Grace Awards 2012 Winners – in Faith Based Fiction

GA 2012 Winner Badge

The Grace Awards, the most democratic awards in Christian fiction, is very proud to announce its 2012 WINNERS. This year we had an array of widely diverse judges (multi-published authors, first time published authors, writers who specialize in areas of publishing other than fiction, and in YA this year we had a youth expert who has an extremely popular family and educational blog).

In addition, we’ve tried to use, if you will, a separation of powers in choosing our winners. Readers nominated (via email) the finalists in six categories. An individual who is not an author and who doesn’t sit on the Board counted the nominations. Finaling titles were then given to our judging teams. From that point on there was no contact between the judging teams and the Chair of the Board, except for administrative issues. The teams independently picked winners. Each step in the process was removed and separated from the next step, to insure impartiality.

We announced a bit late this year because several teams had near ties for their winner. We’re very happy that the novels nominated by readers were that good!

We are thrilled that our winners include self-published works, titles from small houses, as well as from moderate and large traditional houses. Our aim was to be an egalitarian award, and we believe we’ve accomplished this.

The winners are…

Harvest of RubiesWomen’s Fiction: serious women’s issues, can have humor and suspense elements

HARVEST OF RUBIES by Tessa Afshar (River North)

HARVEST OF RUBIES was meticulously researched. Judges report reading was like viewing this tale from the Persian courts. We watched a spiritual journey with a wonderful resolution. The language used delighted the senses. The reader is caught immediately by the way the author made an ancient time period true to life. Human nature doesn’t change much, but their ways and mores change immensely. The author brought ancient Persia alive to readers who can be persnickety about authenticity. Sarah’s quandary is a captivating story problem — being different yet trying her best to fit in. Throughout, it was easy to care for the characters, Darius in particular. Extra kudos for historical authenticity, particularly useful to those who doesn’t read in this time-period by choice. Convincing and engaging, this is a book to savor and an author to watch.  ~~ Judges: Deborah Kinnard (Team Leader), Carol McClain, Christine Lindsey

Be Still My Soul

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

BE STILL MY SOUL by Joanne Bischof (Multnomah Books)

BE STILL MY SOUL is one of those rare novels that makes a person forget she’s reading. Its little-used setting, the
Appalachian hills, springs to life, immersing the reader in its fragrant foliage, rough mountain trails, and harsh, unpredictable elements. For being so quiet and mild-mannered, heroine Lonnie Sawyer makes a bold imprint on the
reader’s heart and mind. It isn’t so much what she says, as what she doesn’t say. Author Joanne Bischoff is
to be commended for crafting a believable character who is at the same time humble and stalwart. Gideon O’Riley is, at first, dishonorable and detestable. To be worthy of sweet and forgiving Lonnie, much soul-changing is in order. Gideon is the epitome of Christ’s redemptive work. Brought full circle, Gideon makes a complete transformation that couldn’t be imagined possible at the outset of the book. Yet the author pulls it off in a way that prompts applause and has other authors taking notes on how to make an unlikeable character
someone to root for. All characters had realistic and relate-able spiritual dilemmas. The Christians were flawed and the unsaved had complex and understandable doubts. Pacing was appropriate. The story engaged without fail, and is without dispute a clear Grace Awards winner. ~~ Judges: April W. Gardner (Team Leader), Janalyn Voight, Marcy Dyer

Wind Over Marshdale, Amazon 2      

Mystery/Romantic Suspense/Thriller: crime fiction, there’s probably a body

WIND OVER MARSHDALE by Tracy Krauss (Astraea Press)

