The INSPYs Advisory Board Announces the 2016 Longlists

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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.

 

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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 Amy Sorrells

 

The Advisory Board is thrilled to host Amy Sorrels, debut author of shortlisted How Sweet the Sound.  Amy’s sophomore novel Then Sings My Soul released in March, 2015 and she is hard at work on Lead Me Home to be released by Tyndale in 2016.  Amy shares her writing nook {though her sweet dog steals the show} and another favorite spring writing spot ~ her garden!  Please join me in welcoming Amy K. Sorrells!

how sweet the soundFrom a distance, the Harlans appear to be the perfect Southern family. Wealth and local fame mask the drama and dysfunction swirling through their family line. But as the summer heats up, a flood tide of long hidden secrets surface. Devastation from a rape followed by the murder of two family members brings three generations of the Harlans together on their pecan plantation in Bay Spring, Alabama.

Chief among them is Anniston, who by the time she turned thirteen thought she’d seen it all. But as her heart awakens to the possibility of love, she begins to deal with her loneliness and grief. This tender coming-of-age tale, inspired by the story of Tamar in 2 Samuel 13, shows how true healing and hope comes only from God. Though our earthly family can wound and disappoint, our heavenly Father brings freedom to those long held captive through His mercy and grace.

What are you listening to?

I’m listening to the branches of the river birch brushing against the side of our home, because it’s about to thunderstorm.

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What are you watching?

I’m watching my dog’s nose twitch as he sniffs the breeze coming through the screen of our open window.

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What are you reading?

I’m reading too many books to list, so here’s a picture of my nightstand. (Not pictured: The Kitchen House on audio in my car.)

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Thank you so much for joining us Amy and especially sharing your gorgeous dog with us!  I imagine he has quite the personality!

To learn more about Amy and her writing please visit her Website | Facebook | Twitter.

Up Close and Personal with Cathy Gohlke

Happy June, Inspy Friends! Our special author of the day is Cathy Gohlke, writer of Saving Amelie, shortlisted for the General Fiction Inspy.  Cathy is no stranger to the Inspy’s as she was also shortlisted in 2013 with Promise Me This.  Join us in welcoming this incredible lady.  We are thrilled to learn Cathy is hard at work on her next novel due in September, 2015.  Be sure to read through to the bottom as we’ve been given a few hints about Cathy’s next book in the picture at the bottom of this post.  Welcome Cathy!

saving amelieIncreasingly wary of her father’s genetic research, Rachel Kramer has determined that this trip with him to Germany–in the summer of 1939–will be her last. But a cryptic letter from her estranged friend, begging Rachel for help, changes everything. Married to SS officer Gerhardt Schlick, Kristine sees the dark tides turning and fears her husband views their daughter, Amelie, deaf since birth, as a blight on his Aryan bloodline.Once courted by Schlick, Rachel knows he’s as dangerous as the swastikas that hang like ebony spiders from every government building in Berlin. She fears her father’s files may hold answers about Hitler’s plans for others, like Amelie, whom the regime deems “unworthy of life.” She risks searching his classified documents only to uncover shocking secrets about her own history and a family she’s never known.Now hunted by the SS, Rachel turns to Jason Young–a driven, disarming American journalist and unlikely ally–who connects her to the resistance and to controversial theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Forced into hiding, Rachel’s every ideal is challenged as she and Jason walk a knife’s edge, risking their lives–and asking others to do the same–for those they barely know but come to love.

What are you listening to?
I’m loving Timeless Reflections, by Dave Kurtz. Inside the CD 
cover Kurtz writes, “This collection of cherished hymns is played on a piano—one instrument, no vocals—pure, simple, yet full of feeling and at times even complex and full of layers, much like our relationship with the Most Holy God.” This mesmerizing CD has long been my favorite, my absolute “go-to” when I need to stop, drop, and spend time with the Lord.

