Where have I been?

Hi everyone,

I’ll try not to make this one of those blog posts where I apologise for how long it has been since my last post. Yes, it has been quite a while though, so I thought I’d give you an update on what I’ve been up to of late.

Study – This year I began a Graduate Certificate in Management as part of my career development (for my day job). I am really enjoying the course, although there is a lot of reading, which has meant less time for writing – I’m missing it!

Writing – In between my exams and assignments, I’ve been devoting most Friday nights to writing. ‘Double Pursuit’ is coming along well. I’m in love with the characters and can’t wait to finish so I can share them with you too. It has been a different experience to get inside the head of someone who has lost a husband way too early – I’ve found myself shedding a few tears while writing. I am still aiming to finish the book so it can be out before Christmas. I’m also looking out for some good cover designs that will fit well with the book.

Positive reviews are still coming through for my first two books – ‘Second Chances’ and ‘Trust Me Twice’ – ‘Second Chances’ has almost received 500 reviews!!! I am amazed how God is using my ‘experimental’ book to help people find their way back to him. I could never have imagined this when I first started writing it almost three years ago.

I have a backlog of books that I have read, and now just need to find the time to write reviews for. I will try to get to these over the next few weeks before my next subject starts.

Personal life – I’ve just come through a couple of weeks of illness (cold & flu related) – it’s that time of year in Australia! However, on a positive note, a few weeks ago I had the privilege of attending a women’s retreat at my church where we talked about the parable of the seeds that fell on different soils. I was challenged to tend to my soil to make sure I continue to grow in my relationship with Jesus, and to make sure I pull out any weeds that start to grow. It was great to spend a whole day singing praises to God, hearing from God’s word, and talking with godly sisters in Christ. My husband and I have also just started leading and hosting a church bible study group together, which has been fun.

I’m really enjoying the stage of life that my kids are at right now. They ask such perceptive and challenging questions, and they still think that I’m awesome (which feels great when I’m having a low day). It is such a privilege and responsibility to lead these little ones, and I feel so blessed.

Thanks for your ongoing support in my writing journey!
God bless,
Alison

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The only one to stop

RockEditWhen Jesus was on earth, he spoke in parables – stories with a hidden spiritual meaning that was only revealed to some. I think it is cool that Jesus was a storyteller. One of my favourite stories is the one about the Good Samaritan, which can be found in Luke 10:25-37.

I wrote the following song /poem when I was 19, telling the story of the Good Samaritan from the perspective of the man who was injured. I came across it today when I was cleaning the house and it took on a whole new significance…

The Only One To Stop

Verse

I know I shouldn’t have come here alone

when the thieves intercept me on my way home.

From what I’ve heard, I’ll be lucky if I survive.

They steal my clothes, take my money too,

then beat me until I am black and blue

I lay on the ground, waiting for help to arrive.

Chorus

I’m helpless, and stuck on the ground.

It’s getting late and there’s no-one around.

I’m crying in pain, will anyone hear

as my body lies bleeding

and the darkness draws near.

Verse

I lift up my eyes and see a priest,

a man of religion, my chance for release.

I can’t say a thing, but my eyes speak for my heart.

But he doesn’t stop, he walks on by

He crosses the road and I want to know why

a man of religion, would dash my hopes apart.

Chorus

I’m helpless, and stuck on the ground.

It’s getting late and there’s no-one around.

I’m crying in pain, will anyone hear

as my body lies bleeding

and the darkness draws near.

Verse

Are those footsteps I hear, the sound of crunching sand?

Above my body stands a Levite man.

I beg him to stop, but he’s already passing me by.

Where’s the compassion and the care

that these holy men boast of everywhere.

With his nose upturned, he won’t even look in my eye.

Chorus

I’m helpless, and stuck on the ground.

It’s getting late and there’s no-one around.

I’m crying in pain, will anyone hear

as my body lies bleeding

and the darkness draws near.

Bridge

A Samaritan man comes along

He picks me up, his arms are strong.

Why doesn’t he just leave me there?

It doesn’t make sense that he would care.

