Thursday, September 21, 2017

You can Achieve a lot in 5 Years

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Five years ago I was about to attend my first ACFW Conference. Like this year’s event it too was in Dallas (a different venue) but was a nice direct flight home to Sydney. I went as a contracted author, my first novel, Angelguard, due to be released six months later in early 2013.
On the first morning (the event started the prior afternoon) a young lady shared a devotional. She was humble, funny, self-deprecating and clearly had a love for Jesus. She had a signed contract for a multi-book series but, like me, wouldn’t release her first book until the following year.
Last week I noticed a photo in this lady’s FB feed of “her pile”. The stories (novels, novellas and short stories) she’d published (both tradional and self). I was in awe. And proud of all that she had accomplished. Melissa has become a writing friend. I’ve read a couple of her stories and love them. Melissa writes rom-com style novels that feature characters who have a faith in Jesus.
Another Aussie friend wrote a post only this week where he mentioned he’d attended ACFW last year for the first time and he’s now in a position of having recently become agented and finaled in a competition at the Oregon Christian Writers Conference.
Comparisonitis
We read about this all the time and it can be challenging to not do it. Remember we have an enemy who will try to mess with our minds at every opportunity. Envy is one of those core “deadly sins” that he tempts us with.
“Your enemy the devil is on the prowl like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
I did do the comparison because it was pretty simple to do … one published, one waiting to be (well I’m believing that to be the case!) and 40% of another. Hey, it pales in comparison. Could I have written more? Yes, I could of and should of. But I chose not to beat myself up or get down on myself, rather to regard it as the past and be stirred to produce more in the future.
Besides being in awe, Melissa’s post inspired me. Look at what we can achieve. Look what is possible. Even when you work two jobs which Melissa does. We all know authors who are similarly prolific. Our own Lisa Harris releases a couple of stories each year while being a missionary in Mozambique with her husband. Kara Isaac has had an extremely busy couple of years releasing three novels and giving birth to a bub! Carolyn Miller, another Aussie author, hadn’t released anything eight months ago but in October the third in her Regency Brides series is released. Sure, Carolyn didn’t write three full-length novels overnight, but wow.
By 2022
Only God knows what we’ll be doing in five years time. I hope I’ll be getting ready to attend another ACFW Conference along with many other members of the ICFW family. And I hope to have more books, both fiction and non-fiction, published.
But more isn’t necessarily the answer. Something we always need to be conscious of. Too often we will place value on ourselves through our “more”, through our achievements. It’s important to remember that we are children of God and already are significant because of that. He created us and therefore we are significant.
Amongst the madness of writing, publishing, working and having a life I asked Melissa for a few thoughts on what worked so she maintained her sanity:
  • Never put writing above the people you love. You will never, ever regret spending time with the people God has put in your path. They're there for a reason ... and they will always be more important than fictional people! That said... :)
  • Know yourself! Know what works for you and what doesn't. What doesn't work for me is strict word count goals and deadlines (whereas I know others who thrive on deadlines!). What does work for me is finding a long weekend here or there when I can hide away from the world and just write to my heart's content. When you've discovered what works for you, you can lean into that and get so much more done than if you try to do what you see everyone else doing. I've been soooo much more productive since I quit trying to write on evenings after long days of work and instead just focused on finding three- or four-day stretches here and there where I can bang out a bunch of words at once.
  • Don't be afraid to take breaks! When it comes to reaching for a dream, it's easy to feel like we need to do and do and do and push and push and push. But for me, some of my best creativity and best productivity has happened after allowing myself to step away ... whether for one night or one weekend or even one month. Those are the times in which God refreshes my spirit and I rediscover why I'm doing what I'm doing.


I love that … such great wisdom. We’re all different and understanding what works for each of us is important.

Go forth dear writing friends. Keep leaning into Jesus and keep believing. And keep writing. Remember writers write. (I always need to remind myself of that)

Grace and peace.



Ian Acheson is an author and strategy consultant based in Sydney. Ian's first novel of speculative fiction, Angelguard, is available in the US, UK, Canada and Australia. Angelguard was recognised with the 2014 Selah Award for Speculative Fiction.You can find more about Angelguard at Ian's website, on his author Facebook page and Twitter

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Sibling Rivalry & Perception Redefined ~ by Patricia Beal

We had a rough morning. 

