Month: June 2016

What did you read in June 2016?


I’m a finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for unpublished writers, in the Novella category. I can’t tell you anything about the story, not even the title, until the results are announced at the end of August. I can tell you it won’t be published any time soon (sorry!).

There’s a simple reason why not.

As I was writing, I realised two of the minor characters needed to have their story told. So I started writing that story . . . only to find that the story I’ve finished is actually the third in the series. Or maybe the fourth.

Whoops. So now I’m working on books one and two.

Favourite Reads June 2016

And I’ve been reading . . .

I offered to judge the 2016 CALEB Award for fiction. The CALEB Award is run by Omega Writers, and celebrates the best in Christian fiction from Australian and New Zealand authors. I had to read the first 50 pages of 22 novels, some of which I’d read before (or edited via Christian Editing Services). But many were new to me, and have added an unnecessary number of books to a to-read pile that never seems to get any smaller.

The best novels I read in June 2016 were:

Medical Judgement by Dr Richard Mabry (click here to read my review.)

The Daughter of Highland Hall by Carrie Turansky (click here to read my review.)

From this Moment by Elizabeth Camden (click here to read my review.)

An Elegant Facade by Kristi Ann Hunter (click here to read my review.)

Have you read any of these novels? If so, leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.

All this judging means I’m behind on my personal reading, so I’ve got lots of books stacked up to read in July. What are you planning to read in July? Leave a comment—let’s swap ideas!


Book Review: Dangerous Passage by Lisa Harris

If you’ve signed up for my monthly Newsletter, you’ll already have receive my entirely biased list of 50 novels from my favourite Christian authors. If you haven’t, sign up on the right!

Today I’m reviewing Dangerous Passage by Lisa Harris.

Dangerous Passage

Excellent Romantic suspense.

Atlanta Detective Avery North has just been called in from her day off to investigate a murder. The victim was a young Asian female with a magnolia tattoo. It’s similar to a recent unsolved crime, and Avery wants to solve this murder before another girl suffers the same fate.

She is assisted by her partner, Mitch, and by Jackson Bryant, the associate medical examiner for the force. Avery has recently started dating Jackson. He’s the first man she’s had more than one date with since her husband died three years ago.

Avery also has family issues. Her father has recently retired from the police force, her brother was murdered four months earlier, and his killer is still at large. She struggles to balance the competing demands of God, family, a full-time job and now dating, and this felt very real.

Dangerous Passage is the first book in the new Southern Crimes series, and I’ll certainly be keen to read more in the series.

It’s got everything I look for in Christian romantic suspense: intelligent and likeable yet imperfect characters, a strong plot with plenty of suspense and a developing romantic subplot, good writing, and an underlying Christian theme.

It deals with big issues—modern slavery—but manages to do it without getting too graphic. Recommended.

Thanks to Revell and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Lisa Harris at her website.

You can read the opening chapter here:

Confessions of a Bookworm

(And why I adore John Cusack)

I have been a reader for a long time. The class bookworm (never meant as a compliment).

I was one of the first people in New Zealand to get a Kobo ereader, and I bought my first Kindle via mail order within weeks of Amazon announcing they now shipped to New Zealand. I love Goodreads: it’s where I first met people who had the same childhood stories I had, who didn’t think reading a book a week was a lot (hey, some of my Goodreads friends read a book a day and don’t consider themselves heavy readers).

In the years before the internet, I was the kid who read Nancy Drew novels at seven, the teen who read by torchlight under the bedcovers, and the adult who read everything I could lay my eyes on.

Sound familiar?

I was the child who was teased for using “big” words, who was asked if I’d swallowed a dictionary. For the record, apt is not a big word, and it’s officially at fifth-grade level in the US (a ten-year-old). So me using “apt” at fifteen shouldn’t have been worthy of comment.

This is why Con Air is one of my favourite movies (you didn’t see that one coming, did you?). There’s this scene where John Cusack’s character is describing an off-stage character to a DEA agent (played by Colm Meaney):

John Cusack: He’s known to be somewhat garrulous in the company of thieves.
Colm Meaney: Garrulous. What is garrulous?
John Cusack: That would be loquacious, verbose, effusive. How about chatty?
DEA agent: What’s with dictionary boy? [in demeaning tone]
John Cusack: I think thesaurus boy would be more appropriate.

You can watch it yourself: it starts at the 53 second mark in this video (note that Meaney’s character has a potty mouth, unlike Cusack’s character). And that’s why I adore John Cusack. Well, Vince Larkin. Yes, I know Cusack didn’t write the lines. But he delivered them like he could relate.