WIND OVER MARSHDALE is a well-written novel with characters who feel like real people facing believable, real world problems. Each character grows in the course of the story, with strong faith elements playing a big part in the plot. The mystery element is very subtle yet the reader is carried along with the desire to see how it all ends. Romance is a key focus and provides a great deal of the intrigue and suspense, wondering who Rachel will choose. The plot points, background information, and development up to the climax and conclusion are well-handled. Rachel’s journey to salvation is refreshingly real and touching. Humor is interspersed, provided mainly by secondary characters. In short time, the reader expects Mrs. Beatry’s commentary, gossip peppered with a healthy dash of irony. Con’s grandmother is particularly delightful with her forgetfulness and bluntness wrapped up in love for family. The author carefully paints everything in the light of God’s grace and forgiveness. And most importantly, God’s timing – that not everything happens exactly like we plan. The struggle each character faces in their faith (or lack of) shows what it’s really like when we stray from following God’s will. The despair of separation from the Lord, the feeling of how can I ever get back, strikes a chord in the reader and reminds us that we need only ask forgiveness. ~~ Judges: Tammy Doherty (Team Leader), Debra E. Marvin, Suzanne E. Williams


Spec Fiction: science fiction, horror, fantasy, etc.

DAYSTAR by Kathy Tyers (Marcher Lord Press)

DAYSTAR definitely touches a spiritual cord, while taking the reader on a fast paced adventure to unknown galaxies. Even at a daunting 650 pages, the story maintained a great pace and was engaging throughout. There was enough pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo (which Sci-fi writers are famous for) to make the story seem plausible, yet not so much to overwhelm the reader. Her attention to detail was amazing (perhaps one reason for the length of the book) and her descriptions were very visual. Included in the book is a wide cast of characters that were very well developed and the story line was complex. There was romance, intrigue, sabotage – everything to make the book interesting. The book is a Biblical allegory, there is no doubt about that.  Although this was fairly obvious early on in the reading, there were enough surprises and imaginative ways of presenting the analogies, that it remained fresh and unpredictable. It was extremely well written and quite deserving of this year’s Grace Award for speculative fiction.

Walks Alone

Action Adventure/Western/Historic Epic Fiction (exploits, quest, expansive):

WALKS ALONE by Sandi Rog (Whitefire Publishing)

WALKS ALONE is a well written epic novel beginning in Holland and ending in the old west. Loved the way it opened with the tenderness of Anna’s father aboard ship. It was hard not to I get involved in the father’s dream of traveling to Denver City. The scenes in New York City with Anna’s uncle were brutal and fully engaging. After Anna escapes her uncle, travels westward by train, and finally joins a wagon train where she’s not well treated, there is a captivating bathing scene in the river where she allows herself to relax. When half-breed Jean-Marc comes upon her with a small band of angry-braves, the reader is caught between instant knowledge of the hero’s strong attraction to her and fear for the extreme danger she’s in. Ms. Rog understands Native American life in that era quite well. She did an excellent job of showing the anger and murderous rage of the braves as well as the prejudice of the settlers and their inability to see Native Americans as people, which led to Indian massacres. Both Anna/Walks Alone and Jean Marc/White Eagle are flawed and well written. White Eagle’s poetic declaration of how his love is so large and encompassing that he sees and hears Walks Alone everywhere, even in the wind, was superb. He tells her of his pain at having caught her engaging in conversation with his sworn enemy, the man who led the deadly raid against his tribe. Through this, the author conveys how painful it is for Father God to witness His children engaging with idols. Beautifully done. Touches the reader at a deep spiritual level. ~~  Judges: Nike Chillemi (Team Leader), Krisi Keley, Kenneth Winters

Crossing The Deep

Young Adult: appeals to ages 14 to 21ish

CROSSING THE DEEP by Kelly Martin ((Astraea Press)

CROSSOMG THE DEEP fully entices from the alluring cover design to the last page, Ms. Martin has constructed an engaging, age-appropriate story which will keep the readers captivated throughout the book. Rachel Harker joins a church youth group retreat with her close friend and other teens.  During a hike in the Smoky Mountains, she makes a brief diversion from the trail, which unfortunately for Rachel, results in some devastating consequences.  What began as a breezy hiking activity turns into a struggle for survival.  Rachel and her friends find themselves stranded in a cold, rainy environment and must prepare themselves for the possibility of animal attacks, exposure and eventually, despair.  Their faith, endurance, and friendship are tested to the maximum as they desperately search for the “right path”. The characters were realistically portrayed and much is learned along the way about certain events which influenced their lives.  Faith in God is a point of contention for the characters along with an abundant share of twists and surprises.  Despite the challenges facing the characters, readers will find themselves cheering the teens on to victory. This is a well-written tale which readers of all ages will enjoy and appreciate.  Congratulations to Kelly Martin for creating such a marvelous, character-driven story.  ~~  Judges: Tracy Krauss (Team Leader), Shaunna Gonzales, Tim Akers

And…the Grace Awards 2012 Finalists Are…

Grace Awards Logo

The Grace Awards 2012 is now into its third year. What a ride it’s been. Thrills, chills, joy, and many blessings. Two new board members. Wonderful judges who can’t wait to read the novels readers have nominated.

