Monday, 27 March 2017

An Update on our Blog



by Narelle Atkins

History of ACW

Our Australasian Christian Writers (ACW) blog launched in September 2013. During the last three and a half years we've published 924 posts and received 9880 comments. 

Our ACW Facebook group has 511 members. The ACW blog posts are shared in the Facebook Group and we encourage our blog readers to join our active Facebook Group.

ACW was set up as an online community for writers and readers. We post five days per week, Monday to Friday, on the blog and we promote Australasian Christian authors and books.

ACW Blog Schedule

Monday is our Writing Craft Day. We want to help and educate writers at all different stages in their writing journeys.


This week I'm working with group admins Iola Goulton and Jenny Blake to set up our blog calendar for May - August 2017. If there's a particular writing topic you'd like to see addressed in our Monday posts, please leave a comment on this post or in our Facebook group.

On the first Monday of each month we share a joint blog post with our friends at Christian Writers Downunder. In 2017 we're looking at genres. 

Iola Goulton posted in February on Great (Genre) Expectations...

Adam Collings posted in March on Exploring Genres: Space Opera and Supehero     

We do a few different things on Tuesdays. We promote the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance (ACRBA) book tours. ACRBA offers free blog tours for authors which are scheduled during the first week of the month.

Please read Jenny Blake's recent blog post (link below) if you're not familiar with ACRBA and how it works. 

The ACRBA Blog Alliance Needs Your Help

We also announce New Australasian Book Releases on the first or second Tuesday of each month. We post monthly requests for new book release information in our ACW Facebook Group.

The President of Omega Writers Inc. posts on our blog on the last Tuesday in January, April, July and October.  

On Tuesdays we also have spots available for guest bloggers. 

Thursday is our Book Review Day. 
Iola Goulton organises the book review blog posting schedule.

On Wednesdays and Fridays our regular team of bloggers share their posts.

How can I guest blog on ACW?

We occasionally post requests in the ACW Facebook Group for guest bloggers. If you'd like to guest blog on ACW, please contact one of the group admins (myself, Jenny Blake, Iola Goulton) or leave a comment on this post or in the ACW Facebook Group.

How can I join ACW as a regular blogger?

The first step toward becoming a regular blog contributor is to guest blog with us. If you've guest blogged with us and would like to join our blogging team, please contact one of the group admins. We have limited spots and we will create a waiting list if needed. 

Questions?

If you have any questions about ACW, please leave a comment on this post. We appreciate feedback from our blog readers. 

Friday, 24 March 2017

Investing in Writing

by Jeanette O'Hagan



One day, the CEO of a large company goes on an extended international trip. She gives each of her three area-managers funds to invest while she is away. When she returns, she calls each of them into her executive office to report on their outcomes. Stephen made a killing in renewal energy futures, Zoe more than doubled the seed-investment in property developments.
The third exec is obviously nervous as he enters her office. He fidgets with his tie, fumbles the sugar spoon as he stirs his coffee.
'So Philip, how have your investments prospered?'
The young man clears his throat and pushes a folder across her desk.
Her eyebrows shoot up. 'What's this, a bank statement? Two per cent interest?'
'Yes, boss,' he mutters. 'I knew you can't stand failure. So, I put your money in the safest place I could think of.'
'You knew I can't stand failure? You could have least put it in a growth fund.'
The next day, the CEO made Stephen and Zoe partners of the company, while Philip received a redundancy package.

I've changed a few details but you probably recognise the gist of Jesus' parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). No doubt we could draw different lessons from this biblical short story (dare I say flash fiction) - but one thing seems clear to me. The CEO (or master) expected his managers (or servants) to invest and multiply his money. Perhaps even take risks with it. The one thing that got the boss' blood boiling, was doing nothing, playing it safe. It seems, God expects us to invest, certainly in the sharing the gospel message, but also in the gifts, abilities and passions He has given us.

If God has called us to be writers, then surely He wants us to invest in our vocation. To take risks even. To give it focus, time and effort.

During Grade 11, everyone wanted to know what I planned to do after I graduated from High School. I didn't have much of an idea but eventually decided on Medicine. My mum said, 'If you want to be a doctor, Jenny, you have to work harder in your subjects.' So I did, I worked harder, I got into Med School, studied for six years, was an intern for two. I had to invest hours of study, years of education into achieving my aim.  Becoming a doctor doesn't just happen, it required investment of time and energy and commitment. It also took six years (eight if you count Grade 11 & 12) when I didn't earn a single cent as a medico. It takes time, effort and deferred gratification to be a teacher, a lawyer, an engineer, a nurse, a builder, a painter ... I could go on. And isn't it also true of sports and hobbies; whether it's playing chess, making quilts or sailing yachts.

