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~ March 2009

Already the third month of a new year! Sorry if you've returned since December and seen no up to date news of our busy lives. To be honest, I guess we are a little too busy because somehow we are becoming just that bit over-committed.

As well as family and church responsibilities, there were those finals edits for Outback From Baragula and now the book has been released all that needs to be done is get the word out.  So, if you're within travelling distance of Launceston, please note my BOOK LAUNCH NOTICE!  In this book I have included some questions for discussion groups and I was really delighted when two award-winning and best-selling authors, Margaret Daley and Kim Sawyer, wrote endorsements to be included for this book.

I'm now on MySpace and soon on YouTube, Shoutlife - and others as time permits.

Like millions of others around the world I now have Skype on our computer so I can converse with friends anywhere - both by text and free or very cheap phone calls. It truly is an amazing instrument for communication across the world.

~ July 2009

Already half way through this year and so much happening in the Hawkins family. The winter solstice has just passed but we know the days will continue to be colder for many weeks here in Tasmania yet.

Christian commitments
Ray continues to have many preaching appointments throughout our area of Tasmania where churches are either still without full-time ministers or their minister is away. We are keenly looking forward to our special time here when a team from Lake Fork Baptist Church in Texas arrive in July for us to have a time of Christian cultural sharing with the churches and local community.

We both have also continued this year to be very involved in leadership in the inter-church Walk to Emmaus Tasmanian Community. They are wonderful times of spiritual enrichment but do demand time and commitment as leaders. As we get older and find we become weary that much faster, we always need to re-assess where and when God wants us involved in ministry areas. We both feel that this year should be the last time we take on Spiritual Director roles for their special live-in programme - or as they are called Men and Woman Walks. I was on team for the Men as an Assistant Spiritual Director and Women this year as spiritual director once more.

We continue to help our son and daughter-in-law with their Seahorse Australia business. Ray is a volunteer at the seahorse breeding farm while my role is a 'support Mum and grandmother' who tries to help our busy daughter-in-law where I can. This includes child-minding during business appointments and the busy times of packing orders - especially to overseas destinations. They have also been exceptionally busy this year as they expand the business to other species for aquariums - but check out their website Seahorse Australia for information about that as it becomes available. They are also expanding their gorgeous (of course!) children. Our fifth grandchild is expected to arrive in November.

Our child-minding included a few days when Craig and Rachelle took Serena with them to Singapore to an Aquarama where Craig had been asked to speak. A great time - if rather exhausting for them as well as the grandparents! Our son Lance has just returned from a friend's wedding in France. Unfortunately our Karen couldn't go with him but he did have a great time, including briefly with missionary friends in Thailand. Gaylene has had her request for a sabbatical from teaching next year approved. She is off this month for a well-earned holiday to Port Douglas in Northern Queensland.
With Mrs Julie Ferguson (wife of politician Michael Ferguson) at the launch.
So, where does all the above leave my writing?

I am afraid far too often these days it has had to come a poor second but I wouldn't have it any other way - except those times when I could write but lack of self-discipline stopped me! However, I firmly believe that my 'times' are in God's hands.

Having said that my 'writing time' has included much promotion work, including the release of my first ever video book trailer. This one is for Return to Baragula by Trailer to the Stars and July will see the release of one for book two, Outback From Baragula. Since the launch of Outback From Baragula last March, there have continued to be speaking appointments to groups like Probus, Presbyterian Women's Fellowship. Was that launch really three months ago? Oh, my! Time has certainly flown by this year. It went very well and I was thrilled with the response to the whole event.

This month of June I am so excited and relieved that I have at last been able to start the manuscript for book three, Justice at Baragula. When I say 'start' I mean the actual typing of the story. Actually the preparation for this book began a long time ago with research, tossing many, many ideas into a folder. That folder is now bursting at the seams!

This last year I have also been President of Society Women Writers Tasmania and I enjoy this face to face fellowship each month with other writers very much.
One major cause for delay in finishing the final draft and the editing of Justice at Baragula will be our overseas trip in September/October. At long last I am able to attend a national conference of the American Christian Fiction Writers!

