Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Tuesday Book Chat | 20th February 2018 | Narelle Atkins

Narelle here. Welcome to our ACW Tuesday Book Chat where we encourage book lovers to answer our bookish question of the week. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Please join in the conversation in a comment on this post or in a comment on the blog post shared in our Australasian Christian Writers Facebook Group.  

Let's chat. How many books do you read in a year?

Do you keep count? I'll be honest - I'd prefer to answer this question without revealing how many books I add to my to-be-read list each year that remain unread.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Do I Have to Have a Blog? 4 Tips for Writers Who Hate Blogging.

By Iola Goulton | @IolaGoulton

I'm often asked this question. It seems that the very thought of marketing and platform building and blogging—especially blogging—strike fear into the heart of even the most intrepid writer. So they tell themselves they hate blogging. And don't blog.

Do authors have to have a platform? 

Yes. Your platform is how you sell books—it's your way of demonstrating authority in your chosen topic, and of developing relationships with current and potential readers.

And a blog is one of the typical components of an author platform. The others are:

  • Website
  • Email List
  • Social Media

(If you know you need to start building your author platform but have no idea where to start, or if you've made a start but aren't sure if you're on the right track, you need to join my March Marketing Challenge: Kick Start Your Author Platform. Click here to check it out.)

It used to be said that non-fiction authors need to blog (as a way of establishing authority in your chosen field), but that fiction authors didn't. But opinion on this is changing, as a blog is a great way to establish a relationship with potential readers.

But don't let that frighten you off. Blogging isn't scary—at least, I don't think so. Although I might be lying to myself ...

In fact, I am lying to myself. Here's the big lie I tell myself:

Only one person is reading my posts.

My professional background is as a management consultant specialising in writing long and detailed reports (never mind the quality. Feel the weight!). Lots of long words and long sentences and long paragraphs. Plenty of passive voice. My early blog posts—even my book reviews—reflected that writing style. I still struggle with writing a swoof-y book review (swoof = squeezing words out of feelings).

So it was a good thing that only one person was reading my early posts. It gave me the opportunity to try, experiment, and improve. I know more than one person reads my posts now. But I still write as though only one person is going to read it. It frees me to write what I think needs to be written. And it helps me solidify what I need to include because I'm not writing for everyone. I'm writing for that one person.

(Note that the "one person" may change depending on what I'm writing. If you've ever read one of my posts and thought, "Wow. She could have been writing that for me!" ... maybe I was. Knowingly or unknowingly.)

Yes, I write for an audience of one. (Not One. He already knows!)

I've discovered a few secrets in writing and publishing over 1,000 blog posts in the last six years. Okay, so most of those were book reviews which some people say aren't real blog posts. But other people loathe writing book reviews. And Aunty Google sees them as blog posts, so they count.

Here are my four tips.

1.Think Positive

If you think you're going to hate blogging, you will. Conversely, if you think blogging regularly might be a fun challenge, it will be. If you really hate the idea of having a blog, call it something different: a journal, a diary, a magazine, a letter.

2. Find Your Voice

Blogging is great training for writing. It helps you find your writing voice. It gets you used to writing to a deadline and that's a good thing. I am a procrastinator. I say I work best with a deadline, but that just means I ignore everything that doesn't have a deadline (like, say, housework). It also means that the only way I can get anything done is by setting myself a deadline.

Blogging is perfect. I set myself regular weekly deadlines, and I achieve them (almost) every week. Plan. Write. Revise. Edit. Schedule. Promote.

The hardest part is getting started.

If you're seeking a traditional publisher, blogging regularly has the advantage of showing potential agents and publishers that you can write, and that you can write to a schedule.

3. Have a Plan

One of the most common complaints I hear about blogging is that people don't know what to write. Planning ahead helps. Jeff Goins suggests keeping a list of possible blog post topics. No pressure—just write down the topic and a few notes when inspiration hits. Later, go through your list of potential topics and pick one to write. Edit, and schedule.

I always use the schedule function. 

It means I can blog at the same time each week. When I'm on a blogging roll I can write two or more posts, then edit and schedule them to post over time. It's a much better approach than posting three days in a row, then not posting again for a month.

So pick a regular time to post, and stick with it.

4. Join a Meme

Joining a meme is an extension of having a plan. A blogging meme is where a group of bloggers post on a similar subject at a set time. The meme usually has a host, and all participating bloggers link back to the host's site (and from there, they can find other participants in the meme).

Many memes pose a question of some kind. The blogger answers the question, then asks visitors to answer the same question in the comments. This encourages participation, and is a great way of getting to know your readers.

More importantly, participating in a meme or blog hop a ready-made answer to the eternal question: what do I blog about? It's also a regular weekly or monthly blogging schedule, which Google likes.

I'll be back next week to share some of my favourite memes.

Do you blog? Why or why not?

About Iola Goulton

Iola Goulton is a New Zealand book reviewer, freelance editor, and author, writing contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist. She is a member of the Sisterhood of Unpronounceable Names (Iola is pronounced yo-la, not eye-ola and definitely not Lola).

