Thursday, 22 March 2018

Book Recommendation | Winning Miss Winthrop by Carolyn Miller

Recommendation by Iola Goulton @IolaGoulton

Persuasion is not my favourite Jane Austen novel. I find it frustrating, because the problems faced by the hero and heroine could be solved by one simple conversation. Unfortunately, Jane Austen lived in a society where men and women were unable to speak plainly to each other. That meant Persuasian's hero and heroine spent most of the book at odds, even though they had mutual feelings towards each other.

Winning Miss Winthrop is loosely based on Persuasion, and has the same central trope. 

Two years ago, Miss Catherine Winthrop fell in love with her third cousin once removed, Jonathan Carlew. She thought the feeling was mutual, but he abandoned her. Now she is twenty-five years old, at home, and on the shelf. But things are about to get complicated.

Her father dies, and instead of the estate going to the expected heir, it goes to Jonathan Carlew. Catherine and her mother are forced to leave their home and move into the Dower House, with a much-reduced income.

What follows is a frustrating yet enaging read as Catherine and Jonathan have to face up to being in the company of the other, both believing the other to have been at fault in the demise of their earlier relationship. Matters are not helped by Catherine‘s mother, the Dowager Lady Winthrop, who makes Elizabeth Bennett’s mother appear intelligent and self sacrificing.

There is lots of great writing, much of which centres around Catherine's frustration over her situation. There are also some welcome cameos from characters in her earlier series.

As usual, Carolyn Miller's is writing is spot on for the period and location. Her locations come alive, and she captures the manners of the Regency period perfectly, while introducing a rare spiritual depth. Miller's writing is full of the wit and subtext present in other Regency novelists such as Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer. And now I'm anxiously awaiting Miss Serena's Secret, the second book in the series.

Recommended for all Regency romance lovers.

Thanks to Kregel and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

Would you like to win a copy of Winning Miss Winthrop? Carolyn is giving a copy away over at International Christian Fiction Writers.

About Iola Goulton

Iola Goulton is a New Zealand book reviewer, freelance editor, and author, writing contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist. She is a member of the Sisterhood of Unpronounceable Names (Iola is pronounced yo-la, not eye-ola and definitely not Lola).

Iola holds a degree in marketing, has a background in human resource consulting, and currently works as a freelance editor. When she’s not working, Iola is usually reading or writing her next book review. Iola lives in the beautiful Bay of Plenty in New Zealand (not far from Hobbiton) with her husband, two teenagers and one cat. She is currently working on her first novel.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Small Things, Slow Beginnings

by Jeanette O'Hagan

From small seeds, mighty Bunya Pines grow

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” Zechariah 4:10, NLV*
There is something exciting about the beginning, the start of something new, the very first moments pregnant with vision and hope. Perhaps that's why we celebrate them - engagements, weddings, births, first day at school, openings and launches. Those very first words on the blank page, the first time we type THE END, the first contract, the first time we hold our book in our hands, the first launch.

But often our high hopes are tested when things don't happen as fast or as big as we imagined. When our hopes begin to strain and things take longer than we expect or we face more obstacles or set backs than we believed possible. When it is easy to give up.

A few years ago, Australian marine scientist and multi-published novelist,  Ian Irvine, said: 

"Here’s the sad truth: most people who write a book will never get it published, half the writers who are published won’t see a second book in print, and most books published are never reprinted. What’s more, half the titles in any given bookshop won’t sell a single copy there, and most published writers won’t earn anything from their book apart from the advance."

In fact many people who start writing a novel never complete it.

That is rather depressing thought, though it doesn't discount the successes. Determination, hard work, adaptability, stick-ability and exploring new options all help.

It's not easy to find readers in a saturated and sometimes cynical market.

A couple of Saturdays ago, Omega Writers held it's second Book Fair in Brisbane - great venue with a wonderful and diverse range of authors, publishers, booksellers and editors including Rhiza Press/Wombat Books, Breath of Fresh Air Press, Gary Clark of Swamp cartoons, Kathy Hoopmann (All Cats have Asperger Syndrome) and our own award-winning authors such as Lynne Stringer, Adele Jones, David Bennett, Catriona McKeown, Ruth Bonetti, Hazel Barker, Anne Hamilton and more. As in the previous Book Fair - many of the authors read excepts of their works to an appreciative audience. It was good day with a small, steady trickle of readers and sales.

