Mary books

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Some “good” and “bad” about having influenza

The American Christian Fiction Writers conference has just concluded for 2011. I couldn't resist showing this book-signing day photo again of our wonderful time at the 2009 event in Denver, Colorado, before getting onto what we were doing last weekend! Perhaps we may be able to share with friends there again another year. I am certainly glad we did not try to go this year - as you will see below.

Except for rather mild hay-fever attacks, I’ve been very blessed to have missed seasonal illnesses the last few years. Not this year. And as is the nature of the beast, illness doesn’t attack at the most convenient of times. Our special guests were arriving in a couple of days for the weekend. Dr Deane Woods is the Australian Director of Friends of Israel and he and his wife were staying with us while he spoke at a series of special meetings on the theme Israel in Prophecy.

I was becoming more hopeful the direction my new manuscript was taking might be okay. The preparation for my workshop at the Word Writers Fair in Brisbane in November and also for the intensive Friday mentoring sessions were my next projects. And then that fever started with all that goes with influenza and my programme thrown into turmoil.

I started to list the discomforts and difficulties of the last week and more but I’m sure you have your own lists for these times. However, sweat did saturate my night clothes a few times in a way I really don’t remember occurring for many years.

So, is there ever a “right” timing for illness? That was the first of the “bad” on my list. It was very “bad” timing.
We fervently prayed for Deane and Margaret not to catch this rotten virus. Immediately following the weeks in Tasmania, he had three weeks of booked meetings in New Zealand. But a “good” was the way dear Margaret was so willing to take over the kitchen on one of my worst days and thus helping me to isolate myself as best I good from them.

My first thoughts were that this whole past week and more has been simply “BAD”. By last night I was beginning to seriously consider a doctor’s appointment today was necessary. But I strongly believe antibiotics are only needed for secondary infections from a virus. Then wonder of wonders, I woke up this morning after a wonderful 6 hours uninterrupted sleep, the first in eight days! My, how thankful and encouraged I felt. It has sure helped me to appreciate God’s gift of sleep which we can take for granted too much.

Another “good” is losing several kilograms – about half a stone for our international friends. Fluids took the place of most of my meals – something I must remember for days when I need to lose more weight?

With the sinus problems, I found my head and eyes ached too much when I tried to use the computer. Besides, my brain has been far too dull and slow to try and work here. Well, that’s my excuse why I’ve been able to read so many books. My huge pile of “Books To Be Read” is no more!

Perhaps the greatest “good” of all is the loving support of my very special husband. The wind was freezing for infected sinuses and chest to be outside in it, but those sheets and night clothes needed changing and washing. Married nearly 47 years to this wonderful man is something I will never be able to thank God enough for.

There is more I could share but time for a rest again. Hoping you too can experience the blessings God still pours out when our bodies remind us we are frail human beings.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Tough days - and nights

I missed my blog last Thursday and now Ray has only just arrived home after a busy day and does not have a devotional ready for you. He has been busy revising material for other 31 Day Devotional meditation books while I have had a nasty bout of the influenza. In fact, the nights are even worse than the days because of blocked sinues, fever and all those nasty things that accompany this seasonal curse.

So, what are you like when the days and nights are "tough" going?
I'm afraid I have to fight feeling sorry for myself. These last few days were even more frustrating because our Church fellowship had three days of special meetings with the Australian Director of Friends of Israel on the Theme, Israel in Prophecy. The wind here was freezing and so I had to be wise - and disciplined - and only able to attend a daytime meeting. We have been very very encouraged by the support for these meetings and Dr Deane Woods and his wife Margaret stayed with us although I've tried hard not to cough etc, etc anywhere near them. But I have to confess to feeling really down about not feeling at all well. This is why I remembered this verse from a plaque I've had for many, many years  and want to share it with you.

