Friday, April 15, 2011

New Blog

Dear Friends,

I'll be sharing posts across at a new blog I've just made. It's name is "It Just Occurred to Me" and it's address is

I think I needed a fresh blogging outlook and vision. I really hope to hear from you there.

God Bless anyone who has followed me all this time.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Concrete Mountains

Or "Ashes under the soles of our feet" Part 2

Continuing on from my reflection of a few weeks ago, I won't even bother to ask if you've ever wondered how God's promises can be consistently true when we don't seem to see them borne out in people's lives. I'm sure everybody wonders that at some times. All around us, people seem to be battling problems that seem insurmountable; Christians who consider themselves heirs to God's promises sadly appear to be no different in many cases.

So problems may seem like concrete rather than ash, and our natural instinct is to grab a pick-axe or other heavy excavation tool to come against them with force. We also want to chase those elusive blessings until we nail them down. In the ten years I've been writing books I've had spells of frenetic activity, racing around madly trying to think of new and innovative ways to sell them, driven by terror that I won't get my novels off the ground and the whole thing will crash and burn. And I've collapsed onto my pillow at night, close to tears which surprise me. Often when I think I'm taking something calmly, my body knows differently.

But aren't we supposed to be hard at work, looking after our own interests? You may well ask. The alternative that springs to mind is that we sit around doing nothing but waiting for God to act on our behalf. I've tried this approach too and it works no better.

After a lot of prayer and angst, I believe God has revealed to me that the key is in our attitude. We serenely do what we see before us, we take the next step, but we do it with a peaceful and trusting state of mind. We know that any individual action may fall short of what we intended but it doesn't rattle our composure. The one true friend powerful enough to turn our cement mountains into ash is God Himself. As we do what we see before us, we trust Him to honor our efforts and faith by doing what only He can do. We echo Psalm 90, imploring God to establish the work of our hands and believe that He will do it.

'Every promise of Scripture is a writing of God which may be pleaded before Him with this reasonable request, "Do as thou hast said." The Creator will not cheat the creature who depends upon His truth and far more, the Heavenly Father will not break His Word to His own child'
Charles H Spurgeon

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Some Australian book reviews

I am going to include a review or two on my blog on a regular basis. As material by Australian Christians often remains under-highlighted by shops, this will be my main focus. I've always referred to reviews to help me decide whether or not to buy a particular book and I'm really looking forward to getting started. Today I'll begin with a novel and a book of devotions.

STREETS ON A MAP by Dale Harcombe
Abby, a successful singer in metropolitan Sydney, marries Joel and moves to Astley, the country town he was raised in. Feeling shunned by the locals and at a loss for things to do, she must get creative. Before long, Abby discovers that life in the small town holds more in store than she ever anticipated.

Astley turns out to be a paradigm of the wider world. Normal people lead lives of quiet heroism. Every day is full of noble gestures that may go unnoticed in the grand scheme of events, yet have the power and potential to change the lives of others. A deliberately lit fire, a baby's early delivery, a brand new business, the return of an estranged sister and a cold-blooded attack are just some of the issues dealt with in the story.

As the characters are all honest, regular, down-to-earth people, it's no stretch of the imagination for readers to see that we too, may be a source of huge blessings. It is a story of how small ripples may have more far-reaching effects in our sphere of influence than we may imagine. Beautiful reflections about relationships and the Australian lifestyle make "Streets on a Map" the sort of book that helps us to realize the value of what we have. I found myself refreshed with a renewed sense of optimism and contentment by the finish.

THANKFUL FOR DISHES by Narelle Nettelbeck
This is a book of 1oo devotions for busy mothers. Narelle Nettelbeck understands how worn out women can become as we try to juggle many different aspects of daily life at once. She also knows that the encouragement we need to fulfill our roles is sometimes a long time coming and has taken it upon herself to fill the gap. Each of these devotions is pure gold, never condemning but always convicting in a very gentle way.

They have also helped to transform my vocabulary. Things I once called "mundane" have now become "noble". It's a book that lives up to its title. I never thought I'd say this, but as I read I found that I truly was thankful for my dishes.

Next week I will review the following novels
Mary's Guardian - Carol Preston

African Hearts - Laura O'Connell

Thursday, March 24, 2011

My heart for "Best Forgotten"

"Best Forgotten" is my brand new fiction title. I've loved the challenge of writing every single one of my novels but in this one, I've tried to weave together elements of mystery, suspense and redemption in a way I've never done before.