This year we pulled out the stops with advertising & we'd had positive feedback from some schools and organisations, so to be honest, I was hoping for a greater attendance of readers. A mob would have been just about right.

A wise person said to me, 'Do not despise the day of small things.'

In looking for the big and the grand, for the crowds and the accolades, we often miss 'the small things' that matter to God.

Over the next few days, various people mentioned how they had enjoyed the day and got special something out of it.

“Didn’t know what to expect. Thought it would be a small bunch of middle-aged authors. Surprised by the range and quality.’ One of new authors.  (Authors ranged from teen or twenties to 70plus, non-fiction & fiction for all ages.)

“This is so needed. It is becoming harder to find appropriate material for my children” Homeschooling Dad

“Treasure trove of great books from the Omega Book Writer's Fair last Saturday. I can't adequately express how much I enjoyed meeting authors and looking at books. ...  I was most excited to put books in my son's hands that are written FOR him, from his perspective and exploring the Asperger's world with positivity and humour! Love it!!” Mum whose son has Asperger's

"Wonderful event. Pity not more people came. Their Loss. Looking forward to Next year's event."

 In Sydney last weekend, I noticed a big hole in the ground - where a huge skyscraper were under construction. I was reminded of how long it takes to build the foundations.  Things worth doing, take time.

And I'm tickled that 'the Lord rejoices to see the work begin' Zechariah 4:10

As always, we come back to these questions. Why do we write? Why do we seek publication? Why do we look for readers of our scribblings, stories, books?

Called to serve

Just as God calls his anointed among the returned exiles (Zech 4:12) to serve Him, so we as Christians are called to serve in the church and in the world. For me, writing and encouraging other writers is part of that calling.

In line with God's character.

The one called does the work in line with God's plumbline (Zech 4:12). For Zerubabbel, this meant rebuilding the temple in line with God's purposes. 

For us, it means building in line with God's will and character. Which surely means doing the best work we can, being willing to learn, not cutting corners, and not becoming proud or slanted by wrong motives.

Not by might, but by God's Spirit 

While we labour --- learning, crafting, plotting, writing, connecting, promoting --- the impact of our work is ultimately in God's hands. He says, '“not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit said the Lord’ (Zech 4:6)'.  His timing is not always our timing, His objectives are not always our objectives.

He says to us, 'Do not despise the day of small beginnings.'

Do not be disheartened if things are not happening as fast or as big as we hope.  Good things take time to grow.

On the other hand, if we have success, if we are going well, do not despise others because nothing seems to be happening, or their sales are low. We don't know what impact another's work (or our own) might  have.  After all, Van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime, and that was to his brother (or so I believe).

So whether Ian Irvine is right or not, is not the point. The returnees Zechariah addressed were a small, motley group facing an impossible situation, an overwhelming task, huge opposition, and yet God was at work among them. 

We have the same God at work in our midst. I can't wait to see what He will do.

* New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved

All images © Jeanette O'Hagan 2018

Jeanette recently published a collection of fantasy and sci-fi Nardvan stories, Ruhanna's Flight and other stories. She started spinning tales in the world of Nardva at the age of eight or nine. She enjoys writing secondary world fiction, poetry, blogging and editing. Her Nardvan stories span continents, time and cultures. They involve a mixture of courtly intrigue, adventure, romance and/or shapeshifters and magic users. She has published numerous short stories, poems, two novellas and her debut novel, Akrad's Children. Find her on Facebook or at her webpages Jeanette O'Hagan Writes or Jenny's Thread.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Tuesday Book Chat | 20th March 2018 | Narelle Atkins

Narelle here. Welcome to our ACW Tuesday Book Chat where we encourage book lovers to answer our bookish question of the week. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Please join in the conversation in a comment on this post or in a comment on the blog post shared in our Australasian Christian Writers Facebook Group.  

Let's chat. Do you know of any novels featuring Easter?

