Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Guest Post - Michelle Dennis Evans, Spiralling Out Of Control

Today I have the great pleasure of talking with Michelle Dennis Evans, fellow Christian writer and author of the newly released Spiralling Out of Control:

Spiralling Out of Control:
Temptation, depression, seduction, betrayal ... Not what Stephanie was expecting at fifteen years of age. Uprooted from her happy, all-girl high school life with a dream filled future and thrown into an unfriendly co-ed school, Stephanie spirals into depression. When charismatic high school senior, Jason notices her, Stephanie jumps in feet first and willingly puts all her faith and trust in him, a boy she barely knows. Every choice she makes and turn she takes leads her towards a dangerous path. Her best friend is never far away and ready to catch her … but will she push Tabbie too far away when she needs her most?

We met last year at the Caleb Christian Writers conference, and caught up again last week at this year's conference, just before she released her new book. So I quizzed Michelle on her writing process (one of my favourite topics to ask other writers). Sit back and enjoy!

I feel so honoured to be here today on Buffy’s blog. The writing process is such a personal and unique thing for everyone. Years ago I found I was great at coming up with ideas, good at starting to write a novel but terrible when it came to finishing. Back in 2009 I found NaNoWriMo, an organisation that supports authors get the story down by writing 50000 words in 30 days during November. In 2009 I drafted my first complete novel from start to finish. That draft would become Spiralling Out of Control.

Nanowrimo is now an annual event for me. It’s like an extreme sport for writers. For me, it works. I put months of thought into a new story with an intriguing plot and sub plots. During this time the characters develop in my mind and I begin to really know them like you would know the person you live with. Then, during October (sometimes October 31st), I write one or two pages of basic notes in point form to give me a little direction on how I would like the story to go. When I begin to write, I let the characters take over and often they take the story to places I would never have dreamed.

The not so good side of Nanowrimo is the mess that I am left with after writing without caution for thirty days. Some sentences are almost perfect … but most need a lot of work. So generally, I spend eleven months revising and editing the mess I write in November. This year I also wrote a verse novel using a similar process. I joined in with Kat Apel’s Month of Poetry in January to force myself to write a poem every day and get my verse novel written. For me, working with a community keeps me accountable and helps me to get to the end. Do you prefer to work on your own, or are you a community kind of person?

Michelle writes to inspire, take people on a journey and escape their world. She is married to an amazing man, with four adorable children and loves living in paradise on the Gold Coast, Australia. www.michelledennisevans.com

Let us know whether you prefer hermit or community writing. I'm offering a copy of Michelle's book to everyone who comments with their thoughts before the end of October. 

Monday, 14 October 2013

Spiritual Obstacles To Your Writing

Courtesy of ShadowRave at stock.xchng

So, I was going to write this post as a debrief on the Caleb Conference I attended this weekend. It is a Christian Writers Conference organised this year by the Omega Writers group, and was great. But instead, I'm going to relay (and expand in Buffy style) to you just one of the sessions. Anne Hamilton, president of the Omega Writers, gave a talk on the spiritual obstacles to writing. Fair warning, I'm writing this aimed at Christians, and am not going to phrase it in terms of the secular worldview because I can't do justice to the topic that way. So, please don't be offended if you aren't a Christian, some of it may still be very enlightening.

(In case anyone was wondering, yes there are Australian Christian writers, and they are awesome! If you want to check some of them out, see the website of the publishing house Even Before Publishing.)

The Wonder of Writing:
Writing like all creative pursuits is an amazing insight into the nature of God. God is the Creator, his Word brings things into being. Further, he is The Storyteller. He can hold so many interweaving subplots in his hands, that range over millennium that even G.R.R.Martin would faint. For example, he took one person's pain at barrenness, and a thousand years later turned it into salvation for the whole human race. Similarly, Jesus, even just in his everyday interactions, taught all the people in stories.

God loves stories, and he has blessed us with the ability to create them as well. How amazing is this?

As such, there is something hugely satisfying to the soul about writing. You won't always feel it, but after a good writing session, where you have been able to create a new scene that never existed before, to give characters more depth, or find just the right words to describe the beauty you see, there is contentment.

The Downside:
However, as we all know, it is not always so perfect. Sometimes when we sit down it is like our brain has become wrapped in sandpaper. Any efforts to try and pull out a word gives us a graze. Or other points when you realise that you have been following the wrong track and have to delete (or hopefully put into a scraps folder, because you never really know when it might come in handy) thousands of words. And the thought of having to go back and start that part again seems to overwhelm you.

