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Posts Tagged ‘Australian Christian publishers’

Jo 12During this coronavirus time, I have worked steadily on my next novel. I edited as I wrote and also edited the whole manuscript four or five times after completing it. Then I sent it off to my first manuscript reader/editor—and the next—and the next—and the next. Then I submitted it to my old publisher. And each time, there was more to edit—and more—and more. My manuscript was around 97,000 words initially, but is now around 87,000 words. And I’m still going. Is it any wonder that some nights I have gone to bed with words swimming before my eyes?

In this time too, I have written three short stories, critiqued two manuscripts and a portion of two more. And I have kept writing my blogs each week—and emailing friends and family who have felt a little isolated. I was glad I could do all this, but there comes a point where all this reading and writing can become a little tiring—especially the discouraging task of throwing thousands of words out that you have laboured long and hard to put in your manuscript in the first place!

So recently, we went away for a short break. And while driving along near the coast north of Sydney, to my surprise, I caught sight of some olive trees. Immediately, my mind went spinning back to my visits to Turkey in past years. During one trip, a friend and I travelled along the Mediterranean coast together, hopping on and off buses at various spots and taking in the mind-blowing sights and experiences of that region. Along the way, I saw many, many olive trees growing on the rocky hillsides and, to me, they were a beautiful sight, with their silvery foliage and often rounded, compact shape. I was amazed too at the way they could still flourish in such dry, barren terrain through the hottest of Turkish summers and produce those nutritious olives that are such an important part of the Mediterranean diet.

The same day I saw my olive trees here in our own country, I read the following verses in the Psalms:

But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever. I will praise you forever for what you have done; in your name I will hope, for your name is good. Psalm 52:8-9

When things coincide like that in my life, I have learnt to suspect God might want to say something to me, so I listen. And I realised I could relate to what David wrote in this psalm. I am indeed like that olive tree flourishing in God’s house. After all, God has enabled me to write all those thousands of words I have written in recent weeks—and God will sustain me as I complete the necessary editing and polishing. I don’t need to fret or complain or wonder if I will stay the distance. Instead, I know I can grow and flourish under God’s protective covering, watered and fed and cared for by our all-loving, all-powerful Creator God.

May you too be aware in this time of God’s unfailing love and nurturing hand on your life, as you grow and flourish like that olive tree.

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Jo 12This past week, I actually managed to finish the first draft of my seventh novel—over ninety-eight thousand words. Woohoo! It still feels a little surreal—I have lived with my characters for so long that they feel part of me. At times, I have even found myself thinking in real life settings, ‘Oh, how would Meg (my heroine) have responded here?’ Or ‘This is what happened to Stephen.’ Or ‘Meg has just done that!’ It has been quite a journey.

I can’t remember exactly, but I think I began this novel around three and a half years ago, not long after my second non-fiction book, Becoming Me, was published. I love writing non-fiction, but felt drawn to write yet one more novel, this time inspired, a little at least, by the lives of my maternal grandparents. Yet I cringed at the thought. Only one of my past novels could truly be classed as historical (ie set prior to and during World War Two) but, after writing it, I vowed and declared I would never write an historical novel again. You see, doing so brings with it a second huge task, on top of actually writing. Everything needs to be checked to see if the characters could truly do such things in that time and place—and if they could, how long it would take them. Certain things could not be mentioned either, since they were not around then. And certain words could not be used. Yet in my heart, I still wanted to write this novel, set in Queensland in the period 1909 to 1926.

Now I am supposed to be ‘retired’ (!), but somehow I have still not quite discovered the meaning of that word. As a result, writing this current novel has been punctuated by speaking at a variety of places, supporting the pastoral team at our church for four months while our senior pastors were on sabbatical, minding grandchildren on a regular basis, accompanying the village choir, meeting with others—and so many other good and right things. I do not regret any of them. But it makes completing a full-length historical novel just that little bit more challenging.

Can you see why I still feel a little numb at this point? Yet I also feel so grateful to God and thankful for this amazing opportunity to write a story that has been in my heart and mind for many years, long before I sat down to write the novel. I am well aware it may or may not be published—that will be my next challenge, along with many edits! But whatever the outcome, I am so glad God enabled me to persevere. Yes, I chose to sit down and write—but God inspired me to keep going and gave me the strength and ability to do so. And that can be true for each of us, however we are gifted and whatever God puts on our heart to undertake.

