Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Inconvenient Inspiration

By Elizabeth Musser

My husband and I are in the midst of packing up our house in France to move back to the States for ten months. Boxes are everywhere as we stash our stuff in relative safety away from the little hands of the three tiny tots the new renters have.

Before we leave for the States, we will attend our biannual missions’ conference in Germany where we’ll give seminars and meet individually with many of our European workers.

Suffice it to say, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed by all that there is to do.

As I was preparing a talk on ‘soul care’ for a group of women who serve in closed countries, I looked through my journal for notes on a similar talk I’d give two years ago to a group of women leaders in a Dutch church. I couldn’t find the notes, but what I did find was a journal entry about an idea that had stirred my soul two years ago.

An idea for a new novel.

All of the sudden, I was remembering the excitement I’d had, hearing about a part of history I had never studied before. At the time, I was doing signings for a novel that had just come out in Holland, and I was writing another novel. So I’d simply jotted down some notes in my journal, some tidbits of inspiration, and then completely forgotten about the incident.

Normally, I would have at least put the notes in a ‘new novels idea’ folder, but I didn’t.

And it slipped from my memory.

Until yesterday.

When I was in the midst of doing a hundred other things.

All of the sudden, as I read the journal entry from 2015, I felt that pinching in my soul which happens when I have an idea for a new story.

But I didn’t have time for this! I needed to be preparing seminars and packing boxes.

Talk about Inconvenient Inspiration!

What do we do when we have ideas for our writing, but life is very seriously crowding out time to be inspired?

A few years ago, I listened to a TED talk given by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the surprise phenomenal bestseller Eat, Pray, Love.

I was fascinated by her claim that in ancient Rome and ancient Greece, people believed that creativity was not inherent to the person, but came from a divine source. Before the Renaissance, writers and other creatives weren’t solely responsible for their successes or failures. There was a divine part to the equation which everyone acknowledged. If this divine inspiration, this Muse, didn’t show up, the writers of old didn’t fall into deep depression. They just kept doing their part.

Then Elizabeth Gilbert gave some humorous examples about what writers did, and do, when the Muse shows up in very inconvenient times. One example was of the poet Ruth Stone who described receiving her poems as a child when she was out working in the fields. When this happened, the poem came like ‘a thunderous train of air’ and the only thing she could do was (in her words) ‘run like hell’ back to the house and find pencil and paper on which to write the poem.

So as I was inconveniently inspired by the Muse (ah-hem, I totally think it is the Holy Spirit), I left my computer, took a fast walk and repeated the scenes that flowed into my mind again and again until I returned home where I typed them out in all but incomprehensible phrases.

And then, I sat back, sighed, smiled, and went to find another box to pack.

Here’s the link to Elizabeth Gilberts’s talk: Listen and enjoy.

I’d love to hear how others handle Inconvenient Inspiration.

About Elizabeth Musser

ELIZABETH MUSSER writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France. Elizabeth’s highly acclaimed, best-selling novel, The Swan House, was named one of Amazon’s Top Christian Books of the Year and one of Georgia’s Top Ten Novels of the Past 100 Years. All of Elizabeth’s novels have been translated into multiple languages. The Long Highway Home has been a bestseller in Europe.

For over twenty-five years, Elizabeth and her husband, Paul, have been involved in missions’ work in Europe with International Teams. The Mussers have two sons, a daughter-in-law and three grandchildren who all live way too far away in America. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Twitter, and her blog. See photos from scenes in The Long Highway Home on Pinterest.

About The Long Highway Home

Sometimes going home means leaving everything you have ever known.

When the doctor pronounces ‘incurable cancer’ and gives Bobbie Blake one year to live, she agrees to accompany her niece, Tracie, on a trip back to Austria, back to The Oasis, a ministry center for refugees that Bobbie helped start twenty years earlier. Back to where there are so many memories of love and loss…

Bobbie and Tracie are moved by the plight of the refugees and in particular, the story of the Iranian Hamid, whose young daughter was caught with a New Testament in her possession in Iran, causing Hamid to flee along The Refugee Highway and putting the whole family in danger. Can a network of helpers bring the family to safety in time? And at what cost?

