Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Searching for Treasure

Photo courtesy of Stoonn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
One of the joys and frustrations I find in writing fiction is when I start out to write I’m frequently unsure of what will come out on the page. That’s not entirely true all of the time as I try to finish each day leaving some crumbs for the next. I learnt that from an author whose name I now forget (but I think quite a famous one) wrote that was part of his daily writing routine: “leave some crumbs for tomorrow.”

Perhaps that’s because I’m a pantser, you plotters may have a far different experience but I expect there will still be days when a character completely surprises you with what they do, say or think.

But I know that for most of us turning up each day (or whatever your routine is) is often the key battle of the day. If the crumbs I left behind the night before are meager it makes that struggle of putting the first words down on the page even harder.

However, the more I write, the more I find joy in the process. Heck, if there’s no joy in it, then why do it? Right? And much of that joy comes from both the anticipation of and then excitement of discovering something special as the words flow (or bleed out as it can often be) on the page. Like we’ve stumbled across hidden treasure.

Only today one of my villains revealed to me something that caught me off guard. It was a delicious moment as all of a sudden it unlocked a mystery that had stumped me for a while. Very quickly I was able to visualize Book 3 that had me jumping with joy.

Aren’t those days extra special when a gold nugget miraculously appears out of the many (or sometimes a few) words you’ve written that day?

The mystery of Jesus

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”(Colossians 1:27 NIV)

I read that verse the other day and the aspect of Jesus mystery struck me. The more we dig, the more He reveals of Himself. The treasure that He is and that we are united in Him.

And in revealing more of Himself, Jesus reveals more of us.

Just like our stories unfold as we sit down each day with our manuscripts, Jesus unfolds more of Himself each day.

I reckon that’s pretty good reason to turn up each day to my quiet space with Jesus and to my manuscript.

Ian Acheson is an author and strategy consultant based in Northern Sydney. Ian's first novel of speculative fiction, Angelguard, is now available in the US, UK, Canada and Australia. You can find more about Angelguard at Ian's website, on his author Facebook page and Twitter

Monday, March 2, 2015

Am I Not Sending You?

I came upon a remarkable Bible verse the other day as I read the disturbing story of fallen Israel in the book of Judges, chapter 6.Then the Lord turned to [Gideon] and said, “Go with the strength you have… I am sending you!”

It was a Monday when I stumbled across this verse. I was tired, but I had much to do. Looming writing deadlines interfered with my novel edits. The thought hit me as it often does on dreary, overwhelming days: maybe I’m just not cut out to be a writer. Think how much simpler my life would be if I gave it up. I wouldn’t have to learn all these new aspects of social media, of content upgrades and search engine optimization and digital formatting. I might even make some money at a normal job.

But as I immersed myself in the Word, God’s Spirit spoke with gentle persistence: “Go with the strength you have.” My NIV translation continued, “Am I not sending you?” I knew the answer to the rhetorical question.

I am a writer. I write because God created in me a love of words, of communicating thoughts and feelings and events so others can experience them and benefit from them. How then can I turn my back on the mission He has given me?

The Bible story continues with Gideon arguing with the Lord, presenting all manner of excuses: I’m a nobody, my family is nothing, I don’t rate in the scheme of things. Yet God used him in miraculous ways to free his people from bondage. Not with the 32,000 men he started with but 300 bravehearts carrying torches and trumpets. And God, not Gideon and his few followers, defeated the enemy completely.

God’s asking us to do what we can; He will make it happen according to His will.

So I’m sending this blog out to those of you who are tired, discouraged, overwhelmed: remember Who it is who sends and empowers you. And to those of you who have confidence to burn and feel on top of your game: remember Who it is who sends and empowers you. It starts and ends with God, not with us.

Blessings on you all as you write!

Sunday, March 1, 2015


Coming Up This Week


Janice Dick: Am I Not Sending You?


Ian Acheson: Searching for Treasure


Donna Fletcher Crow


Sandra Orchard

Friday Devotion


Contest Winner

Kay M is the winner of Then There Was You (Kara's post, February 25)

Congratulations Kay!


New Releases

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Dandelions for Dinner, Book 4 in the Farm Fresh Romance series, is a March 2015 independent release.