What are you watching?
I love British series—like “Downton Abbey” and “Endeavor” and “Foyle’s War.” I’m especially enjoying the new season of “Call the Midwives.” The characters are compassionate, real, and I love glimpsing each character’s backstory as their tale unfolds. Seeing themes from current events woven into the tapestry of long ago British life is an idea near and dear to my historical fiction writing heart.

Cathy's Daily Devotional Reading
What are you reading?
My daily devotional reading for this year includes The One Year Bible (NIV), Holy Scriptures Tree of Life Version, Jesus Today by Sarah Young, Hymns for the Living Church, and Notes from the Valley by Andy McQuitty. I love combining devotionals and a nonfiction book with daily Bible reading and hymn singing.

This second photo does not reveal the stack of tantalizing fiction lined up on my Kindle, but you can see that I’m focused on research in England for my work in progress—books to do with WWII child evacuees, the Blitz, the influence of C. S. Lewis, Beatrix Potter’s magical gardens, the flora and fauna of Britain and the beauty of the magnificent Lake District. You may also see some of my granddaughter’s books—which creep into every stack of books and take reading priority on daily demand. : )

Some of Cathy's research books for her work in progress

 

Thank you Cathy, for giving us brief glimpse into your world and a hint of what’s to come next!  For more information about Cathy and her books visit her Website | Facebook

Up Close & Personal with Lynn Austin

 

The INSPY Advisory Board is excited to welcome author, Lynn Austin. Her novel, Keepers of the Covenant, is on the short list for General Fiction. In this interview, Lynn shares how both she and her husband are creatively-inclined, plus a peek over her shoulder while hard at work! Welcome Lynn!

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In one life-changing moment, the lives of the Jewish exiles in Babylon are thrown into confusion and despair when a decree arrives from the king’s palace in Susa. It calls for the annihilation of every Jewish man, woman, and child throughout the empire on the thirteenth day of Adar, in less than one year. Ezra, a quiet Jewish scholar and teacher, is suddenly called upon to lead the community as they seek God for a reason for this catastrophe. When a second decree arrives, authorizing them to fight back, Ezra is thrust into the role of military leader as they defend themselves against their enemies.

When the battles come to an end, Ezra’s brother Jude is dead and Ezra is required by the Law he so diligently studies to marry Jude’s widow, Devorah, and provide an heir. Fatherhood changes Ezra, and he asks God to make a way for him and the other exiles to leave Babylon for good and return to Jerusalem. His prayers are answered and the exiles move to Judea to revitalize worship at the temple–but the fight to keep God’s Law is never easy. As more and more of his community are tempted, a new battle emerges…this one for the survival of God’s covenant and the souls of His chosen faithful.

What are you listening to?  I’m listening to “The Carnival of Venice,” a cornet solo that my husband (a professional musician) is practicing…and practicing…and practicing for a solo concert he is giving soon.

What are you watching?
I am a HUGE fan of all the decorating shows on HGTV. My current favorite is “Fixer Upper.”

What are you reading?  I’m currently reading a wonderful book by Jane Rubietta called Worry Less So You Can Live More.

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Hard at work. . .

Thank you for joining us Lynn and giving us a glimpse into her office and life!  To learn more about Lynn, visit her Website or Facebook .

Up Close & Personal with Katherine Reay

Join me in welcoming Katherine Reay, last year’s winner of the Inspy for Debut Fiction.  Katherine’s second novel, Lizzy and Jane, has been shortlisted in this year’s General Fiction Category.

lizzy & janefrom Goodreads:

Lizzy and Jane never saw eye to eye. But when illness brings them together, they discover they may be more like Austen’s famous sisters after all.

Lizzy was only a teenager when her mother died of cancer. Shortly after, Lizzy fled from her home, her family, and her cherished nickname. After working tirelessly to hone her gift of creating magic in the kitchen, Elizabeth has climbed the culinary ladder to become the head chef of her own New York restaurant, Feast. But as her magic begins to elude her, Paul, Feast’s financial backer, brings in someone to share her responsibilities and her kitchen. So Elizabeth flees again.