 This year we had and avalanche of reader nominations to determine our finalists. The number of reader votes has grown over the years.

All nominations for any novel must be accompanied by at least a 35 word statement telling why the novel was nominated…a sort of mini-review or ”notice”. This year the reasons given were astute and outstanding. There is no doubt that the Christian reader is both intelligent and perceptive.

And now…the finalists in five categories are…


Harvest of Rubies by Tessa Afsar (River North) ~~ Sarah, the talented scribe and cousin to Nehemiah, is catapulted into the center of the Persian court, working too many hours, rubbing elbows with royalty, and solving intrigues for the Queen. Ironically, it isn’t failure but success that causes Sarah to lose her only source of external validation.

Hidden In The Heart by Catherine West (Oak Tara) ~~ After losing her mother to cancer and suffering a miscarriage soon after, Claire Ferguson numbs the pain with alcohol and pills. She must find a way to deal with the guilt she harbors. With her marriage in trouble and her father refusing to answer any questions about her adoption, Claire begins the search for her birth mother. But what if the woman who gave her life doesn’t want to be found.

The Unraveling of Reverend G by RJ Thesman (Cross River Media Group) ~~ When Reverend G hears the devastating diagnosis — dementia with the possibility of early-onset Alzheimer’s, she struggles with the pain of forgetting those she loves and the fear of losing her connection with God. She discovers that while the question she wants to ask is, ‘Why,’ the answer really is, ‘Who.’


Be Still My Soul by Joanne Bischof (Multnomah Books) ~~ Lonnie Sawyer is used to fading into the background. Though her family is poor and her father abusive, she clings to a quiet faith. But when handsome bluegrass musician Gideon O’Riley steals a kiss her father forces her into a hasty marriage. Equally frustrated and confused, Gideon yearns for a fresh start, forcing Lonnie on an arduous journey away from her home in Rocky Knob.

The Lightkeeper’s Daughter by Jean Thompson Kinsey (Desert Breeze Publishing) ~~ A broken heart and trouble with the law washes away Belle’s dreams of a beautiful life with wealthy Lawrence Rinehart. She seeks refuge holed up in a secluded lighthouse to avoid jail. Fred Logan, a determined ship captain penetrates her bitter wall of defense and persuades Belle to come out of isolation.

Veil of Pearls by Mary Lou Tyndall (Barbour Books) ~~ Charleston of 1811. , Adalia is a runaway slave so light-skinned that no one guesses her past. She settles into a quiet life making herbal remedies for a local doctor. But when Morgan, the handsome son of a prominent family, sweeps her into his glamorous world—a world in which the truth about Adalia’s heritage would ruin them both.


A Heartbeat Away by Harry Kraus (David C. Cook) ~~ When a brilliant surgeon undergoes a heart transplant, her life transforms as she begins experiencing memories of a murder she never witnessed….and soon she’s involved in an investigation. Where there once was a heart of stone, there is a heart of flesh. And there is no going back.

The Map Quilt by Lisa J. Lickel (Five Loaves and Two Small Fish) ~~ Hart and Judy Wingate are happily married and expecting their first child when Hart’s confrontational supervisor is found dead in the burned wreckage of a barn…but what has a 200-year-old quilt got to do with it?

Wind Over Marshdale by Tracy Krauss (Astraea Press) ~~ The story of the struggles within a small prairie town when hidden evil and ancient medicine resurface. New teacher Rachel Bosworth finds herself in love with two men at once. There is Thomas Lone Wolf, a Cree man whose blood lines run back to the days of ancient medicine but who has chosen to live as a Christian. Then there is Con McKinley, local farmer who has to face some demons of his own.