When we moved from Texas to North Carolina, we had to leave behind a piece of our sectional. We tried so hard to get it to fit in the truck, but it didn't.


Now my son and my daughter fight for space on the remaining piece like backyard squirrels fighting for a spot on a feeder perch. Good grief

They are tiny. You can put four of them on that couch. But they must have their daily war. Today it got so bad that when I sat between them, my daughter said she wasn't going to eat breakfast and that she was going back to bed.

Say what? How about school? How about a little respect?

I was an only child and so was my husband. We never know what to make of all this fighting and bickering. But it's frustrating. Our perception is that we are the only ones who struggle with this and that what they do to each other and to us is completely bonkers.


But wait. What's perception anyway? Here are a few things that come up on Bing.com:

"The ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses: a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression..."

That's all true. But let's think this through. The Bible says it's good to live by faith, not by sight. So I believe it's fair to say that for a Christian, facts should go through a God filter, a Bible filter, a truth filter, before deciding how to perceive an action or words or whatever is to be understood/interpreted.

Can we redefine perception then? How about we use our Bing.com definition and take out the word "senses" and plug in something better? Let's see what happens...

Perception is:

"The ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses truth of the Word of God: a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression..."

I like that better.


After my daughter stormed upstairs, I told my son that I was tired, that I needed him to be more mature, that I had a couple of deadlines to meet, and that I needed peace and time to finish researching school curriculums (I will begin homeschooling him in October). I quoted scripture (blessed are the peacemakers) and sent him upstairs to get his sister to come down, eat, and get ready for school.

I didn't have a whole lot of faith in the approach, but didn't have the energy or the right spirit to deal with her myself.

Surprise, surprise! It worked!

Within five minutes he was getting ready for school, and she was on my lap saying she was sorry and asking what all she needed to have to get all food groups into her breakfast. Boom! I didn't move. I didn't get mad. I asked for help from a place of brokenness, and I quoted scripture.


I shouldn't be surprised when doing things the Bible way works miraculously. But I'm always surprised. O ye of little faith... Yep. That's me most of the time. I'm so thankful for fellow Christians who admit they feel the same way sometimes, many times.

So perception by sight was: What's wrong with these kids? How frustrating and disappointing and hopeless and helpless! What are we going to do?!

Perception by faith: Remember Cain and Abel. They are behaving as expected. We're not the only ones with kids who fight constantly. Fallen humanity. But the Word of God is good. God is good. Look how they responded to scripture. There's such power in it. God, help me remember this event and the resolution. Help me use your power more often—all the time.


How about you? What extreme thing (or not so extreme, I suppose) has happened to you lately that God's filter can heal? Did you fight with siblings like mad? Is there hope mine will like each other one day? Do share...

"Misery likes company" gets such a bad rep, but it shouldn't be so. It's not that misery likes company per se, it's that we don't want to feel like we were forgotten by God and suffer alone. That's what the enemy wants us to think. So it soothes my soul when I hear other people share their struggles and their brokenness. We're in this together, and God is good, and He never changes, and the world will pass away, but His words will not. He will not. We will not. Eternal. Together. Perspective.

Love y'all.

Patricia Beal writes contemporary Christian fiction and is represented by Leslie Stobbe of the Leslie H. Stobbe Literary Agency. Her debut novel, A Season to Dance, came out in May (Bling! / Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas 2017).

She’s a 2015 Genesis semi-finalist and First Impressions finalist. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Cincinnati in 1998 with a B.A. in English Literature and then worked as a public affairs officer for the U.S. Army for seven years. Now, after a 10-year break in service, she is an Army editor. She and her husband live in North Carolina with their two children.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Writing: Winning the Mental Game

By Iola Goulton


I’ve recently returned from the 2017 Romance Writers of New Zealand conference. Our two keynote speakers were Kristen Lamb, social media jedi and bestselling author of Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World, and Christie Craig (aka CC Hunter), New York Times bestselling romance and YA author.

