Friday, August 26, 2016

DEVOTION: Travelling with Jesus

"Follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" Ephesians 5:1-2




A few weeks back I was fortunate to be travelling through America. I had a conference to attend in North Carolina and decided to extend the trip and do some exploring in Los Angeles and New Orleans. I’d never been to New Orleans before, so I was excited. The fact I was travelling alone had me more excited, so off I went. I started in LA, which was amazing and full of laughter, good food, great fellowship and some really cool God moments. On a high, I waved goodbye and boarded the plane for my next stop, excitement bubbling over. And then I landed in New Orleans.

If you’ve never been to New Orleans, let me tell you, it’s something else. It’s an amazing place, but one of extremes. You have voodoo stores sitting alongside cafes sitting alongside strip clubs sitting alongside children’s clothing stores. Faith, religion and voodooism are side by side, and in some cases, intertwined.There is so much heart and love, yet at the same time you have a restaurant full of people happily ignoring the young homeless girl asking for food by the door. And while this is not a reflection of all New Orleans, it was the part that I was staying in. After a stroll of the surrounding streets of my hotel left me feeling unsettled and uneasy, I sat and prayed. And as I prayed, God whispered into my heart, ‘I will send my angels before you. Go.’ This promise made me pause and ponder what He meant, to which He replied, ‘go be a blessing.’ Right.  

Unsure what ‘be a blessing’ would look like but determined to try, I prayed for opportunities to bless others and God began prompting me to do little things for people. And each time I would hesitate (which I hate to admit was on a regular basis), God would gently nudge me to do more, say more, be more. One night He nudged me to pray for my Uber driver. Now, while I’m comfortable to pray, I’m not really comfortable in asking random strangers if I can pray for them. It’s awkward. But one night as my driver complaining about his life and his singleness I felt God say, ‘pray for him.’ Me, in all my self consciousness, ignored it (obedient to a fault.) The guy kept talking and I told God it was a bad idea because this guy probably didn’t even believe in God. Right at that moment, the guy referenced the bible, and I’m pretty sure God chuckled. Finally taking the hint, as the car pulled to a stop, I asked the guy if I could pray for him. A little stunned, he said yes and I prayed for him. His face at the end of that prayer is something I won’t forget; there was pure joy shining out of his face. Pure joy! I barely remember what I prayed but it doesn’t matter because obviously God turned up for this guy. And He used me to do it. 

It’s easy to forget how much people need Jesus. Often my insecurities get in the way of being Jesus for someone and God used an Uber driver to remind me that even though I was on a vacation, it’s still about Jesus. It’s always about Jesus, regardless of where we are or why we are there. And that’s difficult at times. It wasn’t easy for me to pray for a partner for this guy while inside, I was struggling with that very thing myself, but the reality is that for some people, we are the only Jesus they will ever encounter and our willingness to be vulnerable and uncomfortable could be the turning point that brings them back to God. 

God’s blessings look different and maybe for you, God is calling you to bless someone with a copy of your book, or a home cooked meal, or a listening ear. Or He could be asking to you to walk up to a random stranger and pray for them. Whatever it is that He is nudging you to do for someone, let me encourage you to do it, no matter how uncomfortable you may feel or how odd it may seem. God is unique in what He does and how He loves, so He will use unique ways to love His children, and He will use your unique gift to do it.

                                                           

Leila Halawe is a Sydney based coffee loving nonfiction writer and blogger. She has published a short devotional, Love By Devotion, shares her life via her blog page Looking In . You can connect with her via Facebook at Leila Halawe Author  and via Twitter at @LHalawe)

                                                      

Thursday, August 25, 2016

AFTER THE FIRST DRAFT, WHAT? By Bonnie Toews

You type THE END and heave a great sigh of relief. DONE. You pat yourself on the back.
But wait! In today’s world, this is only YOUR FIRST DRAFT. Now the hard work begins.
Revising and editing are a writer’s most important functions in the telling of your story. In the rewriting stage, you have to move away from the subjective author who loves every sentence you’ve produced and become the tough critic. Switching hats is very difficult.
This is why most successful novelists belong to reading groups who serve to critique each other’s work. But before you expose your baby to a third, fourth or even fifth “eye,” you need to produce your best effort. That means stripping down your baby and redressing it.
Where do you start? Frankly, one rewrite won’t work. You can’t fix everything with one shot.

