Thursday, 8 December 2016

Book Review: The Pounamu Prophecy by Cindy Williams

Blurb: Since she watched her village burn to the ground, Mere's life has been anything but dull. Now as an older woman she has come to stay with Helene and James to finish writing her life story - a tale of injustice, revenge and reconciliation.

But Helene and James have their own problems. After five years together, their marriage has become dull, predictable, boring ... and it starts to unravel.

Weaving fiction with the traumatic history of the Ngati Whatua tribe of Auckland, the Pounamu Prophecy sweeps from the sultry heat of Australia to the verdant shores of New Zealand.

My review

This story begins on two fronts: a traumatic event in the life of six-year-old Mere in Okahu Bay, Auckland, New Zealand in 1951, and a modern day couple struggling with the challenges of marriage, in Brisbane, Australia. Both stories are woven through the book at a pace that keeps the reader turning the pages.

James and Helene's story is a romance with a difference. It's about a couple who are past the first bloom of love and trying to keep a marriage alive with the pressures of careers and modern opportunities and temptations. It has all the ups and downs of any romantic story and it's not as predictable as some romances are. Both characters are complex and well written. I was annoyed with both at times but also found them endearing in their own ways.

The story of the young New Zealand girl, Mere, which takes the reader through to her old age, is a gripping historical saga. The events which are the focus of her story are not ones I knew about and so I was both intrigued and saddened by the unfolding tale of injustice, the strength of character of the tribal people and the lessons that were to be learned about community, respect and appreciating cultural differences. The character of Mere is a completely engaging and lovable one. It was easy as a reader to become very attached to her, as a young child and also as a woman in senior years. The wisdom and spirituality that is shared through her character is moving and challenging.

If I have any criticism of this story it would be that I would have liked more about Mere's story and a little less detail about Helene and James's journey, as engaging as it was. But that would be a personal preference for the historical over the romantic aspects of a novel.

Overall I found this story compelling. I'm not surprised it was a finalist in this year's Caleb award for fiction and look forward to reading other stories by Cindy Williams.
Carol Preston

Carol writes historical novels based on her family ancestry in Australia from the First Fleet. They include the Turning the Tide series; Mary’s Guardian, Charlotte’s Angel, Tangled Secrets and Truly Free. Two of her earlier novels, Suzannah’s Gold and Rebecca’s Dream, were re-released by EBP.  Next of Kin was released last year by Rhiza Press and the sequel, Beyond the Fight, was released this April. You can see more about Carol and her novels on her website, her Amazon author page or FB author page.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Behind the Words on my Page

By Ray Hawkins

When I first decided to write I had some hard lessons to learn! Would-be writers are told ‘write what you know. Write what you like to read the most!’ Great advice. As I reflected upon it however, I felt short-changed. I liked to read westerns and war stories. Could I write them? No! I hadn’t experienced what I liked to read. That was depressive. Good-bye fame and fortune.

Life took a dramatic turn when the Lord Jesus stepped on my toes and my heart opened to His presence. I loved His Word. Now, I’m far from being a scholar or theologian but I wanted to share my Lord and His teachings. But how? Not being a novelist and being ignorant of Point of View and unimaginative in dialogue there was no best seller poised on my fingertips. Once, I sent a short, very short story to a magazine competition with some money for the contest fee. Sometime later both were returned accompanied by a note. In brief, it said ‘hopeless, don’t send anymore!’ I wanted to write. I had something to say even though others had said the same things their way. What burned in the ‘fireplace of the soul’? Devotional teaching! 

I had words and I had a pen. That’s a dangerous combination. But I was determined to ‘build a book.’ However, as I tried to bring construction out of chaos the finished work was lifeless. In the pleasure of God He had to take me from theory to reality through learning the art. Then from learning by listening I had to wrestle with lessons learnt. This involved assembling words coherently on paper without presuming the reader would know what I meant, even if left unstated. Many a tree has been sacrificed in the form of crumpled paper on the floor in my effort to be readable, understandable and marketable! But even then one thing was missing.

I had the framework. I had the longing to inform. I had contacts. What didn’t I have? I didn’t have Passion! The words on the page had been chipped out of the freezer of my mind. Cold, correct, calculating and conceited. The Lord needed to replace the ‘freezer’ with the ‘fireplace’ of personal discovery birthing passionate conviction. Much to my frustration this took time. But it was essential if ever I was to have something worthwhile to say. Without passion writing will not attract, hold and transform. It has taken years of being shaped, crushed, rebuilt, pruned and proven before finding expression in print. I’m not young anymore and how many words will flow only the Lord knows. Still, His taking me through life’s experiences and discovering His faithfulness gave substance to my words.

