The INSPYs Advisory Board Announces the 2016 Longlists


For the INSPY Awards, change was the word as we began 2016.

To help simplify our nomination process, we made some adjustments to our awards program. To that end, instead of publicizing our long list of nominations as they poured in, the Advisory Board kept the list private since the method of nomination involved a process of popular vote. The number of books that received the most nominations (the top 15 from each category) came out as the winners, which then determined the long lists.  

After some behind-the-scene delays, today we are thrilled to announce the results from those votes. From the lists below, the Advisory Board will be narrowing these respective lists down to five books per category which will become our 2016 short lists. From there, the same judging process and practices will follow.

Grab your favorite beverage, and enjoy browsing through the books that YOU nominated, propelling them into “phase two.”

Contemporary Romance / Romantic Suspense:

  1. Pesto and Potholes by Susan M. Baganz (Prism Book Group)
  2. Moments of Truth by Sandra D. Bricker (Bling! Romance)
  3. Together with You by Victoria Bylin (Bethany House)
  4. Anna’s Healing by Vannetta Chapman (Harvest House)
  5. Legitimate Lies by Julie B. Cosgrove (Prism Book Group)
  6. The End Begins by Sara Davison (Ashberry Lane)
  7. No Place to Hide by Lynette Eason (Revell)
  8. London Tides by Carla Laureano (David. C. Cook)
  9. To Dance with Dolphins by Bonnie Leon (Ashberry Lane)
  10. Rising Darkness by Nancy Mehl (Bethany House)
  11. The Dandelion Field by Kathryn Springer (Zondervan)
  12. Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Beth K. Vogt (Howard)
  13. A Love Like Ours by Becky Wade (Bethany House)
  14. The Wonder of You by Susan May Warren (Tyndale House)
  15. Her Brother’s Keeper by Beth Wiseman (Thomas Nelson)

Debut Fiction Longlist:

  1. A Light in Bailey’s Harbor by Bethany Baker (Mantle Rock Publishing)
  2. The Thorn Bearer by Pepper D. Basham (Vinspire Publishing)
  3. Whitewashed by Amy Blake (Mantle Rock)
  4. To Soar on Eagle’s Wings by Renee Blare (Prism Book Group)
  5. Angelhood by A.J. Cattapan (Vinspire Publishing)
  6. Jaded by Varina Denman (David C. Cook)
  7. Blood of a Stone by Jeanne Gassman (Tuscany Press)
  8. A Noble Masquerade by Kristi Ann Hunter (Bethany House)
  9. Love’s Rescue by Christine Johnson (Revell)
  10. Irish Meadows by Susan Anne Mason (Bethany House)
  11. Cavernous by Monica Mynk (Mantle Rock)
  12. Broken Dolls by Tyrolin Puxty (Curiosity Quills)
  13. The Sound of Diamonds by Rachelle Rea (Whitefire Publishing)
  14. Finding Mia by Dianne J. Wilson (Harbourlight)

General Fiction Longlist:

  1. Hidden Storms by Nancy Shew Bolton (Prism Book Group)
  2. A Sparrow in Terezin by Kristy Cambron (Thomas Nelson)
  3. A Cup of Dust by Susie Finkbeiner (Kregel)
  4. The Art of Losing Yourself by Katie Ganshert (WaterBrook Press)
  5. Secrets She Kept by Cathy Gohlke (Tyndale House Publishers)
  6. Spy of Richmond by Jocelyn Green (River North)
  7. Tea & Crumples by Summer Kinard (Light Messages Publishing)
  8. The Dog that Saved Stewart Coolidge by Jim Kraus (FaithWords)
  9. The Tomb by Stephanie Landsem (Howard Books)
  10. The Road to Terminus by Catherine Leggitt (Mountainview Books)
  11. Water From My Heart by Charles Martin (Center Street)
  12. Chapel Springs Survival by Ane Mulligan (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)
  13. The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay (Thomas Nelson)
  14. The Five Times I Met Myself by James L. Rubart (Thomas Nelson)
  15. Final Grace for Reverend G by RJ Thesman (CrossRiver Media)

Historical Romance Longlist:

  1. A Light in Bailey’s Harbor by Bethany Baker (Mantle Rock)
  2. The Wood’s Edge by Lori Benton (Waterbrook Press)
  3. A Thousand Shall Fall by Andrea Boeshaar (Kregel)
  4. Not by Sight by Kate Breslin (Bethany House)
  5. The Captive Imposter by Dawn Crandall (Whitaker House)
  6. The Memoir of Johnny Devine by Camille Eide (Ashberry Lane)
  7. The Mistress of Tall Acre by Laura Frantz (Revell)
  8. Brentwood’s Ward by Michelle Griep (Shiloh Run Press)
  9. Where Two Rivers Meet by Londa Hayden (Tate Publishing)
  10. Luther and Katharina by Jody Hedlund (Waterbrook Press)
  11. A Noble Masquerade by Kristi Ann Hunter (Bethany House)
  12. Guardians of the Heart by Loree Lough (Whitaker House)
  13. The Sound of Silver by Rachelle Rea (Whitefire Publishers)
  14. Through Waters Deep by Sarah Sundin (Revell)
  15. Promise to Keep by Elizabeth Byler Younts (Howard Books)

Literature for Young Adults Longlist:

  1. Season of Fire by Lisa T. Bergren (Blink)
  2. Rise of the Fallen by Chuck Black (WaterBrook Press)
  3. A Time to Speak by Nadine Brandes (Enclave Publishing)
  4. Lightning by Bonnie S. Calhoun (Revell)
  5. Shades of Doon by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon (Blink)
  6. The Choosing by Rachelle Dekker (Tyndale)
  7. The Golden Braid by Melanie Dickerson (Thomas Nelson)
  8. The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest by Melanie Dickerson (Thomas Nelson)
  9. See No Evil by Mary Hamilton (HopeSprings Books)
  10. The Sound of the Stones by Beth Hammond (eLectio Publishing)
  11. An Uncertain Choice by Jody Hedlund (Zondervan)
  12. Chivalrous by Dina L. Sleiman (Bethany House)
  13. Dauntless by Dina L. Sleiman (Bethany House)
  14. 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status by Cynthia Toney (Write Integrity Press)
  15. Siren’s Fury by Mary Weber (Thomas Nelson)

Mystery / Thriller Longlist:

  1. The Last Con by Zachary Bartels (Thomas Nelson)
  2. Whitewashed by Amy Blake (Mantle Rock)
  3. Gone without a Trace by Patricia Bradley (Revell)
  4. Murder Freshly Baked by Vannetta Chapman (Zondervan)
  5. Deadly Doll by Brooke Cox (Mantle Rock Publishing)
  6. A.D. 33 by Ted Dekker (Center Street)
  7. Honor at Stake by Declan Finn (Eternal Press)
  8. Vendetta by Lisa Harris (Revell)
  9. Taken by Dee Henderson (Bethany House)
  10. Falcon by Ronie Kendig (Shiloh Run Press)
  11. Where Hope Dwells by Elizabeth Ludwig (Guideposts)
  12. Desperate Measures by Sandra Orchard (Revell)
  13. The Bones will Speak by Carrie Stuart Parks (Thomas Nelson)
  14. Shattered Trust by Chris Richards (Prism Book Group)
  15. Ashes to Ashes by Mel Starr (Kregel)

Speculative Fiction Longlist:

  1. The Methuselah Project by Rick Barry (Kregel)
  2. Heir of Hope by Morgan L. Busse (Enclave Publishing)
  3. The Shock of Night by Patrick W. Carr (Bethany House)
  4. Angelhood by A.J. Cattapan (Vinspire)
  5. The Curse of Crow Hollow by Billy Coffey (Thomas Nelson)
  6. Valley of Decision by Lynne Gentry (Howard Books)
  7. The Sound of Stones by Beth Hammond (eLectio Publishing)
  8. Embers by Ronie Kendig (Enclave Publishing)
  9. The King’s Scrolls by Jaye L Knight (Living Sword Publishers)
  10. The Sword and the Song by C.E. Laureano (Nav Press)
  11. Waking Beauty by Sarah E. Morin (Enclave)
  12. Cavernous by Monica Mynk (Mantle Rock)
  13. Found and Lost by Amanda G. Stevens (David C. Cook)
  14. Take and Give by Amanda G. Stevens (David C. Cook)

…and there you have the 2016 INSPYs longlists.

We’d like to congratulate all of the nominated authors and thank all of the bloggers and readers who put forth their favorite reads of 2015.

We’re ready to get to work and find the top five in each of these categories.

2015 INSPY Award Winners

After our panel of judges careful consideration, the INSPYs Advisory Board is pleased to announce the 2015 INSPY Award Winners. Below are the seven winning novels in their respective categories and a statement from our judges on the reason why they felt it was worth the award…

Book - Miracle in a Dry SeasonDebut: Miracle in a Dry Season (Bethany House) by Sarah Loudin Thomas: 
We chose Miracle in a Dry Season not only because of the talent of the author, but because it is a unique and engaging story. A refreshing tale of miracles, love, and laughter set in the 1950s, Sarah Loudin Thomas pens an intriguing take based around the miracle of Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand. Through the story, characters – led primarily by a male character, Casewell, and events we gain a deeper understanding of faith and what it means to embrace the gifts and blessings God has given us.
Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense: Meant to Be Mine (Bethany House) by Becky Wade: Book - Meant to be Mine

Meant to Be Mine by Becky Wade is the epitome of Christian romance. The chemistry between Ty and Celia is fabulous, and we could feel the sparks in every interaction between them! While the romance is spectacular, this book has so much more to offer. Beautifully written, it is an emotional experience in the best way. Wade’s descriptions of the characters brought them to life, and their relational, emotional, and spiritual journeys rang true. The other four novels in this category are wonderful, but Meant To Be Mine’s excellence is unable to be denied.


saving amelieGeneral Fiction: Saving Amelie (Tyndale) by Cathy Gohlke: 

What a challenge, to pick one winner from five fabulous titles including Biblical, historical and contemporary fiction. We are delighted to announce the winner of the 2015 INSPY Award for General Fiction is Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke, which impressed us all with its complex characters, fascinating historical detail, and bold yet subtle Christian message. The story is set in Germany in the early days of World War II, and plot centres on rescuing the deaf Amelie, from her father and from a regime which prized “perfection” over the sanctity of life. The characters face danger, hardship and uncertainty over the course of this thought-provoking and sometimes harrowing read. We were particularly impressed with the sensitive way Gohlke showed how God can use ordinary people in the bleakest of circumstances.