THE STRATEGIC APPROACH TO REVIEWING YOUR FIRST DRAFT

When you reread your manuscript, you need to examine NINE concerns. Focus on one at a time for each revision you write.

      1.       What is the spine of your story? Some authors refer to this as their THEME. This is a harder question than you think. You may assume it is simply what the story is about, but it isn’t. Your spine serves the same purpose as your backbone does for your body. It holds your story together. In my novel, THE CONSUMMATE TRAITOR, the obvious theme is treason.  When I reread my first draft, I had to measure every character‘s thoughts, feelings, motives and actions against this underlying theme. Yes, it was a gruelling exercise, but it was worth it because readers say I succeeded in suspending their disbelief. They could not figure out who the traitor was until the end.

      2.       Are your protagonist and main characters well-rounded and believable? Have you explored their conscious and unconscious desires, their strengths and weaknesses? Does your protagonist have a “fatal flaw” she or he must overcome to achieve a heroic or extraordinary outcome? In my novel, one of my heroines does not recognize her own self-worth. She strives to please and over compensates to prove her value.
  
      3.       What is the overall conflict driving your suspense? What rival or adversarial force must your protagonist beat? This is the challenge that drives your plot, and as the story continues, this conflict elevates the tension. It can be a person, group, force of nature or aspect of the protagonist’s own character that stands in the way of achieving a desired goal. Conflict leads the hero or heroine to make a critical decision, one that embraces either victory or defeat, and forces the individual to face the truth:  Who am I and what do I really want?

      4.       Is the development of your plot logical? I remember reading a spy story in which the two protagonists reminded each other that their hotel room may be bugged, and then, while in bed, they go ahead and discuss their plan to reveal the villain. I read on hoping this was a decoy to suspend the reader’s disbelief until the surprise “twist” resolution. If the room is bugged, why are they telling the enemy what he needs to know to intercept them?  Maybe it’s deliberate and we’ll find that out later. Alas, no. The author never caught this flaw, and for me the story imploded.

      5.       Is the structure of your story progressive? This even relates to individual paragraphs and sentences. Does your character react before an action even happens? For example, there is an explosion. Does your character dive for cover before the sound or after?  You can’t react to something that hasn’t happened yet. The character must duck AFTER he or she hears the bang. This also refers to the order of your information. Your characters need to move forward with new insights or conclusions, not rehash what is already known.

      6.      Does your opening sentence immediately grab your readers’ interest? If it doesn’t, does the first paragraph? If it doesn’t, will readers even read your first chapter?  Let’s look at the first sentence of my new novel, COVERT DENIAL:  Rhys Jamieson froze. Do you want to know why? Then you have to read on.

      7.      Do you ‘tell” more than you “show?” Some authors introduce a new character by writing what amounts to a biography including appearance and background. Today’s readers don’t like feeling overwhelmed with such description. It’s better to weave in the details as needed, when your reader wants to know, for instance, or when it is critical to the story. This way the reader becomes a part of what is going on rather than an observer.

      8.      How do you treat your dialogue? You’ve seen it – one line after another of conversation until you no longer know who the speakers are. This stems from a need to speed up pacing, but it can be taken too far. Dialogue serves two things: to reveal what distinguishes your characters from one another through quirks in their speech and to convey information. Good dialogue presents a balance that magnifies what your characters are doing, thinking, noticing, and feeling as well as where they are located when they speak. What your dialogue should NOT DO is be a short-cut to adding information crucial to your story. Too often you end up with an unnatural conversation that is awkward and off-putting for your reader.