This year it will be in Denver. We will be arriving in this mile-high city almost a week before the conference commences and leaving afterwards to fly to Dallas. Ray is also registered for the conference so between the two of us we will cover more elective workshops and other conference 'specials.' We fly on to London just in time for another writer's conference. I was a member of the Association Christian Writers when we lived in England 2001-2003 and it is a real blessing that we 'happen' to arrive in London the day before their day conference in London. As well as meeting writers who until now have been only names on books and the internet, it is so exciting to know that at both conferences we will meet writers again we met back in 1999 in Chicago as well as during the other conferences in London!

So, despite all the busyness of our days, I will try and update this website news page again before we fly off from this beautiful Aussie island home. Hopefully by then I'll at the very least have that first draft of Justice at Baragula completed!
~ September 2009

August proved to be a very busy month with a mission team here from Lake Fork Baptist church in Alba, Texas, and having the production of the video trailer for Outback From Baragula finished. And now  we are into these last hectic days getting ready for our overseas trip.

The tension and excitement continues to increase as our departure date gallops closer. I am looking forward so much to attending the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in Denver, Colorado, in September and then on to Dallas and visiting our friends from Lake Fork in eastern Texas.

A book signing is being organised at the Heavenbound Books & Gifts shop in Quitman by one of the Texan ladies we met here and whose lovely grandson we hosted. Plans are also well under way to share with a writers' group not too far away from them in Tyler, Texas. We are booked to attend the Association Christian Writers day conference in London in October and have a speaking appointment with one of the ACW groups in Cambridge.

So these next few weeks will be a great and exciting time of seeing again some Christian fiction writers we met back in 1999 in Chicago at another great conference and meeting others I've only had contact with via the internet and their great novels.

So, with all these happenings, this update has to be brief before I get back to sorting out just how much we can cram into the suitcases!  Watch out for the next update at end of October - may even have some photos to share!
~ October 2007

August was certainly a most enjoyable but very busy month. The RWA conference in Sydney was simply awesome - exhausting for sure, but so wonderful I thought you would be interested in the report on the right.

The week after conference we spent with family and friends north of Sydney in our old stamping grounds in Newcastle and Maitland. The Hunter Valley, and especially Newcastle, were still recovering from the floods several weeks before. The day we left to fly home the rains had commenced once more. A shame they haven't extended right out west to the areas so very badly affected by the drought.

When we arrived home spring was commencing here in Tasmania. I always enjoy the huge displays of daffodils, tulips and numerous other bulbs as well as the beautiful spring blossoms everywhere. As well as planting out new flowers and vegetables in our garden, September has been busy trying to get rid of the weeds in the garden that seemed to enjoy our absence to grow profusely.  Hopefully the new plants will hinder them but afraid they will still be there to attack daily. We've celebrated our grandson's second birthday and been kept on tenterhooks waiting for the arrival of the new baby.

Serena Pearlie Hawkins arrived on September 28th - just in time for this update! And being very proud grandparents there just has to be inevitable photos.  Don't forget to check them out!

We always enjoy having visitors and sharing some of the beauty of the Tamar Valley with them. David and Dawn Balcombe from Maitland spent a few days with us and it was also great to catch up on what God has been doing in their lives.

With all the above, there has been no time to start the new manuscript, the third in the Baragula series. With a new baby to add to those we baby-sit from time to time, I'm afraid writing is going to require even more self-discipline - not my strong point! As we start the month of October, I am happy to be able to say Ark House Press are still scheduling the release my first longer inspirational romance, Return to Baragula, early next year.

Stay tuned!
Romance Writers of Australia Inc National Conference 2007  - A Darling Affair

What would you like at a fiction writer's weekend conference? International as well as Australian speakers who are multi-published, best-selling authors? Editors from major publishing houses? Local published authors willing to share "how to" tutorials in your area of interest and need? A book stall with a huge selection of "how to" books as well as novels by Aussie authors? Plenty of giveaways, lucky door prizes? Inspirational fellowship that sends you home enthused to simply... get writing!