A young accident victim wakes up in hospital and can't remember who he is. He finds that not only does he have nothing in common with his family but he develops an aversion to the person he used to be. He just can't understand or relate to the way he used to behave or the choices he made. The more he learns about himself, the more puzzled and upset he feels.

He finds out that his best friend had disappeared without a trace on the night of his own accident. The more he tries to investigate, the more likely it appears that he was involved in something really shady. And he's terrified that something bad is after him. So he's torn between wanting to find out and being terrified that he'll have to face horrible consequences when he does.

When you, readers, find out the mystery, hopefully you'll let out a dramatic gasp and cry out, "Oh wow, I never saw that one coming!" That was my intention, anyway :)

As a theme, I've been fascinated for a long time by the relationship between our thinking patterns and what we make of our lives. How much is a person's personality shaped by their sum of experiences? To what extent do the thoughts we choose make us into the people we are? Do the small, apparently random choices we make during our daily lives have the impact to come back when least expected and influence the rest of our lives?

I love it when a work of fiction not only entertains readers but changes us at the core too, by getting us to think about how what we've read within the pages may also have bearing on our own lives and apply to us. These are the stories we like to remember, lend to others and call really special. It's a quest I've tried to take seriously. Novelists have the responsibility to readers to offer the very best and that's what I hope I've achieved.

When you visit your local Koorong store, please remember to pick up "Best Forgotten" (I couldn't resist the chance to work in this pun.) It is also available from other good regional Christian bookstores. Please remember "Best Forgotten" when you're wondering what present to give a book-loving friend. Its plot and theme should be of wide general appeal. If you've ever read and enjoyed any of my books before, I'm appealing to you to get hold of a copy of this, because readers have a responsibility toward authors too. If Koorong don't make good sales, they will not buy any of my future titles :( That would make me very sad because I'd have to stop writing :( Hopefully it would make some of you sad too. But I won't worry about that happening because I trust people will remember "Best Forgotten" and my other titles too.

For Aussie and international readers alike, the book is also available directly from my website, and also from

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ashes under the soles of our feet (Part 1)

"The Sun of Righteousness will dawn on those who honor my name, healing radiating from its wings. You will be bursting with energy like colts, frisky and frolicking. And you'll tromp on the wicked. They'll be nothing but ashes under your feet on that day." Malachi 4: 2-3, The Message.

Firstly, I don't think 'the wicked' is necessarily referring only to people or even spiritual forces who stand against us. Adverse circumstances which we hate - sickness, feeling hampered from moving forward into our personal mission, anything that causes us to feel downcast and unhappy, I can quite easily consider 'wicked.' Agents that cause it may be human, spiritual or a combination. Anything that takes away our joy can fit the description, for the joy of the Lord is our strength.

Secondly, whenever I am worn out, physically, mentally or spiritually, and take time to sit back and figure out why, I often discover I've been unconsciously thinking if I don't take certain actions, all will be lost! Hopes and dreams will gurgle down the plughole! Health will deteriorate. Children will go to seed and become undisciplined. I walk around feeling as if holding everything together depends on me. Imagine a person who sets their face, believing that they can walk into the heart of a cyclone with arms outstretched, attempting to ward it off single-handed. Or think of Atlas, walking forever hunched and bowed beneath the weight of the whole world. That describes my attitude at times.

It explains the ache in my shoulders and neck, trembling in my limbs, churning in my stomach and intense fatigue in my whole spirit. At times I am exhausted with a 'fighting' mentality I am not supposed to have. I know the Bible refers to Christians as 'mighty warriors' but that is in Christ, not in our own strength.

So I started to ponder the passage above from the Book of Malachi. We all know ashes collapse with the tiniest contact. We hardly need to touch them, let along pound, prod, bash and attack, as is our natural instinct. Not only do they immediately collapse but they disintegrate into such a fine, grey powder that nothing remains. They may appear to be deceptively solid. After a BBQ or camp fire has finished, we see rock-like structures in the cold embers retaining their shape, but when we touch them they disintegrate into fine ash. The solid appearance was merely an illusion.

So is this passage from Malachi telling us that the 'wickedness' we perceive in our lives, these problems may be the same? What an incredible feeling of release we should feel if this is true. How do we come to a place where we can laugh at daily problems that are a part of life and treat them as the ashes we are told they are?

That will be the subject of my next post (Part 2) Remember, I've resolved not to make my blog posts too long :D I'll catch you in a few days.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Good Smelling Prayers

Many bloggers have written posts about prayer and I'm about to have my say too.