      9.     I leave line editing and proof-reading to my last draft, and I have a few tricks to make it easier. First, I search and replace a list of “boring” words with stronger action words or adjectives. This short list causes agents and book editors to wince: was (passive), by the fact that, very, so, then, felt, great, big, would, could, or against. Suppose you wrote, felt angry. What action can your character do that shows he is irked? Barry’s eyes flashed. He slammed his fist on the desk. “Are you crazy?” That is a stronger picture. Second, be careful with words ending in “ing.” Often it signals an imperfect past tense (was working) that is easily corrected with the simple past tense (worked). Keep your text active. Avoid passive verbs.


A retired Canadian journalist, Bonnie Toews is a veterans’ advocate, who uses fiction to bring attention to conditions she has found at the “crossroads of humanity.” In novels of wartime intrigue and suspense, she expands on true events to reveal the political betrayal of our military veterans. The first novel in her “Trilogy of Treason” – THE CONSUMMATE TRAITOR – is available at amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/Consummate-Traitor-Bonnie-Toews/dp/1461015383 and on her web site


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Technical Side of Creative Writing


I had shoulder surgery 4 weeks ago. Arthroscopic Sub-acromial Decompression. That basically means keyhole surgery. Three holes were made in my left shoulder and part of my acromial bone that impinged on muscle in my shoulder was removed. So I’ve been in a sling on and off all day over the past few weeks. This (the surgery, not the sling) has limited the things I can do. I’m back at work, but it has been challenging using a computer and I’ve typically had to pay for using my arm at night. Not fun. Not surprising I haven’t done much writing, apart from work.

In my day job, I am a Software Trainer/Technical Writer and I had a coaching session today, where the coach asked me what goal I wanted to work on. Seeing as I recently had surgery and am slowly recovering, I am not as busy in the evenings as I normally am. I can’t go to the gym or Pilates studio. I can't drive far as you don’t realise how much your shoulders are involved in practically every movement you make until you’re not really able to use it. I mean, who knew that your shoulders take part in your sneezing and yawning?!

So with some free time in the evenings I want to get back to more consistent writing. But the point I’m at in one of my writing ‘projects’ is the editing phase. When I first started writing I absolutely loved the wonder of writing, getting to know the characters and learning their voices. I was so in love with the creative process that it didn’t even occur to me that there is a technical side to creative writing until I went to my first writers’ conference.

Learning about the various aspects of editing has been a long journey and I am still struggling to edit my massive manuscript. Recently, and I don’t know why this did not occur to me sooner, I thought about using my experience as a technical writer to help me with this technical side of creative writing. But what could the 2 possible have in common? After all, one is fiction and the other is about telling people how to use software!

• When designing or planning any piece of documentation, one of the first things I do is think about the audience or users. What is their skill level? Do they need some background conceptual information in order to understand any procedural information? What assumptions can I make?

This makes me think of fiction genres. As writers, we have to be clear in our minds what genre we want to write in. In order to be successful, we also need to understand some things about readers of our chosen genre. What motivates them to buy the books they do? What other writers do they read?

• Voice. This is especially important when working in a technical writing team. Although a lot of people tend to write as they speak, when writing user manuals we all have to use one voice, to meet company standards. Understanding voice is important and is critical to the authenticity of both the writer and the characters in a novel.

• Continuity. A good technical writer knows that you do not introduce new concepts or terms without first defining them. You build on previous knowledge and that is no different in fiction writing. To some degree. The story has to flow, yes there can be flashbacks, but things have to make sense

• Facts. You can’t make things up in technical writing. Everything has to be accurate and true. Fiction is based on making things up, but there are certain areas where you have to be factual. For example, if you’re writing about actual events like wars, there is a fine line between making up the lives of your characters and the documented historical facts of the era.