If I’d seen that movie when I was in high school, I would have had the perfect comeback to, “did you swallow a dictionary?”

No. A thesaurus.

Were you one of the weird bookworms?

Book Review: One Last Thing by Rebecca St James and Nancy Rue

If you’ve signed up for my monthly Newsletter, you’ll already have receive my entirely biased list of 50 novels from my favourite Christian authors. If you haven’t, sign up on the right!

Today I’m reviewing One Last Thing by Rebecca St James and Nancy Rue.

One Last Thing

An Exceptional Tale of Contemporary Issues

Tara Faulkner is marrying Seth Grissom: her brother’s best friend, the son of their pastor, and the guy she’s loved for ten years. But they have a strange argument three weeks before the wedding, and when she returns to discuss it with Seth, she finds him doing something awful.

He promises he’ll change and never do it again, and she wants to believe him. After all, the alternative is cancelling the wedding. But when she finds he lied, she does just that—but he makes her promise not to tell anyone why. This leaves her dealing with all the fallout, not least two families blaming her for the cancellation.

One Last Thing is written entirely in first person point of view from Tara’s viewpoint. This normally only works for complex characters, and Tara wasn’t complex, at least not in the beginning. She was the perfect pampered Southern princess, and while she hasn’t lived an entirely sheltered life, her family is financially stable and she’s always been given the best of everything. She attends church with her family, but there was little indication she had any personal faith: something that’s normally a must in Christian fiction, especially Christian romance.

At first I was a little frustrated that Seth, a Christian man who worked for a mission organisation, was planning to marry a woman who had little or no personal faith of her own. But as the novel progressed, Tara began to search for God … and it explained why Seth was prepared to be “unequally yoked”.

The explanation was misogynistic or hypocritical or possibly both, but it worked. And it worked without making me feel as though my emotions were being manipulated.

That’s strong writing.

The more Tara digs into Seth’s issues, the more she finds out, and the more secrets she has to keep from her friends, her family, and from Seth’s family. The only person who has any sympathy for her is Seth’s younger sister—who’s seen as a troublemaker. She is helped in her troubled journey by a disparate group of ladies she meets while working in a local coffee shop—her first-ever job.

Tara slowly discovers Seth’s issues, and strangely, this allows us to move from repugnance to sympathy for his problems while still acknowledging Tara did the right thing. Seth acknowledges that he has to take responsibility for his own actions, especially when they have hurt others. This is as a positive thing.

Publisher Thomas Nelson has caught some criticism recently for publishing books with inappropriate content for a Christian novel. I suspect they’ll catch a little more over One Last Thing, from people who would like to believe this kind of thing never happens to “proper” Christians.

I wish it didn’t, but it does, and One Last Thing does an excellent job in sensitively fictionalising a growing problem in society.

It’s not easy reading, and it’s not nice. But it is real. Unfortunately.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Rebecca St James and Nancy Rue at their websites.

You can read the opening here:

Achieving Our Writing Goals

How do we achieve our writing goals?

Last week I talked about setting and meeting goals as a precursor to this post, and this week I’m talking specifically about writing goals (although the principles might be relevant to anyone who works from home, and there are some handy hints for hacking email).

Hack Time to Achieve Your Writing Goals

I’m going to warn you now: this is a long post.

Writers generally have one of two goals:

The first is to write (or publish) x number of books this year, with a general idea of how long those books are going to be: is that going to be one 150,000-word epic fantasy novel, or six novellas, or two category romance novels.

Or your goal could be more specific. It could be write 500 words a day or 1000 words a day or 3000 words every Saturday.

The second is to write for half an hour every day, or an hour every day, or four hours every Wednesday afternoon (although the problem with this is it can turn from “write every day” to “procrastinate on social media every day”, which isn’t exactly conducive for producing a book).

Basically, input or output.

This is a good place to start. What are your writing goals for this year? Are those goals based on input or output?

(Neither is wrong.)

If your goal is big-picture output (i.e. write and publish six 25,000-word novellas), then you need to work out how many words that is in total (150,000), how many days you are going to write, and divide the word count by the days available.

For example, if you decide you’re only going to write five days per week for 50 weeks, that 150,000-word goal becomes 3,000 words per week, or 600 words per day. That doesn’t sound nearly so daunting (although you’re going to have to schedule time for several rounds of revision as well, to get six novellas to publishable standard).

