Thursday, 27 July 2017

Book Review: “The Sacrament of Happy: What a Smiling God brings to a Wounded World” – Lisa Harper (B&H Publishing Group)

Review by Natalie McNee

Imagine hearing your physician tell you that chips and queso contain more nutritional benefits than kale and quinoa. Or opening an envelope that looks like just another bill, and unfolding instead an official document declaring you the sole beneficiary of an anonymous billionaire’s estate.
In her new book, The Sacrament of Happy: What a Smiling God Brings to a Wounded World, Lisa Harper unveils a similarly extravagant, unexpected surprise, declaring that happiness—just plain feeling happy—is a gift from God that you can unashamedly enjoy.
Wearing the twin hats of seminarian and belly-laughing adoptive mom, Harper delivers a warm, vignette style built upon solid theological scaffolding. She observes, for example, that God’s choice of wording for the first verse of the first psalm (a word often translated as “blessed”) literally means happy—one of many biblical reasons for dismantling the old-school idea that joy, not happiness, is the truly spiritual one of the Christian family. In truth, they’re more like fraternal twins than distant cousins, meaning we as Christ-followers are not called to jettison happiness—like a no-longer-needed set of spiritual floaties—as we learn to swim in the deep waters of intimacy with God. Beyond merely a circumstances-based, up-and-down emotion, happiness comes from a deep conviction in the unmitigated goodness of our Creator-Redeemer, freeing us to feel and express genuine joy, fulfillment, and contentment, regardless of personal or global tumult.
The author’s personal story includes such happiness killers as sexual abuse, the deaths of near loved ones, a heartbreaking failed adoption, followed by the arrival of an adopted daughter from Haiti who is HIV-positive. Yet she writes on themes like: “The lost sacrament of laughter”—“Does happy have a personality type?”—“Tuning out the Pharisees who try to mute your happiness in the context of spiritual maturity.” So this is obviously not a book of trite, untested clich├ęs. It goes well beneath most people’s surface understanding of happiness, gently guiding readers closer to the heart of God . . . with naturally a few genuine laughs and grins to enjoy along the way.

Lisa Harper’s latest release “The Sacrament of Happy: What a Smiling God brings to a Wounded World” is an enjoyable and thought provoking read. It had me laughing out loud at some of her life stories and nodding my head in agreement at her less-than-savoury choices in the dating department. But most of all the book made me question my own life and emotional choices and often I would stop and ask the question, “Am I happy?”

Miss Harper is a wonderful storyteller who expertly unfolds scripture verses to reveal their true meanings. The teachings are not super spiritual or heavy but are easy to understand and make for good practical application into one’s own life. Each chapter ends with question prompts allowing the reader time for reflection.

There are only two niggly issues about the book – the first being the formatting of the e-book (which is not Miss Harper’s fault but that of the publishing house) which had headings directly under the paragraphs with no clear breaks and the sizing of the fonts were distracting. I was also disappointed at the ending; I felt that it ended abruptly and it left me expecting and wanting more.

This book is suited to all Christians, but I would say more so to Mothers as they will be able to relate to the stories Miss Harper shares. I still highly recommend this book if not for making you take stock of your own happiness then for its message - that God is a happy God who has a sense of humour, He is utterly delighted and happy with us and with our eyes fixed on Him we can have our cake and eat it too!

I was given an advanced copy of this book on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

As a mother to a tween and a toddler, Natalie McNee gets the best of both tantrum worlds. Her only escape is to turn the crazy stories and dialogues in her head into exciting children’s books. She is married to a bouncer, so you don’t want to mess with her, okay, he’s really a big teddy bear but don’t tell anyone or you’ll blow his cover! Natalie is the author of WATER FOR AFRICA (Dynamo Publishers, November 2017), WHERE ARE SHAYLA’S SOCKS? (Porch Time Publishing, 2018), and NATASHA ROSE MYSTERIES (Dynamo Publishers, 2018. Visit her online at or on Twitter @NatalieMcNee.   

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Book Babies - Seen and Heard

by Jeanette O'Hagan

July has been a busy month as I've released, launched and toured Blood Crystal, the sequel to Heart of the Mountain.

Unlikely heroes, thrilling adventure, clash of cultures and an unthinkable choice – Blood Crystal is the second novella in the Under the Mountain series.

The underground realm is under attack from mad Overseer Uzza and the Crystal Heart is failing. Twins Delvina and Retza brave a treacherous journey to seek help from Zadeki and his people. What are the twins prepared to do to save their realm and those they love from certain destruction?