Then, on a larger scale, there are the years of rejection, or the periods where all you want to do is write, but life demands all of your time. The heart break as we sometimes pour good money after bad trying to get our work noticed. We might get sucked into bad contracts, be had by vanity presses, pay through the nose for different forms of advertising, and finally feel that after all this work, no one is ever going to hear its message.

At these times we all can fall into doubt. If God really wanted me to be a writer, it would be easier, he would open doors, he would make it a best seller. Doesn't he want his message out there?

The truth is that we have an opponent. We have someone that the more we are on God's path, the harder he will try to derail us.

So much I knew, though I might not always call it to mind at the necessary times. However, Anne went onto to talk about two particular obstacles that can affect writers. Identifying and then working out how to overcome these obstacles has been the most useful thing someone has taught me about writing for a long time.

Obstacle No. 1: Constriction. 
We often feel that there is just so much coming against us that we can't define it easily. But stop and think. How often in your writing life do you feel a sense of panic around being constricted somehow?

On the larger scale this can be constricted in time for years. You know you want to write, but every moment just seems accounted for, and people just keep wanting more and more of you, so that there is nothing left at the end. You might try getting up earlier in the morning, but exhaustion soon overcomes you, and you feel you are living in a bleary, unfocused world until you finally collapse. Then there is also monetary constriction. The publishers demand that you pay for it to be edited first, and its going to cost hundreds of dollars. Where are you going to get that sort of money? Or even after it is published, you are hoping that it will pay off, and you watch as only a dollar here or a few dollars there come trickling in, and you feel you need to throw more money into advertising, but don't know if that will ever be repaid.

Then on the smaller scale there is constriction within your writing session. That panic that arises when you have set a word limit, or a particular speed per hour, and yet the words are so painful in coming out that you know you aren't meeting it. And you know it is a downward spiral, that once you start focusing on the lack of words, even fewer will be produced, but you can't seem to stop it. This, for me is a form of 'Constriction'. Anything that makes you feel like you are being choked, held back from what you know your writing can be because of some form of constriction.

Obstacle No. 2: Wastage.
On the other side of the spectrum, but still just as deadly to your writing, is wastage. It is any point where you use your resources and get nothing in return. You pay for a new computer, only to have it not work or do what you need it to. You spend hours formatting your work, only to have it not save and everything is lost. It can even involve being sucked into research, trying to find the one bit of information you need, but spending hours doing it and still not getting what you need.

It can be a large wastage, such as spending years working on a manuscript only to find that no one will publish it because it doesn't fit the proper categories. Or it can be a small scale wastage, having just twenty minutes to write and at the end finding out that what you've written doesn't make sense so you have to delete it.

Wastage can be just as soul sucking and destructive as constriction. It feels like no matter how much you pour into your project, nothing ever produces the results that you know it should. And this happens time, after time, after time.

The Problem:
With both of these it is easy to think that if God really wanted us to write, he would take away these obstacles. We have heard of and experienced in other parts of our life God just turning up the time that we need by having something cancel. Or someone comes and gives us the thing we need right when we need it, without us having to pay or ask for it. So why doesn't he do this now? The obvious answer would be that he doesn't want us to write.

That is possibly one solution, I'm not going to deny it. It could also be a 'not yet' situation, where God does want you to write, but after you have faithfully raised your children, or gained more life experience, developed your craft, whatever. That is something you need to discuss with him. However, this is not the only answer.

The second possible answer is that God definitely does want you to write, and the strength of these obstacles shows just how important it is. The devil is trying his hardest to stop you, in any way that he can, because it is important. So why is God allowing this? Possibly because he wants to use it to develop your character. The most important work of God in any life is to build a strong, faith-filled character. He wants this much more than anything else. Building up your trust and reliance on God might be worth the project being set back a few weeks or hundreds of dollars.

The third possibility, though, is one we seriously need to consider: that at some point along the way we have been faced with the obstacles of constriction and wastage, and rather than submitting to God, we have tried to appease them ourselves. Somehow we have sacrificed to them, giving up our time, money, faith in order to make them go away. And we are now reaping the harvest we have sown of further trouble. We might have started on God's path, but just took a little side track to get around a problem, and now are heading off in our own direction, which maybe parallel to God's, but on a much rockier road.

The Solution:
Never fear, though. God has your back, if you want him to. If you think this third option might just apply to you, it is a big step in the right direction to acknowledge that. You then need to ask God's forgiveness. Anytime we sacrifice anything to something that isn't God, we are caught in idolatry. Once we have started on that path, without asking forgiveness we can't get back. 