Daughter of Light by Morgan L. Busse (Marcher Lord Press) ~~ What if with one touch you could see inside the soul? Rowen Mar finds a strange mark on her hand, and she is banished from her village as a witch.

Daystar by Kathy Tyers (Marcher Lord Press) ~~ Persecution sent the telepathic, genetically altered Sentinels fleeing to a sanctuary world, but a shipboard disaster brings medical student Meris Cariole as an unwelcome outsider to their sanctuary. On another world, wrongfully imprisoned Sentinel Jorah Caldwell receives a supernatural visitor.

Descended by Dana Pratola (Dana Pratola) ~~ When a reclusive businessman with unusual talents takes an interest in Haven’s artwork, she knows it’s an answer to prayer. But Jett Cestone is an enigma. He’s by far the most unusual man she’s ever met. Haven is the most interesting woman to ever cross Jett’s path. But she’s too naïve and pure to learn what goes on in his home.


The Legacy of Deer Run by Elaine Marie Cooper (Sword of the Spirit Publishing) ~~ The year was 1800. A young man makes weapons for the defense of America. He also protects his heart from the allure of a young woman so far above his station in life he cannot win her. Despite her finery and airs, she is drawn to the young armory worker, who is distant yet disarming.

Unending Devotion by Jody Hedlund (Bethany House) ~~ In 1883 Michigan, Lily Young is on a mission to save her lost sister, or die trying. Heedless of the danger, her searches of logging camps lead her into the sights of Connell McCormick, a man doing his best to add to the hard-earned fortunes of his lumber baron father, but she can’t understand how he ignores the rampant crime in the town.

Walks Alone by Sandi Rog (Whitefire Publishing) ~~ A Cheyenne warrior bent on vengeance. A pioneer woman bent on fulfilling a dream. Until their paths collide. After fleeing her abusive uncle, Anna is determined to reach the city of her dreams. But White Eagle and his fierce warriors take her prisoner.


Chosen, The Amish Bloodsucker Trilogy Volume 1 by Barbara Ellen Brink (Create Space) ~~ With tongue firmly in cheek and genuine Amish-made stakes at hand, The Amish Bloodsucker Trilogy sets off like a bat in the belfry. Jael the vampire slayer is ready to kick some serious bloodsucker butt. Seriously. Move over Buffy.

Crossing The Deep by Kelly Martin (Astraea Press)  ~~  Sixteen year old Rachel Harker expects the church sponsored hiking trip in the Smoky Mountains to be short and painless. Four days later, injured and scared, Rachel prays to just make it home alive.

Seventh Dimension – The Door by Lorilyn Roberts (Create Space) ~~  Meet Shale Snyder. She is an emotionally and psychologically injured girl – after many years of torment at school and abandonment at home, she is left empty and hollow inside. She feels misunderstood. She has an internal longing, but for what she doesn’t know! One day, she is transported to a happy, peaceful garden…or is it?

Books, Reading 4

Announcing Grace Awards Judges 2011

The Grace Awards is now going into its second year, having been extremely well received last year. This year we have a line up of stellar judges for our fiction categories.

 WOMEN’S FICTION: serious women’s issues, can have humor and suspense elements

Deborah Kinnard, Grace Awards Vice-Chair and lead judge in this category has enjoyed a career that has encompassed Spanish translation, volunteer work at a crisis line, years in assorted ERs that don’t resemble the ones on TV, and a day job at a big Chicago teaching hospital. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), serving as Midwest Zone Director. In 2002 and 2003 she sold her first and second novels, POWERLINE and OAKWOOD to Treble Heart Books. ANGEL WITH A RAY GUN, ANGEL WITH A BACK HOE and DAMAGES are available from Desert Breeze.  ALOHA, MY LOVE, and POWERLINE, a reissue are available through Desert Breeze. SEASONS IN THE MIST was released by Sheaf House in April 2010 and was a Grace Awards 2011 Winner in Speculative Fiction.