Book - Mark of DistinctionHistorical Romance: Mark of Distinction (Tyndale) by Jessica Dotta: 

We chose Mark of Distinction because it exemplifies the historical romance genre and confronts unique spiritual themes. Jessica Dotta has woven a story with a captivating setting and characters. The writing style and mystery of the plot draws the reader from the beginning into a Victorian society of restraint, secrets, and consequences. At its center is the theme of full surrender and trust in God. With complex characters and a unique voice, the story unfolds with unexpected twists and romance.

Book - Storm SirenLiterature for Young Adult: Storm Siren (Thomas Nelson) by Mary Weber:

Our panel decided to choose Storm Siren as the winner for the YA category. Nym deals with insecurities about her elemental powers and wondering why she was born with such a curse. This makes Nym relatable to young women all over the world and from every generation – we have all dealt with insecurities at some point in their lives. To see Nym have to come to terms with how she was created and to use those powers for the greater good shows tremendous character growth. Another reason we chose Storm Siren was because of the amazing and magical world that Mary Weber created. World building is one of the first things in a Fantasy novel that draws you into the story. Oh…and who doesn’t love a map inside their book!Book - A.D. 30

Mystery/Thriller: A.D. 30 (Center Street) by Ted Dekker:

A.D. 30 is a fast-paced adventure that keeps you turning the pages until the very end. Ted Dekker delivers a powerful, faith-filled story that brims with perils – each with their own kind of mystery and suspense, struggles, and most importantly hope. Dekker takes us on a journey to Jesus through the eyes of the daughter of Maviah, a gentile and an outcast, readers rediscover the message of Yeshua, experiencing it as never before. Dekker masterfully conveys the depth of God’s love for us — a knowledge we often hold in our heads, but fail to carry in our hearts. Warring kingdoms, power-thirsty adversaries, and fickle rulers are only a few of the obstacles in Maviah’s journey that keep the reader flipping pages. Whether she will succeed in her quest is a mystery. An uplifting and simple message, encased in a sweeping historical epic, is the primary reason it was selected A.D. 30 to be the winner of this year’s INSPY award.

Speculative Fiction: Spirit Bridge (Thomas Nelson) by James L.Rubart:

Book - Spirit BridgeSpirit Bridge is a brilliantly written story that was thought provoking and yet easy to follow as a standalone novel, though it is the third and final book in the Well Spring series. The story-world was populated with an excellent group of lead characters who were complex and easily relatable in their struggles in both the physical and spiritual realms. Their struggles challenge the reader to examine aspects of their own lives.  The story’s message, dying to self and keeping the enemy from gaining a foothold, was clear throughout, not getting lost in the suspense and action of the story. Spirit Bridge fully satisfies the reader’s expectations of the genre. It is a powerful spiritual thriller, with the speculative elements underpinning the novel and not requiring any further explanation to better understand it. Spirit Bridge is very worthy of the INSPY for Speculative Fiction.



We’d like to thank our judges for their hard work and careful consideration of each title.

Congratulations to the winners and all the nominated authors! 

Up Close and Personal with Steven James

Today, award-winning and well-known author, Steven James joins us. Steven has been shortlisted (and won!) for an INSPY in year’s past and this year, his novels  Checkmate (Signet) is on the short list for the Mystery/Thriller category and Blur (Skyscape) in the Literature for Young Adults category. Below we chat with Steven about what’s playing on his television and his upcoming to-be-read pile (with photos!).

Checkmate Goodreads SummaryBook - Checkmate

In “Checkmate,” critically acclaimed novelist Steven James offers the final, chilling chapter in his bestselling series, The Bowers Files.

 When a clandestine FBI facility is attacked, Special Agent Patrick Bowers is drawn into the vicious, ruthless story that a killer from his past is bent on telling the world.

Clues lead to long forgotten secrets buried deep beneath uptown Charlotte, North Carolina. Now, Bowers is caught up in trying to stop one of the most deadly attacks ever planned on American soil.
Smart, tense and full of mind-bending twists and turns, “Checkmate” explodes onto the scene, bringing The Bowers Files to a climactic and unforgettable conclusion.

Blur Goodreads Summary

Book - BlurThe isolated town of Beldon, Wisconsin, is shocked when a high school freshman’s body is found in Lake Algonquin. Just like everyone in the community, sixteen-year-old Daniel Byers believes that Emily Jackson’s death was accidental. But at her funeral, when he has a terrifying vision of her, his world begins to rip apart at the seams.

Convinced that Emily’s appearance was more than just a mere hallucination, Daniel begins to look carefully into her death, even as he increasingly loses the ability to distinguish fantasy from reality.

What’s real? What’s not? Where does reality end and madness begin?

As Daniel struggles to find the truth, his world begins to crumble around him as he slips further and further into his own private blurred reality.


A mineshaft “under Charlotte.” Part of Steven’s research for his novel, Checkmate.

Full of mind-bending twists and turns, Blur launches a new trilogy of young adult thrillers from Steven James, a master of suspense.

1.) What are you listening to?

Lately, I’ve been wearing out The Rend Collective’s “Art of Celebration” CD, as well as tapping into my collection of Goa trance songs. I listen to the trance anthems while I’m writing and the songs with words as I’m typing in my edits. 
2.) What are you watching?