With over a million new releases each year, it is easy to be invisible. When readers have towering to-read piles, they can feel overwhelmed by choice and disinclined to try new authors or titles. The problem as an indie author, without the backing of a traditional publisher's promotional muscle or distribution networks, is how to get your book baby seen and heard.

So this is the bit where I tell you the magical formula and we all become overnight successes.

And I would, I promise, if I had all the answers. Truth to tell, I'm still working them out, though I know I get increased sales when I launch a new book and sometimes with book tours or author take-overs, yet it often seems hard to sustain the momentum.

However, here are some things that I think can help:

  • Engaging Book Cover and Blurb
  • Street Team ready and willing to promote your books
  • Book Reviews and plenty of them.
  • Book Launch - either physical and/or an e-launch
  • Blog Tours, competitions and giveaways
  • Media exposure & Social Media
  • Catalogues
  • Distributors, including Library
  • Reduced price sales
  • Conventions, Fairs, Markets
  • Word of Mouth

I often have the best intentions but, as an Indie author, juggling all the different hats can make it difficult to do it all. So I do what I can.

Book Reviews

I've garnered some great reviews for Blood Crystal and I'm thankful for every single one, yet I'm not close to the 10 let alone the 50 that helps with Amazon visibility. If you are interested in reviewing Heart of the Mountain and/or Blood Crystal please request a review copy :)


On Saturday, 8 July we had a fast-paced, exciting Facebook e-launch with my guests participating enthusiastically, many winning prizes and a good number buying Blood Crystal. This time I sole-hosted the event with information about Blood Crystal and my other stories, competitions and activities. My aim was to encourage participation and to pique interest and sales.

In the past, I've also shared the launch-event with other authors. This can be an effective way of widening the audience and generally adds the scope of competitions and prizes. It may take the focus away from the book being launched (though not necessarily) and it may not work as well if the guest authors write in a vastly different genre or have a different audience. I've participated in author take-overs where most of the books tended to erotica or focused on demons and I felt out of place amid all the bare male chests, suggestive poses and red, glowing eyes. It makes sense to invite authors that will complement your book and brand. I've also found in some author-takeovers, that fans don't always stick around for the other authors' slots - especially if the event is long- perhaps over the whole day or even a week. So these are all things to consider.

Both sole hosting and author take-overs are great ways of meeting fans and raising the profile of your book.

Friends of Nardva

Having a group of people who are prepared to advocate for your book can make a big difference.

I've started a ongoing street team/Facebook group - Friends of Nardva - for readers and supporters who enjoy reading my work and wish to be proactive about promoting it - in terms of beta-reading, reviews, sharing links, participation in blog tours and other events etc. I'm thankful for a great group of people who support me in different ways (and enjoy returning the favour).

Blog Tour

Another effective way of finding new readers is through a blog tour.  For Blood Crystal I'm currently running a blog tour with prize for commenting on each individual blog stop and prizes for the first two people that complete the scavenger hunt running across the blogs.

In part, the idea is to gain interest of the readers of the different blogs and to encourage interaction and participation. The Scavenger Hunt - apart from being fun & have a $50 Amazon voucher for first prize - hopefully encourages readers like you :) to stop by at each blog, providing perhaps some cross-fertilisation. I'm hoping too that it piques your interest in both Heart of the Mountain and Blood Crystal (perhaps even enough to buy and read and even review).

As we are featuring the same book at each of the 9 stops - we worked at making each stop different. In my first stop, I talked of unlikely heroes; Paula Vince gave a thoughtful review of Blood Crystal, Lynne Stringer, Cindy Tomamichel and David Rawlings all gave different slants on an author review (with me), at the Write Flourish I discussed the influence of setting on writing point of view using Blood Crystal as an example; Adele Jones interviewed one of the secondary characters, Lady Zara; Adam Collings has a video interview today, and I'll wrap it all on Friday, announce the winners for each blog spot and provide a place for Scavenger Hunt answers.

Reduced Price

For the month of July I've reduced the prince of Heart of the Mountain, the first novella in the series - to basically a gold coin (99c US - about $1.30 AUD). Hopefully to encourage purchases.

YA Fantasy Adventure in the lost realm deep under the mountain.
Twins Delvina and Retza’s greatest desire is to be accepted as prentices by their parents’ old crew when they stumble across a stranger. Trapped under the mountain, young Zadeki’s only thought is to escape home to his kin. Peril awaits all three youngsters. Will they pull apart or work together to save the underground realm?