Next, you need to work out how long it’s going to take to produce 600 original words. A lot of writers consider 1000 words an hour to be a good pace, although this may well depend on how you’re getting the words out. I can type up to 2000 words in a good hour, but sometimes I manage less than 500. And I know a lot of writers aren’t fast typists, so it’s going to take them longer.

An increasing number of writers are using some form of dictation to help them produce 3,000 to 5,000 words an hour (because an average person speaks at 180 words a minute, but even a fast typist can only manage 100 words per minute, and that’s for copytyping. Most people are less than 40 words per minute).

I’ve tried the Windows free dictation tool, and find that in order for it to have any kind of accuracy, I have to Talk. So. Slowly. I’d. Be. Faster. Typing. It. Some writers swear by Dragon dictation software, although they acknowledge there is a learning curve—it takes at least a couple of weeks to get into the swing of it, to have Dragon produce something approximating what they said. I’m not sure I have that level of patience, and the USD 150 price tag is also scaring me off (as is the experience of two Australian writing friends who said Dragon couldn’t understand their Australian accents).

Another idea I’ve heard is to record the dictation onto your telephone, and then pay an online service to transcribe the recording, which apparently costs a dollar a minute (a US dollar, and that’s per recorded minute, not per minute they spend typing). I suspect the quality of this could vary hugely, depending on your accent and whether the transcriber can understand you. I can see myself spending longer correcting than it would have taken me to type in the first place . . . The alternative is to pay a friend or relative who understands you!

If your goal is around output, you need to work out how long it long it’s typically going to take to produce that word count, and schedule that time.

If your goal is around input, that’s the easiest to schedule: you know how long you want to write for, so it’s simply (ha!) a case of finding the time.

Whichever method you choose, at the end, it’s going to come down to a combination of input (time spent at the PC or dictaphone) and output (word count achieved).

But that’s the easy part, at least for me.

Scheduling Time

The hard part is finding the time in the schedule. And actually doing it. Because it’s not enough to set writing goals. You have to plan how you are going to achieve them.

I’ve done this with my Bible-reading plan. I try and complete it second thing each morning, after I’ve got the family out the door to work and school, after I’ve put a load of laundry on or tidied the kitchen or done whatever is on my morning housework list for the day. And after I’ve made that all-important first cup of coffee. Then it’s me and my Bible. Tick. Done. (Although I try and make it a little more than that, obviously!).

Next, I do my editing, because I find my productive times are mornings and evenings. I can do some writing in the evening, with the family around, although it’s subject to interruption. So editing *has* to get done in the morning, when the house is quiet and I can work without distraction.

Identify the Blocks

It’s taken a while, but I’ve finally worked out my blocks, the things which prevent me getting my writing done.

The first biggie is doing the unimportant stuff first. Now, I could argue that putting the laundry on isn’t as important as my writing. Well, I might think that but I’m still the chief carer, and I’m the one who has the privilege of working from home. So I get to do the laundry. And it’s best done early, because I like sun-dried washing more than using the electric dryer.

But laundry only takes a couple of minutes to load (while I wait for the kettle to boil for that coffee), and another five minutes or so to hang. It’s not a lot of time, and actually provides a handy excuse for a productive break.

It’s the other things which are the problem. Which suck time. Suck energy.


Social media.

Both of these are forms of procrastination, and I’m having to work out how to deal with them.

One thing I’ve discovered is I spend a lot of time rereading emails in my inbox to see if it’s something I have to deal with or not. But I’ve lessened this time over the last couple of months by adopting a couple of tricks:

1. Boomerang

2. Multiple email addresses


What is Boomerang? It’s an app for Gmail, and it’s just like a real boomerang—set the email to disappear from your inbox and reappear at a specific time. This can be anything from a couple of hours from now to weeks or months in the future. There are other similar apps available, such as SaneBox. As with many online apps, there are free and paid versions of Boomerang.

Multiple Email Addresses

Instead of having everything clogging up one email inbox, I set up additional Gmail accounts so each inbox (usually) has only one kind of message.

In broad order of priority:

1. One for household bills etc.

2. One for email relating to my freelance editing business.

3. One for email relating to my ‘other’ business (HR consulting).

4. One for email relating to my ministry role (secretary for a small mission)

5. One for email relating to my author activities.

6. One for personal email.

7. One for email relating to my book reviewing site.

8. And one for email newsletters and online training.

If I had only one Gmail address, I’d probably need the paid version of Boomerang. But the app allows ten Boomeranged emails per month per email address, so using multiple email addresses has unintentionally turned into a sneaky way of getting Boomerang free.

