Thursday, 24 August 2017

Book Review: Grounded Hearts by Jeanne M. Dickson

In the midst of World War II, Ireland has declared herself neutral. Troops found on Irish soil must be reported and interned, no matter which side they are fighting for. When midwife Nan O’Neil finds a wounded young Canadian pilot at her door, she knows she’s taking a huge risk by letting him in. Not only is she a widow living alone, but if caught harboring a combatant, she’ll face imprisonment.
Still, something compels Nan to take in “flyboy” Dutch Whitney, an RAF pilot whose bomber has just crashed over County Clare. While she tends to his wounds and gives him a secret place of refuge, the two begin to form a mutual affection—and an unbreakable bond.
But Nan has another secret, one that has racked her with guilt since her husband’s death and made her question ever loving again. As Nan and Dutch plan his escape, can he help restore her faith?


I loved this novel. It’s very romantic, funny at times, and deadly serious at others. Nan O’Neil is a great character; strong yet vulnerable, courageous yet self-doubting.  Her inner journey and attempts to deal with her past are moving and intriguing. The development of the romance between Nan and Dutch starts very quickly, perhaps a little too quickly, as Nan barely has the dashing but badly injured Dutch inside her home before she’s moved by his physical attributes. While she interacts with him as chastely as one would expect from a young Irish Catholic widow, it’s clear from the start that a relationship is going to develop.

The other women characters are colourful and supportive and the collusion between them is delightful. I loved the Irish banter and joking. There are great insights into small village life in Ireland, as well as the community support and regard for each other’s needs. There is also the sleazy male policeman with regard only for his own needs and a total disrespect for women. He provides a good balance of characters.  

The characters are well developed, and the story flows at a good pace without skimming over the internal struggles of both Dutch and Nan; emotional as well as spiritual struggles. The Christianity has a very Irish Catholic flavour which makes the story down to earth and real in terms of the setting and the times. Nevertheless, the case for a forgiving and loving God is made very clearly as Nan faces her guilt from the past and her need to forgive herself.

The serious nature of war; the dangers and moral questions it raises are not overlooked and the risk that Nan takes and the danger that Dutch is in are not underestimated, making for some scary moments.

The outcome will delight romantics and the story definitely has a ‘feel good’ ending, where everyone gets their just deserts.

I would highly recommend this novel.    


Carol writes historical novels based on her family ancestry in Australia from the First Fleet. They include the Turning the Tide series; Mary’s Guardian, Charlotte’s Angel, Tangled Secrets and Truly Free. Two of her earlier novels, Suzannah’s Gold and Rebecca’s Dream, were re-released by EBP.  Next of Kin was released in 2015 by Rhiza Press and the sequel, Beyond the Fight, in 2016. You can see more about Carol and her novels on her website, her Amazon author page or FB author page.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Trust can be fragile

By Keona Tann

When my son was 4 and a half years old I struggled. I constantly battled with him about doing what he was told. I saw his disobedience as a sign of disrespect. When he challenged me about God being in charge of him I, of course, agreed but explained that I was the supervisor. I went on to try and explain that God had put him into a family and so his father and I were in charge of him and therefore he needed to listen to us. I went on to say the dreaded words “you need to do things because I say so!”. I tried to explain that sometimes I can see a ‘bigger picture’ than what he can, that I might be able to see an end result that he hasn’t been able to see. I explained that I loved him very much and that I would always try to make good decisions. I asked him to trust me!

Let’s look some more at the word trust. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as an “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something; one in which confidence is placed; dependence on something future – hope; something committed or entrusted to one to be used or cared for in the interest of another.” Proverbs 3:5 (NLT) asks us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.”. 
Trust can be a fragile thing; it is something that we gradually build up over time and it can be easily destroyed! Sometimes God asks us to do things that require total trust and reliance upon him! We simply must trust that He knows best and can see the ‘bigger picture’. When we place ourselves into His hands with complete and utter abandonment that fragile trust strengthens!
If we allow God to, He can and will give us what we need when we need it. 

