Grace Awards 2014 Winners ~ in Faith Based Fiction

Grace Awards 2014
Thanks to Robert Treskillard for the design of our new award seal/badge.

The Grace Awards, a reader driven awards and the most democratic awards in Christian fiction, now in its fourth year, is very proud to announce its 2014 WINNERS. This year we had an array of widely diverse judges (multi-published authors, traditionally published ones, indie authors, and a pastor). Our judges commented on how pleased they were with the high quality of the finalists chosen by readers this year. We have faith in the judgement of Christian readers. That’s what the Grace Awards is all about.

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. After the nominations were counted, finaling titles were 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 are thrilled that our winners include self-published works, titles from small houses, as well as from moderate and large traditional houses, ebooks as well as paperbacks. Our aim is to be an egalitarian award, and we believe we’ve accomplished this.

The winners are…

Atonement for EmilyWomen’s Fiction/General Fiction: serious women’s or men’s issues, can have humor and suspense elements

ATONEMENT for EMILY by Susan Lawrence (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

This is a very well-written tale about a woman caught in a situation of her making, but never of her wanting—she accidentally hits and kills a young boy with her car. Set in small-town Kansas, the story relates the grief of young Isaiah’s parents and grandparent, and Emily’s all-too-authentic reaction. She embarks on a frantic effort to make up for the accident, to “matter” in a cosmic sense though she starts with no faith basis for her actions. Her efforts imperil her marriage, as she is not at all open with her husband regarding the understandable chaos in her emotions. The end was uplifting and satisfactory. There must be healing for Emily, or the novel would not have satisfied at all. We liked that Nate was still searching on the faith-question rather than too-easily Christianized. We liked the characters immensely. The married pairs, Isaiah’s parents included, didn’t thrash things out as much as they should, and this added to their realism. We found Josh’s attempt to find “closure” true to life. Often it’s said that the loss of a child means the loss of the marriage, so the four mates’ distancing seemed emotionally authentic. Josh’s sister from Colombia at first had little relevance to place in the story of Isaiah’s loss, but it was tied up very neatly in Ramón’s adoption. Perhaps too neatly for real life, but this is, after all, fiction. The pacing was good and we found ourselves reading at times when we were supposed to be doing something else! This novel rang true to the emotional lives of the varied characters. All in all, well written, emotionally satisfactory, and a worthy winner of the Grace Award.


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

KEPT by Sally Bradley (Salena House Publishers)

This is a beautifully woven story of redemption, and proof we don’t always get what we deserve. It’s a terrific story of the battle that takes place in a young woman—an “other woman”—when she is confronted with reality. It’s also the story of a man who waited his entire life for the right woman. The perfect woman. Though Miska Tomlinson definitely isn’t what Dillan Foster imagined, Dillan is what God imagined for Miska. Sally Bradley’s characters are real. They’re edgy and flawed. And the greatest message of this book is love. But don’t think it’s a sappy, sweet story about how love conquers all. Dillan’s brother and Miska’s half-sister present great contrast, showing what happens when we either are too selfish to care how others feel or too weak to overcome temptation. Ms. Bradley uses these characters to both support Miska’s doubts about Jesus and Christianity and to solidify her growing faith. Seems like a contradiction, but it’s actually so real this story feels more like reality TV (except better!).


Harmful Intent 300 PMystery/Romantic Suspense/Thriller/Historical Suspense: crime fiction, there’s probably a body

HARMFUL INTENT by Nike Chillemi (Crime Fictionista Press)

From nearly the beginning of the story we knew we were into reading a potential award winner. Right off the bat, Nike Chillemi brings characters onto the scene that are real, with both strengths and weaknesses, and a plot that gets going right away. She has a real talent for spinning the “hard-boiled detective” kind of story. The fact that she takes her New York bred lady detective and lands her square in the outback of Texas adds real flavor to the tale. As the main character, Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels, learns about her murdered husband’s double life and unravels the mystery of his death, we are thrown along with her through a gamut of emotions — anger, resentment, sorrow, and the promise of closure. The story does not lag. Nike has a great “voice” — that magical thing writers long for — in storytelling. Her use of setting, language, pacing, and especially dialogue sparkles. Nike does a bang-up job of weaving a delicious tale of suspense and romance, catching the bad guy, and tying up all the loose ends, even while leading us into the promise of a sequel to come. Nike set the course for these characters’ continuing journey (personal and spiritual) and it will be interesting to see how their character arcs continue. Nicely done!