All my email addresses run though Outlook on my tablet computer, so it takes around 30 seconds to check them all and see if there is anything new.

The Four D’s

I’m also learning to stay on top of my email by using the 4 D’s

Delete: delete immediately if I don’t need it

Do it: if it can be actioned in two minutes, do it (e.g. signing up to a webinar, downloading a book to review)

Delegate: this is the hard one as I don’t have anyone to delegate to!

Defer: If I can’t action it quickly, either leave in my inbox to deal with during my scheduled administration time or in the evening (while not watching TV), or Boomerang the message and schedule a time I can deal with it.

My aim is to get down to having no outstanding emails in any of these inboxes. I’m improving, but I’m not there yet.

Why is this important? Because if there’s nothing in my inbox, I can’t read my emails as a way of avoiding writing.


I’ve had to identify what’s stopping me writing. I’ve bought in to the multitasking-for-productivity myth for years, but I’m now doubting it. Apparently, singletasking is the new multitasking. Do one thing at a time, for a specified period of time, and do it properly.

Two tools which help me with this are Freedom and Writer’s Block. I wrote the first draft of this post on Writer’s Block, a downloadable programme which gives you the options of writing a set number of words, or writing for a specified length of time. It then opens a text editor, and all you can do on your computer is type. In the text editor. No internet. No social media. No word processor. No email. Nothing, until you’ve met the goal. And no cutand-paste function, so no ability to cheat.

This is a wonderful way of focussing the mind . . .

Writer’s Block works for me when it comes to writing book reviews or newsletters or blog posts, but I’m not sure how it will work with an actual book, because I currently write in Word, and I want to move to writing in Scrivener (because everyone who uses it raves about it so much). But I don’t think I can use Writer’s Block in Scrivener.

Which leads me to the other tool, Freedom. Freedom allows you to block specific websites (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Gmail) for a specific period of time, or to block the entire internet. The first time I tried this I made a mistake: I blocked the entire internet, but the document I wanted to work on was online, in my Onedrive. Oops. Won’t do that again.

Freedom works best while I’m editing, as it stops me procrastinating and wasting time by checking email and social media, while still allowing me access to useful research sites such as online dictionaries and Wikipedia (useful for checking dates and other basic facts in historical novels). Antisocial performs a similar function.

Another thing I find helpful is to outline before writing. As an example, I outlined this article under seven points, but I have found the earlier points have taken *much* longer to cover than anticipated, so I hope you find it useful, and not simply some stream-of-consciousness babbling from an overtired writer (no matter. That’s when the editing comes in).

And Writer’s Block *really* helps my productivity: I’ve written around 2,200 words in just 75 minutes. Maths brain checks and says that’s a shade under 30 words a minute, which isn’t a great speed for copytyping, but is good considering I started with a short outline and a blank page in Writer’s Block. Although I’ll probably have to spend at least as long editing it, that hard part is done.

Finally (with apologies to Nike), just do it!

What are your hints and tips to improving productivity and achieving your writing goals?

Book Review: God’s Daughter by Heather Day Gilbert

If you’ve signed up for my monthly Newsletter, you’ll already have receive my entirely biased list of 50 novels from my favourite Christian authors. If you haven’t, sign up on the right!

Today I’m reviewing God’s Daughter by debut author Heather Day Gilbert. This review was previously published on my blog, Iola’s Christian Reads.

4.5 Stars for a Unique Historical Novel

It is 1000 AD, and Gudrid is one of the few women on a Viking expedition to upper North America, to rediscover Vineland and bring great wealth back to Leif Eiriksson, their chieftain. She is the wife of Thorfinn Karlsefni, the expedition leader, mother to Snorri, the unofficial leader of the small band of women on the expedition—and the unwilling object of the affections of several of the men.

Gudrid stopped worshipping Thor when she was a child and the capricious god demanded her mother as a sacrifice to guarantee a good harvest. As an adult in Iceland, she learned of the one true God from the monks, and she now follows Him.

God’s Daughter is a character-driven family saga, told entirely in first person from Gudrid’s point of view, and in the present tense—an interesting choice for a story set 1,000 years in the past, but one that’s strangely effective. Her voice is understated, deliberately downplaying the everyday struggles for survival in Viking society, a culture that still worships Thor and where life includes many pagan rituals.

It is obvious that a huge amount of research has gone into God’s Daughter, and while that research comes out in the depth of the narrative around the people, culture and lifestyle, it’s never overbearing and it never gets in the way of the story (although the names were a little difficult at times, because they were so unfamiliar).

