Showing posts from June, 2018

How Safe Is Your Online Data?

Over the past few months we've had several scares about hacks and data mining. Cambridge Analytica, for example, were found to be helping Trump by collating huge amounts of data from Facebook and then targetting ads at select groups of possible voters. While this is extreme, it happens everyday in small ways that you may not be aware of. Have an author website? How many personal details are on there? Google and other search engines will be taking that data as they 'crawl' across the web and using it, anonymously, to build up a picture of nations, localities, cities so they can then sell that to third parties. While laws exist to protect you and me from abuse of that, anonynous data isn't always so well covered. In some nations it's not covered at all. Logged onto a Russian based site recently? Would you even know? What if the site is based in China? Just because it has a '' suffix doesn't mean it's based in the UK. Then there are co

Should You Resemble Your Characters?

I can think of several colleagues who would take one glance at that question and say "no way". Some may express that more forcibly! I can think of several of my own characters whom I would never want to meet in life, yet alone resemble, and for all sorts of reasons. Outline the characters and away you go.  Image via Pixabay So why ask? Well, so much depends on the character, doesn't it? If a character shows grit, determination, honour etc, we probably wouldn't mind emulating them. If a character shows horrible traits, we'd pass, thank you.  How many of us want to be a coward for example? In outlining our stories, we have to create our "people" based on what we know about human nature and behaviour. We know we need our characters to be believable so that means no goody-goody heroes of whatever gender.  It also means no cardboard cut out villains.  They’ve got to have some redeeming quality or a motive which is understandable.  Often writers do both

'As Mighty Glaciers Recede’ by Trevor Thorn

Credit NASA: Muir Glacier 1941/2004   As Mighty Glaciers Recede  (Poem or hymn which can be sung to   any tune: suggested tune Grenoble (Awake, Awake, Fling off The Night)) As mighty glaciers recede and leave great scars which cause alarm; Be sure it is the rising heat Of greenhouse gasses causing harm. When coastal glaciers discharge Their rapid melt, to chilly seas: We know, that ocean levels will    Rise swiftly and inexorably.  By contrast, mountain glaciers cause havoc through reduced cascades, so downstream waters can’t suffice to turn hydraulic turbine blades. We need to switch from fossil fuels To wind and wave and solar power: Renewables already can make all these risks a little lower. For everyone who loves the earth Clean energy must be the aim, To strengthen hope the planet can       Be saved through this essential change. The evidence of shrinking ice invites all those who love the Lord - Be stewards

Writing God's Words? by Tracy Williamson

The Lord spoke to me saying 'write to Jane and tell her that I am calling her to China and she needs to buy an apartment there.'! That was actually a fictional prophetic command from the Lord so needless to say I never did write it to Jane (who was also fictional) But I share it for an important reason.  As a Christian writer, dare I believe that some of the words I write are inspired by God and that through them people will literally encounter God and hear what He is saying to them?  Surely that is presumptuous? How can I, an ordinary,  middle aged woman who has never even been to Bible College, claim to write God's words?  Well I am not going to answer that here with a theological treatise (phew). But what I am growing to understand is that because God has chosen me to be His dwelling place.  His Spirit lives within me  and therefore uses me to express His love to others through the various gifts, experiences and personality traits that He has woven into my life, yes

Easy peasy? by Eve Lockett

Whenever I browse in second-hand bookshops, I look out for books and essays by authors explaining how they write, and their advice for those who wish to write. Some are available for free or a few pennies as ebooks, such as  The Art of Fiction by Virginia Woolf,  An Autobiography by Anthony Trollope, or  Essays in the Art of Writing by Robert Louis Stevenson. Wilkie Collins, in a letter to one of his readers describing how he wrote  The Woman in White , reveals the effort involved. You are kind enough to allude, in terms of approval, to my method of writing English, and to ask if my style comes to me easily. It comes easily, I hope, to you. Let a last word of confession tell you the rest. The day’s writing having been finished, with such corrections of words and such rebalancing of sentences as occur to me at the time, is subjected to a first revision on the next day, and is then handed to my copyist. The copyist’s manuscript undergoes a second and a third revision, and is t

'There is no beauty .....' - by Eileen Padmore

On a recent visit to 'the Land', our bus deposited us at a quirky shop just outside Bethlehem.  Amongst a mix of hand crafted items and tacky tourist trophies I found this carved head of Christ.  Although repelled, I kept coming back until it became mine in exchange for cash that I'd intended to keep in my pocket - a case of heart over mind. The carving spoke to me of a well remembered phrase from Isaiah 53:2 - one that had perplexed me from childhood: ' ..... there is no beauty that we should desire him.'  I use the King James version because that's the way I remember it. The context is prophetic.  It concerns the suffering servant: the promised Messiah who we know as Jesus of Nazareth, carpenter, son of Joseph, born of the virgin Mary, son of man, son of God. 'There is no beauty that we should desire him.'  Really?  Can this be true? The Contemporary English version leaves no doubt:  'He wasn't some handsome king.  Nothing about the wa

Dangerous Corner

Robert and Freda Caplan are entertaining guests at their country retreat. A chance remark by one of the guests ignites a series of devastating revelations, revealing a hitherto undiscovered tangle of clandestine relationships and dark secrets, the disclosures of which have tragic consequences. The play ends with time slipping back to the beginning of the evening and the chance remark not being made, the secrets remaining hidden and the ‘dangerous corner’ avoided. —Wikipedia. This is the outline of a play by J. B. Priestley, premiered in 1932. The idea of a ‘dangerous corner’ has many applications. It’s even a familiar experience in our personal and national lives. Over the past few years, while my pleasantly routine and predictable life has rolled on each day, I’ve occasionally had the thought that this road cannot go one indefinitely. At some point it will come to an end, or there will be a sharp turn. When will that be? And what will it be like? Well, in February we un