Why should it be any different with writing? Whether we wish to write as a hobby or hope to earn a living from our writing, it is usually not enough just to write without investing in the craft, in knowledge and connections.



Randy Ingermanson (The Snowflake Guy) in his e-zine says there are three things which help us succeed as a writer:

Content - have a great story to tell (fiction), a great idea or expertise to share (non-fiction).
Craft - learn how to write the best we can and in a way that connects with our target audience.
Connections - network with fellow writers, editors, publishers at conferences, workshops - and I would say, online.

Maybe we also need Commitment - not to give up, but to keep on going despite setbacks and obstacles - and Covenant - the willingness to keep God at the centre of what we do, to honour Him and trust Him with the results.

What are ways that we can invest in our writing?
  • Make time to write
  • Join a good critique group or form one
  • Read craft books or blogs (like this one)
  • Journal, reflect on our writing process
  • Have creative or author dates - fill the well (Julia Cameron
  • Read, both in our genre and out of it
  • Use writing prompts, free-writing, experiment
  • Participate in workshops, conferences, seminars
  • Enrol in a writing course
  • Get feedback - from beta-readers, editors, fellow writers
  • Learn from rejections 
  • Learn to assess and edit our own work
  • Submit our work to publishers, competitions, anthologies
  • Connect with readers at book signing, events or on social media
  • Support other writers through constructive feedback, reviews, following and buying books
  • Study and invest in marketing and promotion
  • Go to book fairs, festivals, conventions
  • Pray about our writing and the writing of others; ask others to pray for us
  • Trust God's leading and take some risks

Not all of these ideas will suit everyone.
Which ones resonate with you?
Which ones do you think are essential?
Which ones do you do well?
Where could you improve?
What could you risk?

Paul says of the Gospel, 'I planted the seed and Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.' (1 Corinthians 3:6).  Whether we are writers of specifically Christian fiction or non-fiction or of cross-over fiction- or whether we are Christians who write for the general market; if we invest, if we keep God at the centre, then surely we can trust Him to give the growth - whether that is spiritual - in lives touched and transformed (perhaps even our own), or more material - books published and sold, audiences reached, a living made.

Whatever we do, let's not be like Philip in our re-told parable and bury what we've been given through fear or complacency.

****
Images © Jeanette O'Hagan 2017

Jeanette O’Hagan first started spinning tales in the world of Nardva at the age of nine. She enjoys writing fiction, poetry, blogging and editing.

Jeanette is writing her Akrad’s Legacy Series—a Young Adult secondary world fantasy fiction with adventure, courtly intrigue and romantic elements. Recent publications include Heart of the Mountain: a short novella, The Herbalist's Daughter: a short story and Lakwi's Lament: a short story. Her other short stories and poems are published in a number of anthologies including Glimpses of Light, Another Time Another Place and Like a Girl.

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.

You can find her at her Facebook Page or at Goodreads or on Amazon or on her websites JennysThread.com or Jeanette O'Hagan Writes .






Thursday, 23 March 2017

Book Review: The Occupied by Craig Parshall

The Blurb
From New York Times bestselling author Craig Parshall comes a riveting story of supernatural suspense.

As a youth, Trevor Black unleashed spiritual forces he couldn’t comprehend. Years later, Trevor is a high-flying criminal defense lawyer in New York City, with a six-figure Aston Martin and a trophy wife. But in an extraordinary turn of events, he receives a burdensome gift: the ability to perceive the invisible. And the dark forces he now sees are all gunning for him.

When one of Trevor’s hometown friends is murdered, the MO is eerily similar to a shocking trail of murders that have already crossed the lawyer’s path. So Trevor must return home to find the killer. . . and face not only his own personal demons, but supernatural ones as well.
My Review
Trevor Black is a highflying criminal defence lawyer in New York. And he gets to defend people who have committed some heinous acts.

Through a series of circumstances Black's life is turned upside down. He loses his job, his marriage and his NYC lifestyle. And then he finds God.

Told in first person across three sections: The Flesh, The World and The Devil, we see Black's life from when he was a kid through to his high-flying days and finally to being chased by evil which takes him back to where it all began: his home town. Evil chases Black in the form of a series of copycat murders that lead him from NYC to his hometown and draw him into a web of small town politics and satanic rituals.

