Thursday, October 30, 2014

My world

One of the things I enjoy most about this blog is the chance to get a peek into the world of friends from all across the globe. I love the photos and the insight into other cultures. As a reader, I love being inspired by vivid settings in stories that take me to places I've never been. And as a writer, I even enjoy all the research that goes into a story to ensure the setting comes to life for the reader. One of my favorite things to do as far as research is read travel blogs. It often gives me a fresh look into a familiar place. Or brand new insight into a place I've never visited.

Since both Narelle and LeAnne have shared this week about setting and the importance of using the five senses--and it's been something I've been thinking about lately as well--it seemed like the perfect time to continue that theme and share some photos with you from my world. Especially since I found out this past week that my publisher is going to let me set another book in Africa! So right now, I'm busy trying to implement all the things Nacelle and LeAnne wrote about the importance of setting while enjoying another chance to share a bit of my world through another story.

In the meantime, here are some photos of where we live!

We live near a stunning reef along the Indian Ocean.  The day we went
snorkling on the bay side, we saw dozens of red and green starfish.

Water pools along the Indian Ocean.

Many of the locals are fisherman.  
The sunsets are an incredible mass of color.

Colorful, fresh produce from the market is available year round.

Rusty boats that have seen better days sit along the edge of the bay,
completely out of the water during low tide.
Nearby, flamingos search for food in the water near the shore
that is often moving with tiny crabs.
Spending time out in the village. This time with newborn twins.

And not too far away is one of my favorite places. . .a game park.

Rhino's in motion.

Thanks for visiting a piece of my world with me!


LISA HARRIS is a Christy Award winning author who writes romantic suspense for the Christian market. She and her family work in Mozambique as missionaries. She sees her writing as an extension of her ministry which also includes running a non-profit organization The ECHO Project. To find out more about her books you can visit her website.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Hometown Settings plus book giveaway

By Narelle Atkins

I enjoy reading books that are set in places where I’ve lived or visited. I grew up on the northern beaches in Sydney, Australia, and I’ve always loved reading books set in Sydney. I’ve even read books in genres I don’t usually read because they’re set in Sydney.

Sydney, Australia
Reading is a sensory experience and writers use the five senses to draw us into their story. For example, we can dig our bare toes into the soft sand at Manly Cove and look out at the beauty of Sydney Harbour. We can smell the salty sea air, touch the refreshing cool water that’s lapping into shore, taste the deep fried fish and chips we’re eating while sitting on the beach, and hear the squawking from the seagulls hovering around us, hoping we’ll share our dinner with them. 

Manly Cove, Sydney, Australia

These little details can add a richness to the story setting, and trigger our memories if we’ve visited the setting in real life. Writers who know their setting can add details to deepen the authenticity of their story.

Manly ferry docked at Circular Quay in the city
Her Tycoon Hero is the first book I wrote when I started writing, back in 1998. I was living in Sydney at the time and I sometimes wrote longhand on the Manly ferry. There’s a scene in the early chapters of the book with my characters, Ryan and Cassie, travelling to the city on the Manly ferry. I wrote the first draft of that scene while sitting on the Manly ferry, drinking coffee and experiencing the turbulence and rocking as the ferry passed by the entrance to the harbor between North and South Head. 

Cassie Beaumont Believes in Second Chances

Set on proving to everyone that she's no longer a party girl, Cassie is focused on her career as an event planner. But her dad's top executive, Ryan Mitchell, proves to be a handsome distraction. Especially when someone from Cassie's wild past tries to get her tangled in the life she's worked hard to escape. 

Ryan is taken with his boss's beautiful daughter. But having been fooled by a brother who ran in her same circles, he is slow to trust. When Cassie's newfound faith works its way into his heart, Ryan soon finds he wants to claim both her faith and Cassie as his own.

NARELLE ATKINS writes contemporary inspirational romance and lives in Canberra, Australia. She sold her debut novel, set in Australia, to Harlequin's Love Inspired Heartsong Presents line in a 6-book contract. Her debut book, Falling for the Farmer, was a February 2014 release, followed by The Nurse's Perfect Match in May 2014, The Doctor's Return in August 2014, Her Tycoon Hero in November 2014, Winning Over the Heiress in February 2015, and Seaside Proposal in May 2015.

Narelle blogs regularly with Australasian Christian Writers and Inspy Romance. 

She is also a co-founder of the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance (ACRBA). 

Twitter: @NarelleAtkins


Have you read many books set in your hometown or city? Or, written a book set in your hometown? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences. 