RWA's national, annual conferences have all the above and much, much more about the craft and business of writing. While the focus of course is mainly on romance in novels, there are many opportunities for fiction writers of other genres to learn many and varied techniques of writing novels. Each August the venues alternate between Qld, NSW and Vic. This year was NSW's turn and held at the Four Point Sheraton Hotel at Darling Harbour. This year there were 240 participants and as the numbers grow every year, the RWA executive faces the challenge of trying to find big enough live-in convention centres with sufficient rooms for the tutorials, catering, and the large enough area for the main speaker sessions.

Supporters this year included Random House Australia, Hatchette Livre Australia, Pan Macmillan Australia, The Wild Rose Press and Whiskey Creek Press.

The keynote speakers this year were Jennifer Crusie and Anne Stuart from the US. The last few years, Harlequin Australia has been a major sponsor and overseas editors and representative of Harlequin International attend. This year, Sheila Hodgson, Executive Editor of Mills & Boon, London, was present to take individual author appointments and to speak about any changes in the different lines and generally targeting Harlequin. More than one excited author was apparently asked to submit a manuscript to her as a result of a face to face chat - a great way to by-pass that huge slush pile!

One of the biggest problems attendees face is the huge choice of tutorials - 15 this year plus two for published authors. The published author stream on Saturday was a round table discussion chaired by Australian award-winning author, Marion Lennox. On Sunday, Jennifer Crusie shared a "Theme and Motif masterclass". Unfortunately I was unable to attend either of these, Saturday because it was on the same time as the tutorial I presented and Sunday because I needed to go to the tutorial presented by a police detective.

The presenters of tutorials are asked to note whether their information would be suitable for beginner, medium or published authors. Topics included "Romance Writing's Brave New World" by Valerie Parv, "Faith and Romance: writing for the inspirational market" by Mary Hawkins, "Finding a Good Idea and Turning it into a Great Story" by Anna Jacobs, an Historical Romance panel with 4 multi-published Australian authors and Anne Stuart. Anne also did another tutorial on Writing Dark Contemporary Fiction. Other topics included "Goal, Motivation, Conflict", "Point of View". When I was free from presenting my tutorial, I attended one given by a Police detective on "My Life of Crime" - great help for anyone needing to know about police procedures, how the officer felt and dealt with various issues. Was also a good contact for that inevitable research I'm going to need for my next manuscript!
And the tutorial I presented? I knew there would only be a smallish number interested in the topic, but I was pleasantly surprised at the response. Others also came to my "Author Chat" session later. Feedback has been very positive that the tutorial gave heaps of valuable information. I was thrilled to make contact with other Australian writers interested in writing for the Inspirational Romance market and am looking forward to future contacts.

There was time for meeting old writer friends made over the years, and plenty of fun at the Friday night cocktail party where we were asked to dress Venetian. Most managed to wear the masks but quite a few went to no end of trouble with their costumes. There is a section on the RWA website with some photos, including those of the costume winners. I will also hopefully have a couple loaded to my website in the near future. The awards dinner on Saturday was a very special time. Seven contests are conducted during the year and the Emerald Award for the best unpublished romance manuscript is keenly contested and has in the past been a very important step for a winner towards publication.

My conference commenced on the Thursday evening at the dinner for Harlequin authors and concluded on Sunday afternoon with a brain that felt it simply couldn't hold anymore information! A truly wonderful experience and I am certainly planning to attend next year in Melbourne. More information about this great organisation and the conference can be found on the Romance Writers Australia website.
at the 2007 conference cocktail party
(top) L-R: HM&B editor Sheila Hodgson, Barbara Hannay and me
(above) L-R: mystery woman, myself and Fiona McArthur
(right) there's me on the right.

