Grace Awards

Expanding the Tent Pegs of Christian Fiction

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NOVEMBER SPOTLIGHT day two: Elaine Marie Cooper

                                            Country Girl in the Suburbs

                                                             by Elaine Marie Cooper

Elaine Cooper, Horse

While I have resided in the suburbs through most of my lifetime, my heart has always felt more at home in the countryside.

From the time I was a little girl, I would stare in wonder at open fields that beckoned to me while we drove by in our car. If I were lucky enough to have my parents stop, I would burst out of the car door and run to my heart’s content. I remember Mom always calling me her “country girl.”

One day, when bicycling around the suburbs in Massachusetts where I grew up, I made a thrilling discovery: An old farm horse that lived in an open-air stall with a roof for protection. I had found a remnant of country life, right in my neighborhood! The mElaine Marie Cooper, farmlandan who owned her told me her name was “Babe” and every day that I could, I pedaled over to visit my equine friend, carrying sweet offerings of sugar cubes and carrots. We were good friends, or so I imagined. She left such an impression on me that I named a horse in my second novel (The Promise of Deer Run) after this childhood pal.

I never outgrew my love for the country. Even years later, farmland and the site of animals helps me feel at peace with the world. I love the quiet, and the endless green of summer and white expanse in winter. I love the smell of horses and the gentle nuzzle of a sweet gelding content to greet me, even if I don’t bring any treats. I have to enjoy these pleasures vicariously through a friend’s country retreat and animals. It always brings moments of fulfilling contentment—even if just for a short time.

Elaine Cooper, Birthplace

Is the love of the country in one’s blood? Perhaps it is. In researching the life of my third great grandfather who lived in Western Massachusetts, I discovered newspaper articles about the livestock he showed at local county fairs. He even raised horses. My country heart swells with familial joy at that knowledge. J

Elaine Cooper, cemetery

This grandfather, Daniel Prince Jr, is the inspiration for the protagonist in The Legacy of Deer Run. Just like the character in my book (Daniel Lowe, Jr), my real grandfather worked at the National Armory in Springfield for many years to support his large family. But he purchased farmland and raised livestock and lived on his land until he died at the age of 92. And he apparently loved horses, just like his great, great, great granddaughter.

When I travel back to West Springfield, where he lived and died, I place flowers upon his grave and that of his wife, Sarah, my third great grandmother. I think of how wonderful it must have been for their children to run to their heart’s content on the farm. Now that same land has become a developed city of houses. It is now a crowded suburb, just like where I grew up.

Legacy of Deer Run, Nex Gen Indie

Grace Filled 12-Days of Christmas Book Blitz

Xmas, Bethlehem Star

Twenty-two authors, determined to enjoy the Christmas holiday to the max, are embarking on a GRACE FILLED 12-DAYS OF CHRISTMAS BOOK BLITZ. December 26th – January 6th.

These are the 22 authors of the Grace Filled Christmas Blog Tour, sponsored by the Grace Awards. And you bet, these writers most assuredly see the connection between Christmas and grace. ~~ At any rate, each author will share a few witty, tantalizing, exciting, scintillating, devastatingly charming, stop-you-in-your-tracks lines from their novels on each day of the 12-Days of Christmas. What fun! 

Keep an eye out on Facebook, Google+, Goodreads, Shoutlife, and all Ning sites for a blitz of  FABULOSO short excerpts from their novels.

Look For :  Nike Chillemi ~~ Shaunna Gonzales ~~ Naomi Musch ~~ Elaine Marie Cooper ~~ Meg Moseley ~~ Sharon Leaf ~~  Tracy Krauss ~~ Suzanne Williams ~~ Amanda Stephan ~~ Barbara E. Brink ~~ William D. Burt  ~~ Tammy Doherty ~~ Christina Freeburn ~~ BJ Robinson ~~ Carole Towriss ~~ Jean Thompson Kinsey ~~ Karin Kaufman ~~ Katie Gansher ~~ Mikayla Kayne

Xmas, Three Wise Men 3

Many people think the 12-Days of Christmas precede December 25th, the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus. This is not true.

