2015 ACFW Carol Award Finalists


Carol_Award_Gold_Here are the finalists for the 2015 Carol Awards (more books to put on your to be read pile). The winners will be announced September 19 during the awards dinner in Dallas at ACFW’s annual conference.

Contemporary:
Last Family Standing by Jennifer AlLee, Abingdon Press, editor Ramona Richards
Lizzy & Jane by Katherine Reay, HarperCollins Christian Publishing, editors Becky Monds, L.B. Norton
The Story Keeper by Lisa Wingate, Tyndale House, editors Sarah Mason, Jan Stob

Historical:
Chateau of Secrets by Melanie Dobson, Howard (Simon & Schuster), editor Beth Adams
Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke, Tyndale House, editors Sarah Mason, Stephanie Broene
What Follows After by Dan Walsh, Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group, editor Andrea Doering

Historical Romance:
For Such a Time by Kate Breslin, Bethany House (Baker) Publishing, editors Raela Schoenherr, Luke Hinrichs
With Every Breath by Elizabeth Camden, Bethany House (Baker) Publishing, editor Raela Schoenherr
While Love Stirs by Lorna Seilstad, Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group, editors Andrea Doering, Jessica English

Mystery/Suspense/Thriller:
Poison Town by Creston Mapes, David C. Cook, editor L.B. Norton
A Way of Escape by Serena B. Miller, independently published, editor Connie Troyer
A Cry from the Dust by Carrie Stuart Parks, HarperCollins Christian Publishing, editors Amanda Bostic, Natalie Hanemann

Novella:
An October Bride by Katie Ganshert, HarperCollins Christian Publishing, editor Becky Philpott
I’ll be Home for Christmas from Where Treetops Glisten by Sarah Sundin, Waterbrook/Multnomah (Random House), editor Shannon Marchese
A Cowboy Unmatched by Karen Witemeyer, Bethany House (Baker) Publishing, editor Karen Schurrer

Romance:
The Wishing Season by Denise Hunter, HarperCollins Christian Publishing, editors Ami McConnell, L.B. Norton
Love Redeemed by Kelly Irvin, Harvest House Publishers, editor Kathleen Kerr
Somebody Like You by Beth K. Vogt, Howard (Simon & Schuster), editor Jessica Wong

Romantic Suspense:
Under a Turquoise Sky by Lisa Carter, Abingdon Press, editor Ramona Richards
No One to Trust by Lynette Eason, Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group, editor Andrea Doering
Deceived by Irene Hannon, Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group, editor Jennifer Leep

Short Novel:
Second Chance Summer by Irene Hannon, Love Inspired (Harlequin), editor Melissa Endlich
Rescuing the Texan’s Heart by Mindy Obenhaus, Love Inspired (Harlequin), editor Melissa Endlich
The Wyoming Heir by Naomi Rawlings, Love Inspired (Harlequin), editor Elizabeth Mazer

Speculative:
Orphan’s Song by Gillian Bronte Adams, Enclave Publishing, editor Steve Laube
A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes, Enclave Publishing, editors Jeff Gerke, Karen Ball
Jupiter Winds by C.J. Darlington, independently published, editor Carol Kurtz Darlington

Young Adult:
This Quiet Sky by Joanne Bischof, independently published, editors Amanda Dykes, Denise Harmer
Samantha Sanderson at the Movies by Robin Caroll, HarperCollins Christian Publishing, editors Kim Childress, Mary Hassinger
Storm Siren by Mary Weber, HarperCollins Christian Publishing, editor Becky Monds

Debut Novel:
Playing Saint by Zachary Bartels, HarperCollins Christian Publishing, editor Amanda Bostic
For Such a Time by Kate Breslin, Bethany House (Baker) Publishing, editors Raela Schoenherr, Luke Hinrichs
The Hesitant Heiress by Dawn Crandall, Whitaker House, editor Courtney Hartzel

Published in: on June 29, 2015 at 12:04 pm  Comments Off on 2015 ACFW Carol Award Finalists  
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The 2015 Clive Staples Award


2014CSA_Small copyI guess this is the day for announcements.

Since its inception I’ve headed up the Clive Staples Award For Christian Speculative Fiction. This year the organization sponsoring the award is taking the lead (yea!)

Today begins the process of picking the best Christian speculative novel published in 2014. All the information you need to know is below, but I want to point out the first item on the timetable: Nominations will be open for only two weeks. In other words, there’s not a lot of time to make a decision or to read the book you’ve heard such good things about. The time is now, people! Now!

OK, do I sound sufficiently exercised? 😉 Hope so. We really do have a great list of nominations so far, and anyone can add books that aren’t on the list yet.

So without more blathering, here’s everything you need to know about this year’s award.