Filled with action, danger, heartache and romance, The Long Highway Home is a hymn to freedom in life’s darkest moments.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Learning from a marathon runner who hits the wall

I’ve got a mate who runs marathons.  Why is anybody’s guess - I told him the industrial revolution gave us ways to go anywhere in a 42-kilometre radius - and his constant invitations for me to join him are politely left to rush by.

It’s quite an achievement running forty-two kilometres. Pushing through the pain, wringing every ounce of effort out of yourself and doing something very few people achieve.  I do admire him for it. 

One of the most fascinating parts of running a marathon is known as hitting the wall. My mate talks about hitting it just past the halfway mark.  Everything about his experience says to give up; to walk; to even stop.  His legs are screaming for a break from the lactic acid and muscle cramps.  His lungs are screaming for relief. Even though he’s got the ability and the tools – and he’s already run half the race - things happen to him that make the finish line feel like it’s further away than when he started.

And he talks about feeling like he’s running in jelly.  He’s got the movement of running, but doesn’t feel like he’s getting anywhere. 

Writers hit the wall too. Our lactic acid might be family time that encroaches on writing. Our muscle cramps could be the pull of work or church over writing. Or our energy burnout could be when our ideas or storylines just run out of petrol. Or we're over halfway but just can't seem to find a way to finish the book.

It’s happened to me a number of times this year – when everything about my writing experience says to give up and stop. When my brain wants a rest and my bank balance tells me I should be doing extra work that actually pays the bills. When my ideas have run out of petrol and my characters feel like they can’t move on.

And it feels to me like the finish line – holding the final manuscript in my hands – is further away than when I started.

Now, my mate just laughs when I talk about writers hitting the wall, but there are things that he does that I’ve implemented this year.  And they’ve worked.
  • Keep moving.  A runner needs their feet to keep moving. That movement is important as stopping the movement makes it 1000 times harder to restart it.  I’ve done that this year, at times I’ve just kept moving. That could be as simple as giving my protagonist another character trait, adding 200 words to the manuscript.  Or editing another chapter or scene. Or simply reformatted one exchange of dialogue.  That movement is important as I can look back and see that I've done something.
  • Focussing on the finish line. Marathon runners often disassociate from the pounding beat of their stride and focus on the finish line. It helps break the dawning thought that they're in pain now, and is a reminder of why they're doing what they're doing. At times this year, I’ve just taken a deep breath and visualised typing The End at the tail of my manuscript. That disassociation has been enough to push me on and to spur me into action, because I now have the end goal in frame.
  • Breaking the race down into chunks. This is the opposite of the previous point. One things my marathon running friend does is run the next 1km, then the next, then the next. I’ve done that – written the next scene, then the next scene, then the next scene. And when I’ve looked up at the end of the week I’ve written another 3,000 words.
  • Enjoying the process. My friend says he tries to breath in sync with his steps or count out as his feet pound away. He enjoys the process of running.  That’s what I’ve tried to do this year.  I’ve written a particularly difficult scene and enjoyed the words as they’ve come, or the plot point as it has unveiled itself. I've gasped in surprise when a character says something I wasn't expecting or smiled when the protagonist got out of a jam even I didn't expect him to get out of. It sounds crazy, but it's FUN!
Writing a piece of work – any work – is hard. Especially if it’s something you’ve drawn from the depths of your experience or character. You’ve pushed through the pain, wrung every ounce of effort out of yourself and done something very few people achieve. 

And, like my friend, I admire you for it.

About David Rawlings

Based in Adelaide, South Australia, I am a sports-mad, married father-of-three with my own copywriting/communication business who reads everything within an arm’s reach. I can see a typo from across the room and always – always – make sure my text messages are grammatically correct.
My manuscripts have finalled in the ACFW's Genesis competitions and the OCW's Cascade Awards.

And now I'm working with the Steve Laube Agency as my agent to find that elusive first publisher.

