February here already

What else could go wrong?

The closer I get to self-publishing my first Romantic Suspense Novel, White Rose of Promise, the more unexpected little problems I encounter.

The most recent one took me a lot of time, and a whole treasury of emotional energy, to deal with. It derailed my progress in all of my writing activities. Long hours spent online ‘chatting’ to the Technical Support team took me on an adventure of discovery.

For those who have visited my page before, you may have noticed that the ‘my email isn’t working’ notification was up for a VERY long time. I was reasonably certain that I had made some foundational error, but didn’t have either the time or the emotional energy to deal with it in 2018.

A tricky problem

Turns out I was correct. The seventh ‘chat’ finally revealed that I had missed some basic information right at the start of setting up my account. An attempt to rectify the problem back then didn’t work, because the additional feature I was paying for was not attached to this page… It was NEVER going to work. All fixed now 🙂

As a writer, I am very interested in the emotional rollercoaster that accompanied this difficult lesson. The first time I contacted the Help Desk, I felt very anxious but confident that I had explained myself correctly. The second time, I was annoyed that the reassurances hadn’t come to anything. In fact, my situation was much worse – my whole web page went offline!

The third time, I was frustrated and impatient.

Something unexpected happened after that. The anxiety and anger dissipated, to be replaced by a lighthearted feeling of relief. I was able to sit at the computer with a smile on my face, and gratitude in my heart.

It didn’t seem to matter that I was losing writing time, only that someone was doing their best to help me. The worst case scenario had been fulfilled and rectified – my web page was back online, the links to my posts on my facebook page worked again, and eventually, the promise that my email would work would be fulfilled.

So what changed?

So what changed between the third and fourth ‘chat’? The helpful advisor told me that I ‘obviously’ hadn’t waited long enough for changes 1 and 2 to work, and said not to contact them again until I had waited 48 hours. So I did.

Please don’t think that I patiently waited during the remaining hours in silence. I petitioned heaven, both about my problem with the email and because the torrent of emotions and the accompanying fallout was wrecking my ability to deal with all the other daily struggles.

Only when I reached the end of the seventh ‘chat’ did I see the resolution to the email problem, but having my emotions flip to positive ones gave me patience and the expectation that everything was going to be fine )i(

Ezra’s words of wisdom:
There is nothing a good prayer,
a cup of hot chocolate, a cookie,
and a friendly bear can’t fix )i(

Please comment!

I am signing off now. If you have the time, please help me celebrate the email account victory, by leaving me a comment. I would love to open my emails and find a notification to remind me that even the little problems have a guaranteed success.
Chrissy )i(

Judging others

Matthew 7:1 (WEB)
[Jesus said,] “Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged”.

Before you start thinking I am making an announcement OR write to tell me that this cover is terrible, I am going to say that the image is ‘just a test’.

For an online definition of a test, please click the hyperlink. 

For me, the word ‘test’ refers here to the process of putting one of my hundreds of ideas for the cover into a visual format and then sharing them with others to see how I respond to the feedback. The end result is that I should have a better idea of what works and doesn’t work from this cover design. How I respond to this test becomes my testimony.

1 Thessalonians 5:21 (WEB) 
Test all things, and hold firmly that which is good.

Luke 21:13 (WEB)
It will turn out as a testimony for you.

Another test, same roses. no text
Comments please?

If I had known the mountain ahead of me was so great, I might never have typed the first paragraphs for my manuscript White Rose of Promise. Then if I had realised that finishing the story was only the beginning of a much longer journey, I might have kept my creative writing to myself. 

But God seems to have a bigger vision for me than I ever imagined for myself. Here I am writing a weekly blog for an unknown readership, people who will somehow find White Rose of Promise and come searching for more. It takes a small dose of courage to write a blog for friends, and I have been doing that with my Butterfly Prayer House Facebook page for a few years. My circulation is tiny in the scale of internet fame, and my followers are mostly silent. Very few of them even click ‘Like’ and even fewer send me a response. 

Another test, aiming to make the rose look like a tattoo design.
Have I managed that?

It takes more courage to share my creative writing with acquaintances, people who have some direct association with me, my family and my wider social network.

But I have been doing that for a few years, first when I joined some art groups while I was studying for my degree (Fine Arts and Visual Culture, I’m still very excited about that – does it show?), and now as I join creative writing groups.