Iola holds a degree in marketing, has a background in human resource consulting, and currently works as a freelance editor. When she’s not working, Iola is usually reading or writing her next book review. Iola lives in the beautiful Bay of Plenty in New Zealand (not far from Hobbiton) with her husband, two teenagers and one cat. She is currently working on her first novel.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Beautiful Writing

By Cindy Williams @nutritionchic 

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech. (Psalm 19:1-2)

They say that to be a good writer you need to be a good reader. I love reading but my literary diet has been almost vegan-like: restricted mostly to nutritional science, Christian fiction and non-fiction, and the Bible. I have been woefully starved of literary classics and so, in pursuit of a balanced literary diet, I decided that this year I would read every one of my son’s prescribed texts for IB Literature.

The reading list arrived and I eagerly read the reviews for each one: Sophocles’ Greek tragedies – great! ‘Woman at Point Zero’ – prostitution and female genital mutilation… gulp. ‘The God of Small Things’ – child sexual abuse and an anatomically detailed sex scene… gulp, gulp. ‘Perfume’ – mass murder of virgins… a deluge of disappointment drowned my eager anticipation.

Was the Christian school really going to make teenagers study such themes? Was there no good literature with uplifting themes? Was I just an over-protective and out-of-touch mother?

 ‘But the writing is so beautiful,’ said my friend, commenting about 'Perfume'.

Is beautiful writing a good enough reason to read it, I wondered. Over the summer I read two of the prescribed texts, plus another with more hope filled themes. All three had beautiful writing that made me sigh with delight.

“How about peaches, dear?” murmurs Madame Manec, and Marie-Laure can hear a can opening, juice slopping into a bowl. Seconds later, she’s eating wet wedges of sunlight. (All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr)

His feet were short and broad, and when he stood or walked his heels came together and his feet opened outwards as if they had quarreled and meant to go in different directions. (Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe)

 The jam was still hot and on its sticky, scarlet surface, thick pink froth was dying slowly. Little banana bubbles drowning deep in jam and nobody to help them. (The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy)

I have concluded that beautiful writing is like the honey that my mother mixed with crushed panadol when we were ill. Themes and images that we might normally avoid slide into our mind on the sweetness of the writing. On the flip side, beautiful writing eases the way for non-believers to consider the life giving themes of the Bible.

 As Christian readers let us be eager to consume a healthy literary diet with plenty of themes that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.

 As Christian writers let us pray and ask our Lord, the ultimate author, to bless us with his creativity so we can write words as beautiful and uplifting as those he pours forth from the heavens.

 About Cindy Williams 

With degrees in Nutrition, Public Health and Communication Cindy has worked for many years as a dietitian for sports teams, food industry, media, and as a nutrition writer and speaker.

Her first novel, The Pounamu Prophecy, was short listed for the 2016 Caleb Prize. She writes a blog - www.nutritionchic.com - stories of health, history, food and faraway places.

Cindy lives in Sydney with her husband and son, writing stories of flawed women who battle injustice... and sometimes find romance.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Book Review - The Eli Diaries (various authors)

By Ian Acheson @achesonian
Those of you who have read any of my “best of” posts of the past few years will have seen my enthusiasm for episodic fiction where a story is developed over months/years, sometimes by multiple authors, by releasing individual episodes (novellas) monthly. Harbingers was a 20 episode series featuring five authors including one of my favourites, Frank Peretti.
Last year I discovered Bill Myers, one of the Harbinger creators, had produced another series based on one of his earlier novels, Eli. Once again, Myers has collaborated with a bunch of authors to deliver monthly episodes. I’ve recently finished the seventh and am keen for the next one.
The Eli Diaries is a story that explores the question: what would it be like if teenage Jesus turned up in 21st century America? And not just Jesus but his disciple mates and his Bethany family of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Oh, and no series would be complete without a teenage Mary Magdelene and Satan.
Like Harbingers, a different author voices a different character for each episode. The only real constant in all episodes is Eli Shepherd. This weird sixteen year old, who has a heart of gold, seems to discern things and events before they occur, and occasionally heals people. Eli works in his family’s surf shop.
We meet Benjamin the Pharistic youth leader who is is gunning for Eli believing he is leading his flock of youngsters down a dangerous path.
Some of the episodes have been a bit scratchy but the last few have been beauties. They deal with issues of youth: bullying, keeping up with the Joneses, beauty, brawn and brains, revenge and lust. Woven through most of the episodes are demonstrations of grace, mercy and love.
Once again, I’ve found the episodic style of story telling to be compelling (like a good TV series). I’m excited to read the new series that our own Narelle Atkins is involved in (A Tuscan Legacy) that launches soon that takes a different approach to episodic fiction once again. Eight weekly episodes, eight different authors, all with a Tuscan flavour.

