Monday, May 21, 2018

Called to be Different

by Anusha Atukorala

Thank you Lord for our Dream Home

In May 2017, I thought it would be brilliant if I could sleep for a year, waking up to find our house sold and the three of us settled comfortably in a new home. And guess what! The miracle happened—I did wake up today in my new abode. Yay! However, I must whisper in your ears that those twelve months were not spent in sweet slumber. They involved plenty of hard work and plenty of stress. Thankfully as we look back, my beloved and I agree that it was all worth it. Every bit of it—the stress, the slog, the wondering if it would all work out.

Our gracious God has now brought us to our promised land and our cup of joy has over-flowed. What an awesome God He is! Being a nature lover, I’ve been delighted to see flowers of different varieties in our new surrounds. Delicate white roses adorn our front yard. More rose bushes grow in the little garden patch outside our kitchen window. For a long while there were no signs of blooms on those shrubs. My husband watered our new garden often to make sure it would remain green and lush in spite of the hot weather.

One morning we discovered that the extra watering had woken up the sleeping rose bushes. A gorgeous yellow rose beamed at us. Every time I looked out of my kitchen window, I was enthralled. Before long we had the pleasure of basking in an abundance of yellow roses. The bush in the middle though had not yielded any flowers. Shan watered it some more.

And then it happened. One day we spotted a little bud starting out on that middle rose bush. Exciting! BUT … surprise, surprise. It wasn’t yellow. It’s petals were painted a bright joyful red, with streaks of perky yellow creating a beautiful contrast. Wow! A queen of roses it was and it bloomed for weeks on end. With boldness it declared: 
I’m different and I’m glad to be different’. 
It brought joy to my heart in a way no yellow rose had done.

That striking red rose pointed me to a God of wonder; a God of beauty; a God of surprises. And more. It prodded me with a call to be different. God asks you and me as Christian writers not to merge with the world—but to stand out. To be as conspicuous as that enchanting rose in a manner that will glorify our Creator

But what does different mean?

 I believe that most importantly it has to be the inner me that’s different as I grow in intimacy with God. I am called to a life of purity and integrity, reflecting the beauty of Jesus. We Christian writers are called to write from the depths our walk with God, leaning on the Holy Spirit to guide us. Not necessarily doing what brings in material benefits but primarily being obedient to Him. The world’s way is to squash one’s competitors. The acronym CALEB (as used in the prize offered in our annual Omega Writer’s competition) stands for something unique: “Christian Authors Lifting Each other’s Books”. Isn’t that beautiful? What a contrast to doing life  according to the world’s modus operandi! I love it.

Jesus calls us not just to entertain our readers but also to help them to reflect on the deeper issues of life. He calls us not just to thrill and enthral but also to bless and build. We Christian writers need be different by standing up for the downtrodden and the weak, by giving a voice  to those who don’t have one. We are called to be salt and light. To flavour the world with our writing. To point to the Saviour.

Some of us write only hints of the reality of God and the reality of heaven. Others of us are more explicit. Whatever we write, we can be different to the world in the way we approach our craft. By praying before we write. By saturating whatever we do with His presence. By listening to the nudge of the Holy Spirit. By giving away a free book to someone who needs it, even if it means that we don’t make as much money.

We are called to be different because what propels our writing is not self-ambition and self-interest but the love of Jesus. We are called to be evangelists even if our writing is not explicitly so. The stamp of our Creator needs to be on each book we write—a stamp that may be invisible, true—but one that bears His heart within.

We are called to be different because the reward of our hard work might not always be obvious. Instead of world’s understanding of ‘success’, it’s in the joy of being obedient to God, the thrill of finding our writing has reached a reader’s heart, the knowledge that our words have encouraged someone and given her hope, the wonder of leading a stranger to Jesus. Being different might often cost us. But oh the joy of walking close to Him and writing as he leads. After all ... we are called to be different so we can make a difference in the world. 

But then ... I am preaching the choir aren't I? Celebrating each of you today knowing you have chosen to be a red rose amidst a hundred yellow roses today. Well done fellow-writers on your faithful writing. Cheering you on and joining hands with you. Let’s continue to saturate the world with books inspired by the Holy Spirit so we will fill the earth with books stamped by the cross of Christ, and are whispers of God’s heart to His world. 

Anusha’s been on many interesting detours in life, as a lab technician, a computer programmer, a full time Mum, a full time volunteer, a charity director, a full time job chaser, until one golden day (or was it a dark moonless night?) God tapped her on her shoulder and called her to write for Him. She has never recovered from the joy it brought her. She loves to see others enjoying life with Jesus and does her mite to hurry the process in her world through her writing and through her life. The goodness of God is her theme song through each season, as she dances in the rain with Jesus. Please stop by at her website Dancing in the Rain to say G’day. 
At the launch of Dancing in the Rain - 12th May 2018

Her first book Enjoying the Journey contains 75 little God stories that will bring you closer to your Creator. 

Her second book  Dancing in the Rain was released in March 2018  by Armour Books and launched recently on the 12th of May. It offers you hope and comfort for life’s rainy seasons. 

Available from:

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Meet Our Members: Melissa Gijsbers

Each Thursday in 2018 we will be interviewing one of the members of Christian Writers Downunder – to find out a little bit more about them and their writing/editing goals.

Today interview Melissa Gijsbers

Question 1: Tells us three things about who you are and where you come from.