The 12-Days of Christmas begin on December 26th and end on January 6th with is the Feast of Epiphany, or Three Kings Day. Epiphany symbolizes the end of the journey of the caravan of Wise Men or Kings…ending when they found the Baby Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem.

Xmas, Pear Tree

Of course we all know the Christmas song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” which tells the story of the birth of Jesus in a kind of code that chronicles the journey of the Wise Men who followed the star to Bethlehem.

Henry VIII of England was desperate to have born to him a male heir. He married Catherine of Aragon, who was the widow of his older brother who died of the “sweating sickness.” When she miscarried four times he was sure God was punishing him for marrying his brother’s wife. The Pope (who was being held captive by Charles V of Spain, a Catholic) could not annul the marriage as Catherine was Spanish and it would not be in the best interests of Spain. Henry began a secret relationship with Anne Boleyn and severed England’s church relationship with Rome. He then obtained a decree of nullity from the Archbishop of Canterbury and married Anne Boleyn. At this time Henry’s Protestant Church in England began persecuting Catholics and prohibiting them from practicing their religion. The lyrics to “The 12-Days of Christmas” were devised as a way for Catholics to pass down the tenants, rituals, and teachings of their religion.

Lyrics to “The Twelve Days of Christmas”

  •  The First Day of Christmas – A Partridge in a Pear Tree – This symbolizes Jesus Christ, the son of God and Savior to the Christian world.
  • The Second Day of Christmas - Two Turtle Doves – This represents the Old and New Testaments, the two books that comprise the Holy Bible.
  • The Third Day of Christmas - Three French Hens - The theological Virtues are Faith, Hope, and Charity.
  • The Fourth Day of Christmas – Four Calling Birds - The four Gospels and their writers, Matthew, Mark,  Luke, and John.
  • The Fifth Day of Christmas - Five Golden Rings - The first five books of the Old Testament, known as the Pentatuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
  • The Sixth Day of Christmas - Six Geese A-Laying - In Genesis, the creation story takes six days to create the world.
  • The Seventh Day of Christmas - Seven Swans A-Swimming - The seven sacraments of the Catholic faith: baptism, communion, reconciliation (the idea that sins are forgiven once you confess and repent), confirmation, marriage, ordination, and the ritual of last rights.
  • The Eighth Day of Christmas - Eight Maids A-Milking - The eight Beatitudes, which can be found in the passage of the Bible that talks about the Sermon on the Mount. Condensed, they are:  Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are the meek, blessed are they who mourn, blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice, blessed are the merciful, blessed are the clean of heart, blessed are the peacemakers, and blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’s sake.
  • The Ninth Day of Christmas – Nine Ladies Dancing -  The nine fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
  • The Tenth Day of Christmas - Ten Lords A-Leaping -  The Ten Commandments, brought down by Moses and passed down as Catholic law.
  • The Eleventh Day of Christmas - Eleven Pipers Piping – The eleven faithful apostles: Peter, James, John, Andrew, Phillip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James, Jude, and Simon  (Judas is excluded due to his betrayal of Christ)
  • The Twelfth Day of Christmas - Twelve Drummers Drumming -  The doctrine of the Apostle’s Creed: I belive in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. (The Catechism of the Catholic Church)

Xmas, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Two Write Southern Fic, One Biblical, All Share Their Love of Christmas

Nativity

Twenty-two talented authors are participating in the Grace Filled Christmas Blog Tour, sponsored by the Grace Awards. These writers have a great love for Christmas and would like to share with the public their thoughts about what inspires them and their Christmas memories.Xmas, Bow Border

BJ ROBINSON (WHISPERING CYPRESS, SOUTHERN SUPERSTITIONS, ONE RAINY SUMMER, romantic suspense chock full of southern charm)

Grace Awards:  Have you ever had to handle a significant loss during the holidays? How did you cope?