Carol McClain is a multi-published author of non-fiction articles who also has two completed novels. She taught English for over thirty years and designed the AP English Language curriculum for her school. She created a local writers’ group, Foothills Ink and is a member of ACFW and the Adirondack Center for Writing. She lives in upstate New York with her husband and overactive Springer spaniel. You can read her blog at

Christine Lindsay  writes historical inspirational novels with strong love stories. She doesn’t shy away from difficult subjects such as the themes in her debut novel SHADOWED IN SILK which is set in India. SHADOWED IN SILK was the Gold winner of the 2009 ACFW Genesis for Historical.

The Pacific coast of Canada, about 200 miles north of Seattle, is Christine’s home. It’s a special time in her life as she and her husband enjoy the empty nest, but also the noise and fun when the kids come home. Like a lot of writers, her cat is her chief editor.

ROMANCE/HISTORICAL ROMANCE: primary element is love/courtship/marriage, be it set now or then

Jessica R. Patch, lead judge in this category, lives in the mid-south where the heat rises much like her contemporary suspenseful romances. Her novels are relevant, provocative stories of inspiration. Readers will identify with characters that are flawed but redeemable. Jessica grew up in southern Illinois then attended Central Bible College where she met her husband, an ordained minister with Destiny Ministries. She is devoted to her local church, having served as a Biblical Studies teacher, Women’s Ministry Leader, Regional Women’s Representative, and volunteer co-pastor (with her husband) of the Young Adult Ministry. Jessica is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary Agency. She is a member of ACFW and Byhalia Christian Writers Group (a chapter of American Christian Writers).       

As an author, book reviewer, literary judge and avid reader, Janalyn Voigt understands what makes a novel worth reading. Having identified her desire to write at a tender age, she taught herself in the craft of writing long before receiving formal training through Christian Writers Guild. Janalyn’s publication credits include Focus on the Family, Scripture Press and Pentecostal Evangel. Her short story, “Flower of Life,” will release as part of THE BOOK OF SYLVARI: An Anthology of Elves (Port Yonder Press). Janalyn is currently working on an epic fantasy trilogy, TALES OF FAERAVEN, and a historical romance set during Montana’s gold rush. She is a member of ACFW & NCWA.

Rachel Wilder writes 19th century historical romance. Her passions are Russian and Southern history. A former head archivist at a plantation-turned-museum, she loves finding those small, oft-forgotten details that bring a historical novel to vivid life. She lives in central Louisiana with her family and half-crazed calico cat.


Tammy Doherty,  Grace Awards Vice-Chair and lead judge in this category is the author of three inspirational Western romances, CELTIC CROSS, CLADDAUGH, and CELTIC KNOT. Her current projects are contemporary romantic suspense, set in a small town in central Massachusetts eerily similar to her hometown. Tammy lives on a small farm with her husband of 25+ years and their two children. Besides writing, she also manages the family perennial farm and works in customer service for a veterinary supply distributor. She has been a first-round judge in numerous contests for unpublished romance novelists.

V. B. Tenery enjoyed a rewarding career as Director of Service for a national wholesale optical company before leaving to write full time. She has published two short stories, Adino in the Christian speculative fiction anthology, Light at the Edge of Darkness 2007, and The Magical Twenty in Cec Murphy’s anthology, Christmas Miracles, October 2009. Her novel, The Watchman was one of two speculative fiction finalists in the Novel Matter’s contest, September 2009.
Debra E. Marvin writes historical romantic suspense with dark twists and turns, only to show where Christ’s light can shine. She is published as a short-story author and is a member of ACFW and various historical writers’ groups as well as a contributing member at Inkwell Inspirations blog. A technician for a large university, Debra fills her free time with writing and being a granny, in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of New York state.