This is a classic detective story but with a supernatural add-on. Black along the way develops the gift of seeing the demonic in people. Parshall does an excellent job revealing the thin veil between the natural and supernatural worlds. And he has a vivid imagination in creating some fabulously scary demonic creatures.

I liked Trevor Black and there's good development in his character through this story. It's a challenge for an author to write in first person as the entire story is told from the eyes of the one person. But Parshall does this really well and it adds to the feel of it being a classic detective story, which are often shown from the eyes of the detective.

Black develops a romantic interest that adds to the story and the lady in question Ashley is another excellent well rounded character who struggles with anxiety. I hope we see more of Ashley in the next story.

This is the first Parshall novel I've read and I'm excited about reading the second book in the series.




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. 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

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

DEVOTION - Standing in a sea of negativity.


Image credit: http://www.a2church.org


I read a quote years ago by Goi Nasu that read, ‘An entire sea of water can’t sink a ship unless it gets inside the ship. Similarly, the negativity of the world can’t put you down unless you allow it to get inside you.’ It is a quote that I love for it’s simple truth; negativity will only impact us if we allow it.

We live in a world that can be very negative and depressing. You just need to watch  TV to see that. But the TV isn’t the only thing that can be depressing and negative. If we stop and look around I am sure we will all be able to name someone that is at the best of times negative and depressing. We can all find ourselves in environments that are full of naysayers and people that want to point out all that is wrong with the world. Or people that want to point out what they think is wrong with you. In my past life I worked for a secular organisation that held very secular views. In fact, my faith was at times mocked and I was made to feel like I was naive  and silly for believing in Jesus. There was a very negative view of Christianity and Christians and it affected me in ways I didn’t realise it could.

I remember reaching a point where I felt myself starting to compromise in some areas and realised that my environment was starting to change me, and not for the better. There was a negative attitude and perception of ‘religious people’ and it had started to influence me. The negativity had gotten inside the ship, so to speak. This realisation not only devastated me but was also the catalyst for change as it was in that moment that I realised that I was the only one that could control what influenced me. That was the moment that I understood, really understood, what Proverbs 4:23 meant. I understood what it meant to ‘guard your heart’ because I had seen just how much had infiltrated my heart and changed me from the inside out. My actions and words weren't reflecting Jesus in any way and I knew that I was walking a fine line. In that moment, I decided that I would no longer let my environment shift but that I would instead shift my environment. I was going to change the climate around me and not let the climate change me, so through a lot of daily praying and pleading for God to help me, I walked into work and tried to shift my surroundings by living out my faith.

It was hard going. There were days when I questioned whether or not it was worth it and whether I should just leave, but God kept all doors firmly shut, so I stayed where I was. I draw a line in the sand on certain things and I said no to things.  No longer bowed down to social pressure and expectations but set my own. Again, it was hard going but eventually, I stared to notice things. Little things, such as people refraining from swearing around me (I don’t get offended by language by there are some words I draw a line with). People stopped sending me certain jokes and memes. A couple of people asked me to pray for them. People could clearly see the line I had drawn in the sand and they respected it not because they agreed with it, but because I extended grace while I stood for my convictions. I showed love but also stood my ground. I refused to conform to the expectations of  everyone and instead kept my eyes fixed on Jesus. I even left behind my bible when I resigned in the hopes that someone would pick it up and read it.

Living out your faith can be hard when you are surrounded by people that want nothing more than to tell you that what you believe is wrong. It is getting harder for Christian’s to voice their opinion, whether it be vocally or through writing. But what better time than now to stand our ground and be change makers? What better time than now, when the world around us is in such chaos, to influence those around us by using our pens (or keyboards) to show the love of God? To show the world how gracious and loving God is by extending the same grace and love through our actions and the writing we put out into the world.

At the end of the day, are we not called for such a time as this?






Leila (Lays) Halawe is a Sydney based coffee loving nonfiction writer and blogger. She has published a short devotional, Love By Devotion, and shares her views on life and faith via her blog page Looking In. You can connect with her via Facebook at Leila Halawe Author and via Twitter at Leila Halawe.



Tuesday, 21 March 2017

The ACRBA Blog Alliance Needs Your Help.

By Jenny Blake

Today I am talking about (ACRBA) Australian ChristianReaders Blog Alliance and how it can help you as an author and some of you may be able to help us.

Firstly A little background on what ACRBA is how and it came about. Several years back Narelle Atkins and I were talking about blog alliances and how many were no longer sending books to Australian and New Zealand readers unless they could get the book as an e-book. As a member of several alliances I was saying how much as a reader I enjoy being able to review books and promote authors. We got talking about how it would be nice to be able to support Australasian Authors and through this the alliance was formed.