This last week I've sure needed to remember God's invitation to:-


Child of My love “Lean Hard,”
And let Me feel the pressure of thy care.
I know thy burden, child; I shaped it
Poised in Mine own hand, made no proportion
In its weight to thine unaided strength;
For even as I laid it on I said –
I shall be near, and while she leans on Me,
The burden shall be Mine, not hers;
So shall I keep My child within the circling arms
Of Mine own love, here lay it down
Nor fear to impose it on a shoulder which upholds
The government of worlds.
Yet closer come, thou art not near enough;
I would embrace thy care,
So might I feel My child reposing on My breast.
Thou lovest Me? I know it, doubt not, then,
But loving ME, lean hard.

This is a rather battered looking yet precious plaque. Sadly, the author's name is not written here. Would love to hear from anyone who may know who wrote it. This has blessed me, challenged me so many, many times through my teenage years, the death of dear Dad during that time and when other "tough" times have made me "Learn Hard" on the One who loves me.

And this shows in just my own life how important "words" written down can reach needy hearts.

And hopefully tomorrow I'll have a bit more energy to tackle more of my own current writing project.
And how close will I be to those loving arms? How close are you right now?

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Clouds have a Story to Tell.

I enjoy watching clouds. Do you?
Whether the white fluffy ones or dark, rolling thunder riven ones, all fascinate me. I enjoy seeking out faces and shapes formed as they flit across my gaze. Having some of the grandchildren telling what they see as the clouds float by is fun.

Clouds also capture my imagination when I read the Scriptures. I wonder if there were clouds before the great flood of Noah’s time? The earth was watered by a mist but the first indication of a cloud is In Genesis 9. There it is associated with a rainbow.

God and clouds have a close relationship. Look up your concordance and check it out. In what must have an awesome spectacle, He went before the newly formed and delivered nation of Israel wrapt in a cloud. Through the wilderness experience they were aware of His presence in the cloud which was a pillar of fire at night. Around Mt. Sinai God spoke to the people through the dark and foreboding cloud. Was He impressing upon them the truth that whilst He is redeemer and His presence is with His people, no one should take Him lightly.

Jesus linked clouds with the promise of His return. Read Matthew 24. After the resurrection he met with the disciples on the mount of Olives. In Acts 1 they saw Jesus ascend to His Father’s presence in a cloud. When he returns they were told it will be in the mantle of the clouds. This will be to the mount of Olives. (Zechariah 14). As such it will be a day of judgement preceding His reign.

When you look to the Heavens and behold the clouds let them remind you of that great and glorious day when Jesus returns to answer the disciple’s prayer. ‘…Thy kingdom come, on earth, as it is in Heaven…’ I’m looking forward to that day. Sure hope you are too!

R.N.Hawkins (my head is not in the clouds but my heart is attached to them)

Friday, 16 September 2011

Where to start that story?

This is perhaps one of the most important decisions to make when starting to write a novel.
Do I start where something “happens”?
A turning point in my main characters’ lives?
Will a prologue decrease having to use too much back story?

These are the questions that are plaguing me right now with this current manuscript. My first draft has a prologue that takes place seven years before chapter one. I decided that perhaps the story should start when Jennifer is no longer a sixteen year old and the hero unexpectedly appears again. But without too much back-story how do I let the reader know about that other traumatic day in her life, why there is so much angst between them still? Trying to weave that back-story throughout in only small chunks is proving a big challenge!

I do seem to be getting later and later with my “Thursday” blog post and perhaps the above may give you some idea of what I have been writing instead of blogging! It was also not very helpful to waste well over an hour yesterday trying to discover just why I could not log on to the internet. In the end I reluctantly rang our computer shop who must be tired of this techno challenged writer’s phone calls by now! And of course I wished I’d rung them first instead of the server help and then the router help! A prompt answer: It was my server’s problem – outage most of day and not back until time to prepare our evening meal.
So, this is a short post but I do need some help here! I’ve used prologues in my books before now and have heard contradicting views from multi-published, best-selling authors about their usefulness. Would really like some comments here on the use of a prologue versus back-story.

Oh, and while this desk is even messier, I’m really not as unhappy as the photo above seems to show! After all, my last novel, Justice at Baragula , and Ray's Children:God's Special Interest have just been short-listed in the CALEB awards.
But there are several other excellent books listed there too and we are all waiting for the finalist list - and that winner announcement at the award evening in Brisbane in November!