Upcoming Releases

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance novella set in Riverbend, BC, Canada, Pinky Promise, will be an April 2015 independent release.

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

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.

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

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

Friday, February 27, 2015

DEVOTION: The Master Plan ~ by Shirley Corder

 The LORD told me, "Go to the pottery shop, and when you get there, I will tell you what to say to the people." I went there and saw the potter making clay pots on his pottery wheel. And whenever the clay would not take the shape he wanted, he would change his mind and form it into some other shape.  Jeremiah 18:1-4 CEV

A few weeks ago, we saw how we were made in God’s image. Yet often, when I sit down to write, I don’t feel that way. I can’t imagine God staring blankly at His creation, wondering what went wrong, can you? Yet I often sit and look at the screen on my computer and struggle to make sense of what I’m trying to create.

I eventually put my fingers to the keyboard and start typing. Sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, chapter by chapter, I create what I hope will be a masterpiece. Sometimes I am pleased with the result. More often, I don’t like what I have written one bit. At that point I have two options. I can press delete and start over, or I can do some editing and try to improve on what I’ve written.

The potter in our reading didn’t press delete. He didn’t throw the clay away. He kept on working with it, but he wasn't afraid to make drastic changes. In the same way, we may add a new thought, change a point of view, create a new character or even make a drastic change to the story. Perhaps we need to add a crisis or a tragedy to bring out the real truth we want to share with our readers. Gradually the story comes to life until we finally type, “The End,” and we’re satisfied.

Before we were born, God had a plan for each of our lives. He will never give up on us, and throw us to one side. Sometimes He’ll see we need another person or challenge in our lives. He supplies that. Maybe we need a change, and He provides us with joy or excitement to brighten our lives. But sometimes a time of sadness or a tragedy comes our way. God uses all these things to turn us into something beautiful. He will allow nothing—absolutely nothing—to thwart the plan He has for our lives.

One day, if we allow Him to keep working on us, God will look at the finished result, and He will be satisfied. We will have turned out just like He hoped—a person fit for His Kingdom.

PRAYER: Lord God, when I look at some of the challenges in my life, sometimes I wonder if this is really part of your master plan for my life. Thank You that you never give up on me. Thank you that you never lose sight of what I will one day become. Help me to trust you to continue your work in me. Amen.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.”
Jeremiah 1:5 NIV

OVER TO YOU: Do you have a project which needs some more work? Do you need to ask the Potter for advice on what changes you need to ring?

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 receive a 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 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

When Writing Dreams Come True + Giveaway

Phew! The secret that I had to try and keep for almost three months is out. Last week I finally FINALLY got to tell the world that I've signed a two-book deal with Howard Books/Simon & Schuster. The first book, Then There Was You, is a romantic comedy 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. So I'm so excited to be able to share on the blog today about how it all happened :)

I'm going to be honest. Of the four manuscripts I've written, none have broken me quite the way that Then There Was You did. I started writing it in October 2013 after a conversation with an editor at a writers' conference. I was six months pregnant. Nine months, and a new baby later, I finished it in July 2014.

I literally have no idea how it got written except to say that God carried me. What I remember from the time of sleep-deprived, new baby, haze is a lot of tears, a lot of being talked off the ledge by my amazing writing sisters, a lot of staring at the screen with nothing to write, dreaming up various ways that I could kill Jackson and Allie in a blaze of romantic glory, and a horrible weight that if IF I ever finished it, it would be the manuscript that convinced Chip, my agent, he had made a truly monumental error of judgement in signing me.

And then, somehow, there were 90,000 words on the page. Not only that but, when I read them, to my utter amazement they were pretty good. And once my wonderful sister and writing sisters were through with them, they were better than good. And so, in mid-July, off they went to my agent and the editor who I had had that first catalyst conversation with.

Honestly, I wasn't holding my breath. I knew that the publishing house that editor worked for wasn't currently acquiring contemporary romances and I really didn't think any one else would be interested in it. After years of being told to write stories in America, that international settings didn't sell, here I was pitching a book set in New Zealand about Tolkien and Lord of the Rings of all things, and into a super tough publishing environment against so many other amazing books.