BJ:  Before I was even old enough to read, Momma had me hooked on fairytales. She bought a new one for me each month out of the small social-security check she received after my father’s death. She would rock me to sleep reading my favorite fairytales each night. I loved The Glass Mountain, Cinderella, and Snow White. I was only four years old when my father died one cold Christmas Day in a charity hospital. Four years earlier, I had been born in a charity hospital in New Orleans, Louisiana. We never had much, but I had not yet realized that. To me, before Daddy died, we had everything. The last memory of my father before the Christmas he died runs through my mind often. One sunny day daddy and I strolled down Pine Street on our way to the grocery. As we passed Richardson’s Hardware, my eyes caught a little pink wringer-type washing machine in the showcase window. I tugged at dad’s jacket and pointed, “Look, Daddy! It’s a little pink washing machine just like Momma’s big machine. Oh, Daddy, can I get it to wash my doll’s clothes? It’s so cute. It looks just like Momma’s big white washer.” He told me, “Not today, but who knows, Christmas is right around the corner and perhaps Santa heard you.” I remember wishing Christmas would hurry up and come, not realizing that with it, my father would be lost to me forever. I grew up watching all the other children I knew with their fathers and yearning for mine. It was many years later before I realized I still had a heavenly Father, and He would never leave me alone. The first time I had to handle a significant loss during the holidays was the loss of my father as a child. As an adult, I didn’t lose my mother and youngest sister at Christmas, but I lost them both a mere six years apart and Christmas has never been the same without them.

Grace Awards:  Tell us about your fondest Christmas memory?

BJ:  One of my fondest memories centers around a Christmas my husband and I traveled to Louisiana and stayed in our camper in my daughter’s front yard. I had all my children together for Christmas that year, and it was such fun. My husband shot fireworks, my son fried a turkey, and my daughter made dressing and all the trimmings. It will be a memory forever etched in my heart when I remember a favorite family Christmas. It wasn’t the presents, but the people that made it so special. I thank God for those sweet, precious memories.  I just want to add that I’m thrilled to be a part of this fabulous showcase of twenty-five talented authors, ones I love to read myself. I want to wish a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all my readers, Facebook friends, and family. As we remember the reason for the season, may God bless you and yours with a heart-warming, safe holiday season.Xmas, tree decorations

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BJis a multi-published, prize-winning author who writes from Florida where she lives with her husband, two dogs, and a cat. She has authored four novels as well as numerous poems, short stories, essays, and devotionals. She is blessed with children and grandchildren, and Jesus is her best friend. http://barbarajrobinson.blogspot.com.

Link to BJ’s showcase in the Grace Filled Christmas Blog Tour. Check out southern suspense with more twists and turns than you can shake a stick at.  http://tiny.cc/r805ow

Xmas, Poinsietta Ball

CAROLE TOWRISS (SHADOW OF SINAI, hope amidst despair, trust in the face of terror, and a love that binds)

Grace Awards:  Tell us about your fondest Christmas memory?

Carole:  My oldest daughter was born on Christmas Eve. The year before we had lost a baby on Christmas Eve after just a couple weeks. We’d been trying for eight years. That was quite a wallop, and a difficult holiday. For a few days I wasn’t even sure I could hold onto my faith. But Emma Noelle came three weeks early to be born exactly one year later. At the candlelight service they announced she’d been born at noon and everyone cheered because they’d all been praying for so many years. We took her home on Christmas Day. They even gave us a baby-sized stocking. She is a living, breathing reminder of God’s faithfulness, and the best Christmas present I ever had! She’ll be nineteen this year and is studying for a BFA in photography.

Grace Awards:  What is your favorite Christmas carol and why? Do you have a favorite performing artist who sings that song?