Chronicles of Steele RavenSpeculative Fiction: science fiction, horror, fantasy, etc.

CHRONICLES OF STEELE: RAVEN by Pauline Creeden (AltWitPress)

Pauline Creeden weaves an intriguing tale of honor and romance in Chronicles of Steele: Raven. This ‘Steampunk’ fantasy follows Raven Steele, a ‘Reaper’ who is bound by the strict code of ethics followed by her sect. When she is asked to protect the young baron from his own family, she is thrust into a journey of danger and magic that tests her intensive reaper training, not to mention her mettle. The mechanized ‘Steampunk’ elements are well constructed and fit the genre, while the full bodied descriptions bring the story to life. There are plenty of well written action scenes and surprising plot twists, and the pacing is consistent with very little ‘lag’ time. Woven throughout are Raven’s inner struggles as she tries to reconcile her commitment to the ‘Reaper’ way of life with guilt over her father’s death. It is refreshing to see a proactive female protagonist that takes charge and is not objectified. The romantic sub-plot doesn’t take away from the main story line, but does add depth, as does the development of the relationship between Raven and her young charge. The book delivers in terms of character development and the creative use of speculative themes.


Chasing the LionAction Adventure/Western/Historic Epic Fiction: exploits, quest, expansive

CHASING THE LION by Nancy Kimball

From the first page we were drawn into this powerful novel. The hero and heroine are crafted so perfectly that we felt we knew them. Under Nancy Kimballs skilful pen, even those who appear briefly are clear and consistent. The main character, Jonathon, is complex. Manius, his “half-brother,” betrays Jonathon, resulting in a life as a slave and gladiator. Jonathon sinks into doubt and despair. Nessa, the heroine, is a beautifully drawn character. Providing medical care for the injured gladiators, Nessa struggles at times, but ultimately faces challenges with grace and faith. The plot is full of adventure and ever-increasing obstacles for Jonathon and Nessa. The author seamlessly interweaves a story spanning a great number of years. The theme of Christian sacrifice and faith flows wonderfully throughout those years. This is truly an EPIC adventure, as stirring as “Ben Hur,” that kept our judging team reading late into the night. Jonathon’s and Nessa’s lives engaged our hearts. It seems incredible that humans could treat each other so cruelly. But as we look at the daily news of terrorism, beheadings, torture and kidnappings, it becomes clear that humanity hasn’t changed. Evil still exists, faith is still needed.


JessieYoung Adult: appeals to ages 14 to 21ish

JESSIE by Rebekah Lynn ( Real Life Books & Media)

This was one of those stories that stays with you after it’s over because of the message it held. While the book was long and very heavy on the details of the space program, it held the message that we all deserve redemption and we all can find that one thing we love to hold onto even through the tough times. Jessie’s dad was proof of this as he found his way back to God. While Jessie suffered beatings at his hands, as the book went along he too learned how to forgive his father and look at him as a man of God again. The use of secondary characters outside of the four Cole boys was very well done and each character was well thought out and paced throughout the book to leave the impact that was needed at that point in the story. The editing of Jessie was without a doubt flawless. Since this book is part of a series there is much more to learn about the Cole brothers and their life experiences. Jessie would be a favorite of most teen boys who enjoy books about space, with a hidden Bible lesson about forgiveness.