RealmMakerslogo

Realm Makers is excited to promote this year’s Clive Staples Award for Christian Speculative Fiction. We will announce the winner as part of the Realm Makers Awards Dinner on August 7th.

Similar to last year, the final winner will be decided by a panel of judges, so the award becomes a hybrid of “readers’ choice” and panel judging, which combines popularity and critical acclaim in the process. We’re very excited to be able to recognize the book that earns this honor, and therefore, the Faith and Fantasy Alliance is once again committing sponsoring funds to the cash prize that will go to the winner.

The nomination period is upon us and will be conducted via an online poll. If you would like to nominate a book for this award, please read the guidelines below before jumping to the poll.

Nomination qualifications

Eligible books must be all of the following:

  • Containing themes consistent with a Christian worldview, whether implied, symbolic, or overt.
  • Published in English.
  • Published between January 1 and December 31 of the current contest’s year. (For example, for the Clive Staples Award held in 2015, entrants must have been published between, Jan. 1, 2014 and Dec. 31, 2014.)
  • In the science fiction/fantasy/allegory/futuristic/supernatural/supernatural suspense/horror/time travel category, or any sub-genre or mashup of these.

Nomination guidelines

  • Authors, agents, and publishers may not nominate books with which they are affiliated. Likewise, book authors or affiliates may not campaign for votes on behalf of their books. A conservative number of social media posts to make readers aware of the voting process is welcome. The contest committee reserves the right to disqualify any entry if it is determined a book’s affiliates have campaigned for votes.
  • Readers may only nominate books they have actually read.
  • Ebooks and books in hard-copy print are both eligible

Nomination instructions

  • Add between 1 and 3 books you’d like to nominate. Please include the Title, Author, and Publisher (indicate “self-published” if that is the case.)
  • Submit your answers

After the nomination period is over, the award committee will tabulate the votes and declare the semi-finalists.

Readers’ Choice Semi-finalist Voting

Voters will be eligible only if they have read two or more of the books nominated. We want this to be a selection by readers of Christian speculative fiction, not just the fans of particular authors.

Below are standards to consider.

Standards for Clive Staples Award books

  • Quality writing style and mechanics
  • Believable and well-developed world-building
  • Depth of characterization
  • Well-structured, original, and interesting plot
  • Deftness of integration of the worldview into the story’s plot and characterizations

Contest time line:

5-15-15: Reader nomination period begins

5-29-15: Reader nominations close

6-1-15: Semi-Finalists announced; second round of Readers Choice voting begins

6-8-15: Readers Choice voting closes

6-15-15: Finalists announced

7-7-15: Winner announced at the Realm Makers Costumed Awards Dinner, cash prize awarded

Thank you for lending your voice to help us choose the best speculative fiction out there. Spread the word that the contest is open, and good luck to all you authors.

To participate in the nomination process, record your selections (up to three) on this survey: CSA Nomination Survey.

Published in: on May 14, 2015 at 5:25 pm  Comments Off on The 2015 Clive Staples Award  
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Christy Award Finalists


ReadingThe Christy Award finalists were announced today. I know that awards like this can easily leave out some of the best books—they might be independently published or the publisher chose not to invest in submitting a particular novel. All kinds of reasons.

Still, there’s no doubt these books deserve to go on a list of novels readers should consider buying. I mean, first an agent chose to represent the author, then an acquisitions editor took the manuscript to the publishing board, they decided to publish it, a substantive and a copy editor each worked with the author on it, then Christy judges chose it to be included with the other finalists. That’s a lot of people in the writing profession who believed in these books.

So why not consider adding them to your to be read list? I mean, this is the end of April, which means May is just around the corner. And we all know what follows May: SUMMER!!

You need good books during the summer to take with you on that vacation or to read when all your friends are away on vacation.

With all that in mind, here is the list of finalists:

CONTEMPORARY

Farewell, Four Waters by Kate McCord (RiverNorth, an imprint of Moody Publishing)
Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good by Jan Karon (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
The Story Keeper by Lisa Wingate (Tyndale House Publishers)

CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

A Broken Kind of Beautiful by Katie Ganshert (WaterBrook Multnomah)
Firewall by DiAnn Mills (Tyndale House Publishers)
Undetected by Dee Henderson (Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

CONTEMPORARY SERIES

The Amish Blacksmith by Mindy Starns Clark and Susan Meissner (Harvest House Publishers)
Home to Chicory Lane by Deborah Raney (Abingdon Press)
When I Fall in Love by Susan May Warren (Tyndale House Publishers)

FIRST NOVEL

Feast for Thieves by Marcus Brotherton (RiverNorth, an imprint of Moody Publishing)
For Such a Time by Kate Breslin (Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group)
House of Living Stones by Kate Schuermann (Concordia Publishing House)

HISTORICAL

The Advocate by Randy Singer (Tyndale House Publishers)
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (Viking)
The Sentinels of Andersonville by Tracy Groot (Tyndale House Publishers)

HISTORICAL ROMANCE

A Beauty So Rare by Tamera Alexander (Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group)
Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer (WaterBook Multnomah)
With Every Breath by Elizabeth Camden (Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

SUSPENSE

The Color of Justice by Ace Collins (Abingdon Press)
A Cry from the Dust by Carrie Stuart Parks (Thomas Nelson, a division of Harper Collins Christian Publishing)
Sky Zone by Creston Mapes (David C Cook)

VISIONARY [Also known as speculative fiction: fantasy, science fiction, fairy tale, futuristic, etc.]

