Aussie Christian writing resources

by Narelle Atkins

In recent months I’ve been thinking about the resources that are currently available in Australia for Christian writers. The US Christian book market for fiction and non-fiction has been booming for many years, and organisations eg. American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) have expanded accordingly to meet the needs of authors in this growing market.

I write fiction in the Christian/inspirational romance genre and I value my memberships with Romance Writers of Australia, Faith, Hope and Love Inspirational Chapter of Romance Writers of America and ACFW. ACFW has a Beyond the Borders Zone Group for international writers. I blog with International Christian Fiction Writers (ICFW), a group that was started by ACFW Beyond the Borders members who wanted to promote Christian Fiction with international themes. A number of Aussie and NZ writers are ICFW members.

I recently joined Omega Writers Inc., an organisation based in Brisbane, Australia that was established in 1991 to support and encourage Christian writers. They have members in Australia and New Zealand.

In 2010, Omega Writers Inc. established the CALEB Prize for Faith-Inspired Writing. This award promotes Christian writing in the specific areas of fiction, non-fiction and poetry and was expanded in 2011 to include an award for unpublished manuscripts.

The Word Writers Fair Getaway will be held at the Sunshine Coast on 12-14 October, 2012. Last year in November I attended The Word Writers Fair and CALEB Awards Dinner in Brisbane.

I have also blogged with Christian Writers Downunder, a writing group for Australian and New Zealand Christian writers that was set up in 2011.

There are a growing number of opportunities for Aussie Christian writers to publish in Australia and  overseas. The growth of eBook publishing is opening up a whole new world of possibilities for authors. Advances in technology and social media have allowed writers from around the world to connect in various ways.

I’ve mentioned a few groups that have been established to support Aussie writers. Is there a particular writing organisation that has helped you in your writing journey? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Blog posting schedule

Narelle here. In September we will start featuring our Gospel of Mark Bible studies. There are 45 studies in our Gospel of Mark series and we plan to release 9 eBook Leaders Guides, the first by the end of September. The free Bible study questions for all 45 studies can be found on our website here.

Starting in September we are changing the blog posting schedule to three days a week, Tuesday to Thursday (Australian time). We will occasionally have a Friday Community Day post featuring small Bible study groups from around the world.

Tuesday: Our fiction day on the blog.

Wednesday: A post related to our featured Bible studies (Gospel of Mark).

Thursday: Originally our ‘Australia Day’ on the blog, the posts will now cover a broader range of topics eg. non-fiction and childrens books, guest bloggers, announcements and upcoming events, free eBooks and giveaways, devotional posts.

Book Recommendation: Secrets of the Heart by Jillian Kent

Book Recommendation by Narelle Atkins

Secrets of the Heart is Jillian Kent’s debut Regency romance and Book One in The Ravensmoore Chronicles. A compelling romance set in 1817, with elements of intrigue and suspense that delves into the darker side of life in Regency England.

Devlin Greyson inherits the title of Earl of Ravensmoore after the unexpected death of his father and elder brother. He continues studying medicine at a hospital in York, despite strong disapproval from society and his peers.

Lady Madeline Whittington is grieving the loss of her beloved father and younger siblings, and she is distressed by her mother’s attraction to the mysterious Lord Vale. Lord Vale claims to be an old friend of her father’s, and Madeline distrusts Lord Vale’s intentions toward her mother.

Lord Ravensmoore aka Doctor Greyson provides medical assistance to Madeline after her horse stumbles during a hunt. She is drawn to Devlin but later recalls that he was the attending trainee doctor at the hospital when her father died, and Madeline holds Devlin responsible for her father’s death.

Devlin is smitten with Lady Madeline, but he is holding his own secrets that jeopardise a potential match between them.

Madeline shows kindness to a disturbed girl she comes across in the woods, and who she later learns is an escapee from the nearby Ashcroft Lunatic Asylum where Lord Vale is a benefactor.

Secrets generating from Ashcroft Lunatic Asylum threaten to destroy both Devlin and Madeline’s lives. Danger lurks and their faith is challenged as they fight for what is right in a world where polite society would prefer to ignore the plight of the mentally ill.

Secrets of the Heart provides an insightful and honest look into life in a nineteenth century lunatic asylum. Human rights take second place to the agendas and greed of those in authority. The powerful story has engaging characters and exciting plot twists that will keep you turning the page until the very end. I highly recommend this book to those looking for a thought provoking regency romance that addresses the tough issue of mental illness.

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Ahab and Jezebel

by Deborah Horscroft

In our series of studies about people of the Old Testament we have met great men and women of inspiring faith. We have also seen their human failings, and sometimes these are easier for us to relate to. Through their stories the greater story of God’s redeeming love and faithfulness has been evident.

The subject of this month’s study, however, is a couple who did not have an inspiring faith in God. In fact, despite being the rulers of Israel, King Ahab and Queen Jezebel worshipped Canaanite gods, like Baal and the goddess Asherah. They are a study in “How Not to Live”.

