Thursday, 22 June 2017

Book Recommendation: The Long Highway Home by Elizabeth Musser

By Iola Goulton

This review previously appeared at Iola's Christian Reads, and is reposted here today because the ebook versions are currently on sale in honour of World Refugee Day (20 June).

An Outstanding Story of Christian Faith

The Long Highway Home is the story of Bobbie, an ex-missionary who has been diagnosed with inoperable cancer at the age of 39. It’s the story of Tracie, Bobbie’s niece, who accompanies her to Europe, to visit the missionaries she used to serve with before tragedy sent her back to the US. It’s the story of Hamid, a devout Muslim who is forced to flee Iran after a well-meaning missionary gives his six-year-old daughter a New Testament. But my favourite character is Rasa, the child with a faith that puts mine to shame.

The structure of The Long Highway Home is more like a thriller novel than the women’s fiction and romance I’m more used to reading. There are a lot of viewpoint characters spanning the US, Holland, France, Austria, and Iran. Unlike most thrillers, it’s always obvious who the characters are and how they are related, which kept me turning pages to find out how they’d eventually be brought together.

The author has drawn on her own missionary experiences in writing this excellent novel.

This shines through in both the story of Hamid and his family, and in the advice from some of the minor characters (e.g. Peggy, the elderly prayer warrior who supports Bobbie). These sound like real conversations Ms Musser has had in her years as a missionary—stories of the refugees who survived the refugee highway and made it to The Oasis in Austria.

It’s a story of human courage in the face of adversity, persecution, and possible death. 

It’s a story of hope, of perfect love driving out fear. It challenges our views of refugees by introducing us to real refugees—we know Hamid and Rasheed and Rasa and Omid aren’t real people, but at the same time their stories have that ring of truth, of authenticity. They could be real stories. They may well be.

After all, significant elements of the story are real. 

The Oasis is a real place, and welcomes volunteers and short-term missionaries (and long-term missionaries!) to support its outreach to refugees in Austria. Elizabeth Musser is a missionary with International Teams, an organisation dedicated to helping those who survive the refugee highway. World Wide Radio was inspired by the real-life work of Trans World Radio, which broadcasts in 230 languages to reach listeners in 160 countries.

It’s inspiring and humbling to read about people like this—missionaries who are risking their lives to bring the gospel to others. Refugees who are risking their lives to escape a government that wants them dead. Normal, everyday people who are doing extraordinary things every day.


Thanks to Elizabeth Musser for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Elizabeth Musser at her website, and you can read her Friday Fifteen here.

You can read the introduction to The Long Highway Home below:

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:
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Wednesday, 21 June 2017

A Novel Journey

A Novel Journey
by Elaine Fraser

When I write a novel it is like I am taking a thought for a walk.
  Aminatta Forna

This year I’ve been away from home for twelve weeks out of twenty-four. I leave again next week for another eight-week trip, come home for a week, then go to Italy and Africa for three weeks. I come home for three weeks, then head to Sydney for the Omega Writers Conference.

My husband and I travel a lot, however, this year we’ve been away even more than usual. He’s riding a motorbike around the world to raise awareness for the not-for-profit organisation, Water for Africa.

His mission is to highlight the plight of millions of people around the world who do not have access to clean, safe water.

My mission is to finish writing a women’s fiction novel I imagined in Tuscany in 2010 and began to write in earnest in 2013. From Sydney to Rome to Paris to London to New York to Oslo to Dar es Salaam, and many other places in between, I’m writing my way around the world.

Writing this book has been a journey all of its own. The Solo Traveller is about Laura. She’s married, has children, and a runs a travel business. At the beginning of the book, she’s at her grandmother’s funeral. By the end of the funeral, she will decide whether or not she will stay with her husband, or leave him. The story takes the reader back to World War Two and Laura’s grandmother’s story, through to the present, and tracks Laura’s marriage across fifteen years until the present.

I've known Laura for years. She first came to me in 2010 in a villa in Tuscany and I’ve journeyed with her ever since. It's been a journey, not only with the novel, but with Laura.