Carole:  “O Holy Night.” It’s my absolute favorite by far it because it embodies the real meaning, the purpose of Christmas. “It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth. Fall on your knees!” Without Christmas, there is nothing else—no life, no salvation, no redemption, no forgiveness, nothing. No Easter! I listen to it over and over all during the season until my kids get really annoyed! I love it by any singer—I have ten different versions on my iPhone. That being said, my favorite is Gary Chapman’s.Xmas, Stocking

Carole Towriss

Bio: Carole Towriss grew up in beautiful San Diego, California. Now she and her husband live just north of Washington, DC. In between making tacos and telling her four children to pick up their shoes for the third time, she reads, writes, watches chick flicks and waits for summertime to return to the beach. www.caroletowriss.com

Link to Carole’s showcase on the Grace Filled Blog Tour. You might think you know the story of the Exodus, but you might be surprised. http://caroletowriss.com/welcome-to-the-grace-filled-christmas-blog-tour/Xmas, Angel 2

JEAN THOMPSON KINSET (SECRETS OF WILLOW SHADE, THE LIGHT KEEPER’S DAUGHTER, whether it’s a contemporary or historical novel, it’s the warmth of family in rural Kentucky)

Grace Awards:  Tell us about your fondest Christmas memory?

Jean:  One of my fondest memories dates back to 1946, when I was six-years-old. Traditionally, we received a gift from Momma and Daddy separately from Santa. Living in the country, as we did, it was a real treat to go to the movies and buy that wonderful, delicious, buttered popcorn. So when Momma asked what I wanted from her for Christmas, I said, “All the movie popcorn I can eat.” Daddy insisted day-old popcorn was not what I really wanted for Christmas. Maybe a pretty doll would be better. Christmas morning, after Santa’s gifts were opened, Daddy said excitedly, “Here’s my gift.” The tobacco crop had been good that year, and he could afford a nice present. Then Momma calmly said, “Here’s mine.” You should have seen my daddy’s long face when I sped past a big beautiful, curly-haired, baby doll to dig into Momma’s humongous bag of cold, buttered, movie popcorn. That was the best popcorn I ever tasted, especially at the break of dawn on Christmas morning. Sometimes I think back to those days and wonder why I ask for so much today, when it took so little to satisfy me then.

Grace Awards: What does keeping the true spirit of Christmas alive mean to you?

Jean:  When I hear bells jingling, my spirits soar at this joyous season. When accepting a nicely wrapped package, I am aware of the Ultimate Gift I’ve already received. The pretty, twinkling lights remind me of the star that led the wise men to Jesus. Christmas carols make me think of the angels heralding the news of the King. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”( Luke 2:14 kjv) I cannot do away with the commercialism, the greed and the coveting that surround us during this holy season, but I keep the true spirit of Christmas in my heart when I allocate His love to others. When I help someone in need, I share God’s generous spirit. Sometimes a smile might be all that’s required. Other times I may have to dig deeper and give generously. By sharing Christ Jesus, I keep His spirit alive throughout this hallowed time of year. I sincerely wish everyone a “Merry Christmas.”Xmas, Gifts

Jean Thompson Kinsey

Jean Thompson Kinsey lived in rural Kentucky until she married in 1960. She has lived near Louisville, KY since then. Jean loves to travel. She and her husband, Glen, explored the back roads of many states of the U.S. and Canada in their motorhome until she was widowed in 2005, at which time she expanded her hobby of writing. Jean teaches adult Sunday school at her church. She is the mother of three, the grandmother of seven and great-grandmother of two. http://kystorywriter.blogspot.com/

Link to Jean’s showcase in the Grace Awards Christmas Blog Tour. Find real life in rural Kentucky on display in a sweet-tender way. http://kystorywriter.blogspot.com/2012/08/grace-filled-christmas-tour.html

Xmas, Inside Cathedral

Xmas, Bow Border

 

There will be more author interviews to follow. The authors on the Grace Filled Christmas Blog Tour want to share their Christmas hopes, dreams, memories, decorating trips, perhaps even a recipe or two. Stay turned as these terrific and very interesting authors share about what Christmas means to them.