Once Beyond a Time by Ann Tatlock (Heritage Beacon Fiction)
Shadow Hand by Anne Elisabeth Stengl (Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group)
A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes (Enclave Publishing)

YOUNG ADULT

Failstate: Nemesis by John W. Otte (Enclave Publishing)
This Quiet Sky by Joanne Bischof (Independently Published)
Storm Siren by Mary Weber (Thomas Nelson, a division of Harper Collins Christian Publishing)

Published in: on April 21, 2015 at 6:14 pm  Comments (2)  
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Merlin’s Nightmare – Tour Wrap


Merlin SpiralThis week the CSFF Blog Tour featured Merlin’s Nightmare, book three of the Merlin Spiral by Robert Treskillard. For the group, I think the tour was a huge success. For me individually, not so much. Because of a confluence of events, I was not able to post the last two days, including the last day of the tour. Suffice it to say, my review of Merlin’s Nightmare is forthcoming.

Apart from me, however, the tour carried on in fine fashion. Many participants stopped by other blogs to read and comment. There were also many thoughtful observations along with critical reviews.

The most oft repeated criticism was that the ending of this trilogy was not actually an ending but more nearly an introduction to the next trilogy, the Pendragon Spiral. Not that readers mind more Merlin and Arthur stories from author Robert Treskillard. Rather, it seems some wanted, even expected, more closure.

A couple things surfaced repeatedly in the “this is great” camp. One was the historical connection and the research that went into giving the book and series such an authentic feel. Another was the action that drew readers into the story and kept them turning pages.

I may have missed someone, but I didn’t see a single participant who was disappointed with the book or sorry they’d read it or recommended others not bother with it. Positive consensus like that isn’t easy to come by. Perhaps the fact that these readers, reacting thoughtful with the story and even criticizing aspects of it, nevertheless agreed that this book and series was worthwhile, says more than anything about how good it really is.

In the end, twenty-four bloggers posted thirty-nine articles discussing Merlin’s Nightmare this week. That doesn’t count the article I wrote at Spec Faith or the handful of reviews (my own included) still to be posted.

One of the more interesting posts, I thought, was Megan @ Blooming with Books, Day 2 post examining fealty and its application to today.

A must-read post, from my perspective, is Elizabeth William’s day two post about the fantasy elements of the story. Here is the meat of her article:

First, in this version, Merlin is not the last of the old, but the start of something new – a Christian, united Britain, which breaks down the tribal barriers and becomes a thing larger than the sum of its parts. With his scars, his history, and his harp, Merlin also has the traditional links to the past. But this book is not so much about saving the past as it is ensuring the future.

Secondly – power, magic, and awe belong not just to the druids and the devil-linked deals with demons, but also to the people of God. The miracles of God are less flashy than the “power” displayed by the various antagonists of the ‘bad guys’ – but there is distinct, overt magic there. More importantly, the magic and miracles are shown to be linked to the use of prayer, but not in a directive way.

The difference, as I see it, is thus: Morgana draws in the dark power and stabs at things with her fang. Merlin prays for strength and deliverance. (And God delivers, natch.)

CSFFTopBloggerAug14In the end, despite a number of top notch posts from a number of tour participants, I’m going to award this month’s CSFF Top Tour Blogger Award to Audrey Sauble for her three excellent articles at The Lore Mistress. I especially enjoyed her day three post about how the Merlin Spiral books fit into the Arthurian legends.

If you haven’t taken time to see what tour participants are saying about Merlin’s Nightmare, I hope you do so this weekend. The book is worth your consideration, and you have a wealth of insight at your disposal. Links to the tour articles are available at the end of my day one post.

The Warden And The Wolf King Tour Wrap


WingfeatherSagaWhat an awesome tour CSFF put on for the finale of the Wingfeather Saga, The Warden And The Wolf King by Andrew Peterson. We enjoyed stories of personal interaction with the author, reviews of the earlier books, and a thoughtful look at the twisting of an existing myth about names into something deeper, something born from the Christian worldiew.

In all, twenty bloggers wrote thirty-four articles introducing this middle grade (though some refer to it as young adult) fantasy, and the final book of the series in particular.

