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Posts Tagged ‘Even Before Publishing’

Helena CoverAs I sat reading the email enquiry that had just arrived via my website, I felt more than a little surprised. You see, someone had written to ask where she could get hold of twenty-five copies of my very first novel Heléna, first published way back in 2007. She explained how she had loved it and planned to review it at her church’s women’s retreat, so needed to have copies available for their bookstall.

I suggested she check at a nearby Christian bookstore, as I had none on hand. She did this, but with no success. So I agreed to order in some copies from my previous publisher for her—and within less than a fortnight, those books had arrived. I contacted my prospective customer again and she arranged to pick them up from me. I looked forward to meeting her and to discovering where she had first come across Heléna. Had she bought it from me after I had spoken somewhere? Had she found it in a bookstore? Had someone perhaps given it to her?

When she arrived, she was in a hurry. But in those few moments together, she told me a story that blew my mind.

‘Oh, I found my copy of Heléna in a Vinnies store at Ryde!’ she told me. ‘It looked new—and when I picked it up, I realised it was a Christian book, so I bought it. I’ve read some of your other books too since then.’

At that point, I showed her one of my bookmarks that feature my most recent novel The Inheritance and my memoir Soul Friend.

‘I haven’t read The Inheritance,’ she told me, ‘but I’ve read Soul Friend. In fact, I lent it to a friend I worked with. She was unhappy in her job and I thought it might help her. I didn’t want her to leave, but when she read it, it gave her the strength to do just that and to move on in her life. And that has been the best thing for her.’

As I stood clutching the cash payment she insisted on making then and there for all twenty-five copies of Heléna, I felt so humbled. Only God could have arranged for her to buy that second hand copy in Vinnies and be moved by it, then to read more of my books. Only God could have prompted her to lend Soul Friend to her friend. And only God could have used it to inspire this person to make a wise decision and move on. I could never have dreamed up this sequence of events—but God certainly could.

As my lovely customer left, clutching her carton of books, I thanked God for her and prayed those copies would be well received at the women’s retreat. And I remembered once again some verses I love from Isaiah:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9

I could not agree more. How about you?

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Without a doubt, I have some interesting experiences in this writing and speaking journey of mine. And radio interviews, particularly those conducted by phone, would have to be high on that list.

Recently, the publicist at my publisher organised one such interview with Ian Andersen from 92.9 Voice FM Toowoomba. Now I quite enjoy doing interviews like these, but they always feel a little surreal. After all, how bizarre is it that I can sit at my desk here in Sydney, chatting on the phone with someone I have never met, knowing everything I say is being recorded for any number of people I will probably never meet either to hear?

Just prior to this, I was speaking with an author friend on the phone and telling her about my interview.

‘Oh, well, just make sure you look your best,’ she said in a perfectly normal voice.

I was silent for a moment. What could she mean? Surely she’d heard me say it was a phone interview?

‘You know—like Hyacinth Bucket did!’ she continued a moment later.

I was still mystified, so she went on to explain how this particular character from the BBC sitcom Keeping Up Appearances would make sure she looked as perfect as possible before ever answering the phone. Later I Googled some images of Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced ‘Bouquet’)—and there she was in all her glory, complete with make-up and jewellery, answering the phone in her best hat, which matched perfectly with the rest of her outfit!

I loved my friend’s quick sense of humour, while at the same time feeling a little embarrassed at my ignorance of Hyacinth Bucket. But more embarrassment was to come. Not long after, as I sat waiting at my desk for that phone call, I found myself straightening my clothes and tidying my hair. After all, I didn’t know this interviewer and I didn’t want to look too much like the epitome of an author working at home in her disreputable old track pants and top, with messy hair and no make-up! Then I woke up to what I was doing and laughed out loud at myself. Not even my husband was home to see me—and my phone interviewer certainly wouldn’t. Even if he could, would it really make any difference to the quality of our conversation? He probably wouldn’t notice anyway—or care—what I looked like.