To give you an example, I realised during the talk that one of the things I had done because of the obstacle of constriction was to give up my sabbath. Preparing for the conference I felt I was too busy, and it would just be for a few weeks, and surely God wouldn't mind since I was doing his work. After I did that, I found wastage attacking me. Days came and went where I got nothing done because nothing was working. I would spend hours at my computer, trying to work out ways around different formatting problems, downloading new programs, trying to work out how to use them, etc. And then I felt even more constricted, and searched for other things to sacrifice to make it all work. (I luckily stopped before sacrificing my daily Bible time, but it was a temptation at times). 

So I had to ask forgiveness for that. And I'm sure over the next few weeks God will point out other ways that I also sacrificed to these two obstacles. 

The next step is not to confront each individual case of wastage or constriction that arises, but ask God to help deal with the issues that allowed these obstacles to take root in your life in the first place. For example, I got to the stage where I felt forced to give up my sabbath, but that was after a long period of building constriction. The original problem was that I was lazy. God had told me to start working on these things months ago, and instead of just getting in and doing them, each morning I would ask 'do I really need to do it today? How about tomorrow, instead?' 

I should have clued into this one earlier, because in my Bible time I kept getting God rebuking Joshua for not taking all of the promised land after many years. (I now listen to the Bible on my computer, on shuffle. Trying to work out what the context is for each chapter is a great way to reenforce the original purpose of the text.) God had told the Israelites to take the whole land, and after a generation, they had gotten distracted and settled for just having some of the land. And God didn't pressure them during this period, it was just at the end he said 'You want to know why it's all not working? Well, did you do what I said? No!' 

So, for me, the issue I actually had to deal with is not doing God's will when he says. That is not going to be the same issue for you. For you it might be that you rush in to complete God's will when he wants you to wait. Or it could be something completely different. But we need to find out these underlying issues and ask God to help us sort them out if we want to get the constriction and wastage out of our lives. 

I'm still praying through where I've fallen down in my writing and life, but just being able to define my fears and what is going wrong has been an immense help. So I hope it will help some of you too.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Queensland Baby! Goodreads Giveaway, New Books Available, and My Last Chance Prayer

Hello from beautifully sunny Queensland!
Yes, that's right, I've left the (not so cold now) weather of Melbourne, and flown the two hours up to Brisbane for the annual Caleb Christian writers conference!
Have been working my little backside off trying to get ready for this conference for the last few weeks, as I'm actually getting a table and selling books! My first physical event as a bookseller. Pretty exciting, no?

I have a lot of little things I want to cover just to keep you all updated, so I'm just going to lay it out.

GoodReads Giveaway:

First of all, big thank you to everyone that entered the Goodreads giveaway for the hardcopies of The Five Day Writer's Retreat. Over 1,000 people entered! It was really amazing.
I've sent out the five copies, but apologise to the winners in the UK, as it won't arrive until early December. 

I am sorry that only 5 people could win the hardcopies. However, to make it up to the rest of you, I'm offering 50% off the Smashwords' electronic copy of the book. This can be used by absolutely anyone until the 10th November, 2013. All you need to do is go to Smashwords and use this coupon code:

You are more than welcome to share that around. I appreciate the support, and want to share the fun.
Colostrum - A Handbook of Spiritual Antibodies for New Christians.

I've finally published my father's first book! It's available as an ebook at Amazon, and soon will be coming as a hardcopy (I'm testing out Lightning Source rather than Createspace for it, and will give you a full report on the two once I get the proofs and hardcopies of Dad's book). 

Dad's been an Anglican minister for over 30 years, and has put together a handbook of the worst heresies that tend to shipwreck new believers. From experience he passes on the spiritual antibodies needed to fight these diseases. 

It was so much fun editing this book for Dad, largely because it was just so... Dad! Reading it is just like listening to him speak. I could even imagine his gestures and facial expressions. It is colloquial, and excited, theologically sound, and sensible. Highly recommended for all new believers, and would make a perfect baptism present. 

If anyone would like a review copy, sign up for my reviewers' list just on the left hand sidebar of this blog to always be offered free review copies, or send me an email at b.greentr@gmail.com.

Prayers, Please!

