and the
second (due for release on 1st October) a mix of memoir, teaching and reflection questions.

Are you published traditionally, indie or hybrid?
Jo-Anne:  As of 1st October, when my indie non-fiction book, Becoming Me: Finding my true self in
God, is released, I will be able to say I am a hybrid author (seven books published traditionally, one
indie).

Did genre influence your decision to choose a particular publishing model?
Jo-Anne:  Not with my first seven traditionally published books, but genre did influence my choice with my eighth book, Becoming Me. Because it is not quite the type of non-fiction the publisher of my previous two books is producing at the moment, I decided to publish it myself rather than look elsewhere. It is still a memoir, but also contains some reflection questions, so could also be classified under ‘Christian Growth’.

Are your published works available in print, e-book or both?
Jo-Anne:  My first four novels are/were available only in print, but my last four books are available in both print and e-book format.

Why do you want to write? Do you feel called to write?
Jo-Anne:  I want to write for a variety of reasons. Firstly, I find it so fulfilling and satisfying—even the
hardest parts! Secondly, I feel God has gifted me and also equipped me through my studies and life
experiences to communicate via the written word—and it is important I use the gifts and knowledge
God has given me. Thirdly, I believe I have things to say that can make a difference in the lives of
others and hopefully draw them closer to God, via both my fiction and non-fiction books, as well as
my short stories.
And yes, I also believe God clearly called me to begin writing back in June 2003, while I was sitting
on a rock in Turkey, reading Isaiah 42 (see my website for more details)! It had always
been a dream of mine to write, but from that point on, I knew writing (and speaking) were to be my
main focus.

Many thanks to Jo-Anne Berthelsen for sharing her thoughts on genre.

Jo-Anne Berthelsen lives in Sydney but grew up in Brisbane. She holds degrees in Arts and Theology and has worked as a high school teacher, editor and secretary, as well as in local church ministry. Jo-Anne is passionate about touching hearts and lives through both the written and spoken word. She is the author of six published novels and two non-fiction works, Soul Friend: the story of a shared spiritual journey and Becoming Me: Finding my true self in God (to be released 1st Oct). Jo-Anne is married to a retired minister and has three grown-up children and four grandchildren. For more information, please visit www.jo-anneberthelsen.com. 


Friday, 23 September 2016

Novellas: the perfect length

by Nicki Edwards, author of heartwarming Australian romance.

Love to read but don't have time? Want to try a new author? Or a new genre? Don't have lots of money? Why not consider reading a novella?

Compared to novels, which are usually more than 40,000 words, a novella is between 17,000 and 40,000 words, with an average length of 25,000 words, making them the perfect length for busy people who like to read a book in one or two sittings. Or perfect if you're wondering if you'd like a particular author's 'voice' or style. And of course, the fact most novellas are usually 99 cents or less makes them a super affordable way of reading.

When I started writing, I'd never heard of a novella but once I discovered them, I found how much I love reading them because I'm so time-poor. I then decided to try my hand at writing one.

Operation White Christmas came out last year to great reviews (and was the winner of the Romance Writers of Australia Contemporary Romance Cover of the Year).




I loved the experience so much that a few months ago I wrote a second novella, Operation Mistletoe Magic, which comes out at the end of October. 



In case you're not sure what a novella is, it is basically a short book. It involves multiple characters and multiple twists and turns but due to the constraints in length, there are often fewer conflicts than in a full length novel with the focus being on the main character's personal and emotional journey rather than an in-depth story line with lots of sub-plots.

For example, when writing a romance novella, the author has to get to point quickly, which means the hero and heroine have to interact quickly, usually from the opening chapter. That can have issues when it comes to sweet romance which generally develops over a longer period of time. 

I got around this problem in different ways in my novellas. In my first story, Hollie and Jim meet literally by accident on the side of the road and due to circumstances, end up getting to know each other. In my second novella, Melissa and Chris are childhood best friends who meet up again unexpectedly and rekindle their friendship which slowly develops into a romance.

There are positives and negatives about novellas for both readers and writers.

As an author, I love the way I can contain the entire story in my head and get it written in a short time frame. (Operation Mistletoe Magic only took me six days to get the first draft down.) And of course a shorter story meant my awesome critique partner Andrea Grigg could get it back to me quickly and edits didn't take as long. But I missed being able to really explore the characterization and have more in depth sub-plots to the story. 

