Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Which Writing Hill Are You Going To Die On?

In December last year I got the news that every writer dreams of. After years (and a few more years) of experiencing every high and low that comes with being an aspiring author my agent had received that call from Beth Adams at Howard Books. Since I found out via email as I was about to start a meeting for my “real” job I also had to try and be present there for an hour when all I wanted to do was scream, hug everyone in the room and possibly break out into a jig.

Over the last six months I’ve had to keep it secret for three, handed my baby over to my amazing editor and survived developmental and line edits, talked cover ideas, growing my platform (good news – it’s so small it can’t actually get smaller!), had author photos done, wrangled with the IRS, and started writing my second contracted book that is due in October.

So I thought it might be fun to share the biggest thing I’ve learned as a New Zealand author with a US based team…

Know Which Hill You’re Prepared to Die On

Characters, plotlines, physical characteristics, title, there’s very little in your story that it out of the realms of possibility of getting changed, even when it’s contracted.

As a New Zealander, there is not much that gets me more peeved than reading New Zealand (or Australian, British etc.) characters who aren’t authentic. Most often this involves American versions of words or phrases or using products that aren’t even available in their country.

Then There Was You, my debut romantic comedy, is set in New Zealand and Allie, my heroine, is New Zealand born and bred. The one thing I wouldn’t move on was anything that would turn Allie into an American version of herself.  There was no way that she was ever going to pick up trash (or use a trash can), drink soda (or pop), use ketchup or put gas into a car.

Fortunately, my incredible editor got this. While we’ve had to make a few changes to avoid confusion or replace products that Americans wouldn’t know with more generic terms, Allie has very much retained her “Kiwi” identity. As we’ve worked through edits, there have also been some entertaining conversations via “comments” as she’s gone “I don’t understand this?” or “What is this product?” or “To a US reader this is going to mean this” and I've said "A New Zealander wouldn't say this" and "We don't have dimes in New Zealand!" and "A Kiwi would never do that!" . My absolute favourite was a scene in which I mentioned that there was a pot plant in a hotel room. To me this meant, well a plant in a pot, apparently to some US readers this would read that the hotel supplied cannabis! 

Knowing which hill I was prepared to die on made the rest of the process a whole lot easier. Everything else was up for grabs in pursuit of the strongest possible story!

So let’s talk… what’s made you cringe the most when you’ve read a character who is supposed to be one nationality (or from a certain place) and who says or does something that is totally off kilter with that? Or have you ever read something that in your world translated as something completely different to what the author would have intended? If you're a writer do you know which hill you're prepared to die on when it comes to your story?

Kara Isaac lives in Wellington, New Zealand. Her debut romantic comedy, Then There Was You, is about a disillusioned academic-turned-tour-guide and an entrepreneur who knows nothing about Tolkien who fall in love on a Tolkien themed tour of New Zealand. It will be an early 2016 release from Howard Books. When she's not working her day job as a public servant, chasing around a ninja preschooler and his feisty toddler sister, she spends her time writing horribly bad first drafts and wishing you could get Double Stuf Oreos in New Zealand. She loves to connnect on Facebook at Kara Isaac - Writer and Twitter @KaraIsaac

Monday, May 25, 2015

Journaling is Good for the Author's Heart, Soul, and Writing by Wendy L. Macdonald

A vintage shabby-chic trunk in our cozy den holds a menagerie of my fabric-covered and spiral-bound journals. Thirty-two years' worth of words lay poured onto the private pages of these notebooks. How has journaling been helpful for this author’s heart, soul, and writing?

Journaling sharpens an author’s ability to shape stories and characters. Although I’m new to writing full-length fiction manuscripts, I’ve had much experience dreaming up plot lines without even realizing it. Eighteen months ago my dear husband suggested I start a novel. He said this shaking his head in response to my vivacious imagination.

There are many examples of my exuberant mind written within the pages of my journals, such as the time I stopped my family from eating baked goods that had been given to us because I wondered about the numerous sudden deaths that had occurred in the giver’s social sphere. (I’ve sworn my family to secrecy about this crazy moment of mine.) But that incident helped shape one of my first manuscript’s characters. And I suspect other antagonists will be birthed from incidents saved within my journal.