Link to access the Calendar of the Grace Filled Christmas Blog Tour: https://graceawardsdotorg.wordpress.com/grace-filled-christmas-blog-tour-2012/

Xmas, Merry Christmas 2

Grace Awards 2010 Winners – in Faith Based Fiction

The Grace Awards, the most democratic awards in Christian fiction, is very proud to announce its 2010 WINNERS. We’ve tried to use, if you will, a separation of powers in chosing our winners.

The nominating (via email) was done entirely by readers. The Chair of the Board counted votes and determined finalists. Finaling titles were given to judging teams. At that point there was no contact between the teams and the Chair, except for an adminstrative issue. After teams picked a winner the scoresheets were destroyed and the names of the winners were given to the Chair. Each step in the process operated independently of the other.

We are thrilled that our winners include self-published works, titles from small houses, as well as from moderate and large traditional houses. Our finalists included titles from ebook publishers. Our aim was to be an egalitarian awards, and we believe we’ve accomplished this right out of the gate.

And the winners are…

Women’s Fiction: serious women’s issues, can have humor and suspense elements

SENSIBLE SHOES by Sharon Garlough Brown (Westbow)

The setting was perfect with several surprising plot twists. The entire book inspired me to view my faith in a fresh, deeper way. I LOVE the fact that I’ve learned some things about faith from this novel and how the author applied scripture to every day Christian life. I found myself more captured by the book than I expected, given its unusual content. At times, I identified with the characters on a very deep level, at different times and for different reasons. The characters shared the commonality that they’d abandoned the love of Jesus in immersion in their various lifestyles. Not a challenge women alone face—men are wrapped up to the same degree, but differently. The story dealt with four women and their encounter with a spiritual experience. I’ve never read anything quite like it. The author has a warm and engaging voice and a rock-solid writing style. Points for this alone would be sufficient, but explanation follows: ‘Jesus Christ, Light of the World, come and light the dark corners of our lives. Where we are blind, grant us sight. Where we stumble in darkness, illumine our path. Quiet us with Your love, and enable us to hear Your still, small voice. For You are our dear friend, Lord, and we long to be fully present to You.’
~~Lead Judge: Deborah Kinnard.   Judges: Trish Gerstman, K. Dawn Byrd

Romance/Historical Romance: primary element is love/courtship/marriage, be it set now or then

MEANDER SCAR by Lisa Lickel (Black Lyon Publishers)

Meander Scar is a bold novel, successfully tackling the edgy topic of an older woman involved with a younger man. Lisa Lickel sets up a realistic and believable scenario with clear and vivid descriptions. Romantic scenes cause the heart to flutter. The pacing is well done, keeping the reader engaged as the tension builds. There are a few interesting twists – Ms. Lickel has a grasp of building a tense scene then not giving the reader what they want (i.e. making you read on)! Despite the edgy subject, Meander Scar has a nice spiritual theme of faith and a strong element of purity before marriage.
~~Lead Judge: Tammy Doherty.  Judges: Jessica R. Patch, April Gardner
Suspense /Mystery/Romantic Suspense/Detective Novel /Thriller: crime fiction, there’s probably a body
BACK ON MURDER by J. Mark Bertrand (Bethany House)
Simply put, this book was masterfully written and a pleasure to read. There was plenty of intrigue, suspense and mystery – all the murder and mayhem that we would expect from a book in this genre, but Bertrand manages to balance this with some deep human elements as well. Detective Roland March is a disillusioned and misunderstood Houston cop, relegated to special assignments nobody else wants. His character is flawed, yet these imperfections only make us pull for him all the more. He gets his big chance for redemption when he is assigned to a missing person’s case – he thinks is connected to a drug murder; but proving it might just cost him his life. Bertrand’s voice is fresh, descriptive, insightful and never cliché. The story unfolds at just the right pace and the suspense is high throughout. Coming from a Christian publisher, I can say that this book will appeal to the masses, no matter what one’s religious stripe. There are some Christian characters in the book, portrayed as real people and there is never a preachy moment. This is achieved, I think, by the use of the first person narrative. Since the main character himself is not a believer, he is simply observing the behavior of those around him, weighing their worth on a human level. Back On Murder is a worthy recipient for first place in this category.
 ~~Lead Judge: Tracy Krauss.  Judges: Lisa Lickel, V.B. Tenerey