I’ll never be a best seller in Devotionals. That is not why I write. I’ll never recoup the costs in time, effort or promotion. That’s not why I write. I’ll never be on the morning chat shows lauding my recent creation. That’s not why I write. I write because I have a passion. It’s the fire of conviction about Jesus and his word. It’s the flames of His grace within which wants others to meet Him. It’s a blaze fed by devotion more than emotion and a sense of calling which cannot be extinguished!
Those are what lie behind the words which I write.    

©Ray Hawkins December 7th 2016.
Ray is the author of themed devotionals, a book of poems and numerous articles.
Married to Mary for 52 years. Mary is a writer of Christian Romance and suspense novels.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

ACRBA Tour Heart of the Mountain by Jeanette O'Hagan

5 - 9 December 2016

is Introducing 
(By the Light Books, 1 August 2016)

By Jeanette O'Hagan

About the Book:
Twins Delvina and Retza’s greatest desire is to be accepted as prentices by their parents’ old crew when they stumble across a stranger. Trapped under the mountain, young Zadeki’s only thought is to escape home to his kin. Peril awaits all three youngsters. Will they pull apart or work together to save the underground realm?
YA Fantasy Adventure in the lost realm deep under the mountain.

About the Author:
Jeanette O’Hagan first started spinning tales in the world of Nardva at the age of nine. She enjoys writing fiction, poetry, blogging and editing.

She is writing her Akrad’s Legacy Series—a Young Adult secondary world fantasy fiction with adventure, courtly intrigue and romantic elements. Her short stories and poems are published in a number of anthologies including Glimpses of Light, Another Time Another Place and Like a Girl. She has recently published her short novella, Heart of the Mountain and, in Mixed Blessings: Genrellly Speaking anthology, also a flash fiction 'Space Junk'.

Jeanette has practised medicine, studied communication, history, theology and, more recently, a Master of Arts (writing). She is a member of several writers’ groups. She loves reading, painting, travel, catching up for coffee with friends and pondering the meaning of life.  Jeanette lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.

Sign up to Jeanette O'Hagan's Newsletter here:
Facebook page:
Twitter: @JeanetteOHagan
Instagram: @bythelightof2moons

Monday, 5 December 2016

Keep on Writing

I was getting ready to leave for the Omega Writer’s Conference in October when I saw it—a call for submissions for a Children’s Picture Book Writing Competition. They were looking for “creative, winsome charming picture books that help parents instill an open-hearted, transformational, lifelong Christian faith in their children”. I did like the sound of that. Better still, the first prize was $5000.00. Whew! Not an amount to be sneezed at. There were no entrance fees either. I knew I must give it a go when I returned from conference.

Would it herald my big writing moment?

A week later, I came back refreshed and revitalised after a fabulous time in Sydney, having caught up with those of like minds, learning an abundance of writerly wisdom, being inspired by people and places and best of all, filled with God’s joy. Unfortunately, as it often occurs, a week of intense fibro pain and weariness followed my energetic week away, so it was only a few days before that all important deadline that I had sufficient energy to sit down to create my story.

My dear friend Melissa popped in on the Friday before and spotted our family's pet giraffe (yes, he’s alive …or so we like to think). She suggested I write a story about Raffy - what a brilliant idea! The day before the story had to be submitted, I sat at my computer, concentrating hard. It took hours to craft and refine my award winning picture book. The next day was a busy one. My body felt weak and weary but I persevered, working also on my author bio and the story’s synopsis. Finally, close to midnight and exhausted, I was ready to send in my three documents. Just before I pressed the submit button though, the competition’s terms and conditions popped up.

It was then my dream was shattered - a crystal vase smashed into a million shards.

The very first clause had my mouth open, while my jaw dropped a few kilometres downwards. Apparently, the competition was open only to US residents. I could have cried. I’d read the competition details many times over—but for some reason this vital fact had not been publicised. I could hardly believe it. How foolish I'd been!

I wonder what your writing year has been like. Was it filled with instant success, millions of books sold, a plethora of fan mail, TV appearances, a bulging bank balance and a celebrity lifestyle? If you are like most of us Christian writers, you are presently plodding away on your current story, a few drops of hope glistening in your heart, but perhaps also a little discouraged as to the number of writing dreams yet to be fulfilled.