Finally, tomorrow night is the Caleb Dinner, where the winners of the Caleb Awards will be announced. My Christian Young Adult Supernatural, Sally Hunt Vs. God is a finalist in the unpublished manuscript section. To be honest, if I don't win I don't mind in that I get control of my manuscript and can publish it myself. However, at some stage I do want to be a Hybrid Author, with a combination of traditionally and self-published works. Largely, I want to see the difference and how well traditional publishing now compares. This would be a great opportunity. 
Also, just knowing my writing is of winning standards would be nice.

In a similar vein, I've entered the first chapter of After The Winter, the 1920's historical romance I did as my first draft for NaNoWriMo last year, into the Harlequin 'So You Think You Can Write' competition a few days ago. Little did I realise that if I get through to the next round, I need to submit a full manuscript by mid October! I have 50,000 words, but I never actually completed the first draft. So, pray that I do get into the next round, and then that I can get the manuscript written to a high enough standard in just a week! 
If you want to read the first chapter, check it out at: http://www.soyouthinkyoucanwrite.com/manuscripts-sytycw-2013/after-the-winter/

If you were wondering what my ROW80 goals for the next week... well, you can probably guess now. Intensive romance writing!
Anyone that will be free in a week or two to do some quick beta reading, I would love you long time!
Stay tuned for updates!

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Giveaway Winners and A Mother's Story

The Giveaway Winners!
Big thanks to everyone that drop by and read Philip's guest post on writing radio plays. Though, I was surprised to see how many people actually left a comment to win the prize compared to those who dropped by. I know that hundreds of people read the post (got to love stats), yet only a few entered in to win. (Any deep sociological cues I'm not picking up on, feel free to let me know in the comments!) 

Well, I'm sorry for all the rest because everyone that entered has won a copy! So Lisa, Ben and Anonymous (yeah, going to have to do a bit of detective work on that one... please let me know who you are if you are reading this!) you will have a copy coming to you soon!

A Mother's Story:


In other news, the true story I was developing into a print on demand novella for my aunt is now available through Amazon/Createspace. 'A Mother's Story' details the bullying and emotional abuse suffered by the six Dobbs children as well as their parents at the hands of Figtree Anglican church, New South Wales. It is the events as experienced and told  by Machele Dobbs, their mother. It is an incredible tale of what happens when a seemingly normal church actually has a cult like control over its parishioners. They wrongly accused Dr. Scott Dobbs of being a child abuser, and then persecuted him and his entire family in a fashion that was much worse than anything Dr. Dobbs was ever supposed to have done.

The hard copy is only $5, to cover the cost of printing, because we just want to get the story out there. Figtree Anglican has tried to pretend it did nothing wrong, and is even refusing the Archbishop's directive to make a public declaration that they wrongly accused Dr. Scott Dobbs. But if that is not enough, the Sydney Diocese is also refusing to acknowledge that it inflicted any pain or suffering on the rest of the Dobbs family. So the only recourse we have is to make the situation known.

As some of you might know, when I was a teenager my family went through a very similar case where my father, an Anglican minister, was victimised by the hierarchy. I know exactly how much damage those who pose as Christians can cause, and want to defend the name of Christ by showing these people for what they are - manipulators and power hungry individuals that have nothing to do with the will of God. 

So if you are interested, take a look at A Mother's Story on Amazon.
(The electronic version will be available later this week... hopefully. I've had a cold and been feeling sorry for myself (aka, not doing work).)
I am more than happy to give away review copies, just leave a comment or email me at b.greentr@gmail.com

Other than that, I plan to kill my brother. 
I'm sorry, but it just needs to be done.

After working on the electronic version of his book, he decides he wants me to create the print on demand version. I tell him, repeatedly, that I want him to read through what I've done with the text (as I had to make a great number of corrections and try to smooth some parts over) before I do it all, because once it's in print, it can't be changed. However, he says he's totally happy with whatever I do, and it doesn't matter, just get it done. Once again, before submitting the file I ask him to check it, but he says he doesn't need to. I tell him that I want to take this book to sell at the conference I'm attending, so this is his last chance to check it if we want to do that. He still says go ahead with it.
So I order the proofs from createspace, just to check, before planning on making the order for a number of books. Once the proofs arrive, my brother tells me he is now going to read through it with a highlighter for all the bits he wants to change, and he no longer wants this cover!

See, I just have to kill him!

So, the print on demand version of Tom Grafton Vs. The Environmentalists is not going to be ready for a while yet. And, if I can't restrain myself, the rest of the world may never read the last two books in the trilogy, because the author will be dead. 

I think I'll be able to still write while in prison, so not that great a loss. 

I just keep reminding myself that I can charge him for all the extra time it takes when he keeps changing his mind.