Laura travelled with me to Oxford in 2013, to Tuscany in 2014 and 2015, to Melbourne in 2015 and Italy and Sydney in 2016, to Denver, Seattle and New York, and beyond in 2017.

The Solo Traveller is sitting at 100 000 words and it’s taken every ounce of discipline and determination I have to keep writing as I’ve travelled this year. The wonderful Iola Goulton is going to copy edit it for me during July, so I can work on it in August, and present it to publishers in September.

I have many more flights, and many more kilometres to travel, but by the time I get to the end of the year, there will be a complete novel–ready to be published, along with thousands of holiday photos on my laptop.

But, I haven’t just been working on a novel and travelling, I’ve been on a journey with God and His purposes. When I wrote my first non-fiction book in 2004, I never imagined that I would write fiction. I never imagined that I would write for Kinwomen. I never imagined that I would write a general market book like The Solo Traveller.

God has been leading me to write for people on the fringes of faith–people who perhaps used to go to church or may be spiritually searching.

I’ve met all sorts of people this year –people who live on the streets of Skid Row in LA, kids who have family members shot in the ganglands of the projects in LA, people who used to go to church and are now self-proclaimed atheists, people whose sexuality has separated them from family members for twenty-five years, people who call themselves spiritual, but don’t like religion. These are the people I have in mind when I write.

By the time The Solo Traveller comes out, Laura’s seven-year journey will be over and so will mine. 

When I sat on a terrace in a villa in Tuscany, I never imagined where I would take this novel, or where it would take me.

Where has your writing taken you?

Follow more of the journey at

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Getting to Know You with Keona Tann

Please welcome Keona Tann to our blog today.

1. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I grew up on the beautiful north west coast of Tasmania in Ulverstone. I had a fairly active childhood: I would frequently ride my bike to visit family and friends; I learnt ballet and taekwondo; I was involved in tennis, hockey and the Surf Life Saving Club.
I have been married for 21 years, to my college sweetheart, and we have been blessed with 2 wonderful children. For the first 10 years of the children's lives I worked part time so that I could be the primary care giver. I then worked full time for almost 3 years until a debilitating illness in 2014. Most of my life was plagued with sickness – I suffered with endometriosis for 28 years and an illness in 2014 developed into adrenal/chronic fatigue which was severe for 28 months. I am so grateful that God intervened at a Christian retreat in September 2016 and I received healing. That moment set me on a path of restoration and transformation. I’m slowly getting stronger and more ability is returning each week.
I have been a Christian since I was 13, I strayed for a little bit in my late teens, so when I was 20 I rededicated my life to Jesus. I have been involved in Women’s Ministry, Church drama groups, led a small home group and worked in the Church office. I am now an active member of the Church intercessor group which is a great source of training, inspiration and support.

2. When you were a child did you have a favourite book or books?
The book that instantly came to mind was "The Magic Faraway Tree" by Enid Blyton. I just loved the idea of this gigantic tree and I loved all the different characters. My favourite description was Moonface's part of the tree, a slide in the middle of his house that took you to the bottom of the Faraway Tree! Surely that’s every kid’s dream?! Reading her book sparked my imagination and in my mind I joined all the amazing characters in that Faraway Tree!

3. Do you have a favourite Genre to both read and right write?
I have 3 different styles that I enjoy reading. I love Christian novels which contain biblical truths. The series that I really enjoy reading over and over again is Angela Elwell Hunt's series "Legacies Of The Ancient River" which consists of 3 books: "Dreamers", "Brothers" and "Journey". In this series the story of Joseph came alive to me, as I read them I felt very connected to Joseph and his journey.
The other style that I enjoy is action novels, such as Lee Child's Jack Reacher books. In regards to this style L.T. Ryan has done a very similar series about a character called Jack Noble. When I read L.T. Ryan's books I felt as if a great secret was unlocked in my mind. L.T. Ryan's writing is similar to Lee Child's. For me I felt the secret was that there are no limitations upon me other than the ones I place upon myself. Of course there needs to be structure and order, but I don't need to be afraid if my story is similar to someone else's or even if not many people like my work! My role is to prayerfully write and ask that the words reach and touch those that they are for!
The other style is memoir. I found Annette Mace's book "It's Official It's A Miracle" extremely uplifting. She suffered for several years with chronic fatigue which she details very openly in her book. I read her book when my adrenal/chronic fatigue raged on and her healing testimony inspired me to continue to press into God for my very own miracle. Which praise God I received!