I was born in Melbourne, Australia. My dad was a forester, so we moved around quite a bit when I was a kid, including spending three years in Nepal. My parents would joke that they finally stopped moving so they wouldn't have any other kids! (I'm the oldest of 4 kids, each born in a different place).

My dad is dutch and my mum is Australian. My dad came to Australia when he was 3, and the way my surname is spelled is thanks to the people in immigration!

I am currently a single mum with two teenage boys, both with chronic health conditions. They are a constant source of inspiration for my writing, even if they don't mean to be!

Question 2: Tell us about your writing (or editing/illustrating etc).  What do you write and why?

Writing is something I have always done. I won a couple of awards in high school, including enough money to buy a dictaphone! Most recently, I started writing picture books before discovering chapter books. I've found that I can write chapter books much easier than picture books! I have also been playing around with writing some novels for grown ups.

For the why... it's just something I do. Words and books have always been something I'm interested in and there are times I get quite restless if I can't write.

Question 3: Who has read your work? Who would you like to read it?

So many people have read my books. It amazes me when I see a photo or a review of someone reading one of my books and I didn't know they had even bought a copy!

Most of the people who have read them so far are kids, but there are also a lot of parents, teachers, and others who have read them too.

For the books that I've published, I would love to reach more kids. Especially for my first two books, both 'issues books', to show kids that there are others who deal with the same issues they do. I also want to reach anyone who would like to read a good story.

Question 4: Tell us something about your process. What challenges do you face? What helps you the most?

I find that I work best with a deadline, as well as someone working with me, usually an editor. This extra person is someone I'm accountable who will say 'where's that next draft you promised me?'

My biggest challenges is time. With a day job and two kids, writing time is precious. Different things work at different times. It could be working at my favourite cafe, or writing during my lunch break, or any other strange times I can get a few minutes.

Question 5: What is your favourite Writing Craft Book and why?

One of my favourite writing craft books is Writing Hannah: On Writing for Children by Libby Gleeson. In this book, Libby Gleeson (one of my favourite authors when I was a teenager) shares the process of writing one of her books based on her diaries and notes during this time.

I like how it's not giving a formula on how to write that may or may not work for everyone, instead, she shares her process, including the times when she couldn't work out what the next part of the story was and when things needed changing. Her process is something that is closer to my own process in that the whole book isn't planned to every detail, instead she starts with an idea and writes to see where it goes.

Question 6: If you were to give a shout-out to a CWD author, writer, editor or illustrator – who would they be?

Lately, I have really enjoyed the books by Nicki Edwards. They are great books to read and I have them all!

I also have a general shout out to the CWD team. They have been really supportive of me and my writing goals while I've been caring for two sick children.

Question 7: What are your writing goals for 2018? How will you achieve them?

One goal I have is to publish another book this year, although the more realistic one is to get one ready to publish early in 2019! I also want to publish some more 'how to' ebooks for authors with small business tips. I currently have one published, I just need to edit and polish some that I have sitting on my hard drive.

Question 8: How does your faith impact and shape your writing?

This is always a hard question for me to answer. I write stories that are more for the general market, however my faith colours the issues that I write about. Many of my stories are based on my own journey and characters will attend church, mostly because it's just part of what we do! I also write stories and take part in promotions that line up with my values.

Melissa Gijsbers lives in Melbourne with her two teenage sons. During the day she works in the family business and by night she writes stories for kids and adults. She has three middle grade books published.

You can find her at and on Facebook or Twitter.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Meet Our Members: Christine Dillon

Each Thursday in 2018 we will be interviewing one of the members of Christian Writers Downunder – to find out a little bit more about them and their writing/editing goals.

Today interview Christine Dillon

Question 1: Tell us three things about who you are and where you come from.

Although born in Australia, I went off to Asia when I was two months old. My parents worked in Taiwan until I was seventeen. I did most of my schooling in Malaysia and the Philippines and returned to Sydney for my final two years.

After studying physiotherapy and working for a few years I attended Sydney Missionary and Bible College. Those were two of the best years of my life. In 1999, I returned to Taiwan with OMF where I have the best job in the world as a Bible storyteller and part of a church planting team.

Question 2: Tell us about your writing.  What do you write and why?

The non-fiction came out of my daily life and training of others. 1-2-1 discipleship (Christian Focus, 2009) and then Telling the Gospel Through Story: Evangelism that keeps hearers wanting more (IVP, 2012). I wrote about discipleship because people kept preaching the ‘make disciples’ passage (Matthew 28:16-20) but didn’t tell me how to get started in a way I could understand. The storytelling book was written out of an excitement at what an amazing tool it is. Both books were written to allow me to reach a wider audience with what I was learning.

I never expected to write fiction and God really had to force me to do it. I knew it was going to be a hard slog and I was right. My first novel took me four and a half years. Fiction allows me to deal with issues that those I disciple struggle with but in a different format - a story package that challenges the way they see the world. I hope it is ‘life changing’ and inspires them to follow Jesus more.

Question 3: Who has read your work? Who would you like to read it?

The non-fiction has been read by anyone who wants to meet up with another believer one to one in order to grow in a maturity or for anyone wishing they knew how to tell their friends about Jesus. Storytelling is a method that increases the likelihood that non-Christians will become hungry for more. Of course, it also challenges and teaches believers. It is no surprise that ‘Jesus never said anything without a story’ (Mark 4:34).

Officially my novel is ‘women’s fiction’ which means that the book is focussed on the daily issues that women face and that romance isn’t the primary focus. Think Francine Rivers and Deborah Raney. However, I have been greatly encouraged at the number of men and teenagers (from age twelve) who have read it and enjoyed it.