This was the worst part because some of those other amazing books are written by my best friends! I had read their awesome, award-winning, writing. I had critiqued it. I had helped them make it even better so it could beat me! I didn't even ask Chip what other houses he had submitted it to because I was terrified the answer would be that no one else had wanted to see so much as a sentence.

Fast-forward to mid-October. I'm on holiday with my family and get an email from Chip forwarding an email from an editor at Howard saying she loves my proposal but has a few questions. I almost fell over. Howard? The same Howard that publishes some of my favourite authors not only has it but might be interested?

Questions were answered, every word scrutinised, just in case that one particular word might cause her to change her mind. Or worse, a misplaced comma, my particular specialty. Then came a Skype conversation. Then a week waiting in agony for another meeting to discuss my book again.

That meeting was Wednesday 3 December, New Zealand time. Tuesday 2 December in the USA. The best I was hoping for was news that my book might be progressed to the next step in the publishing decision process. I kept telling myself that I probably wouldn't even hear anything that day.

After a morning of meetings, I walk into my next one with fifteen minutes to spare. My writing sisters are checking in frequently, "Anything? Anything yet?! What about now? Now?"

I check my emails. Tell myself not to hold my breath. It's 4.45pm in New York. 1.45pm in Oregon. 10.45am in New Zealand. Even if they have made a decision the editor probably hasn't had a chance to tell Chip yet what it was. Even if she has, he definitely won't have had a chance to email me.

Then my screen flashes. An email from Chip with the subject line "BIG news!!!"

And then, underneath it, in tiny little evil italic font, where the BIG NEWS SHOULD BE are the words "Unable to download email from server."

I try again. Same message. And again. Same message. My colleague walks into the room. I try to act normal and not like the DESPERATE CRAZED WRITER WHO CAN'T ACCESS THE EMAIL THAT MIGHT BE ABOUT TO CHANGE HER LIFE THAT I AM.

I text and Facebook my writing sisters that THERE IS AN EMAIL! I CAN SEE IT BUT I CAN'T READ IT. They make so much virtual noise I think they might melt the internet.

And then, as the people who we're meeting with walk into the room and the meeting begins, the email downloads. Before the screen fades out I catch the words Call... Howard... two-book deal.

I have endured some long stretches of sixty minutes in my life. Labour. Right up there. Trying to finish a marathon while struck down by a tummy bug. Pretty high on the list. But that meeting. Longest sixty minutes ever.

I finally escape Writers' Hades and call my husband. Then my sister (who doesn't answer and who I need to do some screaming on my behalf since my husband offers the to be expected low-key guy response). I buy lunch. For some weird reason something that I don't even like that much. I call Chip. I'm pretty sure my colleague thinks I'm having some kind of family crisis because I bail on our next meeting and keep ducking into meeting rooms to make phone calls. I call one of my writing sisters who is also woefully lacking on the screaming front because it might wake her children. I text another one. Facebook the others. Finally talk to my sister. Who is very obliging with the screaming.

I email my parents at some point. Three seconds later I remember that my father is the worst secret keeper in the whole world and email him back telling him to shhhhhh. Too late. He's already told every living creature in the vicinity. Fortunately he lives in Cambodia so it doesn't matter.

And then I head off for my next set of meetings and try and maintain some sort of facade of normality and productivity for the rest of the afternoon :)

And then, finally, ten weeks later, with all the contractual ts crossed and is dotted, I get to tell the world. To celebrate today I'm kicking off the first ever giveaway of Then There Was You because i get author copies to do cool stuff like that with (which you won't get for about a year but trust me, I'm awesome with spreadsheets, I will keep track of who you are and one day in early 2016, when you're least expecting it, it will show up in your mailbox!). Just leave a comment with your email address and the winner will be announced in the weekend edition :)

Kara Isaac lives in Wellington, New Zealand where she spends her days working in product management and being double-teamed by a ninja preschooler and his baby sister. By night she writes romantic comedy and still can't quite believe that the world will get to meet Jackson and Allie in 2016. She loves to connect with writers and readers on Twitter and Facebook

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Lent - Give up or Take up?