In a few weeks, the curtain will fall on 2016 and we will be left with our memories of the past year. Whatever it brought you in your writing sphere and whatever the future holds for you, let me ask you three questions:

1. Has God called you to write for Him?
2. Have you strived to walk with Him?
3. Have you sought to be obedient to His call?

If you answered ‘yes’ to all three questions, let me shake your hand. Let me celebrate with you. Success for us comes not from the world’s yardstick of accomplishment. It’s simply getting up each morning and doing all that God calls us to do. Persevering. Learning from failure. Not giving up. Perhaps like me you've made a few blunders? No matter - God can redeem them all. He's good at that! So permit discouragement to fly out of your window like a captive pigeon set free. Congratulate yourself for all the writing you’ve done these past 12 months. Celebrate your conquests with a smile. And let your heart be quick to hear the sound of God’s ‘Well done’.

And now ... put on your writer’s shimmering cloak of joy.
And Keep On Writing.

“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 3:13-14

Anusha Atukorala is a writer and speaker with music in her heart and a message to proclaim. The abundant love of a faithful God is her theme song. God’s call to writing in 2007 led Anusha on a Grand Adventure which continues to surprise and thrill her. Anusha loves to build the body of Christ and to encourage others through the written and spoken word. Her first book ‘Enjoying the Journey’ is comprised of 75 little God stories. She has twelve short stories published in Anthologies and plenty more books in the pipeline. Do drop in to say G’day at her website Dancing in the Rain. She’d love to meet you.

Friday, 2 December 2016

NaNo Lessons

So what makes the first of December special? For some it’s time to put up the tree with less than four weeks to Christmas. For some it’s the start of school holidays (at least in Australia). For others, it signals time has run out to validate one’s NaNoWriMo total or to celebrate a win.

Whether you’ve ever done NaNo or not, I think it can teach lessons we can all benefit from:

1.  It pays to make concrete goals with build-in rewards.

I work well to deadlines. I like a challenge – it gives me something solid to work towards. Of course, I can set myself private challenges – and I do – but there is extra motivation with an external challenge with outside accountability. I can’t move the goal posts without someone else knowing I’ve done so.  There are other people cheering me on (and I them), other people ready to celebrate my wins, commiserate my losses.

Whether they are external or private, it’s good to set achievable and challenging goals. Just speaking something aloud can make it more real.  Could be looking yourself in the mirror and say ‘I’m a writer’ or writing down concrete goals for 2017. Perhaps, it’s allotting yourself a treat when you reach certain milestones – like finishing a chapter or plotting an outline.

2. Regular writing discipline helps with flow.

Maybe it’s something of a cliché to say that writers write every day – after all, sometimes life makes other demands, or maybe we need to edit, submit manuscripts and/or market published works – or do the accounts.   Still, what I’ve discovered with NaNoWriMo is that when I do write every day or close to it, after the first few days my writing generally comes easier, I get a bitter grip on my story, I begin to experience ‘flow’ (being in the creative writing zone).

If we only sit down and write when the muse strikes, our output can be irregular and patchy, our muse can be skittish. If we sit down and write anyway, we often pique her curiosity and after a while, somewhat sheepishly, she peeks over our shoulder and joins in the fun. And even if what we wrote initially is chaff (it often isn’t), we can always edit it later – but we can’t edit a blank page.

3. Remember which hat you are wearing.

As writers, we have a writerly and readerly self – or to put it in less academic terms – there is our creative internal writer and our more critical internal editor. If you are anything like me, your internal editor tends to correct and delete as you are writing – and sometimes it might take hours to write a single perfect sentence. It’s good to strive for perfection but the trouble is that your internal editor’s steely eyes can crush creativity or the intuitive leaps needed for great writing. Sometimes it's better to write first, edit later.

NaNo has given me wonderful practice of giving my internal editor a well-deserved holiday, leaving every word on the page (they all count towards the total, right) and coming back later (in December) with the red pen and delete button.  This helps with both creatively and productivity – after all, that one perfect sentence may grace an unnecessary scene and end up in the outtake bucket.

4. Starting is more important than finishing.

Fifty thousand words can seem daunting and not everyone makes goal (perhaps that’s one of the reasons I like CampNaNo as the goal is more flexible). What if I ‘only’ make 40,000 or 30,000 or even 10,000?  I’ve still got way more words than I might have written. But more than that, I’ve found that NaNo has made me more productive in non-NaNoWriMo months as well because it encourages practices like goal setting, discipline and giving my internal editor a temporary holiday.