While neither were specifically tasked with talking about winning the mental game of writing, both touched on it, and I believe their insights are worth sharing today.


Are you an Aspiring Writer?


Kristen Lamb started her all-day keynote session by asking how many in the room were aspiring writers. Maybe half the room raised their hands. She then told us we were wrong. All of us. None of us were aspiring writers.

Kristen believes that if we write, we are writers.


If we don’t, we are not. We might be pre-published writers, but we are not aspiring. We are writers, and we need to take ourselves seriously as writers. If we don’t, who will?

The Neverending (Rejection) Story


The next day, we had two sessions from Christie Craig. At the end of her second session she gave us an object lesson I’ll never forget.

Towards the end of her speech, she reached down and pulled a large envelope out of her suitcase. She asked if any of us had ever had our writing rejected. Many people raised their hands. As she spoke, she pulled handfuls of letters—rejection letters—out of the envelope, and sprinkled them on the floor.

Christie talked about how she dropped out of school after tenth grade because she was dyslexic. She talked about how she married at sixteen, and how her mother married at thirteen.

She picked up another envelope, pulled out more rejection letters, and sprinkled them on the floor.


Christie talked about pursuing her writing dream, even though her spelling isn’t always that good, and she doesn’t know how to use commas.

She picked up another envelope, pulled out more rejection letters, and sprinkled them on the floor.


Christie talked about how much she wanted to be a published writer. Enough to keep writing. Enough to never give up. Enough to keep facing rejection.

She picked up another envelope, pulled out more rejection letters, and sprinkled them on the floor.


Christie asked how many rejection letters we thought she had. Fifty? No. One hundred? No. Two hundred? No. Five hundred? No.

All this time, she is still sprinkling rejection letters on the floor. She told us these weren’t all the letters—some were still at home. She said if we don’t believe that these are all rejection letters that we can come up to the front and put them back in the envelopes. No one volunteered, although several people took photographs.

She picked up another envelope, a yellow envelope that was thinner than the others. She didn’t open it. I thought this was her acceptance letters, or maybe her first contract. No, the yellow envelope held more rejection letters—ones the cat peed on before she could file them.


Christie Craig got more than 600 rejection letters before she was published. Six. Hundred. Now she has (I think) 27 books from major NY publishers. She claims she still doesn't know how to use commas—but boy, can she tell a story that packs a punch and has everyone in the room blinking back tears.

She says if a high school dropout from the back end of Alabama can become a New York Times bestselling author simply because she has the guts to keep going because she wants it so much ... then I can win that mental game. So can you.

And if you ever have the opportunity to hear Christie Craig speak, listen. Just remember to wear waterproof mascara.



About Iola Goulton


I am a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction. Visit my website at www.christianediting.co.nzto download a comprehensive list of publishers of Christian fiction. 

I also write contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist—find out more at www.iolagoulton.com.

You can also find me on:
Facebook (Author)
Facebook (Editing)
Instagram
Pinterest
Twitter

Monday, September 18, 2017

Author Newsletters — Part 3: Choosing Content

By Valerie Comer


Welcome back for Part 3 of my Author Newsletter series. We’ve already talked about Getting Started and Finding Subscribers. Today we’re going to dig right into the nuts and bolts of newsletter content.

1. What Do I Say?


Choose a main topic/goal for every email. This keeps each letter shorter and more focused. If there is one clear call-to-action, you are more likely to see measurable results than if you casually mention ten things without giving clear links. This might mean sending shorter emails more often. I’ve experimented with this through 2017, and found it worked well. I focus my mid-month email on the newest release from my multi-author Arcadia Valley Romance series, and my late-month email on what’s new in my own writing. No one has complained of hearing from me too much.

Choose your subject line carefully. Words like ‘free’ and ‘sale’ can trigger spam filters, so avoid them if you can. Make your subject line fairly brief yet compelling. This is an art in itself. Look carefully at author newsletters you’ve subscribed to. Which headlines make you want to click? Which are easier to ignore?