Grace in Strange Disguise looks at the issue of ‘what is God there for?’ We know people disappoint us but what happens when God does too?

Question 4: Tell us something about your process. What challenges do you face? What helps you the most?

Non-fiction is relatively easy for me because I’m an ISTJ and so organisation is my middle name. I brainstorm all the topics I want to cover in the book and then organise them into a logical flow. Then I just start writing. I’m helped too that most of the content of my non-fiction has been taught to others first.

With the novel, I started with the ‘Snowflake Method’. It was something I found online that made sense and broke the planning process into small bites. Good for a beginner. But towards the end of the editing process I was introduced to Story Genius by Lisa Cron. I went back immediately and did her planning writing segments. Some of them made it into the finished book. I now always start with the four scenes she suggests you write for each character.

The rest of the process? For novel two I had two main characters so I bought two sets of index cards (small) in pink and green. On each card I’d write an idea for a scene. Then I got a cork board and worked out a logical flow and added any missing cards. Then I wrote (not always in order), using Scrivener. Scrivener has some marvellous features including a daily word count that you can set the target. Eventually I increased that to five thousand words as that was possible in a day if I’d done some thinking beforehand (which I did while swimming).

Once the draft is finished I let it sit and have a few weeks break. Then on to edits. Edits happen over and over but the most useful one is the read through out loud. I record each chapter, as this forces me to keep doing it out loud. My ear is able to catch un-natural dialogue (a weakness of mine) and many other mis-rhythms.

Then beta readers and more edits and finally to the paid editor (s) once it is the best I can make it. The editors have taught me so much (thanks Cecily and Iola). Yes, having two is expensive but I want my books to be the best possible.

Finalising title and cover and proofreading and then on to pre-marketing. It has been so much to learn, especially after I made the decision to go with independent publishing.

Question 5: What is your favourite Writing Craft Book and why?

At the moment it is Understanding show not tell by Janice Hardy. Cecily recommended it (so I listened). You might not understand all the details but if you simply search for all her ‘red flag’ words like thought, realised, felt, considered, hoped … you can eliminate them. In the process you decrease the narrative distance between the reader and your character (thus increasing deep point of view and allowing the reader to go on the ride with the characters). It was the best $6 I’ve spent so far as immediately afterwards it saved me $1000 on the editing quote I’d had!

Question 6: If you were to give a shout-out to a CWD author, writer, editor or illustrator – who would they be?

A tough question but it has to be the editors because without them I’d be sunk (and Joy Lankshear, my cover designer isn’t in CWD). Cecily Paterson, as well as being an excellent YA general market author, also has a speciality in ramping up emotion (or telling you to do so) and writing natural dialogue. She forces me to know my characters and makes sure they’re all distinct. These are my areas of weakness and as almost the completely opposite personality type to me she is always saying, “Stop thinking! Your character should be feeling.”

Iola Goulton is a master of structure and copy editing and many other things. Both these women somehow get me to write much better than I believe is possible.

Question 7: What are your writing goals for 2018? How will you achieve them?

I have a very full-time job and so this year I’ve set aside Saturdays to write and kept myself to it. I turn off the internet and listen to suitable music (classical or Lord of the Rings). My goal is to get the sequel to Grace in Strange Disguise published. I’d also like to complete the planning for book three and even start writing.

Question 8: How does your faith impact and shape your writing?

Without it I wouldn’t be writing. The non-fiction directly flows out of my daily ministry and what God has taught me along the way.

I was only willing to write fiction if it was aiming to be ‘life changing’. That means that God first ministers to me through the research and writing process. There have been many, many times when I’ve wanted to quit because writing is painfully difficult. Without Jesus it would be impossible.

My faith also informs my marketing and promotion … the values behind what I am happy to do and why. The Holy Spirit is great at yanking me back into line.

Christine Dillon was born in Australia but grew up in Asia. She now works in Taiwan as a Bible storyteller. Her book 'Telling the Gospel Through Story' was voted 2013 Outreach Magazine's Resource of the Year in Evangelism and continues to inspire innovative and engaging Bible storytelling. Believing in the beauty and power of story prompted her jump into fiction. Grace in Strange Disguise was runner-up in the Athanatos Christian Writing Contest. Christine loves reading and keeps sane by cycling, swimming and hiking.

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Monday, May 7, 2018

Exploring Genres - Crime Mystery

by Donna Fletcher Crow

The Mystery of Writing Mysteries—
Or Why Would an Author Kill Her Characters?
Saint Cuthbert made me do it.

I started out as a romance writer. I wrote wonderful, dreamy stories, historical or contemporary, set in lush locations that I loved researching and then living in in my mind. (Settings have always been one of the most important story elements to me.) I published several books and even won a few awards. Then one day I realized I couldn’t read another romance.

If you can’t read them, you can’t write them. So I concentrated on my lifetime love of English history and wrote a number of historical novels, including my Arthurian epic Glastonbury, The Novel of Christian England, still my best-known work.

Then I met Saint Cuthbert. Not in any mystical sense, but the way I meet most of my characters: researching another project. At Durham Cathedral I heard the story of this soldier-turned-monk who transformed the north of England by his holiness. I knew I wanted to tell his story. But what could I do with a character whose claim to fame was his sanctity?