It makes sense that sickness and poverty go hand in hand. When you’re extremely ill you lose the capacity to earn income. It may even go to the extreme case of you needing your spouse to become your full time carer, which impacts the household income even further! As well as the reduced income you may have exceedingly great medical expenses! I found the ‘giant of poverty’ constantly mocked me! My lack of funds constantly challenged my desire to print and share my healing story; as well as my attempts to step out into my new career as a writer! I am so grateful for God’s word, as well as the books I was reading, that enabled me to stand on God’s promises! So rather than accept defeat because of the reality of my situation I chose to focus on the reality God promised me! I wrote out 4 pages of promises to continually declare over my life in regards to my future and 2 pages to declare about our finances! Whenever the anxiety rose, about my lack of funds, I would rebuke that feeling, and the spirit of poverty, and declare God’s promises!
I was led to Jeremiah 33:3 Call to Me, ask, and I will answer you!  I will tell you remarkable secrets;  marvellous and wondrous things; show you great and mighty things. Things that are fenced in and hidden, which you do not know. Things you have not yet distinguished and recognized; things that you don’t have knowledge of or understand; things to come; things that you could never figure out on your own. Call to me and I will answer you, I’ll tell you of all that is to come! (AMPC, NLT and MSG paraphrased).

WOW! How awesome is that! I am so excited to find out about all the wonderful things that are coming! How reassuring is that verse! I can place my complete and FULL trust in God! I can know that He does have great things for me to discover and walk in!

Take Asa’s example and cry out to the Lord: O Lord, there is no one besides You to help, no one but You can help the powerless! Help me, O Lord my God, for I trust in and rely on You! In Your name I can gain victory! O Lord, You’re my God! (2 Chronicles 14:11 AMP and NLT paraphrased)

“What a comfort to know that God is present there in your life, available to meet every situation with you, that you are never left to face any problem alone.” Vonette Bright

May your trust arise today! May your spirit be strengthened!

Many blessings!

For most of my life I struggled with sickness. The 2 dominant afflictions were endometriosis (for 28 years) and adrenal fatigue (I was severely debilitated for 28 months and the recovery has been a journey of 11 months so far).
In September 2016 God declared healing over my life. This set me on a path of restoration and transformation.
My passion for writing was reignighted and I wrote the following mission statement:
I desire to impact the world through the words I share. I long to enrich, empower and encourage others whilst delivering my stories with empathy and understanding.
“He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the LORD.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭40:3‬ ‭NLT‬‬
I've started a weekly blog which you can find at:
I'm currently working on my testimony as well as my journey with endometriosis and adrenal fatigue. I hope that I'll launch my first book soon. Many blessings, Keona

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Romance Writers of New Zealand Conference Highlights

By Iola Goulton

You may have read my blog post last week, Top 10 Tips for First-Time Conference Attendees. One of those tips was not to schedule anything important for a couple of days after conference.

This blog post is me not following my own advice.

I’ve just returned from the 2017 Romance Writers of New Zealand conference, and I’m body tired and brain tired. Especially brain tired.

Narelle shared her highlights of the Romance Writers of Australia conference yesterday, including being able to meet several ACW members in person, as well as meeting with a representative of Draft2Digital. She also shared lots of fun photos, which shows she’s more organised than me—I always forget to take photos at conferences!

With Kristen Lamb
I do have a couple. When I arrived on Thursday afternoon, I met the exuberant Kristen Lamb, social media jedi, author of Rise of the Machines, and one of our keynote speakers. I also met the lovely Delwyn and Maggie from Australia. Delwyn and I found we have several writing friends in common, including ACW members Andrea Grigg and Nicki Edwards.

Me with Maggie and Delwyn

There were several Australians at the conference, both as guest speakers, and as attendees. If you can get a cheap trans-Tasman flight, the RWNZ conference works out around the same price as the Australian conference, and the conferences had different speakers this year—Delwyn attended both conferences back-to-back.

The format of RWNZ is that we have a keynote speaker who takes all four sessions on Friday—which is almost seven hours of speaking (and listening, and taking notes. Lots of notes). Our Friday speaker was Kristen Lamb. I consider myself fairly social media savvy, but I still learned a lot from Kristen’s talk. I think that’s going to be a separate post, once I’ve recovered a little more.