Verse

With trembling lips I begin to cry.

He sees the affliction in my tear streaked eyes.

Why did he stop, when I would have left him to die.

Is there someone he knows? Someone up there.

A God he believes in, who taught him to care,

compelled him to stop when he saw the fear in my eyes.

Final chorus

My enemy, how could he be

the only one to take pity on me.

I want to find that man and ask him why

he was the only one to stop, while the others passed by.

* * *

I could never tell this story as well as Jesus (see Luke 10:25-37 – click here), but I hope this different perspective on the story of the Good Samaritan highlights that, as Christians, the way we treat people we find unpleasant or difficult to love can have an eternal impact.

There was a beggar woman near my work. I walked past her every day for several months, wondering what her story was. I felt sorry for her, but I was too concerned about my own comforts to ‘get involved’. I did give her a $2 coin once, thinking it might ease my guilt, but it only made me feel worse. Where do you begin with helping someone like that? Would any effort I made to help her be rejected? What would others think? I would be relieved when she wasn’t standing in her usual spot, begging, as I wouldn’t have to go through the internal turmoil of wanting to help, but not wanting to help enough.

I feel ashamed about my attitude. Especially when I’ve seen in the news that a homeless woman matching her description died recently from horrific burns. I can’t be certain it is the same woman, but it has been several weeks since she has graced her usual spot outside the building with her plastic cup in hand. I feel terrible knowing that I could have shown love to her by stopping and having that conversation that I only ever had with my conscience.

Reading back over this song, I can learn a thing or two from my 19-year-old self. I pray that, with God’s strength, next time I feel Him tugging on my heart to help someone in need, I’ll have the strength of character to be like that Samaritan man.

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10 things I’ve learned from being a self-published author

It has been two years since I self-published my first book. Since then I’ve published a second book, and I’m working on manuscripts no. 3 and 4. It has been on my heart to share with you some of the things I’ve learned in the short time that I’ve been a self-published author. Maybe you can relate.

ID-100987401. Writing a book is the easy part – When I started writing, I never intended to self-publish it. Then as I got closer to the finish, I wondered whether other people would enjoy what I had written. So I decided to self-publish. What I didn’t realise when I put my book ‘out there’ was how much of an emotional toll it would take on me. It was my ‘baby’ and every review posted would either fill me with exhilaration or despair. It was a roller-coaster ride that I wasn’t sure I really wanted to be on. But it did get easier. After a while, I actually found myself agreeing with some of the negative reviews, and learning from them.

2. If you think you can edit a book yourself, think again – Even if you are a professional editor, I would highly recommend getting an independent person to edit your book. There are two kinds of editing: A general edit will help you with things such as passive voice and awkward sentence structures, plus find things in the plot that just don’t fit in with the rest of the book. Once you have incorporated these changes, a copy-edit will make sure your punctuation, spelling, and grammar is immaculate. I used to think I was good at picking up grammatical errors, until I got someone to edit my book and realised how many track-changes came back in my document! I was too close to my manuscript, but fortunately there are editors out there who are brilliant at what they do.

3. Talking to family and friends about your book is uncomfortable – Maybe this is just unique to me, but my most feared question at a family gathering is, ‘Tell me about your book?’. Maybe it is because of the genre that I write, ‘Christian romance,’ but there is something very personal about my stories and it is much easier to share them with strangers than with those who know and love me. Then, there is the matter of when you know that family and friends have read your book and they say NOTHING about it, and you’re left wondering whether the reason they are silent is because they can’t think of encouraging to say about it (see no. 10 for more on this). Awkward.

4. Building an author platform takes time and effort – The first day that I listed my book on a self-publishing website, I sold four copies overnight. I was thrilled. I started mentally calculating the royalties that I would accumulate over the year. And then, for weeks there were hardly any downloads of my book. Maybe one a week if I was lucky. I had thought that there would be readers out there who be itching to buy my book, but what could I really expect? They didn’t even know who I was. I have slowly built my author platform through this blog, Facebook, and more recently, Twitter. The more time I spend interacting with my readers, the more support they give me. It is a very rewarding relationship, and it is exciting to know there are actually people out there waiting for me to finish my next book.