I’m happy to announce that we have a winner of the July CSFF Top Tour Blogger Award: Bruce Hennigan. If you haven’t already, you can read all three of Bruce’s excellent articles on his site: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3.

Besides these posts, I encourage you to read Shannon McDermott’s “A Superstition Transformed” dealing with names and myth and an effective twist of the established fantasy trope.

You can also read Keanan Brand’s Day 2 post in which he shares a few passages from The Warden And The Wolf King, illustrative ones if not favorite.

I think there are a number of quotables in this book, but unfortunately I got so caught up in the story that I forgot to write them down. Here’s one, though, and a good one, too:

The set up: Armuly the Bard is talking to Sara Cooper who thinks “all this talk” about the Shining Isle of Anniera is wishful thinking.

“I’m sorry, but the Shining Isle is a long way from here.” Sarah looked down. “So is Janner.”

“That doesn’t mean it isn’t true. The Shining Isle exists as surely as the floor you’re standing on. It may be hard to believe, but it’s real, I tell you. Sometimes in the middle of the night, the sun can seem like it was only ever a dream. We need something to remind us that it still exists, even if we can’t see it. We need something beautiful hanging in the dark sky to remind us there is such a thing as daylight. Sometimes, Queen Sara”—Armulyn strummed his whistleharp—“music is the moon.”

I think Christians can be the moon, too. So go out and be the moon to someone today. 😉

Published in: on July 25, 2014 at 6:15 pm  Comments Off on The Warden And The Wolf King Tour Wrap  
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2014 Christy Awards


ChristyAwardLogo[1]

Congratulations to the winners of the 2014 Christy Awards, announced yesterday at the awards dinner held at the International Christian Retail Show.

* Book of the Year: Burning Sky by Lori Benton (WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group)

* Contemporary: Stones for Bread by Christa Parrish (Thomas Nelson, a division of Harper Collins Christian
Publishing)

* Contemporary Romance/Suspense: Dangerous Passage by Lisa Harris (Revell, a division of Baker Publishing
Group)

* Contemporary Series: Take a Chance on Me by Susan May Warren (Tyndale House Publishers)

* First Novel: Burning Sky by Lori Benton (WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group)

* Historical: Burning Sky by Lori Benton (WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group)

* Historical Romance: Harvest of Gold by Tessa Afshar (River North, an imprint of Moody Publishing)

* Suspense: Outlaw by Ted Dekker (FaithWords, a division of Hachette Book Group)

* Visionary: Dragonwitch by Anne Elisabeth Stengl (Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing
Group)

* Christy Award Hall of Fame Inductee: Davis Bunn (4 Christys)

My Thoughts
Before I heard about Lori Benton’s struggle with cancer, I thought her novel Burning Sky had to be strong to win the first novel award, the historical award, and book of the year. What an amazing trifecta. Add in the poignant element of her personal struggle, and I so want to read this book!

The finalists in the visionary category received some awesome comments from the judges.

Numb by John Otte:

    “Otte seriously launched himself onto my list of favorite authors. His stories are deep, thought provoking, fast paced and fun.”

A Cast of Stones by Patrick Carr:

    “With complex, authentic characters, a fascinating plot, a moving redemption story, Cast of Stones was the standout of the year.”

Dragonwitch by Anne Elisabeth Stengl, this year’s winner:

    “Very few books compel me to stop midway through and track down and buy the author’s backlist. Dragonwitch did.”

I found it ironic that the keynote speaker, Marcia Nelson associate religion editor at Publishers Weekly, said, as part of her alphabetical rundown of the industry, “C…..children…YA fiction is VERY hot.” Why ironic? Because there was no YA category at the Christys this year.

When will the Christian publishing industry go all in and really try to sell children’s books? Or at least YA?

And here’s another thought: is it good policy for ACFW to announce their finalists on the day that the Christys announce their winners? It seems like one or the other will get watered down.

Finally, I really get a kick out of “attending” the awards dinner via live blog. It’s done very professionally, complete with pictures. Highly recommend!

Published in: on June 24, 2014 at 6:50 pm  Comments (1)  
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Fantasy Friday: The Realm Makers Conference


RealmMakerslogo

Today the second annual Realm Makers Conference got underway, a symposium specifically for people of faith who are interested in speculative fiction. I wish I were there. Starting with the talented author Tosca Lee as the Keynote Speaker, the lineup of presenters is impressive and the courses they’re offering, intriguing.