It is easy to go through dry patches in our prayer life simply because God is on such a different dimension to humans. While friends and family will smile and respond to the words we say, I'm sure we've all had moments when we wonder how we can be certain that God even hears us. How can we keep our prayer-drive going or encourage others to when we are faced with nothing measurable by the 5 senses? It seems no wonder that in busy schedules, prayer is often the first thing to be sacrificed in a daily planner.

I came across a provocative passage about the mechanics of prayer and how it actually works. What if there is some sort of real, measurable energy that radiates from our souls to God when we pray - that humans simply have not learned to measure? Something real, tangible and perceptive to Him. It's easy to understand when we remember that dogs and other animals perceive extremely subtle sounds and scents which humans are simply not tuned into. Yet it clearly doesn't mean that these sounds and scents don't exist because we can't hear and smell them.

We cannot detect ultrasound waves with our natural senses either. I can remember lying there watching my babies wriggle around in my pregnant belly but I certainly couldn't feel the waves that were pouring through my flesh, allowing the images to appear on the computer monitor. It is the same with radio waves, which have always existed long before humans figured out how to tap into them.

It makes perfect sense to believe that a powerful spiritual energy rises from us to God when we pray. Scripture claims that in heaven there are "golden bowls full of incense which are the prayers of the saints." (Revelation 5:8) What if that is literal and our prayers can, in fact, be captured by God and placed into actual bowls? Imagine that image the next time you wonder whether it's even worth bothering to pray.

In Scripture, Paul calls believers, "the aroma of Christ" and "fragrance of life" (2 Corinthians 2: 15-16) In the realm of the eternal, this also may be literally true. Imagine that God smells us, and we smell good. And also we have no way of measuring such things now, what if there may be a possibility in the future?

When we are told, "the prayers of a righteous man (or woman) avails much" we'd do well to believe it. It's not just a nice thought that people say based on wishful thinking. Sometimes we may get warm fuzzies when we pray - Christian biographies and novels tell us this - but we shouldn't fall into the trap of feeling frustrated and disappointed when we don't. It doesn't mean that results aren't happening. Often the most amazing spiritual breakthroughs take place far beyond the realm of what we detect with our physical feelings. That's enough to keep me excited about persevering. How about you?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Illiterate Generation

Is this the stage we've come to?

Recently we heard through the media that the current younger generation (and I guess they're talking about Y and Z) is the first generation since Australian settlement that is more illiterate than their parents! That's a concern but when I thought about it, I had to admit that I was not all that surprised for several reasons.

These are days of fast text talk and fashionable abbreviations. Sadly, I've seen billboards and magazine adverts with terms such as LOL and ROFL indicating that their writers assume everybody can understand them. When sentences can be shortened to C U L8R, who even needs to be literate in the 21st century? Not long ago, I made the mistake of not noticing that I was reading Face Book news feed on my daughter's profile. Assuming it was my profile, I made a few comments. Emma got really cranky and started scolding me. "Mum, can't you just LOOK! This is so embarrassing if people think it's me commenting."

As everything I'd written was quite pleasant and innocuous, I asked her why it would be such a disaster. Her answer spoke volumes. "Because you use full-stops and commas. You spell properly and put all those little wriggly things around sentences when people talk. I don't want people to think I'm a dork."

So it's become trendy and fashionable to use no grammar and punctuation! In that case, we may be up against a thicker brick wall than we ever expected. If you follow internet forums, you'll bang your head against it all the time. We have to turn a blind eye or we're called "Grammar Nazis." Lynne Truss quotes this film review example in her book, "Eats, Shoots and Leaves."

I watched this film (About a Boy) a few days ago expecting the usual hugh Grant bumbling.. character Ive come to loathe/expect over the years. I was thoroughly suprised. This film was great, one of the best films i have seen in a long time. The film focuses around one man who starts going to a single parents meeting to meet women, one problem He doesnt have a child.

Truss goes on to express her sadness when people who have been taught nothing about their own language spend their leisure hours trying to string sentences together for the edification of others. (And I have to add that this example from Lynne Truss is one of the better ones I've seen.)

I'll always remember when an editor of mine commented that I've done remarkably well with my proper English expression considering that I belong to what she called, "The Deprived Generation." She wasn't talking about Generations Y and Z but Generation X! People who, like me, were schooled in the 1970s and 1980s when schools were beginning to drop grammar and punctuation of the English syllabus to focus solely on literary critiquing. I can remember being taught about nouns and verbs in Year 3 (1978) but nothing after that.

I have suffered for the lack. I find myself turning to grammar guides, thesauruses, dictionaries and the internet when I'm editing work, while I'm sure many older friends and family who belong to Baby Boomers and Builders would not need to. This takes time that I wish I didn't have to use, but hey, at least I'm making the effort, unlike some younger folk from Y and Z who believe that trying to use their mother tongue correctly is corny and uncool.