Saturday and Sunday was a mix of sessions from our keynote speakers, from visiting agents and editors, and elective sessions from Kiwi and Australian speakers (including yours truly). The sessions were a mix of technical (how to use Scrivener, how to keep yourself safe online), craft (writing a scene, creating reader engagement), and business (how to write a query, self-publishing advice).

My topic was Introducing Christian Romance: the biggest little genre you’ve never heard of. 

I was prompted to submit a speaker proposal after attending last year’s conference, when a lot of the people I met, even the Christians, didn’t even know Christian romance was a thing. No one told me that this year, so I guess that means everyone had read the programme. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a win.

All the sessions I attended were excellent, and there were several electives where I wanted to attend two or three of the four options. I wasn’t the only one with this problem. I had several people tell me they wanted to attend my session, but there was another session they also wanted to attend. I couldn’t blame them. So did I! The result was that my presentation was more of a discussion, as only two people attended. That didn’t bother me—we had a fabulous conversation.

I did have several authors tell me they are Christian writers, but not writing for the Christian market. Great! People who are reaching the lost with their writing—reaching people who would never walk into a Christian bookshop, or even read a Christian book.

I don’t have any of my own books to give away or sell, so I did the next best thing: I took copies of Then There Was You by Kara Isaac to give away, and Kara was kind enough to donate two copies of Can’t Help Falling. I gave copies to the ladies who attended my sessions, to a vicar from Christchurch, and to a general market author of rock chick romance who loved the cover and blurb. I doubt she’s ever read a Christian romance before, but she said she’d read it. Wonderful!

This is the third RWNZ conference I’ve attended. 

The first time, I went with Andrea Grigg and Catherine Hudson. We were impressed at the openness and friendliness of romance authors. Many of the attendees write erotica or paranormal romance, but they were universally friendly and welcomed us as fellow writers, despite the differences in our writing and personal beliefs.

I had the same experience last year and this year. Romance writing is a community that chooses to celebrate our common love of romance, rather than focusing on our differences. I love that. Yes, I’ll be back next year.

About Iola Goulton

I am a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction. Visit my website at download a comprehensive list of publishers of Christian fiction. 

I also write contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist—find out more at

You can also find me on:
Facebook (Author)
Facebook (Editing)

Monday, 21 August 2017

Romance Writers of Australia: Conference Highlights - Narelle Atkins

By Narelle Atkins

I love writing conferences. I've lost count of how many I've attended over the years but I have collected six badges from Romance Writers of Australia conferences. I met my dear friend, Mary Hawkins, in person for the first time at the Sydney conference in 2007.

Our Aussie conferences are special. In recent years the Romance Writers of Australia conference offerings have broadened beyond romance writing to include more workshops on the business of writing and publishing. This year in Brisbane I had the opportunity to attend workshops from Draft2Digital and Google. I was also blessed with an excellent fifteen minute appointment with Dan Wood, Director of Operations and Author Relations at Draft2Digital.

Draft2Digital are a global distributor of ebooks and audiobooks. They assist authors by distributing their works to digital storefronts including ibooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Tolino. 

Kris Austin, CEO and Founder, shared his vision for how Draft2Digital will continue to expand their author services to meet the needs of their author clients.They currently distribute to 195 countries. Australia is their second largest market (15%) behind the USA (53%).     

It's great that we don't need to travel to the US to see publishing industry professionals.The amazing Margie Lawson is travelling to Australia for our Omega Writers Conference in Sydney, 28-30 October 2017.

Rochelle Manners, Kat Kolmer, Andrea Grigg, Narelle Atkins
A conference highlight, as always, was the chance to catch up with old and new writing friends, including familiar faces from our ACW group. Unfortunately I wasn't able to arrange an ACW group photo but I have included everyone in photos in this post.

Andrea Grigg, Elizabeth Ellen Carter
Rochelle Manners did a wonderful job organising the conference book store. Brisbane locals and tourists can visit Rochelle's charming bookshop, The Mad Hatters Bookshop, in Manly, Queensland. 

Andrea Grigg, Rochelle Manners, Cindy Williams
Romance writers know how to party. The Harlequin Escape After Party that followed the Saturday Evening Awards Dinner was a lot of fun. 