(photos reprinted with thanks to Stuart MacDonald, Marketing Manager at Harlequin Australia)
~ December 2007

Here at last: The Neurotic Rooster!  See Ray Writes for details of this excellent booklet of daily devotions. He shares some of our experiences from the three mission and study trips to Africa.

Besides all the usual "busyness" around this time of the year, I have been in regular contact with the Title Manager at Ark House Press for Return to Baragula. We have been working on things like dedication page, blurbs, cover art, etc. I was hoping to be able to show you that front cover but that will have to wait until next time. It is still scheduled for release in early February. See a brief summary of Return to Baragula on my Books page. I do not have a price yet, but anticipate about AUD$20 (plus postage). Despite that, I can take any pre-orders for a signed copy right now!   As soon as Return to Baragula is available I will be looking to make speaking and book-signing appointments wherever I can. Do remember this as you plan for speakers at any of your organisations, church groups, etc. There are also plans to return to Queensland for the second Alpha 2 Omega Christian Writers weekend in early June and another RWA conference in August - this time in Melbourne.  

On the family front, I have a family reunion in Toowoomba, Queensland, at the end of January. My mother who lives there will be 92 years old next May and my brother, Stan, will be down from Thursday Island for his annual visit.

Also, our eldest son, Lance, was recently awarded the prestigious CONDA award in Newcastle for Best Professional Actor. Naturally, his Mum and Dad are VERY proud of him!   This news, as well as a brief summary of our year, is available for anyone interested in a copy of our Christmas newsletter - just email me. We would also love to hear what is happening in your life.

We do wish each and every one of you God's richest blessings at Christmas and throughout this coming year. Above all, do remember, "nothing really matters except JESUS."
~ March 2008

Return to Baragula is out at last!

No matter whether it's that first book or the 17th title, I've discovered my hands still tremble and I am very, very excited when I hold that new, published book in my hands at long last.

My first release by an Australian publisher has been a whole new learning curve - a wonderful and exciting one. This is my first attempt at a single title, inspirational (Christian) romance novel. I actually started writing Return to Baragula way back in 1999. There was no interest from the publisher of the line of books I was targeting, so I went on to other manuscripts but every now and again dragged the manuscript out once more.

Over the years the themes, the characters' stories simply grew, changed, were sweated over by their creator until one day I realised, "Hey, there are other people in my small fictitious town in the Hunter Valley, New South Wales, that have stories to be told." Return to Baragula is now Book One in my Baragula series, with Outback From Baragula awaiting final edits and Book Three, Justice at Baragula, still waiting on its creator.

Ray and  I are planning a three week trip to the mainland from our beautiful Tasmania this coming April. At the moment our schedule seems to include seeing our daughter in Melbourne, travelling up the Pacific Highway to Sydney and Newcastle to see family and friends before heading off to the 40th anniversary celebrations of a church we planted all those years ago in Orange in the Central Tablelands. I was also very involved in the commencement of the Orange Christian Book Centre and the manager there is keen for me to promote Return to Baragula in that area. From Orange we will be travelling back to Melbourne to put our car back on the Spirit of Tasmania to take us across that Bass Strait and home. I already am receiving speaking engagement requests, but my diary is by no means full, so do pass the word to anyone you think may be interested in having a speaker talk about her new book, her writing career to date, etc, etc.
~ April/May 2008

March seems to have disappeared in only a few days - a very hectic time with April fast disappearing! Easter is always a busy period as we specifically remember Christ of Calvary and the empty tomb. This year was even busier as our son Craig had a special 40th birthday party with family from the mainland to share with us. Then, of course, as you can see by the couple of new photos on the family page, I can't help sneaking precious time with those beautiful grandchildren.

In early March Return to Baragula hit the book shelves and has kept me very busy getting the word out. Our local Koorong Christian bookshop in Launceston has gone to considerable trouble with a special display and I have been there a few times to be available to talk to customers and sign books for them. As well, I have been very busy on the computer being a guest author interviewed on two blogs and have just sent off another interview to Author's Choice Review - see link page.