The distance of time makes it impossible for us to really know what life was like in the Viking camp of Straumsfjord or the village of Brattahlid in Greenland, but the majesty and the savagery both come alive in the excellent writing. I came away feeling I had a real understanding of Viking life (certainly more than enough to be thankful I live now!).

God’s Daughter is recommended for readers who enjoy well-researched historical fiction set in less well-known times and places, from author such as Iris Anthony (aka Siri Mitchell) or Sharon Penman.

Thanks to the author for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Heather Day Gilbert at her website, and can read the opening of God’s Daughter below:

Achieving Our Goals

How do we achieve our goals?

One of the questions I’ve been asked several times over the last few months is how do we go about achieving our writing goals. How do we actually get those words on paper?

It’s something I’ve been struggling with recently, perhaps because I have a huge list of things I want to achieve and I want to achieve them all now. Or yesterday.

I know that’s not reasonable. But if I look at my goals for the year, they are all achievable. Not all achievable in January, sure. Or even February. But they’re annual goals, and I have to remind myself I have a whole year to achieve them (well, nine months now).

Have a Plan

One of my 2016 goals is to complete a Read-The-Bible-In-A-Year challenge. I’ve done this for the last two years, and have found the easiest way is to pick a plan that has seven readings for each week, then (wait for it!) read one each day. Not an original concept, sure, but one that works.

Other goals include declutter the house (I’ve taken about five carloads of stuff to the dump, the recycle centre, and the Salvation Army), deep-clean the house (easier after it’s been decluttered) and lose weight (moving right along . . .).

Step by Step

I’ve taken the Bible-in-a-Year approach and set up a plan. Each Saturday, I plan to declutter a drawer or a shelf. Not too much. Baby steps. But it’s only April, and I’m more than halfway through the house.

What else do I want to achieve this year? Read some books, of course. Including a whole bunch of novels off my to-read pile. (One year I also pledged not to buy new books until I’d got to the bottom of the to-read pile, but that was a recipe for failure.)

I’m sure you all know this already, but step by step holds true for all goals. It’s like how to eat the elephant: one bite at a time (although why would anyone want to eat an elephant?).

To-Do Lists

I like lists, so I find it helpful to have my household tasks, work tasks, and daily writing goal each set as recurring Tasks in my Outlook To-Do list. It gives me immense pleasure to check each task off, as each task represents a step towards my longer-term goals (as an added bonus, this post is 2,000 words, so I can tick my 1,000 word daily target off twice, and give myself a day off sometime.).

Ticking a list might not be your idea of a reward, but it works for me (I’d prefer to give myself chocolate, but that would be inconsistent with that “lose weight” goal). If ticking a list works for you, great. Do it. If it doesn’t, find something that does. Perhaps reward yourself with a new Christian novel from my list of recommendations?

What rewards motivate you?

It’s generally agreed that it’s a good idea to give yourself something for completing tasks or achieving a goal, because that will incentivise and motivate you to keep going. And when you achieve a bigger goal (e.g. cleaning the house, getting to your target weight, or finishing the book), you can have a bigger reward.

I also have to allow myself to forgive failure and move on. Unexpected things come up, and if there’s a family member in hospital, a friend in need, or a funeral to attend, do that and don’t feel guilty about getting behind on your tasks for a day, a week, a month.

But don’t let a temporary roadblock become a permanent blockade.

Take Paul’s approach: forget the past and move forward.

Hebrews 12:1-2

What are your hints and tips to getting things done and achieving your goals?

Book Review: Gone to Ground by Brandilyn Collins

If you’ve signed up for my monthly Newsletter, you’ll already have receive my entirely biased list of 50 novels from my favourite Christian authors. If you haven’t, sign up on the right!

Today I’m reviewing Invisible by award-winning suspense author Brandilyn Collins.

Amazon Description

Amaryllis, Mississippi is a scrappy little town of strong backbone and southern hospitality. A brick-paved Main Street, a park, and a legendary ghost in the local cemetery are all part of its heritage. Everybody knows everybody in Amaryllis, and gossip wafts on the breeze. Its people are friendly, its families tight. On the surface Amaryllis seems much like the bright and lovely flower for which it’s named.

But the Amaryllis flower is poisonous.

In the past three years five unsolved murders have occurred within the town. All the victims were women, and all were killed in similar fashion in their own homes. And just two nights ago—a sixth murder.

Clearly a killer lives among the good citizens of Amaryllis. And now three terrified women are sure they know who he is—someone they love. None is aware of the others’ suspicions. And each must make the heartrending choice to bring the killer down.