Grace Awards Logo

Announcing Grace Awards 2014 Judges

Grace Awards


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



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

Deb KinnardDeb Kinnard [Grace Awards Board Member and Lead Judge] started writing at age ten, hacked off because “Bonanza” lacked a ten-year-old girl with her own pony. From adventures on the Ponderosa, she moved to teenage angsty love stories and dreadful poetry. After a career that embraced feeding basketball players breakfast, coping with el-ed majors and various ERs different from the ones on TV, she married the man of her dreams and raised two active girls amongst the books. She sold her first novel, POWERLINE, in 2002 and twelve others since. Her most recent published series is with Desert Breeze Publishing, called “The Faith Box.” PEACEWEAVER, set in the era of Viking raids in 973 Wales; THE HEALING TREE, a tale of 1353 Cornwall; and WHEN THE ROSES BLOOMED, a star-crossed lovers story with a happy ending, set in the chaos of 1485 England. More recently she’s embarked on direct-to-reader publishing with the “City Lights” series. This contemporary romance continuity deals with the crazy-busy world of pop singing stars: LOVE ONLY KNOWS, FALLING SLOWLY, and A HOME FOR THE HEART, just released in February 2015. Deb enjoys beadwork and music. She sings with a medieval/renaissance singing group, Court and Country. She loves to travel and is a constant people watcher. So if you meet a short-round woman with an acquisitive light in her eye…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADebra E. Marvin tries not to run too far from real life but the imagination born out of being an only child has a powerful draw. Besides, the voices in her head tend to agree with all the sensible things she says. Debra likes to write, weed and wander and is blessed to have the best family and friends in the world. She’s thankful each day that God is in control, that He chooses to bless us despite ourselves and that He has a sense of humor. Her work has finaled in the TARA, Great Expectations, Heart of the Rockies, Maggie; twice in the Daphne du Maurier, and recently the category and Overall Winner of the Phoenix Rattler. Not too bad considering she’s trying a mystery mashup of gospel and . . . gothic.

Paula RoseAuthor Paula Rose brings an “average” family into extraordinary situations, brushes with life-size strokes of reality, adding just a touch of humor, and coats with suspense inside Christian fiction. Paula’s research gives readers a panoramic view from law enforcement and lends to character authenticity. She enjoys writing in the romantic suspense, suspense, and mystery genres, but when she’s not writing, Paula Rose is playing amateur photographer. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW).


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

Tammy DohertyTammy Doherty [Grace Awards Board Member and Lead Judge] is the author of several Christian/Inspy novels, two of which have been on Amazon’s best-selling list. Her first three novels are historical romance with a touch of suspense; the fourth book, SHE’S MINE, is a contemporary romantic suspense set in a small town in central Massachusetts. In addition to being a founding member and lead judge for Grace Awards, she is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Edgy Christian Fiction Lovers. Ms. Doherty lives on a small farm in central MA with her husband and two children, where they grow and sell perennial plants.

Joy Ross DavisJoy Ross Davis is a retired college English professor with a passion for exploring the unique and unusual mysteries of life. In addition to writing and teaching, she has worked as a travel writer and photographer in Ireland. To date, she has worked with Helping Hands Press to publish five novellas. She has also published a cozy supernatural mystery novel. She lives in Alabama with her son and three beloved rescue dogs.

Betty Thomason OwensBetty Thomason Owens writes romantic comedy, historical fiction, and fantasy-adventure. She has contributed hundreds of articles and interviews to various blogs around the Internet and is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), where she leads a critique group. She’s also a mentor, assisting other writers. She is a co-founder of a blog dedicated to inspiring writers, and a contributing editor for the soon-to-be launched online magazine, Imaginate. Her 20’s era romance, AMELIA’S LEGACY, Book 1, Legacy Series, released October, 2014 (Write Integrity Press). She also writes contemporary stories as a co-author of A Dozen Apologies and its sequel, The Love Boat Bachelor, releasing January 26, 2015. She has two fantasy-adventure novels, THE LADY OF THE HAVEN and A GATHERING OF EAGLES, in a second edition published by Sign of the Whale BooksTM, an imprint of Olivia Kimbrell PressTM. Coming up next, a 1950’s historical novel based on the Book of Ruth, ANNABELLE’S RUTH, Book 1, Ruth Series (Write Integrity Press).



Cr2012Naomi Musch [Grace Awards Board Member and Lead Judge] loves a great story, whether historical or contemporary. She writes from a ramshackle farm in the pristine north woods of Wisconsin, where she lives with her husband and family as epically as God allows. She has worked as an editor, as a staff writer for an EPA award-winning Christian newspaper, and has published dozens of magazine and internet articles for the encouragement of homeschooling families and young writers. Naomi currently serves on the board of directors of the Wisconsin Writers’ Association. She loves engaging with others and always discovering kernels of a new story. She is available for speaking and book groups. Her eighth novel, THE LOVE COWARD, will release from Desert Breeze Publishing in May 2015.

