Thursday, February 11, 2016

Gift or Calling?


A Gift: a thing given willingly to someone without payment; a natural ability or talent.

A Calling: a strong urge toward a particular way of life or career; a vocation.

Writing has been called both a gift and a calling. I guess it could be either or it could be both.



For me I’d say writing is a gift. I’m not sure I’d go as far as to say I have a natural ability for writing but definitely my passion for words and story have been with me as long as I can remember. As a kid I had a hard time learning to read. It wasn’t until my own kids were effortlessly learning to read—when I suspected they were simply memorizing and repeating what they’d heard—that I realized that’s what I’d done. I’d inhale anything that was read to me and regurgitate it almost verbatim.  I entrained myself making up words and stories. Some I wrote down, most I stowed safely in my mind, where no one could read them and laugh at my outrageous spelling.

The stories I concocted became my private entertainment, the characters my companions. Even when I trained as a nurse I memorized signs, symptoms and treatments by implanting them in stories.

It wasn’t until 1999 that I thought of trying to actually write one of my stories down. I had an idea built around the millennium and I thought if ever there was a time to see if I could write, this was it. I discovered I loved the process. I let a few friends read what I wrote and they were enchanted by the story and characters. They encouraged me to take the next step and seek a publisher.

“You should publish that."

So easy to say, isn’t it? So hard to do!

When I read that first story now I am appalled by its inconsistencies and awed by my friend’s love, that they would see past all the things I’d done wrong to my heart and my desire to entertain them. I’ve written many stories since then, published two books. I’ve have worked hard to improve my skills, to take the gift God gave me and do the best I can with it.

But has God called me to write?

Yes, I have a strong urge toward a particular way of life—the life of a writer. And although I don't feel called to write one particular thing vs another, I strive to glorify and honour God through my words and my life. Because this is what I believe all of God's children are called to do.


What about you? 

I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences. How has God lead you?

Jayne E. Self  lives in Canada and writes mysteries--mostly. Check her website for books, book reviews, writing tips, blog posts and more.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Opening the Well


   
 Recently on this blog, Morgan Tarpley wrote a post titled, "When the Well is Dry."  I'm afraid that title fits me very well as I approach this post.  What, I wonder, can I possibly write about?  Then I read Diane's blog on Monday and thought there must be an epidemic of stalled writers out there.  So, I decided to explore my dry well. 

 It seems my creativity and my productivity both sag when I have too much time on my hands.  How so?  In  a world where we constantly complain about the demands on our time.  So many competing priorities -- write the next book, write a blog, do social media, study a craft book, take a course on marketing.  There is never enough time to do all the things a modern-day writer is expected to do.  How can I have too much time on my hands?

   There are a few answers.  One of them is holidays.  Over the Christmas period, I put away any pretence of writing.  Physically my time is consumed with dozens of tasks that must be completed in a short time frame.  Mentally, my mind is whirling with all the lists and people I must remember.  There is no time or room for dreaming up a story.  I can barely keep up with personal e-mails.
    But once the holidays are over, I feel lost.  The cooking, cleaning, visiting, entertaining, singing, worshipping, partying and decorating that consumed my days are finished, but I've lost my normal routine.  I wander from room to room, pick up a book, put it down, stare at the left-overs in the fridge and close the door without taking anything out, I look at the pile of bills on my desk and walk away.  I'm unsettled, anxious, irritable and frustrated.  My well of creativity may not be dry, by the lid is firmly nailed down.
   Since this situation repeats itself every year, I've discovered some coping mechanisms.  First, I look for a small, concrete task that I can finish in a short time, something like balancing the cheque book.  Having accomplished that one thing, I look about for the next.  At this point, I often make a list, including short-term, long-term, small and large tasks.  Then I start with the smaller items, gaining confidence and satisfaction as I tick them off, one after another.  I pick up the rhythm of work and rest, physical and mental exercise.  I re-learn how to make decisions, how to prioritize and how to let my mind wander.
    When I'm ready to go back to writing, I usually start with editing.  Words already written.  As I read, re-write, move paragraphs around, find a better word, hammer out a satisfying phrase, my imagination wakes, crawling out from under the pile of "must do's" that have held it captive.  I move into new writing, blogs, morning pages, a new scene in the wip.  
    The well is filling, ideas tumbling over each other in their race to be first; words, soft and mystical, strong and heroic bubble up from the bottom, blowing the lid off.  My well is deep and turbulent, rich and diverse.  My fingers fly over the keyboard, my spirits soar.  I am writing!
    Morgan finds her inspiration in the headlines.  Diane dreams over the ironing board. I thrive on routine.
    What about you, dear readers?  Does the "shiny new thing," beckon you, does inspiration strike when you're busy with something else, or do you ground yourself in the stability of routine?  Please share your strategies.

   The cat?  She likes routine too, mostly it involves a lot of sleeping on my bed.:-)
 
Alice Valdal  lives in Beautiful British Columbia, Canada  



Published Books.



Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Sometimes life gets in the way


About two years ago I had these ambitious writing plans. I had just finished my first secular novel, had a Christian novel with a publisher preparing for print, was getting another ready for submission, and had finished four chapters of my next story in the Alpha series. More projects were forming an orderly queue behind them, jostling for attention.

Then, something happened. Actually, a few things happened. I won't go into details but suffice it to say that my head was spinning so fast I had neither the energy nor desire to work on any of these projects. The only thing that did go anywhere was the secular novel. This made the final step to print but with absolutely zero marketing it may as well be sitting on my spare hard drive at home.

It has taken what feels like forever but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and am slowly working towards it. I am not in the clear yet and the anxiety of what may happen means I get precious little sleep, but I can now imagine a time when I will have the desire and energy to start putting pen to paper. Contributing to this blog is part of that.

In the meantime, as a way of keeping the creative juices flowing, I started a little webcomic featuring conversations between a programmer and the Artificial Intelligence he created, loosely based on Brett and Jay from Alpha Redemption. The artwork is very basic, initially taking an hour or two to create using Serif Drawplus (great for simple projects) while the comic itself takes about five minutes to prepare each evening. I think of some dialogue during the day and jot it down. Then, when I get home, I add it to my comic and publish it.

You know what's the surprising thing? For almost two decades I slogged away at a keyboard in an attempt to produce good quality fiction, doing courses and reading everything I could lay my hands on about how to create attractive prose. I spent countless hours sending out manuscripts, and reading the rejection letters. In 2010 I finally made it to print and have enjoyed a modest level of success. Then, something unexpected happened. During one of the most stressful periods of my life, a daft little comic that takes almost no effort to produce gets more readers each week than all of my novels put together. Last time I checked I was getting almost 2,500 views a month.

I can only scratch my head in amazement and wonder if perhaps God isn't trying to tell me something.

Anyway, it's good to be back and I look forward to chatting with you all again.

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Contradictions of Life as a Writer

Writing is such a fickle thing. I've been at this for a good many years, and you'd think by now I'd have it all figured out. Strangely, the only thing I am sure of, is that to live as a writer is to live with contradictions, things that aren't logical no matter how you look at them.

Productivity is a perfect example. For the longest time I bewailed (real wailing, not just the metaphorical kind) the fact that I couldn't just stay home and write. Imagine how many books I'd write! All the best seller list scalps I could hang on my belt!

Here's the reality - as a painfully slow writer I can spend a few hours writing and produce around 700 words. If my day turns busy and I can only squeeze in an hour? 500. What if it goes completely pear-shaped and I only get 20 minutes? Still 500. That makes no sense right? But there you have it. Turns out for me, 90% of writing is thinking before I go near my laptop. So to 'stay home to write all day' will probably never work for me.

The distraction of real life is another thing I used to kick against. The sink full of dishes, ironing for five, school runs and homework. Wow, just think how much I could write if I didn't have to do all that stuff! And yet it is all that 'stuff' that gives me my best material. For one thing, it doesn't use up much brain space to wash a batch of dirty dishes. Ironing isn't exactly rocket science. So while my hands are busy, guess what is going on in my brain? Plotting, scheming, character arc'ing. The other thing is how much actual material real life dishes up for you. Remember the time you locked yourself out the house in pouring rain or had to roll start your car because the battery died? Dress those up and parade them through your stories and your reader will be going Oh my word! I can relate! 

To be published means you've arrived is just not true. I don't think I'm the only one that lived for that one email to land in my inbox offering me publication. And yet after that happened, I had to face the reality that landing a publishing contract doesn't guarantee that the next book you write will find a publishing home. Getting a contract doesn't rocket you into becoming a household name, or selling millions of copies of your wonderful book. What it does do though, is establish a relationship with a team of people who are in the publishing business. It gives you access to editors who will grow your craft way beyond where you could grow by yourself. It moves you closer to the top of the slush pile for the next book you write. 

Those are just some of the contradictions that I've had to make peace with. How about you? Can you relate? Are there others that you've discovered along the way? I'd love to hear from you.

Dianne J. Wilson writes novels from her hometown in East London, South Africa, where she lives with her husband and three daughters.

Finding Mia is available from AmazonPelican / Harbourlight, Barnes & Noble and other bookstores.

Shackles is available as a free ebook from Smashwords.


Find her on FacebookTwitter and her sporadic blog Doodles.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

SUNDAY EDITION


Coming Up This Week

Monday

Dianne Wilson

Tuesday

PA Baines

Wednesday

Alice Valdal

Thursday

Jayne E. Self

Friday Devotion

Marcia Laycock: An Unpleasant Thought 

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New Releases

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Berry on Top, Book 6 in the Farm Fresh Romance series, releases independently in February 2016.


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Upcoming Releases

Kara Isaac's contemporary romantic comedy set in New Zealand, Close To You, will be an April 2016 release from Howard Books.