Sunday, August 20, 2017


Coming Up This Week 


David Rawlings


Iola Goulton: Inconvenient Inspiration


Sandra Orchard: How to Conquer the To-Do List


Morgan Tarpley Smith

Friday Devotion 

Leila Halawe: Refiner's Fire


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, August 18, 2017

He Sees You - Devotional

Last night was my 10yo’s school play. It is a South African adaptation of Jack and the Beanstalk so instead of a beanstalk, we have a coral tree and instead of Jack, we have Jacobus

My girl has been cast as a skinny kitchen rat and her name is Thin-Thin. To make it all more exciting, they are dancing to the old UB40 song There’s a Rat in My Kitchen. As a mom and a UB40 fan, it just doesn’t get better than this. Their first show was last night, we’ve got tickets for tonight. I can’t wait! (That's why there are no pictures of her, just this generic coral tree.)

It was my turn to play taxi and do the after show pick up last night. My girl can be superbly slow at changing when you catch her on an off day so I hung around in the parking lot with the other parents for some time.

As the kids started dribbling out of their classrooms to find their families, I watched a tiny girl who wasn’t cast as a lead, but showed up anyway, and played her part as a soup ingredient or something. She may, or may not have been one of a bunch of carrots. 

This is not that little girl --->

The kid ran up to her mom and asked, “Did you see me?” The mom wrapped her in an enormous hug and responded, “I did! You were awesome!”

I stood there waiting for mine and watching this scene play out over and over.

Did you see me?

I did, you were amazing! 

The Holy Spirit whispered quietly to my heart, so quietly that I heard it above all the excited noise...

I see you. You are amazing.

This is the beautiful truth I pass on to you today. It doesn’t matter where you’re at or why. It doesn’t matter if you’re at the top of your game, nailing your goals and achieving, or just surviving one day (one hour) at a time and not giving up. It doesn't matter if your dreams are tucked away in the back corner of your heart gathering dust, or if you are chasing after them so hard that your heart may explode.

He sees you.
And to Him, you are amazing.

Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 
Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. Luke 12 v 7.

Rest in that today. You are loved by the God of the universe. More than just loved, He thinks you're amazing! I think that's enough, don't you?

Dianne J. Wilson writes novels from her hometown in East London, South Africa, where she lives with her husband and three daughters. She is writing a three book YA series, Spirit Walker, with Pelican / Watershed, book 1, Affinity, releasing soonish.

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

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

Find her on FacebookTwitter and her sporadic blog Doodles.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

What's In A Price? - Kara Isaac

Almost two months ago, I independently published my third book, Then There Was You. It was a steep learning curve from the beginning and I'm still very much a learner when it comes to all things relating to being the publisher, distributor and promoter of my book!

One of the things that I agonised most over was the price. Like most authors, I had received a number of reader emails asking when my other two books would be "free" or "99c". Some readers seemed to consider it a badge to honour to tell me that they didn't believe in paying for books anymore!

Some readers (and other authors) have expressed an interest in how I ended up coming up with my final pricing. So I thought I would share it here with you today :)

  • The cost of investment. For Then There Was You this included a developmental editor, copy editor, cover designer, and formatter, as well as a budget for marketing/promotional activities; 
  • My family's personal finances. I'm currently on maternity leave from my "day job" with our third child so we are on one income. We needed this book to at least earn back the money that we had invested in it in the first three month;
  • The length of the book. Then There Was You is a full-length novel at 85,000 words (340 pages);
  • What comparable authors (in my instance, people like Melissa Tagg and Jenny B. Jones) were charging for their independently released titles;
  • My personal beliefs when it comes to what a book is worth. Put simply, I believe that authors put a lot of time and emotional energy into writing a book and they deserve to be paid fairly for that. Creating a culture where consumers expect that, sooner or later, they are going to be able to get any book they want for free (or under a dollar) devalues that work; and
  • A price point (particularly for the eBook) that would seem more than reasonable to my existing readers but also at a level to hopefully attract new ones.
  • Whether I was going to initially go exclusively with Amazon for the eBook (who give authors a much higher royalty rate if they do) or "go wide" i.e. list it on other platforms like iBooks, Nook etc.
All of those considerations combined gave me an initial ballpark of somewhere between $4-6 (USD) for the eBook which became $3.99 for preorders and $5.49 as the post release price and gave me some wiggle room if I ever wanted to occasionally put it on sale.

So there you have it. It is far from an exact science but it was the best I could do and (so far!) feedback has been that I've gotten it in the right ballpark :)

How about you? Have you found the price you're willing to pay for an eBook these days impacted by the proliferation of cheap or free titles? 