Choose your pronouns. Instead of “I’m sure you’re excited about my new book!” try “Are you excited about the next book in the Christmas in Montana Romance series?” Keep “I” and “me” and “my” out as much as you can, especially in the first few paragraphs. Sure, they signed up because they want to hear from you. Sort of. But really, they want to know what’s in it for them. Like all of humankind, they care about themselves more than they care about you, or anyone else.

Use your own voice. That conversational tone you use while writing your novels? That’s the one your readers want more of. If your author voice is very formal (for historical novels or nonfiction, maybe) then mimic it for your letters, too. Make sure there isn’t a disconnect between the two sides of you.

Use a simple, single-column template. In Part 4, we’ll talk more about analyzing your stats, but for now, know that roughly half your subscribers are reading on mobile devices. If you’re curious what your emails look like that way, open one of yours on your phone. It can be quite eye-opening… or eye-crossing.

Break up your email visually. Use images. Add your book covers when it’s a new release or sale. (Tip: you can make them clickable on any service provider.) Add a meme sometimes. Help readers scan by using headers, bold, and/or colors. The main font should be simple, black, and larger than you think. Remember the mobile devices!

Include clear pre-order and/or purchase links. Your fans subscribed because they want to know about your books. Don't make them hunt for this information. Mailerlite has customizable buttons for calls-to-action. “Click here to buy Better Than a Crown” was on a recent button.

Still unsure what, exactly, to write about if you don’t have a book release every month? Here are some ideas. You can choose several and rotate between them, even.

• A devotional
• A recipe
• An interview with another author in your genre
• A book giveaway (yours or someone else's)
• Book cover reveals
• Invitations to Facebook launch parties
• Requests for input, like naming a character’s pet
• Excerpts of your current WIP
• Research tidbits
• Events
• News

I’m sure you can think of even more topics!

2. How often do I send?


Not so often that it feels like spam, but not so rarely they forget who you are. Quarterly is good if you are traditionally published or don't have a lot going on. I increased mine to monthly when I went indie, as suddenly I had a lot more to talk about! And, when the Arcadia Valley Romances began releasing in January, I went to semi-monthly with no complaints.

3. Can I run contests?


Yes, you can, but be careful! Legally, you cannot require a purchase to enter a contest. You also cannot use reviews as a contest entry, as rewarding reviewers in any way is against Amazon’s TOS. When giving away a book about a blueberry farmer, I invited subscribers to “hit reply and let me know your favorite way to eat blueberries.” (In muffins… no surprise there!)

Tip: Find a few bestselling authors in your genre, and subscribe to their lists. Pay attention to the content, the frequency, etc. Do you see value in these emails? What could you do better for your readers? Feel free to unsubscribe once you've learned from them. No one will mind.

I hope this gives you some ideas of what to write in your newsletter. What ideas can you come up with for content? Any questions about today's topic?

This is the third in a four-part series on author newsletters that I’ll post in 2017. Click for Part 1 (Getting Started) and Part 2 (Finding Subscribers). In the final episode, I’ll cover how to track your statistics.

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 foods 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 is a USA Today bestselling author and a two-time Word Award winner. She writes engaging characters, strong communities, and deep faith into her green clean romances. Visit her at ValerieComer.com.


Sunday, September 17, 2017

SUNDAY EDITION


Coming Up This Week 

Monday 

Valerie Comer - Author Newsletters: Part 3 - Choosing Content

Tuesday 

Iola Goulton - Writing: Winning the Mental Game

Wednesday 

Patricia Beal

Thursday 

Ian Acheson

Friday Devotion 

Ray Hawkins - Unmasked

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Upcoming Releases

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Better Than a Crown, Book 3 in her Christmas in Montana Romance series, releases independently in October 2017.

Carolyn Miller's regency romance set in England, The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey, Book 3 in her Regency Brides series, will be an October 2017 release from Kregel.

Lucy Thompson's historical romance set in Australia, Waltzing Matilda, in The Captive Bride Collection: 9 Stories of Great Challenges Overcome Through Great Love, will be an October 2017 release from Barbour.

Sandra Orchard's Amish mystery The Hound and The Fury, Book 17 in Amish Inn Mysteries, will release in October 2017 from Annie’s Attic.

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Rooted in Love, Book 2 in her new Garden Grown Romance series (part of Arcadia Valley Romance multi-author series) releases independently in November 2017.