How successful has all this been - I guess I won't know the full impact until the end of the month. It has increased sales (nothing to break the bank by any means) and I have connected with new readers - which is just as, if not more important. I am curious to see if there are ongoing effects after July. Like most authors, I get a special buzz when someone enjoys my stories and even more when they feel inspired by them. It would be exciting to see that buzz communicate from one enthusiastic reader to another.

So - what would you do with a $50 Amazon voucher?
For the opportunity to participate in the Scavenger hunt, you can find the stops of the blog tour here.

And why not -
Request a review copy of Heart of the Mountain or Blood Crystal in the comments below or message me here
Join Friends of Nardva
Purchase a copy of Heart of the Mountain, to read and review.

What about you, what has helped your book baby be seen and heard?

Jeanette O’Hagan first spun tales in the world of Nardva at the age of nine. She enjoys writing fiction, poetry, blogging and editing. Her Nardva stories span continents, time and cultures. They involve a mixture of courtly intrigue, adventure, romance and fantasy.

Jeanette has just released Blood Crystal, sequel to Heart of the Mountain with four short stories coming out this year. She is writing her Akrad’s Legacy Series—a Young Adult fantasy adventure with courtly intrigue and romantic elements. 

Jeanette has practised medicine, studied communication, history, theology and a Master of Arts (Writing). She loves reading, painting, travel, catching up for coffee with friends, pondering the meaning of life and communicating God’s great love. She lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Hurrah for Omega Writers

Hurrah for Omega Writers!

Does that sound a bit like Enid Blyton’s Famous Five? Perhaps, but ‘hurrah’ sounds like the best word to use on this occasion. 

Omega Writers as an organisation of Australasian Christian writers is steadily gaining momentum every year, and this year is no different. I need to catch you up on how things are progressing, and encourage you once again: if you are not yet a member, jump on board and invest in this venture whose purpose is to benefit you in as many ways as we can think of. Please click here to re-watch the You Tube video that will tell you why. (NB there has been a small increase in membership since this video was made).


It’s happening! Our conference committee have been pulling together a brilliant program for writers, editors and publishers to be a part of, and it is my job to get you to go to the website and take a look. Don’t miss out on this opportunity. You will get great professional input, collegial encouragement, opportunity to connect with publishers and editors and fellowship that is on a level that relates to YOU – the writer. We can go to church all year and mix with other Christians, and this is lovely, but how often do you get to really connect with Christian writers – you know, those crazy people who think like you do, in terms of plot, character, narrative and story idea. It is something that will fuel you, and I can’t encourage you enough to hop online now and at least see if it is possible for you to attend.

EARLY BIRD RATE ENDS NEXT WEEK!! Now is not the time to procrastinate people!

Oh, and we have not one, but two international speakers lined up alongside some outstanding Australasian speakers and workshop facilitators. 

Click Here for more details about how to register

Click Here for more details about the speakers

Now, lastly, but most importantly, I need to tell you about this year’s new initiative. Some of our volunteer team have been contacting businesses and organisations to see if they would be willing to partner with us in the promotion of Christian writing in our region. I am pleased to say that we have eight partner sponsors so far, with the possibility of more. (If you have a small business and you’d like to sponsor, send me an email and I’ll send you the sponsorship proposal package to consider).
What I would love you to do is to click onto our website and check out our official sponsors.

We have a screen print and embroidery business – Cam Print – who has sponsored, so if you’re looking for t-shirts, ball caps, aprons or letter jackets with your logo, Cam Print will help you Australia wide.
We have video producer – Simon Malcolm Productions – on board as a partner sponsor, so if you’re looking for a video promotion, corporate training video or any audio video need, go to their website and check them out.
We have editorial, design and publishing-assist businesses who have sponsored, including Christian Editing Services, Book Whispers, Finesse Writing and Editing, Breath of Fresh Air Publishing and an American design company, Roseanna White Designs. Please, please, please check out their websites and see if they offer something that will suit your needs.

There are a couple of other minor sponsors as well who have decided to support Australasian Christian writing – Eastern College and Focus on the Family.

Please support us by supporting our partner sponsors.

There is much more happening with Omega Writers: The Caleb Prize awards evening looks like it is going to be a great night of celebration and entertainment.

I have also been liaising with one of our major booksellers to see if they would visit our conference and meet some of our more prominent published authors and publishers.

There have been some great chapter events held around the country, and it is great to see this groundswell of Christian writers who are forming friendships and networks. 