Kara Isaac lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She is the author of Close to You, a RITA Award Double Finalist, and Can't Help Falling, an RT Review Top Pick. Her latest book Then There Was You released on June 22. When she's not chasing three adorable but spirited little people, she spends her time writing horribly bad first drafts and wishing you could get Double Stuf Oreos in New Zealand. She loves to connect on her website, on Facebook at Kara Isaac - Author and Twitter @KaraIsaac

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Creative Authenticity

Last weekend my husband Stan and I had the joy of attending the 9th triennial “Crow Cousins Reunion,” getting together with the descendants of Stan’s grandparents George and Vesta Crow. Family reunions are great places for writers to hang out because most of the weekend was taken up with sharing stories. People of past generations take on flesh and blood and the importance of their deeds carry on to inspire new generations. Accomplishments of the present generation give us all a sense of shared experience and the value of family.

This year, however, we were particularly blessed with the presence of Stan’s second cousin Stephen Cornelius Roberts and his lovely wife Anne. 
 In 1990 Steve, a full-time Nebraska artist, won a mural competition to paint eight panels in the Nebraska State Capitol's Memorial Chamber. Steve very kindly gave our family a personally guided tour of the building and his mural installation. It was a profound experience to stand in the top of the tower in this magnificent building and have the artist point out the theme and meaning of his paintings and the numerous family members and other people depicted in each scene.
The Ideal of Self-Determination mural depicts “settlers crossing the plains of Nebraska on the Great Platte River Road near Chimney Rock. This mural reminds us of the hardships and struggles the settlers had to endure in establishing their new lives.” A descendant of pioneers himself, Roberts pointed out himself, his wife and their son and daughter on the right side of the canvas.
The Scourge of Poverty honors volunteers who are committed to serving those in need of food, shelter and clothing, including his own mother in the pink dress on the right and his wife’s mother in the white, who both volunteered in soup kitchens.
As we studied each mural, the artist told the historic story behind it and explained how he selected every detail, insisting on historic accuracy in clothing and props and how every face (except those in the food kitchen) are real individuals. I was impressed that landmark Chimney Rock is depicted from the exact perspective one would see it if a line were drawn from the position of the mural to the rock.
As I heard him speak about the care taken over every detail, the research, the demand for authenticity, I realized that is the same process I use in writing my novels in my desire to give my readers a you-are-there experience in the scenes I create.

That is much of what lies at the heart of being a creative artist whether one works with words, paint, stone, melody, movement or whatever one’s medium may be. Thomas Carlyle said, “Genius is an infinite capacity for taking pains.” Few of us can claim genius, but, as creatures of The Creator we can all take pains to do the very best we possibly can with our craft, demanding of ourselves that our creations carry the ring of authenticity.

Donna Fletcher Crow is the author of some 50 novels of British history, including 3 mystery series. She tries never to set a scene in a place she hasn't actually visited which she hopes gives her stories a ring of authenticity and provides an excuse for some great travel opportunities. You can read more about her and all her books here.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Behind the Scenes with Lisa Harris and Lynne Gentry on their collaboration, Ghost Heart + Giveaway

By Ian Acheson

I was fortunate to be part of the street team that assisted Lisa and Lynne in promoting their new medical thriller, GhostHeart. It’s a tremendous story as besides being a thrill ride of a read it also explores topics rarely addressed in a novel. Topics such as heart transplants and the global black market for organs and albinos.

I’m always fascinated by collaborations, as I’m curious about the process two authors undertake to draft a story. I thought it would be fun to get some insight from the two ladies on how they tackled the story and some of the background behind it.

The two of you have been good friends for many years but many of us wouldn’t know how you met and how you’ve maintained such a close friendship at long distance?

LISA: Before we moved to Africa, we lived in south Dallas and went to church where Lynne and her husband were in ministry. While we were friends for several years, it really wasn’t until right before we left for the mission field that we spent some time together—with a mutual friend who was in her eighties and a lot of chocolate—sharing our ministry and writing dreams and experiences. I’ve always been grateful that our friendship has continued over so many years.