In 1 Kings 16:30-33 Ahab and Jezebel are introduced thus:

“Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him. He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him.”

Their story reads like an ancient soap opera. It would be comic, if they had not been responsible for leading God’s people.

“So Ahab went home, sullen and angry because Naboth the Jezreelite had said, ‘I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.’ He lay on his bed sulking and refused to eat. His wife Jezebel came in and asked him, ‘Why are you so sullen? Why won’t you eat?’ He answered her, ‘Because I said to Naboth the Jezreelite, “Sell me your vineyard; or if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard in its place.” But he said, “I will not give you my vineyard.'” Jezebel his wife said, ‘Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.'” (1 Kings 21:4-7)

Jezebel was a thoroughly modern woman, ahead of her time. Liz Curtis Higgs sums it up well in “Bad Girls of the Bible”, calling her bold, courageous, assertive, intelligent and proud. She was a strong woman of royal descent, born to leadership. She was also a devious, murderous, idolatrous, ruthless, domineering, power-hungry megalomaniac. Jezebel had no respect for her husband, the people of Israel, their laws or their God. She was the daughter of the High Priest of Baal and indulged in witchcraft. Jezebel, queen of Israel, was the Old Testament poster child for why one should not marry outside of the faith.

1 Kings 18:4 also tells us that Jezebel was systematically killing off the Lord’s prophets in an effort to quell the voice of the Lord, which led to a somewhat awkward moment when Jehoshaphat, king of neighbouring Judah, was visiting. Rather than be happy listening to the Baal-serving yes men produced by Ahab, King Jehoshaphat wanted to inquire of God concerning whether a battle should be fought.

“But Jehoshaphat asked, ‘Is there not a prophet of the LORD here whom we can inquire of?’ The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, ‘There is still one man through whom we can inquire of the LORD, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.’ ‘The king should not say that,’ Jehoshaphat replied.” (1 Kings 22:8)

There are so many “How Not To” lessons to learn from this couple:

  • How not to lead a people in righteousness
  • How not to choose a good wife
  • How not to treat your husband, neighbour, local minister
  • How not to be a good role model
  • How not to bring up Godly children

Ahab’s one and only redeeming quality was that when faced with God’s wrath Ahab did humble himself for a time, and God’s incredible mercy was revealed. This family also experienced God’s fearful judgement. These themes of judgement and repentance are further explored in the second of the “Messages from the Messiah” series with a three part study exploring The Message of Repentance.

Community Day – How can you get involved?

Narelle here. Friday is our Community Day on the blog and each Friday we’d like to focus our posts on small groups. Our goal is to feature groups from all around the world. Each group is different and we’d like to know what it is that you love about your group. What makes your group unique and why do you think it’s important to meet together to study the Bible?

We’d love to hear from you and learn more about your group. Please contact us at: community [at] 30minutebiblestudies [dot] com if you’d like more information on how your group could be featured in one of our Community Day posts.

Self-published (indie) fiction books: How to find diamonds in the rough

by Narelle Atkins

A few weeks ago I launched the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance with avid reader and friend Jenny Blake. We decided we would consider high quality self-published (indie) book submissions for blog alliance book tours.

In recent years there has been an explosion in the number of self-published eBooks, and the trend is likely to continue as more readers embrace new technology and purchase eBook readers. But readers have valid concerns regarding the quality of indie books. Traditional publishers have editors who work with authors to turn a good book into an excellent book. There are indie authors who have their books professionally edited prior to publication. The big question is how can we find these diamonds in the rough? Are there steps we can take to help us work out if a book is an excellent indie fiction read?

1. Read Chapter One or a sample of the book

The first step is to read a sample and see if the story grabs you. Years ago, when I first started learning to write fiction, I was surprised to discover that editors and agents could usually judge whether or not they were interested in a book by the end of page one. After judging numerous unpublished fiction writing contests, I have to agree with the industry professionals and I definitely know by the end of Chapter One if I want to read the rest of the book.

If the first chapter is boring, the characters don’t capture your attention or the writing style jolts you out of the story, the odds are the rest of the book will be the same. I no longer read on to see if a story will get better because I’ve learned from experience that it usually doesn’t. But, I’ve also read books where the first three chapters are great and the story falls apart in the middle, so judging the quality of a book by a sample is not foolproof. Which brings me to my next point.

2. Investigate the author

Search online to discover the author’s writing experience and publishing history. Many multi-published authors are self-publishing their out of print backlist titles that were previously published by a traditional publisher.

A lack of online information about an author is a possible red flag. Most fiction authors don’t publish their first manuscript and write numerous books before their writing reaches a high standard. Their writing journey usually leaves an online trail you can follow to investigate if they’ve taken steps to become a professional writer.

3. Investigate the publisher

An indie author may publish under their own name or choose a publisher name for their books. If you can’t find the publisher name in a search engine then it’s likely the book is self-published.

One word of caution: If a publisher website has a submission page, check out the guidelines. If they offer publishing packages that authors can buy, tread warily. Vanity publishers make money from author’s paying them to publish their book rather than from selling books. As a result, books from vanity publishers are often poorly edited and badly written.