In a desperate attempt to reconnect with her gift, Elizabeth returns home. But her plans are derailed when she learns that her estranged sister, Jane, is battling cancer. Elizabeth surprises everyone—including herself—when she decides to stay in Seattle and work to prepare healthy, sustaining meals for Jane as she undergoes chemotherapy. She also meets Nick and his winsome son, Matt, who, like Elizabeth, are trying to heal from the wounds of the past.

As she tends to Jane’s needs, Elizabeth’s powers begin to return to her, along with the family she left behind so long ago. Then Paul tries to entice her back to New York, and she is faced with a hard decision: stay and become Lizzy to her sister’s Jane, or return to New York and the life she worked so hard to create?

What are you listening to? Chicago has a wonderful outdoor music venue each summer, Ravinia, and we got tickets to Pink Martini and NeedToBreathe this summer so I’ve been switching back and forth getting very excited about the concerts… And one is never too far from the Zac Brown Band in this family.

What are you watching? My youngest daughter’s volleyball schedule has really cut into my TV time. As a family, we’re faithful to Jeopardy and The Amazing Race. My kids want us to apply – I think my husband and I could be the #MarriedMarathoners. I’d also like to catch up on Castle before I get too far behind and forget I ever loved the show.

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What are you reading? Here are the four books I’m reading right now. I usually read four at a time and one is almost always a C.S. Lewis. I’m only on page 3 of The Conservation one, so clearly I’m finding that the least compelling… And here is my desk! Thanks so much for inviting me here!

 

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Ahh, Katherine, we are the thankful ones! To know you’ve got a C.S. Lewis book going most of the time (I know of 2 Advisory Board Members who follow that mindset as well) in addition to the Austen references in both Lizzy & Jane and Dear Mr. Knightley, not to mention the gorgeous elephant print above your desk and the fact you love Castle. . .will you be my new best friend?!?

I know you’ll want to learn all about Katherine, especially, if you’ve read her books.  If you haven’t read either of her novels, what the heck are you waiting for! In the meantime ~

You can find Katherine on her Website | Facebook | Twitter

Author Interview: Shannon Ethridge and Kathryn Mackel

We are thrilled to welcome two very talented authors to the Inspy’s blog today!  Shannon Ethridge and Kathryn Mackel are the team behind General Fiction shortlisted novel To Know You.

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Years ago, Julia Whittaker gave up two daughters for adoption. Now she must find them to try to save the life of her son.

Julia and Matt Whittaker’s son was diagnosed with biliary atresia at birth. Dillon has beaten the odds for thirteen years only to have the odds—and his liver—crash precipitously. The only hope for his survival is a transplant. He can receive a “living liver” transplant but neither his parents, nor various family members and friends, are compatible.

The transplant list is long and Dillon’s time is short. Very short.

He has two chances for a compatible liver: his two older half-sisters, born eighteen months apart and adopted at birth.

But can Julia ask a young woman—someone she surrendered to strangers—to donate a portion of her body to a brother she’s never known? Will either sister even be a match for their half-brother? Will either of them show mercy and courage if they are?

Julia knows she’s probably on a fool’s errand—reaching out to the daughters she abandoned only now that she needs them. But what other choice does she have except to try?

Kathryn Mackel Photo Credit: Angela Hunt

Kathryn Mackel
Photo Credit: Angela Hunt

What led you to writing?

Kathy:  My father was a movie projectionist so, from the time I was a toddler, I spent a lot of time in movie theatres. I grew up orchestrating stories in my backyard with my playmates, directing actions from the top of our picnic table while I moved my friends this way and that. In college, I decided if I was a writer, I would be writing. And I didn’t– so the inescapable conclusion was that I was just a little weird and therefore, it was time to stop composing stories in my head.