To celebrate the official release of Her Tycoon Hero in ebook format this weekend and November 3 in print, I'm giving away one print copy (worldwide, wherever The Book Depository delivers) to a reader who leaves a comment on this post and enters the Rafflecopter giveaway below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A unique author challenge

At the end of this week, I will be facing yet another interesting challenge in my writing and speaking journey. I will spend four hours in front of four classes of high school students, one after the other! What’s more, they are each from different years, with the classes varying in size from twenty-five students to fifty. Yes, I was a high school teacher at one stage—but that was many years ago now!

The school I will visit is a Christian school in a large country town here in New South Wales, Australia, and I readily agreed to the idea when my contact in that town suggested it. At first, I was to give a one-hour workshop to two smallish groups of the more gifted writers—the first group from the younger classes and the second from the older. Then we decided on a two-hour workshop, involving more creative writing, with these same two groups. Now the concept has changed entirely. I have all students in these years—gifted and perhaps less gifted, interested and uninterested, lovers of English, haters of English!

Yet, despite the shape my input has now become, I would not turn this opportunity down for anything. Firstly, who knows who will be in one of those groups of students? Perhaps there will be some young people present who are voracious readers, who secretly love to write poetry or short stories and who one day dream of being published. Perhaps, like me in my early years, they do not quite believe such things ever happen to ordinary people like them.

Secondly, even if there are no such young people in these groups, I want to share my story with them of how I came to understand who Jesus is and believe in him at around the same age as many of them are and how this experience has motivated me ever since to be who God has called me to be and do what God has called me to do. I want to tell them about how God spoke to me through a passage of Scripture eleven years ago—and my writing journey began. I want to encourage them not to give up on their dreams. I want to remind them that each of them is unique and creative in some way because each of us is made in the image of our creative God.

And thirdly, I want to inspire them to write from the depths of their being and from their own experiences. I want them to think about the things they see and hear and touch and taste and smell all around them and write with imagination, originality and colour. Yes, I hope to give them a few pointers about good first paragraphs, about ‘showing’ rather than ‘telling’, about using dialogue and about so many other things. And yes, I will ask them to do some brief creative writing exercises. But I want them to enjoy the process and to realise no one else sees things quite the way they do and that they have something to say—even if others might say it better.

I hope I succeed. I am looking forward to the challenge! Have any of you experienced similar challenges to this in your writing journey?

Jo-Anne Berthelsen lives in Sydney, Australia. 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 one non-fiction work, Soul Friend: the story of a shared spiritual journey. Jo-Anne is married to a retired minister and has three grown-up children and four grandchildren. For more information, please visit

Monday, October 27, 2014

Writing about Place

A country lane in Wales,
the setting of Honddu Vale, book 2
in my Glastonbury Grail series.
Place. Every story has one.

Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:8-9).

Of course, now we are getting into plot—foreshadowing the central conflict to come, when the man chooses to disobey his Creator’s instruction not to eat from the tree and so destroys the trusting relationship they had. That’s called “the initiating incident” that sets the rest of the story in motion, what Sally Lloyd-Jones calls "God’s Great Rescue Plan" to redeem all of creation and save a people for himself. (And just wait until you get to that incredible climax in Revelation when the King reclaims his throne and evil is banished forever!)
But the whole thing begins in a place.
The author of Genesis is pretty specific about this place. Four rivers are named. We recognize two of them, the Tigris and the Euphrates. Two others, the Pishon and the Gihon, are unknown to us, but by the description of where they flow, we get the impression that there was a time when those, too, would have been recognized by listeners. Eden was a real place with a real geography.
Place gives a sense of reality, of groundedness. Those of us who write about places unfamiliar to most of our readers have a challenge to make that place feel real.
So how do we usher readers through the door into the place of our story?
Felicity's clock can be seen to the left, but not the figures.
First, we do it from the beginning. I don’t want to be two-thirds of the way into the book before I discover that the action is taking place in the suburb of a major city, not in a rural vacation community and the lake where they meet is Lake Erie, not a fishing pond in the woods. In chapter 1 of Donna Fletcher Crow’s A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary, we read:

At the corner of Cornmarket and High Street [Felicity] paused at Carfax Tower which marked the center of Oxford. Carfax was the Roman designation for crossroads, and surely this was the busiest intersection in the city … She turned to cross the street when the blue, scarlet and gold figures [of the clock] began striking the hour. She counted to six then the sound of bells drowned out everything else as all across Oxford, from seemingly every tower, a glorious cacophony called everyone to stop and look upward.