Let’s see—Orphan Black, The Blacklist, and The Flash (my daughters are huge fans).

3.) What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? What I plan to read over the next several months…
Steven James Reads


Thank you so much for joining us today, Steven. It was a pleasure to host you here. Learn more about Steven: Facebook ǀ Twitter ǀ Website

Up Close and Personal with Ronie Kendig

Rapid-Fire fiction author, Ronie Kendig is joining us today. Ronie has been shortlisted for an INSPY in year’s past and just announced her foray into the fantasy genre as well as a new thriller series with Bethany House. This year, her novels  Raptor 6 (Shiloh Run Press) is on the short list for the Mystery/Thriller category and Beowulf (Barbour Publishing) in the Contemporary Romance/Romantic category. Below we chat with Ronie about her favorite TV show being cancelled and get a glimpse of her TBR stack.

Goodreads Raptor 6 SummaryBook - Raptor 6

Captain Dean Watters keeps his mission and his team in the forefront of his laser-like focus. So when Dean’s mission and team are threatened, his Special Forces training kicks into high gear. Failing to stop hackers from stealing national security secrets from the military’s secure computers and networks isn’t an option. Zahrah Zarrick is a missionary teacher to Afghan children in Mazar-e Sharif. And a target. When Zahrah is captured because of her expertise in quantum cryptology, compromising the US military, Dean is forced to crack the lockbox around his heart—a move that might come at the highest cost.

Book - BeowulfGoodreads Beowulf Summary

Former Navy handler Timbrel Hogan has more attitude than her Explosives Detection Dog, Beowulf, but she’s a tough woman who gets the job done. Green Beret Tony “Candyman” VanAllen likes a challenge and convincing the hard-hitting handler they belong together might just get him killed.

When tragedy strikes and Tony’s career is jeopardized, Timbrel must re-evaluate her priorities—and fast! A terrorist plots to unleash a weapon of mass destruction on American soil. Can Timbrel and Beowulf track the chemicals in time? Will Tony surrender everything to save the woman nobody believes in?


1.) What are you listening to?

​ Right now, as I type this, I’m listening to the new soundtrack-style album by Two Steps From Hell called Battlecry. It’s the perfect music for writing! ​

2.) What are you watching?

​ Well, I’m actually silently weeping because my favorite TV show–Forever–has just been cancelled. I tried not to watch the last album so it wouldn’t end, but I wasn’t strong enough. I caved. ​

3.) What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand?


​I started reading The Light We Cannot See, but then got invited to a book club with our Taekwondo school, and they wanted us to read The Girl on the Train, so I bought that. But I also have Lynette Eason’s newest, NO PLACE TO HIDE and Sabaa Tahir’s new An Ember in the Ashes. That’s just what’s on my desk. LOL! So many books, so little time!!!  ​

Thank you so much for joining us today, Ronie. It was a pleasure to host you here. Learn more about Ronie: Facebook ǀ Twitter ǀ Website

Up Close and Personal with Julianna Deering

Good afternoon, INSPY readers! Today our shortlist author interviews continue with Julianna Deering. Julianna is a second time shortlist nominee. This year her third Drew Farthering novel, Murder at the Mikado (Bethany House) is on the short list for the Mystery/Thriller category. Julianna shares about her love of movie soundtracks and shares some pictures that helped inspire her novel, Murder at the Mikado.

Goodreads Summary:Book - Murder at the Mikado

Just as Drew Farthering thinks his life has found smooth waters, Fleur Landis, an old flame, reappears in his life. She’s married now, no longer an actress, and he expects she’ll soon disappear–until she comes to him in dire need. The lead actor in her old troupe’s production of The Mikado has been murdered, and Fleur is the police’s number one suspect.

Drew would love nothing more than to just focus on his fiance, Madeline, and their upcoming wedding, but he can’t leave Fleur in the lurch–even if she did break his heart once. As Drew, Nick, and Madeline dive into the murder, they discover more going on behind the scenes of the theater troupe than could ever have been imagined. Nearly everyone had a motive, and alibis are few and far between. It’s Drew’s most complicated case yet.

1.) What are you listening to?
I tend to listen to movie soundtracks when I try to write, the more epic the better. Right now the music from “The Hobbit,” “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Chronicles of Narnia” seem to suit my mood. Of course, when I’m working on a historical novel, I try to play some of the music from that era, too. For my Drew Farthering mysteries, I like to listen to the music of the 1930s, especially the English bands, like Ray Noble’s.
Mikado1 - Copy

A vintage poster from Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado

2.) What are you watching?
I don’t actually have TV service right now. There’s really not anything on broadcast TV that interests me, and I’m generally too busy to just sit down and watch. I just Netflix what I want to see. Of course, the NHL playoffs are going on right now, and I never miss those games, so I go and watch at my dad’s house. That’s a lot of fun! I try to catch Masterpiece Theater and, especially, Masterpiece Mystery when I can.

3.) What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand?