I have long been encouraged by the words the Lord spoke to Zerubbabel, who had undertaken the task of rebuilding God’s house in Jerusalem:

Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord. Zechariah 4:6

May these words also encourage you today to keep persevering in doing what God has given you to do.

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BecomingMe-OFC-I will always be grateful I was able to find publishers for my six novels and my first non-fiction book, Soul Friend. Without these publishers, my writing journey would have been severely hampered. But I am also grateful I was able to produce my second non-fiction book, Becoming Me: Finding my true self in God, myself via Ingram Spark in 2016. This gave me freedom to include everything I wanted to include and also to set my own publishing time frame. Now, two years later, I still receive regular reports from Ingram Spark, detailing e-book and hard copy sales.

I love this company’s efficiency, but I often smile when I receive that professional-looking, emailed monthly report for e-book sales in particular. You see, as time has passed since the release of Becoming Me, I usually discover that just one person, someone somewhere in the world, someone I will probably never meet, has bought an e-book version of Becoming Me. Yes, that means a whole USD$2.40 my little book has earned for me as the publisher—what a fortune!

Yet I never feel disappointed with these reports. In fact, this one sale always touches me, as I try to visualise who this reader might be. I pray for them too. I pray that something in my little book might speak to their hearts and provide the word from God for them that they need. After all, I’m sure this one person matters to God.

But occasionally I receive a different sort of email about Becoming Me—one from a reader I often do not know, commenting on some aspect of the book that has been meaningful to them. Recently, a lady wrote how, while she related to so much of what I wrote, the thing that touched her most was one small paragraph where I describe how, for many years, I wrote weekly letters home to my parents interstate, keeping them up-to-date with all our family events. This lady shared how, for over fifty years, she had done the same, even when her mother became a dementia patient in a nursing home. She told me how some people thought she was strange to keep writing these letters. Yet, as she read my book, she felt she had found a companion, someone who understood. How blessed I felt that God had somehow comforted her through my book, even in this small way!

These people whose lives we touch, the ones and twos, do matter to God, don’t you think? Surely we see this in how Jesus often went out of his way to minister to just one person. Examples that come to mind readily are the woman who touched Jesus’ cloak (Matthew 9), Zacchaeus (Luke 19), the woman at the well (John 4), the man born blind (John 9), Lazarus (John 11) and Mary Magdalene outside the tomb (John 20).

People matter to God. You and I matter to God. In fact, God seeks each of us out, like that one lost sheep, and, once found, will never let us go. And that comforts me more than any words I may ever write.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand, John 10:27-28

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Jo 23I suspect I am something of a loner, which can be a definite strength for an author. After all, no one else is going to write that book for me—and that, of course, involves many hours at my computer, lost in my own little world.

Yet I know I also need others around me in this writing journey of mine. Where would I be without my manuscript readers or publisher or editor? Where would I be without those who invite me to speak somewhere? Where would I be without my faithful team of women who pray for me—or my husband who looks after my finances and my computer? Without such support, I would be floundering.

Last week, another author and I were invited to take part in a school Christmas Market where all sorts of interesting gifts were on display for the children, staff, parents and grandparents to buy. In no time at all, I began to see how helpful it was to have my author friend alongside me. Our novels targeted different age groups and, while we had both written a memoir, their focus was quite different. As well, my friend had some colouring books, cards and bookmarks for sale. I had cards too from Turkey, but offered them for sale only in packs of five. What fun it was to be able to help prospective customers find what they wanted!

‘Do you have any books for early teens?’

‘Not really—but my friend does. Perhaps you could check out her books?’

‘Do you have any single cards?’

‘No—but my friend has some here. You can even colour hers in before you send them, if you want.’

My author friend ran out of change at one stage and I was able to help her out. In return, she offered me use of her paper bags and also explained about her Paypal phone app. As well, we talked about all sorts of things, an experience we both enjoyed and found encouraging.

Then, when it was time for the kindergarten children to select their gifts, I noticed some older student ‘buddies’ helping them. One tall boy carefully held the hands of two very little boys as they wandered around.

‘Would you like these cards—or perhaps a bookmark? Yes? Good. Now, that will cost three dollars (holding up three fingers), so you each have two dollars left.’

And how could I not notice the lovely, colourful skirts, aprons and bags on a nearby table? They were being sold on behalf of a community organisation in Uganda, providing the women with a viable cottage industry. There were other stalls too where any profits made were to be given to groups such as World Vision or TEAR Fund. Even the small cost each stallholder paid to be at this Christmas Market was donated to The Voice of the Martyrs organisation.