It was an exciting day the Mayoress of Launceston officially launched the book. We took advantage of the Society of Women Writers Tasmania having a book and promotion stall at a local National Trust Heritage Fair. Mrs Lyndle van Zetten had rung me the week before and told me how much she enjoyed the book and any author would have been thrilled at the way she spoke about Return to Baragula at the book launch. My sincere thanks to SWWT and all who came and supported me that day.

A few reviews have started to come in and I am so thrilled readers are enjoying the book. There are a few excerpts on the book page. Do click on the website addresses for the full reviews. Our PayPal is now also operating.

The rest of April looks as though it will be even busier as we take our car on the ferry across Bass Strait to the mainland. As well as promoting our books at various meetings and places as opportunity affords from Melbourne to north of Sydney and the Hunter Valley, Ray and I are visiting friends, family and Ray has the tremendous privilege of being asked to baptise two young people back in the church in Maitland, New South Wales, which we planted and ministered with for over 20 years. We are also looking forward to a Rotary reunion dinner that has been also organised while we are there. Then we have been invited to share on the weekend of 26th April the anniversary celebrations and dedication of building extensions with the first church we planted at Orange in Central NSW over 40 years ago. Back in those early days I was a member and volunteer on the original committee that commenced the Orange Christian Book Centre. The manager there is organising a speaking appointment and other promotion activities.

Ray has also been very busy.  The Neurotic Rooster has been selling steadily and he is continuing to write more devotions for his series of monthly themed Devotional books. Do click on the Ray Writes logo and read all about it - and some more samples of his writings. And don't forget that PayPal is now installed and operating!
Mayoress of Launceston, Mrs Lyndle van Zetten, launches RETURN TO BARAGULA - Mary so nervous in background!

(L-R):SWWT President, Maureen Saunders, Secretary, Rose Frankcombe, Mayoress of Launceston, Mrs Lyndle van Zetten and Mary.

...and other members, Jacqueline Lonsdale Cuerton and Loretta McCarthy
all payments to
~ August 2008

Return to Baragula has now been three consecutive months on Koorong bookshop chain's Top Ten Fiction best-seller list!

I am thrilled and excited at the reception this book is receiving. Makes all the hard work of writing, revising, promoting and praying about that book so rewarding.

In the last update I did mention that we were heading off to the mainland with our car. Since that trip in March and April I've also spent more wonderful weeks in Queensland during May and June. Both trips were primarily intended to get the word out about Return to Baragula but it also included great reunions with old friends and special times with family.

It has been a busy few months with introducing myself to managers of Christian book shops wherever I could, radio interviews on Radio Rhema FM in Newcastle (NSW) with Shane Holstein, 92.9 Voice of the Family in Toowoomba, Queensland with Ian Anderson and on the ABC South-east Queensland regional morning programme with Jenny Swan. These are always challenging experiences but I have been so fortunate to have very interested and good interviewers.
I enjoy speaking about my writing journey and there have been several speaking opportunities. These have included Tenambit/Morpeth Rotary reunion dinner, Orange Christian Book Centre special evening, different church's women fellowship groups, and a special Brunch organised by the Moggill Uniting Church in Brisbane. Sharing with other writers in northern Brisbane area was also a great time.

I've received quite a few questions from readers wanting to know when book two will be out in the Baragula series. I am very happy to be able to tell you I have finished revisions on Outback From Baragula, and it is now at Ark House Press. Have told me it is still tentatively scheduled for release March 2009.   As they "happen" I'll keep you updated on these books so please check back.  Now I have to do what I find one of the hardest things to do as a writer - start chapter one of that book three, Justice at Baragula!

He has been very busy supporting me in so many wonderful ways but, as well as a multitude of other things, that very own hero of mine still manages to help out at our son and daughter-in-law's Seahorse Australia breeding farm and grandchildren sitting. Don't forget to click on Ray Writes! and read a little of what my husband has been up to!
~ December 2008

The last four months have passed all too quickly and now the even more hectic days of the Christmas season are here. Because it has been such a busy time, I have simply included most of the Christmas newsletter we send out to family and friends. It is a summary of how Ray and I have been kept busy since last Christmas. So, be warned: if you are already on our mail out list you will have already read some of this.