At first, I chose carefully groups where I could predict a sympathetic audience. People who had more than creative writing in common with me. But lately, I have joined some broader groups.

The first time I posted in one group (for advice on medical trauma in fiction) the experience left me with my own trauma to deal with. The comments were neither kind nor helpful. I did the polite ‘thanks for your opinion, here is some clarifying information that may better explain why I am asking’ thing. I know I have perfected this ‘thing’ – an ability to shut down my emotional response and address the content dispassionately.

I had to learn how to achieve that for study. The steps are simple, be polite, be on topic, seek clarification… and then run off to one of the safe groups and seek comfort.

I said I had tested hundreds…
this is closest to my original hand drawn sketch )i(

Naive would be a good way to describe me. This week, I shared the opening test design (white rose heart, red title) to a different group (one for people like me, trying to work out how to do a cover). I expected a better experience than the previous one I have mentioned.


Within a few minutes, a storm of comment notifications had me turning to the page eagerly. The first comment began with a blunt insult but by the time the responses had stopped, I realised that at least the person ended with a smiley face and a few words or encouragement.

Here is a summary of their comments:
It was obvious that I didn’t know what I was doing. (True)
I didn’t know what genre I was aiming for. (It was a mistake to include Romantic Suspense in my description, but I was wise in not adding the word Christian.)
Where was the blood, the gun, the knife, the darkness, the dangerous man? And why did I have a rose?

One of many colour tests
for one of my favourite ideas )i(

But the experience has taught me SO MUCH. The primary lesson was discovering my own resilience. God took my hurt feelings (I didn’t sleep well after reading some comments) and showed me the treasure that was hidden behind my responders’ passion. I found myself filled with joy that I had managed to elicit such powerful responses, and I sat down with laughter to write my ‘thank you’ comments. I was both surprised and delighted that I got replies.

If I was really brave,
there are a few people who I would invite
onto my team, because once I got past the criticism,
we were able to have a helpful discussion.

Excuse the pixelation
This was a VERY quick test

If you would like to be part of my closed facebook group for my creative writing project, start a conversation with me.

I have some spots available.

Inspiration & Motivation

“I write my characters with a need for God’s intervention and then wait for them to recognise His presence as their story unfolds.” from Butterfly Prayer House, Facebook, October 1 2018.

Making Each Word Count

“You write long,” my editor said. I looked closely at her more detailed comments. I had only sent her the first 20 pages. At that time, my first manuscript White Rose of Promise was at 120,000 words and still growing.

I went back to my Work In Progress (WIP) and cut, cut, cut.

There were scenes where I told the same story from three different viewpoints. It was easy to choose one and then describe the responses of the other characters. 

I had mountains of backstory details to deal with, and I turned them instead into little speedbumps on the journey of discovery.

By the time I finished, I had brought the manuscript back to 63,000 words. My manuscript has been away with the editor preparing to be Copy Edited.

I am waiting to see how much more the editor found to trim.

When God chooses the theme

I am following lots of ‘how to be a successful author’ Blogs. They tell me to start thinking about my branding, about what message I want my readers to gain from the different platforms where I share my voice.

Somewhere I read that I should pick five or six key points and stick to them.

For someone who took 139,000 digital photos for a single four-day exhibition, finding only five or six points is a monumental challenge.

one of thousands from blueskies 2017

Am I listening?

Into my overflowing email inbox came the following treasure:

“What is flash fiction and what can it teach us?” Louise Harnby, Blog, 24/9/2018.

Flash Fiction  I had never heard the term before. It refers to a writing challenge where the whole story, beginning, middle and end are all accomplished in a tiny word count.

Definitely not something that I could possibly consider – remember I multiply everything I touch, words, photos, everything.

If this new direction was from God, then I should keep my eyes open. 

Here is the official list for Inktober.

For the past 2 years, I have participated in a drawing challenge Inktober. The aim is to draw something each day in October and share on social media.

I downloaded the 2018 list of official words to be used for inspiration, then prayed about what I should draw. 
I have been so steeped in my creative writing, only ideas from my two WIP came to mind. 

These ideas wouldn’t go away.

On Day 1, a story idea – not a drawing idea – came to me for the first word: poisonous. It was an unknown detail from the heroine’s backstory (remember I had cut all of that out of White Rose of Promise). The tiny story poured onto the blank page, and I worked on it for an hour. It came in at 200 words. Now I knew I had a new challenge, a theme and very specific guidance to take me through Inktober.