So much support for others on so many levels and in so many different ways, but all highlighting the truth of those words written so long ago:

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labour: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

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One of the handiest qualities any aspiring writer needs to have, in my opinion, is a good dose of humility. In the very uncertain book publishing world, an author may well have to survive endless assessments and editing of his or her precious manuscript, not to mention possible multiple rejections from potential publishers. Then comes the reader feedback, encouraging or otherwise, along with favourable or unfavourable reviews. And of course there are the times when others’ books are released while yours is still waiting for that publishing contract or when friends’ books win awards and yours doesn’t or when your books do not sell nearly as well as someone else’s.

In my writing journey thus far, I have experienced all of the above at one point or another. I think I have learnt a little more humility in the process—although perhaps that could be too proud a claim to make! And I hope I have sincerely rejoiced with those who rejoice when their books have been released and when they have achieved some sort of success. But I must admit my abilities in this area have been tried a little of late.

Recently, the publishers who earlier this year accepted my sixth and latest novel for publication let me know they had changed their minds! In contrast, three of my friends were enjoying varying degrees of publishing success. For one, her first book was launched after a long wait and many edits—a wonderful achievement. For another, a secular publisher has shown interest in her manuscript—an encouragement for both of us, since I have had some input into this her first work. I hope and pray it is published—my friend deserves it and has written a great, true story. Then another friend I have tried to encourage on her writing journey succeeded in having a story included in a very professional compilation released by a big publishing house. I was genuinely excited for them all. But … what about my own writing journey? Where is it heading?

Then I read John 13—the account of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet—and things began to fall into perspective again. I love verses 3-4 where John writes:

 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing and wrapped a towel around his waist.

Jesus knew who he was. He knew he had all power and authority. He knew where he came from and where he was going. And on the strength of that knowledge and out of his great love for his disciples, Jesus proceeds to wash their feet.

Now I don’t have all power and authority—especially when it comes to publishers! But I do know I am a child of God. And I do know where I came from and where I am going. So I can choose to walk my writing journey with humility and in the strength of God’s Spirit, whatever is happening or not happening. And out of love for my friends, I can choose to support them well in their writing journeys and sincerely celebrate their successes.

How about you? Is humility a challenge for you too?

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I have often heard the comment that being an author is not for the fainthearted – and I would tend to agree.  There is so much uncertainty in the book world at the moment, with the advent of e-books and the recent economic crisis.  And as an Australian Christian novelist, it is a challenge at times to stay positive when bookstores seem to be ordering fewer Australian novels from Australian publishers, opting instead for the cheaper overseas product.  Yet there is a market here for good Australian novels, I believe – everywhere I speak and offer my books for sale, people seem happy to find something different written by a ‘home-grown’ author.

So how can I and others in similar situations remain positive and hopeful, rather than succumb to gloom and despair and give up?  Well, this week I read some verses in Philippians 4 that challenged me all over again in this regard.  In verses 6-7 we read:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understand, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I want to be a person of peace, don’t you?  I want to remain focussed on Jesus, trusting him to use whatever I write for his purposes.  I believe I am doing what he wants me to do, so my role is to write and speak to the best of my ability, but also to surround everything in prayer, constantly bringing my concerns to him rather than allow myself to be consumed with worry and negative thoughts.  And I need to be thankful too for all he has done for me already, not only in regard to my novels, but even more importantly in my whole life. 

There are some ancient words of meditation I often use as I sit at my desk that ground me in God’s peace and remind me of the ‘big picture’ truths about who I am in God.  They go like this:

God is with me now, closer than breathing

And nearer than hands and feet

God has made me for Himself

I come from God

I belong to God

I go to God

God knows me

God loves me

God has a use for me

Now and forever

I can say those words and know they are truth because Jesus came to this world and died for me – and for you.  As I remain in Christ Jesus, God will watch over me and will guard my heart and mind, as Philippians 4:7 says.  Because I belong to a totally wise and loving God, I don’t have to lose heart.  Because God is with me in every way and in everything and has a purpose for my life, I don’t have to live with a mind in turmoil.  God’s peace is there for me to embrace – a peace that defies explanation and is way beyond our understanding.

So I’m going to pray for our Australian Christian publishers and booksellers.  And I will keep on writing my novels and be at peace as I do.  And may the God of peace be with you too, whatever God has called you to do in your life.

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