TheaterRoyalKent - Copy

An English theater from the 1930s

There’s sort of a hodgepodge of books on my nightstand. I have a Bible-reading schedule that lets me read through the whole thing every two years, so the Bible is always there. Besides that, I have The Most Eligible Bachelor novella collection, The Face of a Stranger by Anne Perry, Tolkien’s The Hobbit, The Stolen March by Dornford Yates, Heartless by A. E. Stengl, Poirot and Me by David Suchet and First Steps to Free-Motion Quilting by Christina Cameli. So many books, so little time!
Thank you so much for joining us today, Julianna. It was a pleasure to host you here. Learn more about Julianna: Facebook ǀ Twitter ǀ Website

Up Close and Personal with Zachary Bartels

Today the INSPY Advisory Board is excited to welcome debut author Zachary Bartels. His novel, Playing Saint (Thomas Nelson) is on the short list for the Mystery/Thriller category. In this interview, Zachary talks about his “old-fashioned” use of a landline and shares some of his TV addictions – including Downton Abbey!

Goodreads Summary:

Rising mega-pastor Parker Saint was wrapped up in his ratings and his book deal. But that was before the cops and the serial killer, the Vatican operatives, and the centuries-old plot to conceal an ancient relic. Now Book - Playing Sainthe’s just trying to stay alive.

Parker Saint is an up-and-coming superstar pastor on the verge of achieving everything he’s wanted–including a national TV program and major book deal. His success seems all but guaranteed until an angry incident with a flight attendant. To keep his growing empire from collapsing, Parker cuts a deal and agrees to serve as a police consultant on the trail of a twisted serial killer who marks his victims with religious symbols. The problem is, Parker’s anything but an expert, faking his way through the investigation by slipping away to consult his smart phone.

As he is drawn deeper into a web of intrigue involving an obsessive and demanding detective, a trio of relentless Vatican operatives, a string of botched exorcisms, and a centuries-old conspiracy to conceal a mysterious relic, Parker finds himself questioning everything he has been trying so hard to protect.

Building to an intense climax, “Playing Saint” is a timely exploration of what compels us, what defines us, and what redeems us. With its combination of suspense, humor, and intriguing characters, it will captivate readers until the final twist.

1.) What are you listening to?

Lots of stuff. “Praise & Arrows” (an awesome compilation album full of music inspired by my boy Cliff Graham’s books), Trip Lee, Mumford and Songs, Of Monsters and Men, Lindsey Stirling, Joanna Newsom, Matisyahu, Andy Mineo, MxPx, “Gettys Live at the Gospel Coalition,” Dave Ramsey yelling at people for borrowing money, The Moth Radio Hour . . .

2.) What are you watching?

Lately, way too much stuff. Over the past few months, off-and-on, I’ve been casual watching or binging the following:

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – Nothing cracks me up more consistently than this show. Great characters and great timing.
Turn – Despite the crap-tastic special effects, this had a pretty decent first season. Was just starting to get into the second, but had to put it on hiatus until a couple of other shows end.
House of Cards – A case study in how simply making someone the protagonist and letting us into his head can get viewers (works with readers too!) invested in and caring about some pretty despicable people. Which makes for an interesting story experience.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – My almost-seven-year-old and I watch this together. (I’m talking about the weekly show on Nickelodeon with Seth Green and Sean Astin, not that gong-show of a movie that came out last year.) It’s one of the smartest, most exciting, most hilarious, inside-joke-and-Eighties-reference-filled productions to ever exist. You should watch it, even if you have no young children.
New Girl – Mostly for the Nick Miller quotes.
Reruns of Touched by an Angel – Just kidding.
Downton Abbey – It’s not a soap opera if the men regularly retire to the drawing room for cigars and brandy. Aside: If I could hang out with any fictional butler, it would be Carson.
Grantchester – (Obviously) I’m a sucker for clerics who also save the day.
Better Call Saul – Helps dull the pain over the end of Breaking Bad. Also, serves as a mini-course on how to throw down backstory and develop a nice slow-burn plot.
Justified, Mad Man – I’m trying—truly trying—to get over the fact that these are no more. Spectacular writing.

3.) What’s on your nightstand?

Here’s my bedside:Zachary's Books

(That’s right; I still have a landline and still use not one, but two Palm Pilots!)

The books at my bedside are:

Treasury of Daily Prayer – Even though I’m not Lutheran, this is one of my favorite devotional volumes
Morning & Evening by Charles Spurgeon – The gold standard for short daily devotionals, written by the Prince of Preachers
Evangelism by J. Mack Stiles
ESV Bible – The “English Sanctified Version,” natch.
Novum Testamentum Graece – Got to keep that Greek up.
Lifting Up Our Hearts: 150 Selected Prayers of John Calvin
Shadow of the Mountain: Exodus by Cliff Graham– This is the one I’ve been tearing through the last few nights.
This Elegant Ruin by Erin Bartels – Short story collection by my beautiful, talented wife, who was called one of “the greatest up-and-coming fiction writers today” by the Saturday Evening Post.
Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan
Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God  by J.I. Packer
Sabotaged by Dani Pettrey
The Advocate by Randy Singer
The Drop Box by Brian Ivie and Ted Kluck
lifehacker by Gina Trapani
Implications Abound by Adam4d – Web comics from the spectacular site

Kindle, containing many books, including The Expulsive Power of a New Affection by Thomas Chalmers and The Essential Works of John Wesley, which I am re-reading now.