Journaling improves deep point-of-view writing skills. A diary won’t do. A journal is for recording our inner thoughts and feelings about what has transpired rather than simply documenting events. Pathos, fear, joy, and passion are a few especially helpful emotions to take advantage of. And it’s this depth of articulation that most benefits our fiction work. How can we write effectively about our protagonist’s strengths and weaknesses if we’re not in conscious contact with our own?

Journaling helps us tap into the inner-motivations of our characters. There’s nothing new under the writer’s quill because we all share the same universal issues (love, family, faith, birth, death, and everything in between). Authors generally use the same proven story structure, yet they must still strive to create unique character arcs with one-of-a-kind plots.

The experience of keeping a journal can give our fiction writing a sharper edge when we mine treasures from our characters’ thoughts (as well as from our own). If we can write a story that pulls others into a realistic world shared from the deep recesses of the protagonist’s heart and mind, the reader won’t want to put the book down. There’s something about intimacy that draws us in, much like a campfire does. Entering one’s own thoughts into a journal makes us more self-aware and potentially more observant of our fictional characters’ desires, secrets, and vulnerabilities. And that makes for good writing.

Journaling alleviates stress through the writing pilgrimage. Recording our prayer requests, our praises, and our personal progress keeps us honest and motivated with our current manuscripts and self-care. The stress-reducing effects of journaling kick in when we write poignantly. From what I’ve been reading it’s not just a newbie, like me, who gets overwhelmed and discouraged in this ever-changing literary landscape. Authors, we know and admire, have had to rethink their strategies, too.

Journaling gives the author permission to leave their concerns within their private pages, go forth, and share their stories. Write. Read. Edit. Query (or Self-Publish). Submit. Repeat. We can trust God to answer our written requests according to his perfect timing while we’re busy doing our part as writers.

Journaling IS good for the author’s heart, soul, and writing! How has it helped you?

Wendy L. Macdonald has lived in British Columbia, Canada all her life. She postponed her writing aspirations for a decade while homeschooling her three children. Last year she dove into writing with only her experience of blogging and a love of reading to keep her afloat in the ever-changing sea of the publishing world. She has completed two mystery/romance novels and hopes to try memoir writing in the near future. Her website is http://greenlightlady.wordpress.com where she shares inspirational poetry, prose, and nature photography.

Sunday, May 24, 2015


Coming Up This Week


Wendy L. Macdonald: Journaling is Good for the Author's Heart, Soul, and Writing


Kara Isaac


Jennifer Rogers Spinola


Paul Baines

Friday Devotion

Marcia Lee Laycock: Excuses, Excuses


Contest Giveaway Winner

Melanie Winkler is the winner of Seaside Proposal by Narelle Atkins (Narelle's post, May 13). 

Congratulations Melanie!


New Releases

Narelle Atkins' contemporary romance set in Australia, Seaside Proposal, is a May 2015 release from Love Inspired Heartsong Presents.


Upcoming Releases

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

Dianne J. Wilson's romantic suspense set in South Africa, Finding Mia, will be a June 2015 release from Harbourlight.

Narelle Atkins, Valerie Comer, Autumn Macarthur, and Marion Ueckermann have novellas set in Australia, Canada, Scotland, and Zambia in SPLASH!, a novella collection releasing independently in June 2015. Five American authors with USA-set stories are also included. 

Narelle Atkins' contemporary romance novella set in Australia, His Perfect Catch, releases independently in July 2015.

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance novella set in Canada, Sweet Serenade, Book 3 in the Riverbend Romance series, releases independently in July 2015.

Autumn Macarthur's contemporary romance novella set in Scotland, More than Friends, releases independently in July 2015.

Marion Ueckermann's contemporary romance novella set in Zambia, Orphaned Hearts, releases independently in July 2015.

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Plum Upside Down, Book 5 in the Farm Fresh Romance series, releases independently in August 2015.

Marion Ueckermann's second Passport to Romance novella, Oslo Overtures, set in Norway, will be an August 2015 release from White Rose Publishing.

Sara Goff’s mainstream Christian fiction novel set in NYC, USA, I Always Cry at Weddings, will be a September 2015 release from WhiteFire Publishing.