The personal computer changed all that. As a lefty, my handwriting was never very good. The instant my fingers danced on my Mac keyboard, the thoughts began flowing. Even then, I thought I was simply a clever writer of plays for my children and their friends. I took my first Fiction Writing course when I was 41 and gave myself permission to think perhaps it’s not too late! I sold my first screenplay and my first novel within two weeks of my 45th birthday.

Shannon Ethridge

Shannon Ethridge

What books or authors have influenced you – both as a reader and a writer?

Shannon:  Max Lucado has inspired me since my early twenties with his sweet storytelling and amazing spiritual insights. Robin Norwood, particularly her book Daily Meditations for Women Who Love Too Much, showed me that writing can be a powerful tool to awaken readers to their sex, love, and relationship addiction issues – and I have to say that book helped me save my marriage and was a foundational cornerstone for my own ministry to women. As far as fiction influences, Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love was a novel that had me weeping on the rug over the notion that God fervently woos and pursues even those whose actions are undeserving of such lavish love.

What are the challenges/benefits of incorporating faith into your story lines?
Kathy:  The benefit of incorporating faith is that I get to be who I am—a child of God, saved by the grace and redeemed by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The challenge is not giving the easy answer in novels. We like storylines to arc and then tie up at the end. Faith is messy. I suspect that is why readers enjoy multi-volume stories with continuing characters, where we can follow characters for hundreds of pages and enjoy a more organic life journey.

I also write juvenile/YA fiction for mainstream publishers (Dial Books, HarperCollins, etc.) where incorporating a Christian worldview without overt faith language is indeed a challenge—and a blessing!

Shannon's sitting room where couples come for marriage coaching.  The 'counselor character' in upcoming novel Veil of Secrets is based on Shannon's work as a marriage coach.

Shannon’s sitting room where couples come for marriage coaching. The ‘counselor character’ in upcoming novel Veil of Secrets is based on Shannon’s work as a marriage coach.

At this point in your writing career what has been your most memorable experience?

Shannon:  I could say that receiving publisher awards for the Every Woman’s Battle series, or special recognition for surpassing the million-copy book sales mark, or speaking on the Women of Faith platform were my most memorable experiences, and indeed I’ve been overwhelmed by those amazing blessings. However, the most memorable experiences occur far more regularly — when I sit down to read emails and am blown away by the stories I receive from readers who tell me of the affairs or emotional entanglements they’ve found the strength to end… the personal self-esteem they’ve managed to recover… how their own marriage and family has been saved as a result of what God has done in their life through reading one of my books. A truly transformed life, marriage, and family is better than any accolade or paycheck a writer could receive!

The view from Shannon's office window, where she can look upon a house that provides great inspiration.  It’s the first house Shannon's family looked at in the neighborhood, but it was a TOTAL TRAIN WRECK!  The realtor was SO embarrassed, and explained that a couple had “bitten off more than they could chew” with a remodel, and had divorced due to the financial / relational devastation of the massive project!  The foundation was sinking on one corner of the house.  The kitchen cabinets weren’t flush with the ceiling. The stained glass in the front door was even cracked, Shannon's guess is from it being slammed so hard time after time as one spouse walked out on the other.  However, after Shannon's family bought the cute little cottage directly across the street, that house eventually sold, and a couple with a much healthier marriage (and bank account) transformed it into a total treasure.  To Shannon, that’s a perfect analogy of what she does as a life/relationship coach.  She helps couples sift through the wreckage of many painful years of marriage, and show them how to transform their relationship from a total train wreck into a total treasure!