That Roman reference tells us instantly that we aren’t in Oxford, Kansas, and the pealing bells give us a feel for something a world away from the American Midwest. Knowing Donna, you can bet your life that in downtown Oxford today you would find the Carfax building at the busy corner of Cornmarket and High Streets and hear those bells. (There is nothing like an inaccurate detail to rip readers familiar with the setting from their reading dream.)
We show place with tiny details that give a clue to the larger picture. That’s where precise language comes in. If I tell you that my character sat down beneath a tree, each of you congers a different picture in her mind. But if I tell you the character sat down beneath an old oak, suddenly you are in deep forest in a temperate climate. I don’t have to describe the mossy bank. You already see it in your mind’s eye. What if I tell you he sat under a coconut palm? The tree is not the only thing to shift in your mental picture. Now you are running your fingers through hot sand. If I tell you he sat under an acacia (and you have some knowledge of Africa), you will picture not just an umbrella thorn, but the whole expanse of African bush country with maybe a zebra or a giraffe in the background.
"Death to Bandits" says this political graffiti
 on a street corner in Mozambique
during the civil war.
In my first YA novel, The Wooden Ox, I wanted to show the country of Mozambique as my family knew it during the Mozambican civil war in the 1980s. After beginning with action that introduced the characters and showed how bumpy the road was, I wrote,

The column of cars and trucks racing across the countryside stretched as far as Keri could see ahead and behind them. From time to time they passed a burned out vehicle at the side of the road—a reminder of what could happen if the Andersons pulled out of line. The coluna wouldn’t wait while you changed a tire or a fan belt ... There was not a herdboy in sight nor a sign of a cow or goat. Telephone lines hung in loose strands from poles at odd angles.

A burned out vehicle, loose strands of telephone wire—this is not a primitive wilderness, but a land made desolate by war.

Luke's view along the South-Western
slopes of the Snowy Mountains
We show place through action. Characters interact with those telling details. We draw them to the readers’ attention as they are drawn to the character’s attention. Donna’s character Felicity is walking down an Oxford street. Keri is riding in a military convoy. In Narelle Atkins’ The Doctor’s Return we get a feel for her native Australia as her character Luke cycles down the road.

The midmorning sun scorched his bare arms and legs, the weather unseasonably hot for this early in spring. He swiped beads of sweat off his brow, his hair damp under his bike helmet … A herd of brumbies galloped through the pine forest on the high side of the road. The wild horses raced up the hill, weaving around the pine trees.

We feel the heat through Luke’s sunburned arms and his sweat. Notice how Narelle shows me what brumbies are without an explanation that would be unnatural to Luke’s POV.

Rocky Mountains of British Columbia

We use place to reveal character. In her book The Man for Her Alice Valdal writes:

  A shaft of sunlight emerged from behind the mountains, striking harshly against her eyes.  She turned her face up.  A hawk, already on the hunt, circled above the meadow.  As she watched, it folded its wings and plummeted toward the ground, swooping in on its kill.  She turned her head away.  For all its beauty and bounty, this was a cruel land, culling without mercy the feeble and helpless.  She hefted her rifle over her shoulder.

In the raw beauty of this British Columbian mountain scene we meet a woman with her rifle over her shoulder who refuses to be either feeble or helpless.

Dawson, Yukon
We use place to set the mood of a scene or the whole story. Look at how Marcia Laycock shows the poignant mood of A Tumbled Stone when Alex Perrin returns to his old cabin in the Canadian Yukon.

It seemed strange not to be greeted by the cacophony of barking huskies. He noticed one of the dog chains was still wrapped around a tree, half buried under bits of decaying branches. Dry brown evergreen needles layered the ground between exposed roots, their gnarled lengths bending up and down into and out of the hard ground. … Here and there a bit of green moss clung to greying wood. The yard smelled of dampness and rot.

The abandoned dog chain, the dryness of the needles, the hardness of the ground resisting those gnarled roots set a dark mood. That bit of green moss gives us just a hint of hope, but even that is squashed by the smell of dampness and rot. And over all we feel the Yukon wilderness. What different details would Marcia have chosen if Alex were arriving at a new cabin in that same Yukon with an exciting future before him?

At the far left a younger me gets a taste
of Indian culture in 1965
along with friends and family members.
We show place with our senses. In the paragraph above, Marcia uses sound (or its lack), smell, and touch as well as some stunning visual images. Don’t leave out taste. It can be a very powerful sense. Here Christine Lindsey uses smell to evoke India in Shadowed in Silk, the first of her award-winning Twilight of the Raj series.

Tucking a strand of hair into her chignon, Abby savored a tantalizing whiff of overripe fruit, roses, marigolds and cloves, mingled with the acrid smell of dust.