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

Friday, May 22, 2015

DEVOTION: Crown of Africa ~ by Shirley Corder


Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. 
James 1:12 NIV

“Look out the window, Shirley,” my mother urged. “See that mountain? It’s Mt. Kilimanjaro.”

Even at my sceptical age of 12, I caught my breath. Rising serenely through the carpet of clouds on the left of our plane, was a majestic mountain peak, the first real mountain I had ever seen. The snow on its surface caught the rays of the sun and glittered, resembling jewels on the face of a royal crown.

It was one of those “Ah-hah!” moments in my life which I’ve never forgotten. To this day, I can remember the view as if the photograph was projected on the back of my eye forever.

Only many years later did I learn that Mt. Kilmanjaro, situated in Tanzania, East Africa, is often referred to as the Crown of Africa. It is the highest mountain in Africa as well as the highest freestanding mountain in the world (5,895 metres or 19,341 ft above sea level).

Writer and speaker, Daniel Noll, when writing about his climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro makes some excellent suggestions for those preparing to climb. One is: “Keep your head down if you need to, but don’t forget to look up.”

Doesn’t that apply wonderfully to our day-to-day walk? How easy it is to get caught up with "life" we forget to look up! To look to God.

Can you think of an "Ah-hah!" moment in your life? Please share it briefly below.

PRAYER: Lord God, thank you for the amazing world you have given us. Help me to remember to look up and to keep my eyes on you. Amen. 

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.

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

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

Thursday, May 21, 2015


How to define this? Is it simply a thrilling 
feeling? Attraction? Something from a 
bygone era, perhaps around the time of 
the knights and their ladies?

I am unashamedly biased.  I enjoy reading 
mystery, suspense,  occasionally a sci-fi. 
But I love a true romance. Some view 
romance as  a little out of date. If what we
 see on our TV screens and the way movies 
depict a relationship between a girl and a 
man is true. Most often it appears that 
romance is mistaken for lust. Everything is 
named sexy which seems to be the most 
accepted compliment a person of the 
opposite sex can give. And I'm concerned 
that many young women feel that going to 
bed with an attractive man is the only way 
to hold him.

Oh, such a shame and such a lost opportunity to experience the genuine joys of romance. Even the Bible speaks about the way of a man with a maid. Romance should be the promise of a deeper experience...that of genuine love. That's why I believe bringing a Christian World View into our stories is totally relevant.  
Every woman wants to be loved. Really loved for herself... not just for her body alone. She wants to be courted and shown courtesies. Lots of little
things that add up to that person saying by their actions that they really
care for their sweetheart.

I freely admit I love the inspirational historical romance genre. I love the way a man and a woman are attracted despite circumstances conspiring to keep them apart. Yet love prevails and somehow they find a way against impossible odds. But oh, the temptation they face to go against the proprieties of the day. Especially those of the Victorian Era, with all its  undercurrents, intrigues, and meddling relatives adding many plot twists and turns.

Rita is a historical romance writer with two books published in Australia. She has recently gone into Independent Publishing known as Rita Stella Press.com ( Soon online.) 

Victoriana Series
Signed Sealed Delivered - Book I   
The Tie That Binds -Book II   
A Parcel of Promises - Book III, (coming)

At her book signings, she wears a 19th century costume of a governess and speaks 
about the sometimes strange and amusing customs of the Victorian Era.

www.ritastellagalieh.com   www.inspirationalromance.blogspot.com  Facebook and #RitaSGalieh

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Think INSIDE the Box!

"My name is Valerie Comer, and I'm a box set addict."

Whew. It feels good to have that out in the open. Anyone who's been keeping an eye on my career in the past six months or more won't be surprised by my admission, though! I credit the first box set I participated in, Love Brings Us Home, with launching my career, even though I had five indie titles for sale before that box set released.

My primary goal was to get the first book in my Farm Fresh Romance series, Raspberries and Vinegar, into as many hands as possible in hopes that many, or at least some, readers would go on to purchase the other two books that were already available.