Christine Lindsay's historical romance set in the US, Sofi's Bridge, will be an April 2016 release from Pelican Book Group.

To find more International Christian Fiction books, please visit our 2013 - 2016 Book Releases page and Backlist Titles.

Friday, February 5, 2016

DEVOTION: Where God Lives ~ by Shirley Corder

My husband was the minister of the local Presbyterian church. One Sunday morning, he was standing at the door shaking hands with his congregation. Suddenly he felt a tug on his robes and glanced down. A little chap of about six stood there, looking up at him with wide eyes.

"Yes Vaughan?" he asked. "What can I do for you?"

"Uncle Rob," the little boy responded. "Do you live here with God?" 

This little boy was under the impression that God lived in the church building. 

Sadly, many people today believe the same, or they behave as if they do. Certainly, the church building is holy and sanctified and set aside for the work of God, but it should never be seen as the place, the only place, where God lives.

At the same time, Vaughan had inadvertently stumbled across a key factor in choosing a church. It is of key importance that we attend a church where God lives. I'm not suggesting that church will be perfect. After all, it's made up of people like you and like me, so it can never be perfect. But does God live in your church? Is He alive? He may not get all the freedom He would like within its four walls, but does your regular attendance there (you do attend regularly, right?) keep you plugged in to God and His Word? 

But Vaughan had one thing wrong. He believed God to be restricted to the walls of his church. Yes, God is alive and well, and hopefully lives within your church. But does He go back to your home with you? Is He sitting at your dining room table and enjoying meals with you? Does He have any say in how you spend your time? In what you teach your children? Do you talk to him at a special time of day, just you and Him?

Regular church attendance is important. We need to fellowship with other believers, as well as learn from His Word, if we want a closer walk with Him. But it mustn't be the only fellowship we have or the only source of our learning about God and His Word.

I was recently working on an assignment for a Bible Study manual. I came across a passage of Scripture that I knew well. I had often heard many messages preached on it. Suddenly, I stopped short. I'd noticed a few words that didn't make sense with the picture as I understood it.

I reached for other Bible versions and concordances. Sure enough, I had always misunderstood the sequence of events covered by the passage. I'm not blaming my church or denomination. It may have been I wasn't listening properly, but that reminded me how important it is to read God's Word for ourselves. 

How about you? Is there an area of your life where you find it difficult to remember God's presence?

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, February 4, 2016

A Piece of My Heart by Marcia Lee Laycock


Reminds me of Heaven

Anyone who has traveled has felt it. Many of us have said it and heard it said: "That place has a piece of my heart."

I felt that way a few days ago when a friend sent me a link to a video about a Bible dedication in Papua New Guinea. It shows a man praying as his village is about to receive God's word in their own language for the first time. My husband and I had the privilege of attending two Bible dedications while we lived in PNG and both were experiences I'll never forget. Seeing the emotions and heart-felt response of the people to the scriptures was inspiring.

When I received the video and saw it streaming with no sound for the first few moments, I was immediately taken back to that place - the sights, the smells, the sounds. I remembered the chanting of the men who surrounded our plane as we landed in the village, singing a song of welcome both to us and to their new Bible. I remembered the old woman carrying the first box of Bibles in her bilum (string bag) and being told she had been given the privilege because she had prayed for this moment for many years. I remembered the look on a young man's face as he clasped his Bible to his breast and said thank you.  

I was a little surprised at the intensity of these memories as I watched the video. It's been twenty years since we've been there. But yes, a piece of my heart is still in Papua New Guinea and there are times when I long to go back.

I've felt a yearning like that at other times too, a yearning for heaven. It has hit at odd times, at a funeral once, in the middle of a magnificent forest another time, as I stared at an incredibly beautiful flower not long ago. That longing surprises me because, unlike Papua New Guinea, I've never been to heaven. But a piece of it has been placed in my heart, probably because One who lives there has put His Spirit in my heart. And I long to be where He is.

Some day I hope to go back to PNG. Friends are working on a translation of the New Testament that will be done soon and it's one of the things on my bucket list, the hope to get there when they dedicate it to God. I trust that will happen, but there is no guarantee.

Some day I hope to get to heaven, and thanks be to God, I do have a guarantee that day will come. Jesus Himself has promised to meet me there. He said: "I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world" (John 6:51). 

Yes, there's a piece of my heart in heaven and one day my heart will be made whole again.
****

Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor's wife and mother of three adult daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone. The sequel, A Tumbled Stone was short listed in The Word Awards. Marcia also has three devotional books in print and has contributed to several anthologies, including the Hot Apple Cider books. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan. 

 
Abundant Rain, an ebook devotional for writers can be downloaded on Smashwords or on Amazon. It is also now available in Journal format on Amazon. 








Her most recent release is A Traveler’s Advisory, Stories of God’s Grace Along the Way.

Visit Marcia’s Website to learn more about her writing and speaking ministry.

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