I was amazed and delighted. The accompanying drawing was easy to accomplish. I moved on to the next drawing, without writing a Flash Fiction story, and the difference in style and execution is remarkable. 
#inktober #inktober2018 #WRoPwritingChallenge

Day 1: poisonous

The door slammed. Maria Evangelina collapsed onto the single bed. The room was tiny, the curtains drawn. Her past life was over, and even the solo flight from Melbourne to Sydney was fading from memory. Zietta Maria’s poisonous words had found fertile ground. The teenager cried herself to sleep.
Too soon it was morning. That door opened again. “It’s time to go to Mass. Nonna is waiting.” Maria Evangelina obeyed. Now she sat in the Cathedral, overwhelmed by doubt and fear. The weight of her sin was heavy on her soul.
The priest approached. Her aunt broke the silence with the younger Maria’s shameful story. The devastated teenager looked away. Morning light streamed through a stained-glass window. The brightness shone directly in her face. She gasped in astonishment. It was as if she had stepped from this trouble into God’s presence. Her heart fluttered in her chest. God knew it all, and she still lived.
Father Finnegan placed his hand on her head. Did he know what had happened? He smiled. He asked her to receive God’s forgiveness in return for her promise to be obedient. The teenager nodded. Hope blossomed and the darkness fled. So began her new life. 

Day 2: tranquil

Would you like to take the Inktober challenge with me? Add your drawings to the comments section, or visit me on facebook

There Is A Season…

My mood is as changeable as the weather.
Sometimes I grow impatient.
I am still learning to relax and enjoy
whatever opportunities God places before me. )i(

Water is one of the references I am exploring in my River Wild Series.

It is winter here in Tasmania, and it will be a few months before the weather is warm enough for me to contemplate going to the beach.
I am one of those mortals who rug up at the first sign of a cool wind and hide away from the colder weather. Yet I also struggle in the heat of summer and could not survive in a hotter climate.

Whenever my mind turns to seasons, I find myself singing an old song, which is based on an Old Testament Bible passage from Ecclesiastes.

Click here for a link to the song ‘Turn, Turn, Turn,’ by the Byrds

Ecclesiastes 3:1-10 (NIV)
There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
   a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

Virtual Gallery Installation, 2017 Windmills of My Mind Series
inspired by the song Turn, Turn, Turn
Here is one of my Butterfly Prayer House images )i(

This week I have been researching an exotic location for my second manuscript.
My heroine is flying to Thailand. That inner critical voice has been asking how I could ever write a convincing account of her experience when I have never travelled there myself.

In a moment of doubt, while I was praying about my anxieties and fears, God brought me three memories.

Image result for sydney olympics

The first one was from 2000 when I volunteered at the Sydney Olympics. I was assigned to the Olympic Weightlifting venue in Darling Harbour – my husband is a coach, and I have been a State official for that sport for decades. This was my first solo trip to the mainland, and there were lots of new experiences. I remember struggling to get through the crowds to get to my venue. It seemed that hundreds of thousands of people were going in the opposite direction. On more than one occasion I was physically accosted by a stranger, and I had to learn how to speak up for myself and get myself out of trouble.

Image result for free download crowd at sydney train station

The second memory is also from the Sydney Olympics. At the last minute, I was invited to accompany some of the other volunteers to the Opening Ceremony. It was a wonderful opportunity and I was very thankful. Afterwards, in the crush at the train station, I was separated from my companions. I waited for hours for my line to get close enough to the platform for me to catch the train home. The conversations with my companions the next day revealed some strategies that would have saved my tired legs and blistered feet from all that shuffling in the wrong queue.

Image result for movie world gold coast

The third memory is from 1993. My husband and I had our one and only family holiday. We went to Queensland in January, not the best time for someone who struggles with the heat. We had with us our two boys. Both of them are on the Autism Spectrum, but that was a diagnosis we had yet to receive. It was a memorable holiday, for all the wrong reasons, a story for another time. Of course, we went to Movie World and this was my first real experience with a crowd filled with faces from many different countries. We arrived early, and stood in a line, surrounded by voices speaking in unfamiliar tongues.

From these three memories, I realise that I have enough connection with the kind of situations my heroine will face to be able to write convincing scenes. I have also discovered some very helpful information on the internet including some great YouTube videos to help me choose the accommodation and the special places my heroine will go on her adventure. I am looking forward to sharing the finished story soon )i(