Carol McClainDiverse. If one word can describe Carol McClain, it’s diverse and had been long before diversity became such a ‘PC’ buzz word. She’s a novelist, essayist, and erstwhile poet (Be glad it’s erstwhile and no longer current). She hales from northern New York—so far north, she’s almost Canadian. Eh? She plays the bassoon, creates stained glass, cross-country skis, and is a former marathoner and high ropes instructor. For more than thirty years, she taught English, and she now teaches Bible studies, and edits for fun. In addition to this, she has served on the North Country Habitat for Humanity board for over ten years. In that capacity, she’s held every position except those having to do with money. She may be able to tell you the definitions sesquipedalian, but simple addition baffles her. She is course coordinator for ACFW. And of course, she writes. She’s completed four novels, with DWF: Divorced White Female being her debut.

Peggy Blann PhiferPeggy Blann Phifer retired from an executive assistant position after twenty-one years in the Electrical Wholesale industry. She came to writing later in life when a prayer she wrote appeared in a two-volume Guideposts Book compilation, ‘Prayers for Every Need,’ in 2000. She self-published her debut novel, TO SEE THE SUN, which released in January 2012. Her writing has appeared in three anthologies in 2014 with Helping Hands Press, with a fourth coming up. A novel she just completed, SOMEHOW, CHRISTMAS WILL COM, released in November 2014, from Elk Lake Publishing.Widowed in October 2012, Peg now makes her home in northern Wisconsin in a home she bought together with her daughter and son-in-law. The three of them share the house with one dog, and one grand-dog. She converted a third of the house into a cozy ‘apartment’ where she spends most of her time writing. Peg has three children, six grandchildren, eleven great-grandchildren, and numerous other grand-dogs and great-grand-dogs.


SPECULATIVE FICTION: science fiction, fantasy, horror, etc.

Tracy KraussTracy Krauss [Grace Awards Board Member and Lead Judge] is a multi-published novelist, playwright, and artist with several award winning and Amazon best selling novels, novellas, stage plays, and devotionals in print as well as one illustrated children’s book. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Education from the U of Sask. and teaches secondary school Art, English and Drama. She and her husband, an ordained pastor, have four grown children, one granddaughter, and have lived in many remote and interesting places in Canada’s far north. They currently reside in Tumbler Ridge, B.C. where Tracy continues to teach, direct, write and pursue all of her creative interests.

Tim AkersT.J. Akers wants to be a multi-millionaire when he grows up and give his wealth away to his favorite causes—churches, schools, and animal shelters. Since the millions have been slow in coming, he’s settled for working in a public university as a computer technician, volunteering at church and the local animal shelter, doing honey do projects for his wife, and writing stories to entertain people, especially younger readers.His full-length fiction has been honored by the American Christian Fiction Writers Association as a 2012 First Impressions Finalist, a 2013 Genesis Award finalist, and a 2014 Genesis Award semi-finalist. His short story’ Entertaining Angels’ was a finalist in the 2014 Writers on the Storm contest sponsored by the Texas chapter of the ACFW. His short story ‘Necessary Evil’ has been published in the science fiction anthology No Revolution Too Big, (Helping Hands Press – April 2014). While the short story ‘Elfanticide’, a jointly authored project with Lisa Godfrees, is due out this year in the anthology Tides of Imagination (Skipjack Press). T.J. holds a masters degree in English from Minnesota State University-Mankato and can often be found roaming that university’s library on his lunch break, especially the children’s and young adult sections. Librarians have always been his heroes. He lives with his wife of twenty-nine years in southern Minnesota.

Lisa GodfriesLisa Godfrees is a former forensic scientist. Tired of technical writing, she hung up her lab coat to pen speculative fiction while taking classes at Dallas Theological Seminary. She is the author of several short stories, and her first manuscript was a 2013 Genesis Contest finalist. Lisa works part-time in the Creative Arts Ministry at her church and serves as the President of the newly formed ACFW group in Houston, Texas.