So in summary:
  1. If you’re not yet a member, help us support you by supporting us with financial membership
  2. If you haven’t registered for this year’s exciting international conference, now is the time!
  3. Please support us by supporting our partner sponsors – check them out here.
Blessings to you all and can’t wait to catch up with you late October.

Meredith Resce
Omega Writers Australasia President

Monday, 24 July 2017

How to write a book description (and avoid your head exploding)

By Phillip Cook

It's really simple, isn't it? The potential buyer looks. Nice cover, wonder what the book is about? Nibble. They turn their attention to the description. Hooked? Well, maybe not.

I've just published my third book and at this stage of my writing and publishing journey two important book marketing strategies have become crystal clear to me: cover design and book description.

Cover design is simple. A good cover will attract people. Get a graphic artist to do it, unless you're one, Photoshop can be time consuming and energy sapping. Once attracted by the cover, the reader will then read . . . the description.

Now book description.

This really gave me a headache and still does. How do I reduce my 80,000 plus book down to a few words? You'll hear reference made to the elevator pitch. You know, famous publisher walks into lift at a writer's conference and realizes you're a writer and asks, 'What's your book about?' Your response, 'Umm . . . umm'.

I've tried for each of my books to write a description. At times I thought my head was going to explode (extreme headache) as I forced it to do something it seemed incapable of doing. Help! So I surfed the net, but I wasn't sure what you called people who wrote book descriptions.

CreateSpace offered a service called Marketing Copy Essentials. So this had me exploring 'marketing copy services'. But all this time the service I was looking for was right under my nose.

In my previous endeavours to write my own book descriptions I purchased a book called How to Write a Sizzling Synopsis by Byran Cohen. It helped and guided but I just couldn't get it to the point where I felt it worked for me, so I put it in the too hard basket until next time. I decided it was a gift or talent I just didn't have and the brain was resisting any tampering, so I published books with so-so descriptions which ended up with so-so sales.

I pondered. Byran did state in his book "But it's the synopsis that sells your book." I just forgot or maybe I just didn't absorb that statement (but a new dawning had now come upon me). He also backed it up with some research findings, and made it clear why writing descriptions are so important.

He also clarified what it was called: copywriting.

To keep the story short, I ended up using the book description service provided by Bryan. And it only confirmed I just did not have the talent to do what he does. Here's proof.

Enter 'ho-hum'. I provided Bryan with the required background on the books. After writing and sending me the descriptions, I noticed a few inaccuracies due to one not having an intimate knowledge (which is understandable) of the story, so I modified the description slightly to make it more accurate and sent it back to Bryan for sign off. 

His response was that I just took some high-stakes lines and rendered them ho-hum. And all I did was make some minor changes—this was frightening stuff! He had a different mind to me. One more attuned to writing description. This pleased me.

So after we rectified the ho-hums (I just needed to point out the inaccuracies), I ended up with sizzling descriptions that I believe will help sell my books, and any future book description will be done by a copywriter. But don't be deterred. Some of you may have that talent, but if your head feels like it's going to explode . . .

Here’s the copy:

One woman’s encounter with a demonic priestess could end in human sacrifice… her own…

Ruby Fisher has a world full of possibilities but no sense of direction. The twenty-something hopes a pagan festival will give her life new meaning. But she never expected it to end with her buried alive…

When Ruby miraculously survives her ordeal, a demon-influenced Wiccan priestess and her partner refuse to stop until the sacrificial ritual reaches its bitter conclusion. With the help of two detectives and a demon seer, Ruby learns she can no longer deny the existence of an invisible world shrouded in darkness.

And to uphold the balance between worlds, she may just need the help of a supernatural deity…

Under a Blue Moon is the third book in an electrifying series of Christian supernatural mysteries. If you like explorations of things unseen, breakneck pacing, and crime dramas with a dash of spirituality, then you’ll love Phillip Cook’s entrancing series.

About Phillip Cook

Phillip Cook lives and writes in sunny Queensland, Australia, but sadly his writings do not take place in a writer's den overlooking the ocean, but he dreams of such things. His mind is also on things unseen: angels, demons, thoughts.

He has always had an interest in the supernatural and occult themes starting from his early teens. He was searching, looking for answers, driven by some innate understanding. There is more than meets the eye. He found God in his early thirties. His writings reflect his journey and to help and challenge others.

His first book, Dead Man's Journey, gets the reader thinking about what happens at death—who your escorts may be. His second, Demons Whispers, has the reader thinking about the things that can influence the mind, affect our thinking—the whispers in our head. And his latest, Under a Blue Moon, explores the world of the occult, where light exposes the darkness.