As I sat there, I reflected how wonderful it is when family and friends don’t care how we look and accept us as we are. Yes, it’s pleasant to be complimented on our appearance, but it’s good to know too we are loved just as we are. Yet it’s even better, as far as I’m concerned, to know God loves me just as I am, despite the fact that he can see right into my heart and soul to the real me.

The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Sam 16:7

God loves me, warts and all, with all my funny ways. Yes, God wants me to become more like Jesus, but in the process, I am still accepted and loved where I am right now. And I’m so glad of that.

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TIL035Just over a week ago, I held my own personal launch for my latest novel The Inheritance. We decided to keep it low key and opted for a simple celebration of coffee and cake in our own home. I invited only a small number of family and friends because our house isn’t large and I knew I would see other friends wider afield when I spoke at their church or group.

I hesitated about having a launch at all this time, mainly because I was too busy preparing to head interstate to speak soon after. But as I reflected on the evening, I’m so glad I went ahead, because God used it to remind me of several things for which I need to be so thankful.

I realised, for example, that some friends present have actually attended all my launches over the years since my first novel was released in 2007. Some have tracked with me even before that, from the time I first began writing in 2003. Another friend who was there on the evening emailed later and used the term ‘champions’ about these faithful friends and supporters of mine—and that is exactly what they have been. They have wanted to see my books published and for people to enjoy reading them. And they have wanted me to be happy and fulfilled in what I believe God has called me to do at this stage of my life.

I also realised later that three women from my little prayer team of nine who pray for me whenever I am asked to speak somewhere were also among those able to be present. I value them and all the women on this team so much—it is wonderful to be able to email this group before I speak anywhere to let them know where I am going. Afterwards, I always email a little report of my latest ‘adventure’ to them too, as I am aware they like to know how it went. How blessed am I to have such excellent prayer support wherever I go!

And again I was reminded on the evening how much various family members and friends have helped me in practical ways in my writing journey, as I watched my husband and a friend washing up afterwards and our daughters, who had both baked wonderful cakes for the launch, sorting out the food. Another friend had lent us an urn for the evening, two others gave me flowers, while several more offered to bring food. Some other authors present later reported about the launch on Facebook, complete with an image of my new novel, which helps so much promotion-wise. And, of course, a good number bought a copy of The Inheritance on the night, while some who had already bought it still came to support me.

How thankful I am for God’s grace shown to me via these wonderful friends and family! May I never ever take them for granted—or God’s amazing and abundant grace to me, for that matter.

Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits … Ps 103:1-2

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theinheritancefrontonly--final versionThis past Sunday, our family celebrated not only Fathers’ Day but also the official release of my sixth novel, The Inheritance! Now you might well think I’d be used to all that goes with such events by Novel Number Six. I myself thought I would merely take it in my stride—but no! Not this time. As those copies begin to appear in the bookstores, I find myself holding my breath just a tad yet again.

You see, I know this new novel is a little different from my previous ones. For starters, it feature two main characters of equal importance—and that’s something new for me. The Inheritance explores Michael Trevelyan’s struggle to come to grips with the past, be reconciled with himself, his family and ultimately God, and face the future with courage and integrity. But it also explores Alexandra Hope’s struggle to stay true to her faith in God and pursue God’s purposes for her life. It was quite a balancing act at times to put myself in the ‘head’ of one and then of the other, trying to react as each one might in a given situation. Yet while it was challenging, it was also great fun—especially when Michael chose to be very angry, arrogant and bitter all at once! I hope I have done both him and Alexandra justice. After all, they are real people—aren’t they?!

I feel too I have incorporated more suspense into the story this time around, although it is hard for me to judge this aspect of my own novels. As I wrote, at times I didn’t even know myself what twists and turns my main characters would experience in their lives or how things would turn out for some of my minor characters either. Yet, while the story might have captured and held my interest, will it do the same for my readers?