The more I think about it, the more I feel I can really use my strengths as a technical writer, to help bolster my creative writing. I wonder if there are areas of your life that have made you a stronger writer.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Problem with Perfection

By Lorraine Hossington


None of us are perfect. We all have our roads to travel and we all have flaws to deal with. And those closest to us see them more than anyone else. Yet despite them we can still be loved.
When I first started writing, my characters just didn’t seem to come to life for me. They were wooden people and had no voice of their own. With me pulling the strings, yet still lifeless. They had no emotions or feelings. And to be honest they were boring and even I began to get fed up with writing about them!

Then I asked myself what am I doing wrong? Then the answer came to me. I was trying to create perfect people with perfect lives. And I began to reflect on why I had been doing this. I have to confess I come from a dysfunctional family. And for many years life was never easy for me. And there weren’t a lot of happy times.

Secrets had been kept from me for many years by my parents. Which I didn’t find out until my late 20’s and these rocked my world. So much happened in my own life by this time that I tried to make my characters completely opposite to the life I had led. And this clearly didn’t work.

So now I decided to start putting more emotion into my characters lives. The weaknesses and the pain and struggles they had to live with. I put them through rejection and shame and hidden guilt. Then slowly they began to become real flesh and blood people with lives that were being lived.

I was thirty-one years old when I became a Christian and I had a lot from my past to deal with. And a few years ago I began suffering with depression. It was a hard time for me. Yet with help from the right people I came through it. This is real life and it can be messy at times. And I confess that at one time I wanted to hide away and forget that life can be difficult. That it can hurt us in different ways. 
Yet the difficult times can build character, strength and perseverance. And whilst we go through these times God is always with us.

My characters have their own issues to deal with now. And I enjoy making them face hard decisions and watching how the journey they’re on unfolds. And I know that in each of them somewhere is a piece of me.  The beauty of writing is that you can create your own path for the hero and heroine to walk. You make the decisions about how their lives work out, and what happens at the end of your novel.

I sometimes believe that the characters start writing their own story and go off in a completely different direction than the one you wanted them to go in. Even in the most unlikely places pieces of dialogue will be in my mind and my characters are talking amongst themselves, this happened on a bus a few months ago. I was so interested in what they were saying, that I forgot to get off at my stop! Am I the only one that has had something like this happen to them?


I suspect not. And I know that I’m doing something right because the dialogue inside is still flowing. I’m writing with a freedom that at one time I never had and it’s a wonderful feeling to be able to do this. When we write it’s a journey and an adventure and it’s well worth taking the trip, until we reach the end.

About Lorraine Hossington

I write contemporary romance and historical romance (as yet unpublished). I'm single, and live in Cardiff in the U.K, where I love to read and write letting my imagination run free.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Stand

a repeat from awhile ago...and it still stands true today...




“…and after you have done everything, to stand.” Ephesians 6:13

After you have done everything. 
I guess that means everything. 
Everything you can possibly think of,
Everything you can physically do,
Everything that anyone can suggest to you.
Everything that GOD has asked you to do.
To stand.

Just stand there. 
Do nothing.
Don’t think
Don’t act
Don’t worry
Don’t complain
Don’t argue
Don’t do anything.
Just stand.

Stand and wait.
Stand and pray.
Stand and trust.
Stand and have peace.
Stand and rest.

Let GOD take care of it. 

Let Him do what He needs to do.
Let Him take control of the situation.
Let Him tell you what to do.
Let Him make you wait.

Just stand.

“The LORD will fight for you; you need only be still.” Exodus 14:14



Jenn Kelly is an author/farmer/gardener/wife/mom/care-taker... figuring it all out, just like you. Be strong; be brave; trust GOD. He has this.  

Sunday, August 21, 2016

SUNDAY EDITION


Coming Up This Week

Monday

Jenn Kelly

Tuesday

Lorraine Hossington: The Problem with Perfection

Wednesday

Daniella Ojo

Thursday

Angela Couch: After the First Draft, What? By Bonnie Toews

Friday Devotion

Leila Halawe

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New Releases

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Butterflies on Breezes, Book 2 in the Urban Farm Fresh Romance series, releases independently in August 2016.


