Friday, 22 September 2017

Active Waiting For Writers

by Jeanette O'Hagan




I was seven and full of enthusiasm. After all, I loved paw-paws and this luscious, orange fruit was plump full of tiny, black, round seeds. Paw-paw seeds grow into paw-paw trees, which grow more paw-paws. What’s not to like? Armed with a little knowledge and a great deal of enthusiasm, I separated out a single seed, found a gardening spade and marched out to the back garden. I dug a hole—probably about 30 cms deep—placed the seed in the hole, flooded it with water from the hose, piled in the dirt, patted and shaped it into a mound (drawing on my uber-mudcake making skills), wiped my brow and waited.

Next day, I checked my tree-in-the making. The mound looked just as I left it. Maybe, little drier under the baking Mt Isa sun. I added some more water. The next day—nothing, just bare dirt. The following day—well, you guessed it, nothing. Frustrated and worried, I grabbed the spade and dug up the seed to see if it was growing yet. Nope. Buried it again. Dug it up the following day. Mum said, ‘Seeds take time to grow, it doesn’t happen overnight.’

My first venture into horticulture was, I confess, a huge failure, but it taught me something. That good things take time to grow. That patience is an important asset. And, as I learnt more about plant requirements, it also taught me that knowing what you are doing helps. 

Growing plants requires knowledge—what does the plant like in terms of soil, water, position, depth to plant the seed etc—and experience.

It also requires, active waiting. Passive or idle waiting is doing nothing and expecting something to grow. In active waiting, we plant, care for and tend the plant, but we don’t keep digging it up each day to see if it’s growing.


These are lessons I’ve had to re-learn when it comes to writing.

The first book I wrote came easily, it poured out of me. When it was finished I sent it to two publishers and one was interested with changes (a rewrite to make it more ‘Christian’) that I was reluctant to make. Then life took another turn and decades later I started writing again, studying a post-graduate degree, and relooking at the old novel, writing the prequels, starting on the sequels.

I can remember the elation of finishing the first draft of this second novel. I wrote the next one. 

Meanwhile, no one except my beta-readers seemed interested in taking up my opus. I was learning, getting feedback.

'Writing styles had changed.' 'The first line must sizzle.' 'Creative dialogue tags and using adverbs are literary crimes.' 'Pace and structure matter.'

I was learning and, I believe, improving, becoming a stronger writer, but it still felt like I’d never be published as year after year went by and the patch of dirt remained bare of even the tiniest of tender shoots.

Pundits advised writing short stories as a way to get published and improving one’s skills. 'But,' I said, ‘I’m am more comfortable writing long stories, like epic novels. I struggle with short stories.’ An opportunity came to submit to an anthology – maximum of 5000 words. I wrote three stories, the first two over 7000 words, before I managed to hit the sweet spot with The Herbalist’s Daughter. My story was published—and then some more stories were pubished in various anthologies and the acceptances began to flow.



Last year I published my first novella Heart of the Mountain—but my novel still languished. I’d edited it, sought feedback from editors, other writers, beta-readers and edited again, and again, and again. This month, I’ve finally published Akrad’s Children after six years of germination.

What I’ve learnt along the way is:

  1. Enthusiasm isn’t enough, knowledge and practice are vital. (Don’t bury a single paw-paw seed deep in the earth and cement it in with mud 😊 )
  2. Writing means waiting—waiting to hear back from editors or agents or publishers, waiting for feedback, waiting for a piece to be accepted, waiting for reviews (any reviews), waiting for sales, waiting to be noticed, waiting for the break-out novel, waiting …
  3. Good things take time to grow—but waiting doesn’t mean ‘idle’, it means watering, weeding, nurturing; it means continuing to write, to learn, to grow, to encourage others.
  4. We may plant and water, but it’s God that gives the true growth. 


When, we start writing a novel, we see typing THE END as the summit, but there is always another summit ahead however far along the journey we are. I’m learning to become more content with my Father’s timing while I wait.

How about you? What are you waiting for? What are you learning?

*****

Jeanette O’Hagan is thrilled that her novel Akrad’s Children will be released as an e-book just days away on 22 September 2017 (available for pre-order). https://www.amazon.com/Akrads-Children-Legacy-Book-ebook/dp/B075BK8436/

Four young lives, a realm ravaged by war, a haunting legacy

Four young lives are bound together in friendship, love, rivalry and tragedy. A realm ravaged by civil war, a ruler scarred by betrayal, a legacy that haunts them all.