Monday, 19 March 2018

Why You Might Want to Re-think Your Publishing Plans

Those of you who attended the 2017 Omega Writers Conference will remember Rachel Sweasey, fiction editor at Rhiza Press. We got chatting at the conference, and she offered to write a couple of posts for Australasian Christian Writers to share some tips on self-editing before you submit to a publisher. (I say offered. It's possible I twisted her arm. But only a little!) 

I've heard people say they don't need to edit their books before they submit them to a publisher, because the publisher will edit them anyway. That's only partly true. If a publisher offers you a contract to publish your book, they will edit it. But you improve your chances of getting that contract offer if you've done the groundwork first.

Today Rachel is going to briefly share her top tips for getting your manuscript ready for submission to a publisher ... and address an even more important question about our writing.

Welcome, Rachel!

By Rachel Sweasey

I have a somewhat bipolar relationship with my role at Rhiza Press. I’m so chuffed and proud to tell people I’m an editor in a publishing house. But then, too often, I wish I’d been a bit more vague when answering that ‘What do you do?’ question.

The trouble is that everyone seems to know someone who’s written something they want to get published, and for the most part, the writing is not publishable at all. 

The question I want to ask is “Why do to they want to be published?” Is it because that’s the only way they can imagine sharing their story? Or do they really believe they are the world’s next J.K.Rowling? I hate to sound negative, but they’re not. There is only one of each of us and J.K. is taken.

Unless you’re already an international bestselling author, then before submitting to a publisher your manuscript has to be refined to within a hairsbreadth of perfection. Take a look at the refining process for gold. There are at least 10 steps in the process from mining, through grinding, leaching, and filtering before even the fiery furnace stage, and on to the final product. Imagine going to a Jeweller and being shown a grubby lump of rock. “That there’s solid gold missus.” Yeah, right. We want to see the shiny blingy things.

Our writing must be refined to the same extent if we’re going to produce gold-star quality writing—and that’s what every publisher is looking for. Even if you intend to self-publish, the refining process is still important if you mean to sell your books, rather than use boxes of them as expensive patio furniture.

So what are some of the steps in refining your work?

A. Read widely
B. Work out why you’re writing what you’re writing
C. Do some writing training, and then practice
D. Apply all your training to your Manuscript
E. Befriend a Beta-Reader (or three)
F. Apply the Beta-Readers’ feedback
G. Engage a Professional Editor to complete a Manuscript Appraisal
H. Apply the advice of the Editor
I. Re-engage the Editor to complete a full edit
J. Enter a Competition
K. Find a Publishing House

… And then, hopefully, you’ll hear back from one... In time.

But taking all that advice aside, the biggest question I really want to ask writers at this stage in their journey is ‘Why do you write?’ Because maybe, just maybe publishing doesn’t have to be the end goal.

Being called to write, and being called to get that writing published are two very distinctive calls. For me? I’m called to sing. I’ve had a passion to sing all my life and I’ve been blessed with some gifting and lots of opportunity to minister. But has God called me to become a professional singer, cut DVD’s, and sell my voice on Spotify? Absolutely not, no way, at all, ever. But I’m called to sing, and I will sing will all my heart until my lungs collapse.

And it’s no different with writing. 

 If you have a talent or even a God-given gift to write then you absolutely must do that writing. You should dedicate your spare time (or all your time if God’s blessed you that much) to perfecting your writing, to listening for leading about what you should write, or who you should write to. There might be a platform by which others can be reached and blessed by your writing but that does not necessarily mean having a book published.

And if writing is your gift, you can and should still apply many of the same snippets of advice I’d give to writers who are intent on being published. Start with the basics of working on style, structure and grammar and share your work widely to gain feedback and make refinements.

And if you are doing what God has called you to do, the work your heart longs for and your hands ache to do, you will be blessed. But possibly not published ;)

Thank you, Rachel! That's great advice. Rachel will be back next Monday to expand on her list. Meanwhile, what do you think? Are we all called to be published? 

What other ways could we fulfill our calling to write and be published?