ACTION-ADVENTURE/WESTERN/ EPIC FICTION: exploits, quest, daring, expansive

Moi 2Nike Chillemi [Grace Awards Founder and Chair, and Lead Judge] like so many authors, started writing at a very young age. She still has the Crayola, fully illustrated book she penned (colored might be more accurate) as a little girl about her then off-the-chart love of horses. Today, you might call her a crime fictionista. Her passion is crime fiction. She likes her bad guys really bad and her good guys smarter and better. Nike is the founding board member of the Grace Awards and is its Chairman, a reader’s choice awards for excellence in Christian fiction. She was an Inspy Awards 2010 judge in the Suspense/Thriller/Mystery category and a judge in the 2011, 2012, and 2013 Carol Awards in the suspense, mystery, and romantic suspense categories. Her four novel Sanctuary Point series, set in the mid-1940s has won awards and garnered critical acclaim. Her new contemporary whodunit, HARMFUL INTENT released in the spring of 2014 under the auspices of her own publishing company, Crime Fictionista Press and has gained acclaim.

Kenneth WintersKenneth G. Winters grew up on Long Island, NY. He received his BA from Houghton College, where he met his wife Connie. They live in North Brookfield, MA and have two grown daughters. After seminary, Kenneth served at the Trinitarian Congregational Church in Troy, NH. In 1976, he became the youth pastor at First Congregational Church of North Brookfield, MA. In 1984, he received a commission from the US Navy Chaplain Corps. In the following 20 years, he served with Seabees, Marines, Surface and Submarine fleets. After his retirement from the Navy, he returned to his home church in Massassachusetts as Associate Pastor. Over the span of his career, he founded a teen Christian music group and and two other groups which toured and recorded. He now keeps busy with his denomination, CCCC, the Military Officers Association, and the American Legion.

V. B. TeneryAuthor V. B. Tenery lives with her family in East Texas Her passion is writing novels with shinning characters, settings, and plots so exciting readers can’t put them down and they come away feeling delighted with the reading experience—honoring God in the process. Not content to stay in one genre, her novels range from contemporary suspense and supernatural suspense, to an upcoming historical suspense set in WWII England. When not writing she enjoys reading, hiking, and tube-floating down rivers in the beautiful Texas Hill Country


 YOUNG ADULT (YA): appeals to ages 14 – 21ish

Lanny SmithLanny Smith is a Christian indie author and screenwriter. This will be his second time as a Grace Awards judge. “I really enjoy reading the works of the talented authors associated with the Grace Awards — especially in the Young Adult category.” Lanny is a retired high school teacher, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and a former “Class B+” surfer.  He also works occasionally as a background artist in faith-based films. Lanny has also completed his newest script for a short film called “Gene Therapy.” His debut novel, THE RADICAL RIDE, is an explosive action-thriller. THE RADICAL RIDE centers around an ambitious television news anchor and her surfer boyfriend as they pursue a murderous radical (with ghostly connections) in Los Angeles. With the power of faith, can they stop this terrorist before he strikes again? THE CHRISTMAS BEACON is an inspirational story about faith and the miracles that happen — especially at Christmastime. Scott Weldon makes a desperate bargain with God. If God would heal his mother from terminal cancer, then Scott would publicly honor Him in a very special way. When Scott is pressured to break his end of the bargain, will he still receive his healing from God? Lanny Smith lives in Jacksonville, Florida.

 Suzanne WilliamsBest-selling author, Suzanne D. Williams, is a native Floridian, wife, mother, and photographer. She is the author of both nonfiction and fiction books. She writes a monthly column for on the subject of digital photography, as well as devotionals and instructional articles for various blogs. She also does graphic design for self-publishing authors. She is co-founder of THE EDGE.

 Katie Mettner Katie Mettner writes inspirational romance from a little house in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. She’s the author of the four part epic family saga, The Sugar Series, Sugar’s Song being runner up for sweet romance in the eFestival of Words awards. Her other romance series, The Northern Lights Series and the Snowberry Holiday Series, are both set in Minnesota and are a mix of new adult and romantic suspense. Katie lives with her soulmate, whom she met online at Thanksgiving, and married in April. Together they share their lives with their three children and two leopard geckos. After suffering an especially bad spill on the bunny hill in 1989 Katie became a below the knee amputee in 2011, giving her the much needed time to pen her first novel, SUGAR;S DANCE. With the release of Sugar’s story Katie discovered the unfilled need for disabled heroes and heroines! Her stories are about empowering people with special circumstances to find the one person who will love them because of their abilities, not their inabilities. Katie has a slight addiction to Twitter and blogging, with a lessening aversion to Pinterest now that she quit trying to make the things she pinned.




Flowr, Rose in Rain