5. A brilliant cover will sell more books than social media ever will – There is nothing that turns me off buying a book more than a terrible cover. I figure, if they didn’t care about the cover, how much effort did they put into polishing their story. I designed the cover of my first book in one evening. I thought it was kind of cute, but it didn’t sell my book. A great cover is a synopsis in itself, hinting to the reader of what they can expect to see inside. And, great covers are not that expensive in the scheme of things, considering they are your greatest marketing tool – I have put together a list of high quality cover designers [click here]. It is worth the investment.

6. Write the kind of books you want to read (and re-read over and over again)  – because this is the kind of book your target readers will want to read too (plus you will be reading it over and over again as you edit it – so you may as well make it an enjoyable experience).

7. The writing community is a great source of support (most of the time) – I have been blessed to make some wonderful friends through this blog and by interviewing different authors. In general, they are friendly people who care about their readers. But, unfortunately, not every author has had this experience.

8. Every time you write, you get a little bit better at it – True story. As with anything in life, the more you practice, the more you improve.

9. It’s okay to take a break and get a new perspective – If you are stuck in a story and it isn’t going anywhere, chances are you’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere and need to stop and reflect. I was writing a book  last year and got to a point where I just felt like I was writing drivel. I saved and backed up my document, wondering whether I’d ever finish it. I mean, if I didn’t care about what happened, why would my readers. I recently opened up the document and started writing the book from the perspective of another character (a male), and guess what? It worked. It is a little harder to take a break if you are under contract and have a deadline, but it is good practice to have a few writing projects on the go at once so you can keep your creative juices flowing.

10. Self-doubt never disappears, no matter how many books you publish – There are some famous musicians who still feel nervous every time they get on stage, afraid of stuffing up. I believe it is the same for writers. I expected that publishing my second, and subsequent books, would get easier because I knew there were people out there who enjoyed my writing, but I actually think it is worse. I now worry about disappointing my readers. I’ve seen acclaimed authors release books that ended up being ‘flops’. Maybe my next book will the ‘flop’ that everyone remembers. However, I can choose to listen to my self-doubt, or I can choose to ignore it and strive to make every book even better than the last. Plus, even if my book touches just one heart, I know it will be worth it.

I hope you enjoyed this post. 

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If you are an author, is there anything else you would add to this list?

Image credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net and adamr

Versatile Blogger Award!

Hi everyone,

A week or so ago, I was nominated for the Versatile Blogger award by Saxophone Chick. Thank you! It is always lovely to know that someone is enjoying my blog. I like the opportunity these awards provide to find out more about my favourite bloggers and to discover new blogs to follow.

versatile-blogger-award21The rules for the Versatile Blogger are:

  •  Thank the person who gave you the award.
  •  Include a link to their blog.
  •  Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly.
  •  Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award.
  •  Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

So, there you go … and here are 7 things about me that you may not know:

1. I’ve had two C-sections (one emergency, one planned)

2. I really don’t like flying creatures, eg bats, moths or birds

3. I can say the alphabet backwards in less than 3 seconds

4. I have composed my own songs on the piano and I’m currently teaching myself how to play the guitar

5. If you are coming for dinner at my house, chances are you’ll be having lasagna and lemon meringue pie – these are my signature dishes

6. I am very competitive  when it comes to sport – I’ve been known to snatch balls/frisbees off small children when I’m ‘in the zone’ (not something I’m proud of)

7. My dream job would be a published author, writing novels full-time from home (maybe some day…)

 And now for my nominees:

Corrie Anne           Must Love Books           Mommy Adventures          Forever Changed Network         Dayo Benson         Tamara Leigh: The Kitchen Novelist         Rosie Amber         Cat Lumb: the struggle to be a writer         Stephanie Hurt          Christians Read          To Be A Person           Ink Out Loud          Seven notes of grace           Bipolar for Christ         Hey look a writer fellow

I apologise if any of you have already been nominated for this award, or if you aren’t really into this kind of thing. There is no obligation to take part. I just wanted to let you know that I like reading your blogs. Keep up the good work 🙂

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Do you believe in ‘happily ever after’?