SPECULATIVE FICTION: science fiction, fantasy, horror, etc.
Tracy Krauss, Grace Awards Vice-Chair and lead judge in this category is the author of edgy inspirational fiction, as well as an artist, playwright, director, worship leader, and teacher. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Edgy Christian Fiction Lovers on Ning. Originally from a small prairie town, she received her Bachelor’s degree at the University of Saskatchewan with majors in English and History. She has lived in many unique locations in northern Canada with her husband, a pastor, and has raised four children. She currently lives in an area of British Columbia known for its waterfalls and spectacular mountain scenery.
April Gardner is the author of the best-selling romance novel with western themes, WOUNDED SPIRITS which was a Grace Awards 2010 winner in Action-Adventure/Western/Historic Epic Fiction. Librarian, reviewer, April adores anything books. She writes a weekly column for the joint blog Reflections in Hindsight, and is founder and senior editor of Clash of the Titles. She was a military brat, missionary kid, and military spouse. After 21 years in various countries overseas, April happily resides in Georgia with her USAF husband. In her free time, April enjoys reading, gardening, and DIY…in no particular order. She dreams of owning a horse, visiting all the national parks, ans speaking Italian.  
Randy Streu is what might generously be called a mediaphile. Having worked in local television, video production, corporate communication and (finally and currently) as a radio broadcaster, he is also the Senior Editor for Digital Dragon Magazine, the Founder, Administrator, and Content Editor of, and Co-Founder and Co-Director of a small publishing outfit called Diminished Media Group. He spends his non-working hours with his wife and four children in Northern New York, and occasionally manages enough time to write a story of his own.

Nike Chillemi, Grace Awards Founder and Chair and lead judge in this category, has been called a crime fictionista, as her passion is crime fiction. Her debut novel BURNING HEARTS came out in May, 2011 and the second in the Sanctuary Point series GOODBYE NOEL will release December 15, 2011 through Desert Breeze. She was a 2010 Inspy Awards judge, writes book reviews for The Christian Pulse online magazine. She is a member of ACFW serving as a small critique group leader and is a member of Edgy Christian Fiction Lovers where she has organized a blog tour and run a workshop. She received an AAS degree in Fashion Buying and Merchandising from FIT a BS in General Studies from St. Josephs College, NY, and worked in the bridal industry for many years.  
Krisi Keley is the author of ON the SOUL of a VAMPIRE, a speculative fiction novel that uses theology on the Incarnation, dual nature and the Trinitarian concept of marriage to explain the nature of vampires and how the creature has a significant link to the human soul.  She has a degree in theology from DeSales University and has also studied foreign and classical languages.  She’s presently working on book II and III of her trilogy.
Keven Newsome is a graduate student at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where he is pursuing a Master of Arts in Theology specializing in Supernatural Theology. He writes stories that portray the Supernatural and Paranormal with an accurate Biblical perspective. He is the author of WINTER,  published by Splashdown Darkwater. He currently lives in New Orleans, LA with his wife and two children. Keven is also the founder and administrator of The New Author’s Fellowship and produces music and video through Newsome Creative.

YOUNG ADULT (YA): appeals to ages 14 – 21ish
Lisa Lickel, is the multi-talented author of the relevant and emotionally gripping romance novel MEANDER SCAR which was a Grace Awards 2011 winner in the Romance/Historical Romance category. She has authored the cozy mystery THE GOLD STANDARD, and women’s fiction novel HEALING GRACE. She has been a newspaper columnist and feature writer. She has had numerous magazine articles and short stories published in venues such as Writer’s Digest and Harpstring Magazine. She is also assistant editor and marketer with Port Yonder Press.
Diana Sharples is an award-winning, pre-published author and artist, and the co-founder of Pekazoid Prophets, an organization for writers of Christian fiction for children and young adults. Her contemporary YA novels are set in rural North Carolina. One of these, RUNNING LEAN, has been awarded first place in several contests for unpublished authors. She is currently working on a video project, called When Pigs Fly, combining her art and writing abilities. Diana lives in Georgia with her husband and daughter, and can often be found riding her Harley around the mountain roads.
Barbara Ellen Brink is a freelance writer and Indie author. She grew up on a small farm in Washington State, but now lives in the mean “burbs” of Minnesota with her husband and their dogs, Rugby & Willow.Her short stories and articles have been published in THEMA, The Springhill Review, Liguorian, and others. She is the author of “Entangled” & “Crushed,” the first two novels in a winery mystery series. Her Christian suspense/thriller, “Split Sense” will be released December 2011.
As many know, the Grace Awards is a reader driven awards. Reader voting will begin on December 31st. Information on how to vote for ones favorite author will be available toward the end of the year on this blog and on the Grace Awards Facebook pages.