Monday, 12 September 2011

Ray On Monday - Memories of Africa

With the local pastor and his family
 Under A Tin Roof In Africa.        

We were hot and it was midnight.
No breeze disturbed our mosquito net. Sleep was craved for but denied as we sweltered. To go into the outside courtyard was impractical, though undoubtedly cooler. Guard dogs roamed offering protection, yet unintentionally denying us those open, slightly cooler spaces.


Our rooms under the iron roof

 We were guests at this village in Ghana doing short term mission work and seminars. The previous night one of our team had been bailed up by these dogs. He had left his room to close an incessant, slamming shutter. Going out in the briefest of sleeping gear, for no one seemed to be around, he succeeded in closing the shutter. Unfortunately for him, his only door felt the pull of a wind gust and slammed shut. This created a few problems. He had no key on him. As he wondered what to do, in the starlight he noticed the two guard dogs eyeing him with suspicion. There was no smile on their mouths. Fortunately, the minister of the compound was sleeping on a bench in the courtyard. At the urgent whispered pleas of our team member he awoke. What he thought as he saw the ghost like ‘statue’ is unknown.

Knowing all this we didn’t venture out tthat extremely hot night o face the dogs, or whatever else might be out there. That didn’t help our skin. It felt like it was on fire. Even splashing it with our precious drinking water only made us feel better for an instant. Being a nurse, Mary understood the possible consequences of this condition. Prayer didn’t cool us down. It certainly strengthened our spirits. We asked the Lord to see us through the night and equip us for the day’s ministry load. Sometime early morning a zephyr of wind caressed our room. It was, to us, the cool breath of God. The outside temperature did not drop dramatically but the breeze allowed us a couple of hours fitful sleep on our floor mats.

It’s during moments such as we faced that you appreciate the promise of God’s grace for the task ahead. We felt like deflated soccer balls being thrown onto the field for a game. What was experienced was the sense of God taking our deflation and inflating our spirits by His Spirit. Physically tired we were inwardly refreshed. God in His mercy ministered through us to the beautiful folk who came to share in the open air seminars and workshops.

As the day faded we recuperated a little in the shade of a tree. It was a pleasant evening with our hosts. Night came and without electricity, only torch light, there was every incentive for an early night. It was cooler. We were very tired. Sleep beckoned. But….!

Beside the courtyard and next to our room was a fowl enclosure. Well, was it really enclosed as the fowls and rooster freely roamed in the daytime? For some yes. For others no! The previous night they slept while we suffered. Did we disturbed them? Not being able to converse with hens or rooster I’ll never know. What took place does, to my mind, have a sense of revenge.

The rooster must have had a sense of danger. He responded to this by flying up to the ridge of our tin roof. No hassles, we thought. There probably wouldn’t have been if that feathered fiend had stayed awake.
As we retreated to under our mosquito net the rooster must have dozed off. No troubles you would think. Wrong! He didn’t sleepwalk. He slid down the tin roof with the screeching sound of claws on tin amplified in our room. When he hit the gutter it woke him up. So, he crawled and scratched his way to the top again.
Silence reigned. But not for long or so it seemed to us as we sought sleep’s embrace. We didn’t keep count of the repeat performances but there were many. Another night of fitful sleeping!

In the morning we were due to travel to another village to hold a seminar and workshop the following day. However because of a communication breakdown this had to be changed. We saw it as God having mercy on weary Australians. So our hosts took us back to the regional centre a couple of hours drive away. We were to stay at ‘The Chalet.’

The impressive title was all that was impressive in a run down, former Colonial guest house. Still, it had a shower and bed. There was no cooking facility and the flush toilet had leaking problems. No matter, sleep was our priority. The bed was comfortable. The night proved uneventful, until…! It was just after 4am and we heard the cry of the mosque. It was faint and after realising what it was, we sought the solitude of sleep once more. 