Caught between two cultures, a pawn in a deadly power struggle, Dinnis longs for the day his father will rescue him and his sister from the sorcerer Akrad’s clutches. But things don’t turn out how Dinnis imagines and his father betrays him.

Does Dinnis have a future among the Tamrin? Will he seek revenge for wrongs like his sister or forge a different destiny?




Jeanette started spinning tales in the world of Nardva at the age of eight or nine. She enjoys writing secondary world fiction, poetry, blogging and editing. Her Nardvan stories span continents, time and cultures. They involve a mixture of courtly intrigue, adventure, romance and/or shapeshifters and magic users.

Recent publications include her novellas Heart of the Mountain and Blood Crystal and short stories The Herbalist's Daughter and Lakwi's Lament. Other short stories and poems are published in a number of anthologies, including Glimpses of Light and Futurevision

Jeanette continues to write her Akrad’s Legacy Series—a Young Adult secondary world fantasy fiction with adventure, courtly intrigue and romantic elements.

Find her at her Facebook Page or at Goodreads or on Amazon or on her websites JennysThread.com or Jeanette O'Hagan Writes . if you want to stay up-to-date with latest publications and developments, sign up to Jeanette O'Hagan Writes e-mail newsletter.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Book Review: Jane of Austin, by Hillary Manton Lodge

Reviewed by Carolyn Miller

Just a few years after their father’s business scandal shatters their lives, Jane and Celia Woodward find themselves forced out of their San Francisco tea shop. The last thing Jane wants is to leave their beloved shop on Valencia Street, but when Celia insists on a move to Austin, Texas, the sisters pack up their kid sister Margot and Jane’s tea plants, determined to start over yet again.

But life in Austin isn’t all sweet tea and breakfast tacos. Their unusual living situation is challenging and unspoken words begin to fester between Jane and Celia. When Jane meets and falls for up-and-coming musician Sean Willis, the chasm grows deeper.

While Sean seems to charm everyone in his path, one person is immune – retired Marine Captain Callum Beckett. Callum never meant to leave the military, but the twin losses of his father and his left leg have returned him to the place he least expected—Texas. 

In this modern spin on the Austen classic, Sense and Sensibility, the Woodward sisters must contend with new ingredients in unfamiliar kitchens, a dash of heartbreak, and the fragile hope that maybe home isn't so far away.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a big fan of Jane Austen and Austen adaptations, so when this book began getting some buzz I had to buy it to check it out. Jane of Austin is Sense and Sensibility set in contemporary Austin, Texas, and for those of you familiar with Elinor and Marianne Dashwood’s tale, you will enjoy seeing the nods to Austen’s original story.

I found the plot intriguing, the characters engaging (although I’m starting to wonder just how many wounded war veterans need to be glamorised as leads in romantic stories – where are the office workers and accountants?), and the use of recipes and the mention of various teas interesting. For a novel marketed as Christian I was surprised when I finished reading how few references to Christian activity I could recall, apart from the occasional prayer. It was enough to make me wonder about the ‘vanilla-isation’ of books marketed as Christian books to a Christian market, when there is little to distinguish it from a clean secular novel. Not that I’m necessarily advocating the incorporation of sermons, and do I understand this falls into the ‘rom-com’ category, but a little more wrestling with faith would be nice to see from Christian characters.


All in all, I enjoyed this book, and if you're looking for a modern adaptation of a Jane Austen classic, then you will probably enjoy it also.


Carolyn Miller lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children. A longtime lover of romance, especially that of the Regency era, Carolyn holds a BA in English Literature, and loves drawing readers into fictional worlds that show the truth of God’s grace in our lives. Her Regency novel 'The Elusive Miss Ellison' released in the US in February 2017, and is available at Amazon.com.auKoorong and Book Depositoryand her second novel ‘The Captivating Lady Charlotte’ released June 27 and  is available now.
Connect with her:                    
www.carolynmillerauthor.com/                                
www.facebook.com/CarolynMillerAuthor/



Wednesday, 20 September 2017

GPS

My Son's GPS
Have you ever wondered how 
many satellites are circling our earth?