On being old and still having something to say - by Helen Murray

I recently followed an online discussion that triggered a whole kaleidoscope of emotions. It wasn't one of those intensely frustrating Twitter discussions about politics or faith, though frustration was definitely involved. It wasn't an annoying Facebook thread that started with some passive aggressive statement followed by a myriad of gossip-hungry comments like,  ' U ok hun? ' though there were elements of defensiveness and irritability at times. Also alarm, amusement, scepticism and lots of bewilderment. It began with an observation by a blogger. She observed that most bloggers whose work she read were young (she meant younger than thirty, I think) and she wondered why this was. 'Where are the older bloggers? ' she opined. Then followed responses from a huge range of perspectives. I found myself laughing wryly as another blogger reassured her that she had been blogging for many years and thought herself ' a veteran '; at the ripe old age of twenty

Five Little Ducks by Emily Owen

My nephew turned three recently.  About a week after his birthday, I saw him, and he told me – very proudly – that; “I was two but now I’m three.” I said, “Wow! Will you ever be two again?” (I’m not actually sure why I asked him that!) He said, “yes,” and so I asked him when he’d be two again? He thought about it, then said, “When it’s the summer holidays.” This was just a throwaway conversation at bath time, and was soon lost in renditions of ‘five little ducks went swimming one day’ and drinking cups of bubble bath tea. But afterwards, I thought about that conversation. When it was the holidays, he’d turn back time. Now of course I know he won’t really, but it’s the concept that interested me. Holidays: Take a break from everyday life. Turn back time: Remember a previous state. When it was the holidays, he’d turn back time. I thought, what could that mean for us as Christian writers? The meaning of take a break is, in some ways, self-explanatory. 

1000 reasons for my heart to find...

"I will give thanks to you, Lord , with all my heart;   I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.   I will be glad and rejoice in you;   I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High."                             Psalm 9:1-3 Four years ago I was very taken by a song written by Jonas Myrin and Matt Redman.   Many of you will know it.   I love the lyrics it so fits with how I feel about the Lord, and my desire to worship Him.   Put the title into Google to hear it, the words are at the bottom.    The line that particularly touched me was “For all your goodness I will keep on singing, Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find Bless the Lord oh my soul….” Could I find one thousand reasons for my heart to find?   On my own blog I decided to begin and for one hundred days wrote ten reasons to thank and bless the Lord.   I was blessed by doing it.  I tried not to have repeats but there must have been and I should have thought it throu

Writing in my native language

My favourite coaster - it means, 'I like coffee' I’m often asked, “where in Ireland is that accent from?” That's when I'm not mistaken for an American (which happens a lot!). The accent is easy to hear, standing out in the welsh valleys town that I live in. Sadly, the accent is all I have.  I regret not making more efforts to study the Irish language when I was in school. It was such a chore to me, but I should have stuck with it. My Irish-ness is more important to me now as a writing adult; I'm a little saddened that I'm unable to write something in my native tongue.  Though my accent can't be heard in my writing, I've often wondered if it is possible to read it there? People who know me say I write how I talk and so they can hear me. I'd love to think that half way through a piece, a stranger might think, "I bet this writer is Irish. This sounds Irish."  I've thought about it a lot since moving here nearly four years ago.

The Seven Ages of Writing, by Georgie Tennant

Last month, we went on our church’s annual weekend away.  This involves leaving all home comforts behind and pitching a wide variety of temporary accommodation in the middle of a field, an hour from home, eating bacon sandwiches in your pyjamas with those who wouldn’t usually see you so attired and generally embracing the great (freezing) English outdoors. Towards the end of the weekend, I was busying myself, packing things away in the caravan, feeling content as I listened to my boys riding their bikes, laughing.  Being someone of nostalgic inclination, it wasn’t long before my mind meandered down memory lane.  A couple of memories sprung to mind: the first was trailer-tent camping, where our then-15-month-old-only-child was zipped into his compartment each bedtime, where we left him to bounce off the soft and padded walls (literally) until he was exhausted enough to lie down and sleep.  Very funny to listen to.  The second was at one of the summer Bible weeks (Grapevine as

Embraced by my Father By Claire Musters

Today is Father’s Day, a time when we pause and reflect on the amazing qualities our own dads have. For some, it is a time to remember a wonderful dad no longer with them. For others, the day sadly brings back painful memories, and they long for the 24 hours to pass quickly. For myself, I could describe to you how wonderful my stepdad has been to me; the changes that have occurred in him over the years to enable him to become the incredibly patient and loving full-time carer of my mum. I could also affirm how great a dad my own husband is to our kids; how he brings fun and laughter as well as great wisdom and grace to our family. That is all true, but I actually want to pause and reflect on how God has revealed His fatherhood to me in ways so precious over the years. Writing it down and sharing it is a great way to remember – and to honour His faithfulness. I experienced the break up of my parents’ marriage when I was extremely little, so do not have much memory of it.

This Topsy-Turvy God, by Liz Carter

I’ve been thinking a lot about kingdom values lately, and how they apply to my writing. Subversive values which turn the thinking of our culture on its head – values which mean the weak are strong and the poor are rich, the failures are successes and the dregs are the honoured. God’s incredible order of grace means that all those negative labels we apply to ourselves, all the rejection words we speak over ourselves, are turned upside down and our ashes transformed to beauty. Never so pertinent as in our writing trials and tribulations. I’ve been through a rollercoaster of a journey for the last few years with my writing. I’d known for years I wanted to write books; I’d made attempts when much younger but life took over and as my health worsened I told myself it was just another thing I’d failed at, another ambition I hadn’t reached and never would.  But it niggled at me, and then shoved me full in the face. I couldn’t let it go, it was part of me, it was in me. Wr