4. Did you have favourite authors growing up who have influenced you?
My mum would read to me on a regular basis which I absolutely loved! I come from a long rich heritage of readers! My nana purchased for me some of the books in the Enid Blyton 'Famous Five' series and I simply devoured each book! They took me on grand adventures.

5. When did you know you wanted to be an author?
In High School I crafted a book with a friend as our English project. I loved the whole process! But then life just seemed to take me on a different path and my writing just 'slipped away'. Then in my 20's I was inspired to start journaling and I found it therapeutic and encouraging. To be able to look back on a prayer and realise it was answered was faith building. To read back on a really 'dark day' and see how God had changed that circumstance was astounding.
Then around 10-12 years ago I had an idea that maybe my struggle with endometriosis could be shared with the hope of encouraging other sufferers. I started to write about my experience. Then a few months later my computer died! I gave up and said to myself "oh well you're not a writer anyway". Then in 2014 when my adrenal/chronic fatigue first developed I again found writing extremely beneficial. 
At the start of 2016 I entered various competitions with the hope of winning to fund my first book. I wrote up a mission statement:
“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.Psalm 40:3 New Living Translation
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.

I wasn’t successful in any of the competitions, but the pieces that I had written have now been used on the ACW. They also form part of my healing testimony, so all that work was not in vain.

6. If you were not a writer what would you like to be?
I've been interested in being a personal trainer in the past. At the start of 2016 I thought that I might have been on a career path in fitness. But my health prevented that from happening. It was definitely a huge passion in my life before my illness. Maybe that might still be in my future?

7. Outside reading and writing what do you like to do?
I love spending time with my family. We are blessed to have a family shack up in the Highlands of Tasmania and try to get there as often as we can. I just love being able to sit in front of the fire and relax. Also spending time in the bush or out on the Great Lake is so relaxing!

8. Do you have a place you love to visit or would love to visit?
My dream since my late teens has been to visit Ireland. I would love to explore the wonderful countryside and spend some time there learning about the history. To be honest I simply love the Irish accent and music, so just being there would be a huge blessing!

9. If you could have a meal with 3 living people who would you choose and why?
Amy Grant- when I was in High School I struggled and each day I'd come home in tears and play her music. Her music inspired me to keep living and enabled me to press on!
Heidi Baker - her book "Compelled By Love" has inspired me immensely! 
Lysa TerKeurst - her daily devotions sustained me through my 28 months of severe illness. God deeply touched my heart through her Proverbs31 Ministries Facebook posts and emails!

Finally can you tell us about your current books and/or any that will
be coming out soon. Also where we can find you on the web.
I'm writing a weekly blog which can be found at:

I have a few book ideas that I believe God is inspiring me to write and publish. So this is currently a work in progress that I pray will happen soon. I hope to publish my first book before the end of the year. I’m working on a children's illustrated book with a local artist as well as documenting my healing testimony and restoration journey. So stay tuned!

Monday, 19 June 2017

Introducing the 2017 Omega Writers Conference

By Iola Goulton

Bookings for the 2017 Omega Christian Writer’s Conference are now open. The conference is being held from 27-29 October 2017. The venue is the same as last year, the Edmund Rice Conference Centre in Mulgoa, and there are many familiar faces on the organising committee. And there will be a lot of familiar faces from previous years.

There are some changes—excellent changes.