Here’s another angle:

Zachary's Table (2)

(Oh, wait… what’s that red book doing there?? How embarrassing! Looks like The Last Con, my second novel, coming out July 7 from HarperCollins Christian Publishing! Let me just…um…put that over here.)


Thank you so much for joining us today, Zachary! It was great fun to chat with you. Learn more about Zachary: Facebook ǀ Twitter ǀ Website

Author Interview with Julianna Deering

A native Texan, Julianna Deering has always been interested in storytelling and is keen on history, which is what inspired her latest series of books. The first novel in her new Bethany House series, Rules of Murder is on the shortlist in the mystery/thriller category. We welcome her today!

Summary from Goodreads:Rules of Murder

Drew Farthering loves a good mystery, although he generally expects to find it in the pages of a novel, not on the grounds of his country estate. When a weekend party at Farthering Place is ruined by murder and the police seem flummoxed, Drew decides to look into the crime himself. With the help of his best friend, Nick Dennison, an avid mystery reader, and Madeline Parker, a beautiful and whip-smart American debutante staying as a guest, the three try to solve the mystery as a lark, using the methods from their favorite novels.

Soon, financial irregularities at Drew’s stepfather’s company come to light and it’s clear that all who remain at Farthering Place could be in danger. Trying hard to remain one step ahead of the killer–and trying harder to impress Madeline–Drew must decide how far to take this game


Julianna’s Office Bookshelf!

What do you do outside the world of books?

I have three mischievous cats that make me laugh all the time. My favorite hobbies, besides reading, are quilting and cross stitching and embroidery. I don’t watch much TV unless it’s NHL hockey. I love it, and I love my team. Go Stars!

What are the challenges or benefits of incorporating faith into your storyline?

I think the biggest challenge is incorporating faith in a natural way. You don’t want to be preachy. If you think of the stories Jesus told (the Prodigal son, for example) or the story Nathan told King David in the Old Testament (“YOU are the man!”), you’ll see they aren’t the least bit preachy. They tell a story that’s real and human and relatable. where the hearer feels for the characters and gets the message without being beaten over the head. I try to write the faith aspects of my stories that way.

What do you hope readers take away from Rules of Murder?

1932 Rolls Royce

1932 Rolls Royce

The message my main character gets is that it’s never too late to come to God and that He never turns us away, no matter what we’ve done or how long we take to come to Him. My main character, Drew Farthering, is Oxford educated and has a background of social Christianity, so it’s rather hard for him to take that leap of faith to real relationship with God until circumstances make him realize that he, too, needs a Savior. I hope my readers find the same truths. Mostly, though, I hope they have a cracking good time reading the story!


Farthering St. John Inspiration.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, theological, or logistical) in bringing the book to life?

Mystery is always the prospect of writing two stories. The first story is what seems to be happening on the surface. The second is what’s really happening behind the scenes. Ideally those two meet seamlessly at the very end of the book when the sleuth reveals the solution. Getting everything timed right and putting in the perfect clues (and red herrings) is always a challenge.  But it’s a ton of fun!

Thank you for joining us today, Julianna! It was a delight to feature you. Learn more about Julianna by visiting her website.

Author Interview with Jordyn Redwood

Today the INSPYs blog is pleased to welcome Jordyn Redwood. In addition to being an author, Jordyn is also an ER nurse which is where she draws inspiration for her medical mystery trilogy, her novel Poison is on the Mystery/Thriller short list.

2412 cvr final.inddSummary from Goodreads

Five years ago, Keelyn Blake’s stepfather took her family hostage, raving about Lucent, a being who forced him to commit unspeakable acts. Some of the family made it out alive; the rest did not. Even Lee Watson, the best of SWAT, failed to overcome the man’s delusions and end the standoff peacefully.

Now, Lucent is back– and he’s no hallucination. He has kidnapped Keelyn’s niece, and although Keelyn is estranged from her half-sister, Raven, she feels compelled to save what little family she has left. But Raven is nowhere to be found, and when others involved in that fateful day start dying under mysterious circumstances, Keelyn wonders if she and Lee– and their budding relationship– will surive.

Poison follows Proof in the Bloodline trilogy with another rollercoaster plot that makes it an irresistible adventure for all suspense fiction fans.

What do you do outside the world of books?

I work as a pediatric ER nurse and also just started working for a faith-based organization.

2013-12-21 20.44.42As book lovers it interests us – What books or authors have influenced you, both as a writer and a reader?

I can’t tell you how honored I am to be among fellow book addicts. The biggest influence on my writing has been Dean Koontz. I’m hoping if I put this out there enough times he’ll call me up and ask to do lunch. After I recover from passing out I’ll happily accept. Other authors I read consistently are James Patterson (the Alex Cross series), Harlan Coben, Linwood Barclay, Lisa Gardner, Steven James and Ted Dekker. They write intriguing story lines with tight suspense on every page. This is the kind of author I want to be.

What are the challenges or benefits of incorporating faith into your storyline?

The challenge is always having the faith element generate authentically from the story line so the reader doesn’t feel like they’re getting thumped on the head with a Bible. The benefit of having inspirational fiction of all genres on the market is that it is often easier to hand someone a novel than the Bible as an introduction to the elements of the Christian faith. Jesus used parables a lot to help people to understand faith, hope, grace and mercy.

What do you hope readers take away from Poison?