5. The first draft is just the beginning.

And the last thing is to remember that a NaNoWriMo draft is a first draft.

As Shannon Hale said ‘I'm writing a first draft and reminding myself that I'm simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.'

If you haven’t tried NaNoWriMo before – may I suggest you join in one of the Camps next year in April or July.  And here are some other fun ways to add external accountability:
  • Month of Poetry – the last few Januarys, I’ve joined with a group of other poetic types to write a poem a day for a month - originally convened by Kat Apel, now a Facebook group.
  • The Picture Book Challenge like PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month)
  • Monday Writing Sprint – a smallish Facebook group that set aside Monday mornings (about 9am) to sprint (could be stories, poems, blogs, even marketing copy).
  • Chorewars – Order of the Traveling Pen –allows you to record 'chores' (like brainstorming, outlining, writing, revising, marketing etc) for experience points, virtual gold & virtual goodies, compete with your fellow travelers and defeat the occasional head-hopping or plot hole monsters.
  • Write Every Day Over a Year challenge – a Facebook group committing to write something (even if it’s a paragraph) every day in 2017 

And there are challenges for Readers -  like the Popsugar Reading Challenge

Wishing you the best on your writing and reading journeys. This is the last official NaNo post for me. Over and out.

P.S. What challenges and groups have you found useful to keep you on track?

For more on NaNoWriMo check out NaNo Rerun.
Image courtesy of tratong at
Jeanette O’Hagan first started spinning tales in the world of Nardva at the age of nine. She enjoys writing fiction, poetry, blogging and editing.

Jeanette is writing her Akrad’s Legacy Series—a Young Adult secondary world fantasy fiction with adventure, courtly intrigue and romantic elements. She recently launched Heart of the Mountain: a short novella and The Herbalist's Daughter: a short story. Other short stories and poems are published in a number of anthologies including Glimpses of LightAnother Time Another Place and Like a Girl.

Jeanette has practised medicine, studied communication, history, theology and, more recently, a Master of Arts (Writing). She loves reading, painting, travel, catching up for coffee with friends, pondering the meaning of life and communicating God’s great love. She lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.

You can find her at her Facebook Page or at Goodreads or on Amazon or on her websites or Jeanette O'Hagan Writes . 

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Book Recommendation ~ Glasgow Grace by Marion Ueckermann

Book Description:

Opera singer, Skye Hunter, returns to the land of her birth as leading lady in Phantom of the Opera. This is her first trip back to bonnie Scotland since her mother whisked her away to Australia after Skye’s father died sixteen years ago. When Skye decides to have dinner at McGuire’s, she’s not going there only for Mary McGuire’s shepherd’s pie. Her first and only love, Callum McGuire, still plays his guitar and sings at the family-owned tavern. Callum has never stopped loving Skye. Desperate to know if she’s changed under her mother’s influence, he keeps his real profession hidden. Would she want him if he was still a singer in a pub? But when Skye’s worst nightmare comes true, Callum reveals his secret to save the woman he loves. Can Skye and Callum rekindle what they lost, or will her mother threaten their future together once again?

Narelle's Thoughts:

Journey to picturesque Scotland in Marion Ueckermann's delightful and heartwarming romance novella. I loved the gorgeous white Christmas setting in Glasgow Grace.

Skye is an opera singer who returns to her homeland from Australia to start rehearsals in the New Year. She wants to visit her father's grave in Skye and she's staying in a swish hotel, courtesy of her opera company employer.

Callum knows that Skye is back in town and he has bought tickets for an upcoming performance. Skye visits the pub owned by Callum's family just before Christmas and she reconnects with Callum. It's like the old days, when they were teens and head over heels in love. But Callum hasn't forgotten how Skye moved to Australia with her mother and never replied to his letters. Her mother is a pretentious snob who didn't think Callum was good enough for her daughter.

Callum has his own secrets. He lets Skye believe that he's a singer and musician who works in the family pub and still drives his old car.

The romance at the start of the story seems to plod along almost too smoothly. A big plot twist (that I didn't see coming) changes everything and challenges their faith. Skye's career is threatened and Callum's secret is exposed. They have to work together to overcome all the obstacles in their path to true love. Glasgow Grace has a tender and emotionally satisfying ending that will charm readers who enjoy sweet Christmas reunion romances.