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Upcoming Releases

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, More Than a Tiara, Book 1 in the Christmas in Montana Romance series, releases independently in September 2016. More Than a Tiara was formerly part of Snowflake Tiara.

Marion Ueckermann's contemporary romance set in England, A Romance for Rose, Book 2 in the Seven Suitors for Seven Sisters Series, releases independently in September 2016. 

Marion Ueckermann's contemporary romance set in England, A Hero for Heather, Book 3 in the Seven Suitors for Seven Sisters, releases independently in September 2016 in the Falling for You box set. 

Marion Ueckermann's contemporary romance set in England, A Husband for Holly, Book 4 in the Seven Suitors for Seven Sisters releases independently in September 2016 in the Candy Cane Kisses box set.

Book 2 in Sandra Orchard’s Serena Jones Mysteries series set in St. Louis, USA, Another Day, Another Dali, will be an October 2016 release from Revell Publishing.

Kara Isaac's contemporary romantic comedy set in England, Can't Help Falling, will be an October 2016 release from Howard Books.

Lisa Harris' romantic suspense, Desert Secrets, will be a February 2017 release from Love Inspired Suspense.

Lisa Harris' romantic suspense, Pursued, will be an April 2017 release from Revell.

Patricia Beal's debut contemporary women’s fiction set in Germany and in the United States, A Season to Dance, will be a May 2017 release from Bling! Romance / Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas.

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

Friday, August 19, 2016

Bitter? Or Better?~ by Shirley Corder

"Don't call me Naomi (pleasant)," Naomi said sharply. "Call me Mara (bitter)."


For those of you who don't know this lady well, you'll find her story in the book of Ruth in the Old Testament.

Naomi's husband, Elimelech, took her and their two sickly sons, away from Bethlehem to the country of Moab. While living there, first Naomi's husband died, then both her sons. 

Naomi eventually returned to Bethlehem accompanied by Ruth, her daughter-in-law, the one after whom the Bible book is named.

I found it intriguing that the book was called Ruth. After all, the opening verse, Ruth 1:1, mentions Naomi. Ruth only enters the picture years later. And the story ends with Naomi as she receives her newborn grandson. In between we have the tender love story of two unlikely characters. 

We have Ruth, the Moabitess, a widow whose only means of an income involved walking behind the reapers in the fields, picking up the stalks they dropped on the ground. And we have Boaz, a rich landowner considerably older than Ruth, who was highly esteemed in the little town of Bethlehem. The couple fall in love and . . . but you must read it for yourself! It's a lovely story. 

We soon see Naomi to be a courageous woman who faces some difficult decisions. Our first impressions are of a spunky lady who copes well with all the tragedy that is seemingly thrown at her. Yet in the words above we catch a glimmer of how depression stalks her life. She becomes bitter in her heart. Bitter against God. Despite her emotional low, Naomi never allows it to turn her from her God, and gradually she begins to see His hand at work in her life. 

As I pondered the life of this Israeli woman and all she went through, I found myself drawn into her story. Despite all she went through,and her brief spell of depression, Naomi clung to God, even when she didn't feel His love. She rose beyond her hardships to play an important role in the ancestry of King David, and ultimately of Jesus Christ.

Are you facing a difficult period in your life right now? Are things threatening to get you down? Have you recently lost someone special from your life? I urge you to tell God how you feel. Don't try to live behind a mask. Be honest with Him, and trust Him to bring you through. You can allow your hard times to make you bitter, or you can rise above the bitterness and become better.  

Make sure that no one misses out on God’s wonderful kindness. Don’t let anyone become bitter and cause trouble for the rest of you Hebrews 12:15 CEV.


SHIRLEY CORDER lives on the coast of South Africa with her husband, Rob. She has recently embarked on a series of eBooks titled, Out of the Shadow. Book 1 is Naomi, Beloved Mother-in-Law. 

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