From a reader's perspective, one of the negatives of novellas is the stories are too short but I take that as a good thing when readers complain the story ended too soon and they want to know what happens next. I have received so many emails from readers asking me to write a full length story for Hollie and Jim. 

Because of that, I'm contemplating writing some short stories or novelettes next year that tie in with the characters from my Christmas novellas so that readers can catch up on the happy ever after endings of my characters and find out what happens after the stories ended.
Another big negative of the novella is that they're only available in e-book format. One day I hope to bundle my novellas together and have them available in a paperback version.

By far it seems Christmas novellas are the most popular. These stories are usually set in North America (such as mine, which are both set in Canada), but recently four Aussie Christian authors (Narelle Atkins, Rose Dee, Andrea Grigg and Meredith Resce) collaborated with two international authors to write Christmas novellas for a box set that is set in Australia with a very Aussie Christmas flavor. 

I urge you to check them out as I've had the privilege of reading some of them and they are very, very good. Of course my favourite is Andrea's, but perhaps I'm biased!





Their Christmas box set, An Aussie Summer Christmas is available to pre order now and will be released on September 27th. My novella, Operation Mistletoe Magic is also available to pre-order and will be released on October 25th.

A word of caution, many authors are now publishing their novellas in multiple box sets so be careful you don't end up buying the same books twice!

What do you like to read the most?

  •  Short-Stories
  •  Novelettes
  •  Novellas
  •  Novels

Nicki Edwards writes contemporary medical/rural romance and women's fiction for Pan Macmillan. When she isn’t reading, writing or dreaming about rural life and medical emergencies, she can be found working as a Critical Care Nurse where many of her stories and characters are imagined.
Nicki and her husband Tim reside in Geelong with their four teenage/young adult children where Tim is in full time ministry. 



Thursday, 22 September 2016

Book Review: My Hope Next Door, by Tammy L. Gray

Review by Andrea Grigg

Newly born-again Katie Stone has returned home to help look after her sick mother, and she’s definitely not expecting a welcome party. Her relationship with her parents has never been close, but she’s come because her dad has asked her to and he must be desperate to have done it. She’s also not looking forward to seeing the old crowd, either. In fact, she’s dreading it. And with good reason, because when she does, the ramifications are every bit as bad as she’d thought they’d be.

Asher Powell is Katie’s neighbour and he can’t help but be intrigued by her. He used to go to school with Katie and he knows what she was like back then. But she’s different now, on the inside as well as the outside, and despite his attraction to her, Asher can’t possibly let her into his heart. He’s got his own set of problems to deal with. The ripple effect from the break up with his girlfriend a few months earlier is still carrying on, made worse by the fact he’s the pastor’s son, and he hasn’t been back to church since.

What follows is a beautifully realistic story of two people falling in love despite their shortcomings. And what a bunch of shortcomings they are. Katie was into everything the world could offer before she came to Christ and she battles with seeing herself as worthy to be loved, especially when her parents don’t seem to. And despite being a Christian for practically his whole life, Asher has his issues too - one that every young man faces, Christian or not - plus his anger and disappointment at how his church let him down. How can he love Katie with all that going on?

Tammy L Gray’s writing style is fabulous. I loved how the author showed me Katie and Asher layer by layer, how they became real people right from the start. I also needed to wipe the sweat from my brow because I was in a hot and humid, Georgia U.S.A. summer, not a cool Australian springtime! That’s clever writing.


My Hope Next Door would have to be one of the most real contemporary Christian romances I’ve read this year. (I don’t think I’ve ever read one with a character like Katie’s - so new to the Christian faith with an immediate past to deal with.) My Hope Next Door gets into the raw nitty-gritty of everyday Christian life, yet gives hope and encouragement and inspiration. I’ll be looking out for more books by this author for sure.

Andrea Grigg lives on the Gold Coast, Queensland, and is a writer of two contemporary Christian romance novels, ‘A Simple Mistake’ and ‘Too Pretty’. Her Christmas novella, 'All is Bright', will be released September 27 in a boxset along with five other authors, entitled, 'An Aussie Summer Christmas'.  She would love to connect with you via: 
Twitter: @andreagrigg https://twitter.com/andreagrigg
Email:    andreagrigg@live.com