By cross-promoting with other authors, we'd not only gain access to each others' readerships, but rank high enough on Amazon's bestseller lists that continued organic reach would result. Wow. Did that ever happen! Love Brings Us Home stayed above the #10 spot on the Christian Contemporary Romance bestseller list for nearly six months and dominated at #3 or better for over half that time.

It was a total win/win. Readers got to read seven contemporary romance novels for 99 cents US. The authors split the 35-cents-per-copy-sold royalty and still made money because enough readers took a chance.

This whetted my appetite for a continued reach into the box set market. I contacted author friends and made plans for two sets for the summer season. The first released yesterday after six weeks on pre-order. It's called Summer of Love and contains 6 full-length previously-published romance novels from top-selling Christian authors, several the same as from the earlier set. Wild Mint Tea, the second novel in my Farm Fresh Romance series is included in Summer of Love.

The second summer set, Splash! 9 Refreshing Romance Novellas Filled with Faith contains only new material and will release in June. I'm thrilled my team includes Narelle Atkins and Marion Ueckermann, two other ICFW authors. Autumn Macarthur, from our ACFW Beyond the Borders group, also contributed a novella. This means that almost half the stories in this collection are set outside the USA for a fun international twist.

Splash! contains the following stories and locations:

His Perfect Catch by Narelle Atkins (Australia)
A holiday romance isn’t part of the plan when Mia Radcliffe temporarily moves to Sapphire Bay and lives next door to Pete McCall, her secret crush from years ago. Pete prefers the simple life. Can Mia leave behind her big-city dreams and settle with Pete in the seaside town?

Sweet Serenade by Valerie Comer (Canada)

Carly and Reed thrive on the rush of running rapids in a canoe until they capsize in both river and romance. Will secrets from the past drown their future, or can this idyllic summer romance lead to a lifetime of sweet serenades?

More than Friends by Autumn Macarthur (Scotland)
When nurse Catriona asks for help with her Vacation Bible School for disabled children, she never imagines how much could go wrong on a simple seaside day out — or that the colleague she's secretly loved for years might come to see her as more than his best friend's little sister.

Love Flies In by Heidi McCahan (Alaska)
He’s a seaplane pilot determined to honor his convictions. She’s a kayak guide who mocked his faith for sport. One small lakeside cabin in Alaska can’t house them both.

Testing the Waters by Lesley Ann McDaniel (Oregon)
After breaking up with her ultra-critical boyfriend, Teresa decides to reinvent herself. She meets a nice guy named Curt on the beach in Crescent Cove, Oregon, and tells him she’s Terése from Paris. Pretending to be someone else is fun until the unthinkable happens — she starts to fall for him.

The Lifeguards, the Swim Team, and Frozen Custard by Carol Moncado (Missouri)
Lifeguard Alivia Collins looks forward to another summer on the guard stand at the Serenity Landing Aquatic Center. This year, she’s going to have to keep herself from falling for the cute, new guard — or realize it’s time to give love another chance.

Time and Tide by Lynette Sowell (Virginia)

When out-of-work fashion journalist Karyn Lewis uses the summer to regroup on the coast of Virginia, she plans to lie low at Pine Breezes campground. She doesn't plan for her heart to be on a collision course with old friend Brodie Reed. They must decide if the past that looms between them will be too much for them to have a future together.

Draw You Near by Jan Thompson (Georgia)
Savannah artist Abilene Dupree keeps her personal life out of her commercial paintings except one. That one painting has now brought Londoner Lars Cargill back to the coastal town and into her art world. Can she hold him at bay before he invades her personal space and her heart?

Orphaned Hearts by Marion Ueckermann (Zambia)
His faith buried with his wife, Simon devotes himself to raising his daughter and orphan elephants. Lady Abigail postpones an arranged marriage, leaving England to teach the children of Africa. Will his past—or her future—keep their hearts orphaned?

Won't you give Splash! a try? You'll find links for pre-order on my website.

Meanwhile, a true addict is always thinking ahead where they might get their next fix. I'm already planning for the Christmas 2015 season!

Valerie Comer's life on a small farm in western Canada provides the seed for stories of contemporary inspirational romance. Like many of her characters, Valerie and her family grow much of their own food and are active in the local food movement as well as their church. She only hopes her creations enjoy their happily ever afters as much as she does hers, shared with her husband, adult kids, and adorable granddaughters.