My greatest challenge in writing had always been plotting. My family knew my struggles so well that when my writing flagged, my young daughter would say, “Mama, you don’t have enough conflict.” I seldom did. I had once mentioned my struggle to an editor who advised, “You need to read thrillers.” He promptly sent me a box of mystery novels he edited. I was hooked.

My love of history took me back to the Golden Age. I devoured Dorothy L. Sayers, Josephine Tey, Margery Allingham and, of course, Agatha Christie. I saw that mystery writing incorporated not only the rich backgrounds and alive characters that I loved, but also kept me involved with that all-important strong story question that must be developed early in the story and solved at the end.

That was it—what I needed for Saint Cuthbert was a story question strong enough to keep the pages turning. I needed to involve my reader with strong characters in interesting settings so they would care enough about what was happening to be willing to read about an ancient saint whose beliefs are still valid for our day and can transform our world as they did his own.

The Monastery Murders were born. I had understood the story question idea from the early days of my writing—I had some great teachers, especially Lee Roddy. But I had never applied the story question principle with blood before. Let’s face it—nothing keeps the pages turning like a dead body.

In this third permutation of my writing career I author three mystery series: The Lord Danvers Investigates, Victorian true-crime mysteries; The Elizabeth and Richard Literary Suspense series; and The Monastery Murders. In each of these I try to develop the rich backgrounds, vital characters and historical elements that have always driven my writing, but now I also concentrate on keeping the story question moving forward to what I hope will be a satisfyingly surprising conclusion.

Once I plant my story question—which may or may not be an explicit query followed by a question mark, but must raise a question in the reader’s mind—I then develop my chapters by focusing on small elements of the over-arching question. A clue or red herring leads my sleuths (in my books, all amateurs) to explorations, evaluations and then a new question to be explored in the next chapter. This is a mystery-writing application of the classic scene and sequel structure which I discovered many years ago in the classic Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain. I highly recommend it—there’s nothing better for understanding the bones of fiction writing.

This question and answer method, which I first applied to A Very Private Grave, Saint Cuthbert’s story,  has carried me through the writing of  fourteen more mystery novels. I’ve never been bored for a minute—and I hope my readers haven’t either.

Donna Fletcher Crow is passionate about English history and loves telling the stories of the men and women who have shaped the world we live in. She is the author of some 50 books--all available on her website along with pictures from her research trips--something else she is passionate about. Her newest release is A Lethal Spectre, Lord Danvers Investigates 

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Meet our Members: Paula Vince

Each Thursday in 2018 we will be interviewing one of the members of Christian Writers Downunder – to find out a little bit more about them and their writing/editing goals.
Today's interview: Paula Vince

Question 1: Tells us three things about who you are and where you come from.

I'm descended from several families who migrated to South Australia to escape bad conditions in their homelands in the mid 1800s. That makes me a 7th generation South Aussie, so I like to think living in Adelaide is deep in my blood. I've lived in the Adelaide Hills since I was a teenager, but we've recently moved to a beach suburb. We are still getting used to the figurative and literal sea change. And I've homeschooled my three children since 2003, but it finishes at the end of this year, since my youngest son is 14 and will begin High School subjects in 2019.

Question 2: Tell us about your writing (or editing/illustrating etc).  What do you write and why?

I've written 9 novels altogether. Six are inspirational dramas for the New Adult market with elements of romance and suspense. I also challenged myself to write a young adults' fantasy adventure trilogy, just to see if I could. It was great fun, but really stretched me. I also love writing blog posts about books and all things literary. And I've started a fictionalised account of the life of my grandfather, who was a war hero, boxing champion and South Australian celebrity of his generation. It's a bit of an unusual and close-to-home project for me, so I'm progressing fairly slowly with that one. I had to sit on it when my Dad, who was his only surviving child, passed away at the start of last year, because I felt too emotional to continue. But stopping for the short term doesn't mean forever.

Question 3: Who has read your work? Who would you like to read it?

I really don't know the full answer to that, but it would be great to find out. My novels have been sold in the Australian Christian fiction market and some school catalogues, along with Amazon and the usual modern channels. Although it doesn't happen with regularity, I love to hear from readers, and find out where they're from. Not knowing the full extent of our audiences is a mystery we authors always have to deal with.

Question 4: Tell us something about your process. What challenges do you face? What helps you the most?

It always involves jotting thoughts down with a notepad and pen to start with. That's an old habit from schooldays which has stuck, because the flow dries up if I try to type straight from my head onto computer. I like it that way though, because I consider the first computer draft my initial edit. My brain is used to regarding the process in these separate steps, and I think it helps stop any inhibitions about the messiness and disorganisation at the start. Because it knows it's allowed to be messy then.

Question 5: What is your favourite Writing Craft Book and why? 

I love Elizabeth Gilbert's 'Big Magic', but it's probably more of a book about forming a resilient attitude than actual craft. So to cover both bases, I'll add 'The Sound of Paper' by Julia Cameron. It's full of wisdom and helpful hints about everything from getting ideas to dealing with all kinds of feedback, not to mention actually getting things on paper in between.

Question 6: If you were to give a shout-out to a CWD author, writer, editor or illustrator – who would they be?

Wow, there are so many, that's a hard pick as I'd like to give shout-outs to several, but I'll mention a couple that spring to mind right now.

Anusha Atukorala, since I'm looking forward to attending her book launch in a couple of weeks, and am already enjoying her beautiful, encouraging book. It's just the sort of read we all need to help keep our spirits up.