From there we created a blog page and started recruiting reviewers and then authors and publishers. We do review overseas books as well as Australasian but first preference goes to books from this area. We read both print books and eBooks but at present have several members who can only read print books.

We do not charge for blog tours unlike some alliances the only cost is the books that are requested. We send out requests to our members and if they would like to review the book we will then send on the information to the author or publisher. If you are an author who wishes to tour with us we have a form on the blog to fill in and submit chapter one, and a blurb of the book. Publishers can also fill in the form. We also ask if you will send print or eBooks and how many you are willing to send. We understand it the costs and want to help authors as much as possible.

For reviewers the requirement is to have an active blog and to post the information we provide and a review. We also would like reviewers to post a review on sites such as Amazon, Goodreads and Koorong. We also encourage reviewers not requesting a book to post the information to help promote the books. We do encourage bloggers to read at least one book every 3 months. The exceptions are if you are only reading one genre such as children’s books or non-fiction.

Now to part of the reason for this blog post we need help. We recently lost some of our reviewers due to a few reasons most being they are not blogging or don’t have time to read books. We need new reviewers. If you enjoy reading and would like a free book we are interested in hearing from you. As mentioned we send out the info on the books and you can request the books that appeal to you. We do however request you average one book every 3 months. We also would like you to post the HTML of books you are not reviewing during the blog tour week to give the authors more exposure. We also have a form at our blog to fill in.


We also have a category called friends of ACRBA for bloggers who want to help promote the books and will post the HTML on their blog during the week we tour the books. This also provides free blog content you can use on your blog and we even provide the code for the tour. The tour is always the first full week of the month. 

Links:
Applications for reviewer or Friends of ACRBA: http://acrba.blogspot.com.au/p/application.html

JENNY BLAKE (aka Ausjenny) is an avid reader. When not reading she enjoys watching cricket, in fact you could call her a cricket fanatic, scrapbooking and jigsaws. She volunteers at the local Christian bookshop where she can recommend books to customers. Her book blog is where she reviews books and interview authors. Her goal is to help promote new books and encourage authors. Her blog is at http://ausjenny.blogspot.com and is Co-Founder of http://acrba.blogspot.com

Monday, 20 March 2017

Reader Question: Should I Hire Someone to Build my Social Media Presence?

By Iola Goulton


An agent liked my manuscript, but said I needed to build my social media presence before he’d consider representing me. I work full time. Should I hire someone?

Short answer: Maybe. 

Long answer …

Maybe. It depends on what your agent means by a social media presence, the kind of books you write and plan to write, on your brand, and on what God wants for your writing.

Let me explain.


I don’t have an agent. I’m not seeking representation from an agent. (I’ll tell you why some other time, if you’re interested.) I’ve lurked on a lot of agent blogs over the years, and one thing I’ve found is that agents are all different.
  • Some only accept electronic submissions; some only accept paper.
  • Some want a query letter first, others think a query letter is a waste of time and want a full proposal.
  • Some seem to think numbers are the only important aspect of a writer’s platform, others make no mention of the subject.
That’s an extended way of saying that for every agent who reads this blog post and thinks I’ve got something right, another will think I’ve got it wrong. The right answer to this question depends very much on the agent you’re talking about.

What is a Social Media Presence?


If your agent thinks a good social media presence is 100,000 engaged Twitter followers, then I can make some suggestions. Start by reading Rayne Hall’s book on building your Twitter following, and implement her suggestions. Then read Ian Sutherland’s book. He built a following of over 100,000 people in around a year, and he offers support services to help other authors do the same. That might be something you could consider … but only if that’s what your dream agent is thinking of.

What does this agent expect in terms of building your social media presence?

But this might not be what your dream agent means. So you need to know what he means before you invest your time or your money in developing a social media presence. Does he mean social media or does he mean a platform—your entire online presence including social media, your website, and your email list?

Also, what manuscript did you submit that he liked?
  • Fiction or non-fiction?
  • What genre?
  • Was it written for adults, teenagers, or children?
You’ve got the basics of a social media presence although it could do with refreshing, updating, and perhaps expanding (depending on your book):
  • Website and a blog (although they should be combined onto one site).
  • Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
You also need to consider developing an email list and regular newsletter to subscribers, as this might be what your agent is looking for).

Build Your Brand

But how you do this will depend on what you are writing, and who you are writing for. You need to decide who you are, and build your author brand around that persona. Then you need to attract and engage with potential readers.

I believe you should do this yourself.