Place grounds the story in reality. It makes me believe it could actually have happened to real people even if the place only exists in fantasy. That sense of place is something to be kept alive throughout the story. My story of the Mozambican civil war could not have taken place in the Canadian Yukon anymore than Donna’s liturgical mystery could have taken place in Australia.
Many of us write about places we know. The Internet with it’s photos, maps and travelogs is a fabulous resource for authors who haven’t visited the places they are writing about. Because readers fill in the blanks with their own knowledge your job is to be accurate even if you don’t know all the details. That way those who don’t know anymore that you do can fill in with their own imaginations. Those who do know will not be jolted by inaccuracies.
Modern readers won’t sit still for long descriptive paragraphs that characterized the classics we studied in high school. Our sensory details and feeling for place need to do double duty to set the mood, reveal character, foreshadow plot or advance the action.
What are your favourite stories that reveal a unique place?
What sensory details open a place to your imagination?


LeAnne Hardy had her first cross-cultural experience at the ripe age of ... Never mind. In 1965 her father took the family to northeast India on a three-month missions trip. Since then she has lived in six countries on four continents. Her fiction reflects her faith, her passion for storytelling that stretches the mind and soul, and the cultures she has experienced. Learn more at .

Sunday, October 26, 2014


Coming Up This Week


LeAnne Hardy: Writing about Place


Jo-Anne Berthelsen: A unique author challenge


Narelle Atkins: Hometown Settings plus book giveaway


Lisa Harris

Friday Devotion

Ray Hawkins: When God Smiles


New Book Releases

Christine Lindsay's historical romance set in India, Veiled at Midnight, Book 3 of Twilight of the British Raj series, is an October 2014 release from WhiteFire Publishing.


Upcoming Book Releases

Narelle Atkins' contemporary romance set in Australia, Her Tycoon Hero, will be a November 2014 release from Love Inspired Heartsong Presents.

Sandra Orchard’s romantic suspense set in Washington State, USA, Identity Withheld, will be a November 2014 release from Love Inspired Suspense.

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Sweetened with Honey, Book 3 in the Farm Fresh Romance series, releases independently in November 2014.

Lisa Harris' romantic suspense set in Georgia, USA, Hidden Agenda, Book 3 in her Southern Crimes series, will be a January 2015 release from Revell.

Donna Fletcher Crow's murder mystery set in England, A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary, book 4 the Monastery Murders series, ebook only available now, print coming in January 2015.

Lisa Harris' romantic suspense set in Paris, France, Taken, will be a February 2015 release from Love Inspired Suspense.

Narelle Atkins' contemporary romance set in Australia, Winning Over the Heiress, will be a February 2015 release from Love Inspired Heartsong Presents.

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Dandelions for Dinner, Book 4 in the Farm Fresh Romance series, releases independently in spring 2015.

Sandra Orchard’s romantic mystery set in Niagara, Canada, title TBA, Book 3 in her Port Aster’s Secrets series, will be a June 2015 release from Revell.

To find more International Christian Fiction books, please visit our 2013 - 2015 Book Releases page and Backlist Titles.

Friday, October 24, 2014

DEVOTION: Daily Word Limit ~ by Shirley Corder

The other day I was reading a book when I learned that on average each of us speak 25,000 words a day.

Proverbs 18:21 tells us that our words matter. "Death and life are in the power of the tongue."
How true. Some time ago, I went through a time of real trial and hardship with a dear young friend whom I had known since she was a new baby. We worked together, laughed together, shed tears together, and got through a load of work. We were there for one another, and encouraged each other as day by day we made our way through all we had to get through. We only had limited time before she would leave the country and fly off to her home thousands of miles away. The days seemed to fly by, and we both became pressured as we raced to finish the task.

As time grew short, so did our patience. Although we both attempted to stay loving and understanding, eventually the inevitable happened. A thoughtless comment. An insensitive response. An angry retort, a hurtful email, a defensive phone call --and a relationship lay In ruins. Time ran out. There was no time to apologize. No time to heal wounds. No time to explain misunderstandings. Only two hurting people with no clue how to repair the damage - and an ocean between. 

Ephesians 4:29 says "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear."
Let NO corrupting talk. The word used for "corrupting" literally means "rotten," as in decaying food. In this passage we are told not to ever use words that will break down or harm a relationship. Words that will cause decay . We are not to use them under any situation. Not in hurt. Not in self-defence. And certainly not in anger.

As you look back over the past 24 hours, how many of your 25,000 words would fall into the category of corrupting talk? How many of them have edified another? How many words have you written today with the object of encouraging another person, perhaps one whom you'll never meet?

For those of us who are writers, do the words we write build up? Do they give grace to those who hear? Do we use our word limit wisely?