No? Neither have I. But they are there and even travelling out into deep space. One thing most are happy about is that amazing invention that's been around for some time, the GPS. ie. Global Positioning System.

A GPS is simply a guidance system. To take it to a personal, level, we know God's GPS has been around for thousands of years. And that's something we all need in life.

As long as we follow instructions, we can be sure of arriving where we need to be. Even if we make a mistake along the way and miss a turning, the GPS tells us  it's "recalculating," and sure enough it gets us back on track.

Sometimes we can make rash decisions in many of life's situations and relationships, and we head down the wrong way. Yet whenever we stop to listen, God will "recalculate" and set us back on the right road. We just need a willing heart to think of the others' needs before our own and to kind to each other.


My life verse is this from the Book of Proverbs Ch 3, verses 5 & 6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and don't rely only on your own wisdom. In all your ways acknowledge him and He shall direct your paths.
 

Life can be hectic. Life can be confusing. We face so many choices and have to make so many decisions. Yet no matter where we are in life, we only need to keep our ear tuned to our ever-present GPS, or God's Positioning System, the Holy Bible. In it we will find unchanging truth. God's Word does not follow the latest of society's trends.

(Actually, I am my husband's GPS when we're driving. I love reading maps! I also love reading God's Word. The former gets us to where we're headed here on earth and the latter guides us both here and on to our eternal home.)


Currently Rita Galieh co-presents a 5 min. Christian radio program with her husband, George. ‘Vantage Point’ is broadcast Australia-wide on local FM stations.  As an author, she has written six inspirational historical novels, contributed to several US anthologies, and belongs to several writers’ organizations. 
Besides her weekly blog, she can be found on www.ritastellapress.com and Facebook. Together with her husband, she assumes the role of a governess, and gives a fun filled presentation of Etiquette of the Victorian Era.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

The Power of Books to Influence - Cindy Williams

By Cindy Williams

What stories have influenced your writing?


Last weekend I did a prayer ministry course with Elijah House. As we learned the many ways in which we are shaped by our early childhood experiences I thought about our childhood reading experiences – how do they influence our writing?

My first favourite book was Dr Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat which, I am told, I could recite word for word. Even after fifty years, seeing the pictures and reading the words elicits a wonderful sense of security and delight.

A few years later I voraciously devoured every Famous Five and Secret Seven book I could find. My friend and I would roam the neighbourhood looking for suspicious neighbours and mysteries to solve. Mostly we just got in trouble for trespassing!

That sense of adventure continued with the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series. I was so keen that I even entered a competition where a boy (yuk!) and I had to eat from each end of a chocolate bar faster than any other ‘couple’. The sacrifice was worth it – the prize was a Hardy Boys book!

As well as adventure I was drawn by the food of the Famous Five. Those picnic baskets filled with cold ham, sandwiches, cherry cake and homemade lemonade; and those cups of hot cocoa, crusty bread, hunks of farm fresh cheese and chocolate sponge cake after an adventurous night out: these too elicited warm, wonderful feelings.

Later, while writing (as a dietitian) about food in a far less evocative way, I discovered Francine Rivers’ The Mark of the Lion series. The main character inspired me with how to live as a Christian amongst those who don’t believe. The stories gave me guidance and hope – and plenty of action and adventure!

Then I found Frank Peretti’s books, This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness. These came along just as I was learning about the power of spiritual warfare, and both inspired and encouraged me.

I am regularly sent books to review for the Historical Novel Society and I have been wondering why I struggle to read many of them, often chiding myself that I am not ‘literary’ enough. But I have realised that what many of these books lack is a message of hope.

In recalling my favourite books from the past I realise that I am drawn to books that have adventure and challenge, and are uplifting and provide hope. I have written two novels that, at first glance, seem completely different. In fact they contain all the elements that I like to read about. Just as a prayer ministry course can provide insight into why we behave in certain ways, so this exercise has given me insight into what I am drawn to write.

Which books have shaped your life? What inspires you? The Lord has given each of us different experiences, different interests and different writing styles. The one thing we have in common is that as Christians we are able to bring God’s light and hope into a dark and needy world. When we are obedient to write what the Lord has laid on our hearts we can trust that He will use it to bless someone in some way. Embrace your uniqueness, refine your writing craft (perhaps by coming to the Omega Writers Conference) and pray that God’s will is done with whatever you write.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Understanding the Principles of Copyright

By Iola Goulton


What is Copyright?