However, I do want to highlight the fact that my latest book, Outback From Baragula, is still scheduled for release in March 2009. Is has been a busy time with emails to and from the publisher but do trust you like the cover. Check it out on the Ark House Press website where it is already listed for pre-publication orders.

Return to Baragula has continued to sell well and I am delighted the book is in the process of going to a second print run. And in several months' time my two Baragula books are expected to be released in overseas markets through a distributor Ark House has managed to sign with. 

An event far more important than any books happened to me and my family on Monday, October 13th when my 92 year old mother passed away. She was one of my greatest "fans" and cheer-leader.
Read a little more in the summary of this busy year about this sad but quite amazing time.

A brief summary of our busy 2008 (adapted from our Christmas newsletter):
  • Ray and I have not had time to really think much about this "retirement" stuff! Can anyone tell us when "it" really starts?
  • March saw the release of my first longer book, Return to Baragula. We put some boxes of books, including Ray's Neurotic Rooster in the car and headed off on the Spirit of Tasmania ferry to various appointments on the mainland. In God's perfect timing, just after making the booking we were invited to the 40th anniversary of the Church of Christ at Orange which we planted all those years ago. Without our car it would have been impossible to attend. It was a wonderful time of renewing old fellowships and seeing how God is working through that church into the community.
  • It was exciting meeting the Title Manager from Ark House Press in Sydney before travelling on to the Hunter Valley. It was a busy time seeing family and friends at Maitland - including a reunion dinner with Ray's old Rotary club.  As well as visiting shops to introduce myself as "the author" there was an interview on Newcastle Radio Rhema. The sales of the book have been very pleasing and there have been articles in magazines like the Salvation Army's War Cry and their On Fire on as well as several good reviews in other journals, blog interviews, etc.
  • In May/June I was able to fly to Queensland and, as well as more speaking and radio appointments again, had several days to spend some lovely and precious hours with Mum. It was only a few weeks after my return home that her health started to deteriorate further. Once again, God's timing and grace never failed. On October 13th I was so very privileged to share those last few hours with her and my dear sister and then later to celebrate her life with family and friends. However, while we have now lost our main prayer supporter as well as our dear mother, it is at times like this that God's presence is so very real and active in our lives. We grieve, but not without hope and God's never-failing comfort and love.
  • Ray and I are still very involved with the Tasmanian Emmaus community although this last year I not as much. However, am Spiritual Director for the women again for 2009 as Ray is for the men. In September I also took on the role of President of Society Women Writers Tasmania. With the strong possibility of travelling to America next year to attend the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference, it is going to be another very busy year!
  • And Ray's 70th? Well, he doesn't want a big party, but wants everyone to know that instead of presents he very much wants gifts of money to put in the special Northern Ghana Pastor's account he has opened to help them in the area we visited in 2005. They sure do it tough over there and our hearts and prayers turn so many moments to those dear brothers and sisters in Christ.
  • Lance and Karen have moved from Jesmond to a few minutes walk along Blacksmith Beach. Gaylene enjoyed a holiday trip to Darwin and Central Australia earlier this year. While we have seen them all a couple of times during this year, we are looking forward so much to having them all here for Christmas. Craig and Rachelle have had another hectic year, with their business holding its own in these difficult times for small businesses. Naturally we are very proud grandparents of their three delightful boys and one charmer of a little girl who is almost walking now.

This Christmas may you know the true joys, peace and love that only God can give us in His wonderful Son, Jesus.

Oh, and to add to the busy-ness of this season, tonight edits arrived for Outback From Baragula! Have to get busy on them right now.

Do check back here in another couple of months for further news and do go to Ray Writes for his news.
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Mary's husband, Ray