Because you can’t hire someone to tell you who you are.


Once you know who you are and who you want to be online, you can hire someone to help you broadcast that message. But you’re going to have to do some of the hard work up front.

It’s generally agreed that a non-fiction author needs more of an author platform to interest an agent than a fiction author. That’s especially true in the case of true-life stories—for example, I’ve read that agents aren’t interested in cancer stories. They’re all too common.

Once you’ve decided who you are, and once you know what kind of platform your dream agent wants you to build, then you have another decision: is that what you want to do? Is it what God wants you to be doing? (I ask because your social media profiles make it clear you’re a Christian.)

Should you hire someone to build your social media presence?

The answer is going to depend on the answers to other questions:
  • What does this agent mean by “build a social media presence”? This is the most important question.
  • What manuscript is he interested in? What’s the genre? Is this the same as the books you’ve previously published, or different?
  • What is your brand? In other words, who are you? How do you want people to see you?
  • What does God want for your writing? Is this closed door a challenge for you to get past, or is it a door God doesn’t want you to open? Is chasing this agent God’s plan for you and your writing?
  • How much is hiring someone going to cost? What results will you get? Is that return on your investment worth it to you?
  • Could you find a way to do this yourself, perhaps by investing in online tools such as Buffer or Hootsuite?

Once you've answered those questions, then you can get back to your original question: should you hire someone?


I suspect the answer is no.

That might change in a couple of weeks or a couple of months, when you find the answers to some of my other questions. By then, I suspect, the answer to your original question will be obvious.

If you’ve got a question you’d like me to answer in a future blog post, please email me via www.christianediting.co.nz/contact, or tag @iolagoulton on Twitter.


About Iola Goulton

I am a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction. Visit my website at www.christianediting.co.nz to download a comprehensive list of publishers of Christian fiction. 

I also write contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist—find out more at www.iolagoulton.com.

You can also find me on:
Facebook (Author)
Facebook (Editing)
Instagram
Pinterest
Twitter

Friday, 17 March 2017

‘Real’ books can roam


I love my ‘real’, paper and print, hard copy books. But for Christmas, I received a brand new Sony tablet—and now I have of course discovered the many pluses of e-books. I can download them easily. They are cheaper. My Tablet is quite easy to carry anywhere in my handbag. And, for those of us trying to cut down the number of books on our shelves, those e-books are a boon.

There are several reasons I still enjoy my ‘real’ books, however. For me, there is something pleasurable and comforting about holding them—no doubt a result of those many hours spent curled up reading as a child. Also, unlike my tablet, they don’t need recharging! Besides, I often lend out my books—and, while I understand Amazon has a couple of different e-book lending options now, not everyone has an e-reading device/app. Also, one option has a lending period of only fourteen days, which would not be long enough for some of my friends. Anyway, it is much easier for me just to reach over to my bookshelf and grab that ‘real’ book for them.

I love to hear how my own books have roamed in this way. Recently, a friend from times past sent me such an encouraging message about my latest book, Becoming Me. I have not seen her for many years, although I was aware that another mutual friend always sends her a copy of any new book of mine, usually as a birthday or Christmas gift. Then, out of the blue, she contacted me via Facebook.

‘Hi Jo-Anne,’ she began. ‘Thank you for your new book. I couldn't put it down—loved it. I read portions of it to my fourteen-year-old granddaughter who needed your testimony at that time.’

Wow! It blew my mind to think of my friend reading some part of Becoming Me out to her granddaughter. But then she went on to explain that she has now lent the book to her daughter-in-law, the mother of this particular granddaughter, to read. After that, she told me, she plans to pass it onto a good friend. What a journey that little book of mine has had and will have in the future! How many more hands will it pass through in the next little while? Probably quite a few, knowing my old friend! Where will it roam next? Where will it end up?

I remember too a time when someone found my first novel Heléna in a second hand bookstore and bought it. This led her to read other novels of mine and also my first memoir Soul Friend. She then lent her copy of Soul Friend to a colleague going through a difficult time—and God used it in a special way to encourage this person to move forward in her life. Now I have no idea if the person who originally donated my novel Heléna to that Vinnies store even read it before doing so, but I’m so glad that book of mine kept roaming—until it found the right reader who, as it turned out, would then enable other books of mine to roam even further.

How about you? Do you too have an encouraging ‘book roaming’ story to share with us—or perhaps an opinion on ‘real books’ versus e-books? Please go ahead!

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 the written and spoken word. She is the author of six published novels and two non-fiction works, ‘Soul Friend’ and ‘Becoming Me’. 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.