Consistent Delivery
One of the challenges from an early readers perspective of an episodic series is there is a need for consistency in delivering episodes. I’ve started some episodic-style series where the first episode lands and another one doesn’t land for months. This is especially difficult when one episode ends on a cliffhanger and by the time the next episode lands you’ve lost interest and in fact forgotten there was indeed a cliffhanger ending.
So if you’re an author producing such fiction may I encourage you to only drop the pilot or first episode when you’ve got the next few ready or almost ready to drop.
I was fortunate that when I downloaded most of the episodes of The Eli Diaries they were only $0.99, however, I notice they’re now $3.51. But remember over 7 episodes it’s between 500 and 700 pages of reading. If you want to try it out perhaps start with Number 4 (Not Good Enough) that features Martha.
What episodic fiction series have you read recently and would recommend?

Ian Acheson is an author and strategy consultant based in Sydney. Ian's first novel of speculative fiction, 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, 14 February 2018

Why Romance?

Happy Valentine's Day!

Valentine's Day. A day of roses and romance and restaurants and all things that celebrate the wonder and glory of love...(cue violins, followed by gagging)

I have an admission. Despite my best efforts my husband and I don't really celebrate Valentine's Day. He thinks it's ridiculously commercialised, and can't really see the logic in paying a premium for roses and restaurant meals which would be priced normally a day later or before. (I mean, come on...really? That happens?)

That doesn't mean he doesn't love me; he just doesn't like societal expectations that say a man's love for a woman is proved by how many red roses he gives her. Um, how about his love being proved in the 14 hour days of sweat and pain as he labours to earn money to put food on the table for the wife and kids living 8 hours away? How about the love proved when a couple chooses to stay together after tragedy, when they practice forgiveness as they battle with selfishness and pride? Not glamorous enough? Not romantic enough?

Maybe I'm a trifle cynical, and for the record I do think relationships are worth investing in with nice meals out and special times away (so if you're celebrating Valentine's Day today I hope you have a wonderful time!). But sometimes it's easy to get caught up in the fantasy element of what a loving relationship looks like (hello Facebook boasts posts), and we can mix up the hard yards of love with the fantasy elements of romance.

I recently asked readers on my Facebook page why they read romance books. Answers ranged from wanting 'to live vicariously through the story' and 'gives hope that this could be a reality' to liking novels 'that make you think and encourage you to make changes in your own life' and 'reminds us what true love is and shows how powerful godly relationships are.'

I know it's easy to get swept into the fantasy element of romance novels - as a historical romance author that's (partly) what I aim to do! But I think the challenge as a romance writer is to balance the fantasy with aspects of reality, the grit of personal and emotional challenges, so that what we present our readers is not an impossible dream, but something that gives a healthy approach to loving others in this day and age.

After all, eventually the roses wither, the chocolates are eaten, the memories of that meal out (with dozens of other couples) fade. But the relationships built on faith and trust and forgiveness and self-sacrifice and God - the marriages that last 40, 50 years - these are the real love stories, built on principles that can't be bought, that sing a louder song to this world and celebrate the wonders of love in a lasting way.

Over to you: Have you read a romance novel that challenged you to make changes in your life?

Carolyn Miller lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children. Together with her husband she has pastored a church for ten years, and worked as a public high school English and Learning and Support teacher. 
A longtime lover of romance, especially that of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer’s Regency era, Carolyn holds a BA in English Literature, and loves drawing readers into fictional worlds that show the truth of God’s grace in our lives. Her Regency novels include The Elusive Miss Ellison, The Captivating Lady Charlotte, The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey, and Winning Miss Winthrop, all available from Amazon, Book Depository, Koorong, etc

Let's connect! Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Tuesday Book Chat | 13th February 2018 | Iola Goulton

It's Iola here. Welcome to our ACW Tuesday Book Chat where we encourage book lovers to answer our bookish question of the week.

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day, so today's question is obvious and should appeal to the romance readers out there. What's your favourite book featuring Valentine's Day? (Do you have one?)

We look forward to hearing your thoughts. Please join in the conversation in a comment on this post or in a comment on the blog post shared in our Australasian Christian Writers Facebook Group. Or, if you're feeling wordy (like me), write a blog post and link to it in the comments.

Let's chat! What's your favourite book featuring Valentine's Day?

Monday, 12 February 2018

February New Releases

This Side of Heaven by Hazel Barker (Amour Books, 23 February, 2018)

The Sides of Heaven is the sequel of Heaven Tempers the Wind. Story of a War Child, which was shortlisted in the Australia and New Zealand-wide CALEB Competition of 2017.

Hazel’s memoir is a story of redemption, and is set in Burma during a turbulent period of history. The Sides of Heaven tells us of a family’s endurance, a mother’s faith and a young girl’s traumatic journey through her teenage years.

The protagonist’s goal is freedom, which she willingly relinquishes to dedicate her life to God. Has she made the right choice?

Book Depository

Warrior Bride: Building Women of Strength (Booklocker, November 2017)

Warrior Bride deals with issues women face today from a biblical perspective exhorting women to come up higher in the things of God. Exploring inspiring motivational stories of women from the past in the Word and incorporating testimonies, anecdotes, illustrations and prophecies from NOW women.