First, all attendees will be placed in host groups for the weekend—a small group that will meet together on the first day, led by an experienced conference-goer. This gives everyone an opportunity to meet new people, and gives first-time attendees someone to ask if they have questions. This isn’t a big conference compared to some, but it can still be a daunting experience if you’ve never attended a writing conference before.

My tip: if you’re flying into Sydney, take the conference bus. We all meet at a coffee shop to wait for the bus, which leaves at 1:30. It’s a low-key way to meet people before we actually arrive at the venue.

It also helps to remember that many writers are introverts, and our group is no exception. Many of the people you meet at the conference who act like extroverts will go home and spend the next year in their introverted writing cave. And dieting. Because they feed us well!

The Programme

This year, there are three streams on offer: fiction, children/young adult, and non-fiction:


The fiction stream is headlined by the weekend’s keynote speaker, Margie Lawson. Margie is an international speaker and writing coach, and many members of Omega Writers, Australasian Christian Writers, and Christian Writers Downunder have benefited from her online courses (from Lawson Writer's Academy), or attended an in-person immersion (five days of brilliance).

While Margie specialises as a fiction coach, many of her key messages are equally important for non-fiction writers. For example, she’s a big fan of using cadence, power words, and rhetorical devices to add impact to our writing. Great preachers use many of these same devices.

Other speakers in the fiction stream include Dr Patricia Weerakoon, and Carolyn Miller. Patricia had been scheduled to speak last year but had to pull out at the last minute, so we’ve been waiting to hear her for a long time!

Children/Young Adult

Australia has a wealth of Christian talent writing for children, and four of these talents will present a combined workshop: Rochelle Manners, Rowena Beresford, Katrina Roe, and Jemima Trappel.

Attendees will also hear from Penny Morrison, and from American author Alex Marestaing, who will also be the guest speaker at the CALEB Award dinner on Saturday night.

Non Fiction

Non fiction authors will be treated to sessions from May Luan Kim, JoAnne Berthelsen, and James Cooper.

You can find out more about all these speakers at the Omega Writer’s website.

Publishers and Editors

Publishers Rochelle Manners (Rhiza Press/Wombat Books) and Deb Porter (Breath of Fresh Air Press) will be attending, and both are available for paid one-on-one appointments, bookable at the conference. Rochelle Manners also runs the conference bookstall, so bring your wallet—no EFTPOS is available, and you will want to buy books. Lots of books. (Rochelle can be persuaded to post them if your airline luggage limit is a problem.)

The conference also gives you the opportunity to meet one-on-one with freelance editors (including me). This is a great opportunity to get some feedback on your writing, and some direction for your next steps. Appointments can be booked at the conference, and are paid.

Are you convinced yet? Then it’s time to book! 

Bookings are open at the Omega Writers website. Note that there is a discount for members of Omega, so this is a great time to sign up if you’re not already a member.

Are you planning on attending the conference? Do you have any questions about conference?

Friday, 16 June 2017

When something just clicks

Last year, my older son came down with a medical condition called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. This is an incredibly painful condition and much of the therapy is physio to get the limb moving again in spite of the pain.

For a long time, the physio tried everything to get him moving again - tough love, rewards, setting goals - but none of it worked until something clicked in his mind to overcome the fear of the pain that may come with walking on his painful leg.

Back in 2011, I got back into writing fiction after a long break and the following year I participated in the first Chapter Book Challenge. I wrote a story that was good, but there wasn't a goal or reason why the main character was going on his adventure.

I still love the story and the information it gives to kids, and I am trying everything to find the point of the story... so far, nothing is clicking. I'm hoping that, one day, something will just click and it will see the light of day.

This can be true for all of us when working on our stories. For some of them, no amount of hard work, goal setting, counting words, or workshopping a story will get things to work. In this situation, sometimes we just need to let it simmer until the day when something just clicks and the story comes together.

When that something clicks, it's such a great feeling and it ends up with a stronger story than it began and, hopefully, a story that readers will love too.

Melissa Gijsbers lives in Melbourne with her two teenage boys and pet blue tongue lizard. She writes flash fiction as well as middle grade novels.