In essence, copyright is the right to copy. (Sounds obvious, right?)


Copyright includes the right to reproduce, distribute, and display copyrighted works. It is a form of intellectual property, an asset that has monetary value. Copyright law is designed to protect the rights of those who create content.

What Does Copyright Cover?

Copyright covers original works, whether words, sounds, or images, and whether published or unpublished. This includes books and blog posts, but also includes music, lyrics, movies, TV shows, scripts, plays, speeches … it’s broad. Basically, copyright covers the creation of any original work, in any form.

Who Owns the Copyright to a Published Book?

The author (well, they should). The author signs a contract with a publisher which licences specific rights. This licence gives the publisher the temporary right to reproduce, distribute, and display copyrighted works (i.e. to print and sell the book).

A good contract will specify what rights are included, e.g. the format of the book, the language, and the countries the book can be sold. It will also include how the author can get those rights back (e.g. so the author can self-publish the work). Never sign a contract that’s for life of copyright. That basically means the publisher owns the book, not you.

If you want to know more about the ins and outs of publishing contracts, I recommend Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s blog.

Copyright is Automatic

Copyright is automatic for work first published after 1 March 1989. Works do not have to have a © symbol or notice of copyright to be covered. The law is more complex for earlier work, so it’s best to assume a work is covered by copyright unless you have evidence to the contrary.

Copyright is International

All countries have laws relating to copyright. While there are minor differences (e.g. the length of copyright, whether you need to register copyright), the principles are the same, thanks to the Berne Convention.

There is a legal concept known as the long arm of the law. I thought this a cliché used in Western movies, but it apparently is a real thing. Author and lawyer Courtney Milan says:
you can be prosecuted by a state so long as you have “minimum contacts” with that state.
Milan was talking about online giveaways, not copyright law, but my unlegal interpretation* of long-arm jurisdiction is that anything you publish needs to abide by:

  • The copyright laws where you live.
  • The copyright laws where you publish.
  • The copyright laws where your readers live.

So a blog post (like this one) published on a US-based website (like Blogger) that attracts readers from Australia, New Zealand, and the US needs to comply with US copyright law. And Australian copyright law. And New Zealand copyright law.

Copyright is Universal

Fortunately, most of the principles are universal, thanks to the Berne Convention. Where things differ by country, my suggestion is to abide by the most conservative. So if a work under copyright in country A but not in country B, I suggest you treat the work as if it was still under copyright.

Here are two well-known examples:

  • The King James Bible
  • Peter Pan

The King James Bible

Most American Christians will tell you the King James Bible is out of copyright. However, it is still under copyright in the United Kingdom—copyright is held by the Crown i.e. HM Queen Elizabeth II. King James Bibles are published in the UK by the Crown’s patentee, Cambridge University Press.

So if it’s reasonable to assume your book might be purchased in the UK, it would be appropriate to include the appropriate copyright statement. (Not that I’ve ever heard of the Queen suing anyone for copyright infringement over the King James Bible. But it could happen.)

Note that it’s not the original text of the Bible which is subject to copyright, but the translation. 


So all more modern versions of the Bible, including the New King James Version, are under copyright, because they are translations. Most modern translations allow authors to quote up to a specific number of verses without written permission as long as the follow specific guidelines. You can find up-to-date copyright and permission information by clicking on the relevant version at Bible Gateway.

Peter Pan

JM Barrie gifted the copyright to Peter Pan (the play and the later novelisation) to Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children in 1929. That copyright originally expired in 1987, but the UK Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 includes a clause that specifically states GOSH has a right to royalty in perpetuity in the UK for stage productions, broadcasting, or publication.

But that doesn’t apply internationally. The novel is considered to be in the public domain in most countries, although the play version is still in copyright in the US until 2023 (so if Hollywood wish to produce a Peter Pan movie, the producers must licence the rights from GOSH).

Copyright Infringement

Copyright infringement is a big deal. It’s against the law in the same way as stealing is against the law. As an awkward object lesson, Abingdon Press have recently pulled a book from sale after finding numerous instances of plagiarism

Plagiarism is quoting other people’s work without appropriate attribution.