Here’s a look at the schedule:

Thursday, May 29
3:00 pm-On Campus housing check in available
8:30 pm-10:30 pm – (Early Bird Event) Flash Critique Party sponsored by Splickety Magazine

Friday, May 30
Breakfast
8:00 am – Conference Check-In
9:00 am – Opening Keynote with Tosca Lee
10:00 am-12:00 noon – Class Sessions
12:00 noon-1:30 pm – Lunch
1:30 pm-5:00 pm – Class sessions
7:00 pm-9:30 pm – Awards Dinner

Saturday, May 31
Breakfast
9:00 am-12:00 noon – Class Sessions
12:00 noon to 1:30 – Lunch
1:30 pm-4:00 pm – Class Sessions
4:00 pm – Closing Keynote with Tosca Lee
5:30 pm – Dinner
7:00 pm-9:00 pm – Multi-Author Book Signing Featuring Tosca Lee (open to the public)

2014CSA_Small copyDid I mention that at the awards dinner, Realm Maker founder Becky Minor will present the winner of the 2014 Clive Staples Award. Should be very cool.

Wish I could be there. *Or did I already say that? 😉

Here is the information about the presenters:

Tosca Lee
Keynote speaker

Tosca is NY Times Bestselling author of Demon: A Memoir; Havah: The Story of Eve; Iscariot; and The Book of Mortals series with NY Times bestselling author Ted Dekker. She’s best known for her exploration of maligned characters.

Steve Laube

Mr. Laube, president and founder of The Steve Laube Agency as well as the new owner of Marcher Lord Press, is a 33 year veteran of the bookselling industry. After running an award-winning bookstore in Phoenix, he spent 11 years with Bethany House Publishers, rising to the position of editorial director. in 2002, he was named the AWSA Golden Scroll Editor of the Year. The next year he become a literary agent and formed The Steve Laube Agency. In 2009, he was named the ACFW Agent of the Year.

Steve is a long-time advocate of Christian Speculative Fiction. He’ll be teaching two sessions as well as taking manuscript pitches at the conference. I hope you are as excited as we are to have him lend his amazing expertise to our attendees.

LB Graham

Mr. Graham joins us for a second year at Realm Makers, offering an encore presentation of his powerful class on Worldview in Speculative Fiction as well as a second course the characters we love to hate: Villians. LB will unravel the mystery of when it’s actually OK to have a two-dimensional villain vs. when they need to be more fully-realized, explain why we (and our heroes) need bad guys, and discuss why evil is attractive, even though that attractiveness is a lie. He’ll also delve into how to keep our portrayals of evil age-appropriate and how to avoid glorifying evil while admitting it’s sometimes fun to write.

LB has published eight novels with a ninth on the way, and had eighteen years of teaching experience. According to Realm Makers:2013 attendees, LB “owns the classroom,” and you will be challenged and encouraged by the content he presents.

Torry Martin

Mr. Martin teaches at conferences across the country, and his personality and presentations are both hilarious and packed with take-away. He’ll be presenting content on the ins and outs of networking, including a spiritual perspective on effective network-building. Torry’s second class will offer attendees wisdom, drawn from Torry’s own career, on how to swim with industry sharks without becoming one yourself. Too valuable to miss for writers at any stage of their career!

Jeff Gerke

Mr. Gerke served as our keynote speaker for Realm Makers: 2013, and we’re excited to have him back in attendance, this year in his preferred role as session teacher. Jeff will be presenting content on the craft of fiction writing, though his exact presentation content is still coming into focus. For anyone who’s ever sat in one of Jeff’s classes, you know he teaches at warp speed, and his takeaway is at once challenging and brimming with encouragement. Jeff has written novels under the pen name Jefferson Scott, worked all over the publishing industry in an editorial capacity, edits on a freelance basis, and has written multiple books on the craft of writing. He is the founder of Marcher Lord Press, and continues to advocate for, teach, and build up Christian writers of speculative fiction with his constant contributions to the geek community.

Jeff’s classes:

Class 1: The So-Called Rules of So-Called Fiction and What to So-Called Do with Them–Jeff’s newest book for Writer’s Digest covers the conflicting “rules” of fiction put out by teachers of craft, rules that can leave writers feeling paralyzed and frustrated. Come hear his solution.

Class 2: The One Rule: Engaging Your Reader–Jeff debunks the so-called rules of fiction and swaps them all out for One Rule to Ring The All (er, or something.) Come here Jeff explain what the one rule is, and how to make it happen.

Kat Heckenbach

Ms. Heckenbach participated as a loved panelist at Realm Makers: 2013, and is back this year to teach one solo session and to team-teach another. Her solo session, “Writing in YA mode” will explore how writing for young adults is not the same as simplifying fiction for adults. The major point of the session will emphasize that meeting teens where they are does not mean dumbing down a stories language or content. She’ll also explain the difference between writing “teen fiction” and writing adult fiction that is safe for teens. Kat Heckenbach is the author of Finding Angel and Seeking Unseen, YA fantasy that incorporates satisfying scientific principles. She has published countless short works as well, in anthologies ranging anywhere from Chicken Soup for the Soul to horror. Attendees will benefit from Kat’s dry wit and extraordinary literary range.