The expectation of a sleep-in sometime past sun-up came crashing down at the squawk of another slightly less feathered bird. Below our bedroom windows, a guinea fowl was frantically running up and down beside a wire fence seeking a way of escape. Its squawking got more intense with every failure to find a hole. We studied the area but couldn’t see any intruder or prowling cat ready to pounce. Then we lifted our eyes to the dead tree a few metres from the chalet. On the top branch peering down were two vultures. Their intent was plain.

With some of our brothers
and sisters in Christ in Africa
Perhaps the most annoying thing for us sleep starved ‘foreigners’ was seeing a gaping hole in the fence another three or so metres further on from where the guinea fowl stopped and retraced its steps. My husband, my hero, stomped down the stairs in his pyjamas and went to face the fowl. Was that bird glad to see him? No! It only increased its decibel levels of screeching. Its frantic rushing hither and thither just became more frantic. However, my fearless guinea fowl saviour managed to shepherd, coerce, scare the bird at last into the direction of the hole. Through this escape route it scampered off and into the tall grass. What the vultures thought of Ray’s self interested compassion can only be guessed.

Did we get any more sleep? Not really. However we did have time to relax and be physically and spiritually re-energised. The next day we went to fulfil the reason for our being there. Our sixty year old (plus) bodies did find it was more of an effort to get moving than at the start of the month’s adventures. Once we got underway, God in His mercy seemed to ‘oil’ the joints. We discovered time and again that the Lord ministered to us through those to whom we had come to share His Word. It was evident to us how the adrenalin of service kicked in and over-ruled the reluctance of the bones and muscles.

Over all of that and in all we experienced, we tasted the unseen nectar of the prayers of God’s people far and near praying for us on this short term mission trip. That makes any night under a tin roof in an African village more than worth it.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

What I Don’t Like about Writing

Mary says:
Ray wrote this post below some time ago and I can't remember if we did publish this in a blog somewhere or not. So, apologies if you have read this before but it has many thoughts writers do need to think about. I certainly do and was challenged again as I read this.

It’s confession time.
There are some things about writing which I don’t like. Do you suffer the same angst? Even as I sit here at the computer I’d rather be sitting in the sun, going for a drive or doing the garden. So why am I putting mental images into words on a screen for others to read and delete? I must have some masochistic tendencies.
What I don’t like about writing is its discipline.
I have to sit myself down and be ‘glued’ to a chair. I wrestle with words to make them fit into sensible sentences. I want to see empty space fill up, then worry I have too much to say. So then out comes the ‘scissors’ and the pruning cuts me as I cut the words. The requirement to edit, proof read spell check and get facts right is a drag. I feel a sense of frustration as my inspired creation undergoes a massive make-over.

The other thing I don’t like about writing is its loneliness.
We all hear about the loneliness of the long distant runner, but who thinks about a poor writer at the desk in a house, being shut away and being hypnotised by a screen? When family or friends intrude and ideas vanish how irritable I can be. They cannot understand for they are normal. What does that say about me?

The final thing I don’t like about writing is the waiting.
When my beautifully crafted, world’s best article or book has been sent off to the agent or editor I suffer unmitigated impatience. As my yet to be acclaimed work does the round from agent, editor, publisher I imagine all sorts of dreadful things happening to it. Then when it is printed, hopefully, I wait for the astounding amount due from royalties so as to satisfy my ego and its urges. Even then the waiting isn’t over. I pace up and down waiting for fan mail, commendations and invitations to award presentations! (I’ve been waiting for years. Still they may be lost in the mail or my e-mail server is jealous of me.)

Why do I then continue to write, you may well ask?

It’s due to a virus in the soul and spirit. It comes in the form of a word, an idea or a plot. Sometimes I catch it from disagreeing with something heard or read. Once bitten a fever develops. I fight it for I know the consequences. But too late I’m infected! The infection will not abate until I get the mental jumble of words, pictures, ideas onto some page or file.