Finally, I believe the central theme of this novel is so important for us all to take to heart. I have attempted to convey clearly in The Inheritance how anger, bitterness, hypocrisy and pretence can have such an adverse effect in our own lives, as well as in the lives of others, and keep us from experiencing God’s amazing grace. As I wrote, the words of Hebrews 12:15 were very much in the forefront of my mind: See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. I felt responsible writing about such a significant issue and did not want to trivialise it in any way. And I hope and pray God uses this story to touch readers’ hearts and enable them to experience more and more of that amazing grace of God.

So for me, another new and fresh adventure begins, as I journey with my latest creation, The Inheritance. Again, I am so thankful to God that yet another of my stories has seen the light of day, courtesy of my new publisher, Even Before Publishing. If you would like to check out The Inheritance, it is now available not only in hard copy via my website, www.jo-anneberthelsen.com, and my publisher’s website, www.evenbeforepublishing.com, or in Christian bookstores but also as an e-book for Kindle on Amazon or for other devices via the bookstores.

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There’s something about the Christmas season, isn’t there, that makes us want to catch up with friends over coffee or a meal. In some cases, it’s about finding out how each other has travelled during the past year. At other times, I find it’s more about letting that person know I value their friendship and am grateful for their presence in my life.

Recently I thought about this a lot as I prepared for my final speaking engagement of the year. In keeping with the theme of my new non-fiction book Soul Friend: The story of a shared spiritual journey, I decided to look at the Apostle Paul’s relationship with Timothy. And all over again, I discovered how many good reminders there are in 2 Timothy 1 alone about what is involved in a strong mentoring relationship or spiritual friendship.

Firstly, it’s obvious how much sincere love and concern Paul has for Timothy. Straight up, he calls him his ‘dear son’ and goes on to declare: Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy (1:4). There needs to be love and mutual respect in any good friendship, don’t you agree?

Secondly, Paul prays for Timothy with all his heart. I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers (1:3). What a gift to give to someone else—to pray for him or her constantly, night and day!

Thirdly, Paul obviously believes in Timothy and affirms him for the strengths he sees in him. He affirms his sincere faith and the gift of God at work in his young friend (1:5-6), urging him to keep fanning these into flame and not let the good that has been deposited in his life be wasted. What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you …  (1:13) In my own life, I know how important it has been to hear positive affirmation at times, particularly in my writing journey. It still is.

Fourthly, Paul is not backward in challenging Timothy to hang in there till the end, as he himself is doing. He urges him on, at times perhaps sounding as if he is telling him what to do. Yet it is coming from a heart full of love for Timothy, a heart that knows God will enable and will strengthen him to finish the race.

Finally, Paul writes all this to Timothy with complete honesty and integrity. There is no pretence—his conscience is clear before God and men (1:3).  In 1 Cor 4:16-17, Paul is bold enough to write to them: Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church. With Paul, there is no discord between what he says and how he lives—and that’s how I want to live too.

So as you catch up with friends and family this Christmas, remember to show them you value them and to thank God for their input into your life. After all, it could mean the difference between someone achieving all God has for them to achieve or letting those sparks and embers die out altogether.

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I am a champion at post mortems. After engaging in any public activity that requires me to perform in some way, I have been known to spend an inordinate amount of time mulling over it all, scrutinising my part in it to the nth degree. I think back over what I said, cringing at some phrase I used or some unwise comment. And often I wish I could do it all again—but this time do it right!

This has its positive aspects, I have argued. For example, looking back over my notes for a talk I have given and realising where I could have done better helps me improve for next time. After all, who wants to keep making the same mistakes over and over again? But it also has its negative aspects, not least of which is being too hard on oneself!

Last Friday, I fronted up at Hope103.2 FM radio station, ready to be interviewed by Leigh Hatcher for his Sunday evening program ‘Open House’. Although feeling a little nervous, I was looking forward to it. After all, I knew that anything I might say that was too way off could be edited out! Leigh Hatcher greeted me warmly and suggested he take a photo for the station’s Facebook page. Then as we sat down in his studio, he told me we would be talking about mentoring, something he believes can be so valuable to people.