The view from Shannon’s office window, where she can look upon a house that provides great inspiration. It’s the first house Shannon’s family looked at in the neighborhood, but it was a TOTAL TRAIN WRECK! The realtor was SO embarrassed, and explained that a couple had “bitten off more than they could chew” with a remodel, and had divorced due to the financial / relational devastation of the massive project! The foundation was sinking on one corner of the house. The kitchen cabinets weren’t flush with the ceiling. The stained glass in the front door was even cracked, Shannon’s guess is from it being slammed so hard time after time as one spouse walked out on the other. However, after Shannon’s family bought the cute little cottage directly across the street, that house eventually sold, and a couple with a much healthier marriage (and bank account) transformed it into a total treasure. To Shannon, that’s a perfect analogy of what she does as a life/relationship coach. She helps couples sift through the wreckage of many painful years of marriage, and show them how to transform their relationship from a total train wreck into a total treasure!

What do you hope readers take away from To Know You?
Shannon:  When Kathy and I crafted this intriguing cast of characters, we wanted to show both married and single women, young and old, how to embrace a lifestyle of sexual and emotional integrity, regardless of what demons they may be wrestling with, or what kind of ghosts from their past may be trying to haunt them. Julia shows us that a woman can choose to boldly face her sordid past, make amends with those she’s hurt, and be an instrument of healing in her own family as a result. Destiny reveals that single women can give and receive love without pre-marital sex having to be involved. Chloe vividly illustrates how destructive our own behavior can become when we compromise our emotional integrity in even the smallest of ways. Combined, these characters will hopefully inspire readers to take off their masks, be real with themselves and with others, and reap the rewards of incredibly open, life-giving relationships.

Thank you Shannon for sharing your inspiration and your writing with us!  For more of Shannon, her blog and latest books please visit ShannonEthridge.com.  For more about Kathryn Mackel please visit her website at KathrynMackel.com

Author Interview: Carla Stewart

DSC02659_2 copyWe are happy to host Carla Stewart, author of Stardust, one of five novels in the General Fiction Shortlisted books.

Thanks for the opportunity to be here. I’m truly honored that Stardust is on the INSPY short list and thank those of you who spent precious hours reading and choosing the books. You’re my heroes!

   At this point in your writing career, what has been the most memorable experience?

There are many highlights and turning points—getting an agent who believed in my work, being a Genesis winner in the early days, and then holding each of my published books in my hands. But the memories I treasure are those when readers tell me I’ve struck a chord with them or written scenes as though I were in their living rooms. Just a few days ago, an older gentleman came up to me after I’d given a talk about Stardust. Polio is one of the backdrops of the story, and the man’s chin trembled as he told me he had two siblings, age two and four, who died of polio in the 1950s. He thanked me for writing about the topic so that people would remember. I could barely see through the tears to sign the book for him.

12869265   What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, theological or logistical) in bringing the book to life?

Two things come to mind. The first was an unforeseen crisis. During the time I dedicated to finishing and polishing the manuscript, my dad had quadruple bypass surgery in a city six hours from where I live. For some that might not be a problem, but when I began writing full time, I vowed that my family would always come first. I tried writing while I was gone, and wrote a chapter or two, but still needed 40,000 words when I returned home two and a half weeks later. The upside was that my dad had done well and fortunately, I was able to make the deadline.

Another challenge was a plot element that kept eluding me. I knew how I wanted the story to end, but I needed a bridge or clue of some kind that would get me there. For weeks I thought about it and tried out different scenarios, but it just wasn’t right. When the answer came, it was so obvious that it made me laugh. Not only that but the foundation had been laid in earlier scenes so I had very few tweaks to make to layer in the material. Moments like this are what make writing exciting for me. The subconscious works when I’m not, and I sometimes get in the way of my own story.  

   As book lovers, it interests us: What books or authors have influenced you?

Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird), Anne Tyler, Barbara Kingsolver (The Poisonwood Bible), Rosamund Pilcher (The Shell Seekers), Susan Meissner, Lisa Samson, Markus Zusak (The Book Thief), Leif Enger (Peace Like a River), Jeannette Walls (The Glass Castle), Charles Martin

table beside Carla's recliner filled with her materials & resources

table beside Carla’s recliner filled with her materials & resources

   Tell us about a book that epitomizes quality [Christian] faith-driven lit.