You can follow her writing journey at and

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Book Review: "And Still She Laughs" by Kate Merrick

By Ian Acheson

The Blurb

Kate Merrick examines the Bible’s gritty stories of resilient women as well as her own experience losing a child—a journey followed by more than a million on—to reveal the reality of surprising joy and deep hope even in the midst of heartache.

Is it possible live fully—even joyfully—in the middle of overwhelming pain?

In the excruciating aftermath of her young daughter’s death from cancer, Kate Merrick struggled to find a way to live. Not just to survive or go through the motions, but to live fully. Faithfully. With real joy amid inevitable tears.

To discover how, Kate delved into the stories in the Bible of real women who suffered deeply and emerged somehow joyful. How did Sarah, after twenty-five years of achingly empty arms, learn to laugh without bitterness? How did Bathsheba, defiled by the king who then had her husband killed, come to walk in strength and dignity, to smile without fear of the future? In her encounters with these heroines of the faith, Kate discovered how to have contentment—and even joy—whatever the circumstances. 

By turns heartbreaking and humorous, And Still She Laughs reveals the secret to finding hope in the midst of devastation. In the end, no matter what hardships we face, we can smile, cry, and come away full—laughing without fear and eagerly looking for what is to come.

My Review

I first came to know of Kate Merrick when I stumbled across her husband, Britt, and their church in Carpinteria, California about 8 years ago. Soon thereafter I became aware of their daughter, Daisy's, illness. And so I joined the global army of prayers that stood on the watchtower for dear little Daisy and this gorgeous family.

After a few years of immense struggle, dearest Daisy passed away in the arms of her parents and brother, Isaiah. The family held a wonderful memorial service for their little girl, which those of us from far way were able to watch.

And then the family went off the grid. For years.

They bunkered down in their grief and loss. I was one of those who from far away wondered from time to time how they were doing.

Until February this year. I was watching IF Gathering annual event and lo-and-behold Britt and Kate step onto the stage and both speak. Britt ministers in the Word (golly gosh can this man preach!) and Kate shared as only she can. And then she mentioned this little book she'd written that was coming out in a few weeks.

It's a wonderful book. As another reviewer states so eloquently: "She (Kate) writes from a depth of understanding grief and from an inspiring place of understanding how to grieve but still live life fully and with joy."

Daisy's presence is threaded throughout every page ... the first few chapters are intense as we read how grief knocked Kate down. But ever so slowly the Lord in all His tenderness lifted this wonderful lady back on her feet. Through His Words and gentle touch.

Kate shares the stories of 3 great women of the Bible who also suffered much: Sarah, Abraham's wife, Bathsheba and Mary, mother of Jesus. Kate's retelling of their stories brings them alive in a way I'd never experienced. Especially, Mary. Chapter 6 is a very powerful chapter. Mary, this teenager, who had everything to lose, says 'Yes" to Gabriel, when he informs her she is to birth the Messiah. How she must have suffered. Her family, her betrothed, her community would have all scorned her.

But she still said: "Yes"

I want her faith.

This is a book about so much more than grief and loss. It's also about the discovery of leaning into the mystery of walking with the lover of our souls, Jesus. It's a book that often brought me to tears but also made me laugh and laugh. Death of a loved one, especially one so young, doesn't make any sense. And even though Kate doesn't know the answer to why Daisy passed away much too young, she knows the lover of her soul is always close, always tender, always loving and suffered as much as Kate did.

Read this book especially if you're struggling with grief and loss but even if you aren't you'll find this a wonderful book that opens one's eyes to the immensity of Jesus' love for each of us and through all of life's ups and downs He gives us hope and a reason to laugh.

Ian Acheson is an author and strategy consultant based in Sydney. Ian's first novel of speculative fiction, Angelguard, is available in the US, UK, Canada and Australia. Angelguard was recognised with the 2014 Selah Award for Speculative Fiction.You can find more about Angelguard at Ian's website, on his author Facebook page and Twitter