Rose Dee, because I love occasional visits to far north Queensland in the real, and she has such a colourful, descriptive way of bringing that part of our country to life whenever I dip into her stories at home, I might as well be straight back.

Jeanette Grant-Thomson, because she's highlighted such a variety of interesting, topical issues and people in her fiction and non-fiction. It's just what what we need in Australia, where so often people with interesting tales just slide under the radar, without a chance to tell them.

And I'd also like to highlight the work of 'Belinda Peoples Writer' who has a passion for encouraging normal, average people in our daily lives, and giving us encouragement to keep going, in her 'Belle of the Bell Curve' reflections. It's something not many people think to do, and is much appreciated.

Question 7: What are your writing goals for 2018? How will you achieve them?

For this stage, I seem to be focused more on reading than writing, at least for the time being. So I'm concentrating on studying the writing techniques of authors from way back, including the great classics. I also love to keep track of modern new releases, to compare changes and styles over time. Just soaking them in gives me lots of satisfaction.

Question 8: How does your faith impact and shape your writing?

My faith always affects my writing because expressing my impressions on the page is always how I've processed things. So in a way, writing shapes my faith as much as my faith shapes my writing. I love that sort of feedback loop, and the record it leaves as a bonus.

Paula Vince is a South Australian author of contemporary, inspirational fiction. She lives in the beautiful Adelaide Hills, with its four distinct seasons, and loves to use her environment as settings for her stories. Her novel, 'Picking up the Pieces' won the religious fiction section of the International Book Awards in 2011, and 'Best Forgotten' was winner of the CALEB prize the same year. She is also one of the four authors of 'The Greenfield Legacy', Australia's first and only collaborated Christian novel. Her most recent novel, 'Imogen's Chance' was published April 2014. For more of Paula's reflections, you may like to visit her book review blog, The Vince Review.

Monday, April 30, 2018

The Power of Books

by Hazel Barker 

Books are a powerful weapon. There have been many instances of book-burnings throughout history. Some of the better-known conflagrations are the burning of Catholic theological works by Martin Luther in 1520, and the incinerating of English Monastic Libraries during the Dissolution of Monasteries from 1536-1541. Thousands of books were burned by the Communists in Russia. Books by Jewish authors and anti-Nazi books were burned by the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s. The latest burnings to date have been those by ISIS in Iraq, Syria and Libya. Fear of their influence on people led to such destruction.

Books open our minds to knowledge, to understanding and to joy. There are millions to choose from, and were we to spend our whole lives consuming book after book, we could only read a fraction of them. For this reason, we need go to Book Fairs like the Omega Book Fair, which was recently held in March 2018. We need to visit good book stores like Koorong Book Stores. We need to be selective in what we read. We need to read edifying books. 

I enjoy reading memoirs and historical fiction. From memoirs I may learn how to avoid the mistakes others have made, or be encouraged to follow their examples. Reading historical fiction teaches me about the past, and I read them, bearing in mind the adage ‘History repeats itself.’ Books give me pleasure. Few joys give greater joy than relaxing with a good book. Ever since I learned to read from the age of four, I loved books. Later, even before I reached my teens, I longed to write – to be an author someday. 

Now that dream has been fulfilled. Book One of my memoirs Heaven Tempers the Wind. Story of a War Child and its sequel The Sides of Heaven, is available in all good bookstores. I assure you that men and women of all ages will enjoy reading it and will look forward to the third book. 


Hazel Barker lives in Brisbane with her husband Colin. She taught in Perth, Canberra and Brisbane for over a quarter of a century and now devotes her time to reading, writing and bushwalking. From her early years, her passion for books drew her to authors like Walter Scott and Charles Dickens. Her love for historical novels sprang from Scott, and the love of literary novels, from Dickens. Many of her short stories and book reviews have been published in magazines and anthologies.

Hazel’s debut novel Chocolate Soldier, was released by Rhizza Press in 2016. Book One of her memoirs Heaven Tempers the Wind was released by Armour Books this year. Both books are set during World War Two – the former in England and the Far East; the latter in Burma. Book Two of her memoirs, The Sides of Heaven, was released by Armour Books in February this year.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Meet our Members . CWD Member Interview – Shane Brigg

Each Thursday in 2018 we will be interviewing one of the members of Christian Writers Downunder – to find out a little bit more about them and their writing/editing goals.

Today we interview Shane Brigg.

Shane Brigg enjoys good coffee, chats and a walk with friends and family


Question 1: Tells us three things about who you are and where you come from.
In our bedhead we have a bookshelf. Beside my mind all night long I have the key influential books of my life. It is as if the ink comes to life each night in my resting and dreams and visions and scoping for the day ahead. A little book with a faded cover is here. My Side of the Mountain by Jean George. I first read it as a young boy who loved nature, wanting to find my way in the world and seeking to know the Creator. I grew up in South East Queensland. My Mum and Dad instilled in me a love of nature.  I remember hours exploring the creeks and forests near our home. Perhaps this is what lead me to study Environmental Science. I love bushwalking, gardening, walks along our coastline and noticing the wonders of the world. This has not only meant exploring and studying wild valleys, forests, swamps, caves, mountains, deserts, animals, plants and landscapes worldwide. It has meant stepping through the open doors, gateways, arches, and homes full of human life in towns and cities across our globe.   I have an intense passion for the things of creation but particularly for the humanity our Creator died for to reveal His love.  