At its core, Poison delves into about what we believe about truth and how that impacts our lives. I believe there is universal truth and having an understanding of that can help us lead less complicated, more joyful lives.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, theological, or logistical) in bringing the book to life?

Jordyn's Writing Space

Jordyn’s Writing Space

This is such a great question on so many levels. For writing in general, the hardest thing about being an author for me is the actual writing of 90,000 words. It’s just flat out hard work. First drafts are probably the hardest thing for me to do and I’ve learned to edit myself a lot less as I’m writing one so I can just get it done. The second hardest thing for me is not having my novels come across as too technical. I am a big medical nerd at heart. I LOVE research so I have to be careful the book isn’t just a clever way to discuss a medical topic. The third hardest thing for me and the thing I work on the most is depth of characterization. As a plot/action oriented author, this is the biggest challenge. It amazes me to hear of authors spending hours trying to pick a character name. That is just not me but I also need to find a way for readers to identify with my characters because that’s what ultimately keeps them interested in the novel—how much they care them.

Specifically for Poison—the medical question is can someone be influenced to do evil under hypnosis? A lot of research was involved to decide if this was medically possible and I had the novel reviewed by a graduate student in psychology for this reason. You’ll have to read the book to find out.

Thanks so much for hosting me on the INSPY blog. It truly is an honor to be nominated for two years in a row for this award and I am still pinching myself that I am sitting alongside such prestigious authors.


Thank you for joining us today, Jordyn! It was a pleasure to host you. Visit Jordyn on her website to learn more about her novels and work.

Author Interview with Steven James

The King We are thrilled to welcome Steven James to the Inspy Blog.  Steven is an award-winning author who wrote The King, shortlisted in the Mystery/Thriller Category.

Synopsis from Goodreads

FBI Special Agent Patrick Bowers has matched wits with some of the most violent serial killers in history—and one of them has never forgiven him….

Patrick Bowers has pursued the nation’s fiercest serial killers—and now one elusive foe is back for revenge.

Settling into a new post at the FBI academy, Patrick and his fiancée, Lien-hua Jiang, are planning their future together with his stepdaughter, Tessa.

But just when his life seems normal, a demon from the past returns to draw him down a dark road he hoped had closed forever. Forced into a desperate hunt to save the two women he loves most, Patrick is in a race against time to stop an international conspiracy from becoming the most widespread act of terrorism in U.S. history.

What do you do outside the world of books? Hobby-wise, I love trail running and playing disc golf. I join some friends for a game of basketball when I get a chance. Movies are huge for me—explosions, aliens, scary movies; the more thrills the better. It’s a great break from writing. Oh, and once a month I teach Sunday School at our church—that’s always a little crazy, but it’s a blast.

king book release party

Book release party for The King

As book lovers it interests us – What books or authors have influenced you, both as a writer and a reader? As a writer, I was impacted and inspired by the writings of Calvin Miller, specifically The Singer Trilogy, and The Book of the Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin Jr. Both books were written with a succinct, evocative voice that affected the way I shape stories.

When I was younger I loved The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander and the short stories of Stephen King and others. I just loved any books that got my imagination and my pulse pumping.

writing space 2

Steven’s writing space

What are the challenges or benefits of incorporating faith into your storyline? Typically, I don’t begin with a message I’m trying to share but rather a moral dilemma I’m trying to explore. I like to wrestle through issues myself and by having my characters explore them it gives me a good chance to do so as well. I think that too often when fiction writers have an agenda to teach a lesson, the stories end up being preachy and the story suffers. I’m a Christian and so I obviously approach stories from my worldview. I think that any stories that resonate with truth about human nature and life will attract readers.

What do you hope readers take away from The King? Every moment that we have is a precious gift, so I suppose I’d like readers to learn to treasure them and not let them slip through their fingers.


Thank you for joining us today, Steven! To learn more about Steven and his books, visit him on his website.  

Author Interview: Brandilyn Collins

bcollins2We are thrilled to bring an in-depth interview of Mystery/Thriller Shortlist Author, Brandilynn Collins.  Gone to Ground is amongst the 5 Mystery/Thriller novels shortlisted for an Inspy.  Ms. Collins is no stranger to the Inspy Awards, having had a previous novel on the shortlist for 2011.

11800313summary from Goodreads

Amaryllis, Mississippi is a scrappy little town of strong backbone and southern hospitality. A brick-paved Main Street, a park, and a legendary ghost in the local cemetery are all part of its heritage. Everybody knows everybody in Amaryllis, and gossip wafts on the breeze. Its people are friendly, its families tight. On the surface Amaryllis seems much like the flower for which it’s named—bright and fragrant. But the Amaryllis flower is poison.
In the past three years five unsolved murders have occurred within the town. All the victims were women, and all were killed in similar fashion in their own homes. And just two nights ago—a sixth murder.
Clearly a killer lives among the good citizens of Amaryllis. And now three terrified women are sure they know who he is—someone they love. None is aware of the others’ suspicions. And each must make the heartrending choice to bring the killer down. But each woman suspects a different man.


What led you to writing?

I came from a family of writers. My mom and dad both wrote books, although they were mostly nonfiction. I’ve been making up stories in my head since I was in second grade. In fact, during that year of school I won the first prize for writing the best short story in my class. Something major to brag about, right? I still remember the first line of that story: “Once there was a stallion named Betsy.” I’ve been trying to write with such insightful brilliance ever since.