Lisa Harris' romantic suspense set in USA, Vanishing Point: A Nikki Boyd Novel, will be a November 2017 release from Revell.

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

Friday, September 15, 2017

God has allergies? Devotion by Dianne J Wilson



I have horrendous pet allergies. Does this stop me having pets? (Three cats, three dogs *cough*) Nope. I wouldn't choose to live without pets if you paid me. I get by with lots of hand washing after cuddles and a permanent stash of allergy tabs within reach.

Just this week I'd gone a bit overboard on the cuddles and rubbed my eyes without thinking. Anyone who suffers allergies will understand. Once you start rubbing, it is almost impossible to stop. That small oversight cost me an entire night's productivity as I had to down some strong allergy tabs to calm my system down. Pretty soon my brain turned to mush and the best option for me was to find my bed and sleep it off. I'm sure I gained a few years in wrinkles from rubbing my itchy eyeballs.


Needless to say, I wasn't keen to touch any of our fur-babies the next morning. They trooped in with tails wagging for brekkies and their morning loves. They just got brekkies. I didn't dare touch any of them because I knew it would set me off and I couldn't spend the whole day doped up on allergy tabs. 



By the time we left the house, there was none of the usual warm, fuzzy, happy-to-be-a-family feeling left. They'd taken turns being naughty and I found myself getting angry rather than teaching them right and wrong in a peaceful way. I left the house that morning feeling awful.
Then the Holy Spirit highlighted it for me. It was something like that with us and God. We are all born with a sinful nature. If you don't believe me, think of it this way - who teaches their offspring to be cheeky? No parent I know of. That stuff has to come from somewhere. 

So God, our Heavenly Dad, wants nothing more than to love us and keep us close, but he dare not come close to us in our sinful state. Our loving fellowship is broken and we are split apart. How would He fix this problem? 

Enter the perfect spiritual allergy tablet: Jesus! When Jesus is applied to our lives, we become acceptable to God. We no longer make His eyes stream or His chest close up. We are forever free to cuddle up close to Him with no bad side-effects for Him or us. Loves and cuddles are restored and the warm, fuzzy, happy-to-be-a-family becomes a permanent part of our lives. How lovely is that?

Allergies and God... I know it's not perfect theology, but I think you get the point. 

Dianne J. Wilson writes novels from her hometown in East London, South Africa, where she lives with her husband and three daughters. She is working on a three book YA series, Spirit Walkers, for Pelican Book Group / Watershed.

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

Shackles is available as a free ebook from Amazon & Smashwords.




Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Emma Movie Night

Hello from Southern Ontario, Canada!



Summer is winding down and Fall is fast approaching! And with that comes the release of my latest book, Jane Austen’s Emma Colouring & Activity Book featuring illustrations from 1896!

Edits are finished, and I’m so excited that soon I’ll be holding this book!



I want to invite everyone to join me for an Emma Movie Night Party!

Location: Facebook

Event Name: Emma Movie Night

Date: Thursday, November 9th, 2017

Time: 6:45pm - 10:00pm EST

Please have your copy of Emma (starring Gwyneth Paltrow) ready to play!

If you don’t have the movie and still wish to come, please do!!! I know some of us have watched this movie and read the book so many times we have them memorized J

Plus, there will be prizes!

So please save the date!

And see you there,
Eva


Eva Maria Hamilton is the author of Highland Hearts, a Love Inspired Historical novel published by Harlequin. Her novel, Highland Hearts, won 2nd Place in the Historical Romance, as well as the Traditional/Inspirational Romance Categories in the Heart of Excellence Reader’s Choice Awards, and was an Inspirational Series Finalist in the 2013 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. Her short story, Disinherited Love, can be read in the anthology, A Kiss is Still A Kiss. Eva Maria Hamilton is also the owner of Lilac Lane Publishing, which has currently published, Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice Colouring & Activity Book featuring Illustrations from 1895, and Jane Austen’s Sense And Sensibility Colouring & Activity Book featuring Illustrations from 1896.

To connect with Eva Maria Hamilton, please visit her at www.evamariahamilton.com