Adventuring in Life and Nature. Shane on top of Mount Cooroora

I love people. All sorts of people. Those environmental studies lead me into discovering more about humanity as anthropology and sociology was offered to me. Assignment work amongst homeless young people living on the streets of Brisbane, ministry amongst Indigenous communities, leading teams cross culturally into South East Asia have punctuated my journey.  A song that has become a theme for my life is “Rose Coloured Stain Glass Windows” by Petra.

When I first heard it, it moved me so much I cried. For me it was the story of my passion for seeing what I had discovered of a saviour who had stepped out of His position to save me and the world around me, and He wanted his people to do the same. Go into the world. Reveal His love. That is what defines me. I am a Chaplain of one of the largest schools in Queensland. Loving families from all walks of life. We live in the University of the Sunshine Coast precinct. Here our missional community reflects the more than 40 Nations represented. Each week we connect personally with dozens of new friends from many different tribes, many of whom are only just realising that the Creator is real and loves them intensely. We are blessed to call them family.

Connecting with International Students inspires a global depth to Shane's Writing 

Question 2: Tell us about your writing (or editing/illustrating etc).  What do you write and why?
My writing reflects all this framework. I write about and for people. My writing expresses the needs these populations have. Most of my writing happens because it must. Communicating happenings, helps, honest musings and happy celebrations. Things like articles produced in magazines, school newsletters, newspapers, online platforms are a regular happening for me. Academic writing, helping students, training, resources for learning, coaching, empowering ministry tools are also prime to my writing.
More creative pursuits provide a personal outlet for me. I have several projects concurrently underway that many of the aforementioned writings take pre-eminence over due to real time constrictions. And yet a Trilogy that I started some 33 years ago continues to take shape. It started as random writings that seemed to come together miraculously and now has a reasoned synopsis, powerful authentic characters, and situations that are reflective of my own life journey expressed as a fictional pre-dystopian narrative. Other projects include a young adult Graphic Novel, a fun Aussie school-based reader for junior primary, and a fantasy novel that delves into the principles highlighted in the book of Ephesians. I have also written scripts and screenplays, with storyboarding and artwork to compliment.

Creating Narratives with a Challenge in mind for Young People

Question 3: Who has read your work? Who would you like to read it?
The primary audiences for what I have written have been those within the communities I have the honour of serving as Pastor, bible college lecturer, Chaplain, and friend. Students, families, readerships across entire regions in newspapers, our families of faith, deliberate, opportune and often nonintentional audiences. I look forward to watching how publishing my major creative works can impact lives as they are read by the young adults and children they are aimed at.

Question 4: Tell us something about your process. What challenges do you face? What helps you the most?
Much of my creative work is an expression of occurrences and real-life situations I have encountered. They are a sort of journaling on my behalf. But I write through the lenses of my key characters in a fictional world.  I am inspired by the works of Stephen Lawhead, Tolkien and various adventure and fantasy sci fi writers. Movies such as Blade Runner, Hacksaw Ridge, Lord of the Rings, Blood Diamond, and They Killed My Father motivate me to write to themes that move people to action. 

Creative Journaling is a foundation for Shane's Writing.
My Son Vietnam.

Question 5: What is your favourite Writing Craft Book and why?
I do not have a favourite writing craft book, but a major premise I gained from a book about
CS Lewis’s writing style has been very liberating. Truth does not have to be factual. What this means is that often Truth is discovered in unreal settings. For example, Aslan in CS Lewis’s writings is not a real entity but holds Truths about Christ. He is not a tame Lion.

Question 6: If you were to give a shout-out to a CWD author, writer, editor or illustrator – who would they be?
I have been blessed to reconnect recently with Nola Passmore. When I was ministering at the Uni she was lecturer at in the 1990’s, we prayed together with a group of academics, started a forum for students we called Catalyst, and now I am blessed to have her inspiring my journey as a writer.

Question 7: What are your writing goals for 2018? How will you achieve them?
The main goal I have is to create the structural framework around each of my works so that much of what is (at the moment) in handwritten form can be easily transferred into a digital format. I have about 3 archive boxes of handwritten material. sigh.

Question 8: How does your faith impact and shape your writing?
My faith journey is dynamically (if not overtly) reflected in everything I write. I aim to write from a point of authenticity and passion. I hope the love I have discovered in our Creator is revealed in humble expressions that bring my characters, plots, teachings and inspirations to life. Family is vitally important in my faith journey. Our own family is a huge inspiration. The family that we embrace within our faith journey brings light into a world that needs the brilliance of the Saviour’s love. This has a vital influence on my writing too.

Shane's Family. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Redemption in the Valley

As Omega President, it is my turn to greet you Australasian Christian writers and readers. It is ANZAC Day, and in times past I've reflected on true stories from people who lived through those dreadful years of war 1914-1918. This year marks 100 years since Armistice and I'd like to offer another piece. This time, the reflection is a piece of fiction—an excerpt taken from one of my early novels 'Beyond the Valley'. When I wrote this book, I read many accounts of ANZAC soldiers and heard from people who had lived through the Great War. This excerpt (re-written for this occasion) starts at the time of Armistice, and follows the story of one young returned soldier, having left his mate behind—killed in action:

John didn’t want to put it off any longer. There was still one last issue that had not yet been laid to rest—to do with Charlie and Johnny, and only he knew about it.
He’d watched Charlie over the last few weeks, not sure if his attendance at church meant he’d given up atheism, or if he was there just simply to see his little girl. As a minister, John was used to reading people, but from Charlie’s demeanour he couldn’t tell what was happening in the young man’s heart. Charlie sat through the services, talked a little with Aimee at the finish and then went home with his parents. He showed no emotion either positive or negative. He showed no interest, neither in the sermon nor apparently towards life in general.
Then last week, the armistice had been announced. November 11th at 11 o’clock 1918. The whole valley had gone mad with joy. There was a public holiday and picnic. They held races for the children, and sang songs and cheered. It seemed that everybody in the valley had come into the school to attend, even Charlie. But Charlie didn’t cheer. Neither did he sing or engage in any way. And when they’d played The Last Post at the flagpole in remembrance of those who’d paid the ultimate price, Charlie didn’t cry. Nearly every other townsperson had wept for the Johnny, John most of all. His son would never come home. Charlie had stood impassively, his head bowed, no expression on his face. John was aware of his son’s best friend, and what he observed troubled him. It was time to pay a pastoral visit.
‘He’s probably out at the lookout.’ Charlie’s grandmother had answered the door. ‘He sometimes goes there to be alone. This melancholy takes a hold of him and he doesn’t seem to be much use to anybody for anything,’ Rose said.
‘It must be hard for you,’ John said.
Rose’s eyes filled with tears. ‘I’m glad our boy came back at least. Yours ...’
John swallowed back his own emotion. He’d cried nearly every day since he’d received the telegram. He doubted it would ever stop.
‘I’m sorry.’ Rose wiped her nose with her handkerchief. Try the lookout. I can’t think where else he could be.’
As John rode up into the hills, he kept wiping his own nose. His son had come up here many times with Charlie. They had been the best of mates, and Johnny had told his father about the plans they had talked about at the lookout. This wretched grief was going to dog him forever. Every place he went, there was something to remind him of his son.

Charlie’s head snapped up. Was that Johnny calling him? For that brief moment a surge of joy pushed him to his feet in anticipation. Then he remembered—Johnny was dead and buried somewhere in the desert in North Africa. When John Laslett rode from between the trees, it made sense. Johnny had always sounded like his father.
‘Grandma Rose thought I might find you here,’ the minister said as he rode up and dismounted.
‘I come here sometimes to think,’ Charlie said. That momentary burst of energy was gone and the weight was back pressing on his shoulders.
‘Do you mind if I sit down?’ John asked, and then tied his horse to a nearby bush. ‘I’ve been meaning to catch up with you. Some things we need to talk about.’
Charlie forced himself to nod. There was his adopted daughter to talk about. He couldn’t run away from responsibility forever.
‘I’m really grateful that you and Mrs Laslett have allowed Meg to take on Aimee.’
‘We’re grateful you’ve given Meg a chance to continue to do what she loves best. Having Aimee has helped her cope with leaving her missionary work. She would have been restless sitting at home with nobody to care for and love.’
Charlie hadn’t thought about it like that, and was relieved to know the Lasletts looked upon Aimee as a blessing rather than a nuisance.
‘It’s not Meg I want to talk about. It’s Johnny.’
Charlie felt a wave of anxiety cord his muscles. He wanted to get up and run into the bush. He had fought not to think about Johnny for nearly a year. He couldn’t think of his friend without the image of his body being hit by the shower of bullets and falling lifeless to the ground.
‘I don’t think I can …’ Charlie’s mouth had gone dry and his stomach had knotted.
‘You blame yourself, Charlie, I know that,’ John said. ‘You think it was all your fault that Johnny was killed.’
‘It was,’ Charlie said, ‘and I wouldn’t blame you for hating me for it.’
‘How was it your fault?’ John asked.
Charlie braced for John’s anger, but it didn’t come.
‘No one has ever told me exactly what happened. All we know is that he was killed in action.’
‘I don’t know if I can talk about it.’ Charlie was now fighting a wave of black spots that seemed to be clouding his vision, and a wave of nausea that made him want to spit out the pain boiling inside.
‘I can’t force you.’ John’s tone remained quiet and steady. He paused for a while before continuing. ‘You know Johnny wrote to me just before he died. He knew it was going to happen.’
Charlie squeezed his eyes shut and held his breath. He didn’t want to hear this.
‘He wanted me to tell you.’
Charlie became aware that John was waiting. He cracked his eyelids and saw the minister holding out an envelope, and recognised Johnny’s handwriting.
‘You need to know, Charlie, and I need to tell his mother and sisters, but not before you’ve given me permission.’
Charlie stared at the extended envelope. What was he saying? He was speaking in riddles, and Charlie didn’t want to understand. He began to shake his head.
‘Please,’ John said. ‘For Johnny’s sake and your own.’
After a long pause, Charlie eventually took the envelope. He didn’t want to do this. He didn’t want to hear from Johnny. He didn’t want to think about Johnny. He didn’t want to remember what he had done.
‘You need to read it,’ John pushed. ‘It’s important, Charlie.’
Heart hammering at an alarming rate and feeling dizzy with worry, Charlie withdrew the letter and began to read.