4. Investigate book reviews

Book reviews are helpful if the reviewer explains why they have given a book a particular rating. A large number of 5 star reviews on sites where anyone can post a review will not guarantee a book is a good read.

Two and three star reviews can be the most insightful. We all have different reading tastes and an issue that bothered one reviewer may actually be an element you like in a story.

Check out the reviews of books on the indie bestseller lists. If a large number of people have downloaded or purchased a book, it’s statistically likely that some of those readers have posted reviews, both positive and negative.

5. Price does not necessarily equate with quality

Books sold by vanity publishers are sometimes more expensive than traditionally published books.

At the other end of the spectrum, indie authors may price a book at $0.99 or give it away for free as a loss leader. In the same way retailers sell certain items below cost to entice customers into their store, indie authors may provide cheap or free books in the hope readers will take a chance on a new author. Their goal is to gain new fans who will love their writing and buy their higher priced books.

I hope you’ll be able to find the indie fiction gems, those diamonds in the rough and the indie authors who write great books. Good luck!

Hannah, David and Bathsheba Bible Study eBook giveaway

Narelle here. Today we are giving away free eBook copies of the leaders guide for our August Featured Studies of the Month.

All you need to do is visit our Smashwords page and use the coupon code GA39M at the checkout. The coupon code is valid today.

Smashwords may ask you to sign in or set up an account to enable the eBook to be stored in your Smashwords account. You can download the eBook in multiple formats including PDF, Epub and .mobi for Kindle.

If you’re wondering how to transfer a Smashwords eBook to your Kindle, please refer to my blog post How to read eBooks from Smashwords on Kindle Enjoy!

Book Recommendation: A Lineage of Grace (Bathsheba) by Francine Rivers

Back cover blurb:

2009 Retailer’s Choice Award winner! In this compilation of the five books in the best-selling Lineage of Grace series by Francine Rivers, we meet the five women whom God chose – Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. Each was faced with extraordinary – even scandalous – challenges. Each took great personal risk to fulfill her calling. Each was destined to play a key role in the lineage of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World.

Narelle:  Francine Rivers creates a fictionalised back story for David and  Bathsheba, starting during David’s years in the wilderness before he became king, that sets off a chain of events leading to their infamous encounter at the palace. We know how the story will end and the intriguing fictional set up brings the characters alive on the page.

I loved the emotional intensity in the story as we journey with Bathsheba and gain an understanding of the decisions she made and the consequences that followed. I recommend this novella to those looking for a story about real people who make mistakes and struggle with their faith in the face of temptation.

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Solomon: A wise king who broke the covenant

by Narelle Atkins

King David appointed his son, Solomon, to rule as the king of Israel after his death. God blessed Solomon and answered his request in 1 Kings 3 by giving Solomon great wisdom and a discerning heart. Solomon became famous for his wisdom and people from faraway lands travelled to see him, including the Queen of Sheba.

King Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem and the royal palace. Israel prospered under his leadership. In 1 Kings 9 the Lord appeared to Solomon and reminded him of the importance of obeying the Lord and keeping the covenant. God said that if Solomon or his sons turned away from the Lord or worshiped other Gods, they would lose the covenant blessings including the land given to them by the Lord.

Solomon’s downfall was his love for foreign women. “He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. As Solomon grew older, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. ” 1 Kings 11:3-4.

Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord and his idolatrous worship angered the Lord. He built shrines for the Moab god, Chemosh, the Ammonite god, Molech, and the other gods who his wives worshiped and offered sacrifices on their altars. Although his father David was far from perfect and committed many sins, David was also repentant and didn’t worship idols.

“So the Lord said to Solomon, ‘Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. Yet I will not tear the whole kingdom from him, but will give him one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.’” 1 Kings 11:11-13.

After Solomon’s death in 930BC, the kingdom of Israel was split into the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and the Southern Kingdom (Judah). The Southern Kingdom kept the line of David intact and included the holy city of Jerusalem. The Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom in 722BC. The Southern Kingdom was conquered in 586BC and the people were taken into exile by the Babylonians.

Bible Society Australia: Live light in 25 words

by Narelle Atkins

During the month of October, Bible Society Australia are encouraging people to ‘Live light in 25 words’ by reading 25 words or more from the Bible every day from October 1-31.

There is a sign up page on their website and you can receive daily encouragement emails in October to help you create and maintain a habit of reading the Bible every day. You can also read the Bible with well-known Aussie Christians to inspire your daily habit. And watch ‘The Good Book talks’ – 20 minute talks from Aussie Christian leaders to encourage your Bible reading habit.

My family and I are going to participate and there was a lot of discussion over which part of the Bible we should read. We’ve chosen to read the Gospel of Matthew and our goal is to read the entire gospel during October.

I’ll post more information toward the end of September and you’ll be able to follow our daily reading progress on the 30 Minute Bible Study Facebook page. We hope you’ll join us in reading 25 words or more from the Bible during the 31 days in October.

For more information, please visit the Bible Society Australia website.