About Rachel Sweasey

Rachel Sweasey is an editor at Rhiza Connect, the newly branded imprint of Rhiza Press dedicated to inspirational adult fiction for the faith-based market. She also edits the inspirational texts for Book Whispers, a consultancy that offers appraisal, editing, typesetting, printing, design, and marketing services. Rhiza Press also has a Young Adult imprint, Rhiza Edge. Rachel graduated from Griffith University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Literature and Composition. She lives in Brisbane with her husband and 3 children, has known Christ as her saviour since the age of 14, and serves in worship ministry in Wynnum Baptist Church.

Friday, 16 March 2018

Saying No

 By Jenny Glazebrook

I watch my 10 year old daughter lie on her bed and create stories, page after page of words and pictures as her imagination runs wild and she escapes to another world. 
And I remember when I used to do the same thing. 

Some of 10 year old Clarity's creations

I remember back to when I loved writing. Before I was officially an author.
Presenting a school writing workshop
I’ve been so busy helping others write the past few years that I’ve had no time to write. I’ve run workshops, mentored young writers, been on committees for writers’ festivals and conferences, done free proof-reading, written reviews, given inspirational talks … and in it all, lost my love of writing.

I have to ask myself, when did it become a chore? When did it become another ‘should’ in my busy world?

This year I felt that the Lord wanted me to pull out of all my voluntary roles. It started when I developed a painful condition of my wrist (De Quervain’s tenosynovitis) with associated radial nerve damage – a result of the type 1 diabetes I was diagnosed with at 8 years of age. I am waiting for surgery. I can no longer use a computer mouse without a lot of pain. But free-flow typing is fine.

My 'No!' button
I don’t find it easy to say ‘No’when people ask me to help. In fact, my mother bought me a ‘No’ button to help me with this issue. When you press it, a deep, masculine voice says ‘No’ in many and varied ways. My kids love it and have a good giggle when they use it to answer a question I ask them. And sometimes I get a shock when it’s buried under a pile of papers and I accidentally lean on it.

But I have to ask myself, why is it so hard to say ‘No?’

Is it because I don’t value my work and see other peoples’ gifts as more valuable than the one God has given me?

Is it because I have this warped idea that helping others will make them like me more?

Is it because I’m afraid to fail? What if I focus on my own writing but it’s not good enough?

Is it because my pride says I am able and more willing to help in these areas because I do the job properly, putting my heart and soul into it?

Is it because my default is to rescue others at my own peril?

Is it because I feel I have to prove my worth to the world, to prove I am valuable and deserve to be here? And that by pouring myself out for them I am making their lives better and therefore am valuable?

I have had a good, long, hard look into my heart and I believe it is actually a bit of all of these. Particularly, the last two.

But they are lies of the devil.

God does not need me to rescue people. That is His job and He does it way better than I do!
And despite the fact that I am on a government pension because of family health issues, I do not ‘owe’ it to the world to prove my worth.  God, the King of the Universe, has made me His child. And the government pension is not so that I can wear out my mind and body rescuing others … it is so I can care for myself and my family.

Pop in 2005
I recently spent a day with my 90 year old grandfather in hospital.
Several times he spoke to me of his regret that he didn’t write more down over his lifetime. He kept saying, ‘But Jen, now there’s just not enough time …’
And it struck my heart that I don’t want to be lying on my death bed regretting that I didn’t write more, that I didn’t do what I love and bless others through it. I wish Pop had written down the things on his heart, the lessons he’s learned through life, his spiritual insights. I wish it was here to hold onto when he’s gone. But now his memory is failing and at times he is too weak to even speak.

My time is now. The time to love my family, to live in the moment, to express my heart through writing, to sit at Jesus’ feet like Mary did and stop being a Martha. I am troubled by so many things. A couple of nights ago I went outside and sat looking at the stars while our dog laid his head in my lap and our pet goose made gentle honking noises, trying to get my attention. And I just breathed and soaked up God's presence as I remembered what it means to be alive.

And so, to regain my joy in using the gift of writing God has given me, to receive inspiration and strength from Him, this year I say ‘no’ to all the shoulds and instead,  I will enjoy being a wife, a mother, a writer, and most important of all, God’s precious, valuable child … just because I breathe, because He made me in His image and He loves me.