Photo courtesy of Bible Society
 /Common Grace
By Ian Acheson
“So what are you giving up for Lent?”
Up until two years ago, I’d never given Lent much thought. For some reason, I know not why, I’d thought it an outdated practice that Catholics observe. Typically, it appeared to be reduced to the question above. In my overly judgmental moments I found it strange that apparently non-pious people chose to participate in such a “custom”.
Two years ago I felt the nudge in my soul to explore Lent and one of the studies I followed introduced me to the notion of “spring cleaning of the soul”  which particularly grabbed me. We spring clean everything else, so why not the soul.
Yesterday I was cleaning out a cupboard that we used to store odds and ends and invariably I came across stuff that at one time was useful but no longer. Similarly, I’ve found junk in my soul that needs throwing out as I’ve refocused my walk with Jesus during the past two Lent seasons.
Fasting is an important aspect of our daily walks allowing us to let go of our dependence on certain things (food, TV shows, internet, etc) so we can filled by the Lord as we rely on Him. It’s a practice I grapple with and it’s this challenge that makes it worthwhile to keep doing regularly.
However, I’ve also found it important to actually take up a new practice during Lent. Activities that change my focus in my daily time with Jesus.
 “Embrace this God-life. Really embrace it, and nothing will be too much for you.” (Eugene Peterson)
This year I chose to take-up two activities:
1. The Australian Bible Society has teamed up with Common Grace to focus on the Lord’sPrayer. I find it such a great prayer in aligning my spirit to focus on God. In a year where I’m seeking to “adore” God more, the Lord’s Prayer is an excellent way of starting my day.
2. I follow Margaret Feinberg’s work and she brings thousands of people around reading the Bible. Two years ago we read the entire Bible (yes, in six weeks!) and last year, the New Testament. This year, we’re reading the Gospels. But Margaret also introduced us to the idea that a friend showed her of using the Colour Method for reading each passage. I love this as it forces me to linger longer on the words and the message. I won’t do it everyday but I hope to do it 3-4 times a week. Try it.
Photo courtesy of Margaret Feinberg.com
I hope we all draw closer to Jesus during these next six weeks as we prepare for Easter.
What are your thoughts on Lent?

Are you giving up or taking up something for Lent this year?

Ian Acheson is an author and strategy consultant based in Northern Sydney. Ian's first novel of speculative fiction, Angelguard, is now available in the US, UK, Canada and Australia. You can find more about Angelguard at Ian's website, on his author Facebook page and Twitter

Monday, February 23, 2015

Disorder in the Courts

Courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalImages.com
The following excerpts are from the book by Charles M. Sevilla which showcase a hilarious collection of verbatim exchanges from the US Courts. These are things people actually said in court and taken down word for word by court reporters.

The question is - how did they keep a straight face?

Attorney (A)  Witness (W)

A: What gear were you in at the moment of impact?
W:  Gucci Sweats and Reebocks.

A: What is the date of your birth?
W: July 18th.
A: What year?
W: Every year.

A: How old is your son, the one living with you?
W: Thirty-eight or thirty-five...I can't remember which.
A: How long has he lived with you?
W: Forty-five years.

A: Doctor, is it true when a person dies in his sleep, he doesn't know about it until the next morning?
W: Did you actually pass the bar exam?
Rita and her husband George

A: How was your first marriage terminated?        
W: By death.
A: And by whose death was it terminated?
W: Take a guess.

A: All your responses must be oral, OK? What school
did you go to?   
W: Oral ....

A: Doctor how many of your autopsies have you performed
on dead people?
W: All of them. The live ones put up too much of a fight!

A: Do you recall the time you examined the body?
W: The autopsy began about 8:30PM.
A: And was the victim dead at the time?
W: If not, he was by the time I finished!

If we wrote these responses into our stories we'd be accused of not being true to life. But as they say, truth is stranger than fiction. Whatever genre you write,  I find that if the plot gets intense, a little dash of humour  from one of the characters not only surprises but relieves the tension. They use this in the movies so are novels any different? What do you think?

*See Sara Goff's personal story on Friday at   www.inspirationalromance.blogspot.com