I discovered the Gold Coast train to Brisbane and travelled to and from conference with my dear friend Andrea Grigg. Andrea and I enjoyed a relaxing post-conference Monday lunch by the beach before I flew home to Canberra via Sydney. 

Narelle Atkins & Andrea Grigg - Currumbin, Gold Coast
Conference weekends are busy and I did my best to squeeze in some writing time. I flew to the Gold Coast via Sydney and spent more time in airport lounges than in the air. I used the waiting time to brainstorm my latest story. 

Early on Friday morning I wrote and edited my upcoming Inspy Romance blog post in the airport lounge and during my first flight from Canberra to Sydney. A blog post completed by 7.30am was a great way to start my conference weekend.

Stop by Inspy Romance on Thursday (Aust/NZ time zone) to join in the conversation on ebook pricing. Strategies for ebook pricing was a hot topic of conversation at the conference. 

Do you share my love of writing conferences? Are you planning to attend the Omega Writers Conference in October? I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

A fun loving Aussie girl at heart, NARELLE ATKINS was born and raised on the beautiful northern beaches in Sydney, Australia. She has settled in Canberra with her husband and children. A lifelong romance reader, she found the perfect genre to write when she discovered inspirational romance. Narelle's contemporary stories of faith and romance are set in Australia.

Twitter: @NarelleAtkins

Friday, 18 August 2017

Best of the ACW Archives ~ To Review or Not to Review?

My name is Andrea Grigg and I don’t like writing reviews.

Some of it stems from the fact I’m not a natural reviewer. It takes me hours, even when I love a book. I could rave about it verbally – albeit not coherently – but to write one is a challenge. I forget plot points, themes and often can’t remember the subtext. All I know is I adored the characters, felt their pain and then the love when everything turned out as it should.

But there’s a great deal more to my discomfort than that.

Nola encapsulated my thoughts beautifully in one of the threads on my January 14 post: (You’ll need to set aside half an hour if you want to read all the comments). Here's what she had to say:

‘I sometimes feel 'put on the spot' when I read something I don't think is up to scratch...'

Read more at the following link:

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Book Review My Heart Belongs on Mackinac Island by Carrie Fancett Pagels

By Jenny Blake
My Heart Belongs on Mackinac Island
Carrie Fancett Pagels
Barbour Books (July 1, 2017)

Journey now to Mackinac Island where...
A Tangled Gilded Age Love Story Unfolds.

Although the Winds of Mackinac Inn has been in her mother’s family for generations, Maude Welling’s father refuses to let her run it without the guidance of a husband. So she seeks to prove her worth and independence by working incognito as a maid at the Grand Hotel.

Undercover journalist Ben Steffans, posing as a wealthy industrialist, pursues a story about impoverished men chasing heiresses at the famed hotel.  While undercover, he becomes attracted to an intriguing maid. By an act of heroism Ben endears himself to the closed-mouthed islanders—including Maude—and he digs deep for his story.

But when scandal threatens, will the growing love between Maude and Ben be scuttled when truths are revealed?

My Review:

Firstly thanks to Netgalley for my review copy.

I have read a couple other My Heart Belong books this year all set in the west and more westerns. It was refreshing to have a different location and era. I really loved the story. It made me want to go there and see the island and to also taste some of the famous fudge.

Maude wants to run the inn that has been in her family for generations but her father thinks she needs to be married. When the man she hoped to marry breaks her heart she sets about trying to prove herself to her father. On the flip side Ben is posing as a wealthy industrialist when he is in fact a journalist who is trying to expose how men come to the island pretending to be rich to snare a heiress at the famous hotel. Ben is really struggling with his assignment as he feels more comfortable with the locals than the wealthy. He has a story that has scarred him.

As both Maude and Ben seem to be coming closer there are issues arising they need to deal with. 

I loved the different area of America which I haven't read about before. The places are real with the story fiction, and we get a feel of what it would be like to live on the island. Also what it is like when you live year round on a place where in the summer the wealthy will come and stay at The Grand or other Hotels. It then becomes very much a division of the people. There are also other issues that both Maud and Ben have to deal with, which added to the story. 

I really loved the story and have heard Carrie will be writing about one of the other characters in an upcoming book.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Top 10 Tips for First-Time Conference Attendees

By Iola Goulton

Do you live in Australia or New Zealand? Are you signed up to attend the Omega Writer’s Conference in Sydney from 27 to 29 October?