May we never lose the joy of using the gifts God has given us. May we never get so tied up in the business and responsibility of being an author that we forget to write. May our inspiration in Christ be endless, our imaginations set free and our love for God and others grow stronger with every passing day!

Much love to you all, my brothers and sisters, my fellow writers.


Jenny Glazebrook lives in the country town of Gundagai with her husband, Rob and 4 children along with many pets. She is the published author of 7 novels, 1 traditionally published, and 6 self published. She is currently working on her next series with publisher, Breath of Fresh Air Press. She writes because words burn within her. She is an experienced inspirational speaker, a chaplain, and loves to encourage others to walk closer with God and hear His voice each day.  
Jenny’s website is:

Thursday, 15 March 2018

What Dreams May Come Review

What Dreams May Come 
Review by Carolyn Miller @CarolynMAuthor

She's got her heart set on becoming a missionary. He's determined to recruit her for the job.
But is it possible to fall in love with someone you've never even met?

Susannah’s convinced that God has called her to the mission field. That’s why she’s serving him with single-minded focus in Orchard Grove, waiting for the day when she can leave her small town to take the gospel to the nations. Is falling in love with her missionary recruiter part of God’s plan for her life or a distraction from the real goal?

Scott loves his life. Traveling the globe, offering spiritual support to missionaries around the world offers enough excitement that the loneliness hardly ever gets to him …
Until he receives an application from a young girl with a heart for the mission field as large as his own, a young girl he finds himself falling for even before they get the chance to meet face-to-face.

Unfortunately, a promise Susannah made to her family may tear her and Scott even farther apart than the miles that separate them.

Book one in an inspirational sweet romance series by award-winning Christian author Alana Terry, who has won awards from Women of Faith, The Book Club Network, Grace Awards, and several others, What Dreams May Come is based off of the author’s own experiences falling in love with (and eventually marrying) her missionary recruiter.

I remember first hearing about this book on Carrie Booth Schmidt’s blog ‘Reading is my Superpower’ and being intrigued by the premise. When Bookbub recently had it on sale, the ‘Look Inside’ first few chapters were enough for me to snap it up.

It’s an interesting novel for a number of reasons. One, the plot follows the author’s own story of connecting with, and falling in love with, her missionary recruiter. To me, this added a sweet though slightly disconcerting element, as at times it seemed hard to separate fact from fiction. Maybe it’s just me, but when the hero says things like “You are the most compassionate, gentle-spirited person I know…there’s none as sweet or as giving or as selfless as you…” then it’s hard to read that without wondering what is fictional and what is (enhanced?) fact, which can feel a little intrusive.

Another interesting factor is how it progresses, with very short chapters told from alternating viewpoints, followed by a lengthy section devoted to emails as a form of flashback to fill in the details on what exactly happened in their relationship, then another section of action.

There is a great deal of introspection, with some chapters seemingly almost wholly consisting of characters questioning their motives and rehashing what happened, which, while helpful in understanding their thought processes, is not something I’m used to in contemporary fiction, and something that seems to fly in the face of ‘show, don’t tell’ writing advice we hear.

I’m not used to reading about such sheltered (almost Mary Sue type) main characters, so it was good to see characters like Grandma Lucy and Kitty add an element of grit and challenge. I’ve known ‘Grandma Lucy’ types, and enjoy the passion and directness they bring out in others, and the Kitty character was fully realised, someone I could see from my days working with special needs children in school.

Overall, this book appealed to me because I could relate to some of the heroine’s issues: the interest in missions, the questions about God’s call, and the doubts about relationships. This book is the first in ‘A Sweet Dreams Christmas Romance’ series, which sees Grandma Lucy return.

Carolyn Miller lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children. Together with her husband she has pastored a church for ten years, and worked part-time as a public high school English and Learning and Support teacher.
A longtime lover of romance, especially that of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer’s Regency era, Carolyn holds a BA in English Literature, and loves drawing readers into fictional worlds that show the truth of God’s grace in our lives. Her Regency novels include The Elusive Miss Ellison, The Captivating Lady Charlotte, and The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey, all available from Amazon, Book Depository, Koorong, etc
Connect with her: website | facebook | pinterest | twitter