Andrew Winch

Mr. Winch joins us once again to offer an encore presentation of his 2013 class on writing flash fiction that sells, a class that will offer attendees the opportunity to enter into a Splickety Magazine-sponsored flash fiction contest. He will also be team-teaching with Kat Heckenbach a session that explores ways to connect scientific reality with fantasy to build believable and consistent story worlds. This team session promises to offer an excellent toolkit to either get you started or bolster any writer in their world building. Andrew is the senior editor of Splickety Magazine, Splickety Love, and Havok. His training as a physical therapist gives him expert knowledge in the science of the human body, and he finds no shortage of ways to utilize that knowledge in his own writing endeavors.

Randy Streu

Mr. Streu, a member of the very popular horror panel at Realm Makers: 2013, joins us once again, this time to teach a full, solo session on “the Ins and Outs of Christian Horror.” The class will feature an examination and critique of modern secular and “sacred” horror in literature and film against classic horror. We will explore the question of what makes horror, horror, while critiquing modern expectations of the genre, such as sex and gore. Finally, the class will look at Christian horror from a publishing perspective, specifically writing well within the genre without breaking trust with Christian readers–or with God. Randy is the administrator and lead writer for A Flame in the Dark, the premier Christian horror blog on the web. He’s also is the co-founder, director, and developmental editor for Diminished Media Group.

Travis Perry

Mr. Perry joined us in 2013 as a contributor to the discussion of Splashdown Books’s Avenir Eclectia, and this year will draw upon his experience as an Army Reserve Officer to teach about the real toll of mortal danger in fiction. Travis deployed five times into combat zones, once as a medical specialist and served over ten years as a combat medic. His real-world experience with warfare and his established body of work in speculative fiction make him an ideal candidate to keep the rest of us straight when we write about the physiology or psychology of wounding and danger.

Kristen Stieffel

Ms. Stieffel is also a returning presenter at Realm Makers:2013. This year, she’ll explore how the work of Mark Okrand and JRR Tolkien can help us give distinct languages to the people groups in our storyworlds. She’ll unpack how studying real languages other than English can provide inspiration for our fiction. Kristen is a writer and writing coach, helping writers polish and non-writers write. Kristen is a member of Christian Editor Network and the Editorial Freelancers Association. Her fantasy novel Alara’s Call is under contract with OakTara, along with three additional books in the Prophet’s Chronicle series.

Gary Kwapisz

Mr. Kwapisz joins us as a new faculty member in 2014 to discuss the detailed process of taking a graphic novel from idea to print. His session will cover the current realities of the marketplace and the differences writers and artists encounter if they traditionally publish vs. taking the self-publishing route. Gary has a passion to encourage Christians to re-engage the popular culture and help infuse the general market with values-based content. Gary offers a wealth of industry experience, having worked as a professional artist for virtually every publisher in the comics industry, from 1980 to the mid 90’s. (Just Google him—you’ll be amazed.) He’s drawn characters as diverse as Conan, Batman and Harvey Pekar. Even if you don’t necessarily intend to delve into the world of graphic novels, Gary’s breadth of skills and depth of experience will offer Realm Makers attendees encouragement, wisdom, and a dose of reality not to be missed.

Avily Jerome

Ms. Jerome joined us in 2013, primarily as a “Splicketeer,” but has much to offer in her own right. This year, she will present content of supernatural elements in real-world settings. As an author of books that incorporate fantasy and supernatural elements into a real world setting and as the editor of Havok, a speculative fiction magazine, Avily’s perspective is unique and will be beneficial to writers who are also interested in this type of world.

Lisa Walker England

Ms England is an author of far-flung steampunk and fantasy adventures as well as a branding expert, and we are thrilled to have her joining us at this year’s Realm Makers conference. Lisa will bring her expertise gleaned from writing anything from serial fiction to sequential stories (think graphic novels and films) and share them with us in her session, which will explore the ins and outs of the steampunk genre.

So it’s too late for this year, but why not make plans to attend Realm Makers next year? I’m hoping I can!

Published in: on May 30, 2014 at 7:08 pm  Comments Off on Fantasy Friday: The Realm Makers Conference  
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CSFF Blog Tour – A Draw Of Kings, Day 2


The Staff & The Sword trilogy covers I don’t think there’s any secret to the fact that I’m partial to epic fantasy. I mean, that’s my genre. I have my own epic fantasy, complete with character lists and maps, I might add, which I hope to publish some day. How excited, then, have I been this past year to see the popularity of Patrick Carr‘s series, The Staff & The Sword, increase. I mean, that’s the way an author dreams of having a series go. Publishers, too, I would guess.