Click here to find his books on Amazon.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Best of the ACW Archives ~ Let's Talk About Book Covers...

By Kara Isaac

It's been a crazy start to 2015 and I wouldn't change it for anything :) In between developmental edits, author photos, trying to draft Book#2, and a whole lot of crazy things that go along with your debut novel, in the last few weeks I've been providing some early thoughts to my publisher for the book cover. I'm one of the least visually creative people on the planet so I'm super excited to see what the team at Howard Books come up with for this story.

Close To You is a contemporary romantic comedy 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.

Read more at the following link:

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Book Review - 'Our Mob, God's Story'

Official blurb: Our Mob, God's Story is an art book with a difference, with over 100 works in an exciting variety of styles and stories by 65 established and emerging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. 

All proceeds from the sale of the book will go towards the publishing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Scriptures, as currently there is only one complete Bible. 

Published as part of the celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the foundation of Bible Society in Australia in 1817, Australia's longest living organisation. 

I went to the launch of this stunning book in Adelaide not long ago. It's a stunning project which took over five years in the making. Basically, the entire Christian Gospel message is presented through the art of 65 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. From Genesis to Revelation, each double page has a fantastic colour painting or work or art in some other medium such as silk screen printing. There is a short bio of each creator, and a passage explaining in their own words why the scriptures that inspired them are so meaningful.

It's a moving experience just to slowly make our way through the book, turning the pages and pondering each image and the words that go with them. The introductory pages explain how the artists come from right across Australia, making it all the more impacting that their story telling, creative gifts and passion to share the Good News of Jesus have been integrated into this one book. It's a credit to the Bible Society of Australia for facilitating it.

The book is researched and edited by Christabel Mattingley, a prolific Australian author who has worked for over 40 years with Aboriginal people; and Louise Sherman, from the Bible Society, who delves deeply into research, discovering and touching base with the Aboriginal communities.

Because each of the artists still retain copyright of their images, although they've gifted them to this volume for free, I'll refrain from sharing any examples from within the pages. I'll just finish by repeating that taken separately and all together, they are a thing of beauty and it's one of the heaviest books I've purchased. Very well worth having a copy. I'm sure I'll be in the mood to take it out of the shelf several times in years to come, just for the sake of reflection.

Paula Vince is a South Australian author of contemporary, inspirational fiction. She lives in the beautiful Adelaide Hills, with its four distinct seasons, and loves to use her environment as settings for her stories. Her novel, 'Picking up the Pieces' won the religious fiction section of the International Book Awards in 2011, and 'Best Forgotten' was winner of the CALEB prize the same year. She is also one of the four authors of 'The Greenfield Legacy', Australia's first and only collaborated Christian novel. Her most recent novel, 'Imogen's Chance' was published April 2014. For more of Paula's reflections, you may like to visit her book review blog, The Vince Review.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

How's Your MIDDLE?

By Rita Stella Galieh

Well, forget your particular middle, (unless it really needs attention,) I'm referring to the middle of your novel.

Many of us find the beginnings and endings are not too much trouble, but those troublesome parts in the middle can cause us some major problems.

Are we padding it out too much? Making it sluggish? Stretching out superfluous dialogue?
Overly long descriptions? And all to get a word count? Oh dear. That's enough to make your reader start 'ho-humming'. Worse still, pitch it aside.

Gotta confess I almost did that to the last novel by a well known author. I didn't care about a multitude of details she added just when I wanted to know what was happening between the main characters. Could it be she hoped for suspense? It didn't work as I simply felt annoyed. She did redeem herself with a great ending, but even good authors struggle with their overweight middles it seems.

This is what I am struggling with at the moment. I'm inclined toward more action where my characters have a hard time and their goals seem unattainable.

Easy to say...but difficult to fix. Actually I have come to a grinding halt, waiting for my characters to give me a clue. However, I think I'll just keep writing as it's a first draft and see what eventuates. Staring at my middle without feeding it with good words can cause starvation and eventually its demise.

Currently Rita co-presents a 5 min. Christian radio program with her husband, George. ‘Vantage Point’ is broadcast Australia-wide on local FM stations.
She has written six inspirational historical novels & contributed to several US anthologies. She belongs to writers’ organizations such as: Australasian Christian Writers, Christian Writers Down Under, International Christian Fiction Writers and Omega Writers. Besides her blog, she can be found on Facebook and

Do any of you writers out there experience similar difficulties with your middles? If so, how do you fix your problem? Take a break or turn to chocolate?