In college I majored in drama before switching to journalism (after I’d fulfilled all the required drama classes). I loved creating characters on the stage. Now I’m creating them on the page. My education in acting proved extremely helpful in my characterization for novels. I automatically used techniques I’d learned in method acting, tweaking them for best use in writing fiction. After awhile it occurred to me that other novelists didn’t know these techniques. So I ended up writing Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn From Actors. It’s a great thing to hear from other novelists how much that book has helped them with characterization, dialogue, and story structure.

bcollins1What do you do outside the world of books?

Is there such a world? :]

I hang out with family. I jog. In the summer, go boating or travel. Take care of our house and property. We have a big home, and it’s on eleven acres in the forest on a lake, so there’s always plenty of work to do, inside and out.

We also enjoy entertaining. Our place is a lovely property to share with others. When we first bought it, we walked the grounds and through the house, praying God’s blessings over every room in the house and all the property. We asked that He’d allow us to use it for others. And He’s given us some great opportunities to do that. One of those opportunities is the author retreat I host every year. For four days every July a group of 11 authors (many of whose names you would know) come to the retreat to “Plot, play and pray.” We help plot each others’ next books, pray together, and laugh a lot. It’s become a highlight of the year in these authors’ lives, and a way to help recharge us all so we can return to our individual writing ministries.

bcollins3As book lovers, it interests us: What books or authors have influenced you ~ as a writer and a reader?

When I was first learning how to write fiction in the early 90s, I learned a lot about plot and POV (point of view) from legal suspense author Richard North Patterson. I also devoured every book by Anne Rivers Siddons, who writes contemporary novels, many of them set in the South. She taught me a lot about characterization. And I love her vocabulary! She knows a lot of unusual words and isn’t afraid to use them. (My editors tend to fight me when I want to do that.)

Something else, though. When I was seriously studying how to write fiction (it took me a decade of self-study to finally sell a novel), I’d go to matinee movies while the kids were in school. In two hours I could study plot structure, symbolism, dialogue, setting, and on and on. I’d notice everything—the music, even the font the credits are in. All these things effect the mood, the aura, of the movie. Then I’d think, “How can I translate that onto the written page?” Movies still teach me a lot as I continue to learn more and more about writing fiction.

As a reader, I read widely and in various genres in both the secular and Christian markets.

What are the challenges/benefits of incorporating faith into your story?

Well, the benefits are glorious! I get to help change people’s lives. How can any secular author possibly top receiving letters that say such things as, “I’ve become a Christian because of your book,” “I’ve learned how to pray through reading your novel,” “I’ve patched up a long-broken relationship I thought could never be healed after reading your book” …? I’ve received so many heart-rending letters. I can only be grateful to God for allowing me to take part in these people’s lives in such a way.

As for challenges of incorporating faith, here’s my philosophy. I’m not a preacher, I’m an entertainer. My job is to keep a reader turning pages. If I fail to keep him/her interested in the story, that reader will put down the book—for good. I could have a tremendous Christian lesson within the story—but it wouldn’t be seen if the reader stops at page 30. As a result, I never sit down to write a Christian novel. I sit down to write the best, heart-thumping, gripping suspense I can. I don’t even think about a Christian message. But as I write, that message will come through. Sometimes the message is pretty subtle. Sometimes it’s much stronger. It must grow intrinsically out of the protagonist’s struggle, her experience and current trauma. It must feel natural to the story. As long as the faith element does this, those readers who want to pick up on it will do so. My nonChristian readers, who read purely for the suspense, will also see it and not feel preached at. Because it’s not tacked on. It’s a necessary part of the protagonist’s growth.

There are always readers on one end of the spectrum or the other who won’t agree with the amount of the faith element in my novels. With the same novel, I’ve had readers say “too much” and others complain “too little.” These complaints are a very small percentage, however. Most readers see the faith element in my books as natural and right for that particular character.

What do you hope readers take away from Gone to Ground?

Gone to Ground is one of my novels with a more subtle faith message. But it’s certainly there. Most everyone in this story, including the three protagonists, indulge in some level of hypocrisy. Cherrie Mae, a wonderful Christian woman, runs her own house-cleaning business. She’d never steal from anyone and is a praying woman. But she does tend to snoop around the houses she cleans, and she knows she’d lose customers if they found her out. Tully is a young woman married to an abusive husband, but she must hide that fact from everyone. She’s too ashamed, and too afraid of proving her parents right (they didn’t like the guy to begin with) to tell the truth and save herself. Deena strongly suspects her younger brother is the town’s serial killer, but she can’t give him up to police. Supporting characters have their own hypocrisies. And many of them are supposedly Christian. The question for the reader becomes: what hypocrisy has crept into your own life?

Cherrie Mae, who loves to spout quotes from classic literature, says this quote from John Milton’s Paradise Lost at the end of Gone to Ground: “Neither man nor angel can discern hypocrisy, the only evil that walks invisible except to God alone.” That’s a wonderful summation of the faith element in the book.

Brandilyn Collins is a multi-award winning novelist and writing teacher.  Her novel Over the Edge, nominated in 2011 for an Inspy, centers on Lyme Disease, of which Ms. Collins has her own healing testimony.  Brandilyn can be found at