Please don’t show this to mother. If it all comes to nothing I wouldn’t want to upset her, but I felt I had to share my feelings with somebody, Dad, and I know you will understand.
All my life I have felt that God has something for me to do, and I said to Meg some time ago that it was something I must do alone. Lately I have begun to feel that I know what it is. It has to do with Charlie. I love him like a brother, Dad, and yet he lives his life as if it will never end. He refuses to acknowledge God and stands on the edge of blasphemy constantly. If only he knew that he was breaking his Saviour’s heart as well as my own when he talks like that. I pray desperately that he will not be killed in this war. Dad, you and I both know that if he dies his life will not end there. If I am to die tomorrow, I know that I will be welcomed into the loving arms of my Saviour, Jesus Christ, but if it is Charlie, I fear he will face a lost eternity.
Dad, if it comes to this, I will die in Charlie’s place. At least I will not be lost, but I cannot risk having him in everlasting torment forever.
Of course I pray that he will soften his heart and remember the things that we have all said over the years, but he becomes more reckless with despair as the days go by.
The other night, I read that Scripture: ‘Greater love has no man than he lays down his life for his friend.’ I don’t pretend to be anything close to Jesus Christ, but I will follow His example if it means Charlie has another chance to one day meet me in heaven.
This may all come to nothing, and if so, then I will rejoice in coming home again, but if something should happen, please tell Charlie that I loved him like a brother, and I plead with him, if there is still time, to give his life to Christ. I want to meet him in heaven, and know that we were brothers on earth.
As always, tell mother and the girls that I love them with all my heart and will see them soon, in this life or the next.

Your loving son

 Something harsh was scratching at Charlie’s eyes, and he stood trying to blink it away. His jaw has locked with tension and his throat hurt. The emotion was boiling in the pit of his stomach.
‘How did Johnny die?’ John asked softly. Charlie’s chin began to quiver. He needed to say it, but wasn’t sure it would come out right.
‘He died saving my life!’ The words were hardly out and the emotion came spilling out after it in deep gut-wrenching sobs. ‘Why did he do that? I’m not worth dying for!’ Following the sobs came wave upon wave of rage and Charlie felt a loud and angry cry come from deep within his being. He began to punch his chest with his fists until he fell to his knees and pushed his face to the ground.
‘Why did you do it, Johnny? I’m not worth it. You shouldn’t have done it! You should have let me die.’ Charlie was barely aware of how he must have sounded. His face was leaking—from his eyes, from his nose, from his mouth. ‘Why?’
Then he felt a hand on his shoulder. Why did Johnny’s father care so much? He should hate him.
Eventually the storm subsided.
‘How can you ever forgive me? If I hadn’t been so hard hearted, Johnny might still have been alive.’
‘You can’t know that,’ John said. ‘If it hadn’t been you, Johnny might have done the same for one of the other men. He might have been taken down in the charge on Beersheba. Johnny’s life was and is in the hands of God.’
Charlie shook his head. ‘He should have let me die. It was my own stupid fault, and I have nothing to live for any way.’
‘Eternal damnation is a serious business, Charlie. Please don’t waste my son’s sacrifice. You read what he said. There is still time. Give yourself to Christ. Meet Johnny again someday, and tell him yourself.’
‘It’s too late for me,’ Charlie argued. ‘I married a prostitute, didn’t you know?’
‘I know,’ John answered quietly. ‘And I know that you rescued Aimee from neglect and abuse.’
‘That hardly makes up for all of the wrong things I’ve done.’
‘Nothing makes up for our sin, Charlie, except the blood of Jesus Christ.’
‘I don’t understand it.’ Charlie shook his head. ‘When I studied natural science, they said I needed proof before I accepted anything.’
‘Do you need proof that summer will end and winter will begin before you plan what crop you will put in next year?’
‘Yes, but everybody knows the seasons will change, they always have.’
‘A lot of people know that God is real, and that He has sent His son, Jesus Christ, to save us from sin and death. He always has, and always will.’
‘Yes, but I can’t prove that.’
‘You can’t prove that winter will come either, and yet you plant your seed hoping that it will.’
Charlie stopped. He was spent, and couldn’t think of an intelligent answer.
‘You don’t believe with your head, Charlie. You have faith in your heart. You accept it without proof.’
‘Only fools do that.’
‘The fool has said in his heart, ‘there is no God’. There is a God all right, Charlie. You only have to look at the stars and the wonders of creation to see his fingerprints all over the world. And you only have to look at the example of your friend, Johnny, to know what Jesus has done in dying for you. Like Johnny, Jesus died for your sin, except His gift is eternal life. Johnny’s was only for a bit more of this mortal life, hoping you’d make the right choices now.’
Charlie sighed. He heard what Reverend Laslett said, and he desperately wanted to believe, but his mind kept getting in the way.
‘Is it possible to pray for my faith to grow?’ Charlie asked hopefully.
‘It’s more than possible.’ John smiled. ‘I’ll pray with you right now, and tomorrow, and every day after that, until your faith is enough to accept Jesus Christ as your Saviour. I don’t know if it is possible, but if it were, Johnny would be laughing in heaven if he knew you would do it.’
Charlie nodded. ‘He would laugh, and probably cry too. I miss him so much.’
The emotion welled up again, and Charlie saw it in John’s eyes as well as he grabbed him in a hug.
 ‘I’ll try it, for Johnny,’ Charlie said as he pulled away. ‘It really is the least I can do.’
‘Do it for yourself, and for Aimee, and for your parents, and for me as well.’ John said. ‘The angels in heaven rejoice when one sinner repents and comes home to the Father.’
Model photograph of Character, Charlie Shore

Omega Writers' President, Meredith Resce, has written and published 18 titles. This excerpt comes from her novel 'Beyond the Valley'—fifth novel in the Heart of Green Valley series.

Don't forget registrations for Omega Writers Conference will be coming up soon. Save the date: October 26-28th in Adelaide.