Learn more about Marion Ueckermann and her books at her website.

Many thanks to Marion for providing a complimentary advanced reader copy of the book.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Some of my favourite 2016 reads: Part 1 - fiction

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles/
It’s that time of year when we start seeing the “Best ofs” across multiple media platforms so I thought I’d add to the discussion with my own. A number of other ACW authors will be contributing their own selections during December so watch out for those ones as well.

Most of the books I read are good and it’s often hard to distill a shortlist of the best ones hence, the title of my post: Some of my favourites. These are ones I recall with much fondness for various reasons.

I read more non-fiction than fiction so I thought I’d bring you a sample of both. Let’s start with the fiction and I’ll share the non-fiction ones in my Book Review post on 15 December. In no particular order, here goes:

The Harbinger Series. Four authors, each take one character, and take turns to write an episode each month. I love the episodic style (ala a TV series). As a reader I know the story is “live”, the next episode is being drafted as I read the latest one.

Presently there are 16 episodes and the series has been running now for 18 months, I guess. It’s speculative fiction with lots of craziness but some very clever storylines as one comes to expect from authors of the calibre of Bill Myers, Angie Hunt, Frank Peretti (now succeeded by Jeff Gerke) and Alton Gansky.

The series has now been picked up by Bethany House (previously self-pubbed) which will enable wider distribution.

AD 30 (Ted Dekker) The first in his two-part Biblical fiction series where we meet Maviah who is unexpectedly called to rescue her people. She goes on a daring adventure crossing multiple lands until she comes to Israel where she provides a unique perspective to the ministry of Jesus.

One of Dekker’s best. I’m feeling very guilty that I haven’t got to the sequel AD 33 yet but plan to very very soon.

The Long Journey to Jake Palmer (Jim Rubart) Jim’s stories just keep getting better and better. As I wrote in my review:

"The writing, the depth of insight in his characters and his ability to weave the mystical, spiritual and natural together is simply outstanding. I loved this novel. You can't not read this novel and not be impacted by the themes of healing, discovery of identify, where we place our significance and the absolute desire our Creator has for us to know Him."

This is probably the best novel I’ve read this year.

The Curse of Crow Hollow (Billy Coffey) This was a great surprise for me. I’d never read any of Coffey’s until this one. Known for his “Southern Spirituality” this story oozes with a voice from the deep south. What I particularly appreciated about this novel besides the voice was Coffey’s portrayal of good and evil within a small town. Excellently written with a brooding creepiness.

The Occupied (Craig Parshall) Another new author for me. I just finished this one. Classic detective story told in the first person with a supernatural twist which was a lot of fun to read.

My Dabble in Romance

I continue to read quite a lot of romance. Contemporary, historical, biblical, suspense, you name it. It’s not a great surprise to me having read Pride and Prejudice more times than I can remember (and all of her collection).
A few to mention:

Herringford and Watts Series (Rachel McMillan) – this series is simply delightful. Rachel’s voice is sophisticated and witty. Yes, witty. And her two detectives: Merinda Herringford and Jemima Watts are fabulous creations. Sample one of the novellas if you want to give it a try.

Close to You (Kara Isaac) – wow. First novel. Wow. Such a fun premise, the whole Hobbit-tour thing where romance blossoms. Two well developed characters. I’m running hard trying to get to Kara’s second one which everyone tells me is even better.

Thirteenth Chance (Amy Matayo) – Amy’s stories have many admirers down under and so I decided to sample her latest. Oh wow. Can this girl write. And Olivia Pratt! What a creation. I was awe of how Amy developed such a complex character: her insecurities, her weirdness, her dagginess (hey, I’m a dag too) and her meekness. A relatively simple story so well written and two great leads.

Too Pretty and All is Bright (Andrea Grigg) – our own Andrea creates marvellous characters. These were both a delight to read simply because her leads are so relatable and fun to watch.

That’s it from me. I’ve gone on for too long. I hope you found something of interest here.

What one author did you discover this year that you’ve now become a raving fan of their work? I’d love to read in the comments below.

Till 15 December for the non-fiction Part 2.

Ian Acheson is an author and strategy consultant based in Northern Sydney. Ian's first novel of speculative fiction, Angelguard, is now available in the US, UK, Canada and Australia. Angelguard won the 2013 Selah Award for the Best Speculative Fiction novel. You can find more about Angelguard at Ian's website, on his author Facebook page and Twitter