But each woman suspects a different man.

My Review

The Closet Killings have claimed five victims in three years in the town of Amaryllis (pop. 1700). All middle-aged women who lived alone. All killed in their beds, then stuffed in the bedroom closet. Now there is a sixth victim… young widow Erika Hollinger.

Gone to Ground is told from three different points of view, three women who are sure they know who the murderer is, and who have reason to want to hide that knowledge. Cleaner Cherrie Mae Devine knows the murderer is the mayor. Pregnant Tully Phillips knows it is her husband. And hairdresser Deena Ruckland knows it is her simple-minded younger brother. Who is right? Or are these simply red herrings, designed to distract us from the real murderer? The story is interspersed with articles from local Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Trent Williams, and these give background information about the town and the personalities involved in the investigation.

This is an excellent who-dun-it, with plenty of twists and turns to keep the investigators (and the reader) guessing. The three narrators were well-developed characters, with each woman having her own distinct voice, which makes it easy to understand the changing points of view. I liked each of them (although Cherrie Mae’s use of the word ‘police’ got old quickly – if the emphasis had to be included, I think I would have found ‘po-lice’ less intrusive).

While Cherrie Mae is a Christian and she prays with the other narrators, it is not clear whether or not they are Christians, nor is it relevant. Although Gone to Ground is not an overtly Christian novel, this is less of an issue to me in a mystery or thriller than it would being a romance, where it is vital that the hero and heroine share a relationship with God. Overall, Gone to Ground is well worth reading if you like mysteries. Recommended.

Thanks to B&H Publishing and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Brandilyn Collins and her trademark Seatbelt Suspense at her website, and read the introduction to Gone to Ground below:

Dear Seth Godin

[For those who don’t know, Seth Godin is a marketing guru who writes short but thought-provoking blog posts.]

Dear Seth Godin

I probably should have written this post before now. It’s my response to a post about how you learned the clarinet for eight years, but you never actually played it—well, not the way it could be played. You said we often opt for more instead of better, where we should focus on better.

I agree. We should work towards better, not more.

But not always. We live in an individualistic culture, and it’s easy to forget that we’re not all called to be an individual, to work in a vacuum. Sometimes we’re called to be part of a team, to be part of a group where the sum of the whole is more than the sum of the parts.

Sometimes we're called to be part of a team. Click To Tweet

Tauranga Brass Band

I’m a member of the local brass band. We practice together once a week, and we play in public several times a year. Some of our players are outstanding—they’ve been playing for decades, and they practice every day. Others are relatively new to music and bands, but are diligent in attending practice and trying. Many are competent but not outstanding, people who love music and playing, and embrace the opportunity the band provides.

I’m a mediocre player at best, but I still play.

I play because I enjoy it. But mostly I play because if I didn’t, there would be something missing. We’re a small band. Only one person plays each part. No matter how humble I might think my part is, how mediocre I am as a player, the band is better for me being there. It doesn’t matter that I’m not soloist material. My part is important. The band wouldn’t be complete without me. The sum of the whole is more than the sum of the parts.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, we play at the Dawn Service on ANZAC Day, to commemorate the servicemen who died in the battle at Gallipoli in World War One. We play at the Battle of Britain Day service, commemorating all those who died in that epic battle over the skies of England.

We play at the Merchant Seamen’s Memorial Day, commemorating all those who died in while serving on merchant ships, transporting food and vital supplies to the front. And we play at the Battle of Crete Memorial Service, where we commemorate those who gave their lives in defence of Crete in World War Two, an act which has made our soldiers legends in Crete.

We play at community events.

We undertake an annual charity concert, usually in conjunction with a local choir, to raise money for causes as diverse as establishing a local church playgroup and freeing sex slaves in India. We play carols in a local shopping centre at Christmas. We play in the park on a Sunday afternoon, and small children dance to our music. One looks at us in wonder—has she ever seen music performed live before?

Does she even know those sounds on the radio or TV are made by real people playing real instruments?

Every time we play, someone stops to tell us how beautiful it sounds, how much they like our music. We remind them of their father, their brother, their husband, their son, their loved one who played in a brass band or a concert band or an orchestra. We bring back memories of happy times.

So you’re wrong, Seth Godin.

But you’re also right. You said we should focus on the things we care about. And while I might not be an expert brass soloist, I’m a very good brass band member, and I do care. I’m part of a team who work together, and bring people joy.

And for me, that’s more than enough.