Julie Cantrell’s Into The Free was the most recent faith-driven novel I read that pulled all the things I love together into one book—an authentic voice, Southern flavor, a literary bent, and captivating message of hope and forgiveness.

   What do you hope readers take away from Stardust?

At its heart, Stardust is a story of forgiveness and new beginnings. When Georgia’s unfaithful husband drowns on the first page, I set up the premise of the story. What I didn’t expect was that Georgia would act with such integrity on her way to molding a new life. I hope that it encourages readers to push through when they’re struggling and not wallow in their misery. Reaching out to others is a good road to healing, and Georgia does that. It’s a lesson for myself as well as readers.

A child of the 50’s & 60’s, Carla Stewart loves nostalgia…her site is filled with reminisces of by-gone days and the slow summers of yesteryear.  A gifted storyteller, lovely Mimi to 6 grandchildren and wife of over 40 years to her best friend, Carla Stewart is the epitome of faith in action.  To connect with Carla please visit CarlaStewart.com

2013 Shortlists announced

We are pleased to reveal the 2013 INSPY Award shortlists:

General Fiction

Into the Free by Julie Cantrell
Promise Me This by Cathy Gohlke
The First Gardener by Denise Hildreth Jones
The Messenger by Siri Mitchell
Stardust by Carla Stewart

Romance

To Whisper Her Name by Tamera Alexander
Against the Tide by Elizabeth Camden
Love’s Reckoning by Laura Frantz
Breath of Dawn by Kristen Heitzmann
My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade

Mystery/Thriller

Gone to Ground by Brandilyn Collins
A Plain Death by Amanda Flower
Placebo by Steven James
Trinity: Military War Dog by Ronie Kendig
Proof by Jordyn Redwood

Literature for Young People

Wreath by Judy Christie
With a Name like Love by Tess Hilmo
Dead Man’s Hand by Eddie Jones
There You’ll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones
Cake: Love, Chickens, and a Taste of Peculiar by Joyce Magnin

Speculative Fiction

Caught by Margaret Patterson Haddix
The 13th Tribe by Robert Liparulo
Freeheads by Kerry Nietz
Soul’s Gate by James L. Rubart
Daystar by Kathy Tyers

Congratulations to all the shortlisted authors!

2013-Shortlist-Press-Release.

2013 Judges

The INSPY Advisory Board is thrilled to announce the judges for 2013. The shortlists will be announced on April 15 and once these judges receive their respective books, they then have the task to narrow from five novels to the one worthy of the 2013 INSPY in each category. We welcome these judges and thank them for their service.

General Fiction Judges

Rachel McMillanRachel McMillan loves Christian fiction, tea and Sherlock Holmes. She blogs at A Fair Substitute for Heaven and is a frequent contributor and featured reviewer at Breakpoint and Novel Crossing. She lives in Toronto. This is her third time judging the INSPY Awards and she looks forward to the fun discussions ahead!

 

 

Elizabeth SchulenbergElizabeth Schulenburg got her first library card at age 4 and hopes to be reading as long as her 106-year-old great-grandma. To pay the bills, she works behind the pharmacy counter, but her real passion lies in spending time with friends and family, especially her husband, Jeremy, and twin 2-year-olds, David and Sophia. Among her favorite Christian authors are Ted Dekker, Jamie Langston Turner, Angie Smith, Rachel Held Evans, and Jocelyn Green. If you’d like to see what she is reading, stop by www.needmoreshelves.blogspot.com.

DMSelfDM Webb-Self lives, along with her family and a variety of pets, in the beautiful state of Mississippi. She is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), where she has served as a judge in the Carol Awards and Genesis Awards, and is an active participant in the ACFW critique group. Her novel, Mississippi Nights, was released in January 2012 and her children’s devotional, Balaam & the Donkey, was released on the Devokids website on April 1, 2013.