If you are, great! (If not, sign up now!)

Some of you might be nervous about attending. Don’t be—there will be writers of all levels and all genres at the conference. The two things we all have in common are that we all write (or want to), and we’re all Christian.

For those who are a little nervous, or who don’t know what to expect, here are my top ten tips based on what I've learned attending previous conferences:

1. Go for the whole weekend

It’s tempting for first-time attendees—especially those who live near the venue—to attend only for the Saturday. Yes, you’ll still learn a lot even if you only go for the day, but you won’t have the opportunity to get to know people as much as if you stayed for the whole weekend.

2. Most authors are introverts

Sure, some authors (and conference attendees) are extroverts. Most are not. We might not look like it at conference time, but we are. We have a fabulous extroverted time reconnecting with old friends and making new friends … then retreat into our introverted writing caves until Christmas (when our families demand we come out and pretend to be extroverts again).

3. Yes, we do know each other

When you arrive at conference, it can feel like everyone already knows everyone else. That’s partly true—but most of us only know each other from previous conferences, or from online writing groups such as the Australasian Christian Writers or Christian Writers Downunder Facebook groups.

If you’re going to conference for the first time, join one (or both) of these groups and start interacting with the regular commenters. Then, when you get to conference, people will know you. I’ve formed real friendships from my online connections.

4. Arriving at conference

If you’re flying in, plan to arrive an hour or so early and take the conference bus. You don’t want to be stressing because you’re rushing. We meet at a convenient coffee shop, so you have time to have a drink and a bite to eat.

It’s also a great opportunity to meet and get to know some of the other attendees before we arrive at the venue. (If you can’t find me at the appointed meeting place, I’ll be at Krispy Kreme getting my annual sugar fix).

5. You are a writer

One of the questions you will be asked is “what do you write?”. I remember Simon Kennedy asking me this at my first writer’s conference. My answer? I said I didn’t write—even though I was writing 150+ book reviews a year, plus dozens of blog posts on writing, editing, publishing, and marketing.

To anyone else, that looked like I was a writer. But it took me three or four years before I was able to admit to myself that yes, I was a writer, even though I wasn’t writing novels or screenplays or something “big”.

Believe in yourself. You are a writer. Don’t buy into the lie that what you’re writing (or want to write) isn’t “real” in comparison to what X or Y is writing.

6. Be prepared to learn

If you’re doing the fiction stream, Margie Lawson will give you writing tips that make you feel like you’re a complete beginner (but she’s a Southern lady, so she’ll do it with grace and style). This can feel overwhelming. Don’t worry—instead, count your blessings that you’re learning this before you’ve published six books you now realise you have to rewrite and republish.

I’ll be attending the fiction stream, but I’m sure the other teachers will have equally important insights to impart.

7. No one knows it all

We are all at conference to learn. No one knows everything there is to know about writing. The trick is to know what we know, to know what we don’t know, and to be teachable.

8. Don’t be intimidated

Really. Don’t. The only difference between you and the multi-published award-winning authors is BISFOK time. That’s Behind In Seat, Fingers On Keyboard. And your writing doesn’t have to be perfect—as an editor, I can assure you no one produces a perfect first draft.

9. Bring money

There is a conference bookstall, and you will want to buy books (especially when there is the opportunity to get author autographs as well!). To buy books, you need money. Don’t worry about your airline luggage allowance—you can arrange for your new purchases to be posted to you.

10. After-conference care

If you’re anything like me, you’ll eat too much, drink too much coffee, talk too much, and won’t get enough sleep (I blame those native Australian birds which sound like screaming). That’s all okay. Plan for it i.e. don’t schedule anything important for the next few days after conference. You’ll want some time to decompress, and to prayerfully consider how you’re going to apply what you’ve learned to your writing. And to your life.

If you’re a more experienced conference attendee, what are your tips for first-timers?

About Iola Goulton

I am a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction. Visit my website at download a comprehensive list of publishers of Christian fiction. 

I also write contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist—find out more at

You can also find me on:
Facebook (Author)
Facebook (Editing)