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Posts Tagged ‘Ark House’

In recent days, I have been involved in finalising the cover of my fifth novel, ‘Heléna’s Legacy’, due for release in June. I was asked by my publisher, Ark House, for suggestions and in the process, told them one thing I don’t like on a cover – a front view of the hero or heroine! I like my readers to imagine these characters themselves. And as the author, no image ever seems to do justice to this ‘real’ person I have walked beside for months who has persevered and struggled and triumphed and lived through so many different experiences.

When the cover was returned for approval, however, I found a front view of the main character on it! And yet … well, she looked lovely, with a rather pensive, sad expression that exactly suits the storyline. So I rapidly had to revise my own mental concept, step back a little and try to appreciate what the graphic artist had come up with. Now I’m very happy with the result – and I hope my readers will be too.

It’s sad but true that we do tend to judge a book by its cover. For this reason, I’m very glad all my novels have excellent covers. In this day of economic downturn and questions about the future of books and bookstores, we authors need all the help we can get! But all of this has led me to wonder how I myself come across to people – how the ‘cover’ I present to the world expresses what is inside me. What do people see when I get up to speak somewhere? What do people notice about the way I live my daily life?

Well, I know they see a grey-haired woman who is definitely not slim and perhaps make judgments about that! It is amazing how people are put in ‘boxes’ simply on the strength of having grey hair, I’ve discovered. Perhaps we would be suitable to speak to Seniors’ Groups, it is suggested nicely – when I absolutely love speaking to young mums or people of any age, including Seniors! But much more importantly, I hope I carry with me in what I do and say – and yes, even in my appearance – something of who God is. After all, each of us is created in God’s image, as Genesis 1:27 tells us. And as the psychologist David Benner puts it in ‘The Gift of Being Yourself’, each of us, when we are prepared to be our true selves, actually is a ‘unique face of God to the world’! What a privilege – but what a responsibility as well.

So I hope both in my life and through my novels, by God’s grace, I reflect that grace and love clearly in a way that points people to God. ‘Let you light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven’, Jesus tells his disciples (Matt 5:16). I hope as I speak, that my words carry something of the ‘fragrance of life’ that Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 2:16. And I hope and pray that the ‘cover’ of the book of my life will attract people to God and not turn them away.

But I’m so relieved that when God looks at me, the inside matters much more than the outside! In 1 Samuel 16:7, when Samuel is sizing up Jesse’s sons as potential future kings, the Lord reminds him:

Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

How about you? What does your ‘cover’ convey? And what does God see in your heart?

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I have a friend, Dale Harcombe, whose first general fiction novel Streets on a Map is due for release this month from Ark House Press. Dale lives in South Coast NSW and, prior to Streets on a Map, has had seven children’s novels and Kaleidoscope, a book of poems, published. For more information, please visit Dale’s website  and her own blog.

Recently, Dale asked several author friends to write a guest blog for her on the topic ‘The map I use for writing is …’. Here is my effort on Dale’s behalf:

When I write, I always use the same large-scale map, without which I would inevitably lose my way and give up. I do also begin with a more detailed one, yet while displaying many of the twists and turns of my proposed journey, it does have one distinct drawback. It has a tendency to change regularly, with landmarks being added and removed, streets shortened or lengthened or even disappearing altogether and narrow lanes, over time, becoming major highways. So I need to ‘zoom out’ frequently to my large-scale map, if I am to keep my bearings at all.

What does my large-scale map look like? Well, there are only four main roads marked on it – but they are extremely important and form a strategic crossroad right in the centre. 

The name of my first road is Experience. I have travelled this road for some years now and learnt many things that invariably find their way into my writing. I love this road. It makes me feel secure, as I know where I am going and can easily describe it to others as well. It is a rich road, full of memories – and I am so thankful for it.

My second road is called Imagination. I particularly love this road and always enjoy travelling along it. The journey is invariably interesting and exciting, with unexpected vistas opening up almost at every corner and serendipitous events that often take my breath away. I can tend to forget where I am at times as I journey through the somewhat uncharted territory this road traverses – but I would definitely be the poorer if it did not exist.

My third road has a slightly dull sounding name. It is called Perseverance. At times, my feet lag as I step out here, but I know the route this road covers is essential in getting to where I want to go. I try to walk here with my head held high, looking straight ahead and not being distracted by the various tempting turnoffs along the way. I know if I wander, I may never reach my desired destination.

And my final road is the most important of all. It is called Inspiration and is a beautiful highway, fashioned by Someone with much more experience, imagination and perseverance than I will ever have. If I am dispirited as I journey here, I know I can stop for a moment and breathe in fresh ideas and phrases that seem to come from somewhere above and beyond – perhaps even from another place altogether. I am uplifted and encouraged every time my journey takes me this way.

But whichever route I take, I always eagerly head for the crossroads in the centre. That’s where I come to meet the one who always understands, who believes in me and loves me, who helps me find my way again. Jesus, who himself is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).

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Next month, my fourth novel ‘Jenna’ will be released by Ark House.  In the last few weeks, I have discussed various changes with the editor, written a whole new first chapter and re-written certain other parts of the story to fit in with these additions and alterations.   When both parties were satisfied, the novel was formatted and returned to me for checking, after which further corrections needed to be put in place.  Currently, the whole novel is being proofread yet again and the final version will then be returned to me to approve for publishing.  This whole process is extremely time-consuming yet nevertheless essential.  After all, I want to ensure my novel reaches the reading public with as few mistakes as possible.

So what happens to any current writing project I might have while this editing and re-writing takes place?  Well, it invariably ends up being sidelined – at least for a short while. Yet even a brief break is enough for me to forget what my characters have already said and done or how they are likely to think or act in a particular situation.  The thread has been lost and I have to take time to go back to the beginning and immerse myself once again in ‘the story thus far’.

But then, just as I feel I have a good grasp on what needs to happen next, I am pulled away yet again.  I have several speaking engagements coming up and I must start thinking and praying about what to say.  Don’t get me wrong – I love speaking and enjoy preparing talks.  But this is an entirely different ‘ballgame’ from writing novels.  So I head to the left a little in my brain and endeavour to come up with something that, according to what type of audience I am speaking to, will inform or challenge or entertain.

And of course there is also the actual arranging of speaking engagements.  Yes, my publisher does some of the ‘larger scale’ promotional tasks, but the bulk of it is up to me.  So I find myself emailing places where I have previously spoken or perhaps testing the waters with new places or people – undoubtedly the most daunting challenge for me of this whole writing journey.

So how can I juggle all these aspects of my writing journey and continue to move forward in a productive, focused way?  The encouragement of friends and family is highly important, but without a doubt, it is God who enables me to keep everything in balance and who inspires me to persevere in it all.  This morning I read Psalm 92:14-15:

[The righteous] will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”

I don’t feel all that old as yet – and there are so many more things I want to write about.  So it is wonderful to feel encouraged that I can go on bearing fruit for years to come!  But it is even more wonderful to know that the Lord will always be my firm and sure Rock – in fact the perfect ‘fulcrum’ for my balancing act of being an author.  If God is at the centre of all I do, then I know I can be at peace, whatever is happening in my writing and speaking world.

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