Her studies in art and sociology coupled with her many jobs ranging from bookstore clerk to volunteer firefighter/EMR has produced a plethora of ideas for upcoming books. You can find her at www.dmwebb-writebyfaith.blogspot.com.au/.

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Romance Judges

Susan BaganzSusan M. Baganz is acquisitions editor for Prism Book Group, an author of contemporary and historical romances, and a book reviewer. She loves a happy ending and the journey it takes to get there. She lives in the Midwest and loves curling up with her puppy, a good book, and a cup of spiced chai. Susan blogs at Susan Baganz’s Silygoos Blog.

 

 

Profile Picture Rachel BrandRachel Brand is an aspiring writer who lives in Scotland, where she is finishing her undergraduate degree in English and modern history at the University of St. Andrews. She is the fiction editor of the Christian e-zine, The Christian Manifesto, where she regularly reviews recent releases in the inspirational market. When she isn’t reading a novel or penning her own, Rachel enjoys baking, knitting, watching films and attempting to play computer games with her husband. A romantic at heart, Rachel can typically be found reading an Amish or historical romance, but she does occasionally take a break to enjoy some contemporary and young adult fiction.

 

2012Rissi An avid 20-something reader who is learning to like sci-fi, Rissi lives in the Midwest and is passionate about writing – which may explain why conversations between her current characters rotate through her mind (this can be quite inconvenient). Over the past six years, she’s written film reviews for a small Christian website, which then transitioned into blogging and eventually, book reviewing. A love of a good Jason Bourne mystery means she’s willing to try almost any crime show, and is in fact, addicted to several. British costume dramas are too few in her opinion as is BBC’s Sherlock and she uses the word “rather” too much (blaming this on those British dramas). For nearly three years, she has been fortunate enough to be a part of the coolest e-zine covering the best in literature and film. When not writing, she enjoys good music, hanging out with her family and pursuing other creative hobbies. Since August 2011, her writing haven has been blogging; she blogs at Dreaming Under the Same Moon.

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Mystery/Thriller Judges

photoBeckie Burnham has been a blogger (By The Book) for more than four years, but has been a book enthusiast/promoter (nagger) for much longer. She is the member of three book discussion groups — her favorite being one she co-leads at a women’s rehab center. This dynamic group meets once a week to read books aloud and generally cut up and have fun. The mother of three college-aged children, she works when she has to as the office manager of her husband Brian’s veterinary office. They own one spoiled Boston terrier, four cats, two goats and 10 chickens.

 

DSCN1875Mark Buzard is a Pennsylvania transplant that has lived in northeastern Ohio since 1993. He has a BA in religious education, is single and currently looking for work. Although he has no children, Mark does have three nieces and three nephews that he loves as if though they were his own. Mark spends his extra time playing the piano, taking walks, shopping, and of course reading. He rarely reads secular books, so most of his reading is Christian fiction, the mystery/suspense/thriller genre in particular. At the suggestion of two of his friends, Mark explored the idea a few years ago of reviewing books, and was fortunate to get connected with several publishers, publicity groups and others. Mark really enjoys reviewing books and gets so many that he uses a spreadsheet to keep track of them all. Mark states that he is honored to be a judge for the INSPY Awards and is looking forward to the experience. You can find Mark blogging at Thoughts of a Sojourner.

Tami1Tami Erwin is a book blogger, avid reader and former librarian. Her years in library collection development expanded her interest in a wide variety of book genres, but mysteries have always been her favorite. In their 30 years of marriage, Tami and her husband, Dave, have lived in 13 towns in Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado. They have three grown children and two grandsons. Tami blogs at Just One More Thing . . .

 

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Literature for Young People Judges

sheilaSheila DeChantal lives in Central Minnesota with her husband and three dogs, two of which are rescues (she has a weakness for hurt animals). Sheila has two amazing boys — one in college and one in the Navy. She spends her weekdays as a family life administrator and special events coordinator for her church, volunteers on the city library board and with Friends of the Library. Sheila is also honored to be a board member for Camp Benedict, a camp for people infected and affected by AIDS.