Let's Pray Together: Father, forgive us for the time we misuse the words we have at our disposal, to bring hurt and decay to those whom we love--and those whom you love. Please show us how to use our words wisely, and how to bring healing where damage has been done. Amen. 

Sign up here to receive a short devotional message from Shirley in your inbox once a week.

SHIRLEY CORDER lives on the coast in South Africa with her husband, Rob. Her book, Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer contains 90 meditations based on her time in the cancer valley.

Please visit Shirley at, where she encourages writers, or at, where she encourages those in the cancer valley. You can also meet with her on Twitter or FaceBook 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Lessons from a Seahorse

I was listening to a series on male and female relationships, especially marriage and gained some valuable insight. The most obvious issue is the male and female difference, physically of course, but also mentally and emotionally. Looking back to the Garden of Eden, Adam was without human companionship until Eve came along. Is it a wonder then that men are typically not very communicative, while woman tend to be more expressive? After all Eve had another human ear to bend as soon as she was created. In my mind I imagine that Adam was fascinated by her mellifluous voice; her laughter; her beauty…

I imagine that they were the best of friends, could read each others every mood and anticipate each others needs, even without words. But that oneness was shattered when the first blame game was played: Adam blaming God; Eve blaming the serpent. The Bible doesn’t tell us, but I would also imagine the shame and disappointment that they would have felt toward each other. Eve may have felt betrayed by her brother; her lover, while Adam probably felt angry. Angry at Eve for being gullible and for implicating him in her sin, angry at God for giving him Eve, angry at the serpent for deceiving Eve and even angry at himself for eating the fruit. These were emotions they had never before experience. Tongue in cheek here: Eve probably tried to over explain, while Adam probably went into broody silence. Their unbreakable relationship was now broken and I’m sure everything went downhill from there.

Fast-forward thousands of years. People break up for all sorts of reasons. I imagine that if Adam and Eve could see the world as it is today they’d be both perplexed and exasperated. Irreconcilable differences, fraud, infidelity, the list seems endless. I hope I’m not coming off as judgemental, because that’s not my intent at all. I’m just trying to pour out my heart and maybe get some understanding of why (from an outside perspective anyway) people sometimes give up on their relationships so easily. Could it be that expectations are unrealistic? Or that there are other choices out there that make leaving appear more attractive and worthwhile than fighting to stay together.

Is it possible that any marriage could be fixed as long as there is someone who is willing to humble themself? The thing, though, is that it’s hard to humble yourself when you feel that you’ve been wronged or that you’re in the right.

Marriages today seem to last about the same amount of time as casual relationships. The vows taken at wedding ceremonies don’t seem to be taken seriously. I understand that sometimes relations are irreparably damaged. And I believe that no matter what stories are told, only God and the 2 people in the marriage know exactly what went wrong.

This whole issue of break-ups makes one consider the seahorse. Seahorses are fascinating creatures that we can learn a lot from.

As most people know, seahorses are monogamous and mate for life. Each couple go through through complex rituals every morning, when they perform an elaborate courtship display. This daily morning meeting serves to reinforce their commitment. A lesson here for us humans is that it takes regular effort to strengthen a relationship.

The other thing fascinating about seahorses is that they have extremely good eyesight. They have eyes on either side of their head and work independently, meaning that they can look backwards and forwards at the same time. Imagine if we as humans had that ability. But hmm maybe we do in hindsight and foresight, but most importantly as Christians we have the Holy Spirit.

Females have a territory of about 1.4 sq metres and males have a territory of about 0.5 sq metres. Their territories overlap. For someone like me who can be anal about her space, this one spoke volumes to me, but suffice it to say that a relationship cannot thrive if the people involved don't have a shared sense of ownership. Trying to categorically state that this is mine and that is yours, with little or no 'ours' surely can't be good. Yes we're each unique but one should come into a relation, especially marriage with a team mindset. The power of agreement is formidable.

What does Scripture say?
"Two are better than one,
Because they have a good reward for their labour.
For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But who to him who is alone when he falls.
For he has no one to help him up.
Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm;
But how can be be warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
And a threefold cord is not quickly broken. "
- Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

But then again, maybe the beauty of the male/female seahorse relationship is born out of the knowledge that the male fertilises the female's eggs in his pouch. The female transfers her eggs to the male which he self fertilises in his pouch. The number of eggs can vary from 50-150 for smaller species to 1500 for larger species. I'm sure that alone creates a deep bond, understanding and appreciation between.

From which other animals or species have you learnt a human lesson?

Ufuoma Daniella Ojo is a Senior Technical Author and Software Trainer. She lives in Potters Bar just outside London. She is working on some new stories about relationships and is trusting God for connections leading to publication.