Spec Fiction: science fiction, horror, fantasy, etc.
SEASONS IN THE MIST by Deborah Kinnard (Sheaf House Publishers)
Our team felt Seasons in the Mist stood out because of its skillful pacing, overall good writing and strong sense of time and place. A gripping love story, political intrigue and unexpected adventure all pull the reader along. Time travel adds an interesting element to this book and presents conflicts for the heroine. Time travel isn’t the usual fare in Christian fiction. However, author Deborah Kinnard crafted a unique and compelling story world with well-researched historical details that along with heroine Bethany Lindstrom pulls the reader through the mists into that long ago time. The novel’s key strengths were the delightful use of medieval English prose and the artful weaving of rich historical detail into the story line making it come alive. The reader grows to care about the characters while getting the feel of ancient Cornwall with its heraldry, falcons, roast boar, midwifery, and royal courts. The judges were impressed by the author’s strong writing and ability to shape a fresh and dynamic storyline.
~~Lead Judge: Nike Chillemi.  Judges: Janalyn Voigt, Cathi-Lyn Dyck

Action Adventure/Western/Historic Epic Fiction (exploits, quest, a feel of wide open spaces, expansive):

WOUNDED SPIRITS by April W. Gardner (Vinspire Publishing)

Ms. Gardner doesn’t write like a debut author! She kept my attention right from the beginning of this story. I feel that the overall writing of this story, that it was very well-researched and that the character development was so exceptionally well-done merit extra consideration. The pacing of the story was excellent and the setting was well established. The ending of the story was appropriate and, even if for some readers maybe a little unexpected because it wasn’t a definitively tied-up “happily ever after,” this was a very realistic way to finish the story. The story also offered much to consider as regards questions of faith… Adela was portrayed as holding on to her faith in suffering, while there was a very well-done contrast in Lillian’s realistic difficulty with forgiveness in the face of hers. The character development and conflict were exceptionally well-done on all points. The writing was very fresh and unique. Great use was made of the vocabulary: The excellent usage of dialect and the utilization of Spanish. The background study pertaining to Zachariah McGirth, Red Eagle, etc… All of these aspects made for a compelling story.

~~Lead Judge: Teric Darken. Judges: Amanda Stephan, Krisi Keley

Young Adult: appeals to ages 14 to 21ish
SECRETS UNDER THE MIDNIGHT SUN by Elisa Maria Crites (Westbow)

Secrets Under the Midnight Sun was well-written and easy to read. The book would make a great movie and I wouldn’t change a thing about the story. It’s a relevant and edgy novel that is worthy of praise. It even made me cry. The way the mother responded to her daughter’s secret was totally believable. I’ve seen the same thing happen over and over in child welfare. Regarding the setting, I felt solidly planted in the 1960s and in Alaska. I loved the analogies that were made, like when the character compared the struggles in her life to the setting where she lived. Great use of words and vocabulary. I could see everything in my mind’s eye. The insight and spiritual connection was just right, and not overly stated. The biggest strength of this novel was the internal conflict and how true-to-life it was portrayed. The author didn’t write how people think the daughter’s issues should resolve; she actually captured how many victims respond to abuse, and how they try to cope with the fallout of that painful revelation.

 ~~Lead Judge: Michelle Sutton.  Judges: Michelle Levigne, Amanda Flower

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