For fun Sheila loves riding bike, reading, rollerblading, mud runs, cabin weekends, and hanging out with friends. In 2014 she is signed up to run with the bulls. Her hope and prayer is that she is faster than the bulls 😉 Sheila can be found blogging at Book Journey.

sherryearlySherry Early is the author and instigator of Semicolon, a blog about kids and books and homeschooling and communities and sometimes movies and politics and fun links and whatever else she wants to write about on any particular day. Sherry is an evangelical Christian and completely unapologetic about it. She is also a 52 year old homeschooling mom of eight children. Sherry enjoys reading — reading whatever comes her way, including, but not limited to, adult fiction, mysteries, historical fiction, nonfiction history and biography, Christian inspirational fiction, young adult fiction, fantasy and science fiction, children’s fiction and nonfiction, memoirs, cereal boxes, other people’s blogs, magazines, brochures, and picture books. When she’s desperate Sherry will read the notes on the bulletin board and the advertising signs on the wall of whatever establishment she is stuck inside without reading material.

IMG_1729 - CopyEmily Rachelle is the author of ebook novella Sixteen and a teenage girl in love with God and the world He created. Her favorite things include chocolate, pretty trees, the ocean, weddings, crafts, and books — rows upon rows of books, neatly lining library shelves or messily stacked in the corner of a bedroom. She blogs three times a week about writing, books, crafts and DIY projects, media, and society at http://emilyrachellewrites.blogspot.com/.

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Speculative Fiction Judges

author picIn simple language, Pauline Creeden breaks down biblical stories and applies them to real life in new ways. Her methods of teaching have brought new light to old scriptures. Pauline is a horse trainer from Virginia, but writing is her therapy. In her fiction, she creates worlds that are both familiar and strange, often pulling the veil between dimensions. She becomes the main character in each of her stories, and because she has ADD, she will get bored if she pretends to be one person for too long.

Her articles, reviews, and devotionals have been featured in RUBY FOR WOMEN Magazine, Devotionals for Bloggers, Faith Filled Family Magazine, and Christian Fiction Book Reviews. One of Pauline’s short stories has won the CCW Short Story contest. Other short stories have been published in Fear & Trembling Magazine, Obsidian River, Free Flash Fiction, and Avenir Eclectia. An urban fantasy short will appear in The Book of Sylvari: An Anthology of Elves from Port Yonder Press, and a vampire short will appear in Monsters! from Diminished Media Group. And her sci-fi novel, Catalyst, will be published by Redeeming Tree this year. Pauline can be found blogging at Fat Free Faith.

P1050362Garrett Larson blogs at garrettlarson.info. He is interested in the intersection of pop culture, current events, the way we live our lives, why we make the decisions we do, the American Dream/Dilemma, and the interconnection or disconnection with/from faith in the world we find ourselves living in the present day.

Garrett’s upcoming books include book one of his dystopian trilogy: Mastrick of jala, Inc., and a non-fiction thriller: The American Dream Failed! And You Can Too! He loves art as much as writing and has had two pop-up galleries featuring his work. His art is in private collections nationwide. His art site is: garrettlarsonart.info. facebook page: facebook.com/garrett29

JoshOlds Josh Olds is a pastor, a storyteller and an editor. He is the coauthor of two very different books: Art and the Bible for Children, a combination art lesson and Bible story book, and The Blood Book, a special project coauthored with Ted Dekker. There are many other stories swimming in his head that may someday see the light of day.

Josh blogs at Life is Story, a website he began as a solo venture in 2008. In the years that followed, the site added giveaways, audio podcasts, flash fiction contests, movie reviews, and a web comic. He also serves as a contributor and managing editor for Fiction Addict. You can find out more about Josh at Facebook and Twitter.