It makes me very sad. We now see Baby Boomer teachers retiring leaving clueless Gen X counterparts (who don't have much idea) to teach even more clueless Gens Y, Z and Alpha (who have even less of an idea and don't want to know, thanks very much). Is this a case of the blind leading the blind? Where is it all going to end?

I want to finish with this hilarious letter which proves just what a huge difference seemingly tiny grammar changes can make.

Version 1
Dear Jack,

I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we're apart. I can be forever happy-will you let me be yours?


Version 2
Dear Jack,

I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men I yearn! For you I have no feelings whatsoever. When we're apart I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?


PS - I've been making generalizations throughout this post and apologize if I offend any individual who none of this applies to.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Bells and Cuckoo Clocks

I've been mulling over an idea for a new novel. It's another contemporary drama/romance because I love those the best. I always begin my musings with a range of characters who appeal to me, and then I build a plot around them until I feel it's just right. (I know there are others who do it the opposite way; that is they come up with a catchy plot and then build the characters around it, but that's the subject of another post.)

For three or four weeks I've been trying to figure it all out inside my head and two nights ago it all came together. I now have a plot and characters intact, so the writing will soon begin. Having written seven other books already, here are a few tips I've learned about the creation process. I almost let myself fall into my old bad habits but pulled myself out of the trap.

1) Making a block of time to "nut it all out" doesn't work.
I've tried that often and I'm pleased to say I've finally learned my lesson. I would grit my teeth and think, I'm going to take my notebook, park in a quiet spot without distraction and won't come back until I have it all figured out or I'm the biggest dodo of all time! But it doesn't work that way. Creative people from long ago might have said that their Muse refused to be bossed around. I think they had a point. The nature of the imagination is such that you can't pin it down and demand that it come through for you. It just starts getting nervous and won't give you anything but nonsense.

At this stage, you could easily make the mistake of giving up with the belief that you'll never be able to figure it out. Don't do that!

2) Trust that no time has been wasted.
I mull over the story concept while I'm driving, washing dishes or walking. I come up with some little ideas which I think might work. Then I put aside time to jot them into my notebook so I won't forget them, just in case I may find them useful. This alone may take a bit of time. In the past I've found myself ending the day with a sigh, saying, "This is never going to work! I've just wasted time and I'll never have those hours back again."

In actual fact, those hours are not wasted at all. It may look like nothing much has been done, but that's an illusion, my friends! Those rough jottings and daydreams are worth more than we often give them credit for. I've found so often that even ideas I've decided to scrap have been stepping stones on the way to the ones I've kept.

My mind may appear something like this. I could have it so those two boys are swept off the coast while fishing.... somewhere like the Yorke Peninsula coast, or maybe Granite Island at Victor Harbor... then I could have it that they're picked up by a fishing boat..... Naw, I don't think I'll go with the sea idea because I want the heroine to rescue them and she wouldn't have access to a boat.... How about they get lost in the bush?.... No, not dramatic enough... they have to be really helpless and it needs to be clear that they are at the end of their own resources.... a hole in the ground.... yeah, I think that might work. An old mine shaft that nobody had discovered before!

Just for your interest, the result of all that musing above was "A Design of Gold." And don't get fooled into thinking it was easy by the few moments it might have taken to read that paragraph; it took hours, days and weeks to figure it all out.

3) When it all comes together, you may recognize it as a chime of triumph in your spirit.

Believe me, I know what I'm talking about. I think the human spirit is wired so that you know instinctively when you've got it right! Getting my plots and characters all sorted out reminds me of trying to remember something I've temporarily forgotten.

For example, can you relate to trying to recall somebody's name and you're mulling different possibilities around in your head. I think it's John, no it's Jonathan, no, that's not it either, it's Jay... James... Jordan.... (At this point the bell chimes loudly) Yes, Jordan! That's it!

It's similar when I'm trying to figure out a plot for my new stories. When they are not quite right yet, it seems as if my brain doesn't quite recognize them. Then when I finally strike the right one, that bell chimes! Or imagine the ornate hand of a beautiful old cuckoo clock doing it's final stroke up to the twelve, and the bird pops out and sings. It's a great feeling and one of my favourite aspects of the early stage of writing. "I've got this excellent story and it's going to work. At the moment it's enclosed completely within my own head but one day others are going to read it too, love the characters, share the suspense and share just what I'm feeling now! Who knows where the impact may end!"

Writing a novel is not an easy thing but so worth it.