Strong for a Moment Like This: The Daily Devotions of Hillary Rodham Clinton by Rev Bill Shillady is a collection of 365 devotions provided to the former First Lady during her presidential campaign. Unfortunately, not all the material was original.

The plagiarism was discovered when CNN published one of the devotionals, and a pastor from Indiana contacted CNN, saying parts of the devotional seemed to be “inspired” by a blog post he published in March 2016. Despite the book having over 200 citations, there was more content that had not been correctly cited. The book was pulled from sale less than a month after publication.

It is estimated that 3,000 copies of Strong have been sold, from a print run of 80,000. The remaining books will be recalled and pulped.

Does This Mean I Can’t Use Copyrighted Material?

You can still use copyrighted material if you have written permission from the copyright holder (note that this may not be the original creator—Paul McCartney doesn’t own the rights to most of the 250+ songs he created with John Lennon).

You can also use copyrighted material without permission in certain specific circumstances, as outlined in the US doctrine of Fair Use.

I’ll be back next week to discuss Fair Use, and give some tips for using copyrighted material without getting into trouble.


Please note that I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice. There is a lot of great information about copyright on the internet, but none of it is legal advice. To get legal advice, you pay a lawyer licensed to practice in your state or country. 


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

Friday, 15 September 2017

Why we Write

Photo courtesy of KEKO64 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
For those of us who’ve started out on this writing journey later in life it’s often a result of that burning story idea that’s been bugging us for years. That was me 15 years (really has it been that long ago?). Or how many times have we met someone who says they really want to write their personal story because they believe their life has been sufficiently interesting that others would enjoy it? My dad’s one of those. And an elderly family-friend only mentioned it to me the other day. She said she had all these handwritten notes tucked away where she’d documented important moments of her life.
But so many of those people don’t get around to writing their stories. Why? A host of reasons I expect.
And then there are those many authors who consider the Lord has called them to write. I’m not one of those and have no qualms about not being.
A Seeker
“We do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand.” – Cecil Day-Lewis
It’s only been in the last few years that I’ve come to realise the above quote is true for me. I think many people write or desire to write (like those I mentioned above) because they seek to be understood. Having read many non-fiction books, memoirs and such (I read more of these than fiction) I’ve realised the ones I struggle to read are those that are focusing too much on sharing their story rather than universal truths that provide relevance for a reader. As I only read today from Wayne Jacobsen (one of the co-writers of The Shack):

Your story needs to be the illustration; your book needs to be about the life lesson that will help your order.”

I’ve found this a useful reminder as I type away with the non-fiction piece that I’m writing. Yes, I’m seeking to understand why intimacy with God is such a struggle for us that can also flow over into our relationships but I’ve found I’ve needed to first chart my own story of intimacy before discovering those pearls of wisdom that others may find meaningful.

But I write fiction

“All of my novels began with a question I was wrestling with. A doubt or struggle in my life that I wanted to explore in the context of story.” – Ted Dekker

We write stories to discover the truth. And in so doing we discover more about the Lord and ourselves.
As I mentioned in a previous post last year I had to wrestle with my own shadows to effectively write a story of the same title.
The Privilege of Writing
God is creative. The first thing we see God do is … create.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1 NKJV)
We are made in His likeness. So we are ALL creative. We create because He did. “We were born to make art. Our artist identity is our birthright.” (Emily P Freeman)
Wow!
And we get to create with our Creator.
Double Wow!
Doesn’t it blow your mind? For whatever reason we’re writing fiction or non-fiction, we get to do it with Him. And that’s the point.
Doing it with Him.
I’ve read books and unpublished manuscripts of varying quality recently; some have been great, some not so. But what I know is that all these authors had a story in them (some were their own personal stories) and it was important they be written. Not so that it gets published, not that it sells squillions of copies, or wins awards, but they created with their Creator. And in so doing they gave Him glory.
Dan Balow summed it up really well in his Steve Laube post the other day: “God does not need your book. But he loves it when you exercise your abilities for his glory and not your own.”
And then:
“God grants his children the privilege of joining his work, no matter what you do.”
What an honour it is for us authors. To write with Him. To co-create.
So stay close to Him when you turn up each day to the blank piece of paper. He’s there. In you. And He’s so excited that you’ve once again turned up to create something … together.
Grace and peace, my writer friends.





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