Valerie writes Farm Lit where food meets faith, injecting experience laced with humor into her stories. Her debut novel, Raspberries and Vinegar: A Farm Fresh Romance, was awarded Best Contemporary Romance published in 2013 by The Word Guild.

Think Inside the Box Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Maybe because I used to paint before I started writing fiction is the reason I love to write description.

Some experts teaching the craft of writing will give "description" a hard rap on the knuckles. Granted, we don't want to go back to the days of heavy-handed writing when the setting alone took up several pages.

But in much modern writing, we've gone too far to the other extreme. If there's not enough description, and only dialogue zinging back and forth, I tend to get bored. Quickly. 

For me a good book must have it all: character development, a ripping plot, but when I read a book for fun--I want to go somewhere. Show me the place!!! Let me feel the place!!!

I hail the great MM Kaye for teaching me about writing through the sheer enjoyment of her blockbuster novels loaded with description.
It's a delicate balance, combining your setting with what the characters are doing. This will break your description up into more appetizing chunks and stop you from writing "purple". It also makes your description ACTIVE. 
Here's an example of a snippet of description from my latest novel Veiled at Midnight. The sky is actually active.

Through the window the darkening Indian countryside sped by under a green sky with a crescent moon rising. 


Not all description has to be pretty. 
Closer to the front behind the engine, carriages lay smashed across the rails, nothing more than a pile of splintered wood and tangled steel. Twisted rails stuck out all over, while cars and coal tender straggled about the ballast stones. Indian passengers crept out from the broken matchbox of a train, in shock, blackened with smoke and grease. Cam heard and understood various dialects from people speaking all at once—Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, and several others. Many sobbed, hunched over their wounds, while one Indian woman, seemingly uninjured, stood like a statue. Her sari fluttered in the scorching night breeze as she gazed about her at nothing.
I enjoy writing sensual scenes. As a Christian I hold back in writing sensuality between men and women for the sake of purity, but I will put it into the textures around a man and a woman falling in love. This description is broken up by Cam's reactions.
Velvet divans here and there, cushions of satin and silk in jewel colors—ruby, emerald, sapphire—were scattered over cool marble floors interspersed with Kashmiri carpets. Brass gods scorned Cam from various corners. Lush potted palms quivered in the stillness like the nerve at the side of his neck. A suite of rooms, private for a man and his wife to play with their children. A private place to hold a woman. 

Peace of mind returned as Cam watched beyond the edge of the roof. Light from the fast-sinking sun went out like a lamp over Calcutta. Duck-egg green shaded the sky, a backdrop to the carved, white, pavilion in Mogul design…the silhouette of a woman against the fretted stonework.

It took a moment to realize that she stood at the arched doorway. It was the rose-like perfume of Dassah’s presence he must have taken in. 


Writing about India these past ten years has been such a joy, satiating my own appreciation for the sensuality of God's creation. Now that my series Twilight of the British Raj is complete, I'll miss my research on that gorgeous, exotic sub-continent. Especially the scenes set in one of the prettiest places in the world, The Vale of Kashmir. 

Dassah's breathing resumed a normal rhythm as Cam pulled the car up to a mooring where a long, slim flat-bottomed boat waited, that Cam told her was called a shikara. He helped her into the shikara, and along with the young Kashmiri man, Cam packed the bags and boxes into the craft. Cam learned the driver’s name and passed it on to her—Asheesh—who took his position at the back of the shikara. At last, Cam sank onto the seat in the middle of the craft with her, a gaily colored canopy flapping above them. Asheesh dipped heart-shaped paddles into the water and pushed them forward.     
Trailing branches of willows whispered along the waterway as they glided past. For the first time since last night, Cam touched her by drawing her near to rest her head against his collarbone. She breathed in the clean scent of his cotton shirt as the sun set. Snow-packed peaks around them flushed like a ripe peach as their craft slid out to the openness of an immense placid lake, dotted with lotus blossoms.
Veiled at Midnight is the explosive and passionate finale to the historical trilogy Twilight of the British Raj.
For more information on Christine Lindsay and her books drop by her website www.christinelindsay.com and connect with her.