LYNNE: One of the blessings of working on this novel has been the chance for us to email and Skype on a regular basis and stay in touch. Over the years we’ve also had several mini-writing retreats when Lisa is back in the states where we brain storm and of course have a lot of fun!

Okay, thanks for that. Now to Ghost Heart. Where did you get the idea for this story?

LYNNE: Just over a decade ago, a newspaper picture of a terrified albino caught my attention. As I read about the horrors these fragile people face, I couldn’t believe such evil existed in the world. I called Lisa, who lives in Mozambique, and asked her to find out if what she’d read was true.

LISA: Until Lynne wrote to me about the article she’d read, I’d never heard of these barbaric crimes. But after doing some further research, I discovered that what she’d read was true. Once we learned that the witch doctors use the pale skin and hair of these fragile people to make good luck charms and potions, we knew we had to tell their story.  
Is the plight of albinos real or something you made up for this story?

LYNNE: Sadly, the atrocities committed against those born with this genetic mutation is very real. Less than 2% of Tanzanian albinos survive beyond their 40th birthday.

Why did you feel that writing about the atrocities happening to albinos was a story that needed to be told?

LYNNE: We both have a heart for those suffering prejudice and discrimination. People with albinism are not ghosts. They are human beings.

LISA: And this issue goes far beyond the horrors facing albinos. All around the world people are discriminated against. Sometimes it’s for the color of their skin. Other times it’s for their faith or beliefs. But in the end, we are all human beings and we all bleed the same color.
Now let's chat about your writing process. How does co-writing a book differ from writing your own story?

LYNNE: There is a creative give and take that makes the storytelling process more difficult, but in the end we believe also makes the story more powerful. 

LISA: This was the first time I’d ever done anything like this, but while it was challenging, it was also a huge blessing to me. It allowed us to each take our strengths and put them together, while also learning from each other.

Can you tell us some about the brainstorming process of this book?

LYNNE: Since we live on different continents and in different time zones, we do a lot of the work via email. The skeleton of the story went back and forth between us many times. However, when we really need to solve a plot point we will set up a Skype call, which also gives us a chance to visit and reconnect. And since we really do enjoy each other, those calls are a win/win for both of us.

LISA: A project like this definitely was something I loved doing since I don’t have a lot of contact with other writers on a day-to-day basis. And having two people brainstorm ideas for a book is always a win-win situation.

As co-authors, how did you do the actual writing of the book?

LYNNE: First, we decided we wanted our hero and heroine to each have a distinctive voice. The easiest way to achieve their separate voices was for each of us to choose which one we wanted to write. Next, it made sense for Lisa to write the scenes involving African characters since she lives there. Because of my connections to the medical world, I did the research and writing for those scenes.  

LISA: Once we decided on who was going to write what characters, it allowed us to focus on that part of the story line, and on those specific characters backstory and personalities. Watching the story then come together was really exciting.
Besides giving readers a fast paced thriller, what do you want people to get out of this story?

LYNNE: Beneath the color of our skin we are all alike. Because my novels always speak to the intrinsic worth of each of us, I long for the day we can all learn to look past outward appearances.

LISA: In most of my suspense novels, I turn to real life events that affect our world today. In highlighting things—like the issues facing albinos today, I hope that people will step up and get involved in their own communities and make a difference.
Thanks, Lisa and Lynne.
We hope this “behind the scenes” might have planted a seed of interest in Ghost Heart. Here are a couple other links that provide more details.

Ghost Heart BlogspotThe story behind the story

To celebrate the books release, we'd like to give away one ebook copy! Leave a comment below for a chance to win a copy and please include a way for me to contact you. I'll draw a winner Saturday, August 19th at 10 pm CST.

You can also find your copy at 
Amazon as an ebook and paperback, as well as your other favorite online vendors.

You can find out even more about Lisa and Lynne’s writing endeavours by popping over to their websites:

Lisa Harris: has written around thirty books. While Lisa started off writing romance novels for the Christian market, she now writes romantic suspense. Pop over to Lisa's website for more.

Lynne Gentry: has written ten books including, The Carthage Chronicles, a time travel series, and the Mt. Hope Southern Adventures, a humorous small town series. Lynne's website provides more information.