To plagiarize, and with due respect, change the Apostle Paul’s anguish: ‘woe is me if I do not write.’ So what has bitten me you may well guess!
I must express my faith and awareness of God’s grace so others can see God and His Word’s relevance in their life. I may never be famous, never make any money, never win an award, but someone somewhere may read what I’ve written and become sensitive to the call of God. I know that makes all the ‘I don’t like’ parts of writing worth enduring.

Monday, 5 September 2011

RAY ON MONDAY: A Grandchild's Words

Sunday 4th September was set aside as ‘Father’s Day.’ To be a father is a wonderful privilege. To be a grandfather is more than a privilege, it is an honour. Sometimes it is tiring as youth stretches the aging process to its limits. Still, what an awesome delight it is to be a positive influence, both relational and spiritual, emotional and intellectual in the life of a child, especially a grandchild. It was partly this awareness which motivated me to write ‘Children: God’s special Interest’ (in Christian Bookshops now). It was one of my grandsons who was instrumental in my writing the following simple poem about sharing yourself with a pre-school child.
A Grandchild’s Sweetest Words.

Read me a story grand-dad
Read me a story.
I can say my A B C
And count, one, two, three.
But, read me a story
Please grand-dad
Read me a story.

Help me with my shoes grand-dad,
Help me with my shoes.
I can find my socks
And eat all my porridge.
But, help me with my shoes
Please grand-dad,
Help me with my shoes.

Come and play a game with me grand-dad
Come and play right now.
I wont be naughty
Or get clothes dirty.
But, come and play with me
Please grand-dad,
Come and play with me.

It’s time to go home grand-dad
It’s time to go home.
Mummy has my tea ready
And daddy’s here too.
Thank you grand-dad
For being here today.
I love you grand-dad
I really love you.

©Raymond N. Hawkins August 2005.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Restarting work on that unfinished manuscript

Some years ago, after too many rejections on my first single title attempt, Return to Baragula, I started writing another book. I had written nearly 44,000 words of it with about 20,000 to go when at last I discovered a relatively new publisher in Australia had started to release Christian Fiction. To my delight a contract was signed for Return to Baragula. I had revised it so many times, become so fond of some minor characters that they needed their own story and I started writing Outback From Baragula. Thus what was to be a single title became Book One in my Baragula trilogy and for the last few years there has been simply no time to keep writing that other manuscript.

However, the pace has slowed. Justice at Baragula and my husband’s two devotional meditations have been launched. Promotion and activities with other writers is still keeping me busy but there really is no longer any real excuse not to try and get back to writing that stalled story I have tentatively called Her Outback Cowboy.

It has been incredibly easy to procrastinate opening up this file again, searching the filing cabinet for the printed out so-far-manuscript, dragging out the folders with the research for the settings, character information, story-line, etc, etc. In fact, I have been surprised at my real reluctance to try and get back into the hearts and minds of this hero and heroine once more.

Perhaps I am finding it hard to let the characters from Baragula go.

Perhaps I am just very nervous about going through “it” all again—the writing, the editing, the rewrites, the submission process, those revisions from a publisher, those proofs to check, the promotion of a new release and so on and.

Perhaps I keep thinking of all the house cleaning that needs to be done, all those cupboards that need sorting out—including these filing cabinets that have caused me so much angst trying to find Her Outback Cowboy folders today!

Perhaps it is because today is the first day of spring and has been a lovely sunny day. I just wanted to go outside on one the rare days of sunshine we have had lately and pull up all those weeds in the garden that can hardly be called a flower garden anymore.

Perhaps I just want to help more and more our very busy daughter-in-law and son as they prepare to give us our sixth grandchild in October. I so enjoyed having the four year old granddaughter and 21 month old grandson for several hours on two days this week while their other three lovely boys were at school. And the next two weeks are school holidays for them and I’d love to spend time with them too.

Perhaps it is just simply because I am feeling lazy?
So, to prayer and the Scriptures once again for direction, for knowledge to be certain of priorities in my life the Lord wants me to have right now.

Above all, Lord, perhaps I need to simply be more self-disciplined?

Any suggestions gratefully received!