When I was at university, I met a young married couple who were obviously in love. As I was talking with the guy, I asked him how he knew when he had met ‘the right one’. I was expecting him to say something romantic, like how the first time he saw her he felt butterflies in his stomach, but his response surprised me.

He told me that he and his wife didn’t believe in the concept of meeting ‘the right one’ – they instead believed that there were probably a number of people in the world that they could have met and had happy marriages with, but God had brought them together and that was what made their relationship special.

This made me reconsider my views on relationships and marriage. I’d grown up hoping that, somewhere in the world, God had created  a soul mate for me, who was a perfect fit with my personality – like two halves of a whole – and that one day we would find each other and fall in love and live happily ever after. Romance novels and fairy tales reinforced this idea, that my prince charming was out there searching for me. I wondered what he would be like – tall, dark and handsome, like in my dreams? As I got older, I worried that maybe there wasn’t a prince charming out there after all, and that God wanted me to be single (at the time it seemed like the worst thing in the world – I was pretty immature).

Thankfully, God did bring my husband into my life and I did have those romantic feelings, but more importantly, our relationship was built on a strong friendship and faith in God. We got to know each other over two and a half years before we committed to each other in marriage. And as for the happily ever after? Well, a good marriage takes time, self-sacrifice and humility – putting someone else’s needs before my own didn’t come naturally (and still doesn’t), and many times I am selfish and have to ask for forgiveness. But regardless of this, I feel blessed that I have someone to share my life with, who knows me better than anyone and yet still loves me.

The Bible says that God has a plan for each of our lives – he knows how many hairs are on our heads, he has planned all our days before us (Psalm 139). It only follows that he has planned who we will marry (if indeed he has chosen that path for us). If God has it all under control, this means that spending our days searching for ‘the right one’ isn’t a great use of time. Instead, our focus should be on becoming who God wants us to be.

By putting our trust in Jesus, and asking God’s Holy Spirit to work in our hearts to change us to be more like Him, we will find our joy and contentment in God, regardless of whether we marry or remain single. ‘Happily ever afters’ are much sought after in our world, often resulting in disappointment, but for those who trust in Jesus, we have the future certainty of eternity with God, where He will wipe away our tears and there will be no more sin, grief or pain (Revelation 21 and 22).

Do you believe in happily ever afters?

Spiritual wake up call

People often say to me “I don’t know how you do it”, but the truth is, I’m just really bad at saying ‘no’. The past few months in particular have been really intense. My daughter started school, which has been a whole new experience; my workplace has undergone a reform and I now have a new boss and new staff to manage (plus a workload I can’t delegate just yet); I released a new novel in February; I completed a theological subject at Bible college; and I’ve served on various church rosters, as well as leading a Bible study group.

I had a wake-up call the other day that made me realise how much this ‘busyness’ has been pushing God out of my life. Bible reading had become a chore on a Tuesday night to prepare for Wednesday morning Bible study. My prayer life wasn’t much better, with my brain only focusing long enough to ask for my daily wish list and not pausing to reflect on God’s goodness. As a result of not spending time with God, my feelings of guilt and anxiety only increased, but thankfully, God, in his grace, grabbed my attention.

Therefore, in order to improve the health of my relationship with God, I have set a few goals for myself for this year.

Here they are:

– use a Bible reading guide to read through the Bible in one year

– read one Christian book per month and jot down what I’ve learnt. This month I’m reading ‘Respectable Sins‘ by Jerry Bridges (highly recommended)

– memorise one Bible verse each month. My verse for this month is ‘So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God’ 1 Corinthians 10:31

Hopefully by spending more time in God’s word, my prayer life will become less about my plans, and more about God’s plans.

I’ll make sure to post updates now and then so you can see how I’m progressing against these goals.

Do you have any personal goals to improve the health of your relationship with God this year?