Now this was a very sensible suggestion, since my new book Soul Friend: The story of a shared spiritual journey, which has just been released, is about the warm, life-giving relationship that developed between my mentor and me during our fifteen years of meeting together and the great encouragement she was to me in my struggles during this time. However, I had thought Leigh might ask questions about the book itself, such as why I wrote it, what a ‘soul friend’ is, how I met my mentor, how I as a novelist came to be writing non-fiction, and other similar questions. Obviously, a quick mental back flip was required. So I put on my mentor hat and marshalled my thoughts.

Leigh’s questions were excellent and I did my best. I knew I was quite capable of talking about mentoring and enjoyed myself. But afterwards … well, you can imagine how my thoughts went! Why didn’t I say this? Why hadn’t I thought of that? Why couldn’t I remember that definition of mentoring I knew so well? Or the list of qualities of a mentor I myself had written?

I returned home and, still in my rather fazed, post-interview state, opened my computer. And there I found an email from a younger friend who is part of my little prayer team. All it had in it was the following verse:

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way … 2 Thess 3:16

As I sat smiling at the screen, I knew I needed to hand over the whole interview to God, put it behind me and receive that peace this verse talks about. I had done my best. Now I needed to rest in that and in the peace God is willing to give us at all times.

May you too know this same deep peace in your heart right now, however good you are at post mortems and whatever your situation in life.

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I have to confess I don’t like hearing or seeing a recording of myself in any shape or form! I don’t even like reading my own writing out loud, as I have had to on occasions. And despite owning my first three novels in audio book format, professionally narrated and recorded by the Christian Blind Mission for people with visual impairment, I have never listened to them myself. I know I would cringe and want to edit severely. I would rather remain in blissful ignorance!

So when my publisher suggested I make a book trailer to promote my new non-fiction book Soul Friend: The story of a shared spiritual journey, you can imagine I was a little underwhelmed, to say the least. Besides, it all seemed too hard and too much trouble. I hadn’t done anything like that for my five novels—did I really need such a thing for my new non-fiction book?

However, as I thought about it and viewed other promotional trailers, some ideas began to form as to what I could include in my own. Of course my mentor Joy would be involved, since my book Soul Friend is about her part in my spiritual journey of the last fifteen years. I could also ask someone I have mentored for many years to give her perspective on the topic. And I myself would need to explain various aspects of the book. Throw in a few book endorsements—and I felt that maybe we could come up with a book trailer after all!

It was a challenge at first finding someone to film us and an even greater one getting us all together on the same day, but eventually it happened. And when we later viewed what had been filmed, we were all happy. But as I sent our efforts off to be edited in Brisbane, I was still a little wary. Would the whole concept really come together? What would be edited out? Would it flow as I envisaged and look and sound professional enough?

But I am delighted with the end product—or products—which arrived this past week. You see, I have ended up with a both a long and a short version, which will be very useful in different situations. Please click here to view the short version on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Br2eAB1ojDE&feature=youtu.be.

To find the longer interview, please click on the following link to my new website:

http://www.soulfriend.com.au/watch-the-soul-friend-book-trailer.html

This whole experience has highlighted two things for me yet again. Firstly, God is so utterly faithful.

Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Psalm 117:1-2

Where I was so faithless and doubting mine and others’ abilities to produce these trailers, God faithfully unfolded the whole process and showed me it could be done.

Secondly, I saw again how the Body of Christ is meant to work together, each gladly and graciously doing his or her part (1 Corinthians 12), as exemplified by my publisher, Rochelle Manners at Even Before Publishing, my video man Daniel Fewchuk, my film editor at Highshots, my endorsers, and my friends Joy and Alison. Thank you all for enabling this little project to come together so well.

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