Of course, I’m not privy to the sales for Carr’s series. I am only judging by the enthusiasm and the growing number of reviews. I’m used to seeing that number drop off as a series goes along. Not so with A Draw of Kings, the finale of this well-told story. Consider the fact that this book has been out for a little over a month and already has 71 Amazon reviews and 98 ratings on Goodreads, and I think you get a picture of the buzz this trilogy is creating.

That makes me happy as a reader and as a writer. I love getting lost in another world, and Patrick Carr did a good job creating a different place which had its own rules and alliances and enemies and power structures and supernatural connections.

Is the success of this trilogy a first step toward more epic fantasy?

I’d love to say, yes, definitely. But what I think it is actually a first step toward is readers wanting good stories.

In the end, I want good stories, more than I want epic fantasy. If I were given the choice between a poorly written epic fantasy and a well-told dystopian or fairytale or supernatural or contemporary, I’d pick the latter every time. I don’t think I’m unusual in this.

Yes, I have a favorite genre, but I’m not an exclusive reader. I don’t read solely in the speculative category, let alone in the epic fantasy niche. I like good stories, first and foremost.

So when I see a series like The Staff & The Sword get a lot of attention, I’m not thinking, Finally, people are discovering Christian epic fantasy. Rather, I’m thinking, Yea, an author has done Christian epic fantasy so well, fans are gathering to it.

Hopefully they will enjoy these books so much, they’ll be willing to try other speculative stories that might move them out of their comfort zone–books like R. J. Larson’s epic fantasy trilogy or Jill Williamson’s dystopian Safe Lands series or Shannon Dittemore’s Angel Eyes supernatural trilogy or Robert Treskillard’s Arthurian series, The Merlin Spiral.

Really, there are such good books out there right now. It’s a great time to be a reader who enjoys Christian speculative fiction, that’s for sure.

My advice is to hop on the bandwagon and pick up one of the Clive Staples Award 2014 nominations for your next good book. The fact that there are Christian themes engrained in the stories makes the reading experience deeper.

Poorly executed themes, no matter what the message, turn a good story sour. One of the great things about each of the CSA nomination I’ve read is that themes are handled appropriately–as a natural outgrowth of who the characters are and what is happening in the plot. There’s no, “Time out for a word from our sponsor” telling of the Christian message.

For those who have read at least two of the CSA nominations, I trust you have voted for the finalists or are planning to do so. You have until a week from today.

In the end, then, I think Patrick Carr and The Staff & The Sword trilogy are part of the rising tide of Christian speculative fantasy.

How well did A Draw of Kings do in closing out the story? I’ll give my thoughts on that tomorrow. For now, I suggest you see what others on the CSFF tour are saying. You can find the list of participants and links to their articles at the end of my intro post.

CSFF Blog Tour – A Draw Of Kings


A-Draw-of-Kings-cover
A Draw Of Kings by Patrick Carr is the concluding book of The Staff & The Sword trilogy. CSFF Blog Tour has been privileged to feature the previous two books as well, so it’s fitting that we follow this epic fantasy to its conclusion.

Speaking of the previous two books, both A Cast Of Stones and The Hero’s Lot have been nominated for the Clive Staples Award for Christian Speculative Fiction. Voting started today for the three finalists. Voters must have read at least two of the nominations.

So it seems fortuitous that CSFF is featuring the third Staff & Sword book this week.

I’m eager to see what others touring this book think of this action-packed ending. Here is the list of those who will be posting.

Fantasy Friday – Clive Staples Award Nominations


2014 CSA Nominations cover collageYou may already know about the Clive Staples Award. At the end of February, readers nominated the books which they believe to be the best of royalty-paying Christian speculative fiction which released in 2013. Last week we wrapped up those nominations, and starting March 17 we’ll vote for the finalists.

In the meantime, you have the opportunity to learn about the nominations. My hope is two fold.

First, I’d like to see you discover books you hadn’t heard of before and that you might like to read.

Second, I hope that you’ll read at least two of the nominations before March 17 so that you’ll be eligible to vote.

Most of the time, a title on a list is not enough to go by to help decide if you’d like to read a book. Consequently, the CSA team is introducing the novels by posting the genre of the book; its description; excerpts from online or print comments; links to reviews, interviews, an excerpt if available, a book trailer if available, and any other pertinent information we find; links to places where you can purchase the book; and formats available other than print.

To be sure that you don’t miss these introductions, you might like to subscribe to the Clive Staples Award site. These articles should also post to the Spec Faith Facebook page, so you can look for them there.

Here are the fist three you may have missed. Enjoy!

– – – – –

Storm by Evan Angler

StormGenre
Middle grade dystopian fantasy, book three of the Swipe series.

Description
Now the unlikely leader of the Markless revolution, Logan Langly is fighting for much more than he’d ever imagined. With the threat of a chemically manufactured plague that could kill millions and a drought that is nearing critical mass, someone has to step in. But when an old friend appears with a special mission for him, it is no longer clear who Logan can trust.

And with the weather becoming more and more unstable, a storm is coming that will put everything Logan and the Markless have worked for at risk…

What Others Are Saying
“This is a great book. It moves at a very fast pace, and shows a number of things, but most of all friendship… If you read this book, make sure to tell someone else about it, because, like me, you’ll find you will love this book.—Tyler L., age 12.”
School Library Journal, Book Reviews by Young Adults

Storm by Evan Angler delivered everything I was anticipating– and more! Throughout the entire novel there was non-stop action and intrigue.” –Christian Book Review Blog

Learn More
Excerpt
Interview
Reviews
Trailer

Obtain a copy
Thomas Nelson
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
IndieBound
Request a copy at a bookstore near you or ask your local library to order a copy. (ISBN# 1400321972)

Other formats
Kindle
Audible Edition, Unabridged

– – – – –

Son of Truth by Morgan L. Busse

Son-of-Truth-Front-Cover

Genre
Epic fantasy

Description
Can a killer find forgiveness?

Son of Truth is the second in the Follower of the Word series. Book one is Daughter of Light.

The war in the north is over, but the war for all the Lands has just begun. As the Shadonae solidify their hold on the city of Thyra, Rowen Mar, the last Eldaran and savior of the White City, awakens to find herself hunted by those she has saved.

Meanwhile, the assassin Caleb Tala finds himself in the presence of the Word. The time of reckoning has come, and he must pay the price for all the lives he has taken. But in his moment of judgment, Caleb is given a second chance to change his life.

These two hold the power to save the Lands from the Shadonae. One must escape slavery, and one must choose to forsake everything before the world is consumed in darkness.

What others are saying
“This series might be read by an unbeliever and seen as pure fantasy. But to the Christian, the theme of God’s love is very clear.”— B. Gill, Amazon reviewer

“Son of Truth is a great follow up to the Daughter of Light. We’re taken on an even wilder journey as Rowen discovers the truth about Thyra and what she must do in order to save the Lands, and when Caleb awakens after meeting the Word, we see just how much he has changed – and for the better.”—E. Barnes, Amazon reviewer

Learn more
Excerpt at Amazon
Interview
Review

Obtain a copy
Marcher Lord Press
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Request a copy at a bookstore near you or ask your local library to order a copy (ISBN-13: 978-1935929918).

Other formats
Kindle
Nook

– – – – –

A Cast of Stones by Patrick W. Carr

A-Cast-of-Stones

Genre
adult / young adult epic medieval adventure fantasy
The Staff and the Sword (Book 1)

Description
The Fate of the Kingdom Awaits the Cast of Stones

In the backwater village of Callowford, Errol Stone’s search for a drink is interrupted by a church messenger who arrives with urgent missives for the hermit priest in the hills. Desperate for coin, Errol volunteers to deliver them but soon finds himself hunted by deadly assassins. Forced to flee with the priest and a small band of travelers, Errol soon learns he’s joined a quest that could change the fate of his kingdom.

Protected for millennia by the heirs of the first king, the kingdom’s dynasty is near an end and a new king must be selected. As tension and danger mount, Errol must leave behind his drunkenness and grief, learn to fight, and come to know his God in order to survive a journey to discover his destiny.

What others are saying
“Carr’s debut, the first in a series, is assured and up-tempo, with much to enjoy in characterization and description–not least the homely, life-as-lived details.” Publishers Weekly

“This fast-paced fantasy debut set in a medieval world is a winner. Both main and secondary characters are fully drawn and endearing, and Errol’s transformation from drunkard to hero is well plotted. Carr is a promising CF author to watch. Fans of epic Christian fantasies will enjoy discovering a new voice.” Library Journal

“[Good fantasy books] have to be excellent. Good storytelling and exceptional characters with circumstances that are easy enough to follow and wrap your brain around but keep you entertained and guessing… Cast of Stones has found itself firmly in that list of books. I absolutely, one hundred percent loved this book.” Radiant Lit

“Patrick Carr makes his debut with an epic fantasy that will engage readers as they venture into the world Carr creates, one on the brink of destruction where adventure awaits a reluctant hero…[The] novel is filled with strong characters and a tightly-woven plot.” Christian Library Journal

Learn more
Excerpt at Barnes & Noble
Author bio
Interview (w/Brock Eastman)
Interview (w/Finding Hope Through Fiction)
The Staff and the Sword series

Obtain a copy
Baker Publishing Group
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Christianbook.com

Other Formats
Kindle
Nook

Published in: on March 7, 2014 at 5:48 pm  Comments (5)  
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